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Back to School Isn’t Just for Kids — Here’s Why

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September is traditionally the time of school buses, books and backpacks — and Back to School for millions of kids. However, this is also a great time to think about Back to School for you and your career, no matter what your position.

Below are some resources and ideas to look for ways to learn a new skill, get up to date on requirements or position yourself for the next trend in your industry:

1. Your Trade Organization — Seminars and Affiliate Offerings – Take a look at both the national and regional web sites for any particular trade organizations you belong to (or even don’t belong to, but are affiliated with your industry). Scan through listings for events and presentations. Frequently, trade organizations and affiliate groups will host an educational session or guest speaker, sometimes at no charge or a reduced rate. Think of ways to learn new skills or tips from these presenters, even if they don’t 100% match up with your exact role – Chances are you may learn something that you can apply in your day to day work.

2. Required and Optional Continuing Education – Most organizations that require ongoing Continuing Education (CE) to maintain licenscenure or certification will be fairly aggressive about getting you to sign up for required coursework to meet important deadlines. However, make sure you look beyond the required CE. For example, if you are a real estate appraiser and need to take a certain number of hours relating to construction and building processes to stay up to date on cost estimating, check out the course offerings to see if there are any additional complementary courses such as green building initiatives or fire risk mitigation. Combining required coursework with additional optional courses can raise your overall knowledge level, giving you an edge over the competition.

3. Extension Courses at Your Local University or Community College Both four-year and two-year universities and colleges in your area will likely offer extension or no credit classes. These courses are not part of the traditional academic curriculum meaning you do not have to go through a standard application process. Look online for things like an ‘extension’ program or ‘audit only’ classes. Schools may have everything from basic audit-only classes where you sign up and pay a fee but receive no grade or credit, to full, structured extended studies programs offering certification in diverse areas such as event planning, human resources and web programming. Most schools will have all offerings on their web site but you can also call the registrar’s office at your local college to request a mailed course catalog as well.

4. Free Online Webinars and Courses – One positive outcome from the COVID pandemic is the acceleration of open access to online events, seminars and presentations. Companies that may have previously used in-person events to recruit potential clients or partners are using online platforms more than ever. Community-based and event web sites such as Patch.com and EventBrite are a popular portal for companies and educational institutions to list their free online courses and seminars. Try searching for keywords relating to your industry or topic of interest in their ‘calendar’ functions. The beauty of online courses is they don’t have to be in your geographic area; you can log in from anywhere.

5. Your Local Church, Temple or Other Community Organization – You may not think of your neighborhood church as an educational institution, but they are frequently good spots for guest speakers and seminars. Be sure to follow your facility on social media and/or sign up for their regular email blasts — You will get updates on potential presentations or talks that can either enhance your education in an existing area or open you up to new information.

6. Courses to Learn Something Totally New – Back to School time is also an ideal timeframe to think about learning a new skill, completely unrelated to anything you already know. Ever considered learning the guitar or how to speak Italian? Many private instructors or private schools/programs often advertise for new students and programs in the fall and this is an opportune time to snag special offers and expose your brain to new challenges.

7. Try Your Hand at Teaching! – What are you expert at? Do you have unique experience in your field or advanced certifications that position you to teach others? Check in with local extension programs and community colleges about their adjunct professor opportunities and requirements. What about expertise in something related to personal hobbies? Reach out to local craft stores to see if you can teach a painting or ceramics class; local music stores and schools are likely looking for instrument instructors. Sharing your knowledge and introducing others to new passions can enhance your overall well being.

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