For the past year I have been working towards a leadership certificate. I took it to expand my skills and keep my resume attractive. After taking some of these courses I realized that these courses were not like the academic courses I took in university. It was not dry material where we had to memorize theories. This class taught more about life lessons and how to respond to challenges in life. I actually enjoyed these classes. It was boring at times but there is something to be learned. So, here are four benefits to continuing education even after those school days are long gone.
1) Gain a New Perspective
In listening to the stories from the instructors and the stories from the people in my class, I learned to appreciate how issues really are not black and white. I sometimes fall into a trap of being too narrow minded and what happens is that I make decisions that may not give the best result.
Being in a class to discuss and learn from each other gave me the opportunity to see things in another angle.
One course I took was on motivation and team work. In the last class, we had to provide feedback to each other on how we worked and how we participated. Some of the comments back to me was I could be aloof and quiet. I should also learn to speak up more. These are things that I sort of did know about myself but hearing someone say it to me just confirmed my beliefs.
2) Learn from Industry Experts
The instructors I learned from had a lot of work and industry experience. Each of them had at least twenty years’ experience under their belts. With the wealth of experiences comes some really interesting stories and they had a lot.
I took a Top Performers course where the focus was on motivations and empowerment. The instructor was a manager who worked for a sports team in the strategic side of the business. He was great at what he did. When a strike happened, he was laid off the following year because the business had gone south. He was depressed and angry at his employer but in hindsight he came to accept that it was part of the business. He still remained friends with the employer to this day. Looking on, he was to be laid off two more times in his career, both times because of the nature of the business. He bounced back each time because people knew how good he was. I still remember one of this favorite quotes: “When you change the way you see things, the way you see things will change”.
Throughout the lessons, these instructors would give us nuggets of lifelong knowledge that may take someone years to learn on their own. It felt like they were passing on the torch to a new generation and instilling us how to do things the right way.
One example from one instructor was his lesson about asking your employer for a raise during performance reviews. When he was promoted to district manager, he managed a team of 8 people. He was surprised that one senior member who had been with the company for 7 years was paid below two recent junior hires. The last pay raise he received was 3 years ago and was only at 3%, after that he had no pay raise. The manager raised his pay after that to be at par. The reason why that member did not receive a raise was because he never asked. So the moral? If you don't ask you don't get.
3) Good Way to Meet Others
I had an opportunity to network with people I would not normally meet. Some of these people are from different walks of life, and hearing their stories and perspectives made for some really good discussions in class.
In one of these classes, I met two people who work for the university and they told me stories of how the unions operate. Unions are a pretty big deal in universities and the benefits they provide to members are eye-openers. If you work at these universities, your kids could potentially go to school here tuition free.
The point here is that taking these classes would expose you to people outside your regular network. You don’t want to just always be interacting with people in your industry.
4) Expand Your Skill Set
This is the main reason to never stop learning. If I hadn’t continued taking classes after university my career would not have moved to where it is today. In the past, I have taken Excel Macro to learn how to become more efficient with Office software. I enrolled and completed two designations (one Accounting and one in Investments). I am currently finishing up my leadership certificate.
I can honestly say looking back, the Excel Macros course and my accounting designation helped me gain an edge in switching careers into Real Estate (Asset Management) from Back Office Accounting.
Some employers I had interviews with were also impressed that I was taking classes on my own to further my career.
However, don’t overdo it. Do not take classes for the sake of addling a line to your resume. Understand what your career goals are and look at what weakness you have, then determine whether a course can help get you there.
I remember spending a chunk of money to take a hedge fund course - that I realized later on - I did not really need. The course helped me get into a job I wanted but I could have reached the same goal by just searching online and reading up on the hedge fund concepts.
It is a bit taboo in that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, I believe you can never stop learning. The brain needs to be stimulated, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
â Mahatma Gandhi