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The following are four takeaways from our interview:
Learning is part of your job. “I heard recently the president of Arizona State University saying that high school teaches you to be a learner and college teaches you to be a master learner. And as I think about the future of work, our principal jobs are to be learners, or students in the old fashioned term. And I do think it's critical to think of learning—learning new skills, learning new knowledge—as a part of your job. It is as important as executing specific assignments. We often think of [learning] as sort of the extra. But keeping up, not only with your field, but really thinking ahead. What are the kinds of skills and the bodies of knowledge I need to start getting familiar with? As I said, it is part of your job.”
Build your skills by taking an in-depth look at your role models. “I tell people to picture someone you want to be—a role model for you in your organization, or maybe outside your organization. And think about the categories of skills and knowledge that they have. And you can even make a matrix of the different jobs they've held and the different skills they have. In my own world, I think about public speaking, writing, fundraising, strategy, and management. And think about how, in different parts of your life, you can build those skills.
“This doesn't have to be all on the job. You might say, ‘Look, I really need some experience with strategic thinking or fundraising or public speaking.’ And you might be running a fund drive for your child's school or be part of an executive committee thinking through strategy for a local organization. So the people that you want to emulate—you're not going to be able to emulate the jobs they have. But you can think about their skills, and you can think about evolving categories of knowledge and how you can at least be positioned to learn the specifics when you need to.”
Create your own learning playlist. “It's really like thinking about the way music changed from the CD to the playlist. So, the CD was like university education, right? Here are the courses you can take, and you have this number of credits, and you have to have this kind of distribution. And we're going to give you the menu and you listen to it. The playlist—you put it together yourself. And that's the way learning is changing as well. You put it together and you have a vast menu. You may think well, a one-year Master's is the way to go. You may break that one-year Master's or longer, into different courses that you can take in different ways. I wouldn't just think about knowledge. I'd think about competency in ways that involve knowledge and skills.”
When you step out of your career comfort zone, you’re going to make some mistakes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. “Nothing tells you how to run a faculty meeting other than running a faculty meeting and making a lot of mistakes. When I went from Princeton to government, and I was running a 40-person government department reporting to the Secretary of State. So, what do you do? You throw yourself in, you know you're going make mistakes, and you conquer your fear. I always said, you know that you're pushing your comfort zone when you wake up that first day of the new job and your stomach hurts the way it used to hurt on the first day of school or the first day of camp. You know, you just want to stay in bed.
“That’s a sign that you're doing what you should be doing. You're pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. So I think it's a combination of experience, and asking people. The one thing I always wish I'd done more of was actually ask people who knew. I think we're often reluctant to admit what we don't know and yet often the best way to learn is to have a guide or a mentor.”
For more insights, check out the full interview below. And don’t miss Anne-Marie Slaughter’s presentation at AFP 2019.