Back to School

Aug 23rd, 2010 | By | Category: abundance, application, aptitude, Career advice, career challenges, challenges, competing, competitive challenges, competitive environment, mentor, resume, retraining, skills, success, training

PracticaL MEntor

I am not sure exactly what causes it, but every year at the end of August or the beginning of September, I get the urge to go back to school.  Perhaps it is the realization that summer is drawing to a close as the days get noticeably shorter and there are hints of autumn appearing in the trees and shrubs.  In my area the birds start gathering in flocks preparing for their long pilgrimages to warmer weather. (Lucky birds).  However I think it something more than that.

School is different for everyone some like it, others tolerate, and some hate it, but we all went.  Whether we did good, bad, or never finished, school left its mark on us in both a social and academic way.  It is hard to remember the struggle it was learning certain subjects because once we mastered them they became so easy.  Oddly enough I can still remember the first grade reader with the adventures of Dick and Jane, and their dog Spot.  There were lots of pictures to illustrate the text, and very simple words like See Jane run and Run Jane run.  Even then it did not seem to have much of plot.  It took me a long time until my brain finally caught on and reading became easier and easier as I practiced and learn to read more difficult text.  My point is that as your eyes fly flawlessly across these words, all the hard work that it took when you were learning is out of mind. Although learning can be fun, there is usually work involved to learn a new skill.  However once you master the skill the struggle is forgotten, and you can forever reap the benefits.  Learning new skills also keeps your mind active in a different way than continuing to use an acquired skill.  For example, reading is both necessary and severs a dual purpose.  By reading we retain or improve our ability to read, and we gain the information transmitted through the text.  Many of the skills we use in our career fields are the same way.  In my opinion, the more we learn about computers the more we increase our abilities to perform our jobs better. Just learning how to search for information more effectively broadens both our computer skills and supplies us with new and necessary information.  Unlike reading which throws a few new words at us once in awhile, computer skills seem to need constant updating.  Although frustrating at times when our knowledge becomes out dated, once we learn the changes, it quickly becomes easy again.  We were sitting around talking about computers and how they have changed.  Looking at the progress in both hardware and software from the early days, the changes are really astounding.  Most of us still struggle with different aspects of the computer, but for each new generation of user it becomes more like reading, where you may have to look up a word once in awhile, rather than learning a whole new skill.

It is important to our careers to stay current in the support skills that are required to perform our jobs.  Many people feel that once they graduate from school, their days of struggling to learn new skills are over.  More and more that career model is fading fast.  Although the fundamentals may not change, the methodology keeps evolving, so if  you resist or do not keep abreast of new methodology you are painting yourself in a corner.  I worked as an electronics engineer at a federal agency for most of my career.  Although the agency was responsible for cutting edge technology the computer tools were seldom updated.  This is not a problem while working at the agency, but when engineers went to leave the agency they found their knowledge of supporting engineering computer programs to be limited.  The younger engineers learned the latest engineering programs in college, but every generation seemed to be left behind, as a new methodology was introduced.  Although the level of engineering knowledge was second to none, the supporting computer skills were outdated. This places the older more experienced worker at huge disadvantage in the market place.  The only remedy is too keep current in the tools of your trade.  Having a certificate in the supporting skills is not as important as the working knowledge, so the self taught are just as competitive as those who have certificates.  However teaching yourself almost anything is more difficult than getting a good instructor.  There are a lot of free non-credit courses on line, and now there are a host of accredited on-line courses. The bottom line is that to retain competitive edge you must continue to stay current in the ancillary skills as well as your area expertise.  So as autumn arrives, if the urge to return to school hits you, listen to it.  Staying current is the only way to stay competitive.

The PracticaL Mentor.

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