Published on 2012/07/06

Needs and expectations in the job market are in a constant state of change, and employees must continue their education to stay relevant. Photo by Liz Nealon.

Education is lifelong and comprehensive learning needs to be expanded and accelerated

If you can’t apply what you have learned, then you likely haven’t learned “it” yet. I knew several college students who had terrific memories. They could ace their courses or pop quiz tests as long as they didn’t have to write and explain a position, argument or answer. It’s sort of like putting on your shoes, but never knowing why or how to tie them. We still see a lot of that today, though wearing untied sneaker or boots seems to be a fashion statement these days.

Both from a viewpoint of landing your first job after graduation and the reality you will have a lifelong learning agenda, making sure you haven’t only done the minimum to obtain a degree is an imperative. The cycle of changes in technology, finance, trade, population and worker demographics are compressing. That generally means much of what you learned as a freshman at the university will be obsolete by the time you graduate—even more so if you are not comprehending your studies. Just think of the advances in SmartPhone technology, tablet PCs, and social networking in just five years as an example of obsolescence.

For those in the non-traditional and baby boomer generations, one recalls the evolution of the automobile from fins to SUV’s and crossover vehicles. How about those 45 and 78 rpm wax records we all collected, now stored in our attics. The evolution of eight track to cassette to CD, and now the IPods or USBs you plug into the autos sound system; all this within a generation.

There’s the MRI and remote surgery and other leaps forward in medical treatment with the ability to wipe out malaria or perhaps some cancers in our lifetime. The examples seem almost limitless of what we absorbed with a growing lack of comprehending the meaning and impact of these revolutionary changes, then what we learned was short lived and never applied.

The complexities of international business and product logistics are tightly threaded together in the global supply chain and will be more so over the next decade. In the real world one must grasp and comprehend the impact on these global changes as they will affect every facet of our work and lives.

Pieces of this amazing puzzle are scattered everywhere in the world with little focus on their collective meaning in our everyday work lives until it sneaks up on us—something akin to our national debt growth. We leave it for too few to figure out for us. That’s what got us into this economic mess. How’s that working out these days?

To be a collaborator in a dynamic collective decision making process as part of the incoming business model, spurred on by our digital connection to nearly anyone, comprehension and critical thinking with quick response will dictate many decisions made and markets made. If you are not learning and comprehending you are falling behind. There is no middle ground or time lapse which people used to use to catch up. Being able to comprehend rapid change and put your learning into action more quickly is a must.

For those college graduates who have been either unemployed or underemployed for more than a year, it time to reevaluate your learning options to make sure you haven’t fallen behind in a world where lifelong learning is required just to keep even with opportunities. Maybe you are not comprehending what has been happening right in front of you.

Opting out is not an option for most. Therefore, what will you do with the rest of your working life? By now we know what got us meaningful work and opportunities previously is no longer what will get us value going forward. What many have discovered is if they step back for a moment, take a detailed look around and do an honest assessment you can find a way or a place to restart. You can do that because you will comprehend what has changed and how your skills or talents can provide benefits from the new market environment going forward. Many have already found this introspective approach very helpful in looking deeper into the issues, previously overlooked, that effect work endeavors from a more global perspective. It will become easier to see openings and where your skills might apply.

The next step is to start learning and comprehending as much as possible about your area of focus. Develop a plan for your passion and don’t wait for the government, China or your best friend to convince you to do otherwise. You may find it strange, but your success won’t be measured by your possessions. It will be measured by your passion for meeting your own goals because you really did comprehend what you needed to succeed in the manner that gave you pride and understanding.

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