Life-long learning and the 100-year career

I was rather disappointed not to able to attend the latest in theballroom’s series of thefuturestory events, because it’s a topic that fascinates me. The 100-year career considered how the average working life was getting longer due to improvements in health, changing life perspectives and economic necessity; and the resulting impacts for the workplace and employee engagement.

One of the things that strikes me about this is it means life-long learning has never been so important.

Changes in technology capabilities, economic conditions and expectations about how organisations should operate have already brought a need for businesses and their workers to be more flexible in adapting to circumstances and new opportunities.We have to accept that change, and often significant change, is a constant.

Michelangelo said 'I am still learning'

The Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo carried on working on major projects into his 80s and in later life is quoted as saying 'I am still learning'

When we also factor in that a career could last 5o, 60 years or more, we see how strong the imperative is to continue developing knowledge and skills.

The digital revolution

The rise of digital technology has certainly brought fundamental change to the roles of those working in marketing and commuication. I was a press officer in the early part of my career, with much of my day spent writing press releases for external print and broadcast media. And this type of material has remained a top priority for many organisations I have worked with over the years.

However, in more recent times social media and content marketing have really come to the fore. The sense of empowerment has grown in terms of having a greater variety of media and channels on which you can publish what you want when you want in order to build relationships with stakeholders.

While a lot of core skills remain the same, communicators have had to be able to modify approach and acquire new knowledge and competencies. The traditional press officer role has become less common, and those who are not willing to adapt could find themselves in a weak position in their organisations and the job market.

As Professor Lynda Gratton points out in her recent article for the Institute of Internal Communication on trends towards automation, individuals will have to accept they may need to develop entirely new skills at different points in their career.

Life-long learning

In the past, it was generally the case that most of your learning took place in the early part of your career. However, the situation has definitely changed. And people should avoid getting complacent just because they have a professional qualification or a further degree. Expertise at the start of a career will not necessarily look the same as expertise 20 years down the line.

With longer working lives, it is also likely we will see a higher level of radical career change, either from necessity or choice.

All of which makes life-long learning and embracing continuing professional development very important.

A new lease of life

A long career is more likely to lead to boredom if you just keep doing the same things. I have personally had a new lease of working life as a result of moving into social media and other aspects of digital communication, but it has certainly meant a number of steep learning curves. I have really come to value the discipline of and opportunities offered by CPD programmes in order to remain on top of my game.

It is important that employees and freelancers embrace life-long learning. And that employers recognise this need and are open to changes in career path for both younger and older workers - to the benefit of everyone concerned.

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