For generations, graduating from secondary school or college heralds the transition from youth’s generally carefree lifestyle into the ‘real world’ of adulthood. And perhaps foremost among the many responsibilities associated with that leap is the need to earn your own paycheck.
Each year sees a new batch of graduates joining the workforce and harboring various career plans and aspirations. But the modern world of work very rarely offers a straightforward path to those goals. And navigating any profession only gets more complicated all the time.
Thus, more young employees are finding it necessary to find and hold down jobs and continue learning in some way. And if you want to outperform others who are doing the same thing, you need to maximize your efforts in that regard.
The growing skills gap
With the remarkable pace of technological developments every year, it seems like the world is changing beneath our feet at times. As consumers, this can be a great thing. We seem to gain access to more sophisticated devices all the time, often at a markedly lower cost relative to the hardware of old.
But this rapid change puts many workers in peril. The threat of AI taking over jobs is real for certain occupations. And it’s expanding to more complicated tasks. Several robot baristas can whip up fancy brews faster than any human and with zero contact. That’s a huge plus in the age of Covid-19, for everyone except the actual baristas.
The typical response is that AI creates new jobs. Of course, robots need to be supplemented by some degree of operation and maintenance. Those who can learn the right skills may land in the prime growth area of developing even better new forms of AI.
Therein lies the problem, however. You need to overcome some steep hurdles to learn specific new skills. Some of them aren’t even being taught in today’s schools because they are still emerging or don’t exist yet.
Learning through limitations
Having the right mindset for continuous learning definitely helps. Even as you earn a living, you want to be intentional with the few hours you can spare and focus on skills that can give you an edge.
But everyone faces limitations on their time and effort. This emphasizes the need to be truly effective in the way we learn.
Left to their own devices, most young workers today would probably choose to learn through online channels. This is understandable, as the cohorts starting with the millennial generation are increasingly digital natives.
Online learning tools are popular and accessible. 2019 data from the NCES show that more than a third of all students who had at least a high school level of education took some distance learning. Among graduate students, that number was over 90%. Data is not yet available from the pandemic but doubtless figures to rise even higher.
However, every learner would do well to use analog media in their efforts. Analog has a persistence that’s absent from the digital. This is why direct mail marketing campaigns are so effective. The physical collateral is kept for an average of 17 days at home, driving brand recall.
Across multiple studies, the conclusion is that reading from printed material is better for long-form comprehension. Analog media isn’t just a charming throwback to yesteryear. It offers tangible advantages to anyone serious about learning.
Using analog to complement digital
In her book Alone Together, sociologist Sherry Turkle suggests that the internet and mobile technology have negatively subverted our lives. We believe that we’re better-connected and informed through digital media, but it actually has the reverse effect. We no longer engage in reflective communication or seek a depth of meaning. Instead, we demand quick and simple answers and lose the ability to focus.
To be an effective learner, then, adults must use analog to complement digital learning advantages. Ideas presented in short form can be easily digested through blogs and videos, for instance. But those must serve as just the starting point for a deeper inquiry into that line of knowledge.
Attending a class in person may not be convenient, and it has become a less safe option during this time of the pandemic. But you can still choose to buy a paper textbook instead of downloading an ebook version of the same and scrolling through it on a tablet.
Reading from a physical book is a sensory experience that can heighten learning. The same goes for taking notes with a pen and paper or reflecting in a physical journal or notebook. It may yield a small advantage, but in the competitive career world, that could be the difference-maker that leads to your goals.