What Is Lifelong Learning? (And How to Do it Yourself) was originally published on Forage.
We often equate school with learning — so once we’ve graduated, we’re done, right? While we may not return to lectures and discussion groups, learning is far from over the second we leave high school or college. Embracing lifelong learning, or the concept of ongoing learning, can help you grab the attention of employers, get hired, and succeed in your entire career.
So, what exactly is lifelong learning, and why do employers care so much about it? Here’s what you need to know, how to get started, and how to show it off in an application.
Lifelong Learning Definition
Lifelong learning is the constant, ongoing pursuit of knowledge. This practice “ensures that individuals continually enhance their skills and knowledge, regardless of occupation, age, or educational level, enabling them to stay ahead of the game,” says Emily Maguire, managing director and career consultant at Reflections Career Coaching.
Typically, lifelong learning is self-motivated, meaning the desire to learn comes from a desire for personal and professional growth.
Professional Skills Development
Develop critical professional skills like project planning, setting goals, and relationship management in a real-world work environment.
Skills you’ll build:
Time management, scheduling, explaining analysis, presentations
Lifelong Learning Examples
So, what does lifelong learning look like? While you can take courses or pursue formalized education as part of lifelong learning, this kind of learning doesn’t have a specific structure. Examples of lifelong learning include:
- Taking online courses
- Learning a new language
- Joining a book club
- Listening to podcasts
- Watching TED Talks or educational YouTube videos
- Attending a workshop or seminar
- Earning a professional certification
- Completing a coding bootcamp
- Learning a musical instrument
- Taking an art or cooking class
- Doing a DIY home improvement project
- Picking up a new hobby, like knitting or photography
- Conducting independent research
- Trying a new fitness class or physical activity
Lifelong learning doesn’t always have to be an intense academic research project or something applicable to the professional skills you want to develop. The main point of lifelong learning is that you’re building a new skill or knowledge even if that doesn’t obviously translate to your dream job — flexing that learning muscle is a valuable skill you can transfer to any career path.
Why Do Employers Care About Lifelong Learning?
Employers care about lifelong learning because they seek employees who are willing to upskill, adapt, and navigate change.
It Shows the Ability to Upskill
“Doors will open for you if you keep a learner’s mindset as you leave school and are constantly willing to get out of your comfort zone,” says Arissan Nicole, career and resume coach and workplace expert. “Employers want people that are open and committed to growth. Innovation and creativity take trying new things, taking risks, and being open to failing. Those committed to lifelong learning know that failing is a step in the learning process and have the resilience to keep moving forward. Employers want people who are unwilling to give up and motivated to do whatever it takes to solve a problem or find a solution.”
As an early career professional, lifelong learning is essential because you don’t have many job skills yet — you’ll learn them on the job! Employers know and expect this, so they’re primarily looking to hire entry-level candidates who’ve shown they’re committed to learning new skills quickly.
“From our recruitment data, most fresh employees have a greater success rate when they stress on lifelong learning in their CVs and interviews,” says Philip McParlane, founder of 4dayweek.io, the world’s largest four day workweek recruitment platform. “This is because lifelong learners embody a growth mindset that proves instrumental in navigating the swift transformations within industries. Companies recognize this quality as a strategic asset, understanding that employees committed to continuous learning contribute to innovation and demonstrate resilience in the face of change.”
Helps Employees Adapt to a Changing Work Landscape
Lifelong learning is also vital to employers throughout your career as the working world changes. For example, an employer might expect you to use a new technology or software to do your job. Or, there may be a shift in your organization’s structure, and your boss may expect you to take on different projects or leadership responsibilities. Employees who can embrace change by learning new skills are highly valuable to employers.
“Regardless of one’s chosen profession, the inclination and ability to learn and adapt are central to success on the job, any job,” says Bill Catlette, partner at Contented Cow, a leadership development company. “There are very few roles in the modern workspace where the knowledge required to excel is static.”
How to Practice Lifelong Learning
If lifelong learning is the key to getting hired and success at work, how can you start?
Take a Forage Job Simulation
Forage job simulations are free, self-paced programs that show you what it’s like to work in a specific role at a top employer. In these simulations, you’ll build real-world work skills by replicating tasks that someone on a team at the company would actually do — whether that’s coding a new feature for an app, planning a marketing campaign, or writing a hypothetical email to a client explaining legal considerations in their current case.
Once you complete a Forage job simulation, you’ll get a certificate you can put on your LinkedIn profile and examples of how to share what skills you learned on your resume and in an interview. Employers are also more likely to hire students who’ve completed Forage job simulations — a sign of lifelong learning!
Unsure where to get started? Take our quiz to find the best job simulation for you.
