Jobs as Education

There is a really good book out there called Free Agent Nation, about working independently. The author acknowledged that there are times, especially when you are starting out, that working independently is not really an option, and you will need to take a job working for someone else. He suggested using this job as an education to get you ready for the day when you ARE ready to go out on your own.


Leaving aside for the moment the discussion about working independently, how about this idea of the job as a form of education? Does that have any relevance for leaders?

Well, yeah.

Encourage your employees to see their job as an educational experience while you adopt a role as a teacher (as well as a scheduler, manager, therapist, social director, and all the other things a leader has to do).

If your employees treat the job as an educational opportunity, they will be more inclined to keep learning about new things, improving their skills, learning more about the broader field in which you work, and so on. Guess what? Better informed and better trained employees will turn in a better performance. That may be kind of a “master of the obvious” revelation, but there are other advantages, too.

Consider that, as your employees feel they’re getting more out of their job, they will be more motivated to come in and get to work. After all, they are not just giving you work in return for a paycheck…they’re actually getting something beyond the ability to eat and pay rent, and that is not always the case in a job. So, you will end up creating a more motivated workforce.

You will also be helping to create the next generation of leaders for your company. Some of your employees are going to want to stay at the technical level, and that is OK for them, but some will want to advance to positions with more responsibility. Encourage them to see every day as one step in that advancement, not in a “suck up to the boss” kind of way, but instead, in a continuously learning sort of way.

Some of your employees are going to take that Free Agent Nation advice and leave, whether to go out on their own or to explore other companies. But you know, considering how much people move around between jobs, there’s a good chance they will be back someday. By helping them learn now, not only will they be more excited about coming back and working with you someday, they will also be better at it.

This is not just for your employees, of course. You, too, should see each job as an education. Most of us do not have formal education in leadership, so you better take it where you can find it. Frankly, if you are not learning something from your experiences, it may be time to move on try something else. Why stay someplace where you are bored??

Lifelong learning is a useful habit to get into. It can occur in formal settings, but a lot of the most useful learning takes place through daily life. But you need to stay open to it, paying attention to what is going on around you, making connections between what you see today and what you saw last week. It does not have to take a lot of conscious effort; after a while, it becomes second nature. Encourage your employees to take this approach so they get a lot more out of their jobs.

And encourage yourself, too.

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