If Books Could Skill: Why You Should Never Stop Learning in your Career

Oct. 28, 2020
Nothing I learned from my books in college prepared me for what I do now. Turns out my skills, much like my profession, have evolved in ways I could’ve never dreamed. 

My career often feels like a case study in adaptation. I graduated with a degree in Journalism in the late 1990s, right as the internet was beginning to become popular. In my first job, I traded in my reporter notebook for a Mac notebook and sorted through the ways this new medium might impact me.

Several years later I moved into a new company. Despite being a rank and file member of the Editorial team, I was hungry to learn about the intersection of digital and media and how they could work together. The hunger led me to use my free time teaching myself how to code and how to better understand the technology powering the internet.

Eager to get even more digital skills in my toolbox, I started volunteering as the ‘Digital Person’ for as many extracurricular groups and projects as I could. I blogged, I set up online communities, and I became an early-adopter on social media platforms. All of this conspired to bring me to the job I have today: Digital Doyenne* at Putman Media, Food Processing's parent company. (*side note: That's not actually my title, but I wear so many subject matter expertise hats, that the designation seems to work). 

Throughout my time at Putman Media, I’ve maintained that yearn to learn. When I couldn’t answer a question about something, I rolled up my sleeves, studied it, and became an expert at it. Some call that an overachiever, I call it being me.

When the term podcast was thrown around years ago, I kept my eye on the popularity of the format and the breadth of topics covered. Though my journalistic chops were in the written word, I had enough of a grasp of podcasts to roll my sleeves up once again, study it, and develop some expertise in it. A year ago, when our team came up with the idea for our Food For Thought Podcast, I knew I would have a big part in it. I just didn’t realize the impact it would have on me.

Pod Help Me

We launched the podcast earlier this year. In the months since the launch I’ve logged in a lot of recording hours while talking to some amazing experts. From members of R&D teams, to Chief Officers, plant floor managers, and business development managers, I’ve listened and I’ve learned to what everyone had to say. 

There has been one constant no matter who I’ve talked to: Keep Building Those Skills

I took my enjoyment in podcasting for work and translated it into a hobby I thoroughly enjoy in my free time now as well. Among the multiple podcasts I'm a part of, I think I've officially logged in more recording hours in the last year than I have virtual meeting hours. All of the professional and personal recording have made me a better interviewer, a better speaker, and a better multimedia marketer. 

In an upcoming episode of our Food for Thought podcast, I talk to the head of a skills training program about who and what the industry needs to keep thriving. Hard skills like those you’d find on the plant floor are a must. Soft skills are even more fundamental to the success of any team or company. Things like leadership, critical thinking, and time management score high on the needs list. He adds that skills training isn’t just for the new additions to the team either. Whether you’ve been at the company or on the plant floor for two years or 12, it’s important to keep stacking those skills.

And it's true, it is important to keep learning even when you've been at your job for a while. I'm neither newly in nor am I nearly out of my career. Generationally-speaking, I'm sandwiched between the two large groups of people predicted to abrupt the way we think of careers and the workforce. While we wait to see what the next phase of manufacturing careers and the workforce in general may look like, I'm hunkering down with my skill-set building blocks and constructing the ultimate fount of knowledge. 

All of this leads me back my career choice and how nothing I learned from my books in college prepared me for what I do now. I started out my professional life thinking I would be the next Lois Lane. Turns out my skills, much like my profession, have evolved in ways I could’ve never imagined.