Professional Development

Jumpstart your career without a college degree

Written by Guest Contributor

There are plenty of ways to get ahead careerwise: networking, going the extra mile, and being an advocate for your company, to name a few. Another option can be education, which allows you to stay relevant in your field and show interest and investment in your career—even if you have a degree. But that doesn’t have to happen in a formal classroom.

“The world is changing at an incredibly fast pace, and your degree is unlikely to give you all the knowledge and skills you need. To develop their careers, professionals are expected to continue gaining skills and growing professionally throughout their lives. Lifelong learning is the best tool to help professionals achieve these goals,” according to Lifelong Learning: How to Advance Your Career.

Use the following ideas to turbocharge your career with education—and no, you don’t need to get your Masters to get there.

Ask for company-sponsored training

You may be thinking: learning more is great, but when will I have time between working full time and maintaining a social life? The answer is simple. Ask work to provide it for you. If you’re uncertain, speak with others within your organization who may want this too.

According to the 2017 Developer Learning Survey, you won’t be the only one yearning for training. The survey found that “respondents spend seven hours per week of their own time learning new skills necessary to do their jobs. On the other hand, respondents spend an average of just two hours of formal training opportunities.”

Information like this is also ammunition to support your request for company-paid learning or education. To make your case even stronger, provide solutions that you think might be effective. For example:

  • A company-wide account for Udemy or Lynda, where all employees can access learning opportunities.
  • A monthly education stipend that can be used for classes, certifications, books or other educational materials or opportunities.
  • Annual conference pass for every employee; everyone gets to choose one conference to attend.

Learn to be a better leader

When you think of education for your career, learning how to boost job-specific skills is likely what comes to mind. For example, learning more about your industry or how to be a better social media manager. What’s also important is honing your leadership skills, which can put you in a position for promotions.

This type of learning will also improve your general business savvy, as a way of preparing for your next big interview or promotion opportunity. This puts you in a position to act like the “consultant” when presenting yourself, which Dan Schwabel, Gen Y career expert, suggests. He explains, “If you’re a job-seeker, you need to prove your worth, and the best way to do this is to act as a consultant. Instead of just applying for a job, make a presentation on how you can add more value to the company. Come with a case study to show that you’ve improved sales of your last client or company by 50% or that you helped increase efficiencies that led to a decrease in costs by 70%. If your salary is $40,000, then deliver $70,000 worth of value to justify it.”

Get certified

You don’t have to go back to school to turbocharge your career with education. In fact, in many cases, you can get access to learning that’s more specific to the role you have or want to have by getting certified. For example, a social media marketer may want to get AdWords Certified or Google Analytics Certified, which shows that they’ve mastered platforms that are critical to their job.

Student Loan Hero suggests a few other certification opportunities to look for with well-known products and brands:

  • Check out the Adobe Creative Cloud training center
  • Learn how to use Google for different industries
  • Attend free Apple workshops to master the basics and if you’re a teacher, see how to use Apple products in a specialized seminar

Your first step is to make a list. What tools do you use every day? What skills will you need to have to move to the next level? From here, you can seek out certifications specific to those products and skillsets.

Don’t miss the critical piece

If you’re learning with others, with an instructor and other students—online or offline—don’t forget one more critical component: networking.

“Any career coach will tell you that networking is key to getting ahead in today’s workforce. In addition to building new skills that employers will find attractive, continuing education affords you the opportunity to network with your classmates and instructors. Take the time to get to know the instructor and ask questions. Who knows; those questions may lead to your next career,” says M.A. Smith, contributor for Top Resume.

If the class is online, you can network during group sessions and by connecting with people on LinkedIn. If the class is in-person, use downtime to get to know other students and ask questions. You never know who you’re sitting next to; it may just be your next boss or co-worker.

About the Author:
Jessica Thiefels is founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She has been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. She also regularly contributes to Virgin, Business Insider, Glassdoor, and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect with her on LinkedIn.

About the author

Guest Contributor