The world is changing at an incredibly fast pace, and your degree is unlikely to give you all the knowledge and skills you need. To develop their careers, professionals are expected to continue gaining skills and growing professionally throughout their lives. Lifelong learning is the best tool to help professionals achieve these goals.
What Is Lifelong Learning
Lifelong learning is the process of gaining valuable skills and knowledge throughout a person’s life. Many individuals choose to continue their education for personal development as they see it as a way to reach their full potential, while for others it’s a great way to take their career to the next level.
Lifelong learning is a broad definition that covers any type of learning experience which can occur at any moment. It’s flexible and shaped by how each individual wants to shape the experience. Many people find it beneficial when they are changing careers, while others find it as a great way to advance their career and motivate them.
Continuing your education can be very beneficial for your career whether you are doing it to advance your skills or advance your career. It’s important to carefully consider what you can and would like to do because what you learn can have an enormous impact on your career.
Some of the benefits of lifelong learning include:
1. Helps You Keep Your Job: Showing an interest in the latest developments in your field won’t just make you look good, it will also help convince your employer that you know what you are doing and that you can be trusted.
2. Advances Your Skills: The boom of technology forever changed many professions, and as technology is not expected to slow down anytime soon, you should rest assured that there’s always something new to learn in your field.
3. Motivates You: Learning new things can help you regain interest in your job and can boost your self-confidence. These are essential in helping you be a more productive and happier employee.
Types of Continuing Education
Learning for professional development can be broken down into two basic categories: going back to university and online learning courses.
Generally speaking, going back to uni refers to gaining a postgraduate degree, but if you are thinking of changing careers you might also want to consider going back for an undergraduate degree; especially if your target career requires an entirely different skillset. Most universities now offer their degrees online as well, so you could do your degree via distant learning if physically going back to school is not an option.
Online learning courses are more specific and they generally take less time to complete. Although there are hundreds of online options, if you are the type who likes to be in a classroom when learning, you’ll find that there are many places around you where you can continue learning.
Going back to university may seem like a crazy idea, especially if you are still repaying your student loan. But, there’s much to be gained from advancing your skills through university education.
- Increases your earning potential
- Teaches you specialist knowledge
- Enhances your sense of accomplishment
- Increases your networking opportunities
- Helps you develop personally
How to Do It
There’s a good chance that you’ll face a few obstacles with returning to uni. One is the issue of funding as postgraduate degrees can be quite costly, and the other is the issue of time; gaining a degree requires dedication and energy, and if you are working full-time it can seem impossible to combine the two. But everything can be achieved with proper planning.
If funding is your biggest concern, you may want to consider talking to your employer or taking advantage of other sponsorship opportunities. If on the other hand, time is your biggest concern you might want to consider the part-time route as although it will take longer, it won’t require your constant dedication.
Online learning courses are a great option for professionals who continuously try to improve themselves. They are less time consuming, require less commitment and can still help you advance your career.
What’s more, online classes can teach you practical skills that can directly benefit your career as you can choose what you want to learn. If you’ve identified a few areas that you are simply not up-to-date with, you can select the appropriate class to take.
- Variety of subjects
- Lower total cost
- Learning from the comfort of your own home
- More flexible schedule
- Can help you gain lots of skills and increase your career advancement opportunities
How to Do It
Online classes can be an effective solution if you don’t have the time or the money to go back to university. They don’t require as much commitment as generally classes have a fixed time-frame and usually only take up to a few months.
Choosing the Right Online Class For You
- Step 1: Identify your goal (change careers, learn new skills)
- Step 2: Determine if you need the program to be accredited or not (also think of what kind of credential you are looking for, eg. certificate)
- Step 3: Read up on industry developments and compare them to your CV (what are you lacking?)
- Step 4: Think of costs and time (will you be able to pull it off?)
- Step 5: Read reviews (keep in mind that you don’t want to waste your time with something that won’t help you achieve your career goals)
It’s also important to note that if online learning courses don’t work for you, you can look for opportunities elsewhere as well. Visit your HR at work and talk to them about any training opportunities available, discuss the possibility of the company funding your attendance to relevant seminars etc.
Whether you are interested in pursuing a postgraduate degree or taking up an online learning course, you are probably worried about funding your education. After all, most of us struggle to get by as it is and, it can be difficult to manage things on the financial level.
1. Career Development Loans
Career development loans do what they promise; they are loans you can get to fund your career development. Sums awarded are between £300 and £10,000, but you must be over 18 years old and either be a British citizen or have lived in the UK for at least three years to be eligible.
These loans are awarded for programmes that don’t take longer than 2 or 3 years to complete (the programmes don’t have to lead to a qualification, but you’ll be required to prove how they help you advance your career).
To find out more, you can either call the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900, while if you are interested in proceeding with your loan, you’ll need to complete the online application form.
2. Getting Your Boss to Fund Your Education
If you’d rather not get involved with banks, you may want to consider asking your boss to fund your education.
Many companies sponsor their employees’ continuing education because they see it as a way of investing in the company’s future. If you are lucky enough to work for such a company, you may want to sit down for a chat with the HR department to find out more about how to qualify.
If your boss is less generous, you need to be more persuasive and convince your boss of what you can do for the company with these new skills. However, you should note that if you plan to go down this route, then you may want to take into account the company needs as well.
Bear in mind that even if your boss agrees to sponsor your education, you’ll probably be required to sign a contract that binds you to the company for the next 3-5 years as there’s not a single employer that would risk paying for your education without ensuring that they’ll be able to reap the benefits.
3. Financial Aid/Scholarships
You are more likely to find financial aid and scholarship opportunities if you are interested in pursuing a Master’s degree. Universities generally reward student excellence, while there are also many organisations that offer scholarships and bursaries.
Lifelong learning is a unique way to advance your skills, and it can also assist you in becoming more motivated in the workplace. It’s important for all professionals to find a way to fit lifelong learning into their lives as it’s an essential tool in every professional’s career.
Are you planning on continuing your education? Let us know in the comment section below!
This article was originally published in December 2016.