Have you ever experienced not knowing something? This might be an easy question, since everyone has that. By learning we grow personally, but also professionally. In this article I would like to explain why you need to keep educating yourself and why a company should provide you with opportunities to study and grow.
We start learning from a very young age, but I would like to skip forward to college, because I recently left college and the content is still fresh in my mind. In college you get educated on how to solve problems and specific skills tailored for the environment you study for. After college some people seem to think the studying can stop, as the working life is now about to happen. However, if you believe that, this will be a rude awakening.
The knowledge you gained in college is just the basics needed to start your career. When entering any organization, you will have to learn about the processes which are used. Furthermore, you will probably not be that familiar with the product of the organization, so you will have to educate yourself on that as well. Besides these topics there is also field-specific information you might have to learn. Getting to know the state of the field you work in once will not suffice. As most fields of work evolve, you will have to evolve with it, or risk becoming a relic. This of course does not apply to all fields, for example software engineering is a fast moving environment, while law is fairly slow.
I hope I just made it clear learning will never end. This is, however, not a bad thing, as you acquire more knowledge, you will also grow as a person, as knowledge gained in a working environment can translate to your personal life. When you have gained enough knowledge, you will also be able to share this knowledge with new hires, or co-workers. The more you know, the more you can share! The act of sharing/coaching also leads to growth, because it requires its own set of skills to do properly. Also, the more you learn, the more you can contribute to the team you work in and indirectly to the company.
Let’s talk a bit about companies. Most organizations say they understand how important knowledge is within the company. However, not all organizations have the same resources you might wish for. This makes it really important to look for a company which can answer your thirst for knowledge. If the firm is not able to do this, you might get frustrated which is in nobody’s best interest.
Gaining knowledge comes in all shapes and forms. You might work next to an experienced colleague with the idea that you will pick up his/her skills. You can also follow courses to gain some basic understanding of the product you will be working on. There are also Pizza sessions, which are basically half hour presentations about an interesting topic accompanied with a slice of pizza. Furthermore, there is also coaching, which basically means you get a person assigned to you where you can ask questions and discuss potential problems you run into. The aforementioned ways of gaining knowledge are used in my current company.
In the previous paragraph I talked about gaining knowledge. However, sharing knowledge is equally important. Once you have gained some knowledge you can share it with your co-workers. This can be done in the already mentioned Pizza sessions or in a course for other colleagues. Once you gained some knowledge and experience you can even start coaching new hires or other colleagues. During this process of sharing knowledge, you are repeating the knowledge you already know which has the nice side effect of you remembering it better and longer which helps you further in life as well.
One of the questions a lot of people ask before they start sharing knowledge is: “Do I have enough knowledge to be able to teach other people?”. This is where you need to realize that having even a little knowledge might already be more than the public you are going to educate. You might be working with a specific skill for half a year. The people you are going to teach have no experience with this skill at all, so the basics you learned in the last half year are really interesting to them and make it look like you are an expert.
During your career you will pick up a lot of knowledge. This creates a pitfall in sharing knowledge with people. The things you’ve learned with years of experience or study might be straight forward to you but might not be to your audience. This is where the art of explaining complex things in a simple way will greatly help. If you are able to do this, it also means you really understand what you are talking about. Afterall, it was Albert Einstein who said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
I explained about knowledge gaining and knowledge sharing. These concepts are really important, I would recommend finding an organization that facilitates both. The reason for this is that it creates a learning environment, where knowledge sharing becomes a key feature of the company. Once that culture is in place it will also attract new people to the company who are looking for the same thing!
Learning will never end, as it never should! It makes you grow both personally and professionally. Knowledge is in everyone’s best interest. So, when you look at an organization with the intention to work there, make sure it is able to quench your thirst for knowledge!
Berend van Hoek
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