Are you about to graduate from college or did you just finish a graduate degree? Congratulations! Felicidades! Despite the recent controversy surrounding the value of a college education in today’s labor market–it is still much better to have more education than less. And, just in case no one else has said this to you yet: finishing your degree is just the beginning of your life-long learning quest!
I was 26 years old when I received my doctorate and just after defending my doctoral dissertation, one of my advisors quipped–”Geeze, you’re 26 years old, what the heck are you going to do next?” I didn’t have an answer for him and he could see I was not sure how to respond. He then said something that stuck with me these past 28 years, “I hope you know that your education doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers. It does however, give you the ability to gracefully say, I don’t know but I can definitely look into that. Your degree says you truly mastered the art of learning.”
He was right. Your degree is just the beginning of a life-long learning opportunity. In today’s workplace, only those who can keep learning, stay current on business trends, and remain up to date on technology are those who will be sought out for opportunities. According to the research completed by Corporate Voices, business leaders remain very concerned that new employees have better communication and critical thinking skills. Communicating effectively can range from writing persuasive business reports to presenting key information and collaborating effectively with others. Strong critical thinking includes the ability to look at key issues, weigh opposing views, and determine the best course of action. Depending on your major you may actually already have these skills in your tool kit but there is always the need to learn how your employer may want these applied within their organizational culture.
If life-long learning never stops, the hard work of balancing work and life takes on new meaning–especially for Latinas. We face the pressure to be with family as a daughter, sister, spouse or comadre. We have strong cultural pressures to create a family of our own and to live beyond just our work roles. When I finished my undergraduate education, some of my Tias were surprised I still wanted to continue with my formal education. Mijita que vas hacer con tanto estudio? What are you going to do with all that studying? And of course, you know the comments about having a child before it was too late happened right after that!
The ability to keep learning is about taking stock of what skills would most help you be competitive in your work role and prioritizing your time to keep developing those each day. I’m happy to say you can achieve family and career success–just not at the same time. The juggling between work and life can make it tough to invest in our professional development and it truly rests on how you plan for the many activities you want to pursue. For some getting all the formal education out of the way early is the wisest choice. For others, the best time to go back for more education is when children are in school. Regardless of the choices you make, keep your formal education and informal learning as a priority. It will make you more effective in all the roles you will have in life and at all the stages of your pursuit to succeed.