This time of year always reminds me of when I was a student and the excitement I felt when finishing up another year of school. I was a good student; I loved school and that feeling that I had learned a lot. I also loved relaxing over the summer and looking forward to the possibilities of the new school year ahead.
Once you graduate and become an “adult,” as they say, life is never quite the same. Still, I believe that, if you are lucky, you can truly be a student for the rest of your life — even if you are not actually enrolled in any sort of formal learning programs.
The world changes so quickly, and it is important to keep your skills current — even after you’ve gotten your degree. I have often joked that diplomas should come with an expiration date, just like your milk carton does. I received my diploma more than 20 years ago. The basic rules are still the same for concepts like supply and demand, but many things in business have in fact changed quite a lot in the past 20+ years. For example, the Internet was not a factor then, and there was no social media. Students in business school today are discussing and learning about issues and tools that did not even exist when I was in school!
If I had not taken the time and made the effort to stay up-to-date on these current trends, I’d argue that my degrees would be a lot less valuable today. Lawyers and doctors are required to take continuing education courses to keep their accreditations current, and I believe the best and most effective business leaders do the same sort of thing by reading books written by thought leaders, attending conferences, and listening to speeches by industry icons.
It does not take long in a new job before you get so busy that you cannot remember the last time you picked up a trade magazine, attended a webinar or conference, or shook up your routine to think about things in new and different ways. When this happens, it is time for you to go “back to school.” Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Brush Up on Who the Latest Competitors Are in Your Industry
Do you know who you have lost business to in the last year? Why did your clients and prospects choose these companies over you? Time to do a little market research and online analysis to see what your competitors are offering and the claims they are making.
2. Learn What the Hottest New Technologies and Tools Are
What is everyone using and talking about? Remember when Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest were new and getting all the press? What is new now? Why does anyone use it or care? Time to find out!
3. Find Out What Other New Hires Are Up To
The millennials have their own toys and language. Do you know what they are talking about and doing? It is not enough to use “LOL” in an email and think you are in the know. Reverse mentoring can really help here.
4. Sign Up for Online Demos for New Products so That You Can See What Is New in Your Field
There are lots of webinars, teleseminars, TED talks, etc., to help you stay current. Carve out time every week for online learning so you do not get left behind!
Whether you are one year or 20 years out of school, I am certain you would benefit tremendously by making continuing education part of your life! It is important to keep those synapses firing. You will learn new things and have fun in the process. Here is to getting a great education and being a lifelong learner — enjoy!