Published on 2012/02/28

Quantifying the Cost of Continuing Education

Continuing education and professional/personal development should be a priority for everyone. As a good friend of mine says, “if you are standing still you are regressing”. Personally I place a very high priority on my own development, it’s important to me, it’s important to my career and to my personal worth. I do this through a number of media. I attend training seminars and courses, I watch video, I invest in coaching, I read books and continually assess where I am now and what I need to do to get to where I want to be. This last piece is really the way I value continuing education. I simply ask myself, will this course/seminar/video/coach take me a step closer to my next goal or milestone.

I believe that continuing education is pointless unless the individual knows what they want in the long term. This clarity is sadly missing for many people. It is this lack of self clarity that feeds a need to get that “piece of paper” because it is fashionable to have it. Right now it seems that having an MBA is the way to go simply because everyone else is going there. An MBA means nothing unless it gives you a large chunk of what you need in order to take yourself to the next level. Otherwise it is just a very expensive piece of paper!!

Another worthwhile point is that much of the continuing education that people engage is in the form of skills or knowledge training. While this type of training is very important, it is only a part of the picture. We need to also work on the intangible elements of our development. The starting point, in my opinion, should be with gaining clarity, a clear statement of intent. This is not something that is taught very often, in fact it is very rare in most corporations and as a result up to 80% of people believe that they are in the wrong job! The second important element of the “intangible” is attitude. In terms of performance in, attitude is the difference between being good and being great. Attitude as I see it is not a singular though. There are many facets to it, and in many cases the elements are very individual. It is the marriage of personal attitudes, organizational attitudes and task specific attitudes that will make the difference in performance. So, coupling a clear statement of intent with the correct attitude and a willingness to develop that attitude are critical and this is why I believe that coaching is so important.

At the end of the day, quantifying the value of continuing education of itself is a moot point. Continuing education is critical for anyone that wants to progress. Here’s how I look at it. As I assess myself and the attainment of my next level, I ask myself what do I need next. If I am not sure what I need, I ask someone who is already where I want to be. Once I have identified a course/seminar/video/book, I look at the contents and decide for myself if it is something that will add significantly to my development. If I believe that it will, then I go for it. If not, then I don’t. I know this may sound simplistic to some, and it is simple!

I will end with a piece of advice. I believe that the basis for valuable continuing education lies in knowing what you want. If you are not clear on what you want, don’t take another step forward until you figure it out! As a wise man once said:

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”

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