Learning Does Not Stop Once You Graduate

You receive your diploma, marking the crowning achievement of your academic career.  You’ve learned about principles and ideologies within your given field, setting you up for the rest of your life.  Once you’ve gotten that diploma, there is a feeling of completion and relief.  I recall when I graduated a level of excitement that I no longer need to go to class.  Learning, as I knew it, was done.

What I did not understand was my that was only the beginning stage of my learning.  I was about to embark on a new learning journey, with different people and a different setting.  The cool thing about this new learning journey is I was in full control.  There was no syllabus.  No professor telling me what was important.  No exams to test me on my learnings.  It was all up to me what I wanted to learn and when I wanted to learn.  As I mentioned, it took a while for me to understand this.

When my career started I was under the impression there were a set of rules, similar to undergrad and high school, that I needed to follow.  These rules included listening to your superiors and doing the job that was asked of you.  This is not to say you should not do either of those things, but there is more to your career than just doing what you’re told.  I realized my learning wasn’t going anywhere if I only did what was asked of me.  This turned me into the Corporate Robot that I did not want to be.

In shaking that persona, I also realized I could control my learnings.  If I had a question or a hypothesis about a project at work, I had the ability to learn about it.  If I wanted to understand a topic more, I could set up time with the expert to discuss it.  And if I wanted to do a deep dive into a topic, I could (and did) make a case to take a class on it.  It was my learning and I wanted to use it to benefit me and, in turn, the business unit I supported.

Learning allows you to be a stronger, more well-rounded individual.  It also gives you the opportunity to create new things and see things from a different perspective to influence your opinions.  If you shut down the learning engines right when you graduate, you are robbing yourself of years of personal growth and fulfillment.  Think about each meeting, interaction, and project as an opportunity to learn.  For each of these, think of a learning objective that you want to reach.  For a conversation, your learning objective may be to understand someone’s upbringing and how that influenced who they are today.  For a project, it may be to better understand how Javascript works.  If you are intentionally striving to learn, you will put yourself in a position to glean learnings.

Just because you are no longer in a formal learning institution does not mean you should stop learning.  If you choose to stop learning, you are damaging your future.  But if you actively work to learn at work and outside of work, you will be developing a foundation for growth, all while making yourself a more interesting, well-rounded individual.

They say “never graduate” in jest.  In regards to learning, though this is true.  Take the “never graduate” mindset when it comes to learning you’ll be better off as a result.

Thought Starters

  • How have you gone about learning in the working world?
  • In your everyday activities, how can you ensure you are learning?

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