Yes, You Can Integrate Continuing Education into Your Busy Life!

One of the biggest concerns people have about taking continuing education courses is the time it takes. Most people’s lives are already stuffed full with work, family, maybe a hobby, and social time with friends. Who has time to take classes on top of all of that?

And yet, the benefits of continuing education courses are clear and plentiful: advancement at work, better brain function, and even better relationships in your personal life. Even better, it is possible to integrate continuing education into even the busiest schedule with a minimum of disruption to your other activities.

Continuing Ed: Fast and Flexible

You may think you have no downtime or wasted time, but ask yourself a few questions. How much time do you spend watching television, Netflix, or goofy cat videos? How much time do you spend Facebooking your life or posting your dinner on Instagram? How do you wind down at the end of the day?

These and many other activities could give you the opportunity to attend a course or complete coursework, if you choose to reap the benefits of continuing your education. Continuing education now includes evening, weekend, online and hybrid courses that fit into any schedule, no matter how busy. Some courses may only be an hour per week, and you can study during that wasted time sitting in front of a large or tiny screen.

And a commitment to continuing education doesn’t have to steal months or years of your free time. Many courses only run for a few weeks or months, and they often have breaks in between courses so you can catch your breath and resume your normal Netflix binging until the next course starts.

You may find that having interactions with fellow professionals and stimulating your mind is far preferrable to whatever you would have been doing, normally, and decide to take even more continuing education courses. Maybe you can even take courses with a friend in lieu of other social activities that you normally do, and learn a little more about each other as you learn professional skills.

And if your family life is just too crazy to allow you to attend classes in person, many online courses allow you to complete coursework any time you do find a few minutes to yourself–even at 11 p.m. after everyone else goes to bed.

Most time management experts have debunked the “I don’t have time” excuse when it comes to important life activities like exercising, eating healthy and–yes–continuing your education. People make time for the things that are important to them, and you will make time for continuing education if it is a priority for you to keep your professional skills up to date, take steps to learn more advanced skills, and improve yourself as a person overall.

CCSU offers a large variety of continuing education courses including professional certifications, enrichment courses, and courses on soft skills like communication and emotional intelligence in the workplace.  View all our open courses to see what we offer.

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Continuing Education Makes Both Work and Non-Work Life Better

Continuing education can help a person advance their career or learn new skills, but it is also good for minds and bodies. A recent study showed that even seniors 80 years old and older who stayed cognitively active were more than twice as unlikely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia as those who didn’t exercise their brains as lifelong learners.

Mental stimulation in the form of continuing education can be part of the cognitive activity that staves off dementia, and it starts with a lifelong commitment to continue learning which becomes such a strong habit, it isn’t broken later in life.

Non-Work Benefits of Continuing Education

The brain really is a “use it or lose it” organ. Brain studies show that certain parts of the brain shrink without regular usage, including the parts that deal with memory and problem-solving. When you stop learning, the blood flow to your brain eventually lessens, and inflammation and plaque buildup can occur.

When you’re learning new things, the benefits will spill over from better hard and soft skills at work into your non-work life as your brain responds better to all of life’s demands, from working out an optimal budget to improving your relationships to pursuing an interesting hobby. All of these non-work activities and aspects of life are enhanced by the brain exercise continuing education gives.

Formal Education vs. Informal

While it isn’t impossible to get the same brain-boosting benefits from informal education as it is from taking courses, formal continuing education courses are structured in such a way that brain benefits are nearly guaranteed, as long as students participate and engage with the material. Many people also have good intentions about self-teaching but fail to follow through the way they would in a course that takes place at certain times and places.

It’s also much less likely that you would teach yourself the same valuable skills as a continuing education course taught by an instructor who often has decades of experience in the skills you need, as well as valuable workplace experience that they use to determine which skills will have the most benefit for the workplace.

