Understanding Today’s World Benefits Your Career and Business

You probably got hired because you had the skills to do your job. If you want to keep your job over the long term and even move up in your career, however, there may be more that you need to know.

Every business exists in a context that includes local, state, national and international environments, the impacts of which are felt on the business in various ways. It is helpful for employees, particularly management and leadership, to understand the world around them and the ways it can impact their jobs and careers.

Understanding the Culture

Culture can impact a business that chooses to represent itself in ways that may not be considered acceptable. Today’s culture is varied and diverse, and respect for all cultural perspectives is considered important and one of the few moral positions that the vast majority of citizens can agree on. If a business adopts public positions that are considered counter to the prevailing culture, it must prepare to be opposed by the majority of the culture, and many may not want to do business with them because of this.

There may also be subcultures in the area where your business is located, and many of your employees or co-workers may be part of these subcultures. Understanding them will benefit your business by learning the best ways to work with them, what motivates them and what they value.

Understanding the Political Climate

Every business is subject to a political climate, both the local climate of its location and the national political climate, as well as the international political climate if it has international clients or customers. The political climate can include aspects like political correctness, but also includes the regulatory or legal environment in which the business must function.

Learning About the World Around You

While you can learn about culture, politics, and the world around you through life experience, this typically takes a long period of time, and in the meantime, may lead to blunders that harm your business. Trial and error can be a valuable form of learning, but you may not be able to afford to learn that way when your livelihood and career depend on having that understanding.

Continuing education courses can assist in teaching employees and business leaders about the world around them so that they can confidently function within that world. It may be particularly important for HR employees and those who deal directly with the public and with personnel to understand the world in which they function, but in reality, all employees can benefit from understanding the global context in which they–and the business they work for–function.

CCSU offers many continuing education courses.   View open courses at CCSU to see all that we offer.

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HR Training Valuable for Many Professional Career Tracks

HR training can be valuable for many jobs outside the human resources department, including managers, trainers, and team leaders, among others. Many management positions expect those who hold them to use HR knowledge even when they’ve never had formal training in HR principles.

Benefits of HR Training for Professionals

Managers may be expected to perform many actions that fall under the umbrella of HR skills. In smaller companies, employees often multitask and have job responsibilities that fall under a number of different job descriptions. If managers and leaders don’t have HR knowledge, they are unlikely to perform these roles effectively, and the performance of the entire business could suffer as a result.

Hiring and firing employees is one area in which HR skills could be valuable for managers. The ability to make effective hires is paramount to a business’s success, and many managers and business leaders rely on not much more than instinct when hiring employees. HR training can teach best practices for hiring that can help managers hire new employees with expertise and confidence.

When firing employees, it’s important to know about regulations and requirements in order to avoid lawsuits from disgruntled employees. In some states, it is possible to fire employees for just about any reason, but in others managers need reasons and documentation. Even in at-will states, terminated employees may still bring a lawsuit if they suspect that they were fired in a way that suggests discrimination.

Motivating team members may seem to be more of an art than a science, but HR training offers many evidence-based principles that work to motivate employees and help them to do their best for the business. And motivated employees will be more productive and positively impact the company’s culture, bottom line, and overall success.

Compliance with regulations has become an important part of a manager’s job, since non-compliance can lead to costly fines or even cause a business to be shut down. But how can a manager find out what the federal, state, and local regulations are? HR training focuses heavily on compliance with regulations and can ensure that managers don’t fail at this important part of the job.

SHRM Certification Shows HR Knowledge and Skills

The Society for Human Resource Management is an organization that provides courses and certification in HR training. Passing the certification exam is not easy to do, but shows definitively that you have attained the skills needed to function effectively in HR tasks. Courses cover topics like recruiting and staffing, benefits, training, and compensation, among others.

CCSU Continuing Education offers non-credit HR courses and the SHRM certification course.   To join the mailing list contact Christa Sterling at csterling@ccsu.edu

7 Emotional Intelligence Habits You Can Develop at Work

Emotional intelligence is a healthy state of mind that can reap benefits for you both in your personal and professional life. The basis of emotional intelligence is understanding and managing your own emotions, which in turn helps you understand and manage other people’s, including co-workers and colleagues.

Here are some EI habits you can develop at work as you interact with others.

1. Active listening.

Listening is a skill, and there are aspects of it that need to be learned and practiced just like technical job skills. Some active listening skills to learn may include waiting a few seconds before you respond to someone’s statement, repeating in your own words what the other person said before responding, and using “I” language when you communicate instead of saying “You make me feel _____.”

2. Getting comfortable with change.

Change is something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but you can train yourself to think about possible “silver linings” that often happen when things change, or ways that the change may make things better than they were before. Even reminding yourself that you have faced change before and survived may make it easier to deal with–and it’s inevitable, so you need to deal with it eventually.

