by Eve M. Nedzewicz

Lifelong Learning is Key to Career Development

Curiosity – from Latin curiosus that means careful, diligent or curious – is a disposition to learn, inquire and explore; it is inquisitiveness, a desire to gratify the mind with new information or objects of interest.NASA’s new Mars Rover Curiosity blasted off in a picture-perfect launch on Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 10:02 AM EST from Cape Canaveral, Florida and it is now zipping through space on its eight-and-a-half-month journey to the Red Planet. Curiosity will help to determine if life could have ever arisen on Mars, to characterize the climate and the geology of Mars, and to prepare for human exploration of Mars.

Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, said, “Curiosity is the essence of human existence and exploration has been part of humankind for a long time. The exploration of space, like the exploration of life, if you will, is a risk. We’ve got to be willing to take it.”

If you are curious, you care about other people’s point of view, you can become humble and open to new ideas, you can create opportunities, you can adapt.

Tips to Heighten Curiosity

  • Keep an open mind/Explore – “dig deeper beneath the surface”; investigate the origin and purpose of what is around you; browse etymology of words and phrases
  • Look beyond the obvious – put a question mark on the obvious and search for a different point of view that disproves the common truth
  • Evoke new senses/Try new things – taste a new fruit; learn a new dance move; read an article on an unfamiliar topic; listen to different music
  • Introduce novelty in daily routine – shift your tooth-brushing hand; take a different route home; switch places at the table
  • Ask questions/Challenge your mind – who, what, when, where, why and how are the best friends of curious people

A knowledge-based economy, technological explosion, advances in globalization and the changing nature of work and the labour market create the need for adults to keep renewing knowledge and skills throughout life. Lifelong learning (a concept popularized by UNESCO in the 1970s) is about progression and development for both employment and personal fulfillment – it helps to better adapt to change, increases wisdom and creates a curious mind. Curiosity is a factor in the desire for space exploration; curiosity is also a factor in “reaching for the stars” in career development.

Career development is a big part of lifelong learning as we spend one third of our daytime, and more than 30 years of our lives, in working environments. Career development is a process of self-assessment, exploration, decision-making and implementation that continues throughout our working lives and beyond. Curiosity can be our radar/sonar system that can give us advance indication to improve and innovate. Employers are eager to accept those with curious minds, those who are open to look into possibilities, those who continue learning and upgrading their skills and competencies.

In a new study published in Perspectives in Psychological Science, researchers analyzed the data from about 200 studies with a total of about 50,000 students and concluded that curiosity did, indeed, have a positive influence on academic performance. Von Stumm, the co-author of the study, says, “Curiosity is basically a hunger for exploration. If you’re intellectually curious, you’ll go home, you’ll read the books. If you’re perceptually curious, you might go traveling to foreign countries and try different foods.” A curious person who likes to read, travel and explore the world may equally enjoy and pursue acquiring new skills on the job. “It’s easy to hire someone who has done the job before and hence, knows how to work the role,” von Stumm says, “But it’s far more interesting to identify those people who have the greatest potential for development, i.e. the curious ones.”

Connection to Modern Career Development Theories

“Career curiosity refers to inquisitiveness about and exploration of the fit between self and the work world. When acted on, curiosity produces a fund of knowledge with which to make choices that fit self to situation. Systematic exploration and reflection on random exploratory experiences move individuals from naive to knowledgeable as they learn how the world works. Attitudes of inquisitiveness dispose individuals to scan the environment to learn more about self and situations.” – An excerpt from the career construction theory (Savickas, 2005).

Career curiosity is explained in the construct of career adaptability, which describes how an individual copes with current work demands, deals with occupational transitions, and manages developmental tasks as a result of global economic changes and technological advances. Career curiosity is a dimension which allows an individual to learn, explore and experiment with new possibilities, to take risks, to challenge the status quo. It is helpful in gathering ideas for improvement that can lead to self-exploration, motivation for change and goal setting for future career scenarios.

The importance of exercising curiosity to explore and transform unplanned events into new learning opportunities is stressed in planned happenstance theory (Mitchell, Levin and Krumboltz, 1999). Planned happenstance lists curiosity as one of the necessary skills for effective career exploration. Curiosity means open-mindedness and seizing the opportunities in life, for example engaging in various activities, such as sports, arts and volunteer work. These activities require social interaction and allow for chance events which do not happen in isolation from social engagement. Curiosity involves expanding your network of contacts and learning from everyone you connect with and meet in your path. The emphasis is on learning, gaining new capabilities and interests, thus preparing for changing and unstable work environments. How is your curiosity excited? How can you create future beneficial unplanned events? Are you ready for serendipity?

“I keep six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When And How and Where and Who.”

– Rudyard Kipling


Eve M. Nedzewicz graduated from the Career and Work Counsellor Program at George Brown College in December 2011. She is an experienced IT Project Leader and Senior Systems Analyst. Her education also includes MSc studies in Forestry. Eve completed two practicum placements at ContactPoint, CERIC’s multi-sector online community for professionals in the career development field.


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