If you dream of freedom from the 9-5 and, like most, are not independently wealthy, you need to make some changes to get ahead. In any case – and regarding any subject – the more you know, the richer your life will be. Continuing education is infinitely valuable; it makes you more interesting, exposes new business and investment opportunities and even if you’re happy with the 9-5 it can push you further into a successful and rewarding career. Continuing education becomes more flexible every day and can be formal or informal to match your situation, strengths and preferences.
- Read a Book! Perhaps the least formal of all continuing education yet the most accessible. Pick a topic of interest and find the top 5 most important books in the field based on your existing level of experience. Alternatively, if you don’t have a topic of interest simply pick 5 books from 5 different topics. Industry magazines are both a great starting-point and a great way to keep current with industry changes. Regardless of the path you choose, your local library is an underutilized resource that you can use without having to buy each book or magazine (and they’re typically more than happy to offer their help and guidance).
- Blogs, Forums and Industry Groups. Again, very informal but an excellent way to network with others and learn the cutting-edge undertakings of any field. Blogs, forums and industry groups (such as LinkedIn groups) provide no barriers to entry which certainly has it’s pros-and-cons. Be an active reader and contributor and you’ll be amazed how many people you’ll meet from around the world, the opportunities you’ll realize and the cutting-edge concepts that you’ll be exposed to. Unfortunately, as there are no barriers to entry or peer review, there is the very-real possibility that what you’re learning may be unfounded so it should be independently verified.
- University and Tradeschool Courses. This may be stating the obvious – go to school to learn. But many universities offer short continuing education classes or the option to ‘audit’ a course you’re interested in without paying full tuition or completing program prerequisites. If you’re interested in the more hands-on approach tradeschools often offer continuing education programs to give you the basics in their trades such as welding, graphic design or inspection. Tradeschools often offer programs that lead to valuable certifications such as coating inspector, weld inspector (etc…) and can be a great way to get the credentials to change industries or improve your resume while still working.
- Online Courses and MOOCs. These are undoubtedly my favorite – I’ve completed many of them! Online courses can include expensive but valuable personal certifications but also include free-or-inexpensive MOOCs (massive open online courses). There are, almost literally, courses for every niche interest and industry. Check EDX (edx.org) for top quality courses from the world’s leading universities!
- 3rd Party Certifications. Pick your industry (or the industry you want to be in) and explore the certifications that distinguish the industry leaders. An increasing number of these certifications are available fully online and many have significant value. Expect to commit more time learning and testing for the well-respected certifications – time which will be well spent when you realize all their career benefits.