Professional and Personal Growth Through Continuing Education
There are more ways than ever in today’s world to access continuing education, from fully-fledged graduate degrees to evening classes to massive open online courses (MOOCs). Whether you are currently employed or looking to find work, it is worth considering your options.
This article looks at the professional and personal gains available through continuing education and why job seekers should aim for a combination of ongoing education and relevant experience to land their next role.
Professional advantages of continuing education
This section is aimed at those people who are currently working and are happy in their current role. It is also mainly directed at those who are not required to undertake ongoing continuing education as part of their employment.
The main benefit of choosing relevant continuing education in the workplace is it keeps the employee’s skills and knowledge up to date. This will help them to be productive while maintaining a high standard of work, benefiting their employer and the business’s customers. Where performance-related targets are in place, brushing up on relevant skills can have a direct impact on an employee’s earning potential.
Continuing education can form an integral part of employee development. For example, weaknesses identified during an appraisal can be addressed via a course or online training which then provides evidence to be signed off at the next appraisal.
When it comes to bonuses, promotions and salary discussions, those employees who have demonstrated a commitment to developing their skills and knowledge are more likely to be favored.
However, continuing education doesn’t have to be tied to work-related skills. There are soft skills that are valuable in the workplace but may not be part of core training programs. For example, employees completing courses in lateral thinking and creativity can help stimulate innovation during monthly meetings. Courses in conflict resolution, leadership, public speaking, and emotional intelligence will help an employee to cope with the demands of their daily interactions and can even prepare them for more senior management roles.
There is even value in the process of learning itself. Most courses have a collaborative element which will help students to develop transferable team-working and joint problem-solving capabilities. If writing reports is part of an employee’s role, the need to structure essays can help to hone those skills. Even the discipline and time management needed to meet course deadlines will transfer perfectly to most jobs.
Personal advantages of continuing education
For those currently looking for work, whether recent graduates, veterans, the unemployed or even unhappy employees, continuing education can widen their options, increase their employability and improve their salary prospects. For example, earning a Master’s degree can add as much as $20,000 per year to a salary in certain fields. Master’s degrees are particularly prized in the healthcare, STEM, education and business sectors.
That doesn’t mean only college-level courses are of benefit. Evening classes or online courses teaching specific skills or providing industry-recognized certifications can be just as valuable for someone looking to get on the career ladder or change jobs. One of the beauties of the internet and mobile technology is students can more easily fit education around their work and home lives.
Soft skills such as those mentioned in the previous section (teamwork, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, creative thinking, etc.) can also help candidates to stand out in application forms and during interviews.
Continuing education also offers a wide range of associated benefits including a sharper mind, better mental health, and increased self-confidence.
Education and experience: bringing it together
Should those looking for work focus on completing courses or obtaining work experience?
The answer will depend on the specific industry and role involved but, in most cases, employees or recruiters want to see a blend of class-based education and on-the-job experience.
Even the most highly qualified and academically gifted candidate can fall down if they are lacking industry experience or even basic social skills (or common sense). On the other hand, time-served veterans can sometimes be resistant to refreshing their skills and rely on outdated and inefficient working practices.
The applicant who can demonstrate a commitment to continuous learning while giving evidence of relevant work or voluntary experience is most likely to stand out from the rest during shortlisting.
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