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Agility and Lifelong Learning

Agility and Lifelong Learning

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Author: Sophia Tutorial
Description:

Discover new tools and resources to help you stay competitive in a changing workplace.

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what's covered
In this lesson, you will learn about tools and resources that can help you stay competitive and professionally satisfied in a world filled with continuous change. Specifically, this lesson will cover:
  1. Case Study: Agility in Life and Business
  2. Knowing When to Change
    1. Upskilling
    2. Job and Career Changes
    3. Volunteering
  3. Overcoming Your Fears

1. Case Study: Agility in Life and Business

One aspect of your agility skill is anticipating new opportunities, so you can grow personally and professionally. Growth prevents you from falling behind your competitors. But what if those opportunities on the horizon aren’t very well-defined? How can you be sure the time is right to go after them?

There are no easy answers when it comes to deciding to try something new. But sometimes life gives us subtle clues to know when we need to change course. Watch this video about Jill, a seasoned lawyer, who had reached a plateau in her career. As you watch the video, pay close attention to Jill’s motivations for making a change.

Video: Agility in Life and Business

think about it
What life event did Jill recall that helped her decide on her second career?

In the video, Jill recalled fun childhood activities centering around her family dog. The step back in time made her realize how much she loved animals, propelling her in a new professional direction that was right for her.

When it comes to agility, only you can decide when the time is right to make a major life change. As Jill showed us, the decision hinges on your personal wants and needs. You must also consider the needs of those dependent on you, whether it’s a spouse, partner, or child.

term to know

Plateau
To be in a state of little or no change, sometimes due to inaction.

2. Knowing When to Change

There’s no formula to know when a change at work or home is necessary, but the following indicators might signal that your current situation needs improvement:

  • You feel unfulfilled or unsettled.
  • Your physical, emotional, or mental health is at risk.
  • Your environment isn’t safe.
  • You tend to dwell on the past.
  • You seem jealous of what others have.
  • You feel unhappy.
  • You can’t articulate your life’s purpose.
  • You wonder if past decisions have derailed your long-term goals.
  • Your skills feel outdated in today’s competitive job market.
These types of feelings are a call to action so you can stay agile and live your best life possible. What are some of these actions when it comes to the workplace? Let’s take a look.

2a. Upskilling
Learning a new skill, or upskilling, is a terrific way to stay agile. It can energize you physically and emotionally to try something new and different. People often upskill without changing jobs by taking courses or completing certificate programs. Certificate programs are low cost non-degree programs that take about 3-9 months to complete. They offer specialized education and training that help you apply skills to the job you’re in. Most employers also offer internal training for continuous improvement for free. Take this example:

Image Idea 1 of 2: Photo of a stay-at-home dad (named Paulo) doing an activity with his two children. Please avoid anything cliche or stereotypical like the dad comically trying to multitask to no avail.

EXAMPLE

When Paulo and his wife, Yanis, had their second child, Paulo decided to stay home to take care of the children in support of Yanis’ career. He temporarily put his career in marketing on hold. After five years, the children had reached school age, and Paulo was ready to reenter the workforce. But the landscape of marketing looked quite different than 5 years prior. The Internet, smart phones, and 3-D printing had changed how people do business and Paulo didn’t feel quite ready for it. Instead of searching for his next job, he turned to an online university to start a certificate program focused on digital marketing. With a skills certificate in hand, Paulo knew it would make for good conversation in any upcoming job interviews.

Upskilling is one aspect of your agility skill that admittedly isn’t always easy. You might be juggling commitments at school, work, or home, that make skill attainment seem impossible. However, upskilling can lead to opportunities for advancement in your current role. It’s a good idea to check with your manager to see which types of added skills might lead to pay increases, reassignment of duties, or even job transfers. Your manager can describe the steps you need to take to find a new trajectory to match your goals.

terms to know

Upskill
To learn new skills.
Certificate Program
Low-cost, non-degreed skills training that typically lasts about 3 to 9 months and has high rates of completion.
2b. Job and Career Changes
In addition to upskilling, many employees who are feeling unfulfilled will often change jobs, alter their careers, or even go into business for themselves. They seek out positions that better match their values, interests, and preferences. Doing research in your field or area of interest often uncovers jobs that you’re qualified for and didn’t know about. Using your agility skill to make those discoveries can be motivating.

EXAMPLE

Ellen has been teaching fifth grade for 22 years. While it’s difficult to imagine life without her students, she’s looking for a change to slow the pace of her busy life now that she’s older. Working from the comforts of home sounds appealing. During spring semester, Ellen did some research online. She discovered that many former teachers work from home in the educational technology sector. They build lesson plans, design curriculum, write test questions, and even tutor students through live chat. As a teacher, Ellen certainly knew about educational technology, but what she didn’t realize was the vast number of institutions looking for talent and the variety of positions that were available.

reflect
Think about a dream job that you’d like to have. What skills does it require? What would it take for you to achieve that job? Do some research if you’d like.

