The Single Most Important Key to Career Success in Today's Competitive Work Environment

When I started my career a few decades ago… yes, I am that old, I was very clear about what I wanted.  I took clerical classes in high school which prepared me for what I considered a ‘transitional job’ until I turned 21 and could become a flight attendant.  Those classes served me well.  Not only did I take classes but I diligently practiced my skills on my own time.  I LEARNED a lot about what it took to be a secretary. If any of you out there can remember shorthand, I won a competition for shorthand my senior year.  Most of you may not even know such a skill existed!  At the age of 16 I landed my first clerical job working for a large company in their housing department.  We were responsible for processing the paperwork necessary for the employees to move in to company housing.  I worked part-time during and after school.  I was released for two hours a day from school under a cooperative work program. 

I continued to work in various clerical jobs until I turned 21 and was able to secure my dream job!  At the time I was told that airlines did not hire people from rural areas.  They said I needed to live in a big city to get recruited.  But, I LEARNED a way to get them to hire me while I was living in Wyoming.  That is a story for another day. But my dream job turned out to be a lot less desirable than I thought, partly because I worked during a very turbulent time for airlines as they were going through major changes with deregulation.  So, I moved on.

I became a mom, which I absolutely loved.  Each of my four children came with unique challenges and I found the key to meeting those challenges was to LEARN everything I could about parenting and the associated challenges so I could improve my parenting skills and raise healthy, productive children. 

From there I started a business training disabled people to use assistive computer technology.  There was not a lot of formal training on these topics at the time so I had to develop my own.  I had to seek out and acquire knowledge on my own.  I had to LEARN.

I feel that success came in these endeavors because I was willing to learn something new on my own and apply those skills to getting and maintaining a job.

At this point in time I did not have a formal education (other than high school).  I went to the school of hard knocks.  Once I returned to college (in my mid-30’s) I honestly felt it was pretty much to get a piece of paper validating that I really did know the things I had learned for those many years.  In many cases, I could have taught the classes.  But our society has convinced us that ‘school’ is where we learn and we need some type of validation from the school that we really learned while there to prove we can do a job.

I believe things are changing.  I do not feel that schools, for the most part, are adequately providing the knowledge and skills that employers are seeking.  Numerous studies are validating that assumption. Thus, it behooves organizations that want knowledgeable and skilled workers to provide what schools are failing to provide some people. 

Don’t get me wrong, if you are choosing to be a doctor, lawyer or some other profession where you cannot get sufficient practical experience before entering the field without school, school is a necessity.  School can provide some value outside of those professions, but schools do not seem to be changing with the times.  They are falling behind. 


In the early nineteen nineties Peter Senge of Harvard published “The Fifth Discipline,” describing the necessity for companies to develop themselves as "continuous learning organizations." The movement towards businesses seeing themselves as learning organizations, not just profit-making entities, has accelerated ever since. The Fifth Discipline defines continuous learning organizations as “organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.” The need to transform your business into a continuous learning organizations is more crucial than ever due to the technology revolution: businesses are becoming more complex, dynamic, and globally competitive. Excelling in a dynamic business environment requires more understanding, knowledge, preparation, and agreement than one person's expertise and experience provides. David Garvin of Harvard University says that "Continuous improvement requires a commitment to learning”.


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Is your organization prepared to provide continuous learning to your staff in order to stay competitive in this rapidly changing work environment?  If not, let us help you build a “Culture of Learning” at your organization.