Pursue Independent Projects
Pursuing a project on a topic you’re interested in can show employers that you’re self-motivated and willing to learn. There are tons of options depending on your career interest:
- An aspiring writer working on articles and publishing them on a personal blog
- An aspiring software engineer contributing to an open-source project
- An aspiring data analyst analyzing a public dataset
- An aspiring UX designer redesigning the experience of a famous brand’s website
- An aspiring social media manager developing a strategy for a personal brand or business’s social media
Digital Design & UX
Conduct user research and create wireframes for an app for the electric industry.
Skills you’ll build:
Mobile design, app design, persona creation, UX, UI
Work With Others
For example, you could join a book club with fellow aspiring marketing professionals and all read books about marketing strategy. Or, if you’re an aspiring web developer, you and some friends could decide to participate in a daily coding challenge. Finding people who also want to learn can help inspire you and even help you discover new ways to achieve your goals.
Set SMART Goals
Figuring out when and how to fit lifelong learning into your life can be complicated and overwhelming, especially when first trying to enter the workforce! Setting SMART goals can help you break down the process into smaller, achievable, and actionable steps.
SMART goals are:
- Specific: What exactly do you want to learn?
- Measurable: How are you measuring success? What defines a “finished” result?
- Actionable: When do you have time to accomplish this? What extra resources do you need?
- Relevant: How will this help you in your prospective career?
- Time-bound: What is your deadline?
How to Show Lifelong Learning in a Job Application
You’re doing the work of developing your knowledge and skills — now, how do you show employers that?
List It On Your Resume
It’s almost as simple as it sounds: put your lifelong learning activities on your resume!
“You can list relevant courses you have taken, certifications you have earned, workshops and trainings you may have attended, and more,” says Mary Krull, SHRM-SCP, PRC, and lead talent attraction partner at Southern New Hampshire University. “The key here will be ensuring that what you list is relevant to the role. No need to list everything you have done — keep it relevant!”
Build a resume hiring managers look for from start to finish.
Skills you’ll build:
Professional summary, illustrating your impact in teams, showcasing outcomes of your contributions
“Get strategic about relevant coursework in your education section,” says Tramelle D. Jones, strategic success and workplace wellness coach with TDJ Consulting. “For example, when applying to a position that lists tasks where you’ll utilize data analytics, list classes such as ‘Advanced Data Analytics Techniques.’ Remember to include any cross-disciplinary coursework and offer an explanation that solidifies the connection. For example, ‘Innovations in Sustainable Business Practice’ – Discussed how data analytics can be applied to consumer behavior to understand preferences.”
You can also list any trainings, workshops, certifications, or conferences in a dedicated “professional development” or “education and certification” section.
Create an Online Portfolio
If you’ve worked on independent projects, compiling your work into an online portfolio is a great way to tangibly show your skills to hiring managers. Projects make the skills and experience you articulate in your resume, cover letter, and interview visible. Online portfolios don’t need to be extravagant; a free, simple website that shows your projects is all you need.
Share Specific Examples
When preparing your application, whether writing a cover letter or practicing common job interview questions and answers, have a few lifelong learning examples you’re comfortable elaborating on. The key is to ensure they’re relevant to the role you’re applying for and demonstrate your willingness and ability to learn.
“In your cover letter, you can bring up your commitment to continuous learning and how it ties to the specific qualifications for the job,” Krull says. “Explain how your commitment to professional development will benefit the organization and align with its values. If they invite you to interview for a role, you may have an opportunity to discuss your professional development experience. Have a couple of learning experiences in mind that had a positive impact on your development. As long as those examples help you answer an interview question, this can be a great way to weave in your experience as a lifelong learner.”
Unspoken Interview Fundamentals
Learn how to develop your professional story and practice sharing it in an interview context.
Skills you’ll build:
Verbal communication, video interviewing, identifying strengths
Don’t be afraid to get specific, either. Naming particular processes, tools, and technologies you used to learn something new can help illustrate your lifelong learning to the hiring manager.
Lifelong Learning: The Bottom Line
Practicing lifelong learning is about continuously gaining new skills and knowledge. While this is often a personal journey, it can help you get hired and succeed throughout your career.
To start the lifelong learning process, try independent learning, working with others, and setting SMART goals to get the job done. Once you’ve gained new skills, call them out on your resume, cover letter, and in interviews.
“In a nutshell, the educational paradigm is transitioning towards a lifelong journey,” McParlane says. “Employers grasp the value of hiring individuals who perceive learning as an ongoing, dynamic process. As a prospective employee, your ability to articulate not just what you’ve learned, but how that knowledge contributes to adaptability and problem-solving, becomes a pivotal differentiator in a fiercely competitive job market.”
Start your lifelong learning journey with a free Forage job simulation.
Image credit: Canva
The post What Is Lifelong Learning? (And How to Do it Yourself) appeared first on Forage.