If you’re looking to change jobs or careers, start with a few small steps. Look through an online job board or professional networking site such as LinkedIn to see what types of jobs are out there and the skills they require. Contact people in your network who might know other people who can help. Set up informational interviews with people who do the type of work that you desire to do. These first few steps are often the hardest, but they can also be the most motivating.

Keep in mind that finding a job that suits your values, interests, and preferences could mean you have to make sacrifices in other areas. This is called a trade-off decision. Maybe the job you’re pursuing pays less or has fewer benefits. Perhaps it will require you to relocate to a different city. (You’ll learn how to navigate such decisions in an upcoming lesson.) In many cases, the joy and fulfillment that a person feels by aligning with a career they’re passionate about often outweighs the perceived trade-offs.

term to know

Trade-off Decision
Choosing one option as more important than another.
2c. Volunteering
A person does not always need to look to their employer or an academic institution to attain new skills or explore new interests. Volunteering is a great way to show your agility and take part in causes you’re passionate about while also giving back to the community. Along the way, you’ll meet people, learn new skills, and improve the quality of life for you and others. Volunteering allows you to experiment with a new interest without rearranging the core makeup of your life, and it even helps to bolster your resume. A volunteer’s hours are often flexible which gives you options around the clock—days, nights, or weekends.

Most cities list volunteer opportunities directly on their websites. Many employers offer paid volunteer days and usually have direct connections to organizations in need. Additionally, faith organizations participate in volunteer work that centers around social issues like hunger and food insecurity. You can start by researching a cause that’s important to you and reach out to organizations directly through their websites.

If volunteering seems too structured for your life right now, consider starting a hobby to explore what you love. When you can complement your daily work routine with stress-releasing activities, like hobbies and volunteerism, it can lead to happiness and fulfillment.

terms to know

Volunteering
Offering and performing a service for free.
Resume
A formal document used to apply for jobs which includes your academic training, work experience, and skills.

3. Overcoming Fear

It’s energizing to be able to upskill, change jobs, or volunteer, but it can also be stressful or even frightening for some people. Agility does not come easy for everyone. At times, we get so comfortable in our daily routines that we don’t see a way out, and we become unable to make decisions. Consider this example:

Image Idea 2 of 2: Photo of a woman (Rheana, a graphic designer) looking frustrated with and disliking her job.

EXAMPLE

Rheana is a graphic designer who specializes in website design. She works alongside Dimitri who is responsible for coding and computer programming. During team innovation meetings, Dimitri has noticed that Rheana frequently complains about the work she’s doing. She tends to criticize people and processes especially when new ideas get presented that don’t align with hers. She just seems altogether unhappy with work. One day, Dimitiri said to Rheana, “you don’t seem yourself lately, is there anything you’d like to talk about?” Rheana hesitated at first, but then confided in Dimitri that graphic design just didn’t feel like her life’s calling. She described feelings of unfulfillment. It was a difficult and emotional conversation for both of them, but by the end, Rheana knew in her heart that it was high time for a change.

think about it
If you were Rheana, what steps might you take to achieve fulfillment at work?

Rheana recognized that working in graphic design wasn’t what she longed to do, and it was affecting her professional relationships. In this situation, upskilling might not be enough. It’s likely that she will need to look into making a career change for her physical and mental well-being. Rheana can get started by comparing jobs with parallel skills, exploring job boards, networking, and surveying her interests. She might even choose to start slowly by volunteering in a field she’s passionate about.

Like Rheana, everyone experiences the need to break free from a comfortable routine at some point in their life. In most cases, you can trust your instincts, ask for help from family and friends, or turn to a trusted mentor or advisor. In extreme cases when your health or safety is at risk, it’s best to look to professional therapists, counselors, and physicians for help.

In closing, remember that more people today are competing for fewer jobs. This means that speed and flexibility in response to change is critical. By taking inventory of your employment situation and applying learned skills in agility, you’ll establish your unique place in the world of work.

summary
In this lesson, you learned about tools and resources that can help you stay competitive and professionally satisfied during times of change. You saw the importance of agility in both life and business through a case study that delved into one person’s experience with a career change. A difficult aspect of your agility skill is knowing when to change. We tend to seek new pathways when we feel unfulfilled or unsettled, or we’ve plateaued. In these times, there are several ways you can make a professional shift through upskilling, job and career changes, or volunteering. Each method can be mentally and emotionally invigorating and improve your quality of life. But these decisions don’t come easy, so overcoming your fears of the uncertain is commonly an important first step.

Terms to Know
Certificate Program

Low-cost, non-degreed skills training that typically lasts about 3 to 9 months and has high rates of completion.

Plateau

To be in a state of little or no change, sometimes due to inaction.

Resume

A formal document used to apply for jobs which includes your academic training, work experience, and skills.

Trade-off Decision

Choosing one option as more important than another.

Upskill

To learn new skills.

Volunteering

Offering and performing a service for free.