My life has been heavily influenced by continuing education. I forgot to go to college at eighteen like everyone else (OK, it was a conscious choice) but still managed to land a good job early on in the high tech industry. It didn’t take me long to realize that I really did need more education in order to not only remain in my position but also to advance. For a number of years I worked full time while pursuing an undergraduate and and then a graduate degree. In the process, I came to appreciate the value of an ongoing education and made a commitment to myself to continue studying beyond my degrees.
The Next Big Thing
I think that we all need to be ready for the next big thing. The only problem is that we don’t always know what the next big thing is. So, how do you prepare when you don’t know what is coming? This is the power of continuing education. Not only does learning improve your ability to better see into the future but it can also prepare for it. In our fast-paced world, it is not easy to keep up on trends or technologies that can and will benefit our business, but keep up we must.
When was the last time that you took a class to sharpen your skills or to learn a new skill? In addition to academic studies, over the years I have taken courses in cooking, baking, welding, basket weaving, guitar, and scuba diving, among other things. They were all relaxing in that they did not relate to my career in any way, but they also taught me a new skill and sharpened my learning abilities.
Do you need to pick up a certification to be current in your job and in your career? There are classes, both onsite and online that can help you learn that new skill. Perhaps you are thinking of starting a new degree program? That takes a big commitment in terms of time and resources but can open doors that were previously closed to you. If you’re on the threshold, I would encourage you to jump in. It can be a very rewarding experience and lead to future possibilities you had never considered.
How often do you pick up a book or an e-book? When was the last time you read one? I always have a current book that I am reading, either in preparation for a course or something tied to my other interests. I have always enjoyed reading and I count on the ideas that I glean from this activity to keep me mentally awake and sharpen my critical thinking skills. Be it career-related material or in another field of interest, it is an excellent form of continuous education. If you dropped the habit of reading after your formal education, you should pick up a book and try it again. You will be surprised what you will learn.
I am in the process of re-listening to a lecture series called “The Great Ideas of Philosophy.” I occasionally get distracted, especially while driving, and I need to listen multiple times. I am fascinated by the history of philosophy and how each set of ideas builds on the thoughts that came before. I can sometimes see and recognize threads of previous thinkers in today’s modern philosophies. I have even thought of pursuing a degree in philosophy so that I can discover that one critical thought that preceded all the others. Although philosophy is a hobby, listening to the lectures helps keep me sharp and open to ideas and new ways of thinking.
Do you have a skill that you are willing to teach others? Teaching is a great way to keep learning. In order to teach, you need to make sure you know your topic and continually stay on top of your skills. Plus, the teacher can often learn something from the students. If you are open to new ideas, those inspirations can come when you are not expecting them. If you have the opportunity to teach a skill, even on a volunteer basis, do it. It can be very rewarding and a good way to polish your subject and teaching skills. Two for one!
What do you do to stay current and learn or practice skills? Give me some feedback and inspire me to learn even more.
Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.