Picture John Smith from the 1960s, 70s or even 80s. Life followed a fairly linear pattern of school-job-retirement. A layoff may throw a spanner in the works, but it was definitely not the norm. If John was, say, a draftsman in an architect’s office, he could hope to get a steadily increasing payslip, maybe change jobs to bigger firms, or even go to night school and become an architect himself.

Fast forward now to the new 21st century to, let’s say, his daughter Jane Smith. Jane certainly may have got into college studying to be an architect following her dad’s footsteps. But the universe she inhabits is a vastly different one from ol’ John. Right from the design tools she uses – from AutoCAD to simulators to 3D printers – to the scope of the work she performs to even the materials she uses in her projects, it’s a vastly different universe.

To top it all, Jane may not even be an architect 10 years from now. She may move on to urban planning or interior design, or even move totally out of the space and become….a web developer applying her design skills to make cutting edge sites. She may be a space planner in vast technology parks or part of a NASA team planning the often-claustrophobic nooks of shuttles to Mars. She may decide to open pop up restaurants during the weekends or live in Bali and consult on landscape design projects.

You get the drift by now! It’s a vastly different world out there, with a plethora of occupations for the taking. The average American worker is set to hold an incredible 10 jobs before they turn 40, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Research firm Forrester says today’s students will hold 12 to 15 jobs during their careers.

So how does one prepare for this multi-skill, multi-career, multi-role demand that the global economy has placed on our generation?

I have three words for you-

Learn. Unlearn. Re-learn.

Or one phrase –

Never stop Learning!

You heard that right. If you’re not spending an average of 5 hours a week learning something new, you’re doing something wrong. If you’re not keeping up with the dizzyingly rapid changes in the marketplace, or pursuing a passion by night time (for who knows when that will turn into a paycheque?!) or picking up a new language or learning a new skill from a master tutor (even if she’s halfway across the world) – you’re behind others in your generation!

Constant learning is the mantra this generation must live by. As learning is no longer the prerogative of a few rich people, but a right for every single person on the planet, the demand for those know more is becoming greater. Skills that were labeled “bonus” skills in job descriptions are the new essentials.

Welcome to the new world!

This is part 2 of a blog series on Learning in the 21st Century. Catch the earlier blog tracing the evolution of learning here. The final piece in this series will list Actionable Steps You Can Take Today to (re)Start Your Learning Journey.

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