Make Learning a Part of Everyday Work – Five Essential Elements of a Life-Long Learning Mindset

Invest in Yourself – Five Ways to Learn New Skills and Thrive in the Future
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” - Dr. Seuss

As our lives and problems become more complicated, the simplest lessons can often provide the answers. With the state of things today – self-quarantines and business closures and millions working remotely – it can feel like our futures are out of our hands, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Today more than ever, each of us has the power to decide the type of future we want.

But as my 7-year-old knows, wanting and getting are two different things. In order to develop a lasting series of career experiences or accomplish any professional goal, it is necessary to translate “want” into action and transform yourself into a future-ready individual prepared for whatever comes next. But whereas in the past your employer may have managed this transformation, the future of work means it begins and ends with you.

Looking at the working world around us, we have seen a complete recalibration of the traditional career arc. The steady, well-defined paths that once carried us from entry-level jobs to retirement are now gone, and what was once a “career” is now a series of “career experiences.” In discussing this pivot with Jim Marous, Co-Publisher of The Financial Brand, he observed that “change is happening faster than ever before, and it will not happen this slowly again. Employees and executives of all levels have the option of ‘disrupting themselves’ or risk being disrupted." The speed of change is magnified even more now as we navigate the current pandemic. Harvard Business Review recently observed that “we’re seeing the most rapid organizational transformation in the history of the modern firm,” and this radical change has completely transformed how we work.

Accelerated disruption is prompting widespread innovation and reinvention, and the broader global workforce is undergoing a skills revolution to realign to a post-automation economy, a journey that Jim Marous wholeheartedly endorses. “The best way to transform for the new economy is to embrace the change that is occurring, take responsibility for self-development and leverage your current skill sets for new endeavors. Look for those areas of your company where investment is being made and make yourself an invaluable asset for that area.”

Being the master of your own destiny may sound daunting, but who else is better suited to find and develop your career opportunities than you? You alone know where your interests and passions lie, and you’re uniquely qualified to align your skills with the roles and challenges of the future. Mercer’s 2020 Global Talent Trends study found that 78% of employees are ready to learn new skills, but only 45% of executives believe their workforce will be able to adapt to the new world of work. This means that leaders woefully underestimate their people and it is incumbent upon each individual to forge their own path if they wish to keep pace with the rate of change.

So how do you go about building a future-ready you? Become your own CEO. This means identifying gaps in your skill set, building up your own profit centers, and being strategic in how you allocate your own precious resources (time and energy). If you want to embrace the future of work, here’s how to start:

  1. Find meaning in what you are learning – Self-motivation is great, but there’s a limit to what you can accomplish with your nose to the grindstone. Instead, find skills and lessons that are meaningful to you, as these are likely to stick with you longer and carry you farther in your future career. We remember information that is meaningful to us and that we are able to connect to our own life experiences.
  2. Learn by doing – Classrooms may work for grammar and mathematics, but nothing beats experiential learning when it comes to preparing you for the real world. The good news? There’s plenty of opportunity, with many employers offering reskilling and training programs to employees looking for a new career path. Our Global Talent Trends research shows that 51% of employees are willing to take on an internal gig to gain experience. How will you ensure you’re prepared?
  3. Teach – Counterintuitive as it may seem, one of the best ways to learn a new skill is to teach it. Think about it - if you have to teach it to someone else, you’re forced to deconstruct a concept and really understand it from all angles. Don’t allow yourself to accept a passing knowledge of any critical skill. If you want to know it, teach it.
  4. Mentors – No matter who you are or what you wish to learn, there’s always someone out there to consult. I’m a huge advocate of finding mentors who excel in your field or possess a skill that interests you because it simultaneously helps you achieve your goal and broadens your network. Whether you’re looking for an introduction to a new skill or you wish to take your skills to the next level, there’s no need to take it on by yourself.
  5. Take small, high value steps – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t try to boil the ocean. Put one foot in front of the other. Pick any saying you want, but understand that there’s a reason why there are so many. Learning something new takes time, and upskilling can be especially frustrating in a fast-paced world where progress is measured in days, not years. As you take on a new skill, focus on long-term gains by setting milestones and creating habits. That’s where you’ll derive real value.

Ultimately, making the most of your future of work comes down to wanting the most of it. Step outside your comfort zone and embrace the world that is radically changing around you. As our interactions become increasingly digital, we all must reexamine our world and our skills to ensure that we can thrive in the new normal. Building and maintaining a career “requires the elimination of excuses,” says Marous. “Like a diet, there are many reason not to succeed. It is not until you make behavioral modifications that change really happens and success become long lasting.”

The world of work will never return to the old “normal.” Are your ready to disrupt yourself and invest in your future of work?

Danielle Guzman
by Danielle Guzman

Global Head Social Media & Distributed Content

Global Head of Social Media & Distributed Content

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