“The only job security is found in your own ability to keep learning!”
“Through learning, we re-create ourselves.”
We all know the challenge – to keep learning. But, in most cases, learning is not learning something new, but instead, remembering what we knew, but forgot — or remembering what we knew, but never actually implemented. (back to that knowing-doing gap).
Thus, one way to look at the lifelong learning challenge is as one life-long string of Refresher Courses.
I thought of this as I was perusing CoxToday (the Spring, 2011 issue: you can download the issue here), the publication of the Cox School of Business at SMU. In “What Do Recruiters Look For In BBA Graduates?” Paula Hill Strasser, MBA Business Leadership Center and BBA Leadership Institute, describes key skills, especially “soft skills,” that are quite important in landing those first jobs, and then succeeding in those jobs. She lists 4 primary ones, and then a few others:
1) Good presentation skills (“Communication is first”).
2) Excellent writing
3) Leadership Skills
4) International Immersion
5) and those soft skills like: professionalism, strong work ethic, negotiation skills, conflict management skills, team building skills…
Strasser: “There is a belief that soft skills have become the hard skills for many new hires because it’s easy to measure quantitative skills.”
Here’s my thought. SMU may realize that these are critical to their graduates as they start out in their business careers, but in our experience (my work with Karl Krayer, and others), this list represents the perpetual curriculum for the business refresher course learning that can never stop.
Think about it: have you ever sat through a less than stimulating presentation; have you ever heard of a poorly functioning team; have you ever seen the effects of a mediocre (or worse) leader? These cry out for some serious, ongoing refresher work. None of these are skills that you can learn, master, and then never need to refresh.
Companies provide training, mentors, “CEUs,” but it really is up to the individual to take advantage of such opportunities. And each individual has to take the opportunity seriously – that is, actually learn. You know: you can lead a horse to water….
And if a company or organization has not built a culture of lifelong learning, you will see these skills diminish. It simply takes constant attention, with regular, perpetual, ongoing refresher efforts.
What about you? Are you regularly refreshing your knowledge, practicing your skills, and staying current? If not – it’s time to start. So…start!
(disclosure: I am an instructor in the Edwin L. Cox Business Leadership Center at the Cox School of Business — a wonderful program for their students).