As you can see, lifelong learning does not only mean learning a particular skill or subject. It takes into learning to earn a living as well as learning to become a better human being. It takes into account the professional, the social and the personal. We need to take this holistic approach to learning throughout life. Let me explain and break this down for you into 3 kinds of capital:
Human capital – this refers to the skills and qualifications held by you. It is built up mainly through formal education and training, but informal learning also plays an important part. You typically deploy your human capital in the workplace as a factor of production, but you also put it to use in social and community contexts.
Social capital – refers to the value or benefits you derive from participation in networks; basically, your “connections”. Your networks and connections may be local (including family) or global. You should always remember that social capital (your networks and connections) supports learning and is in turn strengthened by it.
Although social capital is not acquired directly through education in the same way as skills and qualifications are, constantly learning new things is a powerful way of increasing and broadening your networks and connections.
Personal capital – is your ability to maintain healthy self-esteem, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life. You should be able to deepen your self-knowledge and reinforce your self-image because this is really the basis for developing any other kind of competency.
When you decide to learn throughout life, your efforts should bring about an increase in these three types of capital. What I wanted to stress here is that, if you are looking to understand how to improve your career or how to navigate your career or even how to lead a meaningful life, it is not enough to just add random certifications after certifications to put in your CV. It is not enough to simply accumulate qualifications one after another. What is needed is for you to develop a learning mindset; develop a willingness to learn throughout life through formal and informal ways.
You have to become open to constantly trying new things and keep experimenting with your life. “Settling down” is an old concept that has no relevance in the 21st century innovation world. If you plan to “settle down” then you are planning to get left behind, you are planning to lose. Our world now moves more faster than it ever has in the past and this movement throws up challenges as well as opportunities. If you want to solve the challenges and capture those opportunities, you have to keep learning.
If you don’t the world will leave you behind and you will not achieve your full potential. There is no choice. Well actually there is always a choice. You can choose to lead yourself into new and emerging opportunities and grow yourself. Or you can choose to be left behind and be fossilized. It’s up to you.
Activity: think about the 10 points I mentioned before and the current status of your human capital (what have you formally learned so far in life and what qualifications do you currently have that is useful for employers?), your social capital (how does your network and connections look? Have you developed a good network?) and your personal capital (have you spent time and taken effort to know more about yourself?). Answer these questions honestly and keep a journal of your thoughts.