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Why Ongoing Education Is So Important for Career Development

If you’re looking to advance your career, improve your odds of business success, or just get better at your job, ongoing education is one of your best options. For example, if you’re in a leadership position, you can invest in executive education or leadership training to improve your abilities and refine your approach. You could sign up for classes or lectures in your chosen discipline, or you could even spend time cross-training with other departments in your organization to better learn how it functions. 

In any cases, ongoing education will benefit your career long-term, and in several ways. 

Resume Expansion and Monetary Rewards

First, there’s an obvious benefit; you’ll get a chance to expand your resume. If you learn a new skill, or if you get certified in a certain area, you’ll be able to add that to your list of credentials and increase your total value as an asset to an organization (or as an independent entrepreneur). In any case, you should be able to make more money. When it comes time to ask for a raise, you’ll have concrete proof that you’ve improved yourself as an asset to the company. And if you’re looking for a new job, you’ll have a bigger, more impressive resume to shop around. 

An important principle to understand here is your return on investment (ROI). In other words, how much value are you getting compared to how much time and money you spent on education? This is a common hypothetical exercise run by students considering whether to attend (or return to) college. However, you can run it for almost any opportunity for ongoing education. For example, let’s say it costs $500 and 40 hours of personal time to get certified in a new skill. Does this have the potential to earn you a $5,000 per year raise? If so, it’s probably more than worth it. 

Abilities and Responsibilities

Ongoing education also expands your pool of abilities, and may give you more autonomy and control over your personal responsibilities at work. For example, let’s say at work, you do three types of tasks: A, B, and C. You don’t particularly like doing “B” tasks, and you tolerate “A” and “C” tasks. What you’re really interested in are “D” tasks. 

Learning a new skill allows you to take on an entirely new category of task—the “D” in this case. When you learn how to do D tasks and prove to your organization that this is valuable, you’ll have the opportunity to take on D tasks and delegate B tasks to someone else. Otherwise, your pool of A, B, and C tasks will shrink overall to accommodate D tasks. 

Perfecting your existing skills can also help you here. When you get better at a certain type of task, you’ll be able to complete it more efficiently, and see better results in exchange for your efforts. Depending on the nature of your position, this can help you solidify yourself as an asset to the company or earn more money directly. 

Perspective and Cognitive Diversity 

Taking classes, spending time with mentors, and getting experience outside your current niche can all improve your perspective and help you achieve diversity of thought. You’ll be able to think about how other organizations operate, rather than exclusively focusing on your own experiences. You’ll learn from a litany of different teachers and leaders, each with different styles and experiences of their own. And ideally, you’ll learn about a wide range of different subjects. 

Over time, these unique, varied experiences will help you think in more creative ways, and ultimately help you make better decisions. You’ll be able to incorporate more factors into your brainstorming processes, and see things from more than one angle. 

Staving Off Burnout 

It’s also important to note the possibilities of staving off burnout with the power of ongoing education. Most people, when confronted with the same mundane routine over and over, eventually find themselves bored and/or exhaustive of their “main” mode of work. This is problematic, both in the short-term and in the long-term. Exposing yourself to new subjects, learning new skills, and incorporating new responsibilities into your routine can all be exciting. These experiences give you a chance to break away from your traditional work, and redefine how you function within the organization. In other words, you’ll be far less likely to burn out. 

If you’re interested in more ongoing education for your own career, you’ll be happy to know there’s no shortage of opportunities. Consider finding a mentor to coach you, or talk to leaders in other departments to learn more about what they’re doing on a regular basis. You can also consider signing up for classes that interest you online. 

About Shane Avron

Shane Avron is a freelance writer, specializing in business, general management, enterprise software, and digital technologies. In addition to Flevy, Shane's articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes Magazine, among other business journals.

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