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With today's Careers - Learning isn't Optional

Life Long Learning

Thomas Friedman wrote an article that made me stand up and cheer (hypothetically) about how to own your future. It made an almost inarguable case that we can't be static when it comes to our careers. And you can blame technology.

"I believe the accelerations set loose by Silicon Valley in technology and digital globalization have created a world where every decent job demands more skill and, now, lifelong learning."

He talked with several leaders at Intel who are building smaller and smaller chips that process far faster, use less energy and give off less heat. We've heard this before, but now these chips can be easily integrated into almost every devices, giving them far more intelligence.

Couple this with the quantum leaps in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning - advances are happening at a pace we have not seen. And it will continue.

I think this pace of change is part of the anxiety, fear and anger we see in our world today. Many feel no career is safe or a place to "park" for 30 years. The rules are parents had aren't there anymore.

"When you get that much processing power, putting out that much data exhaust with ever-improving software, you create a world where we can analyze, prophesize and optimize with a precision unknown in human history."

Of course doom and gloom is easy and I don't want that to be the focus. Being agile and able to change is critical. To be successful in your career (and likely beyond) requires:

  • The ability to adapt and hopefully thrive on change.

  • Becoming a motivated, perpetual learner

  • Don't ask WHAT you want to be, ask HOW you want to be (from Heather McGowan)

Sound daunting; it sure can. But here are some real world examples of people I coach who are perpetual learners:

  • a PhD in Chemistry who advanced her career in Marketing, becoming a Director. She believes marketing will meld with Data Science. She's taking courses in Marketing Analytics and is learning Data Science tools like R and Python.

  • A long time athlete who got his real estate license along with learning to apply marketing skills to a second career.

  • A career network technologist is learning DevOps tools like Docker, Puppet and Jenkins and contemplating a Masters Degree in Network Security. He's in his late 50's.

Where to Start

Here are a few questions to help focus on becoming a perpetual learner:

  • What is on the horizon in my field, or field I want to enter?

  • Based on Social Media, what are peers and other people studying, either full programs or certifications?

  • What excites you about your current role or desired role and what training can you find to make you better?

Take Baby Steps

Learning can be as simple as reading an interesting book or browsing informative blogs. Taking small action steps and see what new ideas and passions come forward.

That mindset will help you become a life long learner.


I'm a certified Career Coach, long time Silicon Valley Recruiting Leader and lead Job Search, Career Development and Career Success programs at the Wharton Executive MBA Program in San Francisco. I also coach through HireClub. If you’d like to discuss the ideas in this post or other areas where Coaching might help - I’d love to share. All initial sessions are free and we dive right in. There is never any pressure or push. My email is

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