In April of 2014, I officially finished my studies when I received my PhD in biomedicine. Despite this, I’ve always known that I will be a lifelong learner. Though the current educational model encourages us to specialize to improve our chances in the job market, for me, education should also complete us as people and active citizens in the broadest sense. A lot has been written about education, but I want to take advantage of this platform to reflect on education as personal empowerment, professional development and as social return through mentoring.
“Lifelong learning is one of the concepts that is most innovative … continuous, voluntary and often meant to satisfy personal needs, not professional ones.”
Historically, a large part of the educational system has been structured as an assembly line, in which a student is progressively given course after course until they finish their education as a finished product. Lifelong learning is one of the concepts that is most innovative and that has gained the most momentum in the past few decades. By definition, lifelong learning is continuous, voluntary and often meant to satisfy personal needs, not professional ones. This versatility opens doors to possibilities to continue satisfying our appetite for intellectual knowledge. In my case in particular, I have taken night courses to deepen my knowledge in areas like business development and finance, which sometimes aren’t taught in scientific and technological programmes. Also, continuous education isn’t limited to in-person learning since there are many opportunities for online or self-taught learning. This has given me the opportunity to expand my training in areas such as programming and learn about big data analysis. The value of this added training, in addition to personal satisfaction, is better understanding of society and the news. It has had a direct impact on my work as a researcher and it may help me in the future if I decide to switch careers or go back to university.
Even though sometimes it isn’t obvious, the workplace is a great place to learn. Day-to-day activities at work, whether as an intern or full-time employee, offer opportunities for learning concepts and skills that aren’t found in any curriculum. Some of the skills that seem most interesting to me are effective communication, adaptability, teamwork and time, project and priority management. Looking to older colleagues as reference helps us get used to the rhythm of companies. However, it isn’t surprising that the demand for these new skills and the specifics of particular jobs, make it so that those of us who haven’t been prepared feel imposter syndrome when we enter the job market for the first time. This psychological phenomenon is characterized by a fear of not being capable in the workplace and doubt around the academic achievements that have led us to this point. Those even of us who have felt this lack of confidence in ourselves know that you overcome it in time, even though it can reappear if you are promoted to a position with more responsibility or presented with a new professional challenge.
“Education doesn’t end when you finish your studies; it continues throughout life”
Finally, I would like to highlight the most human aspect of learning over the course of a long-term professional journey: mentors and mentoring. As smart as we may be, there are always those who know more than we do. Establishing a personal relationship with people who have been in similar situations has helped me answer concrete questions and has also helped me gain perspective from people with a more comprehensive professional vision. The search for guidance from a mentor has also helped me realize the importance of returning this favor to society through mentoring youth in the community. Offering guidance has helped me reflect on my own path and identify successes and areas for improvement from which others can learn.
Education doesn’t end when you finish your studies; it continues throughout life by learning at a personal level, at work and from mentors that continue to guide our progress.
Xavier Bofill De Ros received his IB diploma from Bell-lloc del Pla in Girona, Spain. He continued his studies with a double degree at the University of Barcelona and a master’s at Pompeu Fabra University. During his PhD, he worked on engineering viral vectors for gene therapy. Currently, he is at the National Cancer Institute, understanding the role of miRNAs on gene regulation. On his free time, he likes reading from science to art and volunteering in a local NGO. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here
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