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“The only thing that is constant is change.” – Heraclitus
Especially with the advancements in technology, the world is constantly changing, and it’s up to you to keep up with it (which is near impossible if you don’t have a growth mindset).
The only way for you to do this is to accept yourself as being a lifelong learner, both in your personal and your professional life.
In this article, we are going to look at 9 reasons why it’s important to focus on continuous learning as a way to improve your opportunities for personal development as well as your career potential.
But first, let’s take a look at what continuous learning is.
What is Continuous Learning?
Knowledge is more obtainable now than ever before. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection and you can learn just about anything you want. People who do not take advantage of this become obsolete as their skills and abilities start to diminish in relevancy.
In your personal life, continuous learning is about the perpetual expansion of your skill set through learning–and building upon existing knowledge. As life changes, so does the need to adapt yourself personally and be persistent with opening doors to potential future opportunities.
Professionally, continuous learning is about expanding your skills to keep up with quickly emerging developments. Continuous learning helps you avoid stagnation in any profession and ensures that you keep moving forward toward reaching your full potential. And, depending upon your industry, continuous learning could be vital to your employability.
In fact, a 2017 study done by Deloitte found that software engineers have to completely redevelop their skills every 12-18 months. Because continuous learning supports employees’ improvement of their skills to help the business reach its goals, continuous learning is typically a foundational value of any corporate culture.
In turn, employees are starting to demand updated and ongoing trainings. This same study found that 42% of millennials are currently considering leaving their job because they don’t believe they’re learning enough or at the pace that they should be in order to keep up with the rest of the competitive business world.
Think about what would happen if another invention as big as computers were to emerge. On a personal level, computers have changed the way we communicate with people. It’s not uncommon now to have a good friend or confidant whom you’ve never actually met in person. It’s also become pretty standard to meet the love of your life online. And, people use social media to reconnect with people from elementary school!
To know the impact of computers in a professional setting–think about a time you were working and the power went out.
That’s an emotionally jarring moment.
Well, maybe not for someone who never learned to work a computer, but for the vast majority of the world who engaged in continuous learning, that moment is dreadful.
Businesses have started to support continuous learning for their employees by sending them to trainings and seminars to stay up-to-date with their industry. Retaining employees and helping them grow is much more cost-efficient than seeking new people who come equipped with that knowledge already.
Businesses want to invest in retaining and developing their employees so they can respond accordingly to the company’s constantly-changing needs. And, aside from saving money, offering continuous learning to employees is a way for a company to show its personnel that they’re worth the investment.
Now that you have a good idea of what continuous learning is, let’s look at 9 specific reasons why it’s important for your career and personal development.
9 Reasons Why Continuous Learning is a Critical Element of Success
The benefits of continuous learning for your personal and professional life aren’t mutually exclusive, as personal development can improve your job prospects and professional development can lead to personal growth. That said, you will find many of the benefits listed here could apply to either your personal or professional life, or both.
1. Stay Relevant
It doesn’t take long to get left behind with new technologies emerging on a regular basis. You have to be self-motivated to stay up-to-date with changing trends so you can adapt your skills however it’s necessary. To retain your value to any employer, you need to keep up with the times.
What’s more, with the knowledge that you acquire, you may be able to help other people when they’re stuck and need some advice. You will be seen as a leader, which will let you inspire others to adopt a love for learning as well. This is especially true if you can explain complicated things to people in simple ways–not only does this exhibit your mastery of the subject, it will also help people understand it.
What’s more, if you’ve ever been the one to introduce a new tool to your company, you know how rewarding it feels. If you can stay “in the know” about up-and-coming technologies, you will definitely impress your boss and colleagues.
2. Become Multi-Functional
With some cross-training, you can become an even more valuable asset to your company. You may be able to think of someone at your company who seemingly has an answer to everything–by engaging in continuous learning, that person could be you. You’d be able to:
3. Stay Engaged… and Interested
There are few things as dreadful as spending 40 hours a week completely bored. Being able to remain engaged with your work and view your job as a “purpose” rather than a “place” is a critical factor to staying mentally stimulated and motivated to do your best.
