What is continuous learning? The importance, benefits, and tips on how to never stop learning

Are you looking to future-proof your career? Find out how continuous learning in the top skills of the future can boost your career (and salary!)

With the cost of living rising and the threat of recession looming, many of us are beginning to look at our careers and work choices to see how we might ensure against potentially worsening economic times, earn more money, create more income streams, and, with the shift towards automation and digitization, ensure we have the right skills for the future employment landscape.

While it’s natural to be cautious in an economic downturn, a recession can actually be the perfect moment to look into expanding your skills base, as, while others might resist going back into education when times are tough, by learning new skills now you can ensure that you’re ready for more prosperous times ahead. In fact, building and refining your skillset is the best investment you can make in the current climate.  

In this article, we’re going to take a look at continuous learning and the benefits it can bring about for your career, why now is the time to start onboarding new skills, and the 10 most sought-after skills for the future (as identified by employers). We’ll then show you how learning facilitation skills will future-proof your career, and finally give you our top tips on continuous learning. 

Are you ready? Then let’s go!

What is continuous learning? 

Continuous learning, sometimes referred to as ‘lifelong learning’ or ‘upskilling,’ is the act of continually building on your knowledge and skills throughout your career or professional life. Typically self-motivated and voluntary, continuous learning can take many forms, both formal and informal. While some choose self-study as their preferred educational route, others choose to take structured masterminds and courses in person, online, or via classes which contain a hybrid of on- and offline learning. 

A woman working sitting at her desk and typing on a computer

When choosing how you would like to further your education, knowledge base, or skillset, it’s important to think about which learning style suits your preferences and lifestyle. While books, podcasts, blogs, and research papers can be perfect for those with a lot of self-motivation and discipline, those who enjoy a more social learning experience, feedback, and accountability are likely to benefit more from a course which provides opportunities for mentoring and peer access. 

Being clear with yourself of your end goal is also important when you dive back into education. Do you need a specific qualification or certificate for the field you’d like to go into? Would a portfolio of work increase your chances of landing a job? Are you a total beginner, or are you just hoping to bring your skills up to date? 

Whether you’re hoping to learn specific skills to become a specialist in your current field, or you want to change things up altogether and go in a completely new direction, continuous learning can be a real game changer in terms of reigniting your love of a subject, increasing your earning potential, and finding new work opportunities.

Let’s take a look at some more of the benefits of continuous learning. 

Why is continuous learning important for your career?

Continuous learning is beneficial to numerous groups of professionals: 

  • Career changers
  • Those looking for a promotion in their current company
  • Those thinking of specializing in their field
  • Those who simply want to refresh their skillset

Irrespective of which of these groups you belong to, you’ll find that by investing in yourself and learning sought-after, industry-relevant skills you’ll reap tangible and long-lasting benefits. 

 Let’s take a look at what some of these might include: 

Demonstrates commitment to the field 

When you choose to build on your skills or refresh your old ones, you’re demonstrating to potential employers both on your resume and in job interviews that you’re committed to your field. 

Shows your adaptability, willingness to improve, and self-motivation

A lifelong learner is an asset to any team as they demonstrate a desire to improve themselves professionally and are happy to do so without prompting. Going back into education also demonstrates that they can adapt to new situations and are eager not to let their skills grow stale.  

Sets you apart from the competition

A job candidate who can show they’ve reeducated themselves of their own accord will set themselves apart from other candidates who haven’t. A company will save on onboarding and training costs, will have proof of self-motivation and flexibility, and have a clear idea of the concrete skills the individual possesses, leaving no doubt about their ability to perform the job. 

Young woman sitting in a library, reading on her computer and taking notes

Keeps your knowledge base fresh 

Perhaps the most apparent benefit (and goal) of going “back to school” is it keeps your knowledge base fresh. You’ll learn about the latest tools, best practices, techniques, and thought leaders that may have changed since you started out. If you’re new to a subject, you’ll also learn all the skills you need to launch a different career. 

Gives you skills to specialize 

Many of us think about specializing as we progress in our careers. There are significant benefits to doing so including higher salaries, focusing on the thing you love most, and filling a gap in the market. 

