In today’s ever changing professional world, the nature of each job, the skills it entails, and the tools it utilizes are changing more rapidly than ever. Thus, we are being forced to embrace “ongoing learning,” or “lifelong learning” (continuously learning beyond traditional schooling). The answer to this is “upskilling,” which is the act of developing one’s skillset to stay relevant in your role.
The catch here is that your next online class, certification, graduate program, or any learning opportunity will take you time and potentially cost you money. When you invest in your learning and growth, you want to be as intentional as you would be upon deciding on your next job. While it’s true that any learning is good learning, you still should take time to compare and contrast your options and which program and format of learning will best set you up for success, depending on your goals and ideal career path.
How can you be intentional about which learning opportunity to choose?
- Clarify your ideal career path first and foremost!
a. This means crystallizing your ideal role, industry, and environment.
b. This will make it much easier to assess and determine which skills are most applicable, transferable, and beneficial to propel you on your ideal path, and thus, which learning opportunity will be most impactful and worthwhile.
c. Be aware of typical mindsets. People often pick learning opportunities for stereotypical reasons without doing their due diligence. Be wary of learning a certain skill or pursuing a program based on what you’ve heard, or based on what you think professionals look for in hiring. Rather, clarify which direction will be most suitable to you, and then uncover which opportunities will be most worthwhile to help you reach your specific goals.
d. Check out this blog post to learn more about how to pursue the career exploration process.
- Network with professionals in your target career path to uncover options for skill development opportunities.
Ask questions like:
a. Have you personally pursued any course/certification/further education program? If so, which ones? How beneficial did you find these programs? In hindsight, would you have considered any other programs?
b. Which learning opportunities do you see your colleagues pursuing? Are there reputable organizations you think I should look into that offer worthwhile courses?
c. When recruiting candidates for [target] roles:
i. What hard skills do you look for?
ii. Do you see trends in the certain programs they have completed? (i.e. degrees, certifications, etc.)
iii. What skills or certifications would make me stand out as a candidate?
d. When working in [target] role:
i. What skills are most coveted?
ii. Which skills do you utilize often?
iii. Which skills were hardest to attain?
iv. Which skills are most respected on your team?
v. What are most of your colleagues working on learning?
e. As it relates to your next role or career path at large:
i. Is [this degree or certification] required to pursue [this path]?
ii. Is [this degree or certification] helpful to pursue [this path]? If so, how?
iii. Can you share trends of people you have seen pursue his path and how it helped them?
- Learn deeply about each option (program, course, certification, etc.) that you are considering.
i. Connect with folks who currently or previously pursued the program, and/or professionals who work to support and execute that program.
ii. Be sure you ask any and all open questions you have so you can paint an accurate picture of what the program entails, and thus, you can reflect and more easily make an informed decision.
b. Research and compare your options based on:
i. Value: What skills will you gain proficiency in? How valuable do you think the program will be for your growth and learning? How well it will set you up for your ideal path?
ii. Format: which format do you learn best in? Will this work well with your ideal working style?
vi. Any other key criteria that are important to you
- Use your gut! Sometimes we know a program or learning opportunity is simply interesting and intriguing to us, without knowing where it will lead. This doesn’t mean it is a bad investment of your time. There is definitely value in doing your research, but don’t ignore your intuition.
For assistance applying to graduate programs, check out Accepted’s Admissions Services. We’d be delighted to help guide you successfully through the application process.
For assistance with career exploration and job searching, check out www.iamwoken.com.
Rachel Serwetz, Founder/CEO of WOKEN, spent her early professional experience at Goldman Sachs and at Bridgewater Associates. She is an ICF-certified coach, with a Technology MBA from NYU Stern and a BS from Binghamton University. Throughout her career, she has helped hundreds of professionals with career exploration. Her company, WOKEN, is an online career exploration platform that coaches professionals through the process of figuring out their ideal job and career path. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Binghamton University and has previously served as a Career Coach at Columbia University, Flatiron School/WeWork, and Project Activate.