Think your college degree is the only thing that can help you get ahead in your career? Think again. Many people don’t realize that they have much informal education under their belts that can also be helpful in their careers. This post will explain how we want to help you leverage your informal learning to boost your career.
What are formal, non-formal, and informal education?
Formal education is a structured form of education. Most people think of it when they speak about education, such as school courses or universities. Topics are taught with a clear objective set. An important point here is that the learner is at the origin of learning. In other words, he learns because he decided to learn.
Non-formal education is as structured as formal education, except there is no syllabus, accreditation, or certification at the end of the course.
Informal education concerns all the learning you get lifelong by doing your daily activity tasks, such as work, leisure, or family. Informal education is usually not structured and does not lead to a certification. Although it may be intentional from the learner’s perspective, it may not be too. That is why it is also called random or incidental learning.
How are they distributed
Everyone’s learning is divided into these three forms of education: formal, non-formal, and informal education. The 70:20:10 model for learning and development is the most famous model to describe this aspect:
- 70% of learning occurs through informal or on-the-job learning;
- 20% through mentoring and other specialized developmental relationships;
- the remaining 10% through formal education, including course work and associated reading.
In other words, your formal education represents only 10% of everything you learn! However, that is good news because this part costs so much money for many people that they can’t afford it. In contrast, your informal education is free or very cheap. Therefore, it allows you to learn almost as much as in a university. Consequently, it would be a great idea to use a part of this informal education to your benefit.
Benefits of informal education
Informal learning has many advantages; let’s review them one by one.
Freedom of study
The first significant advantage of informal learning is that you can learn whatever you want, when you want and at the rhythm you want. You would have to respect some conditions to follow a course, respect a schedule, and complete assignments with formal education. While with informal learning, you are free to start learning at 2 AM. You can pause for some months if you have other priorities and resume later. You can even learn while commuting in some cases.
However, this great power you have over how you learn also comes with great responsibility, as a famous Marvel superhero’s relative said. You will have to be disciplined to follow your learning until the end to get an actual benefit from it. Today, having such an attitude is an asset: as an example, 7% of people enrolled in a MOOC don’t even complete the course for different reasons: loss of interest, course too challenging, lack of time…
Your motivation is much higher because you choose the topics you want to learn. And because you are more motivated, you are more committed to learning than in a formal course. Once again, the key is to keep your motivation throughout the whole class to benefit the most.
A relaxing experience
Some people struggle when they are in front of a group or when they must interact with people with a more assertive personality. With informal learning, you can define your learning conditions. For example, you can be alone, with a group of people you want, or even in a group of unknown students. You can choose to face the others or not, depending on your preferences.
Open to everybody
That is the best argument in favor of informal education, so I kept it for the end. The entry ticket is much lower than attending a course in an official university, where you must pay fees. A simple book, blog post, or YouTube tutorial can provide you with the information you need to progress in your career. However, such a low requirement to learn informally brings a significant drawback, as we will see below.
Drawbacks of informal education
Lack of recognition
It was to be expected: with so much information accessible to everybody, informal education is not particularly recognized by recruiters. Indeed, they have to choose one profile out of many. So they need some criteria to consider the best candidate, and the formal education is an obvious one. In that case, universities will have selected, so employers need to recruit specific graduate candidates.
No option to capitalize
No matter of committed you are to learning through informal education, it will always be challenging to showcase the fruit of your efforts. Indeed, you don’t have a certificate or any document summarizing the skills and knowledge you master most of the time. Your only way to show what you can do is with concrete examples, such as a portfolio of your work or a review from customers.
Similarly, job seekers themselves do not track all the skills they are capable of. How often did you hear people saying they don’t know anything because they don’t have enough experience (are you one of these?)? In reality, they often already learned some skills in a previous professional experience (like a job, an internship, a school project, or volunteering). But they don’t think about linking that experience to a specific skill. That is how many skills that could have been useful in a resume are dismissed, making the application less attractive than it could be.
Our solution to make informal education better
Consider your job interview as a transaction. In every transaction, there are always three parties involved at minimum, sometimes even more:
- A buyer
- A seller
- A trusted intermediary. This one typically ensures that the transaction occurs as agreed between the buyer and the seller.
For instance, suppose you buy a soda from a vending machine. In that case, you are the buyer. The machine is the seller. Finally, a central authority puts its credibility at stake to guarantee that the note or the coin you put in the machine is worth what is written on it. For example, have you noticed on British banknotes the mention “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of X pounds”? In that case, the trusted intermediary is Queen Elizabeth herself!
So to come back to skills earned through education, we need this trusted intermediary. With formal and non-formal education, this role is taken by the schools, colleges, universities, enterprises, and other training institutions. With informal education, this role should be taken by those who see you using a skill in a particular context and judge how good you are in it. In other words, either your employer or your customers. That is how, at Jinn, we plan to rehabilitate informal learning.
The Career Encyclopedia is already great at linking skills and knowledge to occupations. In addition, many of the skills associated with jobs in our database are obtained through informal learning. So, when adding a job title to their resumes and associating it with an occupation from our career encyclopedia, our users don’t need to worry about what skills they could add.
And to come back to our trusted intermediary, we make sure the information in the career encyclopedia is accurate. That is why for every article, we leave references so that there is no doubt about the duties, skills, or any information we write. Our data comes primarily from trusted sources, such as ESCO or the US Department of Labor Statistics. But of course, we are willing to make our articles even better with the help of users who are experts in the area of the article they want to edit. That is how we want to be the reference in terms of information about careers.
That makes writing a resume much easier and faster. We are working hard to implement this feature by mi-2022.
How would it benefit job seekers?
The main benefit for job seekers would be to leverage their informal education finally. We already mentioned the career encyclopedia and all its skills for every occupation. The other advantage is that it makes the resume mechanically more attractive: imagine all these small jobs and internships you had, during which you learned a lot. You may think this is not relevant to your current job or application. But it’s by summing up a little that you get a lot. Thus, these other skills which seem useless could be your passport to getting a completely different job that is more in tune with your inspirations.
This article explained the difference between formal, non-formal, and informal education. And although a formal education is the type of education most people seek today, I think it is something nice to have but not sufficient. On the other hand, non-formal education allows access to much more resources for people who could not afford a school or a university.
Informal education benefits all parties the most: students are motivated and committed to learning, employers have a more productive staff, training is very affordable, and training content matches the company’s needs. And since everybody (literally) learns throughout their lifetime, what are you waiting for to start your informal learning?