6 Ways Continuing Education Can Help You Grow (Not Just Intellectually)

If you’ve been looking for ways to jump into something new, to go down a different career path or just to improve your intellectual abilities, continuing education may have crossed your mind. You may be in a career that helps to cover the costs of additional education, or you might just be ready to move into a new position. Regardless of where you stand, there are many other benefits of continuing education that you may not have considered yet. If you’re on the fence, consider the following ways that continuing your education can help you grow:

1) Gain More Fulfillment

You might see your professional career as what you do to get by, how you pay the bills. But, chances are it’s much more than that. The average American adult works 100,000 hours over the course of a lifetime — that’s a lot of time to just be “getting by.”

If you’re dissatisfied in your career, feel like you could be doing more or feel like you’re simply punching a time card, you could be missing out on an important aspect of life: self-fulfillment. Because your career is part of your identity — whether you’d like to admit it or not — finding a way to better yourself in that career, like by pursuing additional education, could help you feel more fulfilled. Why not give it a try?

2) Enhance Your Network

In today’s world, professional networks matter. While the unemployment rate is lower than it has been in some time, there are still 8.3 million Americans out there searching for jobs. In fact, the average listing has 118 applicants. This means that the old adage “it’s all in who you know,” probably holds truer than ever.

If you’re considering looking for a new job in the future, your professional network is critical for success. By going back to school or pursuing continuing education, you won’t be alone. Instead, you’ll be taking courses and attending events with other professionals who have connections at various workplaces and in different fields. By working together on projects and assignments, you’ll really get to know them, giving your network a boost for when you may need it most.

3) Practice Jumping Out of Your Comfort Zone

As humans, we’re creatures of comfort. We find things we’re good at, and we do them repetitively — that’s life. We like to know what’s happening tomorrow and the day after that. Even if we’re not overly excited for it, at least we know what’s coming. If this comfort zone relates to your career, it could easily cause you to fall into a rut — it’s science.

In 1908, psychologists Yerkes and Dodson found that a state of comfort creates a steady level of performance. However, to improve upon that steady level of improvement and to grow, feeling some level of anxiety — stepping outside of the comfort zone — is critical. Working toward continuing education, in any format, can add in this level of anxiety. It pulls us away from what we find comforting and allows us to reach for more. Don’t miss out on the importance of jumping out of your standard comfort zone.

4) Learn in Order to Change

Sometimes, continuing education is required to grow or change beyond your current state of employment. If you’d like to try something new, to pursue a different career path altogether or to advance into a better role, continuing education might be essential. In certain fields and roles, especially management roles, higher degrees are a basic requirement. This means that if you’d like to advance without limits in your career, continuing your education may not be a choice — it might be a necessity.

Concerned about the cost? It’s a balancing act. In many cases, working toward a higher degree helps graduates land higher-paying positions, which negates any extra debt that may be incurred. This is something to consider if you’re unsure of how to proceed. Remember, to move up the ladder, you may have to commit to learning more.

5) Strengthen Your Existing Abilities

For many professions — like nursing and accounting — certifications require continuing education courses to remain licensed. In others — like construction — certifications allow professionals to learn new skills, to improve upon existing abilities and to have a little more to offer than the competition.

What this means is that continuing education isn’t just designed to teach new skills. It’s also designed to help professionals improve upon what they already bring to the table. In these cases, continuing education strengthens existing skills and knowledge bases without the commitment of a full-time program.

6) Learn to Learn

Your college days may be long gone. Maybe you see this as a good thing, but maybe you long for that sense of constant learning that you used to find yourself in. Because of the variety of programs continuing education offers, there are many opportunities for adult professionals to jump back into learning again.

When you practice learning, you become a lifelong learner in and out of your career. While there is science to back up the benefits of learning, it’s safe to say that it makes adapting to new responsibilities at work or picking up new routines easier than if you’re out of practice. Learning puts you back in the mindset that got you to where you are in the first place. Simply put, continuing education can help you learn to learn again, which is beneficial for all areas of life.

The bottom line is that continuing education is more than a degree, extra certificate or weekend course. It’s a way to enhance what you bring to the table, who you are as a person and who you are as a professional. If you’re looking for a boost, continuing education might be exactly what you need.