Thursday, May 19, 2011
Learning Is A Lifelong Process
A great annual exodus is happening right now as many young people graduate from colleges and universities. My son, for example, just graduated from Rutgers this past Sunday.
For some, graduating feels like an ending, but it isn't really. The feeling of separation anxiety is natural. It means you're moving through one of life's passages.
Just because you've graduated from college doesn't mean the growing process has ended. It's just shifting to a new level. Now you enter the next phase of your life. Previously, as a student, the school provided the structure. Now, as your working life begins, the structure is up to you. Recognize this: You are still "in school," only now it's the workplace where your next lessons will happen. Be ready. Here are a few tips:
What courses will you take? - Since there is no course catalog anymore, you have to set your own learning goals and design your own learning projects. Be proactive about it. Ask yourself: What do I want to learn next? What do I need to learn to advance in my field? Keep reading. Continue to push yourself into new territory.
When will exams be held? - Tests and exams in school were part of the measurement apparatus that helped you gauge your own learning. The grades you received provided you with feedback. Now, in the workplace, you will be getting another sort of feedback, some of it regarding your performance, and some of it regarding your behavior, your attitude, and your impact on others. Feedback will come from your boss, but it can also come from your customers, your colleagues, and even from such unlikely sources as the executive secretary or the maintenance guy. Which brings us to point number three...
Who will teach you? - In the workplace, there are potential teachers just about everywhere. How will you recognize them? There is a Buddhist saying, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." In some cases, you will spot them and seek out their expertise or advice. In other cases, they will approach you and offer their share of wisdom. Be receptive. Sometimes the most unlikely teacher will be giving the lesson.
What if you flunk? - Yes, there may be difficult times, too, when setbacks make you feel like a failure. Rather than getting mad or giving up, it's better to get in the habit of asking yourself, What is the lesson in this experience? What is this snafu teaching me? What did I do (or not do) to get into such a mess? Experience can be a hard teacher. But if we don't learn the lessons in our experiences, we won't gain the self-awareness that leads to wisdom.
The commencement speaker, one of my son's classmates, said "Today is the perfect day to begin your future."
She was right on the money. Endings are followed by new beginnings. New possibilities.
The learning and the growing will go on. It's a lifelong process. Now the curriculum is up to you. Design it!
Posted by Terrence Seamon (Rutgers Class of 1977) on Thursday May 19, 2011. For more ideas on taking charge of your learning process, contact Terry and invite him to speak to your organization.