Reality Check: Willingness to Learn as an Employability Skill

Whether you spend time in a workplace, school, or in blissful retirement, you’ve likely noticed that there’s a lot of change going on. Sometimes, it’s even for the better.

Especially in the workplace, willingness to change is essential. Why?

Our competitors change; improving their products and services. They may even have the audacity to lower their prices! Suddenly, the perfectly acceptable product that we’d produced for years doesn’t look so good by comparison. Our previously loyal customers stray to our competitors.

We didn’t change, but they did. Thus our situation changes, like it or not.

How to cope? A company needs to be willing to learn, adapt and innovate to remain successful. But a “company” doesn’t learn; that’s up to the folks within.

Who is more valuable? The worker with the attitude, “I’ll put in my 4 (or 8 or 12) hours; then I can go home and forget all about this place till tomorrow.” Or the worker who sees every day as an opportunity to learn?

Who would you hire? The applicant who hasn’t picked up a book or learned a skill since they were “forced” to learn in school? Or the person who is continuously learning, even if it’s not work-related?

Dr. Glasser theorizes that fun is the genetic reward we get for learning because learning is so critical for human survival. However, not everyone sees learning as fun!

Different people have different levels of needs. In Choice Theory, Glasser writes, “If you enjoy learning and laugh a lot when you do, you have a high need for fun.” He goes on to suggest that a teacher with a high need for fun enjoys having participants laugh with each other during their learning process.

If learning isn’t interesting or satisfying for you, it may simply mean that you have a low need for fun. However, if you avoid learning because it’s scary or because you find it tough, I encourage you to keep trying—for the fun!

Fortunately, we live in this incredible time where we can truly learn for free. Need basic computer skills? Try Want something a little more advanced? Thanks to Jill who told me about and Frank who directed me to those free MIT calculus lectures.

Personally, I’ve embarked on the javascript learning challenge this summer from I have no immediate use for javascript but I know that programming is useful and this will help keep my skills sharp.

Don’t use a computer? Libraries are full of books and knowledgeable folks who want to help. Friends, co-workers, even bosses are often happy to help, if only you ask.

Learning becomes more fun as you learn more. Even self-proclaimed math-haters have said, “Math is fun once you know how to do it!”

We may not have a lot of control over our ability to learn. However, we do have control over our willingness to learn. Willingness to learn is also willingness to say, “I don’t know everything.” There’s no shame to this admission; it applies to everyone!

What do you recommend as learning activities?

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