The Key to Career Security — Lifelong Learning

WorkCoachCafeThe velocity of change has dramatically increased in the last couple of decades. Technology becomes more embedded in our lives every day. Think of the last time you used a paper map or a public pay phone.

Lifelong Learning

In the “old days” (50’s through 90’s),  you graduated from high school and/or college, and you were done taking classes. Hopefully you got better at your job, but you didn’t take much training, and you didn’t worry about it. Today, that approach is a big mistake!

Adapt and learn to stay current with your field and to be ready to move on successfully if your current field disappears…

SO much is changing, almost on a daily basis now! Don’t let yourself get left behind.

As technology changes, so do jobs and careers. For example, ten years ago, very few people were involved professionally in social media like LinkedIn and Facebook. LinkedIn was founded in 2002, MySpace in 2003, and Facebook in 2004. Today, a search through on the term “social media” finds 50,000 job postings which mention that term.

Particularly if you have been unemployed for more than a few weeks, employers will be concerned that you are not up-to-date with your field or your skills may have become “rusty.”

Horror Story: Incredibly Out of Date

Earlier this year, I spoke with a job seeker who faced a very big challenge. She was in her early 40’s and had worked for a local dentist for more than 20 years. She ran his office — answered the phone, kept track of messages, set up appointments, and handled all the other “administrivia” associated with running a small office.

Since the dentist was not into using new technology for his office, the office was not computerized at all, basically functioning out of the 1980’s with a typewriter, a copier, and an adding machine.

Then, the dentist retired and closed his office putting this 40-year old woman out of work. She was struggling to catch up to current office technology required by most employers, and she had a very big handicap. She was incredibly out of date!

Stop Learning at Your Peril

Jobs are constantly automated or out-sourced (moved to another provider, perhaps in another country), so very few jobs are “safe.” Even well-known and well-respected brand name employers like Polaroid and Kodak disappear.

Today, job hunting or not, promise yourself that you will learn something new and relevant every day – whether it is related to the job you currently have or the job you want to have some day.

It is not your employer’s responsibility to keep you up-to-date. It is your responsibility to yourself! If you don’t keep learning, unpleasant things will happen: you will fall behind your competition in the marketplace for that next job search, and your professional/business network will be smaller and less effective. Both translate into less success in business (or education or government, etc.) and fewer options for you in the job market. Neither has to happen to you!

How to Learn One New Thing a Day

Learning one new thing a day is really not that hard! It can be as simple as keeping up with the latest news for your industry or profession in a LinkedIn Group, reading a book, or taking a class about the latest version of Microsoft Office.

Here are some sources of new information:

  • Microsoft Virtual Academy — free online training from Microsoft on Microsoft products.
  • — MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) free university courses from across the world.
  • Kahn Academy — free online training in academic subjects from algebra to zoology, mostly high school level.
  • — online technology training, not free.

Many more sources exist! Your local technical and trade schools, colleges, and universities offer courses and training constantly. Also check out your local professional and industry associations to see when they have meetings and what training they may offer.

Leverage the Learning Opportunities You Have

In the first weeks after my last layoff, I took advantage of my newly ”flexible schedule” to attend a day-long seminar in a topic which had always interested me, but which I had been unable to attend before because it wasn’t directly related to my work and my employer wasn’t willing to let me take the time to go.

Paying my own way into this seminar certainly made me feel “invested” in the event – literally and figuratively. I was determined to get MY money’s worth. As the day progressed and I talked with a few fellow students, I noticed that I could pick out the people who were attending because “the boss” wanted them to attend. The people sitting beside me – arrived a little late (“too much traffic”), took a longer lunch, didn’t pay close attention to the event, and left early (“to beat the traffic”). A terrible shame because they really would have benefited as much as their employer, maybe more. And, for them, it was free!

Bottom Line

Falling behind is just not a good option, for a person or an organization, and if you aren’t learning something new every day, you’re falling behind. Even “negative learning” – learning about what you don’t want or what you should avoid – is useful. So pick up the learning habit now, and keep learning from now on.

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About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan also edits and publishes, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPostAOL Jobs, and LinkedIn.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.

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