Outstanding performers are technically competent. They stay technically competent because they are lifelong learners. I believe that my love of learning, and my lifelong pursuit of knowledge, is one of the keys to my personal and career success. I am always learning, and always welcome opportunities to learn new things – whether directly related to my work or not.
You probably have spent a lot of time in college – maybe graduate school too. You might be tempted to think that you needn’t keep learning. After all, isn’t learning what you need to know to function in the world of work, the whole point of going to college? Not really. You just learn the basics in college.
Your education really begins when you start working. Thomas Carlyle said, “What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books.”
Thomas Carlyle lived in the 19th century. If he were alive today, he might have amended his statement to say, “The internet is the greatest university of all.” It’s true. So many of the great books, as well as other career and life success information, are now available on line. The important thing is to keep learning – how you do it and where you get your information is secondary.
When I speak to graduating college students, I always tell them that the best thing about graduating from college is that you finally get a chance to begin learning – for yourself, not your professors. I have a huge collection of books on a variety of subjects. These books are the first place I turn when I am looking for information to post on my blog, when I am working with my executive coaching clients, when I am preparing a speech and when I am designing a training program. If I don’t find what I want or need in my books, I go to Google.
The half life of knowledge is getting shorter and shorter. If you don’t keep learning, you won’t even keep up, you’ll fall behind in the knowledge that you need to become an outstanding performer.
As you’ve probably guessed, my best common sense suggestion for becoming a lifelong learner is simple. Read. Read technical journals. Read trade magazines. Read business publications like “The Wall Street Journal”, “Business Week”, “Fortune” and “Forbes.” If you think they’re too stodgy, read “Fast Company.” Read your company’s annual report. Read your competitors’ annual reports. Read your local newspaper and “The New York Times”. Read news magazines like “Newsweek” and “Time.” Read business and industry blogs. Read books. Reading is the best way to stay up with what’s happening in business, in your industry and in the world.
There are other things you can do to keep learning. Attend seminars. Join the major groups or trade associations for your industry. Attend their meetings and participate. Volunteer for committee work. Become known locally in your field. Take a class at your local university. Use your company’s tuition reimbursement program to get a free Masters degree.
If you want to become a career success, your education should never stop. There are many ways to keep learning. Decide which ones work for you, and then follow through.