A mix of formal courses and informal educational activities like discussions with colleagues, reading books and doing research online may give the greatest benefit by strengthening the brain in different ways and meeting different educational needs. Not only could you advance in your career, but you could also reap benefits in your personal life that may be even better. And educational activities also offer the benefits of social interaction, something that also contributes to sustained overall well-being.

Continuing education courses can be a great way to continue learning new skills as well as socially interacting with people who have similar interests. CCSU offers continuing education courses in many careers as well as soft skills and recreational interests.  View open courses to see what you might enjoy learning about.

 

Ability to Work Alongside Difficult People: An Underrated Job Skill

Just about every workplace has at least one or two people who are difficult to get along with, and if you don’t have hiring and firing power, you’ll have to learn how to work effectively with them. Dealing with difficult coworkers is probably one of the most difficult skills to master, but it can be done with some patience and practice.

Walk a Mile

The first thing to do when you realize you dislike or have conflict with a coworker is to try to see the world through their eyes–to walk a mile in their shoes, as they saying goes. Try to learn more about them and what makes them tick–not for any nefarious purpose, but to see what’s behind their behavior. Maybe that extremely negative person has lost someone near and dear to them or struggles with divorce and custody issues, or suffers from chronic pain.

It may not make you like the person any better, but it may increase your patience with them and make it easier for you to treat them well despite their own behavior. Which brings you to the next main principle of dealing with difficult people.

Be the Bigger Person

No matter how someone else treats you, you need to treat them with respect and be professional in your dealings with them. It’s not about whether they “get away” with treating you badly, it’s about making sure you aren’t going to deal with any fallout from your treatment of them. You can even “stand up” to them and confront them about their behavior if you can do it politely and professionally. Being a doormat and “taking it” isn’t necessary or even advisable in many cases.

Documenting any incidents in which they treat you badly or unfairly isn’t a bad idea, because it will give you something concrete to share with your superiors if and when the timing is right. Sometimes it becomes evident to others that there’s a problem, or they cross a line that demands some action on your part to prevent harm to your career, and it helps to have documentation that it’s more than a one-time problem.

You can still handle the situation positively and with respect to everyone involved, making it clear that you’re not trying to get anyone in trouble but just want the situation to be rectified.

Be Willing to Move Forward

If you’re stuck in the last thing a difficult person did that made you upset or bothered you in some way, you won’t be as effective in your work. Being able to let things go and give people more chances to do better in the future is the best course of action and will reflect well on you in the workplace.

Sometimes it isn’t a matter of the other person being wrong and you being right, it’s just a case of different personalities or work methods. Being able to put aside your own preferences at least some of the time and compromise with others are good skills to have and will help the team function better.

If you can calmly explain your difficulty with the coworker to your supervisor or team leader without saying derogatory things against the coworker, you may be able to get some advice on what to do moving forward and how you can better deal with the situation.

CCSU offers continuing education courses in soft skills, including communicating with coworkers and interacting positively.  View open courses to see what we have to offer that may help you in your career.

6 ‘Soft’ Skills That Help You Move Ahead in Your Career

Soft skills are increasingly important in today’s workplaces–especially for those who want to advance in their careers. A recent survey of recruiters found that 94 percent thought soft skills were actually more important than technical skills in getting a promotion. Here are some soft skills that will help you move ahead in your career.

1. Adaptability.

A 2017 survey by LinkedIn found that the soft skill most valued by hiring managers was adaptability. As workplaces continue to change rapidly, the ability to adapt to those changing conditions can lead to very real differences in productivity as well as contributions to a positive work environment, which doesn’t always happen in times of great change.

2. Communication.

One of the most-often mentioned soft skills for employees, especially those who supervise others, is the ability to communicate with superiors, colleagues and subordinates. Clear communication with others in the workplace brings about order and certainty about duties, expectations, and boundaries, while unclear communication leads to chaos and confusion about what is expected.

