In the age of information, learning opportunities are everywhere, and they come with some amazing benefits.

They can offer new ways to advance your career, new skills to improve your life, and a new understanding of the world. To gain all these things, it helps to have a life-long learning mindset.

To explore how we can foster this mindset, we're joined by Judene Pretti (BMath '97, MMSc '09, PhD '19), a senior advisor in the Work-Learn Institute, the research unit that pulls insights from Waterloo's co-op programs. She shares insights from a study that followed students before and after graduation, and the benefits they found by embracing life-long learning.

Listen to the conversation on SpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts and Soundcloud.

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Takeaways from Judene

What is life-long learning?

For a long time, we thought of learning as a formal education, but recently we've adopted a new understanding of life-long learning as a mindset. This approach looks at how an individual embraces learning, instead focusing on the actions associated with learning. (1:00)

What are the benefits of a life-long learning mindset?

Judene worked closely with fellow Waterloo researchers Dave Drewery (BA '11, MA '14, PhD in progress) and Robert Sproule in a study where students and alumni evaluated themselves on a number of dimensions. Alumni who were more likely to report a life-long learning mindset were also more likely to report higher levels of work satisfaction, more engagement with their work, and more promotions. (2:05)

Five dimensions associated with life-long learning mindsets

In the study, researchers explored five dimensions to identify those with a life-long learning mindset. While the questions were associated with a work environment, the dimensions can be applied to experiences outside work as well. (5:00)


Are you attracted to a job that lets you learn new things? This trait is associated with a life-long learning mindset.


People with initiative take responsibility to create change in the workplace when they see an opportunity to improve conditions in their job and environment.


Learning isn't always easy. Life-long learners show resilience when they run into obstacles.


Can you apply learning experiences to different areas of your life? Life-long learners will use previous experiences to solve problems in their jobs.


Do you take the time to evaluate past experiences and account for your strengths and weaknesses? If so, you might be a life-long learner.

How can you foster a life-long learning mindset?

Judene points to two key practices that can help you build your own life-long learning mindset: trying new experiences and reflecting on those experiences. (8:00)

Employers are looking for life-long learners

In another study, researchers from the Work-Learn Institute explored how work-integrated learning programs feed into an employer's talent pipeline. When researchers asked employers what they were looking for when hiring talent, their answers reflected the life-long learning dimensions above. (10:45)

As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, employers need their employees to take initiative and stay on top of the latest opportunities. This way, they can retain and grow their workforce as they adopt new technologies. (12:55)

In her role with Co-operative and Experiential Education, Judene often hears from employers about the reverse-mentorship role that co-op students can play in their organizations. Having co-op students on their teams can inspire long-term employees to pursue the latest knowledge in their field. (13:20)