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Getting an education isn’t something that you should do only when you’re younger. As you get older, it’s important to continue learning everyday of your life.
You graduate high school, and feel a breath of relief. You may continue on to college, or you may not. If you do, at some point you’ll finish (or quit college), and likely your formal education will be over. You may think it’s time to coast into the workplace, and in 40 years retire.
Unfortunately, reality isn’t quite that simple. You are going to hit many bumps in the road as you go through your working career. There’s also a good chance that you may not enjoy the work that you’re doing. Furthermore, if you have kids, then you’ll find that you will want to have a job that allows you to spend as much time with them as possible.
Learn new skills in any free time
I’ve written about learning new skills previously. You should always be on the lookout for something that you can learn to help enhance your skills. Whether it be something that will help you at work, or will help you at home, continue to build and learn new skills.
If you like your job, then learning new skills to enhance your position and help you grow in your career is a great way to make yourself stand out. If you don’t enjoy your current job, then your first task is to find something you do enjoy and could do for many hours a week.
To find a job you would enjoy, trying many new skills may be just the answer. I’ve heard many people suggest starting to build websites to become a programmer. Have you ever written code though? You may find that you absolutely despise it. Rather than spending a bunch of money learning to code, find free resources to teach yourself first to see if it’s something you enjoy. You can do the same for almost any skill.
Take on varied tasks at work
If you have opportunities to volunteer for different tasks at work, perhaps you should take it on. However, don’t take on something that you don’t have time for as that will likely lead to many extra hours at work - when you have a family that’s a bigger problem.
For example, you may find that your or your colleagues are constantly having to complete a repetitive task. A common scenario is that you’re putting data into a spreadsheet and moving it around. If you don’t know how to use spreadsheets to at least a VLOOKUP level, then learn how to. In many office jobs, if you can do a VLOOKUP, you’ll be able to blow people out of the water.
Take a look around for other opportunities that may be available, figure out what the problem is, then learn the skill to help solve the problem, or to make your job easier.
Keep your resume polished
When you learn new skills to a level that you’re comfortable with, make sure to include them on your resume. By doing so, you’ll have a place to see what you’re adding to your background, and it will help you start looking for a new job.
Don’t be afraid to either include a separate skills section, or even a self-taught skills section where you list the skills you learned and what you’ve done with them. If you’ve used those skills at your current job, highlight that under that job to show that you’ve actually applied those skills.
Look for jobs that you may not check every box for
A great way to learn new skills is to get a job that you don’t check every box for. When you apply and interview, be up front when asked about whether or not you know how to do something. If you don’t explain to them that you do not, but you think you could learn how to very quickly. Give examples of doings in the past if it is appropriate to do so.
Don’t be afraid to apply for these jobs. If a skill for a position is critical, then they either won’t bring you in for an interview, or if they’ll tell you that it is and that they can’t hire you.
If you do get a job where you’re going to have to learn new things, make sure to do it the very best you can. An employer will not be happy if you commit to learning something new, and then don’t follow through on it. If you’re struggling with learning it, talk with your employer.
Go back to school
Of course, there are some jobs and skills that you really need to go back to school for. You’re really never too old to go back to school. My wife is in school right now, and my Mom just recently finished going back to school as well.
If you need to go back to school, and it’s something you’ll actually enjoy (the job you’re trying to get), then it’s absolutely worth it. If you’re unsure if you’ll like the new job or work, then I’d make sure to find other ways to figure that out first. Too many people go back to school, and build up a bunch of debt only to find they don’t actually like the work. Spend the time beforehand by job shadowing or otherwise to figure out if it’s actually work you’d enjoy - school is expensive and a lot of work.
You should always be looking for ways to improve yourself and the situation that you are in. Learning is a lifelong endeavor.