Power of learning, unlearning and relearning in your career

Learn to unlearn and relearn


As human beings, we are born with a unique ability to learn. Every aspect of life is learned from either family, school, friends, books, and many other sources. Learning has been termed as the best way to absorb knowledge and the beauty of it is that it is constant. In our country, We have a whole learning system with the sole purpose of instilling knowledge. The majority of Kenyans identify with the 8-4-4 learning system. The last four -or more years depending on the career path chosen- is where transformative learning is expected to happen. It is a stage where students learn about their strengths, realize their value, and find meaning in their career paths. It is also a stage where learners acquire knowledge in hopes of world opportunities and changing lives, attitudes & perspectives are shaped and most importantly it marks the beginning of one’s career profile.

What happens when after completing four or more years in tertiary education, you realize the environment you were learning to manipulate has changed for one reason or another, or the passion and interests have shifted? How do you flip the script? It is through unlearning and relearning. Unlearning is not easy as it involves stepping out of your current mental model and behavior and choosing a different one. Unlearning does not mean forgetting what we already know but it entails approaching a new situation with an open mind and choosing to see a broader outlook to the situation at hand. Case in point, Technology has changed the world and the workplace tremendously. Some careers are almost being rendered obsolete while others that did not exist some few years ago are among the highest-ranking jobs.  Talent globalization is also on the rise meaning you might have planned for a career that is travel intensive only to be working for a global company from your house. Other factors calling for unlearning and relearning for professional excellence are social change in the family structure, adaptation of the gig economy, and the massive revolution and disruptions being experienced in the corporate world. How do you unlearn and adapt to these changes to make a difference in your career?

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1.By accepting that the old model is no longer effective in your career. The unlearning journey starts and ends with you. It is by accepting the fact that the current belief and behavior is hindering you from attaining your full potential. Many people are stuck in unfulfilling careers because of their inability to unlearn old habits and pick up new skills. I know of an accountant in a leading audit firm who is quite gifted and passionate about interior design and would want to pursue it full time but is too programmed to money matters, an eight to five job, and an end month salary. Letting go of the status, knowledge and for some even pride and a willingness to start over is always a good starting point.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” – Alvin Toffler

2. Take action: Find the courage to accept or create a new model to achieve your career goals. Charles Darwin said, ‘it is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable’. I like to call this the re-discovery period and is characterized by stepping away from the comfort zone. With previous unlearning, there is room for new thinking, relearning, and the acceptance of new reality.  Accept help from colleagues mentor and even family as your move into a new way of thinking. If previously you believed that only formal education will get you the dream job, time to change that. Other factors such as attitude, passion, and emotional Intelligence matter in the modern workplace. Desire to learn new strategies to tackle new problems in order to remain competitive in a highly competitive modern workplace. Find new ways to approach your brand and communicate your value in the new space you will find yourself in.

3. Make Learning a daily routine. With the new direction in place, set aside time to learn. Learning materials are readily available on the internet both at a fee and free. Aim to learn a new language, skill, game, or even word every single day. Thereafter see how you can use this new experience in your professional life. It is highly advisable to keep a learning journal to help analyze the effectiveness of one’s learning journey.

The process of learning, unlearning, and relearning is long. Technically it is a lifelong process as we learn throughout our lives. Professionally, it is important for your survival. In a world where disruptions and development are the order of the day, it is important to stay on top of the game. Buy into the culture of unlearning and relearning and you can be sure to be part of the global economy and market evolution which are and will continue to be centered on knowledge.

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