January 17, 2017

The Hidden Benefits of Continuing Education

It’s no secret: education is important. If 13 years (K-12) isn’t enough, there’s an additional two to eight years of schooling required for most careers. Now just when you thought you couldn’t possibly need to learn anything new, something changes. Maybe your skills get rusty, the technology changes, or maybe a new and faster learning workforce generation starts to emerge. Perhaps your needs for continued education are mandated by the government; most professional licenses are only valid for a few years. If you want to remain a valued employee, you need to keep learning.

It’s easy to accept a concept like “always be learning.” Let’s talk about wanting to keep learning. As a Technical Training Consultant at Faith Technologies, I’ve established a career based on learning. Eleven years ago I started out not knowing a single thing about the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) industry or what an EST (Electronic Systems Technician) was, but I quickly realized that in order to succeed in this professional environment, I was going to have to learn to love learning. In my career I’ve spent thousands of hours in classrooms (virtual and physical) and webinars, at conferences and trade shows, and most of all, learning in the field.  Other than the “job requirement” reasons for learning, I’ve found some other very valuable and satisfying hidden benefits to attending all of the aforementioned training events. Here are three of my favorites:

  1. Networking: This is what I like to call “professional-friend making.” Attend enough outside training events, and you’re bound to meet some interesting characters. More times than not, you’ll find a very valuable contact in the person who’s leading the training. These trainers are often highly experienced, passionate, and excellent communicators, and they make excellent additions to the contact list on your phone or in your social network. As you encounter road blocks in your work, these experts may be just the resource you need.
  2. Talking the Talk: I spent years working in my career without really knowing how to talk about my skills and knowledge. I knew how to do the work, and do it pretty well, but I was horrible at “talking shop” with other professionals. As my experiences grew and I met more people in the industry, I learned how to really listen to people I felt were smarter and more passionate about their jobs than me. I try to interact with these people as often as possible, and that has helped my communication skills grow.
  3. Breaking Tradition: When we make work decisions, we must consider many things. Laws and policies would be examples of things we have to do. Rules and best practices are things that we should do. What about those things that we always do, just because that’s how we’ve always done them? Comparing and contrasting practices and procedures with people outside of our organizations is a very healthy method of finding better ways of doing business. You may even find that you’re the one shedding light on someone else’s process that could use improvement.

These three benefits have one common message: get out there and find places where you can interact, discuss, and share experiences with others within your profession. You may find your own hidden benefits in continued learning.