Just because you are now out of school and over your twenties does not mean the learning process is over. Some might say it has only just begun, and that the real work starts after finishing formal education and graduating from high school or college. Only after you have started working and being active professionally do you realize that most of the things you’ve been taught in collage are fine when left to the world of education, but that in real life, some additional skills are also needed. Lifelong learning does not just include enrolling in various courses and workshops, but keeping your brain up to speed, your head above water and you mind curious.
The main differences between lifelong learning and your formal education are the age of the learner and the fact that one of them is voluntary. That is why it is not uncommon to see people in their forties, fifties or even sixties enrolling into courses or attending lectures because they choose to make a difference in their lives. Also, an important reason behind this choice is the mental activity that is triggered through learning – as people age, their brain functions are not on the level they used to be in their youth, so stimulating your thought process is always welcome. You can also boost your self-esteem, test your adaptability to new things and add some excitement into your life. Lifelong learning includes more than courses and school programs, so you can effectively learn via educational trips, researches and activism in your community. Challenging yourself with puzzles, doing the NY Times Sunday crossword or playing an online quiz will also keep you both entertained and your mind sharp.
Once you become a bit bored with your life or are fed up with your job, you may tend to start looking into new hobbies and activities which will get you back you zest for life. You can choose to dive into something work-related, or, on the other hand, learn a new skill which you’ve never had time for before.
Because this is completely voluntary and usually not for the sake of professional advancement, you can choose what you want to learn. Most people focus on languages and computer skills as something they did not have a chance to do in their youth, or, on the other hand, find a more practical course on pottery, carpentry or other handicrafts. This way, they engage both their brain and hands, so it is good for preventing mental and physical diseases at the same time. If you’ve always wanted to learn to knit, your forties or fifties are the perfect time to take this up.
When applying for a job, you should know that your CV will not be enough. It is not about what you know any more, but what you can do – proper education is essential, but a good set of skills is sometimes even more vital. Finally, when you are out of work, additional knowledge will give you leverage over others. That is why everyone needs to continue learning new things even after they have reached a certain position in their companies.
When it comes to lifelong learning for professional purposes, you are expected to take opportunities provided by your employer, such as trainings, learning seminars, coaching performed at your company, etc. Being involved in these things shows that you are keen to continually develop and also take your job seriously, so, in the end, new skills might get you a better position or a promotion you have been hoping for. Moreover, you can become an expert in other fields of the industry and always seek a job there once yours becomes unsatisfactory.
Even though the main benefit of lifelong learning is actually learning something new which should be enough, there are other perks as well, both personal and professional. People who do it have more motivation for everyday activities, develop mental skills, add fun to their lives and make new friends, while professionals get more options for further employment, are in a better position than their competitors and, finally, become better employees.
Striving to continually better yourself should be a goal in itself, without a definite endpoint. Remember that this is not something you have to do, only something you are enthusiastic about.
The author of this article, Norah Martin, has recently gone back to school and is now taking several courses through Upskilled, aiming to improve both her business skills and her business itself. While never a bookish person, she has now realized learning gets better as one gets older.