In the business world, knowledge is the key to solving problems, analysing situations, managing risk and translating ideas into action. It is interesting, then, that a lot of our formal education stops in our teens to mid 20s, despite the fact that we are constantly growing and changing to adapt to different situations and environments.
Whether you’re looking for a complete career change, a promotion at work or simply trying to find a way to advance your skills, education can help you achieve your goals. But it isn’t just what you pick up in a classroom. Sure, classroom education is useful and valuable, but the real opportunity to grow and learn more takes place outside of the classroom.
Studies show that people who step up and take advantage of the educational opportunities available place themselves in a better lifelong position to succeed in their field. So how can you make this work for you? Here are some ways you can invest in yourself through education.
- Go back to university. Whether it’s an associate, bachelor, masters or PhD, a university degree opens countless opportunities for you to dive into a new field, refresh your knowledge or to expand your skills. The best way to maximise the value of a degree is to figure out the area you’re passionate about as early as you can. Don’t study something just because you think it affords you financial stability.
- Engage in activities that can teach you new things. Most of us go through the same routine, day in and out. We get comfortable, do the same activities every day, and rarely try new things. Trying something new teaches us quite a bit about the world around us. It opens our eyes to different perspectives, ideas and skills, and it also allows us to learn things about ourselves along the way.
- Find a mentor. Mentors offer intelligent advice, constant encouragement and valuable intellectual company. No matter what area you’re trying to grow in, a mentor can be a valuable thing to find. Look for people who have attained a level of respect in the area of interest to you. Whether that is someone who works for the company you work for, someone in the industry, or even someone in the community that has earned the respect of others, you should look for a person that you respect who has experience and ideas to help you grow.
- Get additional certifications. Many careers rely on continuing education, and a big part of this takes the form of professional certifications. These indicate that a person has received and studied a significant body of information, and has performed a certain set of tasks that usually indicate that the person has a certain skill. Ask yourself, what certifications can I earn in my career? Start by looking at trade groups that service your area or field. It also pays to search for certifications in demand. In some instances, employers may be happy to pay for some certifications if it means it benefits you and the company in the long run. If you’re fortunate enough to be in this situation, make the most of it!
- Educate yourself. Educating yourself goes beyond reading books and absorbing material on your topic area. It’s all about expanding your ability to think and understand the world around you. Identify areas that you’d like to learn more about, or those that you can absorb in one of your areas of interest. Then set some time aside every day for self-directed learning.
- Keep updated with changes in your field. Public relations and other marketing and communications-related fields have experienced constant and dramatic change over the past few years. New ideas crop up all the time, and as we’ve experienced, it pays to be on the front foot. The people who are most successful are those who learn the new ideas first and figure out how they can connect those with what they already know, or what they’re already doing. To stay updated, read trade publications dedicated to the work you’re doing. Keep a tab on any message boards and blogs that focus on your area.
Dedicating the time, money and energy into gaining new skills is the type of investment that will continue to show its rewards long after you complete your studies. So take the plunge, knowing no investment in you is ever wasted.