Passionate about lifelong learning? Here’s how to show it

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How we work now is different than before, and that’s not just because of Covid-19. It wasn’t so long ago that people would accept a particular role in a company and stay in it for the majority of their working life. Now, however, things are much more fluid. Many switch between jobs every few years and even for those who don’t, internal progression and lateral moves within a company are far more common.

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Lifelong learning has become one of the most critical elements of modern work. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean you have to commit to formal learning at college in order to upskill. Employers are placing greater importance on retaining their staff through giving them the tools and support to flourish, leading to better individual job satisfaction and, ultimately, a healthier and more successful business.

Certainly, jobseekers should be keeping their eye out for potential employers that are passionate about helping their staff to keep learning. But it works both ways. Recruiters and HR teams are looking for people with enthusiasm for continued growth.

As Ann-Marie Clyne, head of HR at Mastercard, says: “No matter what stage we are at in our careers, a passion for continuous learning is very important.”

She explains that continuing to learn on “a daily basis” is the only way we can “stay abreast of new and emerging technology, methodologies and best practices”. In the fast-paced work environments we have today, she says, prioritising keeping our finger on the pulse is “critically important”. So, how can you show that you have it?

Showing your curious side

You might be an incredibly dedicated learner, but your interviewers won’t know that unless you tell them. You need to give them evidence of “how you are curious, where you have taken initiative, how you are a thoughtful risk taker and, very importantly, how you have learned from failures”, Clyne says.

“If it is not specifically called out during an interview, interviewees should look for ways to be able to bring it into the conversation,” she adds. “Be curious about the company’s learning strategy, seek out opportunities to talk about any special projects worked on outside of the day-to-day role and ask what supports and resources are in place to provide opportunities for continuous learning.

“All of these things show, in many ways, a candidate’s passion for learning without being asked the direct question. Candidates that have a natural curiosity towards continuous learning will also stand out.”

Professional and personal development

Workhuman is another example of an organisation focused on lifelong learning. As a software developer for social-recognition and performance-management platforms, its company-wide goal is to create spaces for colleagues to learn from each other and celebrate one another’s development.

Michelle Daly, a senior technical recruiter at the firm, says her team is looking for candidates who they can help become “innovators, visionaries and game changers”. As a result, she adds, it’s important that potential new hires demonstrate a passion for learning and development during the recruitment process.

“We are looking for candidates to demonstrate an interest in growing and developing in our company, not only professionally but personally as well,” Daly says. “Candidates can demonstrate this by applying their growth stories to any question asked, or even asking the question about what opportunities there are in the company to learn and grow.

“Once they’ve been hired, they can continue to show this passion by taking advantage of our many curated learning opportunities or learning platforms, as well as participating in our available employee resource groups.”

Lifelong learning: ‘A passport to success’

It’s clear that lifelong learning has become the norm for many industries. In this article, Pierre Vandergheynst and Isabelle Vonèche Cardia of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland refer to it as “a passport to success”. They predict that a model of continuous learning throughout life will even surpass traditional education routes, such as universities producing only “talent and value for society” and nothing more.

“We are not advocating its abolition but rather calling for the adaptation of its characteristics to meet the needs of today,” they say. “If lifelong learning was to become a priority and the new norm, diplomas, just like passports, could be revalidated periodically.

“A time-determined revalidation would ease administration for everybody. Universities, as well as employers and employees, would know when they have to retrain. For instance, graduates from the year 2000 would have to come back in 2005.”

The Future of Education & Skills Training? Its called Massive Distributed Teaching & Learning (MDTL). Some thoughts; https://t.co/oSmSycCGE2 #education #futureofeducation #futurelearning #teaching #learning #students #freelearning #freeeducation #freecourses #edtech #college

— Mike Feerick (@MikeFeerick) September 17, 2020

Mike Feerick, CEO of learning platform Alison.com, agrees. Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com recently, he said that “to create greater access to employment opportunities for everyone, we must encourage governments, first of all, to give greater recognition to informal learning and to non-institutional learning”.

“Governments can introduce this concept very simply by making sure, for instance, that in every job interview, the question ‘what informal learning have you done lately?’ is asked as often as ‘what did you study at college?’,” Feerick said. This highlights how crucial it is that you can show your interviewer your commitment to lifelong learning based on solid proof and previous actions.

If you can tell a hiring panel that you’ve recently taken a short course off your own bat, for example, your penchant for learning will be obvious. As Feerick put it: “Keep learning. Always set time aside every month to do a new course online. Keep your curiosity, as that will feed your imagination and that is where the greatest power of the mind lies.”

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