For most of my twenties, my priorities were focused on measurable results: money, accomplishments and achievement. Now in my thirties, I've realized that the most important part of my success is the person I've become along the way. Most of that growth was possible by slowing down and focusing on learning.
Learning is the foundation for life: we are constantly learning. Since we first learned to walk and talk, learning is the central truth for growth and personal evolution. Learning must not stop once we get the job we want. It must be a central part of our work and personal lives. Even the most successful people among us cite learning as a top factor for their success.
"Learning and development" describes the part of a company that focuses on developing the skills of their teams and employees. Put simply, it's the team you contact when you want to learn and grow at work. There are important business reasons for companies to provide significant learning and development opportunities to employees, and even more important reasons for employees to make learning and development a priority.
In order to get a deeper understanding of the power of learning, and why employees should take advantage of these resources, I interviewed Mary Shindler, Senior Program Manager on the Learning and Development Team at LinkedIn. Shindler is an expert in Learning and Development (L&D), with over ten years experience as a facilitator, experience designer and consultant.
Here are four significant ways L&D can help you advance in your career and experience work on a whole new (and fulfilling) level.
1. You'll be happier and feel more satisfied
Deep down, we all want to feel happy and enjoy a deeper sense of fulfillment and passion in our work. Yet we aren't happy, passionate or fulfilled - and it's not even close.
According to some estimates, the majority of Americans have little or no passion for their jobs. That's not a good thing, and you deserve better. Focusing on learning and development is the key to turning that around.
"Data is showing that team members who engage in learning are found to be happier and feel more satisfied in their careers," said Shindler. "That's a significant benefit, both for the employee and the business. Learners who are engaged in their work are happy. Happy people do their best work. Imagine a workforce where employees are happy, engaged, and doing the best work of their careers. That's what we're hoping to achieve with L&D."
You deserve to feel excited about your work and satisfied with your contribution. You deserve to feel a sense of growth and empowerment, and the career advancements that come with it. You deserve to feel passionate and excitement with your work. If you don't feel this way, then get started with your L&D team.
2. Adding skills will advance your career
The world is moving fast, and automation will change the types of talents and skills valued in business. There's no way to predict exactly how automation will happen, yet we know it will happen.
As more and more jobs are consumed by robotics, artificial intelligence and automation, workers will feel an increase in pressure to evolve. Those that invest in themselves now will have the benefit of soft-skills, leadership and creativity that will be in demand.
"If you're not learning and growing, you're missing out on a big opportunity to advance your career," said Shindler. "We're in the age of knowledge work. It's no longer enough to be an expert in your field. The future of work will require and reward skills in emotional intelligence, creativity, teamwork, managing complexity, and the ability to coach and develop others. This is where L&D comes in."
Even beyond automation and staying relevant in an evolving workforce, L&D will help you develop the leadership skills necessary to take on larger roles or cultivate the creativity and play needed to increase your creative output.
3. You'll become a better person
As I've shared above, learning has played a central role in my growth as a person. Yet it's not just me, this applies to everyone. Learning is such an important part of the human experience, and focusing on learning is a focus on becoming a better person.
"People grow through learning," said Shindler. "As a program designer and facilitator, I get the opportunity to play with and develop different ways for people to become better humans in their whole lives, not just at work. When you learn more about leadership, emotional intelligence, play and creativity, it impacts your entire life. It changes how you show up in the world, how you are in your relationships, and the difference you make for the people around you."
Shindler continued, "People often tell me that they're excited to use the tools they learn in L&D with their family, spouse, kids and in everyday life." "Most of us weren't taught in school how to give feedback, have difficult conversations, empower a team, or share appreciation effectively. It's very meaningful to to do this work knowing it spills over into our lives, making us happier, more compassionate and more effective people."
4. Work is a perfect setting for learning
By some estimates, the average person spends 90,000 hours of their lives at work. Think about that for a second. We spend a meaningful portion of our lives at a place that doesn't make us happy or bring us passion. L&D is a way to turn that terrible ration upside down.
At the most fundamental level, humans want to feel important, passionate and fulfilled. If L&D can lead to more happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction, then why not make it a central focus of your time at work? You're already investing a great deal of time and energy at work, and now you can develop your skills, become a better leader and find more satisfaction at the same time. That's a win-win-win situation that should not be ignored.
To better take advantage of these opportunities, Shindler suggests that you contact your L&D team. Ask them what resources are available and how to get involved. Also, state your goals and work with the team to chart a path toward achieving those goals.
"We are deeply passionate about helping our teams at LinkedIn learn, grow, and do their best work," said Shindler. "We work with our teams to ensure they get the learning experiences they need to be successful. It's an exciting time to be in the learning space."
If your company doesn't have an L&D team, you can still take advantage of L&D by finding online courses and resources that cater to businesses or individuals. LinkedIn Learning offers more than 14,000 courses that can help you learn new skills. While solo learning through books is always an option, it helps to have curated and up-to-date content to identify key trends and learn the right things.