As humans, we’re never really “done” learning, until or unless we decide to be, or we run up against a health issue that interferes. I always say that I’ll keep learning until I take my last breath, as long as I’m able to do so. Sure, we’ll usually encounter some people who may take the attitude that they’ve learned or seen it all, yet these are the folks I wonder about if they lose their job or retire without any curiosity about learning new things, running the risk of disease or dementia in their later years if they don’t keep their minds sharp.
Regardless of your situation or career, there are always new subjects to learn about and new skills to acquire, especially if you’re looking to change what you’re currently doing, let alone keeping up with the fast pace of change these days. When contemplating a career move, spend some time gauging what, if any, skills are necessary for you to make the leap successfully. Below are a few tips to help with this.
- Assess What to Learn: If you’re looking at a different role, industry, or career direction, review job descriptions, organizations’ websites, and talk to those who are currently doing what you’d like to do to see what skills are required and which are “nice-to-have” to determine where you may have some gaps. If slowing down in your career, identify what you’ve always wanted to learn about, whether work-related or not, and investigate where you can acquire the knowledge and skill you’re interested in, whether in person or online.
- Take Advantage of Convenient Learning Options: For those age 50+, consider Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, offering low-cost courses through 124 educational institutions across the United States to learn for the fun of it, without exams or grades. Otherwise, there are plenty of online options to take skills-based courses, whether for free or for monthly subscription fees. Open Culture lists free courses available through universities and providers such as edX and Coursera. There’s always LinkedIn Learning and Udemy as well for convenient options. And, of course, taking advantage of offerings through your employer, if possible, can be of great benefit, as well as checking out your city or town’s community center education and activity programs.
- Find a Community: Between Meetup, 1 Million Cups (for entrepreneurs), the thousands of professional associations, Chambers of Commerce, community service and charitable organizations, and gatherings of networking roundtables or mastermind groups, there’s something for everyone. Often, it takes trial and error (and paying some fees) to check out different groups to see what the best fit is for you. Depending on what you’re looking for in terms of people and desired results, it can definitely be worth the time and effort when you’ve found a good networking home, whether to make a career shift, for social support, or for continuing education.
- Form a Power Team: It can be tempting, especially for us introverts, to go it alone when it comes to finding that next opportunity or transitioning into a semi-retirement or retirement situation. To ease stress and make things a bit easier on yourself, consider banding together with a handful of people you know or meet (maybe 3-5 tops) who are facing the same type of situation and decide how you can best support each other. Connect on a regular cadence, whether virtual or in person, and be intentional about how you can pass referrals, introductions, or information to each other, as well as provide moral support. A regular boost from trusted contacts goes a long way with momentum and energy.
- Develop a Strategy: As with many aspects of life, we may find that we want to tackle everything at once because we get excited (great!) or get some ideas (excellent!) yet can exhaust ourselves if we try to do too much in a short timeframe (draining!). Instead, think about what makes sense for you, taking resources (budget, time, logistics, support) into account, in addition to identifying your learning goals, to form a plan of action. If there are multiple skills you want to learn, identify which are highest priority, based on what you’ll apply them toward and any hard deadlines you need to meet, whether set by you or someone else. Take these on one at a time and focus on your top priority, rather than signing up for a bunch of events and classes and then getting overwhelmed. You’ll thank yourself later and will be able to absorb and practice that much more over time, as well as build relationships.
No matter what you’d like, or need, to learn, there are many ways, formal and informal, to gain the new knowledge or skills you’re lacking to take that next step in your career and have a successful transition. Even if your current employer isn’t in a position to provide you with a lot of training or professional development experiences, or you’re slowing down in your career, you can still be proactive to ensure you get what you need. It may require some short-term pain, in the bank account or schedule, though can reap great rewards in the end.