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Mark Twain once said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education,” and that insightful quote is even more valid today than it was when Twain first stated it.
Today, business people who focus on continuing their education outside of traditional classrooms are uniquely positioned to seize new opportunities and reach the highest levels of success. The reason is simple. The world is changing faster than ever, and there’s no going back now!
To keep up, business people must keep learning. While traditional classrooms are important, they move too slowly to keep up with the fast-paced educational needs of today’s business people. By the time the curriculum experts can agree on a new course title, consumers (and therefore, business people) have already moved on to the next big thing. The result is the rising interest in and importance of self-education.
Fortunately, there are many free and highly affordable ways to educate yourself on just about any topic today, including business! For example, lynda.com offers a growing list of courses, led by expert instructors, on a variety of business topics. Whether you want to improve your leadership skills or learn a new technology to support growing areas of your business and responsibilities, you can find ways to educate yourself.
Separating Good Self-Education from Bad Self-Education
It’s important to point out that not all self-education opportunities that you’ll find online are equal. Here are two key things to look out for as you select the ways you want to educate yourself.
1. Consider the Source
Make sure the online courses you take or purchase are led by experts who have both theoretical (i.e., degrees) and practical (i.e., real world experience) knowledge.
For example, anyone can learn how to use Twitter and Facebook and call themselves social media marketing experts, but if they have no marketing education and no real world social media marketing experience beyond helping some friends and family manage their Facebook Pages, then they are not people you want to learn from.
2. Consider the Date
Not only do you need to vet instructors, but you also need to consider when the course or educational material was created and published. For topics that don’t change much from year to year, this step is less important, but for others, timing is critical.
For example, a course about leadership is likely to include fairly evergreen content. Review the lesson plan or overview and make sure the material focuses on timeless topics. However, a course about Facebook marketing would become obsolete very quickly. Facebook changes its features and rules frequently, so a Facebook marketing course that is a year old is already outdated.
Starting Your Self-Education
Don’t wait to start your self-education, because every day you wait is another day that your competitors (either your business’ competitors or your competitors for the next job you want) are self-educating and getting ahead of you. You wouldn’t give them a competitive advantage when it comes to your product or services, so don’t give them a competitive edge in their knowledge and abilities.
Think of it this way, your knowledge and abilities are valuable intellectual assets. Leverage them as such and your career and your business will undoubtedly reach new levels of success!
How do you self-educate? Leave a comment below and share your recommendations.