Perpetual Student – A Key to Career Security
I recall being 27 years old and nearing the end of my graduate studies. My grandmother, who never had an unpleasant word for me and had left school after the fifth grade, said: “Stuart, what a shame. You are 27 years old and not working.” I was so embarrassed! Now I am much more than twice that age and still working. I am also still a student — a perpetual student — but no longer embarrassed. Instead, I feel blessed.
Management guru Peter Drucker offered this thought: “To make knowledge work productive will be the great management task of the last century, just as to make manual work productive was the great management task of the last century.” Achieving success and significance requires current knowledge or, more specifically, application of current knowledge.
Each of us should strive to be a perpetual student. Continuous learning and judicious application of new knowledge and skills help us earn career security. By career security I mean much more than job security. Career security means always being engaged, as an employee or independent professional or business person, and doing what we love to do.
How can we continue to learn? The most effective way to be a perpetual student is to seek varying and challenging assignments — so that we learn as we go. “Seek” is probably too soft — we should demand varied and challenging assignments.
Consulting is an excellent platform for continuous improvement via “on-the-job-learning.” The technology-driven and client-driven consulting field demands continuous learning and, at the same time, provides many continuous education opportunities. When our children were teenagers, I recall coming home and telling them about the stimulating consulting work I was doing-new projects, new people, new locations, and new technical and non-technical challenges! The response was a resounding disinterest. Years later, my oldest daughter and two colleagues founded an economic consulting firm in California. My wife and I visited her after about a year. She was so exited about consulting and said something like: “Dad! I am exposed to new projects, new people, new locations, and new technical and non-technical challenges.” I could not have said it better.
Besides the experience route to continuing one’s education, there is also more formal ways such as university courses, seminars, webinars, and self-paced learning. Some employers offer mentoring programs or tutoring and teaching opportunities. Work in different sectors of our economy such as business, government, and academia and gain many useful lessons. Actively participate and sometimes lead committees and task forces formed to carry out well-defined charges. Travel to and experience different cultures. Get out of your comfort zone and learn.
As a result of continuously learning – of being a perpetual student, when faced with a new situation you are more likely to say: “This reminds me of…” You get the idea.