According to the World Economic Forum, the single skill that can set you apart from everyone else is in the job market is “learnability.” It refers to the desire and ability to pick up in-demand skills to stay employable in the long term.
If you can demonstrate your ability to learn difficult things quickly, you can put yourself on the fast track for career success. Of course, it’s easier said than done. Part of becoming an excellent learner is mastering the art of learning in the first place–you need to learn how to learn. In this regard, growth-minded learners have a leg up, not because they’re just smarter than the rest of us, but because of their beliefs.
These beliefs are what allows them to maximise their learnability, more so than the rest of us can. Accessing and applying those principles in your own life is critical to getting ahead at work and in life. Before you can do that, though, you need to ground yourself in an understanding of growth and how it relates to learning in the first place–here are the three fundamental beliefs pertaining to that.
One of the most toxic perceptions that you can hold about yourself is that your skills and abilities are relatively stable from the time you’re born. It sounds absurd; people learn things and improve themselves all the time.
Society, however, tends to behave in the opposite way (especially Singaporean society.) We tend to favour the natural geniuses–those who don’t have to study and still score in exams, and those who come in demonstrating extraordinary amounts of talent and intelligence. These are the people we tend to reward.
In the end, though, it can have a detrimental effect on your learning process. Take leadership skills. Some people are natural-born leaders; it’s like they came out of the womb taking charge and commanding respect immediately. Others, not so much.
This doesn’t mean, though, that leadership skills can’t be learnt. If you’re not a natural-born leader, it might make you feel like there’s no use in learning how to lead. Why try to change what you can’t?
As you can see, it’s a virulent form of self-sabotage. If you believe your skills are fixed, you won’t put yourself in the position for growth and learning, because to you, it’s futile.
Deciding to learn something is easy. It makes you look good and feel good. You feel like you’re a dynamic person who doesn’t take anything for granted or like someone who can get with the times. The hard part is actually following through with it.
Growth-minded learners aren’t trying to pick up or upgrade new skills to prove that they’re smart or knowledgeable. They know that doing this will set them up for failure. Paradoxically, the more you progress through the learning curve, the more you realise just how much you don’t know.
In any case, using learning to appear intelligent puts you at a disadvantage because you tend to close yourself off from learning from others. We live in a time of constant disruption and endless possibilities. People who are serious about learning make full use of this to maximise how they learn, what they learn, and whom they learn from instead of limiting themselves out of vanity. These growth-minded learners know that progress must always come before self-aggrandisement.
According to the 2017 Randstad Workmonitor Survey, Singapore workers fall short of the global average in terms of taking responsibility for their learning. Only 83% of Singaporean workers believe that pursuing learning and development strategies is a personal responsibility, compared to 91% of workers globally.
This is problematic for a whole host of reasons. Most importantly, without taking charge of your learning, you’re not going to learn how to learn properly. Neither will you be able to master the specific skills you have in mind.
There’s a saying by the late modernist poet William B. Yeats: “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot, but make it hot by striking.” Rather than waiting for an opportunity to come knocking on your door, go outside and find it yourself. Request for stretch assignments, or ask your peers for feedback on your performance at work to find out where your learning areas are. The bottom line is: make it happen.
The same applies to learning. Taking the initiative to pursue learning opportunities strategically is key to growth. To perform at the top of your game, you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone. After all, that’s where most learning happens.
This, however, requires that you take charge of your learning at work. Out of an unwillingness to admit to their shortcomings, so many people allow themselves to fall behind, convincing themselves that they don’t need to adapt to the new rules of the workplace. Failing to recognise that you’re in charge of your learning and development can be fatal to your career.