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Lifelong Learning: The Path to Professional Development


 

As students are nearing completion of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, there may be a sense of relief after working diligently to attain a degree. And, while balancing educational pursuits, some often do so in conjunction with full-time employment responsibilities. As a Vice President – who was a mentor to me – pointed out many times, the world keeps changing. Therefore, it is up to each individual whether they will continue to change with it, to possess the skills necessary in order to remain competitive.

Since that time early in my career, the workforce has expanded greatly, and on a global level. The current environment, just as it did all those years ago, involves a continually changing world of knowledge and skills, as business practices and technologies continue to evolve and advance. What has changed is what that knowledge and area of skill includes.

So, what does this mean for the graduating student?

Education is a lifelong endeavour, and includes an array of pathways, including the pursuit of short courses through certificate and diplomas. These programmes are often of short duration, and are specifically targeted toward a skill or set of knowledge to be gained. Certificates and diploma award offerings are generally more flexible than the degrees obtained from undergraduate and postgraduate education, in addition to offering their programmes online. They are often self-paced, providing students a very reasonable range of time for completion. The skills practiced are varied, as well, ranging from the financial, accounting and investment professions to business management, marketing and project management.

Many employers will often provide financial support for these types of professional development goals, and may also incorporate them into a performance goal and/or a plan for advancement within a firm. Supervisors and managers can frequently be a good source for types of programmes that could be beneficial to one’s career, given individual goals. Some companies have formal and informal coaching and mentoring programs that can be beneficial to navigating other areas, such as developing soft skills, understanding of the firm’s culture and gaining insight into professional areas of growth.

Networking with others on a global level is also a benefit of professional development. Rejuvenation regarding practices in the workplace can be gained, as well as insight into new methods and business trends.

Senior level managers also recognise the importance of the evolution of knowledge, and often practice skill-building themselves in a host of areas, from business management to strategic management.

One thing that remains consistent over time is the need for continued learning. Lifelong learning is an opportunity to gain a competitive edge, explore new areas of career interest, as well as to stay on top of business trends.

This article was written by Michelle Peters