There’s no one single route towards building a successful career and life; however, there are ways to increase your chances. Aside from looking like you mean business and backing it up with determination and enthusiasm, the best way to boost your odds is to always have an open mind when it comes to learning. Most people tend to put their learning days behind them once they leave school, but there are always ways to learn! (This blog is proof this old dog can learn new tricks) And in doing so, you can never quite be sure where that knowledge is going to take you.
An Open Mind
First thing’s first: it’s important that you keep an open mind! There’s a familiar path that most people tend to take. They go to university, ready to absorb any and all information that’s presented to them, and then after a year or two in the real world, they think their "student" learning days are over. Keep in mind that your viewpoints, like your skill sets, don’t have to be set in stone. If you’re willing to change your mind and your skills, then you’ll learn much easier than people who think they’ve got everything sorted out and keep up with the ever changing world! That’s not to say that you should forever be changing your mind, but just that it’s worth revisiting how you think about things from time to time. I remember being so reluctant to learning new technology when I was a young lawyer, but when I learned it, I became an invaluable resource to my partners that depended on me to know that technology.
The Education That’ll Help You
Your job will demand a lot of skills, some of which you have, some of which you’ll need to learn. If you work in an industry that is always pushing forward, then your role as “student” will likely never end. But it’s not just the skills that your job requires that you should keep in mind. It’s also possible to learn things that’ll help you in all aspects of your life, including your career. While I am biased to a legal career, it’s easy to see how a person could benefit from having a knowledge of legal services, for example if they wanted to start a side hustle or just want to understand regulatory framework in which their current job operates. The best part is that most of this information is available online and for free. If you dedicate your time to learning about new things that are both, directly and indirectly, related to your work, you’ll be able to take yourself even further in your career.
Of course, while you can learn a great deal about new topics through the internet, sometimes you’re going to need that piece of paper to get ahead. Studies have shown that, in some jobs, the pay difference between a person with and without a masters degree was significant. If you like learning, and want to get ahead in your job, then it’s worth investigating just how useful returning to higher education may be. You know that I went back for my MBA after practicing law for over a decade. It was an invaluable decision and in part how I learned to blog (seriously!) In some cases, your employer’s may be willing to finance all or part of your studies. In any case, no-one is ever punished for knowing too much about their job.
Step Outside of Comfort Zone
You can’t learn everything in books. Sometimes, you can only really understand a new topic by being proactive and diving into the deep end. For many people, this can be scary, but there are real advantages to stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. For example. If you take a temporary volunteering position overseas, you’ll learn something new and give your resume a huge boost at the same time. Even though it can be uncomfortable, there’s much to learn on the other side of our comfort zone. Play it safe all the time, and you’ll be missing out on some valuable learning experiences!
Bring in a Higher Salary
We said above that a masters degree could help you to reach for the higher paying jobs, but that’s not the only way learning can help you. For example, take the two following scenarios. In the first, a person just drifts through life, doesn’t think too much, they go with the flow. In the second, a person is switched on, always reading and learning. In the second scenario, it is unlikely that this person would settle for less than they’re worth. Why? Because they’ll know the average wage for his or her position, and if they’re getting paid less, they’ll know to ask for more. In the first, they might not realize that they’re being paid far less than other people. See? It really can pay to have a desire to absorb as much information as possible.
We know there’s a lot going on in your life, and that it isn’t always possible to spend a lot of time learning something new. But I suggest only doing bit sized chunks. That is how I have learned social media (remember I just started being a part of any social media in 2016) and I just kept diving into resources to refine and learn a little more each month. Bite sized chunks make it easier than you think - and who knows, you may end up being a lawyer turned small business owner turner blogger?
I have linked some of my favorite books that have helped me in my career. What are your best tips for making continuous learning a part of your life and career?
M.E.L. is an attorney and small business entrepreneur whose mission is to help professionals conquer the workaday world with style and poise.
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