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Self-Directed Learning. It’s What’s Trending in Career Development and Training.

Where do you go when you want to learn something new? The first place I typically head to is YouTube. The folks who got surveyed by a November 2018 report issued by the Pew Research Center seem to agree. In fact, over half of the adults who responded to the survey indicated that they used the channel […]

Where do you go when you want to learn something new? The first place I typically head to is YouTube. The folks who got surveyed by a November 2018 report issued by the Pew Research Center seem to agree. In fact, over half of the adults who responded to the survey indicated that they used the channel to figure out how to do something they hadn’t done before. We’ve come a long way since the days when learning by videos was the domain of PBS.

It’s not just video-based learning that has taken off in the past decade, though. And, it’s not just learning to paint landscapes or craft your own napkin holders that have drawn learners’ attention.

Where are people going to get up to speed on machine learning?  Over 100,000 of them are taking an online course via Udemy, the Business Insider article, Online learning may be the future of education — we compared 4 platforms that are leading the way, reveals.

That number pales in comparison to the number of students choosing MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as their learning platform of choice. Class Central’s 2017 MOOC Report indicates that there are now over 80 million students taking 9.4 thousand courses through this online format. MOOCs sponsored by universities and colleges from around the world now provide anyone with a sound internet connection with the ability to discover new interests or embark on a new career direction.

Online courses for professionals have picked up steam in recent years as well. LinkedIn’s Lynda.com offers courses designed for individuals seeking to expand their skill set and speed their professional development. Meanwhile, Skillshare offers professionals the opportunity to share what they know or learn from other pros.

Why am I telling you about these lifelong learning options? Because to stay competitive in today’s job market, you need to implement an ongoing professional development plan.

Relying on formal education and employers for career development is a risky move in the 21st century

In the past, our access to skills development opportunities may have been limited due to financial or geographic constraints. And, for some careers, once a degree was obtained, learning took a back seat to other tasks. But not today.

As Stephane Kasriel explains in the article, Skill, re-skill and re-skill again. How to keep up with the future of work, graduate-and-go is no longer a viable career strategy. He writes that most modern job skills have a half-life of just 5 years. Without a refresh, your winning job skills will lose their value.

Additionally, Kasriel notes that “35% of the skills that workers need–regardless of industry–will have changed by 2020.” This skills churn rate means a student enrolled in a professional program at college today will need to alter course while in school or he or she will graduate already lacking necessary skills.

But that’s just a problem for new hires or recent grads, right?

Surely employers are stepping up to keep their employees trained to do their jobs and advance through promotions, aren’t they?

Not according to the World Economic Forum’s research. In the white paper, Accelerating Workforce Reskilling for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the authors report that over 25% of adults in the survey group indicated that they already lacked some of the skills needed for their jobs. Further, despite the rapid pace of technological and economic change, nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers said they hadn’t received any job-related training in the past year.

And, that’s why self-service career education and development is trending.

Prepare for the future by being a lifelong learner

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2018 Employee Tenure Summary, surveyed employees had spent a median period of 4.2 years with their current employer. For workers ages 25 to 34, the BLS reports that the median employee tenure was less than 3 years. With this rate of turnover, even if an employer is willing and able to provide training, you may not be around long enough to take advantage of it.

For fields and subjects that take years to learn and master, you’ll be better served by choosing your own course (and source) of study.

Of course, the internet isn’t the only place to find self-learning opportunities. You can upskill by enrolling in a local class or reading a selection of good books on your target subject, too. The point is to keep learning.

What should you study?

The answer will depend on your career goals. But a good place to start is by preparing a list of skills you need for your chosen career direction. Then, create a professional development plan that allows you to develop the skills you lack and maintain the skills you have.

As a job-seeker, it may seem frustrating that employers expect you to have all the skills they need from day one. But as a career planner, obtaining the skills you know employers will want is a strategic advantage you can’t afford to pass up.

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