The end of higher education doesn’t have to mean the end of your search for knowledge.
La Trobe Careers and Employability Adviser Barbara Wels explains how an ongoing commitment to learning can enrich your life beyond university.
The benefits of a curious mind
The world is changing rapidly, which will inevitably give rise to new and more complex challenges in the way we live and work. Barbara Wels argues that being a lifelong learner equips us with the skills to meet these problems head on.
‘The world’s changing so fast and communities and businesses and governments are all having to adapt to that,’ says Wels. ‘So people need to go to work ready to keep solving new problems and learning how to do that as they go.’
‘Lifelong learning is a great way to keep developing throughout your career, but it’s also a skill that employers are telling us they want graduates to have.’
However, there is more to self-directed learning than advancing your career. It has far-reaching benefits that extend to other areas of life as well.
Research shows that intellectual stimulation may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms, while learning complex new tasks has been associated with improved memory in older people.
‘In my experience, lifelong learning helps you to manage change in your own life, and build confidence,’ says Wels. ‘Work and life are all about solving a series of problems, but you can’t know everything – you can seek out and learn what you need as you’re living and working.
‘It could help you develop new strengths and connect you with new people and new perspectives – and in that way, it can help you join the dots in different ways.
‘It’s also a way of looking after your brain and building up new neural pathways, especially as you get older.
‘Sometimes in life you can feel like you’re stuck in a bit of a rut. Lifelong learning is a way to keep exploring an amazing world and renewing your energy.’
A community of learners
If you’ve always been interested in an area outside your vocation – be it creative writing, art, history or any of the thousands of possibilities – it’s never too late to start learning more about it.
‘It takes a lot of guts to go back to study and reinvent yourself, but higher education is full of excellent courses, and it provides a community where knowledge, learning and critical thinking are valued,’ says Wels.
‘As a student at La Trobe, you have access to a wide range of experiences, which can help you discover and develop your strengths, interests and employability.
‘There are a wide range of electives, as well as activities, opportunities and projects you can get involved with outside of formal coursework. For example, La Trobe Abroad, which supports overseas study experiences, volunteer programs on campus, The Big Idea, Career Ready Advantage, and other ways to do fun and interesting stuff while you learn.
‘Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are another brilliant way to pursue new knowledge and skills for free in your own time, in small chunks.
‘La Trobe has just given our students access to hundreds of free short courses from Lynda.com by LinkedIn Learning Access, so they can get a taste by logging on through our website using their student username and password.’
Ultimately, a commitment to lifelong learning is something you do for yourself. The best part is that you never know where it might take you.
‘There’s a classic story about Steve Jobs and how he was a bit lost for a while and got really interested in calligraphy, which later translated into how important fonts were on the Apple Mac.
‘That’s the great thing about lifelong learning. You get to follow your curiosity and you get to decide what you’ll do – and it can take you to lots of interesting places.’
Set yourself up for lifelong learning with an undergraduate degree from La Trobe University. Browse our courses and degrees here.