How Lifelong Learning Can Help Advance Your Career
Change is all around us. Online platforms have radically changed the way we work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Some jobs are disappearing due to technological advances whilst new jobs emerge rapidly.
According to a recent report by the Government Office for Science, adult learning is on the decline. The above report highlights that many people struggle with the cost and time elements of developing themselves. Many people working in the UK Further Education sector would agree that we need to change our approach to learning and become more aware of the benefits.
In the following article, I have collected some guidance to help you develop yourself without making a significant investment in your time or financial resources.
What is lifelong learning? Lifelong learning is the process of continuously developing your skills and abilities throughout your lifetime. For many professionals, lifelong learning is both an aspiration and a necessity.
Why is it helpful? Many of us working in Further Education are worried about keeping our jobs. Whilst we enjoy new developments created by automation and artificial intelligence, we are also concerned that our jobs could become automated in the next decade. According to research carried out by McKinsey (analysing 46 other countries including the UK), approximately half of the activities of employees could be partially automated by technologies.
Scholars suggest that learning contributes to increased mental health and life satisfaction. Expanding our skills could help us with slowing down cognitive decline over the years. Research shows that the more we develop our skills, the more productive we become and the more we are able to advance our careers. We want to make a positive difference to others throughout our working lives, and not just survive but to thrive in our careers.
According to a 2021 press release by the Department for Education, a new £9.5 million FE Professional Development Grant has been given to the sector. Initiatives such as the above will provide further development to those working in Further Education and help employees to enhance their practice.
What steps can you take towards lifelong learning?
#1 Attend internal courses: Many Further Education employers offer internal development courses for staff members. These could include e-learning, technical skills courses, workshops and work shadowing. You might find it helpful to sign up for the Human Resources Department’s newsletter to keep informed about upcoming opportunities. Some employers also allow their staff members to attend their external courses which are offered to the general public. Do explore development opportunities as well as staff benefits provided by your employer and ensure that you do not miss out on valuable opportunities.
#2 Sign up to industry associations/ social media groups: One of the best ways to keep informed about educational developments is to sign up to receive their electronic communications. Make sure that you register for up to three carefully selected sources and also read their communications. To get started, you could find relevant groups in LinkedIn or in the websites of association
#3 Network: Many of us associate networking with the private sector, and we do not see it as relevant to the education sector. Networking could however contribute to a wide range of benefits for our careers. We can connect with professionals working for other further education providers, exchange views, share knowledge and develop valuable partnerships. You might find it helpful to attend conferences, external courses or other training events offered to further education employees.
#4 Free university courses: Have you ever felt confused about what you should learn? Do you ever feel that you should start learning a new subject but you do not know where to start? Many well-known universities, such as The Open University in the UK, offer free online courses on a wide range of subjects including business, languages, law and psychology, just to mention a few. Attending a course could help you expand your knowledge, gain valuable skills, and reignite your passion for learning. You could pick a course which is relevant to your current professional field or simply choose a brand new subject field. Most online courses are carefully structured and you may also have the opportunity to discuss ideas with other participants.
#5 Be an informal leader: Informal leaders do not necessarily have the high-ranking status or senior decision making power. They often lead behind the scenes. They inspire others and show an excellent work ethic. Their peers trust them and often ask for their opinion and guidance. They have developed a deep knowledge of the organisation, and understand the culture, history and leaders. They excel at building positive work relationships. They have an outstanding personal and professional reputation. Becoming an informal leader within your organisation will help you advance your career. It will take time to establish a glowing reputation however the benefits for your learning and career development would be well worth it.
#6 Become curious– ‘Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect’, said one of the most influential English writers, Samuel Johnson. Curiosity means that you are able to see the world from different perspectives. You stop labelling things as boring. You welcome the diversity of people and life situations. Whatever challenges you may be experiencing, you ask yourself the questions: ‘How can I use this?’ and ‘What can I learn from this experience?’
#7 Learn coaching skills - According to research, professional coaching contributes to increased work performance, self-confidence and better time management. Some Further Education employers provide individual coaching for employees as well as coaching courses to help staff members develop their skills. The coaching process can be an enriching experience. You will be able to set some goals for your development, brainstorm solutions, and commit to making change. A skilled coach is supportive and non-judgmental. They listen to you carefully, and help you come up with some refreshingly new ideas to handle challenges. They could help you set some learning goals and keep you accountable. Coaching is a powerful tool to contribute to your lifelong learning and development.