How to Succeed in Business: Go Back to Class

Traditional education leads to closure. When we reach the end of a school career, there’s a cap and gown to don, a procession to march in, and a piece of parchment to mark our achievement. Regardless of how many degrees you pursue, there’s a sense of finality at the end of your formal school journey. If this has been your mindset, it’s time for a change. Continuing education should find its place on your list of goals.

Why Continuing Education?

There are some fields where continuing ed is mandatory. In medicine and education, for example, practitioners are required to participate in seminars, workshops, and other learning programs. For other professions, such learning opportunities may show up as a task or goal listed within the career development section of your annual review. There’s good reason for it.
  1. Your industry has evolved. How you promoted yourself and your business a decade ago is no longer applicable. How you conducted business has changed. Whether you’re sitting in on an hour-long seminar about how to use LinkedIn to expand your professional network or walking through a webinar on how to process transactions with Square, you need to get your skills up to date.
  2. You have evolved. Perhaps you’ve trained for a career in accounting, and you’re considered an expert in your corporate finance department. Managing the department, however, requires an additional set of skills. Hone those skills with continuing ed.
  3. You’re embracing the entrepreneurial spirit. Having a general understanding of roles outside your traditional wheelhouse will help you better communicate your needs and expectations to partners and employees. It will also help you evaluate their results.

How do you do it?

I know what you’re thinking: “Cheryl, I haven’t even had time to finish of a hot cup of coffee in a single sitting in years. Where am I going to find to the time to take a class?” First, you can’t afford not to. Second, there’s more to learning than a traditional classroom setting.
  • Today’s wired world brings the classroom to you. From the SBA to the Ivy Leagues, online learning opportunities (many of them free!) mean you can sit back in your favorite comfy chair, in your PJs, and participate from your laptop. Whether you swing by the Khan Academy for a quick lesson on programming or dive into the open access business courses of your alma mater, spend time online enhancing your skill sets.
  • Consume relevant media. A five-minute TED talk or a blog article by a subject matter expert can be a great learning tool, as can books by general business and specific industry experts.
  • Join professional organizations and networking groups that offer webinars, workshops, and networking opportunities. Make a commitment to yourself and your business to fit at least one a quarter into your schedule.
  • Don’t overlook the value of personal mentors to expand your knowledge base.