Every Experience is a Learning Opportunity

It is easy to dismiss experiences that are not 100% relevant to you.  Why would you need to dedicate undivided focus if you do not stand to gain completely from something?

This is a mindset that many students today take to heart.  They are divided into majors of their choosing, but many do not take courses for that major until their senior year.  That leaves three years of courses that may not be exactly in line with where they want to take their interests or career.  This is where the mindset of “oh, this is just biology class and I am a marketing major” comes into play.

Of course this is a natural thought process, as biology and marketing are two completely different fields and are often comprised of completely different types of people.  But why must we think this way?

In reality, people, especially students, should look at this biology class as an opportunity to gain some amount of knowledge.  Even if the knowledge gained throughout that class is one fact, than it can be considered a success.  You learned!  

These experiences that are not directly in line with where you see your career going present a huge opportunity for you.  You can find at least one takeaway from every situation you are a part of.  If you can do this and relate it back to you and your interests, that is a major success.

A member of the Michigan State University faculty presented me with this scenario, which helps illustrate this point: a group of students across all business-related majors (accounting, supply chair, marketing, finance, etc.) visited quite a few companies across different industries earlier this year.  Each company presented how they do business as it relates to a specific function of their business, like the sales process.  Only a handful of students were interested in sales, so the remainder tuned out the presentations, electing not to take it in and find a takeaway for their learnings.

The students that tuned out the presentations missed out big time!  They had a fantastic opportunity to figure out how a company does their sales process, which is something not everyone has the chance to do.  Just because these students were not interested in sales does not mean they did not stand to learn.  The challenge with this is the students did not see a direct correlation to what they wanted to do.  For example, some of these students want to be tax accountants instead of salespeople.  What they fail to realize, though, is that learning the sales process will make them better tax accountants.  Tax accounts still need to sell themselves to their managers to get on better projects.  They need to sell their work to their clients to continue to win their business.  These accounting students could have found one takeaway (just one) that they could leverage in their future careers.

A learning experience may not be blatantly obvious to you (ie. a professor saying “you need to learn this to be good at your job”).  You need to take the ownership for your learnings.  If you shift your mindset to seeing every opportunity as one to learn, you will become a more well-rounded individual.  I challenge you to find one new nugget of information and relate that back to you and your situation each and every day.  I promise you will look back and be shocked at the amount you have learned.

Thought Starters

  • What was a time when you didn’t fully pay attention and could have taken away a learning to better yourself?
  • How can you shift your mindset to seek out learning opportunities?