I remember back in my College days when one of the Teachers told us that the completion of our College Diploma’s was only just the start, and we were expected to learn new things throughout our lives. That made complete sense to me back then, but at least one of my classmates told me later that once he was done with College, he’d never return to a classroom. That I didn’t understand, and I still don’t to this day.
If you want to get good at something, perhaps even be considered an expert at something, you have to continue to learn about that subject, practice and develop your techniques, learn new strategies, be open to innovations and new ideas surrounding it. Suppose for example you graduate from Fashion Design and were regarded as the top of your class at the time. If you isolated yourself and just produced clothing based on the fashion trend you knew without getting out and seeing what’s trending in the future, your line would soon be outdated. Other Designers would soon catch up to you and surpass you in their innovation, their choice of newly developed fabrics, and style.
As another example, boxers spar, marathon runners run on a consistent basis to stay ready, and Firefighters practice putting out fires. In short, just because you’ve got a skill; be it well-developed or entry-level, you are well-advised to hone that skill, keep it sharp and use it to ensure you stay relevant.
In your workplace, if you look around you’ll undoubtedly notice some people who are highly skilled in some areas, and others that bring high degrees of competence to other areas. Look deeper though, and you may also find it easy to spot some who are coasters; at one time they had highly sought after skills and expertise, but they have allowed those skills to become out-dated and they are content it would appear to plateau in their development and knowledge. There does come a time for many people when they shift their priorities and aren’t so concerned about being up on the latest and the greatest because they are content with where they are and that may be actually just fine with them.
However, one of the real benefits of honing your skills, and learning on a continuous basis, is that you might at some point catch fire again and want to advance your career, or even require competence in an area you have fallen behind in, just to keep the job you have now. It may not be possible then to acquire all that you need to know and put it into practice in a short concentrated period of time. There’s a great quote I love that goes, “Some things you need to do every day. Eating 7 apples on a Saturday night just won’t get the job done.”
As I have mentioned at other times, another good practice if you are interested in advancing your career, is to look at the skill set required not so much in your job, but in the job description of the position you want to aspire to hold. Essentially evaluating the discrepancy between what you’ll need and what you have is a useful way to identify what you need. Once done, you can then look at how and where you can learn the skills you want. This is a good practice to get into because you’ll feel motivated while learning because your learning takes on relevance for you. And this is why those who are happy where they are and don’t see themselves advancing, don’t generally like going to mandatory training. It has no relevance to them on a personal level; they don’t want to be there.
Learning new skills is also beneficial in a personal way outside of careers and jobs. Keeping your brain active and learning may just help you as you age and ward off cognitive development problems. Now it might not be a good idea at 60 to take up skateboarding so you can hang with your grandkids, because they quite frankly can bounce back from injuries better than those on an older individual. So thinking about what you learn is just as important as why you want to learn. In that example, I’d think learning some of the lingo, the language, the equipment and accompanying a grandchild to the skateboard park might be enough to get you relevant in their eyes without endangering you from being the center of attention when the ambulance shows up!
Back at your workplace, have a look at some of the people who are getting promotions and are regarded favourably as productive and valued highly. What have they been up to? What courses are they taking? You might have to sit down and have a discussion and determine what if anything your employer might be willing to help pay for if there is a return on their investment. In other words, how would taking a course make you a more valuable asset in your current position?
Hone those skills!