Keep learning

Editor’s Note: This post was originally for Brazeen Careerist, where I am lucky enough to be a guest blogger. If you haven’t checked out the site, I highly recommend it.

After college, you’ll likely never have to write a paper on the inhumanity of man in Don Quixote or solve 50 statistics problems using standard deviation before class the next day. However, you will have to prepare for meetings and presentations.

Learning shouldn’t end when you cross the stage at graduation.

According to a study by the Jenkins Group,  “42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.” (The validity of this study is questionable, but it’s often quoted.) Just because you aren’t going to be graded on how well you know a book, doesn’t mean you should stop reading.

Read books on management, even if you aren’t in management (yet). Read books on other businesses. Read fiction for enjoyment. Every book you read adds to your collective knowledge. Not only are books great conversation starters, but they also can nudge you into make positive changes.

Balance your checkbook. Practice math. You never know when understanding financials can help you make a good decision or keep you from making a bad one.

More than anything else, learning makes you a valuable employee. It sets you apart, makes you a more well-rounded person and keeps your skills sharp.

Every office has that one person who has always done things one way. They begrudgingly accepted email, but that’s it.  Change is glacial, if at all. Yet every year, new hires come in with baffling technical skills widening the gap even more.

“Individuals born from 1957 to 1964 held an average of 11 jobs from age 18 to age 44,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.  Job hopping is more common now than ever before. If your skill sets haven’t evolved to make you competitive with those fresh out of college, how do you expect to land that next job?

Evaluating Success

Image from:

Sometimes the easiest way to evaluate success is by what didn’t happen. I regularly talk to middle school, high school and college students. Usually the topic is about the perils of Facebook for their future be it college, graduate school or getting a job. In that presentation, I measure success in those conversations, not by engagement but by no one running out of the room, crying or throwing up.

What I tell them is scary and there are no solid answers. They can only be mindful of what they put out there. Often I see fear on their faces when they realize they’ve already made some of the biggest mistakes and might not be able to take those mistakes back.

To you, no one running out of the room, crying or throwing up might be odd litmus tests. I could instead measure success by sticking to the script, not saying “um” 20 times and applause. But I’ve learned that you can’t always stick to the script, you have to read your audience. Also, find different ways to present the same information so that if the first approach falls flat, you can try the second. Um is a natural place holder. Unless you’re a professional speaker or have practiced you’ll likely use it, practice as much as you can and then let it go. Applause is fleeting and I’ve learned that with the younger crowds, most of them only applaud when they see their friends applauding.

Some people hate to see their audience whispering to each other. I don’t mind. I’ve overheard comments, such as “I thought I was safe if my Facebook profile didn’t come up in the search or in Google,”  that allowed me to redirect the presentation to include that just because you don’t come up in Goolge, or in the Facebook finder, doesn’t mean you’re covered.

You have to choose what defines your success, even if you aren’t speaking in from of a crowd of teenagers. If a successful day is getting everything crossed off your to-do list, great! If a successful day is not falling asleep in class, perfect! Just make sure at the end of the day you don’t feel defeated.

How do you evaluate success?