3. Collaboration.

This soft skill takes communication to another level and is essential for project managers and team leaders because it shows that they can get a group to work together effectively. Showing that you have the skill of collaboration even before you attain a leadership position can show your potential to do so, and the LinkedIn survey ranked this skill highly in the minds of hiring managers for this reason.

4. Presentation Skills.

Public speaking scares a lot of people, but leaders need to be able to do it well, often in many different situations and circumstances. Fortunately, this is one of the most teachable soft skills, and many courses teach the skills needed to make effective presentations.

5. Time Management.

Without this soft skill, your technical skills will not be as useful as they could be and you run the very real risk of not getting your work done the way your superiors want you to. It’s very difficult to advance in your career if you can’t show that you can get your current job done in a satisfactory way. Courses and many other resources can show you how to manage your time better and maximize your productivity.

6. Problem Solving/Critical Thinking.

For some jobs, particularly technology jobs that require constant troubleshooting and upgrades, problem solving and critical thinking are part of what you will do every day, but these skills can improve your performance in just about any job by helping you do high-quality work in the best possible way and discern the best way to approach situations and tasks.

While some people think soft skills are mostly innate–you either have them or you don’t–soft skills can be taught through courses that break down the skills and show you how to build and strengthen them. CCSU offers many courses that teach and grow soft skills, which can allow you to get a promotion at your current job or even move on to another, more advanced position.  View all our open courses to see how we can help you grow your soft skills.

Professional Development Plus Recerts Equals a Stronger HR Career

HR certifications are a good way to demonstrate skills to employers and can make you stand out from other HR professionals when applying for a job. These certifications must be renewed every few years to ensure that skills are up to date and that those with certifications are exposed to new skills and ideas in the field.

Recertification usually involves taking a certain number of continuing education credits over the course of the recertification period. These courses can be used to gain new skills in the HR field or for professional development to gain an advanced degree or certification.

A Changing HR Landscape

The field of human resources is constantly changing and developing. Years ago, HR was mainly involved with onboarding new employees and dealing with benefits administration, employee reviews, and record-keeping. Now, HR can involve all of that along with career pathing, database management, grant-writing for diversity funding, compliance with anti-discrimination laws, cybersecurity protections for confidential employee data, and other new priorities.

Keeping up with these rapid changes is impossible without intentional career development through continuing education courses designed to cover these new aspects of HR comprehensively enough to master them and apply them in a job. A career in HR can be advanced through professional development that builds new skills.

Professional Development Options

While some skills can be learned through self-study programs or professional readings, mastery of these skills is best accomplished by taking continuing education courses. As those who have received them know, HR certifications are challenging, and in-person instruction with supportive classmates is a superior way to learn the material required for re-certifications.

The new ideas, information and methods offered in continuing education courses combined with the process of discussing them with faculty and classmates are indispensable parts of the professional development process, and those who are able to advance in their careers through internal or external promotions or growth as the company expands need the input of continuing education courses in order to do so.

Continuing education courses can help HR pros be better strategic partners at work and better handle organizational change, even when they aren’t facing recertification. And there may even be more advanced certifications they can earn by taking courses, which will only improve their skills even more and provide more opportunities in the field.

CCSU partners with the Human Resources Association of Central Connecticut (HRACC) and offers an HR Professional Certificate.  Classes begin in the fall and in the spring.   View our open courses to see if they can benefit you as you seek further professional development and training.

Why Continuing Education Is for Entrepreneurs Too

Being a successful entrepreneur is difficult and requires an enormous amount of work, time, and know-how. Entrepreneurs may spend months or years with their head down, working hard to make their business succeed. While they are engaged in building a business that is profitable and fills a need, the world outside continues to change.

In order to remain successful over time, entrepreneurs need to continue learning and maintain a healthy level of professional development. Continuing education is an important part of this process that many entrepreneurs may not take full advantage of.

Many entrepreneurs have mentors or belong to organizations dedicated to their fields, which are great ways to find out what is happening in the industry and form professional relationships that can help the business grow and develop. Both mentors and organizations can provide some information that will extend an entrepreneur’s knowledge and prove useful for the business, but they can’t provide the same level of skills and information that continuing education can.

