There is a good deal being written, spoken and researched on the future of careers and the future world of work - what skills we’ll need for the future, what foundation to build yourself to ensure employment, what skill sets will be most in demand, what jobs will be replaced by automation, what new jobs will appear, even talk of ‘universal basic income’.
So, how do you prepare and plan for your future, when the job you thought you were preparing for, looks like it may no longer exist; the job you will have may not yet have been imagined and the job of your future may not even be a single job but rather a mix of opportunities and income streams secured or created in an evolving way?
I have been looking at research and recommendations from around the globe (India, Singapore, UK, Australia, USA) on the impact of these changes, particularly on young people, and amongst all the recommendations for being more employable and prepared as we continue into this future, what keeps being repeated is the need for us to be self directed and lifelong learners.
So what does a self directed learner look like and how do I become a lifelong learner?
Broadly speaking, self directed learning is learning that you are in charge of - whether you do it by yourself and/or with others. You have freedom and choice over what you learn and how you learn it, you take the initiative to find out what you need or want to learn, you look for resources to help you learn, you find your own ways of learning what will be of benefit to you as you navigate your life and career.
You are not limited to what is on offer in your school or ‘formal’ education. (Students in some schools are provided opportunities to do self directed learning but that may not be your experience).
So what happens as you ‘self direct’ your own learning?
Well, as you explore possibilities, make decisions, research and discover what help you need (information, materials, other peoples’ ideas and expertise, opportunities to experience and practice etc.) you are having to come up with ideas - creative solutions - to solve problems, and you are learning how to learn.
You can then keep applying this ‘how to learn’ to other learning throughout your life. In this way you become equipped as a ‘lifelong learner’.
Here’s a great opportunity to do some self-directed learning! Google the terms ‘self directed learning’ and ‘lifelong learning’ and discover more for your self!
Here’s a few additional pointers that may help you get started with your self directed learning:
- Set some realistic learning goals - what new things do I want to start learning this month/this year?
- Make a list of ways you can start learning (e.g. extra curricular resources and opportunities, clubs, online courses, videos, TED talks, books, magazines, classes) and decide how and when you will do them.
- Believe in yourself that you can be successful learning in this way!
- Ask questions as much as you can! You will always learn something from the answer. Why? how? what?
- Ask people to show you, teach you, explain to you… Please show me how this works? Can you help me understand why this happens? How did you learn this? Will you teach me to do this?
- Gain experience however you can (volunteering, observing, helping someone doing a task or job - paid or unpaid).
- Every so often, reflect on your progress - celebrate what you have learnt, what you have discovered about yourself in the process!
- Keep a diary or record of your learning that will remind you what you have achieved.
Finally, remember to update your resume/CV to show what you are learning, it may not be a formal qualification or certificate but future educators/employers will notice you are a learner.
Here’s some examples to help you:
- I have taught myself how to… e.g. do simple accounts or speak basic Japanese
- I am teaching myself… e.g. x programming language/coding or design techniques using Adobe.
- I am learning as much as I can about… e.g. the environment and the global challenges we are facing or data analytics and presentation.
- I am gaining experience in… e.g. customer service by working in my local supermarket or public speaking/debating in the local debating society.
- I am following my passion for… e.g composition and lyrics by creating and directing the music for a production or making a difference by running a climbing class for disadvantaged youth.