In Support of Learning Stuff

I read an interesting NYTimes blog a while ago about a woman at a career crossroads.

She'd left the workforce to raise her children and was pondering a return to her career as an attorney. Trouble was the hole in her work history was making it difficult to make the leap back into the ranks of the employed.

Without much knowledge of this woman, or the field of law for that matter, I can't say whether the hang-up was the actual gap in her resume or the gap in legal knowledge as a result.

But it seems a shame to consider either as an impediment to being a great hire. How many of us know it all when we enter the workforce? That would be a big zero.

Let's face it: learning doesn't stop with a diploma, especially these days when state-of-the-art becomes obsolescent in the time it takes to say the word, "upgrade." Higher-ed freshmen can enter school with one pursuit, only to find it's completely outdated by senior year. For all of us, college, graduate school, vocational school, whatever school...is just the gateway to launching a career, and to embracing all the things you're going to need to learn later in order to grow it.

College, then, isn't only about syllabi and exams, but also about curiosity and the ability to learn - to learn how to learn. And work isn't just a place to use what you learned, but a place to grow your skill set, and to learn more.

Dinosaur theory

I speak from personal experience. Like that NYTimes mom, I reentered the workforce after years freelancing and raising my children. I could have suffered the same fate, or worse...been outright dismissed as a dinosaur. But I was lucky enough to find a company that valued what I already knew, figured I knew enough to get started, and then offered the faith and the resources to learn more.

The support of "learning stuff" is in everybody's best interest. Truth is, nothing's more energizing than conquering the seemingly "undoable." Nothing's more refreshing than acquiring a new skill. Take a listen to my coworkers after they've come back from a conference or class with a new "toy" they can't wait to employ in their work. So fun - and it energizes us all.

So, my wish for my own kids and their generation is that they'll go off to college and find not just the curriculum of their course of study, but the curiosity to "learn stuff. And when they land on the hiring line, I hope potential bosses will recognize in them not just the individual skills conferred by four years of classes, but the willingness, the ability, and the desire to keep learning, and then offer the resources to learn more.

When my daughters finally make it out into the big work world, I hope they have the opportunity to keep learning stuff.

I hope we all do.

Written by: Lisa Oppenheimer

About the Author

Lisa Oppenheimer at Bright Horizons

As Director, Brand Storytelling at Bright Horizons, Lisa writes “from the trenches” about the real life challenges of people in today’s workplaces: from the tensions of being a working mother, to working with millennials in the digital age, and everything in between. With a career ranging from freelance to full-time, Lisa brings a diverse employment background to her perspective.