Learning to Learn: How Small Actions Can Lead to Big Career Payoffs

By Brian Beckett, CPA, Member of IMA Young Professionals Committee
Director for Young Professionals - IMA Des Moines Chapter
Investment Accounting Analyst, Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, Iowa 

Manpower CEO Jeff Joerres made a statement in a recently published Yahoo Finance article written by Daniel Gross that really struck a chord with me. Mr. Joerres’ comment was directed to both the job seeker and the currently employed.

“You have to be insatiable about learning.  In this rapidly changing environment, much of the onus on career development and training falls on workers, not on employers. As a result, people have to advance themselves through college, online courses and training. Unless you're in some unique, highly skilled positions, you can't rest, don't be complacent."

Mr. Joerres’ comments speak to me because I am also a firm believer in the merits of lifelong education. In today’s turbulent hiring environment, continuous education is necessary to move up the corporate ladder, or in some cases, necessary just to hang on. While Mr. Joerres’ comments touch on more formalized educational opportunities, I think it is important to recognize the educational opportunities presented to us on a daily basis.

Knowledge From Unlikely Sources

I personally feel the most beneficial educational opportunities are all around us. Although they may not exactly count for CPE, they will count for creating a well-rounded business professional. By simply reading through the Wall Street Journal or the headline articles on a finance website, you are bound to find a business topic or transaction taking place that you would like to know more about. The beauty of the interconnected world we live in is that the answers to the many questions we likely have are now readily available and easily accessible. 

From synthetic CDOs, to valuation methodology, to derivatives, you name it, the internet is chock full of background info, blogs and even detailed presentations on YouTube. Learning about the recent recession may be a great jumping off point to expand your current knowledge base. As the recession had an impact on every business in America, a thorough knowledge of the causes, government and consumer reactions, and implications will be the driving force behind many business decisions in the near and long-term future.

Learning as a Long-Term Career Investment

You may be thinking to yourself, “Okay, I researched and learned. How does that help me get ahead?”  It may not be today or tomorrow, but perhaps in the not so distant future your company may be faced with an important decision. When asked if you are familiar with the issues, having any sort of knowledge or familiarity is a step up on the person who has never heard of the topic. 

In my opinion, learning should come naturally if you enjoy what you do. It should not feel like a chore. If it does, then try to find something that DOES interest you. You never know, it may be a valuable insight into your own career goals and interests. My personal interests in investments and the market lead me to my current role. When I looked at the articles, books and headlines that interested me the most, they all had a common investment theme. Since my current role did not incorporate any of these aspects, I began wondering if it was time for a career change. Sure enough it was, and I couldn’t be happier. 

Eagerness and willingness to learn new things is a great way to stay engaged and show your employer you are dedicated, committed and driven by your career. It may not open doors immediately, but it will definitely help you move in the right direction. You may even pick up a CPE credit or two along the way.

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The IMA Young Accounting Pros Blog features the insights of IMA's Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

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