There is no question the professional world today is not what it was for our parents’ generation, or even that of only 20 years ago. Both the technical and leadership environment today is complex and continually evolving. Because of that, it is important to stay current with technology and its affects on the world that we live in. The only way to do that is to participate in continuing education – to update professionals and their organizations to the opportunities that come out of the changing environment.
Even though our careers may not be directly tied to the business of technology, they are impacted by technology. In fact, on a daily basis our professional and personal lives are affected. The lines between personal and professional lives is becoming blurred; whether we are communicating with family – a text, email, photo, video clip – checking travel options, looking for an address, the list goes on and on. Right now, I am sitting in an airport typing this on a tablet while watching most around me using their smart devices. Some are reading, some are talking, others shopping – all on their smart devices. To enjoy life today takes more “know how.” So how do we keep gaining more “know how?” It is no longer just linked to a college degree. Even the old word processing program is now an “app” that looks and feels very different from just a few months ago. For a few, dealing with technology upgrades is common sense. For most of us it is not. It affects our lives and jobs so what options do we have? Let me continue.
Continuing education plays a key role in expanding opportunities, even if you are looking to stay in the same field. Things are done differently today than they were even a few years ago, in just about every field. Even industries hundreds of years old, such as dairy farming, have decreased disease transmission and increased efficiency through technological advances in just the past few years, thus requiring continual training for farmers around the world. Staying within the same field has become just as demanding, with remaining current in it, as moving to another field.
Technology also works as an aggregate, converging different disciplines and professions, and narrowing the gaps between them. Continuing education helps us cross those boundaries more easily and capture opportunities to understand multiple worlds from a career and life standpoint. Continuing education is now a requirement whether you are in a technical field, or in management and leadership – if you work on your own or in teams. At first glance these connections may not make sense, however, the value of professional development is not realized until its application in our personal workspaces, our individual context. This is especially true in leadership and management, which deals with people, efficiencies and effectiveness. In these areas continuing development is going to be cast by the context of the environment. So even as a leader, a “soft science” so to speak, the same theories hold as they do in the engineering or healthcare environment. But, your updated skills rarely take effect immediately instead they come through spread out over time, in messaging and decisions you make – during normal times and times of crisis.
Education can also come from outside a class or conference room. Coaches or mentors, of all ages, can bring guidance, suggestions or different perspectives to the table. Input from different vantages can provide powerful feedback and can have significant influence. Growing as a leader is more than going through the traditional education process. However, creating a personal curriculum is up to you. Many of the knowing gaps we have – in technology, in healthcare, in math and science, in literature, in politics – can be overcome by building a network of mentors, of any age. After all, you can use technology to reach out! Setting a goal to learn of a broad range of topics from all fields will help you in your current job and advance your career.
I have a personal curriculum and many mentors, younger, my age, and older. I have a “to know” list with me all the time. Do you?
Have a Merry Christmas and holiday break! I look forward getting back together in a couple of weeks.