We have all heard the terrible stories of people who lose their jobs, and then lose all hope for the future — even commit suicide. Why would someone do that? Why would someone end their life when there is always a community college nearby, ready and waiting to launch a mid-lifer into a new career.
It happens because learning in mid-life is really hard, and it gets even harder the older you get. The cliché “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is grounded somewhat in fact, and it’s very unfortunate. This is the problem with adult learning. If learning as you got older weren’t so damn difficult, a lot of the problems of modern life might not be around.
We all have ideas about what it means to be a good worker. And one of the biggest of these ideas is that your company should train you in exactly what you need to know to complete your job. And, if your job would somehow disappear, then your company should train you in something else. That’s their responsibility. Your responsibility is to show up and do what you’re told.
That’s an old model, and it’s not going to be around for too much longer. We all need to keep learning throughout our lives. It is those that keep up that will be able to survive the inevitable job upheaval. If you’ve kept up, then it’s going to be the employer’s loss — not yours. This is the confidence that you can gain by staying on top of new learning in your life.
But, how can you can stay current in skills, when learning as you get older is really hard? It’s by never stopping learning. You need to really learn how to learn, to have self-direction, and true independence. While you can always go back to school, the school/classroom model wasn’t designed for adults. It was really designed for children. Adults had always learned on the job, in context, on exactly what they needed to know to get the job done. They didn’t learn general knowledge; they learned specific knowledge, for a purpose.
You need to do this same kind of purposeful learning throughout your life — learning through what’s called andragogic methods — not pedagogic (ped means child). Learn in small amounts, in context, on what is truly needed. Use “just-in-time” methods. Earn skill-based certifications, complete on-line tutorials, practice with games and simulations, watch You Tube videos. These all provide the small bits of learning you need to stay current. Who knows; you may be the one to teach the employer something. Now wouldn’t that be great.