Lifelong learning is one of the ultimate gifts you can give yourself. In my opinion, there’s no other single activity that will have a greater impact on your marketing career, and your life, than being a lifelong learner.
Brian Tracy says: “Commit yourself to lifelong learning. The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind and what you put into it.” Here’s why I believe lifelong learning is so important.
Our industry continues to move fast! When I did my business degree, majoring in marketing back in the 90’s, we were taught about the four P’s, and the traditional style of outbound marketing.
Companies with the biggest advertising budgets threw money at building brands in print publications and on TV. The Internet was just in its infancy and social media as we know it today did not exist.
Clearly things have changed since then, and if I’d have relied on my degree alone to inform the rest of my career, I would not have got very far,
In my experience, a marketing or business degree is great to have, indeed a necessity to secure even some entry level jobs these days – but a degree alone is not enough to carry you for the rest of your working life.
Degrees do not and cannot keep pace with the changes in industry; they also cannot keep pace with the new tools and technologies available to marketers.
Compounding this is the reality of busy marketing teams who struggle to find time to provide in-depth, on-the-job training. It’s not an ideal situation – and while you may land on your feet in a team that can mentor you, the expectation is that you will learn quickly!
The reality is, that you are entirely responsible for driving your own career. No one is going to care more about your career than you do (or should), and lifelong learning is one of the best ways of improving your marketability, creating new opportunities for yourself, and ultimately creating a fulfilling life.
Lifelong learning is just that – a lifelong commitment
Lifelong learning, according to the Lifelong Learning Council Queenland, is broadly defined as learning that is pursued throughout life: learning that is flexible, diverse and available at different times and in different places. Lifelong learning crosses sectors, promoting learning beyond traditional schooling and throughout adult life (ie post-compulsory education).
The Lifelong Learning Council Queensland site said that this definition is based on Delors’ (1996) four ‘pillars’ of education for the future. I had never really thought about learning like this, but it’s a helpful framework in which to think about your own learning plan:
- Learning to know – mastering learning tools rather than acquisition of structured knowledge.
- Learning to do – equipping people for the types of work needed now and in the future including innovation and adaptation of learning to future work environments.
- Learning to live together, and with others – peacefully resolving conflict, discovering other people and their cultures, fostering community capability, individual competence and capacity, economic resilience, and social inclusion.
- Learning to be – education contributing to a person’s complete development: mind and body, intelligence, sensitivity, aesthetic appreciation and spirituality.
When I’m recruiting, I’m always keen to understand what the applicant does to keep their skills and knowledge up to date, and how willing they are to invest their own time and money in improving themselves. I rapidly lose interest when applicants say they have done no further learning since leaving university.
Resources for lifelong learning
There are hundreds, if not thousands of options for you to pursue a path of lifelong learning.
Formal courses are one thing, but you can also turn to:
- Audio books
- Free eBooks
Almost all of these options are available from your smart phone, which ensures you can turn even the most boring commute into a productive education session.
Then there are the MOOCs – the massive open online courses that offer training on virtually any subject you choose. Some are free and some are paid, but here are some of the MOOCs worth checking out:
You can also join collaborative events such as:
- Professional associations
- Industry associations
- Networking events
- Online forums
- Mastermind groups
- Clubs such as Toastmasters International
- Volunteer opportunities
- Even travel broadens your mind and creates a learning experience!
One of the best things about the proliferation of content marketing in recent years, is the volume of fantastic free content out there. I have downloaded more free eBooks than I can possibly read. I have learnt more nuggets of wisdom in the free podcasts I listen to, than I can implement in this lifetime.
Commit to lifelong learning now!
The fact is, we have access to more information and learning resources than ever before.
One of the best things you can do to propel your success, is to schedule time every week for learning. Whether you want to have theme weeks or months, or even dedicate an entire year to learning a new skill, the critical thing is to make time and actually make it happen.
One of your learning goals for example, might be to read at least one new book a month, or to skill up on very specific aspects of marketing like Facebook marketing or to master your time management skills. Have a think about what skills and experience you need both now and into the future and develop a plan to make it happen!
I’m currently learning a stack from being a member of Michael Hyatt’s Platform University, and the Copyblogger Authority Program. I recently paid $10 to do a fantastic Udemy course about publishing books on the Kindle platform. And as I’ve mentioned previously on the blog, the free Hubspot Inbound Certification program was invaluable.
On top of this, I listen to about 10 podcasts a week, scan about 100 blogs every week, and have another 10 Udemy courses lined up that I bought en masse when they ran a sale over New Year.
As you can see, I’m a huge fan of lifelong learning, and I encourage you to become one too!
In the words of Robert E. Lee, “The education of a man [or woman] is never completed until he dies.”