éducation permanente – lifelong learning for IT Consultants
Do you remember the reaction of your parents when you didn’t feel like learning for school? I still hear their words:
“You don’t learn for school,
you learn for life!”
Wise words – that’s what I know today, but at that time I thought differently… Typically the first third of our life mainly consists of learning – playschool, primary school, secondary school, college/university, even driving school. We spend our lives at diverse institutions of education in order to prepare for later. This kind of formal education is a normal part of our young lives, but all of a sudden we seem to stop – typically at an age of about 25. We are done! Ready to go! Prepared for the first job! Learning is over, now doing is our focus! And many of us swear that they will never learn again… I was sure that at least half of what I learned at school I would never ever need again. Well, partly that is true. But it is not only about what we learn, it is more about learning itself.
“We learn to be able to approach topics
that we don’t know and embrace them in a way.”
And this is something we will be needing our whole life.
Looking at professional life we all know, that we keep learning constantly. Certainly our daily learning by doing is different compared to theoretical learning at school and most of us prefer it this way. But no one would really say that learning is not important anymore. The opposite is the case. Most corporate companies even have a professional learning department where each employee’s further development is focused. This is one of the most important factors when it comes to employee retention according to recent studies.
Certainly in the IT world constant learning seems to be natural and necessary as technology is developing rapidly, even if it is not obligatory as for legal and health profession. Consultants need to be at their best in order to be hired for the most innovative and future-oriented projects. Consulting companies urge their consultants to get the newest certification in their area of competence as consultants with up-to-date knowledge might be sold at an even higher rate. And even if they won’t gather practical experience in one or another area, they still have a certificate that evidences their expertise.
For independent consultants the situation is more difficult. They certainly need to keep their knowledge up-to-date as well, but for them finding the right moment to do so is the most complicated part. Being hired for a project basically means being busy full-time. And often enough the work isn’t finished in 40 hours per week. But there are times without an assignment. The moment to finally take a vacation maybe. Most independent consultants are happy about a short period without assignment, but it mustn’t last too long.
For an entrepreneur no project means no income, but cost keep running. So you first need to be sure that you will have an assignment soon again before you can invest in free time or training. But most freelancers are not asked to work in about four to six weeks, they are asked to start tomorrow. Or they struggle to find the next assignment, so they try to spend as less money as possible until they found a new project. So when is the right time for a few weeks of costly training, which actually is needed in order to make sure that new assignments can be scored in the future? A vicious circle…
One thing is sure – keeping up-to-date in your expertise is most important in order to secure future work. In the end it is a matter of planning, time & cash management – important factors that need to be watched carefully anyway by every entrepreneur.