Mary Kay Ash once said, “Don’t limit yourself! Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, you can achieve.” This is a concept that plays nicely alongside the old adage that learning is a lifelong process and that your continued success is largely dependent on how much new information you choose to take in and USE day after day.
Thinking back to your school days, you were probably presented with numerous opportunities to add all kinds of new ideas and knowledge to what was being taught in the classroom. Based on those opportunities you most likely ended up focusing this learning on particular topics that you enjoyed the most.
Did you take an automotive care or a small engine repair class in high school because you liked working with your hands? Maybe your passion for math led you down the road of taking advanced classes in calculus or statistics. Maybe the arts were for you and you took music classes or drawing or drafting classes. Did you play sports or join after school clubs? Maybe you added to your classroom experience by taking a job and learning new skills there. There are so many options and often we forget that we are in charge of supplementing what we know today with things we’re excited to know more about tomorrow.
This will hold true throughout your entire life, both personally and professionally. Whether you hold a job today that you’ve had for years or are aspiring towards your dream career, it would be a good use of your time to determine what sorts of additional skill sets will propel you to your next raise or your next promotion, or towards landing and nailing that perfect interview!
You should be asking yourself, “What skills will I be required to learn and demonstrate understanding of and how do I go about finding ways to learn them?”
I often think to myself: what could I focus on today that would make me better at what I do – in life and at work – and how can I consistently create and reinforce the habit of continual self-improvement? Having the drive to improve yourself can provide you with the opportunity to open many doors and that continual drive will open doors down the road you may not even know exists. But there is a catch… you have to actually get out there and take the initiative!
Take a class, attend a seminar, have a discussion with your boss or your co-workers. Ask your professors or your parents. Volunteer! In the end, where ever and however you choose to chase after your own continuous improvement, know that you’re both the architect and the engineer in charge of setting the course and getting from point A to B. And remember, have fun while doing it…it makes life more enjoyable along the way!
“The Beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” – B.B. King
The decision to go to college is a big deal! Understanding the financial and time commitments, as well as knowing that a host of unforeseen events for you to deal with will occur during the course of your studies, is just the start. There are so many choices. Traditional classroom learning or online…maybe a mix of both? Full-time learning or part-time…day or night? In the end, whether you have aspirations of starting your dream career, getting that sought-after promotion at work, or perhaps even completely changing what you do, it is important to pick the right degree and program of study.
Unfortunately this is not always an easy process. Some disciplines are very broad and others are more concentrated. You may know that you’re interested in helping people and want to get into the healthcare field but does that mean nursing? Medical Assisting? Clinical or administrative healthcare? Big hospital or small practice office? Perhaps you like business but are you interested in accounting, marketing, or maybe management? What’s the difference? There are so many options how can you start to narrow down the search?
To get started, here are a set of questions for you to ask yourself and a prospective college when evaluating whether a program is right for you:
What is the current level of Employment Demand? First things first, what am I interested in and will there be jobs available for me after I graduate? There are multiple resources to use to help give you a sense of the employment market. You can research hundreds of occupational profiles at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the O*Net OnLine, or your state’s department of labor website. They will give you insights into what day to day life is like in that type of job, training and education usually required, plus employment projections and wage information. Check employment publications or online sites, such as Monster.com or Careerbuilder.com, for available openings in your area and look at the posted job requirements. Do I need a bachelor’s degree or higher or do most of the current job holders have an associate degree or a technical diploma?
Are there practical experiences, certifications or credentials required for employment? Some jobs, for various reasons, require certification or practical experience in order to find employment. These could include professions like teaching or nursing, where you get mandatory hands-on practice and need to be certified with the state or another third party. In other professions, hiring managers may give special consideration to those holding industry certifications such as Microsoft® or Cisco® certifications in technology, or LEED certifications in construction management or drafting. Do your research and find out what employers are looking for in their new hires and once you believe you’ve narrowed down your list of skills find a school that teaches those concepts in a program that meets your long term interests and goals.
What are the advantages that each institution provides through the course of my program? Does the curriculum include instruction for the skills that employers are asking that their employees have? What supplemental benefits exist? Things like hands-on learning time, thorough lab components, internship or externship opportunities, scholarships, and career assistance. Does the program prepare you for the industry certifications if they are required? Even if they aren’t required does the program include instruction on those topics? Are there labs with up-to-date equipment available on the campus? Who are the instructors and what experiences do they bring to the daily classroom from outside the classroom? What sorts of industry connections does the program have and what are some examples of employers who hire graduates of this program?
When it’s all said and done the decision to go back to college is an important one and choosing the right program is step one. New training, a new degree, or a new certification can open many doors for you and it’s up to you to make an informed choice because you’re in charge of deciding which doors you want to open! Start doing your homework now because, not only is it good practice, getting an ‘A’ on this assignment could be the event that helps to kick-start your life in a whole new direction.
Director of Marketing