3. Saying “no” tactfully.

People don’t like to hear no, so they will try to make you feel bad about saying it. But part of having healthy boundaries is being able to recognize when what you’re being asked to do doesn’t fit with your goals or fit into your available time for tasks. Try to remember that people get over hearing “no” and usually don’t hold a grudge for very long, and if they do, they might not be people you really want to like you anyway.

4. Reading a room.

Being able to tell when someone is in a bad mood or when a situation is tense can have many benefits in the workplace. When you can read a room, you know when it’s a good time to ask for something, and when it’s not. You also know what things are likely to stand in the way of getting what you want so you can remove those obstacles and better your chances.

5. Seeing others’ perspectives.

Being able to understand where another person is coming from can do much more than help you get what you want, it can also help you understand big-picture dynamics, which is helpful in many aspects of a job, including collaboration, leadership and advancement.

6. Empathy.

Empathy goes beyond seeing another’s perspective to feeling their feelings and being able to understand how they feel. Empathy in the workplace helps to prevent a lot of negativity, draws people to you, and just generally makes the workplace (and the world) a better place. Empathy has to be balanced with reason, but is a necessary part of emotional intelligence.

7. Altruism.

Emotional intelligence without altruism–the desire to do good for others without getting anything back–can turn you into a manipulative person who uses other people to get ahead. While no one can be completely and purely altruistic, having that as one of many traits in your personality will help you stay positive and think about others in addition to yourself.

CCSU offers continuing education courses for professional development in many different areas, including emotional intelligence.  View open courses to see all they have to offer.

Why Continuing Education Is Necessary for Continuing Innovation

The United States has a robust higher education system which millions of students use to earn degrees and prepare for jobs and careers. As wonderful as four-year degrees are, however, students can no longer afford to think of higher education as a “once and done” solution that fulfills all their educational needs.

1.  A Rapidly Changing Marketplace

Many factors have led to rapid changes in today’s marketplace: advances in computing and robotics, the amount of data available for analysis, and an expectation that progress will keep marching forward day after day, just to name a few. The job you trained for just a few short years ago may not even be available now, or may have changed enough that your coursework is no longer sufficient training for the position.

2.  Outdated Programs and Poor Choices

Getting a degree in a particular subject or major isn’t a guarantee that you have received the training you need to be qualified for a job in that field. Some four-year degree programs are outdated and don’t provide needed information and experience, and it may be almost impossible to know this until you actually have the degree.

Another factor in the effectiveness of a four-year degree is whether you choose to take the courses you really need to get the job you want in the end. As an undergraduate student, you may not yet have the perspective you need to understand which courses would be most helpful. You may very well end up taking the wrong courses and neglecting to take the ones you need.

3.  New Ideas, New Courses

Even if you do take all the right courses and get a job you are well-qualified for, the field is bound to keep on changing as you work and build your career. Sooner or later, new ideas will enter the field, and you will need a way to access them and assimilate the new information in order to grow in your job.

In some fields like human resources and computer science, there are desirable certifications that can only be earned as you gain experience in the field, sometimes even beyond a four-year degree. While it is possible to earn some of the certifications without taking courses, coursework greatly improves the chances of success.

Continuing Education Options

Sure, there are traditional continuing education courses, but there are many other options as well. Online courses can provide flexibility, and microcredentialing allows students to get a series of smaller credentials over time rather than having to invest large amounts of time over years to earn additional degrees. Open courses offer another option for continued learning without incurring large expenses you can’t afford.

CCSU offers a number of continuing education options that could fit your lifestyle, even with a career and family. View open courses to see all the different courses we offer.

Why ‘Soft Skills’ Can Be Hard Work

Soft skills are an increasing focus for many companies. These skills include communication, leadership, management, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence, among others. Soft skills are necessary in most jobs, particularly as you move up the ladder into supervising others and managing complex projects as a team leader or manager.

Most people possess some soft skills naturally or have developed them over time through experience, but many have weaknesses in some areas of soft skills and need help to develop them. For many, soft skills development can be hard work that takes considerable time and effort to develop.

Soft Skills are Deeply Ingrained

Once you are an adult who has had training for your current career, many of the behaviors that encompass soft skills have become ingrained in your personality and way of interacting in the workplace. Some of those behaviors will help your career performance or advancement, while others may be counterproductive and need to be changed to avoid being obstacles to your career.

The good news is that according to research, soft skills can be learned, or in the case of unwanted behaviors, unlearned. Behavioral scientists have managed to break the usual soft skills down into teachable pieces that can be reinforced in a classroom format through role play and practice. With an investment of time and effort, the vast majority of people can build their soft skills in ways that will advance their careers and help them be more effective at work.

Skills Assessments

Employers are increasingly using skills assessments to supplement interviews and resumes when hiring, and some of these assessments measure soft skills. Whether with a formal assessment or feedback from an instructor, assessing your soft skills is the first step to knowing how to build them.

Skills assessments can help you maximize your skill-building because you will know how to best determine where to spend your time and energy so you will not be trying to build skills you already have, but will be targeting your weak areas that need the most help.

