Continue learning even after finishing your degree

We live in a fast-paced world where everything moves at considerable speed and change can happen in an instant. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more evident – one minute we were ushering in the new year, full of hopeful plans for the decade; the next minute we’re grounded, locked down and having to figure out new ways of going about our lives. The upside of change, however, is that it ushers in new opportunities, new technology, new ways of work, etc. Humanity thrives through evolution, and the only way to not just survive but stay ahead of the pack is continuous learning.

Asides being a means of survival, it’s been proven that learning new things actually makes you happier. Your mind, like most other muscles in your body, thrives on exercise, and learning new skills improves your brain function. In fact, studies have shown that continuous learners are less likely to develop dementia.

Another benefit of being a lifelong learner is that you become a more interesting person. Being well-rounded makes it easier to relate with others and improves interpersonal relationships. You become really great at small talk and general conversation and before you know it, everyone’s inviting you to their lunch and dinner parties.

So now that we’ve established that continual learning is beneficial, let’s look at the different ways you can go about it;

  1. Online courses: There are a multitude of online learning platforms offering a wide range of subjects, from Applied Physics to Digital Photography. Many of these courses can be taken for free, while some require payment. Most paid courses issue recognized certificates that can be used to boost your CV, so choose whichever option works for your learning goal. A critical success factor for online courses is self-discipline. To get the most out of online courses, you have to be as disciplined as if you were attending physical classes at school.

  2. Distance Learning: If you’re considering a formal postgraduate degree like an MBA or an MDes for example, consider going the Distance Learning (“DL”) route. Especially with COVID-19, schools are increasingly refining their DL offerings, making it easier to earn your postgraduate degree without having to quit your current job or relocate. So, take advantage of the flexibility of this arrangement and level up in your career.

  3. On the job: The work environment provides a unique opportunity to learn new things, as there are some things that can only be learnt by doing. Volunteer to take on new challenges at your job and see each one as a learning opportunity. Additionally, take responsibility for your personal development and, together with your employer, map out a training plan at the start of each year.
    Workplace interactions are also a great way to learn. Never assume you know it all, no matter how much of a subject matter expert you are. Watch how others do things. Listen. Ask questions. Seek and graciously receive feedback.

  4. Teach something you know: Teaching is a great way to reinforce learning. It compels you to engage knowledge in an even deeper way. So, if you’ve recently learned something – or even if it’s old knowledge – volunteer to teach it to someone else or a group of people. You’re likely to find willing students in your immediate family, local charity or religious community. You can even volunteer to teach your work colleagues.

  5. Do It Yourself: This is another great way to learn by doing. The internet has tutorials for pretty much everything, so before picking up the phone to call the handyman for small fixes around the house, consider if it would make a fun DIY project for you or the entire family. Think gardening, repainting walls, putting together furniture, etc. However, make sure to stay within reasonable safety limits. Don’t tinker with electricity and electrical things unless you are qualified.

  6. Pick up a hobby: Consciously decide to develop new hobbies periodically. Things you’ve never done before that pique your interest. For example, you can learn to play an instrument, craft, bake, etc. You can even learn to code and build an app just for the fun of it; or maybe become a collector. Examples of things you can collect include art, coins, stamps, seashells, etc. Diving into a hobby not only helps you learn about that particular thing, but it also opens your mind to other possibilities.

  7. Learn a new language: Besides being fun, learning a new language can also introduce you to more/better work opportunities; as speaking multiple languages is quite the marketable skill. You can decide to go the formal way of hiring a tutor or joining a class. Alternatively, there are a lot of platforms and apps, some free, that teach languages effectively.

  8. Curate your social media channels: We spend a good portion of our time these days on social media, so it makes sense that your following reflects the things you’re interested in learning about. Sports, food, fashion, world politics, current affairs…the more people with like-minded interests you follow, the more likely you are to learn about these interests, as they share their opinions, related articles, tips and tutorials.

  9. Make leisure time rewarding: If reading stories relaxes you, consider reading history and biographies. If you prefer visual relaxation, then watch documentaries. This way, you’re relaxing and learning at the same time. If you like board games, play games like Scrabble and Chess that expand your vocabulary and strategic thinking abilities, respectively.

In summary, learning doesn’t and shouldn’t stop when you walk out of the school gates. The world is vast with so much beauty to see and knowledge to glean so don’t limit yourself. Be deliberate about learning something new every quarter. Making the choice to be a lifelong learner is one you will most certainly never regret.

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Dania Nwizu is a creative entrepreneur based in Lagos, Nigeria. She spends most of her time writing, telling food stories and walking on water.

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