Are you currently working as usual, working from home or taking a career break? Even without looking at the statistics, we know most workers’ livelihood is badly affected by the pandemic. Covid-19 has forced us to adapt to the new normal. To be able to quickly adjust to new ways of working requires a high degree of agility. Hence, let’s look into attaining agility through lifelong learning with, among others, TED Talks and LinkedIn Learning.
The Importance of Cultivating an Agile Mindset
Having an agile workforce is the aim of most companies to ensure that they can survive in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment. What does it mean for us, the workers?
Among other things, it demands today’s workers to have the ability to rapidly adapt to the changing needs of business organisations. Be agile.
In short, to keep our jobs, we must:
- not be complacent, not stay put and expect things to remain the same;
- take the initiative to enhance our skills as much as, and as swiftly as, possible.
One of the ways to cultivate an agile mindset is to adopt the spirit of lifelong learning and focus on our career development. It doesn’t matter whether we are in sales, kitchen service, cleaning industry, etc. – we must keep working on honing our skills. Continuously sharpen our saw, as propounded by Stephen R. Cover, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 31 years ago.
What is Lifelong Learning?
Lifelong learning is a voluntary act of acquiring skills or knowledge beyond the conventional ‘schooling’. Whether for personal or career development. lifelong learning will:
- open our minds and hearts to new ideas and possibilities;
- enhance our ability to appreciate other people, cultures, the world and our life; and/or
- help us to develop our professional skills and improve our quality of life.
I am sure many would exclaim, “But how can I find time to do that?!!”
Most of us, especially parents of young kids, barely have time to rest after office hours. With chores, personal commitments and many other responsibilities, is it possible to juggle them all?
Believe me, I hear you.
I experienced that during the first decade of my career. I had no interest to learn anything outside of my job scope. Our kids were small and required lots of time and attention. At that time, Autism was still considered as ‘unacceptable behaviour’ by most teachers.
So, I learnt only what was absolutely necessary in the performance of my duties. When I did attend training and seminars, I was not a responsible learner. But that was then, when things moved at a snail’s pace. Now, everything moves at a faster rate, and employers’ expectations are much higher.
We Have No Choice
Let’s face it, unemployment rate is still high. The economy is not doing well. Therefore, unless we are filthy rich or have no need to earn a living, we have no choice but to continuously improve to effectively compete in the job market and to effectively support our organisation’s needs.
So. if you:
- want to keep your jobs and continue earning an income
- thrive at the workplace
- be able to develop your career prospects
Then, you must embrace the habit of lifelong learning, for example, with TED Talks and LinkedIn Learning.
There is no shortcut, well….. at least, none that I would recommend.
Recognising Learning Opportunities
Like all good things, cultivating an agile mindset by adopting the spirit of lifelong learning is not a piece of cake. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Some prefer reading, some prefer audio visual learning, etc. Some are fast learners while others ruminate and learn better through experience. We are, after all, unique individuals.
As such, we need to open our minds to recognising learning opportunities and our individual learning abilities. It doesn’t even have to be professional study. Not necessarily earning a degree, masters, PhD., etc. Depending on the skills you want to acquire, reading books may not even be necessary as there are various other learning tools available, such as audio or video tutorials.
I enjoyed learning from Craftsy, though I was not really a ‘crafty’ person. But it used to be free…. 😀
For example, during my career break a few years back, I took the opportunity to acquire new skills that was not related to work, such as knitting, baking, blogging, etc. Mostly learnt through free online tutorials. They may seem useless to most people. But to me, knitting has become a therapeutic activity I resort to during stressful time, while blogging allows me to share my thoughts and connect with the beautiful blogging community.
Returning to work after a career break and after the age of 40, really opened my eyes. So many changes have transpired while I was away from work! Fortunately, I joined an organization that encouraged continuous learning. I managed to knit quite a few hats like this one during the early, stressful days.😜
Knitting baby hats is therapeutic
Lifelong Learning Through Extra Work
As mentioned above, there are various ways and opportunities to enhance our skills or acquire new skills. Not just through courses or training. One of the best ways to learn is while on the job.
It’s like being paid to learn.🤑
At my previous organisation, although I had a specific job description, I often found myself performing tasks beyond my job scope. Which was great, because it meant diverse and wider learning opportunities for me. That was made possible because I had a great boss, who let me roam freely and learn as much as possible, and make numerous mistakes. And in the process, possibly annoyed a few good people, too.
As a result, I acquired valuable experiences through those ‘extra work’. For instance, although my main job was consulting, I also dabbled in marketing, promotion, sales, training, etc., which was not in my job description, nor part of my KPI. Therefore, were not taken into account during the annual appraisal.
Believe me, I was not too shy to ask for consideration. But my request was denied. Instantly, mind you, without even a hint of “let me think about it first”.
