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Millennials: continuous learning opportunities are everywhere

Today I’m pleased to share another guest post by Halogen marketing coordinator, Vicki Foliot. In this installment of Millennial Musings, Vicki shares the importance of lifelong learning, and why Millennials need to take charge of their own career development.

I recently saw advertisements from a local college talking about its new and cutting-edge programming.

The premise of the ads is that the hands-on training you can receive there will prepare you (fellow Millennial that you are) for jobs that don’t even exist yet.

You can see the same sentiment expressed in the video, “Did You Know ?”

A veritable sensation on YouTube with over 15 million views, this video echoes what my local college is telling me in their ads:

the speed at which today’s economy, and by extension job market, is developing is faster than ever before.

The video even goes so far as to state that what today’s students learn in three to four years of post-secondary studies will be obsolete by the time they graduate. Here, check it out:

Saying years of post-secondary study will essentially count for nothing once students graduate seems a bit extreme to me. However, the video serves to highlight something I’ve picked up as critical to ongoing career success: continuous learning.

Continuous learning makes us adaptable

No matter where we are in our careers, continuous learning helps ensure we can successfully adapt to the ever-changing workplace. And the opportunities for continuous learning are everywhere.

To understand how to engage in continuous learning, let’s start with a definition of what it is.

Continuous or lifelong learning is “the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.

It requires us to keep an open mind to new ideas and processes, and to new ways of approaching familiar situations.

I have a few informal mentors here at Halogen and they’ve told me on many occasions that continuous learning is the way to keep afloat in my career. This advice makes a lot of sense for my generation as we generally are adept at keeping up with each new wave or trend. Our career successes will in many ways be a direct result of our ability to pick up new skills and leverage new experiences along the way.

And we need to acknowledge our role in making continuous learning a reality for ourselves.

Be in charge of your own development

It’s in any organization’s best interest to invest in the development of its people, but in reality, shrunken budgets can leave little left over for formal training. The good news is there is plenty that you can do for yourself. And the truth is, ultimately you are in charge of your own career, and your own professional growth.

So here’s what you can do:

Set goals. When it comes to continuous learning it’s a good idea to take a step back and identify your career goals and the skills you need to reach them. My mentors have challenged me to do this by identifying the next step in my career path and what I need to learn to get there.

This isn’t about defining where you’ll be 25 years from now. Frankly, that’s not only daunting, it’s pretty much impossible given the way the business world is so rapidly changing. But identifying your next step a year, two years or even five years from now is doable. Defining these goals can help ensure you’re identifying and taking advantage of learning opportunities wherever they arise.

Connect. The best way to learn is by doing, but a close runner up is to learn from others. You can start by seeking out professionals in your field, either at local professional networking events, or even on LinkedIn. A quick LinkedIn search will provide you a list of all sorts of groups you can join.

Use these face-to-face events and/or the LinkedIn community to ask questions, and ask for advice. Find out what you don’t know and then make a point of setting goals to acquire the skills, knowledge and experience you need to move forward in your career. Also key here, use the connections you make to build your professional network. Often job opportunities are all about who you know, so build those relationships. When someone in your network hears of an opening, you want them to think of you first.

Create your learning path. Once you’ve put some effort into identifying your career goals, seek opportunities to develop those needed skills in your current role. Talk to your manager. There may be an opportunity to set a “stretch goal” to help you develop new skills. Your manager may know of an upcoming project or cross-functional working group you can join to gain the experience you seek.

If those opportunities with your employer don’t exist, consider volunteering. It’s a great way to gain new skills and expand your professional network while contributing to the success of a local organization or business in your community.

Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to push yourself outside of your usual comfort zone. You’ll never get to where you’re going by staying where you are now, so take a few calculated risks. Try something new (for example, if you never speak up in meetings, consider sharing your opinions when the opportunity arises) and be open to feedback and lessons learned from making mistakes.

Your turn

What other advice should Millennials — or anyone for that matter — take into consideration when it comes to developing new skills and gaining new experiences? Please share in the comments section below.

And for more tips on professional development, read Who’s in charge of your professional development plan? You are, silly!

About Vicki Foliot

Vicki is a Marketing Coordinator at Halogen Software offering a fresh Gen-Y perspective to issues and trends impacting recruitment, employee engagement, development and more in a digital era.

Through her Millennial Musings series (available here and here), Vicki shares how the attitudes, outlook and expectations of this unique population are changing today’s workforce dynamic.

When not blogging for Halogen, Vicki loves to explore the great, big Internet, bake deliciously unhealthy desserts, and dabble in various arts and crafts.

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