Nine Ways to Continue Learning in Today's Environment!

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, with a downturn in the economy, there has been an increase in the amount of admission applications to business schools for advanced degrees. Why wait for a slow down in the economy, loss of job, or even wait until the kid’s graduate college in order to advance your learning?

“Don’t ever think you know as much as you need to know, or that you know more than the majority so you’re better off and that’s good enough. There will always be something to learn, something to discover. Be humble in your knowledge and continually try to learn as much as you can.”

There are multiple ways to continue your learning without having to put two or more years of your life, job or family on hold and it will not break your bank. Let’s look at the value of continuous learning and ways we can go about accomplishing this.

Various ways to continue our learning in today’s environment:

Volunteer your services: Joining a non-profit committee is a great opportunity to use your current skills and expand on skills you’re looking to develop. Non-profits are always looking for volunteers to fill gaps.

Podcasts and Webcasts: Since inception, podcasts and webcasts have been a great tool for distant learning. There are many sites that you can visit to find podcasts and webcasts on various topics. They are easily downloadable to your pc or mp3 player and can be accessed at anytime (some charges may apply).

Start your own blog: Write a blog about your industry, products or services.  Link to other blogs and websites to learn what they are doing and share this information with your customers.

Continuing professional education (CPE) credits: If you hold a professional certification or license these are also good sources for life long learning. According to the Institute of Management Accountants, you’re required to have so many hours of training in which programs may be regular college courses, seminars, workshops or technical meetings under the direction of a speaker, instructor or discussion leaders. 

Seminars and workshops: Another great way to expand your learning base and meet people within your industry. Again, there will be some type of cost associated with it, but sometimes your employer may reimburse the cost. Your local Chamber of Commerce may also offer seminars and workshops specific to your industry.

Books on tape/CD: A useful way to learn during your commute to work or business travel.  This method will require you to spend money, but at the same time, you’re growing your learning base. There are books on tape/CD that you can get ranging from various topics.

Start a reading routine: Whether it’s an online paper, blog or book, start a routine to further educate yourself. Drew, a great friend of mine visits Barnes and Noble and Borders and reads the periodicals to keep abreast of the current events for free.  See what’s on the best-seller lists for the New York Times and USA Today.  You can also visit your local library where it cost you nothing.

Attend college classes: There are non-traditional ways to achieve this. Audit classes at your alma mater, local college or community college. If you don’t want to attend a two-year program, you can also get a certification in your field to keep you up on your industry. Many colleges also offer distance learning classes so that you never have to step foot in the classroom. 

Try something new: Pursue your wild ideas, learn a skill or craft that you’ve never tried before (dancing, playing an instrument, painting or photography).

Benefits of continuous learning:

It keeps you alert, more interesting, and your mind sharp: This will be very valuable especially when networking or having small talk at the water cooler.  You don’t want to get left behind.

Meet new people:  Allows you to make connections that can link to future clients, business partner(s), and just new friends period.

Earn a higher income: Learning new skills has a potential to increase your income or if you’re a business owner increase your revenues.  What critical thinking and analytical skills do you need in your industry to help you increase your income?

According to Samuel Odle (Director at ITT Educational Services, Inc.), “Lifelong learning is crucial to our personal success as well as the success of our organizations.  Gaining new skills and knowledge energizes us; it gives us strength to tackle the challenges we face in our everyday jobs …”

These methods are a few of many methods that you can use to increase your learning.  Even if you graduated last year or twenty years ago, the learning journey is never over.

Have fun and keep learning!