GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 19, 2013

My View: Learning never becomes obsolete

My View
Paul Jermain

---- — A couple weeks ago, I overheard the following conversation at a start-up business event between Jeff, an entrepreneur starting up a special personal history publishing business and Tom, who was focused on the field of visual advertising displays.

“Jeff, you really should update your publishing software to Adobe release 11. It will get the job done much faster than 9,” said Tom.

“Well, Tom, you’re right. My software is good, but not as good as the new release. But, I don’t know the new software,” said Jeff.

“I understand,” said Tom, “but you know, the company has some really great videos on the web-they’re straightforward and helpful. The new software will really help you to produce the quality of books you want to make more quickly.”

“Yes, Tom, I think you’re right. It’s time for me to learn that new software,” Jeff replied as the conversation trailed off.

Ordinarily, the conversation between Jeff and Tom would have just flown by, but this time it stuck with me, as it represented another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that was coming together in my head.

This year, more than 3.5 million baby boomers will hit retirement age. And next year another 3 million plus will hit that golden mark. Regardless of whether or not you’re actually a Boomer yourself, you’re probably not only familiar with this trend, but also with fact that many people either don’t want to stop working or can’t afford to stop working due to situations beyond their control.

To address the situation, I see many boomers with senior management experience consider consulting, leveraging their accumulated knowledge and experience by offering it to a variety of organizations on a freelance basis. This is a viable strategy if the field of expertise is relatively slow-moving and non-technical.

However, if it’s the opposite, one’s knowledge can become outdated quickly, seriously impacting the value of the advice. And, just as importantly, many people have not had the business experience which would provide them an understanding of small business fundamentals, from sales to cash flow, a condition which can lead to business demise just as quickly as inappropriate advice.

Now, I’m not going to profess that learning at 50-plus is easy. In your late teens and early 20s, you have boundless energy and little else on the table besides education of some sort or another. In contrast, when you’re more mature, your energy has limits, and it seems like everything is on the table.

In response, I suggest you pace yourself. Whether you’re anticipating your career transition or already in the middle of it, you don’t have to sign up for a full course load at the local university. Instead, tune in regularly to an informational TV show; participate in a couple of interesting webinars; sign-up for an introductory on-line course; or attend a seminar. Once, back in the groove of learning, consider beefier options such as programs or classes to accelerate your educational progress.

If you’re a boomer, it’s a brave new world out there. Traditional re-employment is dicey at best, as is moving into new areas unarmed with the requisite knowledge. Learning is no longer just for kids anymore.

Education is the answer. So get started learning again, slowly, and build your strength up. You’ll be glad you did.

Paul Jermain, a resident of Manchester, is president of the Board of Directors of Cape Ann Television and leads an Entrepreneurial Training Program for the Commonwealth in partnership with Northern Essex Community College.