In 1996 I retired from a factory where I had worked for 30 years. In our last union contract we had won a 30-and-out plan making anyone eligible for retirement after working there 30 years. The way my dates worked out I was able to retire from that job at 47 years of age. Of course, I had plenty of things to do to keep me busy as I was also serving as a pastor of a small church and president of a small business we had obtained a few years earlier.
Few people today remain at a job 30 years. Some say that the average person entering the workforce today will have 12 different jobs before he or she retires. Years ago I heard Zig Ziglar say that there was no such thing as job security anymore. The best we could hope for was employment security, and one of the best ways to ensure we would remain employable was to commit ourselves to lifelong learning.
Lifelong learning is necessary because we are not just going to change jobs every few years. We will have to reinvent ourselves for the new careers that are replacing the ones we are losing. We have to learn new skills and gain new knowledge to enjoy employment security. The days of graduating from high school and/or college and never cracking another book or learning new things is over for everyone who doesn’t want to spend the rest of their lives in the unemployment line.
Rather than going to college after high school I decided to enter the workforce. The day after my 18th birthday I began working in that factory. It wasn’t until several years later I decided I wanted to go to college even though I was working 40 hours a week, pastoring a church, and running the family business. It took me seven years of attending school part time to earn my degree. I was 46 at the time.
Shortly after retiring from the factory I resigned as pastor of the church I had served for 20 years to accept a ministry position in our denomination. A few years into that ministry I decided to begin work on my Masters, and when I graduated with that degree I remained in school to earn a doctorate. Four years later, at the age of 62, I had my doctorate.
During the years I was not enrolled in college or seminary I attended numerous conferences and seminars and averaged reading about 50 books a year. The more I learned the more valuable I was to my employers and the more effective I was in my work.
Not only did my commitment to lifelong learning impact my ministry, it opened up other doors I never dreamed would be possible. It allowed me to publish eight books related to small church ministry and lead to me being asked to lead numerous seminars and conferences for various denominations. At the end of 2015 I retired from the ministry position I held, and a few months later was called to serve as the Transitional Pastor of a church seeking a new pastor. My training and experience has enabled this to be a very productive effort. I will conclude two years of serving in this position next month, and my time in that church will end at the same time when their new pastor begins his ministry there.
New opportunities come into our lives all the time, but only those who are prepared recognize them. That preparation comes when we are committed to lifelong learning. That does not mean you have to remain in school all your life, but it does mean that you are looking for opportunities to add to your skill sets and your knowledge. Reading good books, attending workshops that interest you, auditing a class at a local college are just some of the ways you can do that.
Few people today are going to remain at one job their entire working career, get the gold watch when they retire, and spend the remainder of their lives on the golf course. Younger workers today will find their careers constantly changing, and often being eliminated by new technology. They have no option to not be constantly learning new things and preparing for new career opportunities. Even those who might be closer to retirement age may find that an enjoyable retirement will elude them if they are not committed to learning new skills that will keep them employable until they do retire.
Make the commitment to lifelong learning. It’s the only way you’ll survive in this rapidly change world.