Teaching Soft Skills

One of the best ways to teach soft skills is to use examples and situations that employees are likely to face. Seeing these situations play out in commonly ineffective ways and then compared with more effective ones that make use of soft skills will show the benefits of having good soft skills in the workplace as well as showing what effective soft skills look like in practical, hands-on ways.

Role-play is extremely effective in practicing soft skills and gives students a way to try out different behaviors without actually having to put workplace relationships and circumstances to the test right away. By role-playing under the close supervision of the instructor, students can learn what works and what doesn’t work as well before they get into a workplace situation where those soft skills are needed (or at least before the next time).

For information on training that teaches soft skills contact Christa Sterling at 860-832-2277 or csterling@ccsu.edu.

Improve Your Emotional Intelligence to Further Your Career

Emotional intelligence can be important to your career in many different ways. Those who score high on a scale measuring emotional intelligence make on average $29,000 more a year than those who don’t, so anything you can do to improve this trait could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career.

Some people seem to be born with emotional intelligence, but fortunately, it is possible to develop the traits that make up this larger one. The first step is learning about emotional intelligence and determining your strengths and weaknesses in that area.

Emotional Intelligence: The Basics

The first step to emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Those who are self-aware understand their own thoughts and feelings, which gives them the information they need to know why they act the way they do in certain situations. Improving your emotional intelligence also starts with self-awareness because you can’t improve until you understand what’s going on in your mind and heart.

Self-awareness leads to social awareness, which is an understanding of other people’s thoughts and emotions. If you don’t understand why other people are doing what they’re doing, you will be at a disadvantage in figuring out how to communicate with them on their level. Some social awareness comes with time and experience, but it can be taught as well.

Self-management is another part of EI, and it uses your self-understanding to direct your behavior in positive and constructive ways. Finally, relationship management is directing your interactions with others so that they are successful and productive rather than hurtful.

How to Improve Emotional Intelligence

The foundation of EI is understanding yourself, which requires time and thought, and sometimes professional help. Taking a course in EI will help you identify the emotions and thought patterns that drive your behavior and teach you how to journal about them if you wish to do so. If you come across any emotions or behaviors you don’t seem to be able to understand or negative patterns you can’t break, professional counseling may help give more insight.

Learning how to analyze your interactions with others will also help you improve your EI and adopt more advantageous ways of dealing with others, which will be of great benefit in the workplace where relationships are key. It may seem like emotions should have no place in business, but many interactions and decisions are driven by emotions and it is important to understand them and learn how to use them in constructive ways.

Improving your EI because it will help your career is a fine motivation, but greater EI will also make you happier in your personal life, too. It’s a win-win, and well worth working on through courses or other efforts.

CCSU offers many courses to improve your career prospects, including courses on emotional intelligence in the workplace. View our open courses to see how they can benefit your career.

Trends in Continuing Education and How They May Affect Your Career

Like so many things in today’s world, continuing education is continuing to change and evolve in order to be more effective at meeting the needs of those who use it. Many people pursue continuing education in order to enrich or improve their careers, keep skills updated, or pursue beneficial certifications. Trends in continuing education make it even more beneficial to its participants.

Online and Mobile Education

Students now expect online and mobile education platforms as options for continuing education because they have busy careers, children, and other things in their lives that limit their time and availability. The flexibility and convenience of these options make them preferrable to many people, and most continuing education programs could no longer survive without them.

Virtual Conferences

Not everyone can afford to go to conferences in their field that may require travel and hotel stays on top of the conference’s cost. Virtual conferences may be simulcast to many locations or available online, possibly on demand so they can be viewed at participants’ convenience. Networking, which is always an important part of any conference, can be accomplished through chatrooms and social media or email groups specialized to the conference.

Microlearning

Microlearning usually involves video content that is broken up into brief lessons rather than longer ones. Microlearning works well for those who are very busy and don’t have much time for continuing education as well as for those with certain learning styles that work better when learning in short bursts.

Open Courses

Sometimes called MOOCs (massive online open courses), these are typically open to anyone and provide basic information on a topic of interest. Many of them are offered free and only involve a cost if you want to earn a certificate or credential when the course is completed. Some MOOCs can involve thousands of students, so they can be a good option for some, but not for those who need extra help or modifications.

Customized Courses and Help for Those With Learning Disabilities

Courses with smaller enrollments can offer customized lesson plans to fit your needs and can often accommodate modifications for those with learning disabilities who need extra help. Customized courses target information that may be needed for a particular job and ensure that everything is in compliance with requirements that can be specific or different in different areas.

Self-Directed Learning

Similar to customized learning, self-directed learning can be both self-paced and allow each student to determine the learning objectives and outcomes that they most need. Self-directed learning also has the benefit of allowing students to pursue interests that not everyone shares, so that their learning objectives can be met.

CCSU offers many different kinds of continuing education courses that incorporate the latest trends and provide valuable skills to benefit a variety of careers. View open courses to see how CCSU continuing education courses can help you stay up to date or take your career to the next level.