In school, you learn lots of facts and figures. But things change, and a lot of what you learn soon goes out of date. In reality, one of the most important things you can learn in school is how to learn, so you can keep yourself current no matter how the world—or your field and interest—changes. Once you’re finished with formal education, there are many ways you can keep yourself informed and inspired through lifelong learning. Although ACS Career Navigator resources (www.acs.org/careernavigator) are a great start, you can go beyond them to expand your horizons even further.
VIEW WEBINARS AND ONLINE LECTURES. The Internet offers a wealth of information, if you know where to find it. Short, timely talks on topics of specific interest to your scientific career (including ACS Webinars at www.acs.org/content/acs/en/events/about.html) can help keep you current on trends in your field or give you an introduction to a related field. More general presentations, such as TED Talks (18-minute presentations by the world’s most inspired thinkers, at www.ted.com/about/our-organization), will make you stop and think about all sorts of things in new ways, including how to teach chemistry (www.ted.com/talks/ramsey_musallam_3_rules_to_spark_learning), tuition-free college degrees (www.ted.com/talks/shai_reshef_a_tuition_free_college_degree), the unintended consequences of search-engine filtering (www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles), and much more (www.ted.com/playlists/77/new_to_ted).
ATTEND COMMUNITY COLLEGE. Check out the regular classes or continuing education offerings (usually evening classes) at your local community college. Spending a few hours per week for a few weeks can allow you to develop your expertise in managing projects, managing conflicts, facilitating effectively, coaching, and all sorts of other topics that will help you in your day job.
JOIN DISCUSSION GROUPS AND BLOGS. Find groups on LinkedIn, blogs, and the ACS Network, as well as other regular online discussions on topics in your area of expertise. Gather ideas by looking at the profiles of people you respect and seeing what groups they belong to. Read the discussions on a regular basis, and contribute your opinions and useful ideas when you can.
TEACH OR MENTOR SOMEONE ELSE. The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. Seek out opportunities to instruct or mentor others in both technical and nontechnical subjects. You may want to present a seminar at an ACS local section meeting or teach a class at a community college. Thinking about how best to present the information to others, not to mention having to answer students’ questions, will force you to think about the subject matter in a deeper and often completely new way.
No matter what your age or experience level, it’s important to continue expanding your horizons and learning throughout your life. Incorporate some of these options, or your own ideas, into your regular routine. Watch TED Talks while you eat your lunch, or set aside time each day or week to review and respond to discussions in your LinkedIn groups. Not only will these techniques help you learn new things and build your own professional reputation, but taking a mental break from your current work problems just might help you find some creative solutions.
Get Involved In The Discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (www.acs.org/network-careers).