A student is sitting at his laptop, doing work on continuous learning.

The Benefits of Being a Lifelong Learner 

Imagine you go to see your doctor about this headache you’ve been having, and he tells you some startling news: “You need brain surgery.” 

Your doctor refers you to the best brain surgeon in the country. This guy has an advanced degree, spent seven years in residency and another three years in post-doctoral fellowship training. He’s been board-certified in brain surgery for 20 years and has done hundreds of successful procedures. 

You’re understandably nervous (because well, brain surgery), but you’re confident in this surgeon, because with all his education and experience, he must know everything there is to know about brain surgery!  

The truth is, even the most experienced, qualified surgeons are always learning. They’re required to complete continuing education credits throughout their entire career just to stay licensed. And with all the advances in technology, they’re constantly being trained on new medical devices and innovations in their field.

The point is, no one is ever done learning — even the most brilliant, accomplished among us. The most successful people are lifelong learners, who know there are always more questions to ask and knowledge to gain. (Also, don’t worry, your brain is probably fine.)

What is continuous learning?

Think about how fast things in our society become outdated. That iPhone 11 you’re carrying around in your pocket? It’s already three models old.

Just like we have to keep our devices updated with the latest features and operating system, we have to keep our brains updated with new knowledge. To grow personally and professionally, we must keep learning new things and challenging our brains with new problems to solve. 

Continuous learning means expanding your skills and knowledge for personal, professional, and organizational improvement. It implies a willingness to re-examine or even challenge your current assumptions. It’s a never-ending journey of self-improvement and growth.

As a business professional, continuous learning allows you to develop new hard and soft skills, level-up existing skills, and tackle increasingly more complex and challenging roles.

There are four overarching categories of learning:

  • Formal Learning: This is the classic type of learning synonymous with college or career training programs, with lectures and instructor-led exercises. Formal learning is usually followed by an assessment or test to certify what you’ve learned. 
  • Self-Directed Learning: Just like it sounds, self-directed learning is completed at your own pace and convenience (usually online). According to research by LinkedIn, 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace. And the best part about self-direction? You get to choose the topics and formats that are most interesting to you. 
  • Hybrid Learning: Much like a hybrid work model, hybrid learning combines online and offline education. Learning via digital media channels coexists with a formal educator-led format. For example, an in-person lecture could be followed by an online class on the same subject that you do at your own pace.
  • Informal Learning: Learning doesn’t stop once you’re handed a certification or college degree. In fact, most people learn more on the job than they ever did in the classroom. As a working professional, continuous learning is important for staying up-to-date in your field and industry. Informal learning opportunities include (but are not limited to):
  • Workshops
  • Webinars
  • Conferences
  • Mentorships
  • On-the-job training

How continuous learning can help your career

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”― Dr. Seuss

Everyone’s favorite fake doctor is right — learning will take you places in business. According to Pew Research, 54% of U.S. workers say new skills and training hold the key to their future job success. They understand that it’s essential to continually develop new skills throughout their career, in order to keep up with industry trends and technologies. 

In today’s global economy, learning is even more widely valued by young professionals, with 76% of Gen Zs believing that learning is the key to a successful career, according to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report.

Whether you’re looking to make a career change or to earn a promotion or raise at your current job, updating your skills with continuous learning shows employers you’re willing to put in the extra effort. And the more you grow and improve, the more confident you’ll feel in any role.

Keep learning with AKPsi

Listen to the Business Edge Podcast to hear real stories and lessons-learned from business professionals who have built successful careers while growing personally and professionally. 

Alpha Kappa Psi members and alumni can also access professional development resources and online courses in the MyAKPsi Community