From the minute compulsory education ends, we move into a continuous phase of adult learning – whether through a college and university route, through moving straight into work and learning on the job, or from learning lessons in the hard-knocks school of life, every day is a learning experience.
But we now live in a world where there are many ways to continue education purposefully and productively, within and beyond classrooms. The majority of reputable universities and education providers now offer online learning platforms for taster, certificate and accredited learning opportunities, across a vast range of professional or personal interest subjects. From 2005, the number of students taking online courses has increased year-on-year and, as methods for virtual learning and communications technology improve and continue to develop, learning online is considered a favourable way to demonstrate a willingness to learn and self-motivation.
However, experiential and classroom-based learning is still a key factor in education as it’s particularly rich in providing opportunities for collaborative and direct, experiential learning. Whilst you can learn about the rudiments and theory of risk assessment for event management via distance-learning methods, for example, putting this learning into practice requires practical learning opportunities which on-site courses can provide.
But what motivates us to try? Motivation to formalise our later learning comes from several different needs or wishes, and even a combination of many factors and needs:
For most of us, the practical outcomes of learning provide all the motivation we need, but occasionally there’s often a strong sense of intrinsic motivation too … a need to prove to yourself that you have what it takes to meet personal goals and to make a change in your life, starting with extending what you know. This kind of motivation is very powerful and is responsible for many successful later life career changes.
Whatever the motivation for doing it, continuing education is also a good way to gain accreditation or certification for the skills that you may use every day in a particular role, but want to have additional evidence of.
For example, perhaps you have a flair for languages and have been using an additional language when travelling in your current role, but want your CV to reflect your capabilities in this area? Signing up to the local college or online services are easy ways to boost those skills in a more formal way, whilst many sectors implement NVQs as a part of CPD because it’s recognised that gaining NVQ qualifications is an ideal way to formally demonstrate your capabilities within a particular sector.
So how does continued education help your career options? To start with, having evidence of continued learning on your CV demonstrates your self-motivation to potential employers right from the get-go of an initial job application, something which can greatly improve your chances of making it through to an interview.
Additionally, many of us take for granted our transferable competencies of good communication skills, efficient organisation skills and good people skills, but need to demonstrate how these can be used at the ‘next level’. For instance, taking a course in leadership or event management are two examples of how such transferable skills can be taken to a new level for a wider career purpose.
It’s surprisingly common to feel safe to the point of stale in our job roles. It’s not until worrying periods such as ‘restructuring’ come into play that we’re shaken from mundane into motivated.
Continued education, particularly career-skills related education, can be a good way to keep skills refreshed as well as to enrich a role which has become mundane. It also has the happy side-effect of enriching what you are able to offer at restructuring time (if you really want to stay where you are) or promoting your current and relevant skills if restructuring means it’s time to move on.
Just as education can enrich our skills and knowledge, it also has a surprising social side. Modern technologies for learning include social media and online learning groups, whilst courses such as event management encourage social exchanges for learning purposes. This helps to extend your professional as well as personal remit, in a way which also helps to prepare you for working with new people, if a career change is one of your motivations for learning.
In short, what you can learn from continuing your education goes far beyond the course content itself. You’ll learn about your motivations and how this affects how hard you are prepared to work to achieve your goals – particularly if you are motivated to invest your own time and money in your education. It can also be a vital way to learn exactly what it is you want from your career and whether retraining for a new career is the right option.
If it proves to be, then enriching your education improves those professional and personal prospects – at least by demonstrating your willingness to learn, and at most through success in your venture – providing lessons in life as well as learning.