Christina Vetsch interviewed Patricia Widmer, Director of NEXT, about this lifelong learning forum and her personal experience of life and career transitions.
What is NEXT about and for whom is this programme designed?
“What is my purpose in the future?” NEXT is about this central question. Experienced personalities are supported in their advanced careers to find their new vocation and to drive it forward in a targeted manner. The abbreviation NEXT is composed of the respective first letters of the integral elements of Networking, Education, EXploration& Transition. The forum encourages lifelong learning, social impact, growth and renewal. NEXT is a unique platform for networking, education and exploration in transition across Europe. Because in today’s fast-paced, high-pressure world of work and life, it is about experienced individuals redefining their vocation and related activities, building new communities and re-evaluating their attitudes to health, well-being and prosperity? NEXT is aimed at seasoned professionals with more than 25 years of experience: executives from global companies and SMEs, professionals such as doctors or lawyers, as well as professionals from academia, governments and NGOs.
Why do you think NEXT has its finger on the pulse?
Well, so far, the education and development landscape includes undergraduate education, graduate education, executive education, continuing/further education and outplacement support. However, there are certain needs that are not being met. Increased life expectancy and the growing importance of lifelong learning are not yet fully addressed. Experienced professionals need more than the traditional executive programmes to improve their business skills. They need, in my opinion:
- intensive, lifelong university experience,
- practical guidance on managing key life and career transitions; and
- support in assessing their own situation, interacting with new communities and setting a meaningful path for the future.
This is where NEXT comes in to support the above-mentioned people on their journey.
Why do universities deal with these target groups?
There are various reasons why different universities, especially in the US, are addressing these target groups. We at the University of St.Gallen are the first in Europe with this forum and want to show our pioneering role again with a unique and innovative portfolio for life and career transitions. NEXT builds on our 15 years of experience of the highly successful “Women Back to Business” programme. In addition, we want to make a significant contribution to society by expanding the offer for these important target groups of professionals. Research shows that having perspective and meaning in life, as well as being part of a vibrant community, boosts our health and has a lasting impact on society. Not only do we get older and stay fitter for longer, but we can also give something back by sharing our experiences and personal insights with younger generations.
What is the importance of lifelong learning for you personally and what further education is next for you?
Lifelong learning is a matter of course for me, because standing still means going backwards. I always want to move out of my comfort zone in order to develop. Especially in the so-called VUCA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity), we need to constantly develop new skills and competences. I would like to learn more about psychology and especially positive psychology. However, I don’t know yet exactly what further education I will do next. In the meantime, I am gathering knowledge by listening to podcasts, watching webinars and exchanging ideas with inspiring and knowledgeable people.
As a final question: Who or what gives you the best tailwind in transition phases?
First and foremost, it is my family that gives me the strength and energy to persevere in transitional phases. Secondly, it’s my self-efficacy, because I always believe that things will work out in the end. And last but not least, it’s the whole world of sport. Whether it’s watching or attending sports competitions or being active in sports myself, it helps me to recalibrate, refocus and see the goal more clearly again.
Here you can find more information about NEXT.
Here you can watch the corresponding video.
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