Forbes agrees that continuous training is of utmost importance when it comes to keeping employees engaged and wanting to show up to work every day. So, as an employee and an employer, continuous learning is in your best interest.
4. Come Up With New Ideas
When you’re constantly learning new information, you will eventually be able to connect various ideas or tools to each other and develop your own innovative ideas that have been inspired by other assorted materials. Also, as you’re acquiring new skills, you will face opportunities to come up with innovative solutions to problems. Being innovative could potentially help you earn you more money.
5. Boost Your Resume
As you broaden your skills, you’ll be able to add more components to your resume. Even if you’re not adding another “official” degree, you can create a “skills” section and list the competencies you’ve acquired on your own.
Also, continuous learning will lead to continuous improvement, which can support your career growth. This can help you expand the number of letters of recommendation that you obtain from colleagues and people whom you can list as a reference for future jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of jobs that people have in their lifetime is 12. So, chances are that you’ll switch jobs at least a few times throughout your life, and you will need to have the necessary skills to adapt accordingly.
6. You’ll Be Prepared for the Unexpected
As I’m sure you know, change is a pretty constant factor in life. Committing to a life of continuous learning helps you prepare for any change that is yet to come. Learning exposes you to new ideas and takes you out of your comfort zone.
History does repeat itself, however, people aren’t always great at learning from it. Learning from others’ mistakes or successes can help you respond more effectively to something unexpected that arises. Using your current knowledge to avoid reinventing the wheel can save you a lot of time and energy.
For example, let’s say you get diagnosed with a chronic illness. While you wouldn’t be expected to know how to solve this problem, as a continuous learner, you may be prepared with at least a basic understanding of what the illness is, knowledge of useful resources in your area, healthy coping mechanisms, and where to go for help–both physically and emotionally. Being equipped with this knowledge will help you handle the pressure and strong feelings that come along with your diagnosis.
7. You Will Have More Confidence
Learning new things will help you feel a sense of accomplishment, develop your independent thinking, and boost your confidence in your abilities. It prepares you to take on new challenges and explore uncharted territories. With enhanced critical thinking and problem-solving skills, you will be confident in a variety of situations that could otherwise make you nervous if you weren’t equipped with the experience of continuous learning.
For example, we’re all tasked with making important political decisions by voting. The thought of going to the polls may be really intimidating to you if you haven’t stayed current on recent political events or how each presidential candidate could have a direct impact on your life. But if you’re a continuous learner, you’ll be able to show up confident and prepared when it’s time to vote because you will understand the impacts of modern politics.
8. Be Open to New Perspectives
When you’re constantly learning, you’re always being exposed to new perspectives. Continuous learning can make you think more objectively and be more accepting of different opinions. By building on your current knowledge with other people’s ideas and beliefs, your attitude may change–along with your own point of view. The more you know, the better you’ll be at understanding various sides of the same situation, which will allow you to have a deeper awareness of issues.
9. Help Maintain Cognitive Function
No matter how you learn things, keeping your brain active in such a way will keep your cognitive function at optimal levels. Your brain is similar to your muscles in the sense that it needs “exercise” and activity to stay strong. So, in order to reduce risks to your cognitive health as you age, keep the new information flowing, no matter what your age is.
Final Thoughts on Continuous Learning
You can acquire new knowledge and gain wisdom and build your skill-sets anywhere. Learning is almost unavoidable these days with the amount of information that gets thrown at us every day. However, continuous learning is about maintaining a positive attitude toward personal and professional learning.
If you’re employed, do what you can to participate in any training that is offered or any potential coaching opportunities that come your way. Be proactive about your learning and ask for it. This way, you will become better at your job more valuable to employers–both current and future.
However, as previously mentioned, people don’t spend their entire lives in the same job anymore, and companies are turning more to independent contractors and short-term workers for services. The more you know and the more flexible you can be about your direction in our ever-changing job market, the easier it will be for you to figure out an employment situation under any conditions.
Finally, if you want to level up your productivity and time management skills, then watch this free video about the 9 productivity habits you can build at work.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.