“It’s essential for job survival that you keep up with the latest developments in your field. You must not only be on the cutting edge of technology and other developments but also ensure, as team leader, that your team members are trained in those areas… When continued learning is an integral part of a company’s culture, employees seek out opportunities to hone their skills – not just to do today’s job but also to meet tomorrow’s challenges.”
Arthur Pell, Managing People, Alpha Books, New York, 1999, p. 120.
Do you feel as though further study would help you become more indispensable within your current position or organisation? In our last blog post we discussed how to go about choosing the right study option for you. There are many opportunities out there for people to study, but it’s important to find a study program that suits your lifestyle. For example, if you have a family, online study might suit your routine, as it gives you the ability to study in your own time. Here are few more ideas for you to consider.
If you seek to create a personal learning agenda for yourself, to progress in your current organisation or beyond, then you’ll need to address these questions:
- How does my current work support the organisation’s business goals?
- What skills or knowledge can I acquire that will improve or strengthen my own, my team’s, or my company’s results?
- Where do I go to acquire these identified skills and knowledge?
- How will I then apply these newly acquired skills and knowledge to my work?
- How will I go about promoting my new strengths within the organisation?
“You will have your own reasons and possibly your own set of anxieties for returning to study. Your reasons may be bound up with career advancement, or with a need to prove to yourself that ‘you can do it’, or with competition with colleagues, or it may be that your employer feels you need more quali-fications. On the other hand, it may mean that you have quite simply always wanted to engage in further study but have, for one reason or another, never had a chance…
Whatever your reasons, returning to study, whether full-time or part- time, is by no means easy – But many have found that, in the face of new and potentially conflicting demands, it helps to be very clear about the reasons for accepting the challenge of further study.”
Stuart Powell in ‘Returning to Study’.
It’s a fact
For increasing numbers of students unable to attend a campus, e-learning – delivered through the Internet – is fast becoming a viable option. But self-management is a major factor in e-learning – which is why most courses in this area are developed at post-graduate level where students display greater maturity.
The packets of seeds
A manager who was concerned about his effectiveness in an ever-changing business world visited a management school which had the reputation of being the greatest management school in the world.
He fronted up to the dean of the school and asked: ‘What can your school give me so that I might become the greatest manager of all time?’
The dean replied, ‘Whatever you want, we can provide it.’
‘What do you mean?’ he asked.
The dean pointed to an array of tantalising packets on a set of shelves at one side of the room. ‘Have a look,’ he said. ‘There you’ll see some of the things we can offer you to make you one of the greatest managers in the world.’
The manager left his chair and went to examine the small packets which were in assorted colours and sizes. Seeing one labelled Brilliant Career, he took it from the shelf, and said, ‘I certainly want a brilliant career for myself.’
Searching along the shelves, he seized on other items. ‘Self-confidence,’ he said. ‘I want that, too – and Entrepreneurial flair, of course. And I want to be a Tip-top Time Manager, Supreme Speechmaker, Quality Communicator, Pre-eminent Planner, Top-notch Decision-maker, and, of course, a Matchless Motivator, and First-rate Negotiator – this is wonderful!’
Eventually, he was standing triumphantly with his arms almost full before an almost empty set of shelves. ‘These are the things I will need to become a top-notch manager,’ he beamed. ‘And you can guarantee all this, if I enrol in your school?’
‘Not necessarily,’ the dean replied.
‘What do you mean?’ The manager’s smile gave way to a puzzled frown. ‘You said that you offered anything I wanted; and you invited me to choose. So, I have. Now you say you can’t necessarily guarantee that I’ll achieve these things. You’ve lost me.’
The dean smiled and said, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t make myself quite clear. If you look inside the packets you hold, you’ll find they don’t contain fruit — only seeds.’
Completing a course of study is much like accumulating collecting packets of seeds. Mere possession of the individual packets will in no way guarantee management brilliance. You see, like all seeds, the contents of the packets require planting and constant attention before you really see the fruits of your labour. In much the same way as a giant oak tree will not grow unless an acorn is planted, so your skills as a manager will not develop without your constant reference to them, watering them, practising them, reinforcing them, developing them, nurturing them.
Professor Derek Rowntree of The Open University in the United Kingdom says that the long-held ‘preparation for life’ concept of education has certainly been made redundant by the huge changes wrought in society by economics and technology. Some thirty years ago, it was even possible to greet the fresh concept of ‘lifelong learning’ as a lifestyle option for an age of increased leisure. Now, he says, it is becoming a necessity for survival: “Whether we are simply trying to understand the world or are trying to hang on to paid employment, we realise that there’s no way but to keep on learning, throughout our lives.”