Always try to keep your eyes and ears open, and you will go a long way in your career; is the best career advice. It is such a piece of simple advice and yet so impactful. This is a way of ‘active learning’ in the professional context, where one is constantly learning by active participation and experience; and this in turn helps acquire ‘knowledge’ as we live our daily life.
Knowledge is acquired in our day-to-day life
Knowledge is about how we apply our learnings and education in our real-life. Education teaches us about the skills that we may be required to do a job right or business transformation or the concept of design thinking or balance-sheets etc. theoretically.
But we learn all of this and a lot more in the real sense when we actually start working or applying these theoretical concepts to our practical life and that is when it becomes a part of our ‘knowledge base’ for good.
A student invests in education that might help to acquire certain facts, figures, qualifications, degrees and even specialisation in certain subjects.
But as a professional in a working environment, you are expected to deliver results using the learnings from your education and how you implement those learnings, your real-life experience, your problem-solving abilities to deliver outcomes and results.
And, all this keeps adding to your knowledge base as informal and unstructured learning with each experience that you go through; shaping your all-rounded personality.
Applying knowledge at work
Have you observed how a seasoned medical practitioner would at times just look at a patient’s facial or bodily symptoms and tell what’s wrong? Now did s/he learn this in books while in college or university? May be not.
This confidence comes in with knowledge and learnings acquired through real-life experience dealing with numerous patients.
Getting a degree in medicine does make you a doctor by qualification but you will need to go through those endless hours of actual practice and practical experience working with your expert senior colleagues as well as the patients of all kind to really make you an ace medical practitioner or a surgeon.
The theoretical lessons coupled with some practical minimal qualifying hours of flying do get you a flying license as a pilot, but what really makes a great pilot is the intrinsic learning acquired while flying for years and dealing with actual real-life experiences of all kinds.
That is knowledge — the knowledge that enables you to think on your feet and take right decisions (most of the times).
So, in short, education is a structured learning process but knowledge is a process of understanding and implementing the information acquired from education.
Keep your eyes and ears open
Therefore, when stepping into the corporate world or starting your professional career; do leverage your education to showcase what you know or can do. But bank on your knowledge to assess what is the best time and manner to do that.
Do apply your knowledge (not education alone) while dealing with people, situations, emotions, successes as well as failures.
Use your daily learnings and experiences to deal with failures and to get back up and move on with confidence as well as an enriched knowledge base; for the failures will teach you more than your successes alone.
Most importantly, keep your eyes and ears open, as that itself will help you learn more and acquire knowledge faster by simply observing and decoding what is happening around you, the new trends, the sentiment on the floor, the team morale, the undercurrents and a lot more.
It will also help you develop a very good ability to foresee or anticipate certain things just by the power of better observation and therefore making you more knowledgeable as well as competent in the process; helping you take better decisions that will again help you in your career.