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By Terry Lende, careers specialist

Learning never stops, whether it is in our day-to-day lives, on the job, or in the classroom.

From an employment perspective, those who are lifelong learners have greater work satisfaction and more opportunities to manage their career than those who stopped their education once they left the classroom.

Most of us equate formal education to learning. When I started writing this, I was planning to start with how to evaluate continuing education options – researching courses, determining value in the market place, comparing full-time to part-time education. All important elements of learning. Instead, I was drawn to explore another element of learning – learning on the job.

It seems I’ll have to leave formal education another time!

Formal schooling is not the only way to gain an education. Part of what makes us human is our ability to learn from our environment.

As a new grad, getting into the workforce is an exciting time: finally, the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned, find out if theory meets reality and start paying back those student loans.

Be alert to the learning opportunities around you. Who is the 'go to' person in your area? Are there individuals who command respect, not necessarily because of title, but because of how they conduct themselves? These employees have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share.

A coach or mentor can make a significant difference in your work and your career. Ask questions to learn, not to show off what you already know, be open to feedback and most importantly, listen.

Learn from both the content and also the attitude. Do those individuals have attributes that you admire? Can you emulate those attributes?

Another way to learn in the workplace is to be aware of special project work and stretch assignments. Special projects will often take you out of your immediate work group and expand your network within the company. The relationships you foster will help you learn more about career opportunities, gain a deeper understanding of your company’s structure, and be a powerful resource in helping you get things done. Work runs so much more smoothly when you can quickly and easily access the information and support you need to solve a problem.

As I’ve said in previous articles, as the world of work continues to evolve, so too has the employer/employee contract. That contract includes how you manage your professional development.

Do not rely solely on a yearly performance review to assess your goals. Talk to your boss on an ongoing basis.

Be open to feedback and responsive to coaching to enhance your job performance.

Ask for assignments that will take you out of your comfort zone.

Take on the joy of continuous learning. I guarantee you will never be bored! 

More great career tips from Terry Lende:

Terry Lende is Vice President Professional Services & Operations with global talent mobility firm Lee Hecht Harrison, providing operational leadership for career transition services in Western Canada. She is an accomplished business leader with 25 years’ experience in program development, facilitation, client relationship management, training and coaching at all organizational levels.