The countdown to graduation is on for several of my students. Seniors eagerly anticipate the end of their final semester. Commencement will officially mark their transition from student to their professional life. Some of them are so excited they have countdown apps on their smartphones that remind them how soon until the big event arrives. I can poll a class any given day and find someone who can state the exact number of days, hours, and minutes until the Commencement ceremony. For some students, it must feel like being released from prison. They will no longer have to attend classes, listen to lectures, and take exams. They have been set free from learning.
I hope no graduating student feels that completing their college studies sets them free from learning. Yes, it might relieve them of the obligations of a college student, but their education has only just begun. Daymond John is known as the entrepreneur behind the FUBU fashion brand and regular panelist on the TV show “Shark Tank.” John has sobering news for anyone who thinks their education is almost complete. His directive is simple: Educate yourself every day. Learning is part survival strategy, part positioning strategy.
Learning as Survival Strategy
The need to educate yourself every day is borne out of survival. Your knowledge and skill set will be a significant factor as you compete for jobs and later, for promotions. If your field is changing rapidly, continuing education is not optional. One statistic drives home this point in the marketing profession. A 2013 survey of marketing executives found 76% of them believed marketing had changed more in the two past years than in the past 50. If education is a form of movement or progress in your life, then committing to ongoing education is a must. Otherwise, if you are not moving you will be passed by as the world (and your competition) adapts and grows.
Learning as Positioning Strategy
Think of education as a “get to do” versus a “must do.” Use learning as a means of differentiating your personal brand. In Me: How to Sell Who You Are, What You Do, and Why You Matter to the World, Colby Jubenville and I devote a chapter to building skill set. Many options exist for education, including formal education (e.g., a university degree or certificate program) and self-directed learning (e.g., online courses from Lynda or Udemy). The option(s) selected depend on the skills you need to learn or strengthen. In some cases, a do-it-yourself approach is more than adequate. In other cases, your best option is to enroll in an accredited, established program through an education institution.
Regardless of the type of education delivery you choose, the end result stands to be the same. In the short run, you will acquire skills that set you apart from others in your organization or even your field. In the long run, an ongoing commitment to learning can position you as an expert, a go-to person for an answer to a question or to solve a problem.
Congrats! Now Go Learn More
Although it is not quite graduation season yet, the train is pulling into the station. So, it is not too early to congratulate the Class of 2017 on reaching an education milestone. You have worked hard and persevered. The goal of earning a degree or diploma will be achieved. You have proven you are a learner. Now, it is time to embark on a lifelong journey of learning.
Embrace the challenges you had to conquer along the way as part of your personal brand makeup. They define how you made it through your formal education program. Maybe you worked two jobs on top of a full-time academic load. Perhaps you had to deal with family sickness or even death yet stayed the course to complete the education milestone you have reached. Those chapters in your life are not just part of your history. Allow them to shape who you are going forward along with the benefits from learning. Commit to educating yourself every day as Daymond John encourages us to do.