Learn more so you won't fossilize
I'd never done this before. I was interviewing for a new role, and was supposed to interview with the person who best knew the role - not the person who the role reported to, or the COO of the company. The person I was interviewing with was the person who held the role at the time.
When I stepped into her office, she was almost surrounded by a huge wall of binders and loose paper. Just the way her office was arranged, you could tell she'd been there awhile - she hadn't packed her belongings in a long time. But she was about to because she was retiring and was openly enthusiastic about ending her career.
She invited me to sit in one of her guest chairs; she climbed over the wall of paper to settle in the other chair. She never asked me a question, but told me to ask her every question I could think of about her role.
At one point, I mentioned to her that her supervisor had asked me about a new technology the company wanted to use; I asked her what she thought about that. She bluntly replied, "Yeah, they asked me about using that. I just told them I'm too far in my career to learn something that new and complex. There's no point in me learning that because I'm going to be retiring soon."
I understand her point-of-view. Why put in all of that effort if you're only going to use your new skill for a matter of months or even weeks?
But it got me to thinking about how important learning is to people who want to advance and innovate. There was a time when what you knew meant so much to advancing in your career. Now, what you're going to learn means much more - what you know today may very well be obsolete tomorrow.
This applies not only to members of teams but teams themselves. I've worked for employers that desperately fought change because they'd made a fortune in the past by doing things one way. The key point is they made a fortune in the past. Employers that hang onto memories of past success when they dominated their industries are like dinosaur fossils, fragile bones that were once vital parts of giant animals that used to rule the world.
If you can't learn, you can't change. If you can't change, you can't advance. If you can't advance, you're stuck where you're at. If you're an employee and you're happy staying where you're at, you need to be planning for retirement, because that's going to be your next career move. If you're an employer and you're happy staying where you're at, you're eventually going to be taken over by another employer or shut down, because that's inevitable.
My role is writer and editor, but my most valuable asset is my ability to learn. I look forward, not backward. In a business world that's constantly changing at an uncomfortable pace, I'm doing my best to change at the same pace by learning new things. I have no choice but to learn at this quick pace - I'm not ready for my co-workers to dig up my work like it's a massive fossil and display it in a museum so onlookers can marvel at what I used to be in my career.
This post originally appeared on The Good Idea Exchange, a blog about leadership and self-improvement.