More and more, it can feel like technology advances and industry shifts are making it difficult to stay on top of the skills and knowledge we need to stay at the forefront of our chosen field. But for working adults, the longer we’ve been out of school, the harder it can be to face the prospect of returning to class. Sometimes even admitting that we need to learn a new technology or skill can be a challenge. 

But the necessity for adult learning has never been greater, and those who embrace the challenge will be better equipped to deal with current and future realities. 

The good news is that learning opportunities have never been more prevalent. The decision is no longer a simple choice between grad schools, but rather selecting from a buffet of online classes, weekend workshops, and adult retreats that offer precision learning opportunities for specific skills, whether it’s mastering a new piece of software, taking an online course in a related field, or getting qualified for a particular license that’s necessary for career advancement. 

For example, while many of the courses at Creative Live are tailored for photographers and graphic designers, they also offer a plethora of workshops aimed at small business owners. These courses tend to last 1 to 3 days and feature expert instructors guiding you through practical lessons. Topics covered include finance, software, legal instruction, marketing, social media, and more. The best part is if you watch live, there’s no cost, and you only need to pay if you want to download the class so you can watch later. 

Additionally, if you live in a university town, you should check what programs are available to local residents to take or audit classes. For example, the University of Oregon allows Eugene residents to sign up for up to 8 credit hours at a greatly reduced rate as part of their community education program. And no matter where you live, leading universities such as Harvard and MIT are giving students all over the world the opportunity to participate in certain online courses for free. Available courses include The Fundamentals of Neuroscience and an Introduction to Aerospace Engineering. 

And while becoming a full-time student may be impossible for most working adults, with families to support and incomes to maintain, community colleges provide a comprehensive array of night and weekend courses marketed to busy professionals. Monster.com has an interesting article that highlights many of the opportunities that community colleges can afford. For example, “Information technology is one area of special strength for community colleges. For the IT certifications that can give aspiring technologists a toehold, many community colleges offer unsurpassed training.”  

Of course, one of the most common reasons for professionals to return to school is to receive an MBA. In addition to leading to significant salary boosts, MBA programs offer tremendous internship and networking opportunities and high-level management training. Many companies offer financial assistance to employees who enroll in an MBA program, and a lot of promotional opportunities are only available to staff with MBAs.  

Whatever industry you’re in, you’ll want to research what the advantages are for having an MBA. Of course, this is true of other master’s level degrees as well. For example, depending on the industry, you may be better off with a graduate degree in Public Policy or Public Health, or maybe even a law degree, rather than an MBA. Figure out where you want your career to be in ten years, and find examples of people who have already followed a similar career path. What degrees do they have? It’s a good bet you’ll want to follow a similar track. 

Whatever option you end up taking, whether it’s a full-time return to school, an online course, or a weekend workshop, time management is going to be essential. You’ll want to carefully plan out your schedule, and don’t forget to budget extra time for study and networking. 

I know how daunting it can be to think about returning to school or learning a new skill. That’s why it can be really helpful to have someone to talk through all the options and offer guidance and support when it comes to exploring your career options. A life coach can be extremely useful in helping you come up with a fruitful and successful path to furthering your career. 

Contact me today and we can start discussing where you’d like to see your career take you.