The more you know, the more you realize you’ve yet to learn.
Similar sentiments have been expressed by Einstein, Aristotle, and Disney’s version of Pocahontas.1 Recent graduates will soon face this reality. Some will experience it as a warm invitation into lifelong learning; others, a rude awakening of how little their education pertains to their job. And those who don’t feel the need to learn are either aiming too low or manifesting the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Learning doesn’t end when you graduate. It takes a different form and often accelerates. You now learn not to pass exams—indeed that never should’ve been the case—but to solve problems. The difference is that you define your standard of success. Your profession may expect you to possess certain skills or industry knowledge. But there’s no curriculum for your career. You decide how far you want to go.
I recently visited the Getty Center with an architect. In the gift shop, we perused a book documenting the Center’s design. She remarked that 3D renderings show us how buildings will appear, but floor plans supply the dimensions to make them possible. Likewise, formal education offers the framework of a discipline’s history and theories. Experiential learning fills in the details and nuances of practice.
If you want to develop a certain expertise, immerse yourself in it—above and beyond work obligations. Here are tips to get started:
- Read. There’s no shortage of content. Read trade publications and government regulations. Read what industry leaders are reading. Read what they are writing. It will put you ahead of your competition, because most people don’t take the time to read.
- Scan. Keep abreast of news in your industry. Follow influencers, set Google alerts, subscribe to podcasts. If you hear an unfamiliar term, Google it. When you encounter it again, you’ll have the context to absorb new information and respond appropriately.
- Network. Seek to learn from those in your field. Their perspectives will supplement your reading and environmental scanning. Join a professional association. Volunteer on a committee. Find a mentor. Learn from their experiences—both success and failures.
Devote yourself to lifelong learning. Cultivate a sense of curiosity. Follow the tips above and—in the words of Pocahontas (i.e., lyricist Stephen Schwartz)—“you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.”
This is the first post in our series: Advice for New Graduates.
1 Fun fact: Pocahontas was released in 1995—the year the undergrad class of 2017 was born.