Boosts your confidence and productivity

Whether you’re learning new skills or refreshing out-of-date ones, continuous learning boosts your confidence big time. Rather than wondering if you’re doing something the best way, you’ll quickly go from being the learner to the expert. When confidence levels are high, productivity also soars. 

Reignites your love of a topic

Going “back to school” can remind you of why you really love what you do, and why you got into it in the first place. If you’re starting out with something new, you’ll be quickly reminded of why you chose to leave your old profession and why this was the right career change for you. Learning about what you love makes you happy! 

A man standing in the kitchen and working on his computer while drinking a coffee

Provides the chance to network 

If you choose a more formal or structured learning route like a course or mastermind, you’re likely to meet a group of like-minded people in your profession. Not only is this a great opportunity to make friends, it’s also a chance to build your professional network. 

Boosts your earning potential 

The more you train or retrain, the more you can legitimately charge as an independent consultant or demand as part of salary negotiations. You’re investing in yourself by reskilling, and firms recognize that these skills deserve financial compensation too. 

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Why NOW is the time to start learning 

It’s easy to put off learning new skills, especially when times are tough. However, now is actually a great time to consider upskilling. Here are just a few reasons why: 

  • A crisis such as a recession will bring about huge changes across the world. By thinking ahead and preparing yourself with the skills of the future, you’re setting yourself up for future success. 
  • Due to the Covid pandemic, many employers are offering more flexible ways of working, such as part-time working, remote working, or permitting more time off, leaving more opportunities for employees to study. 
  • Demonstrating to your current employer that you’re learning new skills alongside your job means you’re less likely to be laid off if redundancies are coming. 
  • The Covid pandemic has pushed many more courses and study options online, making them more accessible and more affordable than ever before.
  • While others may wait until the economic crisis is more stable to start investing in new skills, by starting now you’ll get ahead of your competition.  
  • It takes time to reskill. As we have seen, the shift to automation is coming over the next decade, the earlier you start onboarding the relevant skills the more likely it is that you’ll be ready when those skills are really needed. 

So now we know why now is the time to dust off your book bag and reinvest in learning new skills. But what new skills should you be learning to secure the most secure, lucrative, and fulfilling positions? Let’s take a look now at the skills employers are going to be looking for over the next decade. 

A woman holding a tablet during an online call while standing in her office

What are the skills of the future?

Due to the predicted shift in the division of labor between humans and machines over the next few years, the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2025 a whopping 85 million jobs may be displaced, with an even greater number of new jobs emerging thanks to the change (a predicted 97 million). With an increase in the adoption of technology in every sector, the skills which employers and clients value the most highly will shift accordingly, with a heavy focus on problem-solving, cognitive skills, analysis, and innovation. Let’s take a look at the ten skills worth mastering to future-proof your career and retain your value in the job market, according to research by the World Economic Forum. 

A mix of skills and attitudes that will help citizens thrive in the future of work (source: McKinsey)

Analytical thinking and innovation 

Analytical thinking involves gathering, organizing, and critically evaluating data in order to tackle complex issues. Those who can identify and define problems before developing and implementing innovative, creative, workable solutions will be highly valued. 

Active learning and learning strategies  

Those who can demonstrate an attitude of continuous self-improvement and a desire to learn will be sought after by firms. As technologies continue to develop at speed, adaptable, curious individuals will be needed to work with and alongside complex technologies.

Complex problem solving 

Those who can tackle challenging problems in a strategic way, by addressing the different stages of definability, reducibility, predictability, and solvability will be invaluable to employers going forward. A calm head and an open yet consistent approach will also be important here. 

Critical thinking and analysis 

Although no single definition of critical thinking really exists, generally speaking, the act of thinking critically is to analyze the facts, evidence, observations, and arguments available to form a judgment or solution. The main features of critical thinking include objectivity, lack of bias, skepticism, and rationality. 

Two collegues sitting side by side at their desk while working on their computers

Creativity, originality, and initiative 

With the rise in machine-led and automated processes, creativity and original ideas are going to be needed now more than ever. As this Forbes article stated back in 2018: “Ultimately a computer lacks imagination or creativity to dream up a vision for the future. It lacks the emotional competence that a human being has. Thus, creativity will be the skill of the future.”

