One thing that I have strived for in my adulthood is continuing my education, even outside a formal learning environment. If I were to give a piece of advice to those entering the workforce now, it would be to get into the habit of gaining new skills and knowledge via whatever channels work best for you. Given the competitive jobs market, an ever changing technical landscape, and communications technology bringing globalization to bear, it may be that lifelong learning isn’t just a strategy for gaining an advantage, but a necessity.
For me, it was the availability of training resources for coding such as codecademy, podcasts like those available through the Jupiter Broadcasting network, various YouTube videos, and written online tutorials that allowed me to continue learning after school and outside of job training. For someone who found it very hard to go at the pace of a normal class (too slow, taking a semester and loads of money to cover the material), it was a relief to find other avenues to amass knowledge. Not only could I learn new skills and concepts more quickly than those moving more slowly in formal education, but I was able to do it cheaper and put together my own “courses”, i.e. learn what I identified would be useful to me or interested me vs learning more broadly, perhaps inapplicable information.
There is this idea that we are living in the “Information Age”, which I believe adequately describes this time, where information is easily attainable for those with an Internet connection. But there are problems in this age of information, that prevent everyone from obtaining the knowledge they need to make informed decisions, and grow professionally. The barrier to the first is misinformation. What good is all the world’s information if you lack the critical thinking skills to identify what is good, factual, scientific, evidence supported data vs propaganda and crap? This problem of misinformation leading people to believe they are properly informed when they are not is a serious problem that we may not figure out. I think the only way to address this is to teach critical thinking skills to young children and have them apply it to information every day to sort out what is true and what is false. The second problem that presents itself, and hinders professional growth through online information is how the content is presented. Oftentimes all the data one needs to learn new skills exists for free somewhere on the web, but is not structured in a way that is easy to digest. This, unlike the first, has a solution and is actually improving every day. Applications and services are popping up like Memrise, an app for learning languages (same with Fluentu.com), Khan Academy, EdX, and many others. It is my hope that these things become good alternatives to more traditional learning programs that seem frozen in time, not properly leveraging our current technological capabilities to best serve students.
In closing, I whole-heartedly recommend that those reading this post take the time to explore some of my recommendations above. Globalization has created a highly competitive landscape, and the best way to find your place in this ever-changing world is to always be improving your skills. Don’t get left behind, continue building your areas of expertise and growing as a person!