Not long ago, I attended an all-day workshop on PowerPoint. It was designed for people who felt comfortable using the program, but who wanted to take it to the next level. As I use slides all the time in my new consulting business, I thought it might be a useful skill to hone.
I’m a big fan of taking classes in adulthood. Since moving to London twelve years ago, I’ve taken classes in everything from public speaking to improvisation to how to write a business plan. In past lives, I’ve taken classes in freelance writing, beginning Hebrew as well as the Continuing Ed class to end all Continuing Ed classes: I’m Jewish, You’re Not.
People go back to school as adults for many different reasons. Often, it’s to pursue a hobby. You try something new (or return to something old.) You meet new people. You collaborate. Above all, you have fun. (I’m currently eyeing a course entitled Actors Singing From West End to Broadway. Bring it on!)
Other times, you go back to school because you need to re-tool professionally. In an era where people in the West are living longer and healthier lives, older workers not only can – but often choose – to remain in the workforce longer or return to work post-retirement. In the UK, where I live, over 50’s now make up nearly one third (31%) of the entire workforce, up from around one in five (21%) in the early 1990’s. In the US, two age groups – 65 to 74 years old and 75 and older – are projected to have faster annual rates of labor force growth than any other cohorts. So it’s a good bet that we’ll be seeing more Americans – particularly boomers – sharpening their pencils and buying new notebooks as they gear up for a second or third career.
But the main advantage of adult education is that it enables you to remain curious. I was listening to an interview recently with Chip Conley on the Second Act Stories podcast. Conley was a hugely successful entrepreneur in the hospitality industry. Upon retiring after 24 years, he was asked by the then 31 year-old CEO of Airbnb to come serve as a mentor for that company. But while Conley was initially brought on board to impart his business wisdom to the “kids” at Airbnb, he ended up learning as much from the Millennials he was coaching, as they did from him. (Conley tells this story in his book, Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder.)
Now in his late 50’s and post Airbnb, Conley has taken up surfing. And Spanish. He’s also opened a new business aimed at helping people navigate midlife transitions.
Which is why I myself never stop learning. It keeps me fresh. And it keeps me curious.
And who knows? Maybe I’ll be the next Cezanne of Power Point…