Entrepreneurs Need What Continuing Education Has to Offer

Continuing education is specifically geared for updating and building on existing skills and knowledge as well as providing the latest information about a topic. Courses may be for one day or over several weeks, but give in-depth knowledge not typically available from organization meetings or mentoring sessions.

The structure of continuing education coursework is also beneficial for entrepreneurs, because it allows for discussions between students and faculty that form a valuable, collaborative environment. Where a mentor or organization mostly involves a one-on-one interaction with limited contact, continuing education courses can provide systemmatic and focused skills development over time.

Furthermore, most education courses have an objective and goals, where mentoring and organizations may be a less structured form of information gathering. Instructors are encouraged to consider what they want students to know or be able to do at the end of a course, rather than being more open-ended as other relationships, though valuable, can be.

The point isn’t to put down mentoring and organization membership–both are valuable and can sometimes provide insights and support that a continuing education course can’t. Similarly, continuing education courses can provide what these others can’t, including more comprehensive and systemmatic skills development at a greater depth.

Why take an either-or approach to professional development when a both-and approach will be the most successful and complete way of moving forward as an entrepreneur? It can be difficult to make time for continuing education when you are the CEO, marketing director, HR guru, and provide the bulk of the business’s labor as many entrepreneurs do in the early stages of many start-ups, but you may never get beyond that initial stage without learning everything you can through continuing education courses.

CCSU offers many continuing education courses entrepreneurs can use to build and grow their businesses. Contact Christa Sterling at csterling@ccsu.edu to find out about the variety of courses we offer in many different fields.

How to Be Your Own Chief Learning Officer

A Chief Learning Officer’s job is to oversee the ongoing training and continuing education of a company’s employees. The position of CLO has only existed since about 1990, when then-GE CEO Jack Welch hired Steve Kerr as the first ever CLO. Not all companies have this position as part of their C-suite, but those that do have evidenced a strong commitment to continuing education and training and realize its importance to the quality of their workforce.

CLOs may use technology to administer new forms of training like online courses, video conferencing, or software-based training. They also oversee programs like tuition reimbursement and partnerships with local colleges that could enable employees to take advantage of highly beneficial continuing education courses without paying for the courses themselves.

When Your Company Doesn’t Have a CLO

Of course, most companies don’t have a CLO, especially if they are relatively small. But even if your company doesn’t offer any kind of continuing education and only the most basic training needed to perform job duties, you can still make a plan for your own continuing education so that you get the benefits of doing so–benefits that include faster advancement, becoming qualified for jobs that pay more money, and gaining valuable soft skills that will make your work easier to navigate and more enjoyable.

The first step to becoming your own CLO is to think about what you want to accomplish with your continuing education. Goals are important in any endeavor, and continuing education is no exception. You are unlikely to accomplish what you want if you don’t think about and plan for it along the way.

Once you’ve come up with goals for what you want your continuing education to look like, you can decide on what kind of courses will meet those goals and which colleges or educational institutions offer the courses you want to take.

Is an Advanced Degree Really Necessary?

In a few cases, you will not be able to meet your career and educational goals without earning an advanced degree that will confer the expertise employers will be looking for, but in many cases, you an achieve the same end without spending tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours on a degree. The variety of continuing education courses now available has grown greatly in the past few decades, including courses that prepare students to take exams for certifications that employers look to for demonstration of skills needed for advancement.

Only you can decide whether an advanced degree would benefit your career, but continuing education can provide needed skills training and mental stimulation even if you decide a degree won’t fit your goals. As your own CLO, you can direct and oversee the training opportunities you need with or without your company’s assistance.

Central Connecticut State University’s continuing education division offers many courses to benefit those in dozens or hundreds of different careers.  View our open courses to find out whether CCSU can help you meet your continuing education goals and get the training you need to advance your career.