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The Lifelong Learner’s Guide to Success: Future-Proofing Your Career, Part Three

The Lifelong Learner's Guide to Success_

Part One & Two – What We Learned

Over the last two weeks, we talked about the ebbs and flows in the demand for certain qualifications and skillsets and how it affects the workforce for decades. We also dove into technological advancements and their effect on the workforce and the economy. Lastly, we have touched on what we can all do to be better lifelong learners, which will make us better prepared in an always-evolving world. If you missed either of those, you can check out Part One here and Part Two here.

Society as a Whole

If we want our careers to be fulfilling while generating adequate levels of wealth, then we ALL need to embrace the lifelong learners’ mindset. John Dewey probably said it best: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

I’m not just speaking to the individual reading this when I say WE ALL NEED TO EMBRACE THE LIFELONG LEARNERS’ MINDSET! This needs to be taught and encouraged by every level of schooling starting at grade school. This needs to continue throughout high school and college and into our professional lives. Businesses and corporations need to start thinking long-term. If you are running a cost-benefit analysis and comparing the price of sending employees to workshops or offering to pay for classes and determine the new skill or concept isn’t worth the investment, then you may want to take a second look. You won’t only be providing your employee with a new skill, but you are also encouraging curiosity! Curiosity is the foundation of creative and exploratory thinking, which enables someone to address a situation while considering alternative viewpoints. This directly influences one’s problem-solving abilities, and doesn’t every business want their employees to be great problem solvers?

The Individual

We know that a college degree does not get you as far as it used to, and that technology is rapidly changing entire industries. Millennials already account for the largest generation in today’s workforce and Generation Z has already begun entering into it. Millennials, ages 23-38 who have experienced the demands of our workforce, already know that we can’t just go to college or learn one skill and expect to get a job that will challenge us mentally and compensate us accordingly. In a study conducted by ManpowerGroup they discovered “the vast majority of Millennials—93%—see ongoing skills development as an important part of their future careers and they would pay for it personally and give up their own time to do it.”

Similar to the ’80s and ’90s when the vast majority of individuals saw college as an important part of their future careers, we now see the same for “ongoing skills development.” With more than half of today’s workforce understanding the importance of acquiring new skills and willing to acquire them on their own time and dime, leads me to ask two important questions:

  1. Where will individuals turn to acquire these new skills?
  2. Will these new skills make the individual stand out to employers like a college degree did in the ’80s and ’90s?

The first question has many answers such as; online classes, digital badges, workshops, additional schooling, etc. The second question is quite simple. The college degree became less valuable when more of the population had one, so your new skills need to be unique compared to your competitions’. The importance of these two questions isn’t apparent when asking them individually but becomes clear when you answer them together. Where can I turn to acquire new skills while standing out from my competition? Adding a third part to the question, will this be cost effective or will I need to put myself into massive amounts of debt? Well, I have your answer! Join a professional or trade association.

Acquire New Skills – Standout From Competition – All at a Bargain

Nearly every single associations’ mission statement has something to do with educating or professionally developing their members. These non-profit organizations live and breathe the lifelong learner mentality and are some of the best ways for a person to expose themselves to:

  • Networking opportunities with industry leaders and influential people
  • Sharing of industry knowledge and discovery of new trends
  • Educational offerings and scholarly publications that are not “Googleable”

Did I forget to mention, less than 1% of association members are in the 25-34 age range, says Association TRENDS. That’s right millennials, if you joined a professional or trade association today you would be part of the 1% (of association members ages 25-34). Imagine how much respect the older members, your potential employers, and colleagues, will have for you when you are the only 20-something-year old at an industry event. You will be seen as an innovator who displays ambition and takes initiative. Additionally, associations don’t require a huge financial investment like college tuition. Not to mention, all associations are non-profits. Meaning every bit of revenue generated gets invested right back into the organization whose sole purpose is to provide more value to their members.

Conclusion – Joining the Right Association

With over 60,000 professional and trade associations, it might seem like a daunting task to find the right one. To help simplify the process, here is an article from Jobstars that provides a list of associations broken down by industry. I highly recommend shopping around and finding the right association for you, while young professionals still represent such a small percentage of association members. This is an untapped marketplace of new opportunities and right now, you have the chance to get in before it becomes yet another trend embraced by the masses.

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