At a glance
Continuing professional development and learning are vital for professionals who want to futureproof their career.
Yet sometimes the competing needs of advancing a professional skill set and balancing professional and personal lives cause us to choose speed over quality.
It is vital for professionals to recognise upskilling as a continuous endeavour, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to a knowledge gap.
Jon Lang, CEO of corporate training provider Lumify Group, says there is no single course you can do to future-proof your career.
“The idea of being future-proof means you are continually learning,” he explains.
As the technological age advances, upskilling is one of the best ways to move your career on an upwards trajectory and prevent plateauing.
Upskilling also tells your colleagues and superiors that you are curious and eager to learn more. When a new opportunity arises, your commitment to learning will suggest you are a natural candidate for it.
According to Peter Benei, founder of Anywhere Consulting and host of the Leadership Anywhere podcast, “Even if someone learned the necessary skills at university to get a job, it doesn’t guarantee they can keep it”.
“As jobs diminish because of technology, new ones will also be created. Learning is the best way to adapt to change,” says Benei.
Crash course caution
A crash course may meet an urgent business need or a fill a minor gap in a skill, but there is a risk of retaining very little of what was taught, says Lang.
“A crash course happens so quickly that often the person leaves without having absorbed the information. The next day when they turn up to their office and they’re asked to implement it, almost everything they learned has been forgotten,” Lang says.
The caveat is that individual learning styles differ. Some people don’t have the patience to sit through a six or 12-month course, regardless of the subject matter.
Others need to bounce their ideas off other people in a room over a series of days or even weeks. Training providers often provide similar courses delivered in different timeframes and formats.
“Some people just want to go watch a video by themselves. That’s how they learn,” says Lang.
“Others need real-life experience. Some take the information away, absorb it, test it and then come back and apply it.”
Women in Leadership (Finance) Virtual Classroom Series starts in March
Mix and match
A combination of approaches often works well, because it can reinforce the information delivered.
Usually, the business need that arises from a lack of knowledge or practice has two dimensions – one is operational, and one is skills-based, Benei says.
“A crash course can help you to gain the necessary skills to solve these problems, but everything relies on implementation and adaptation,” he says.
“Therefore, a mentorship practice should always be paired with a crash course-style approach.”
One learning program could involve an intensive workshop that teaches new skills in a short period. Another could be an internal mentorship program where employees are trained in how to apply their new skills.
Benei believes that in the next decade, it will be crucial for companies to invest in learning and development programs, either externally or by building their own programs.
In a tight labour market, providing meaningful opportunities for career development can be a valuable part of the employee value proposition.
Benefits of the scenic route
Upskilling as a manager tends to require a measured approach – to test the hypothesis, get feedback from the trainer and then possibly tweak the new skill for use in the workplace.
“A slower approach will work when you are seeking long-term learning benefits,” says Lang. “Often that is when someone is new to an industry or specific knowledge base.
“Maybe you’re a career changer, or a jobseeker, or trying something new for career progression. It’s very difficult to get that in a short, sharp burst. You need time for absorption.”
Slower, continuous learning and development can be useful when collaboration is part of the experience, says Benei. If the goal is to help teams collaborate better on a certain project – or just in general – taking it slow may better cement new practices.
“Better collaboration happens through continuous facilitation. It doesn’t happen overnight or via a crash course,” says Benei.
Personal needs and wellbeing
When selecting a course, don’t think only of short-term business needs. Discuss it with your colleagues, your manager and even family and friends.
Make the work that most satisfies you part of the conversation. Talk about how to deepen your knowledge and refine your skills.
“Think about the bigger picture of your career,” Lang says. “Work out what you want to do with your life.
“Don’t just think about what you need right now – where do you see yourself in a year, three years, or six years?”
Lifelong learning is more than a means of increasing our financial compensation over time, but it is one of the biggest benefits.
“It’s also about us as individuals,” Lang explains. “We derive personal satisfaction from acquiring new skills. When you stop learning, a lot of excitement about the future is lost.”