by Michelle Bauer
Recently, I was asked to participate on a panel at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg to discuss the topic of communicating with boomers about lifelong learning and continuing education. The week of the event, the New York Times’ Tom Friedman published a column called “It’s a 401(k) World.” Friedman’s point is that in the course of the past ten years, the world has changed so fast that we can no longer afford to be passive participants at work or in life – our worth is being determined by how relevant we are and how we are contributing.
For younger generations, this challenge may not be that scary. It’s simply the way the world works now. Gen Ys and Millennials are just starting to navigate their lives and careers, and are already adept at using new technologies and social media that will enable them to pivot and learn new skills that much faster. For boomers struggling with how to reinvent themselves for a new career or to find meaning and purpose in their lives, the prospect of being continuously evaluated on your contributions and relevance can be downright terrifying.
Which is where the vital importance of continuing education comes in. If you’re a boomer and you haven’t yet embraced the concept of becoming a lifelong learner, please don’t wait any longer!
Identify Your Goals
If you’re feeling stuck or intimidated about how to proceed with your continuing education agenda, start by identifying your goals. Do you need to:
- Remain in your current job or profession?
- Stay engaged and fulfilled intellectually and socially in your retirement?
- Pursue an encore career in a field slightly to radically different from your lifelong profession?
Continuing Your Education
Once that goal has been identified, the type of educational path to choose becomes easier. For those who are currently employed, getting things like short term certifications, pursuing professional development opportunities such as lunch and learns or webinars, and even online free courses (MOOCs) from organizations like Udacity or Coursera can deliver learning directly to you – and in some cases, on demand.
If you are ready to retire and you’re in your 60s, chances are you’ll bore quickly and begin feeling like you’ve lost your identity if you don’t find a way to stay engaged. Most Americans who make it to 65 these days can count on living until at least 85. Staying involved in face to face as well as online learning opportunities not only keeps your mind sharp and prevents isolation and other social and health issues many seniors face as they age. Such activities can create brand new networks and impart new knowledge that will offer meaning for people personally, intellectually, and socially.
For those pursuing encore careers or embarking on a journey of personal reinvention, continuous learning is not only going to help you get where you want to be, it’s an essential skill that you can rely on when you reinvent yourself again… ten years from now!
Michelle Bauer is president of Common Language, a strategic communications and public relations firm located in downtown St. Petersburg. The firm’s specialty practice areas include health and wellness, technology, education, and community development. Common Language is the official media relations firm for the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit and the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit and Business Plan Competition. Michelle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @mcbauer.