• Kathryn Johnson, MA

The Oddest Place You Will Find Lifelong Learning


Every year on the first day of school, I ask my children what they want to be when they grow up. I document their answers on a chalkboard along with the other obligatory first day of school information and force a photo session. Their answers have been anything from Ninja to Artist. Some years it stays the same and some years are vastly different - my ninja quit his training to become a zoo keeper. I love their ability to see themselves in various roles. They are hungry to learn about everything and I hope they grow to become lifelong learners.

first day of school chalkboards

While most of professionals stay within a field for their entire career, the emphasis on lifelong learning and career learning is growing. But why?

Lifelong learning doesn’t often relate to your career and is entirely voluntary. Lifelong learners tend to have to be motivated by the desire for more knowledge and self-improvement. Exploring what makes you tick will lead to you becoming an active participant in your personal and maybe even professional life. Studies have shown when you continue to engage your cognitive function with new activities, you are not only maintaining mental sharpness but you feel connect to your community.

But why do employers place an emphasis on education?

We often equate education with success. And most jobs require some level of education. The majority of high paying jobs require a certain high levels of education. Most everyone has been passed over for a job or promotion because of lack of experience.

Could it be that those who are eager to learn more are viewed as more valuable employees?

If an employer wants a successful business then they want to hire employees who are highly motivated and see the value in learning. If you’re motivated in your personal life that may be an indication that you’ll be motivated in your professional life.

So how do you become a lifelong learner?

All hail the first day of school chalkboard. Your parents may have never made you complete the chalkboard challenge on your first day of school, but I’m sure you were at least asked once what you’d like to be when you grow up. I always wanted to be a mom and whatever my latest interest was. I think anything revolving around nature was always high in the running (scientist, marine biologist) so it is no shock that my undergraduate focus was in Environmental Studies. Jump a few years ahead and here I am a mom, virtual assistant and still an avid nature lover. So maybe I didn’t stay within my degree but my interest in learning more about the environment has never lessened.

If you’re going to carve out time in your busy schedule to learn - then learning should be satisfying. I think we can all recall thinking at point in school, “Why am I learning this?” School teaches you how to learn and apply knowledge. Regardless of your career, you will need to learn certain skills for your job.

English language skills strengthened your communication. And communication skills are essential in any role to effectively convey your ideas and resolve conflict. And we use those math skills more often in our daily lives then we realize (shopping, driving). Homework was assigned to teach time and task management. I guess I should thank my teachers for all that homework because this is an essential skill that virtual assistants need to have. Prioritizing my clients’ tasks by urgency is key to being a successful virtual assistant.

woman working on computer

If you don’t have any interests you want to explore at the moment that don’t involve your career than keep your career skills current. With advances in technology, the workplace is evolving. Taking time to learn the latest trends will set you apart from your competition and keep you relevant in the workplace. Being able to apply new skills that deliver tangible results will portray you as a proactive employee with an understanding of what your industry needs.

If you have the privilege to explore continuing education through the workplace – do it. Maybe there’s a course that you’ve seen on social media. Don’t overlook the power of a mentor within the workplace. Either way consider how a learning opportunity will benefit you personally and professionally. The professional benefit is obvious – confidence, but what about the personal side of learning? Knowledge is great for your resume but seeking, acquiring and sharing knowledge should be a continuous cycle in life.

Make education a part of your life and reap the personal and professional benefits of a curious mind. It’s never too late to start!

About the Author

Kathryn Johnson, MA

Kathryn founded KJ Virtual Assistance in 2016 on the sole principle that you should love the work you do. When reflecting on past positions, there was a prominent trend in administrative roles ranking amongst her favorite. From her time in the Operations Department at the University of Miami to assisting her College Chaplain, the various aspects of a support role have always fulfilled her. Learn more about Kathryn.

#lifelonglearning #careerlearning #education