People recall most of their youth as being spent going to a school of one type or another, be it elementary, high school and perhaps post secondary. While great numbers of students enjoy their time in school, at some point, most will decide when their education will end and when their main working life will begin. However, when they make that fateful determination, the majority will have likely made one of the worst decisions of their young lives. Let me explain.

For some reason we seem to be conditioned to live our lives in bite-sized segments. Pre-school childhood ends when we begin elementary school. Elementary school ends when we enter high school. For some, education ends there. For others, high school ends and their post secondary education begins. Then… finally the education portion of our life is over and it’s time to be an adult, start a career, maybe a family and make some money to pay off those student loans.

Sorry to burst your bubble. But, if you believe your education should end when you leave school, you will likely have a sub-standard working career and earn less money than many of your peers. Further, if you need to look for a new job beyond your first one, you will probably be handicapped in doing so. Here’s why.

Knowledge is exploding exponentially at a faster rate than at any other time in our human history. New knowledge in technology, the study of human behaviour, medical sciences, and the list goes on, is being discovered daily. What does this mean for you. It means that if you have just graduated from a four-year university program, you can be guaranteed that some of what you learned last week is now obsolete and a great deal of what you studied in your first year is now ancient history. Unless of course you were actually studying ancient history, but I digress.

As I have trained and coached people over the years, I have always stressed three core things over all else. These are honesty, a strong work ethic and ongoing professional development. (Never… ever quit learning!)

You may be on the leading edge of your field today but if you do not seek out the latest knowledge or if you don’t round out what you have missed along the way, you will be in second place by tomorrow and you don’t even want to think about were you will be in five, ten, twenty or thirty years from now as the world gets more global in scope and infinitely more competitive in nature. You will rapidly fall behind and your younger job competitors will be utilizing new information you have no clue about. That creates a double-edged sword which can take out your career before your student loans are close to being paid off.

Forget the reality shows on television. They won’t get you a raise, a promotion or your next job. Instead, plan to devote four to six hours per week, every week, for the rest of your working life on professional development and continuing education. No one promised you life was easy. But it is manageable for those who stay sharp. Masters never quit searching out new knowledge.

The fact is that virtually every major accredited professional group requires their members to participate in ongoing professional to keep their credentials valid. Accountants, Insurance and Securities agents, Realtors, and countless others, all must continue their education throughout their careers. If it is not mandated for your career, that is by far the best reason to do it.

Many sales and service people do not think advancing their skills is important. This might explain why service people are so inept and sloppy today. Getting by just isn’t good enough if you are looking for respect, more money, job security or an enjoyable retirement. By continuing your education, you will pick up a tremendous advantage over your peers. Never succumb to the idea that your education ends when you graduate.