A reflection on lifelong learning and professional career development

Marina Rizzi, director of industry relations and international office Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management discusses the importance of professional development

Marina Rizzi
Marina Rizzi

Lifelong learning is essential to enhancing an individual’s personal competencies and career profile. Career advancement opportunities are very much linked to continuous learning and the ongoing acquisition of professional certifications. In the 19th century, Thomas Carlyle said: “What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books.”

Today, this surely would start with the internet, since technology has allowed academic and training organisations to consolidate and send large amounts of data worldwide. Today’s multitude of resources are readily available to allow for continuous learning, whether it be a free, paid online courses or a more classic classroom-based professional training and development programme. However, it is essential that people identify two things: 1. Their overall purpose for investing time and (potentially) money in a specified programme; and 2. Their preferred learning styles.

But what is the aim for development? If employees would simply like to work on their soft skills around topics like emotional intelligence, communication, conflict resolution, to name a few, many free online courses and resources exist that provide targeted information in these domains. However, would the objective be linked to a specific career move or transition, then investing in an internationally recognised certification would be the best?

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Certificates such as those offered at The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management by the American Hotel Lodging and Educational Institute (AH&LEI) are internationally recognised and a fantastic way to enhance career profiles if the individual is unable to financially and temporally afford participating in an MBA or other postgraduate degree. AH&LEI courses are robust and well reputed, providing an affordable option for professional profile enhancement, respected by many employers globally.

While certificate courses can also be completed online, there are a number of advantages to enrolling in a classroom based professional training and development course. Only a small proportion of employees successfully manage self-directed study. The best way to obtain and incorporate new material is in a classroom environment. Here visual, aural, logical, social, verbal and even kinesthetic learning styles are best accommodated. While the trainer should have expert knowledge of the field of study, participants learn in equal proportions from each other’s best practice methods of dealing with specific operational issues. This is stimulated through peer feedback during the duration of the program as various topics are presented in addition to participation in various forms of activities meant to integrate the new knowledge. Activities like group work, role plays, reenactments and even mind mapping are difficult to conduct integrally in an online environment. The significance of networking opportunities, in classroom based learning can also be specifically empathised.

Participants form specialised bonds during joint learning, where work related issues are shared and personal revelations are made. The depth and quality of these bonds are much more difficult to recreate via typical networking practiced during trade events and conferences. Finally, studies have found that employees feel the most at ease, are more forthcoming to share work related issues and incorporate new knowledge when participating in professional training courses off-site and delivered by trainers other than those employed by their home originations.

We are privileged to live in an era where access to multiple forms of intellectual content and delivery channels are available that meet any type of budget and time frame. As long as the individual is reflective in their planning process and understanding of not only the overall aim for the skill development, but also their preferred learning styles. The essential thing is to build the habit of continuous learning. The importance of networking through shared learning environments should also not be discounted and professionals should seek to exploit this avenue more often.

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