Leadership and social influence 

Considering the influence of social media networks on our work and personal lives, it’s perhaps unsurprising that those who can demonstrate a strong social standing both on- and offline are going to be in demand as we look to the future of the workplace. Leadership skills such as big picture thinking, strategy, and managing teams are going to come to the fore over the next decade as more routine tasks become automated. 

Technology use, monitoring, and control 

With so many positions being taken over by technology, those who know how to maintain, run, repair, monitor, and control the hardware and software becoming ever more prevalent in workplaces are going to be required across every type of industry. 

Technology design and programming

Those with the skills and education required to design and program the software in our future offices, factories, and organizations will be highly sought after in the new economy. 

Resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility 

Unsurprisingly, the ability to work under pressure and jump between tasks with ease will be increasingly important to employers. Although stress tolerance is a handy attribute to have, most of us hope that it’s not one we have to put into practice too often, both now and in the future. 

Reasoning, problem-solving, and ideation 

In a similar vein to complex problem-solving, the key skills needed here will be to identify, define, and untangle difficult challenges with out-of-the-box thinking, logic, and creativity; all talents that a human brain can bring to a more technology-dominated workplace. 

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Why facilitation future-proofs your career 

For those looking to future proof their careers, facilitation is a neat way to learn and practice many of the sought-after skills cited by the World Economic Forum’s report. Learning how to facilitate brings with it skills in leadership, problem-solving, innovation, creative ideation, active learning, and critical thinking, all of which, as we have seen, are going to be highly valued by employers as workplaces shift further towards automated processes. 

Whether you choose to learn facilitation skills to complement your current career–eg; careers in UX & UI design, coaching, project management, product launch, or business leadership–or you decide to launch a career as a sole practitioner of workshop facilitation helping teams to solve complex challenges with proven processes, by investing in your skillset now you’re insuring against the workplace changes predicted to rise over the next decade. 

While the job title ‘workshop facilitator’ is still relatively new, job titles which require a very similar skillset include Scrum Master, Agile Coach, Human Centered Design Facilitator, and Innovation Coach.  (Don’t forget to check out our guide to facilitator job titles for more info on this!)

A facilitator speaking to a room of people while standing a front of a flipchart and taking notes

Our top tips for continuous learning

So how can you get into or get better at continuous learning? Here are our top tips. 

  • Define your learning goal 
  • You’ll need some sort of basic motivation to get back into learning. Perhaps your goal is career-orientated, perhaps personal. Whatever your goal is, define it in advance of beginning your study path and refer back to it when you’re struggling or seeking motivation to continue. 
  • Talk about what you’ve learned with others
  • Collaboration and discussion enables all of us to learn better. Sharing ideas and talking about what you’ve learned forces you to clarify your own thinking and find new clear ways of communicating complex subjects. 
  • Diversify your (trusted) resources
  • Try listening to differing perspectives on the same subject, and in different formats to stay engaged. Check out a YouTube video, then listen to a podcast, or read a blog post from thought leaders in your field.
  • Automate your content aggregation 
  • Don’t spend hours searching for the best content, use one of the many content aggregation tools out there to help you select content from sites you know and like
  • Reflect on (and write down) what you’ve learned regularly
  • A study from Harvard found that students who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day writing down and reflecting on what they had learned that day were 20 percent more productive than those who didn’t. Certainly worth a try then, eh? 

Conclusion and further reading 

We hope we’ve inspired you with our look into continuous learning and the multifarious benefits that committing to lifelong learning can bring about for you and your career. Through facilitation and workshopping, we’re confident that you can complement your current skillset with sought after skills, as well as build a rewarding, varied, and lucrative career for both the current economic climate and the employment landscape of the future. 

To find out more, check out some of our other articles on facilitation and careers: 

A UX Designer’s Guide To Facilitation 

Your Ultimate Guide To Facilitator Job Descriptions In 2022

Where Could A Career In Facilitation Take You? Freelance vs In-House 

The Ultimate Facilitation Training and Courses Guide 

Rosie Allabarton