The days where the average worker’s education ended with a diploma or degree are long over. We live in an era of lifelong learning, where people are motivated to continue the pursuit of learning for professional and personal reasons alike.
Spurred by advancements in technology, services such as Coursera, GetSmarter, and Lynda have exploded thanks to this phenomenon.
Given the clear benefits of lifelong learning, you might well be considering taking an after-hours course yourself.
Before you sign up though, there are a few questions you should probably ask yourself.
Does it interest me?
If you’re worried about the limited opportunities for career and wealth advancement in your current line of work, it can be tempting to study an in-demand skill. Sure, you might not have the first clue about what cloud and distributed computing entails, but with a solid run of nights in the metaphorical books, you’ll have employers lining up.
Yeah, not so much. It turns out that there’s a really strong correlation between how engaged someone is with a subject and how well they perform in it. So even if you manage to struggle through that course, any potential employers will quickly figure out exactly how interested you are in the new position you’re applying for.
Will it actually help my career?
At face value, this question might seem completely contradictory to the one above it. It’s important to note, however, that we’re not saying you shouldn’t study Ancient Greek, or that course on the works of Kanye West. We are, however, saying that you should be very clear about why you’re choosing to study those things.
If they’re part of your career’s natural progression, or if you’re looking to change tack, then they may well be worth your while. If, on the other hand, you plan to spend the rest of your life as an accountant or SEO specialist, it’s probably best that you come to terms with the fact that you’re studying them for personal reasons.
How much time do I have?
Before we delve into this question, we should point out that we’re not saying time constraints should prevent you from studying further. Instead, we’re saying that it should be a consideration in the approach you take.
Think about what you fill your days up with right now. Now think about all the things you’re willing to give up (watching series, that extra hour’s lie-in on weekends). How much time do those things add up to?
If it’s only a couple of hours a week, you might want to take on something with more flexible time commitments. On the other hand, if it adds up to quite a significant number, maybe you can do something more intensive.
How legitimate is it?
This shouldn’t be that much of a problem for you, the savvy Engage Me reader, but it bears repeating. If you’re going to do a course outside of your working hours, make sure it’s with an accredited organisation.
If a course seems tempting, but just a little bit “off”, there are several warning signs you can look out for when it comes to online courses especially.
Do I actually need a course for this?
There are some things you absolutely 100% need certification for. You wouldn’t, for instance, want your surgeon to say that they learned their craft by watching online tutorials.
That’s less of a problem when it comes to things like software development, social media management, and vlogging.
Obviously, there are courses covering those skills, but it’s much more important to demonstrate that you can do these things than to produce a certificate saying you can.
In those instances, the best way to learn is to engage in guided practise. Develop your own website or app, grow your own social following, or build your YouTube channel from the ground up. It might take time, but you’ll be able to show employers something tangible.
Have you successfully studied while working? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.