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Learning Placeless: The Most Important Skill of the 2020s

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 38 seconds

 

A new decade inspires all sorts of predictions about the soft skills and hard skills needed for the future of work. At Workplaceless, we've identified the skills that are needed to thrive in remote work environments, because being able to work, collaborate, and lead remotely is crucial to developing a career that can adapt to an increasingly distributed work environment

 

No matter what skills you are looking to develop, in order to gain them, you need to start with the most important skill of all: the ability to learn autonomously and placelessly.

 

#workfromanywhere is fueled by the ability to #learnfromanywhere 

 

At no time has this skill been more critical than in our current economic reality, when all that’s certain is that it’s impossible to accurately predict how or to what extent changes like widespread adoption of workplace automation will affect our work and daily lives. This ambiguity is what ignites the general unease and fear surrounding job stability in a volatile digital economy. And it’s not just jobs affected by AI—a recent IBM report predicts that more than 120 million people will need upskilling or re-skilling in the next three years. 

 

In order to stay relevant—and employed—in this new decade and beyond, we need tobe able to learn on our own. The good thing is that autonomous learning has been around literally as long as we have—as humans, our brains have developed to be really, really good at learning new things as we grow and adapt to new situations. 

 

Unfortunately, because we’re naturally good at learning, it can be tempting to think that think that any new skill can be easily acquired. And yet, as any hiring manager knows, this is absolutely not the case. When developing skills for work, there are outside factors that influence what, when, and how a person learns—factors like business needs and resources. Because of these factors, you can’t just passively read a blog post or watch a video and hope for the best. You need to take learning into your own hands and be able to learn from anywhere. 

 

So what exactly does this mean? What do you need to know and do in order to #learnfromanywhere?

 

1. Navigate the Evolving Learning Landscape 

 

The current learning landscape is uncharted territory for most of us who are products of traditional education. The first step to being able to navigate this realm is to understand the terms and trends that are transforming the future of learning. 

 

This means understanding the trends affecting traditional education, like why college enrollments are decreasing as those coveted credentials are increasing in cost and decreasing in value, or how schools are trying to fill the overwhelming glut of vacant teaching positions. 

 

It also means being aware of how technology and innovation is shaping education, from machine learning to virtual reality, and the terms used to describe these innovations within an educational context, like MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), VILT (Virtual Instructor-Led Technology), microlearning, immersive learning, gamification, and mobile learning. 

 

Understanding the current learning landscape will help you choose the types of learning experiences that are going to be effective for your learning needs, and to understand the potential risks and outcomes for each possibility. 



2. Learn Outside of Learning Places 

 

If you’ve attended any formal education program then you’re familiar with learning places: think schools, universities, training academies. Which means you’re familiar with how learning is managed in those learning places: you sign up, and someone tells you what, when, and often how you need to learn. 

 

For many, past experiences with learning places have lasting impacts on learning preferences. And yet, in corporate learning and development, classroom-based training is rarely used as the sole method for learning delivery, with Learning and Development (L&D) professionals instead opting to deploy a blended or online approach. Student enrollment in online programs continues to grow. Across age groups, there is a shift away from the idea that learning only happens in designated, physical spaces.

 

Here's the part the gets sticky if you're used to having someone else facilitate your learning: once you're outside of those learning places, chances are you’ll be on your own. That means that you have to learn how to learn on your own. 

 

Learning on your own, or autonomous learning, means that you’re able to acquire new skills without someone else facilitating the experience for you. It requires flexibility, adaptability, and curiosity, as well as diligence and discipline. You have to hold yourself accountable. You have to determine what you need to learn, identify the resources you'll need, and then do the hard work of learning. Spoiler alert: it’s not enough to passively take in information (e.g., reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts). To really learn,  you need to check your new knowledge and put your skills to the test. That means seeking opportunities to synthesize and apply what you’ve learned using deliberate practice, reflecting on your learnings, and repeating that whole process over and over. Luckily, there are systems and frameworks out there to help: step-by-step instructions for how to learn online as well as courses that teach you metacognitive strategies



3. Communicate and Translate Learnings and Skills 

 

After acquiring new skills, you need to be able to tell people about them, especially during transitions like a job search or a promotion. From hiring managers to coworkers to supervisors to direct reports, you need to be able to effectively communicate what you have learned. To do this well means being able to adapt the message for specific audiences and purposes—translating skills so that they are understandable outside their original context or demonstrating how acquired skills are transferable. 

 

When the only times most people talk about their skills are in performance reviews or job interviews, it’s no wonder that many are not that great at effectively capturing their unique qualities with language. Yet it’s an absolutely critical skill, especially considering how often most people will change jobs throughout their careers, not to mention the need to self-advocate for career growth opportunities from current employers. This final component is how others—and you—are able to recognize the results of your efforts. 




While we can’t say for sure exactly what work will look like in 2029, we can predict that it will be different than today and that it will still be changing. The people who will be best prepared will be those who are prepared to adapt quickly and acquire the skills that the evolving market demands by understanding what learning tools and resources are available, how to use them, and then communicating their success. 


Workplaceless courses are specifically designed to prep learners with the skills to learn placelessly for an adaptable 2020 working world. Start with Workplaceless Remote Work Certification or Growplaceless for remote career development.

 

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