There are a number of ways that you can continue learning outside of going back to school. Below are some ideas based on what I have tried out over the years. I will be focusing on continuous learning for your professional life, though any of these ideas or suggestions can be applied to your personal life as well.
Once I got my first manager position, I purchased several books on management and leadership; I plan on reading and sharing these books here as I am able. Don't be afraid to ask for book suggestions from people/leaders that you admire; that's what I did. People were more than willing to share what books they had read to aid in their professional development.
I also have a collection of articles and videos that I am working through which have either been suggested to me or are something that I found on my own. The internet is a vast treasure trove of knowledge if you know how to use Google right.
Seminars and Conferences
Through a past job, I was introduced to Fred Pryor Seminars; I was fortunate enough to have a manager that purchased annual passes for my coworkers and I. Through this program, I was able to attend unlimited live seminars and view online seminars. There are other options for this sort of program, I am sure, but Fred Pryor is the only one that I have personally tried. I attended and recommend the following live seminars:
- Business Writing for Results
- How to Write Clear and Concise Policies and Procedures
- Project Management
- Managing Multiple Priorities, Projects, and Deadlines
- How to Deliver Exceptional Customer Service
- Dealing with Difficult People
One of the not so obvious benefits of continuous learning is that sometimes, you learn that you're not as interested in something as you thought you were, or maybe you're just not good at it (like me with web design). This is not failing; this is just more learning.
Seek Out Experts/Professionals
When I was an intern in college, I created the "Learning About Leadership" project, where I reached out to every C-Suite level executive and VP in my company to interview them. You would be amazed at how many people were more than happy to answer my questions in email, over the phone, or even in person- and I was just an intern! People love to share what they know and I highly encourage you to reach out to your network.
Join a Club/Society
The organization that I have the most experience with is Toastmasters International. Per their website, "Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development." I was a member of this club back when I was in college and I loved it.
I was the youngest member of my club by decades and as such, I learned a lot. I was able to get feedback from and network with people who were much further along in their careers and in their development as public speakers/leaders than I was. This did more for me than any public speaking class in college ever did.
I enjoyed Toastmasters so much that I have recently rejoined the organization; I joined the "Once Upon a Time" club in Kent, WA. I highly recommend Toastmasters to anyone at any level in their career. They recently revamped their program and have instituted "Pathways," which allow you to hone in on what you want to work on. For example, I chose the Dynamic Leadership path: "This path helps you build your skills as a strategic leader and negotiator. You will work through projects that focus on understanding leadership and communication styles, the effect of conflict on a group and the skills needed to defuse and direct conflict. Each project also emphasizes the development of strategies to facilitate change in an organization or group, interpersonal communication and public speaking. The Dynamic Leadership path culminates in a project focused on applying your leadership skills."
Writing something like a blog can can also foster discussions on the subject matter, allowing you to hear other people's thoughts and opinions. Don't be afraid to share and discuss what you write!
Overall, continuous learning is important inside and outside of the office and I hope that you will use some of my suggestions here to expand your base of knowledge.
What are some methods that you use to learn? Let me know in the comments!