Stay educated to get 'and keep' ahead

Let’s take a poll. If you have a degree, raise your hand. Hmmm…quite a few hands are raised out there. Unfortunately, it only means you used to know a lot. What have you learned lately? Fall is a great time to take stock about the value of your intellectual capital.

I suspect many of you have bundled the kids off to school for the year and given them lecture number 12: One of the secrets to success is to study hard and get a good education, (We number our lectures at our house. It saves time.) But are you preaching or practicing your own good advice?

The world is changing so quickly, if you’re not keeping up with the latest developments in your field and your industry, you will start looking Neanderthal faster than you can say opposing thumbs.

For starters, let’s set aside the "shoulda, coulda, woulda’s." No excuses about no time, no money, too many kids, too many commitments, too late. Yada, yada, yada. Some of these ideas don’t cost a cent and won’t take up excessive amounts of personal time.

  • Subscribe to one weekly business magazine and read it cover to cover. You can’t sound intelligent about the marketplace unless you understand it. I don’t care what field you’re in, you need to know and understand what is going on around you. (And no, the ten o’clock news and Jay Leno’s monologue doesn’t count.) You need more than ten-second sound bytes and info-tainment. Go deeper and make up your own mind about the stories of the day.

  • Identify someone who can teach you something and ask them if they will share some of that knowledge with you. Maybe you can even do some barter. For instance, in the past, I’ve helped someone with a resume in exchange for some help on my computer. Often, the person whose help you seek will expect nothing in return.

  • Get an education from the people who are right under your nose. Your company contacts are rich with information about the marketplace, the competition, career opportunities and the latest trends. For instance, ask one of the sales reps out to lunch and get the scoop. Talk to the head of marketing or law, to find out what is going on out there. Invite the new employee out for a drink and get an education about the current job market.

  • Sign up for a company sponsored class. I lead workshops and seminars for companies and the refrain I sometimes hear is, "There are a lot of people who really need this and they aren’t here." Take advantage of company sponsored opportunities. Companies invest in educational programming to keep employees’ skills sharp and to improve performance. Why on earth would anyone ignore that?

  • Take classes offered outside of your company. There are tens of thousands of them. Just get on one of their mailing lists…you’ll be inundated in no time.

  • Join a user group or professional group in your field. You can even do this on line. Not only can you research a new idea or hot issue quickly, you will get to know people who share your interests and can give you a heads up when new opportunities arise.

  • Make a commitment to get certified in your specialty. Many fields offer a certification program that is company paid. What are you waiting for? When you apply for your next job, it will make you look more educated, committed, motivated, professional…what part of this don’t people understand?

  • Take the time to teach someone something. If you’ve been on your job for awhile, you know plenty. Your intellectual capital is of less value to the organization if you don’t leverage it by sharing it with others. Besides, when you teach someone else, you learn it better yourself. For instance, the next time you attend a conference or outside seminar, take notes so that you can conduct a little mini-session with your coworkers when you get back to work.

  • Spend time in the business and careers section of your local bookstore and read at least one business book a quarter. When I conduct career related workshops for companies, I often ask, "What are some of the best business books you’ve read in the last six months to a year?" Only a few hands go up and often the books they mention are over five years old.

  • Go back to school. If I had a nickel for every person who has told me, "When I was still employed, I could have used the company’s tuition refund policy to pay for school but I was always too busy. Now I’m looking for a job and every position I want requires the degree I don’t have."

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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