From time to time I chat with folks who are just starting their professional lives. One of the things many of them discover pretty early on in their job searches is that they have spent a lot of money obtaining a degree that might not qualify them to do much. This isn’t something new: my degrees are in English and Education which have, on the surface, very little to do with a career in traditional and digital media, sales, and sports.
The question I get asked a lot is “how did you get to where you are?” – what was my career path, etc. Inevitably, the specific knowledge one needs to advance down a particular road comes up and then the question becomes “where did you learn this stuff?”. Good question, and not as simple an answer as you’d think.
The fundamentals – how to listen, how to write, how to synthesize information into cogent ideas – were some of the things those expensive educations are designed to teach us. As I’ve said before, I always asked a job candidate about books they were reading to see if they had intellectual curiosity, and how they discussed the book (even if I hadn’t read it) showed me how they formed thoughts. That’s not the specific industry information though. For that, it’s all about hard work – finding good resources, committing to study them, and never stopping once you think you’ve learned something.
I spent a few hours yesterday doing an advanced online course on something that I think my clients may need. No one told me to do that and no one paid me to spend the time on it. But on-going professional training isn’t something an employer hands you in most cases. Obviously self-education – which is generally non-participatory – can be less effective than formal, discussion-based learning. But learning in any form is better than waiting for someone to hand you knowledge.
So here’s the bulletin to our younger readers out there: no one is going to hand you the knowledge you need to keep improving. We are responsible for our own careers and the information required to advance them. If you’re in a place where you’re not learning, find an opportunity to move. If the opportunities are there but it’s “too much work” for you to take the initiative to take advantage of them, you need to rethink the whole business thing.
Where do you learn this stuff? Everywhere!