The Dilemma of Performing ‘Unrecognised Work’
Did I nor grumble or complain, at least to myself? Did I never feel down or tired or unappreciated? Of course I did, I was not Ms Sunshine! Especially when pesky pessimism sneaked in. Then there were also occasions when my ‘good deeds’ resulted in disaster or embarrassment. Not to mention, sleepless nights, mental and physical exhaustion, and also incurring out-of-pocket expenses. But I felt it had to be done, in the spirit of teamwork and for the good of the organization.
Frankly speaking, it was extremely challenging, continuing to do something beyond my comfort zone, and then not being compensated for it. In fact, many workers face the same situation.
DLSL have received many comments and enquiries from readers who:
- felt forced to perform tasks that are not part of their job scope or skill;
- incurred the wrath of supervisors when they can’t perform adequately; and
- not being properly compensated for their extra efforts and mental anguish.
In my case, I was not forced, though sometimes, it was requested. Nonetheless, I believe they were all things that were worth doing. And everything worth doing, is worth doing well. It was a matter of mindset – I chose to regard those experience as learning opportunities and also as part of working in a team.
And at the end of the day, my efforts were not in vain.
The Rewards of Doing Extra Work
Through the extra curricular activities, I was rewarded with abundance of ‘benefits-in-kind’ such as:
- I gained diverse range of knowledge and skills
- It created opportunities to work with different departments and strengthen camaraderie
- I expanded my network of acquaintances
- I met and got to know many great people and learned from them
And surprisingly, before I left, I received special ‘perks’ from the organisation in recognition of my efforts. Of course, I also received wonderful support from clients as well. Clients that I would be honoured to call friends, who do not hesitate to share with me their experience and knowledge. People I honestly miss.
Incidentally, it was those ‘extra-curricular activities’ and the support of amazing people, which led me to my current career. New horizon. Expand my field. More things to learn, definitely.
Lifelong Learning with TED Talks and LinkedIn Learning
Reading is good. Practice is better. Taking courses and participating in seminars with an inquiring mind are awesome.
Lucky for us, there are many conferences and lessons available online. The rates are also more affordable. Of the many online learning platforms, I would like to encourage all to venture into the world of TED Talks and LinkedIn Learning.
Among the many course topics available at LinkedIn Learning
For personal and professional development and mind-expanding ideas, I would recommend:
LinkedIn Learning is an online learning platform for professional development. You can learn at your own pace, place and time. It’s paid subscription, but occasionally, there are also free courses available. Or you can also signup for the 1 month free trial period to determine whether it’s the thing for you.
After successfully completing each course, you will usually gain printable certificates from various bodies such as LinkedIn, NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy), PMI (Project Management Institute), etc. Some courses may require you to take exams (and achieve a result of at least 70%), while others merely quizzes.
Some of the Most Viewed TED Talks
I love TED Talks!😍😍😍
What is TED?
TED is a nonprofit organisation devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less) presented by scientists, researchers, technologists, business leaders, artists, designers and other world experts. Their goal is to inform and educate global audiences in an accessible and free way.
I usually listen to the talks while I am doing mundane chores such as folding or ironing the clothes. Not only are the talks packed with insightful and inspiring information, they are also mostly less than 20 minutes long.
I enjoy listening to TED speakers and afterwards, contemplate their remarkable perspectives. It’s definitely easier than reading!
Some of my favourite TED Talks
Here are some of my favourite TED Talks, and there are many more, actually:
You Tube Channels
I don’t think I need to elaborate on this, even little kids know You Tube. So many FREE tutorials!
You just need to identify which suits you best. Besides turning to it for cooking or crafting tutorials, I also refer to You Tube videos when I want to further explore a particular thought leader’s point of view.
I am sure there are many more avenues for lifelong learning and career development. Feel free to share in the comments below about your favourite e-learning platforms.
Let’s Be Braver!
I think I’ve yammered long enough.
In short, to be an agile worker, you can start with the following:
- Cultivate an open mindset.
- Be bold – don’t be afraid to try out new things, to fail or to to work hard.
- When in doubt, don’t be shy, ask around.
In the words of Captain Christopher Pike of the USS Enterprise:
“Be bold, be brave, be courageous.”
– Star Trek: Discovery (New Eden – Season 2, Episode 2)
Please don’t immediately shun the extra work or all work that are outside your regular job scope, even if you’re not paid extra for the efforts. Give it a shot. At least, think it over carefully and weigh the pros and cons before you run amok crying ‘constructive dismissal’, ‘discriminarion’ or ‘workplace bullying’.
Embrace each experience as a learning opportunity, no matter how undesirable it may be. As long as it’s not contrary to your beliefs or principles, of course. You never know, the long and winding path may lead you to surprisingly lovely destinations.
The challenges will strengthen your character. Be bold, be brave and be agile, no matter your age. I started quite late, so I must sprint. Younger ones have time to experiment and explore at a more leisurely pace.
How to Juggle Them All?
Time constraints? Too many commitments?
Learn to prioritize. If you don’t know how to prioritize, google “how to prioritize” and you’ll get some ideas.
Seek help, ask questions. Let go of less important stuff. Declutter your mind. List down your goals and determine your priorities.
Above all, take care of your health and stay safe.