By Andrew Hopkins
The main prerequisite of being successful in any future employability endeavour is to ensure that you are willing to be a lifelong learner. This kind of educational attitude or thirst for professional and personal development will be one of the key defining skills for the future workforce.
What is lifelong learning?
Lifelong learning skills refer to the set of abilities a person has in order to self-educate, unceasingly develop, and acquire continued knowledge.
Being a lifelong learner means that a person must be a self-directed learner. In the broadest sense, self-directed learning means that an individual must take responsibility for their own educational enrichment.
This is often broken down into the following steps:
- Assessing one’s own needs and readiness for learning
- Identifying one’s own learning goals
- Engagement in the learning process
- Partaking in personal self-evaluation and personal appraisals
Learning and education does not stop after formal education (such as school, college, or university) ends. Traditional schooling is only one type of learning. Knowledge can be acquired, and skill sets developed anywhere at any time. Learning is unavoidable but lifelong learning is about creating and maintaining a positive attitude to securing personal and professional development.
Why is lifelong learning essential for the future workforce?
Being highly educated is not necessarily the key to employment. Although certain qualifications may help you get an interview or a foot in the door, actually securing the position involves a lot more.
Employers are looking for candidates with transferable skills, and this includes the ability to demonstrate that you are keen to learn and develop.
Putting in the time for additional learning offers rewards for both the employee and employer. Some of these benefits can include:
- Enhanced personal satisfaction through understanding more about who we are and what we do
- Better results and a more rewarding working day
- The opportunity to specialise in an area of interest, potentially earning more or being promoted within a connected industry
- The opportunity for wider experience, further enhanced knowledge, and additional transferable skills
- Employers may encourage workers who are keen self-directed learners as highly skilled and knowledgeable employees are an asset to any company
- Someone who can offer more expertise will be valuable to both the employer and the customer base
- Being a self-directed learner can also ensure you stay ahead of the competition and give you an edge
How do you improve your lifelong learning skills?
In the book ‘Master it Faster’ author Colin Rose uses the mnemonic MASTER to demonstrate the six stages needed to become an effective learner.
Motivation: lifelong learning requires a certain level of self-motivation. You need to feel enthusiastic and optimistic about learning and your ability to develop.
Acquire: effective learning means that you acquire knowledge through all possible forms. This can include listening, reading, observing, experimenting, practise and experience.
Search: learning is most successful when we can attach what we have uncovered to our own personal experience or personal meaning. Don’t simply try to recall facts but find ways to put them into context within your personal life. Therefore ask yourself questions such as, “how does this concept or idea enrich my life?” or “what has this experience taught me about myself?”
Trigger: it is not possible to remember everything you see, read, or hear but you can use tricks to help trigger recollection. This can involve taking notes, visualising, using mnemonics or experimenting with your new skills.
Examine: you should frequently examine your knowledge to evaluate and reinforce what you have learned. Talking to others can often be a good way of examining your own understanding and testing your perception.
Reflect: you should always set aside time to reflect on your own learning. Think about how and why you learned a particular subject, how you felt about a specific topic or idea and how you felt before and after you developed your knowledge.
If you’re interested in finding out more about lifelong learning or how to highlight these skills on your CV or within an application, then please contact Whitehead Ross for more information and guidance.