Lesson 2: Education is Now Self-Service

Lesson 2: Education is Now Self-Service

This is part of a series of blog posts based on the book Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida.

The Creative Class theory that Richard Florida advocates is just one of many that deal with people in the new economy switching jobs regularly.  Another major theory is Free Agent Nation by Daniel Pink.  Whichever you believe, or even if you prefer to come to your own conclusions, you’re probably not working the same job you will be in 20 years.  There are a number of ramifications of this, but the one I want to focus on today is education.  YOUR education.

It’s time to forget about the corporate training path.  This is coming from a guy who took a dozen or so training courses in my 3 years with IBM in the hopes of fighting my way up the corporate ladder.  It ended up being futile, so I quit my job and started working for a startup (education budget = 0).  A lifetime learner, I still needed to find ways to learn.  There’s a bunch out there, so you have to prioritize.  Here are the types of self-education I have hunted:

  1. First, and most important.  DO SOMETHING.  If there’s something you want to know how to do, DO IT.  If you’re a technologist like me and want to learn a new technology, start a new project using that technology in your spare time.
  2. Blogs and Journals.  I skim through somewhere between 100 and 400 posts in a day.  Like I said, there’s A LOT of content in the world today.  Find an RSS reader, follow some blogs you know.  Follow some of the blogs in their blogroll (you can start with mine if you like).  Don’t read everything.
  3. Books.  Find a way to fit books in to your life.  For me, this is through audiobooks.  I’ve made it through 17 books that I’ve shared on here, another 2 that I’ve reread and about 5 throwaway fiction books.  Blogs are great, but you’ve got to get to the bottom of a few issues if you want to increase your value to organizations and you can’t get to the bottom of an issue in less then 200 pages.
  4. Formal education still opens doors.  It’s not as valuable as it once was, but people still look for the MBA and other degrees.  My suggestion, since its not as valuable as it once was, don’t treat it like it is.  Don’t pause your career just to get your MBA.  I’ve had a great time, learned a lot, and got those three little letters (MBA) after my name through Penn State’s iMBA program without giving up on my current company.
  5. Play!  I’ve said this before, but it’s especially true here.  If you want to learn about a business, play with its products.  How could you possibly be an investor or an entrepreneur if you haven’t played enough to learn the value of the existing products?  I wrote about this previously in my post, “Want to be a VC? Try being an Early Adopter First“.

Anybody else have other ways of staying sharp and learning what you need to get the job you want?