There’s a seemingly unquestionable sense of finality that comes with hearing Pomp & Circumstance as you walk down the aisle to get your diploma, but professionals who get ahead — in their careers and in their lives — never stop striving to graduate to new levels of knowledge. And part of being a lifelong learner is discovering what you enjoy most and how you can best leverage the education you pursue in and out of the classroom or cubicle.
A recent employer survey from the Association Of American Colleges & Universities indicates that employers want recent college graduates to be broadly educated. All well and good, but that education shouldn’t come solely from workplace experience: 93% of employers confirmed that a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems is more important than a job candidate’s undergraduate degree. Similarly, 95% of those surveyed agreed it’s essential for new hires to demonstrate ethical judgement and integrity, inter-cultural skills and the capacity for continued learning.
So how do you start training your brain to be the amazing sponge you know it is? Practice brainstorming…if you could pick up one new skill, what would it be? DJing the perfect set? Cooking a delectable omelet? Speed reading? The world is full of potential if you’re open to recognizing it. Don’t be afraid of diving into something on a whim or at a spontaneous suggestion — you never know where it might lead.
Opportunities to connect with others sharing your interests are plentiful; there are over 340 Meetup groups in Miami alone, focusing on everything from trivia (you never know when you might get that call from Trebek) to Bodhi Path Meditation (who can’t use some inner peace?) to street photography (you’ve been promising to give that camera some air forever, anyway, right?).
Valerie Major, President of Brickell Toastmasters, says her chapter’s weekly meetings, which are part of an international non-profit founded to improve public speaking and leadership skills, help members in many ways. “The key is to continually self-improve with activities directly and indirectly related to your industry,” she says. “For many, public speaking is uncomfortable and just plain scary. But I’ve discovered that as professionals, we don’t make an impact until we step out of our comfort zone and do things most wouldn’t dare to. This is why we encourage everyone to embrace mistakes and the lessons that come with them.”
Technology has also opened up infinite opportunities for continuing education opportunities. The online teaching website Coursera.com offers more than 330 courses from 62 universities (many of them Ivy League) free of charge. The foundation of their teaching style includes mastery learning through providing multiple ways of demonstrating knowledge; using interactivity to heighten engagement and long-term retention; and using frequent feedback to effectively measure mastery. EdX.com is another such site for free online courses in a multitude of subjects from top universities around the country. Not only can you take a programming class from MIT or a medieval history class from Harvard anytime you want, you can also do it in your bunny slippers (without making the professor roll his eyes). For employers looking for initiative from rising stars, tackling emerging issues in marketing, technology and other areas through these resources could give you the edge you need to ascend the ranks that much faster.
Cassia Silva, Managing director at Key Biscayne’s transformative Key Languages, believes some skills require much more than a semester’s worth of attention to develop. “Learning a language is a lifelong commitment,” she says. “It’s a challenge that rewards you in every aspect of your life. We encourage students to take advantage of their time with the teachers and form routines that require them to use the target language, and eventually take classes in subjects taught in that language. Professionals have better job opportunities if they are fluent in two or more languages, and we’ve seen students expand businesses to other countries due to their new skills.”
What’s more, according to the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte, 60%-80% of jobs are found through personal relationships, so this can also lead to professional advancement, as the stronger your workplace relationships are, the more likely it is that your peers will inform you of other positions down the road.
The final piece in the learning puzzle is to share it. Ben Franklin said it best: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Talk to others about your experiences, whether it’s scuba diving or researching stocks. You’ll be surprised at what your peers can teach you about your newfound passions, and these experiences will make you wiser — and that much more successful.
Be in the know…NOW! Save these useful sites to your browser and check in regularly to learn something new every day.
Money Under 30 gives the lowdown on all the usual budgeting, but also includes tips on negotiating raises and other helpful goodness; MoneyUnder30.com.
It may sound cliché, but LinkedIn is the rolodex of the 21st Century. Make sure you’re on it and keep it up to date…you never know when it’ll come in handy; LinkedIn.com.
Most of us remember National Geographic as a dusty old magazine, but its YouTube channel is neither — including everything from surviving wild attacks to new technology.
Class & Culture
From art walks to comedy festivals, this site has a comprehensive list of things you can do to try something different every day of the week; MiamiAndBeaches.com.
This daily blog is perfect for useful information you can put toward everyday life…and making you question why you didn’t know these things before; LifeHacker.com.
Ever wonder where our words originated? By making a habit of asking this question on a regular basis, you’ll learn more than you ever imagined possible; EtymOnline.com.
Spoken Verse on YouTube allows you to listen to famous poetry the way it was always meant to be absorbed…by a bonafide expert on the subject; YouTube.com/SpokenVerse.