The Key to Staying Competitive – Continuous Learning

job-fairWe all have topics or subject areas that we could stand to learn more about or brush up on. Even those of us who are constantly reading, listening to podcasts, attending conferences and debating industry leaders, are challenged by the daunting task of keeping up with the latest and greatest insights.

Let’s face it, establishing and maintaining expertise in any subject takes a real investment of time, energy and often resources. Knowledge, still is, and will always be, a source of enormous power…not to mention, competitive advantage.

Formal education is the most logical first step to gaining this kind of advantage; But it doesn’t end there.  In fact, learning becomes most interesting when it is not only applied to the real world, but enhanced and challenged by actual experience.

Have you ever read a classic piece of literature once when you were a kid, and again years later as an adult?  Your whole perspective evolved, didn’t it?  Well that’s what happens with any kind of learning situation.  The more life and work experience you amass the more comprehensive your understanding of new information and insights becomes. Some might argue that the whole act of learning gets all the more exciting.

Complacency is fine when you’re on vacation or enjoying a lazy afternoon at home, but when it comes to building your career, it can be the kiss of death.  If you’re looking to build your credibility and earn more respect, or yes even money, make sure you’re taking your continuing education seriously.  Just don’t get stuck thinking of learning as something that has to happen in a traditional academic institution.

Check out weekend seminars, workshops, day trips, distance learning, internships, new jobs, weekend volunteering, books, or even mentors to start, you’re sure to find at least some basic information to get you started. Then engage.

You can study just about anything these days in a myriad of different places, formats, mediums and timeframes. You can chose how and where you learn to make sure it’s most engaging and interesting to you so you’re incentivized to keep adding to what you know.

Regardless of whether you have a job to contend with or some time off coming that you want to put to good use, think about what kind of commitment you can make and survey your options. Whatever you have to work with, there are lots of ways you can start to get the more intense education and experience you need. Some options to consider:

Short- Term:
Boot camps
Resort courses
Summer programs
Books, workbooks, kits

Night or weekend classes
Extension program
Online courses
Home-study programs

Long Haul:
Distance learning
Masters or advanced degrees
Total immersion programs
Leadership training
Management programs
New job

Now figure out what you need to learn and get out there! New information is everywhere. Sop up new insights, studies, trends and topics like butter on a biscuit.  (Sorry, I just love saying that!)  Your credibility, respect, expertise, and success depend on it!