Whether you are broadening your career path, switching careers or expanding your industrial knowledge, there are several resources to guide you. To achieve the best results, set some initial goals, explore resources and seek insight from experts.
Explore Learning Paths
Choosing the best learning path depends on a number of factors, such as your schedule and what you plan to do with the knowledge. Consider establishing learning goals, even if they’re high-level at first, to help you choose the right resources and map out a timeline. Think about the specific skills you need as well as the broader skills such as decision-making and critical analysis you want to enhance. Be flexible as you learn more and adjust your goals as needed.
An important consideration is your learning style. Do you learn better with a structured program? Do you like collaborating with other students and professionals as you learn? Is it helpful to see concepts demonstrated by a person versus just reading books? Regardless of how you choose to learn, make sure the resources provide up-to-date information and applicable insight. You don’t want to spend time reading about outdated theories and techniques that you can’t apply.
Talk to people in the industry you want to explore. Check out local professional meetings, attend a conference or talk with counselors of relevant university programs. If you’re just starting to explore, consider watching webinars to give you a general sense of the concepts and technologies in areas of interest.
Earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree
If you’re ready to take a major step, an MBA provides you with a structured path that deepens your knowledge, connects you to experts and boosts your career. Look for a faculty with diverse entrepreneurial experiences who know how to apply academic concepts to actual business situations. Identify programs that provide frequent opportunities for collaboration and a solid alumni program that enable you to forge strong connections.
Another attribute to look for is an international focus. Understanding global trade concepts, compliance issues, and best practices are key in almost any industry today. Even if your current role doesn’t have an international focus, chances are you will be in a role during your career where you’ll need this knowledge.
Check out the profiles of leaders in your desired industry to see where they obtained their degrees. As you research MBA programs, you don't need to limit your search to the universities in your area. Some programs, such as the USC online MBA, offer flexibility while connecting you virtually with other students, faculty and other experts in the field.
Join a Professional Organization
Most industries, ranging from human resources to finance to electrical engineering, have professional organizations. They offer rich online resources and local chapters in many cities and at some universities. You can learn about emerging topics, find educational resources, and network with others.
One such example is IEEE, which provides events, standards guidance, training, and other resources for many technical industries through a number of professional societies. While IEEE started as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, it has expanded to a wide array of technologies and uses only its four-letter acronym in most cases. To find the most relevant organizations in your industry of interest, search online or ask colleagues.
Attend a Professional Meeting or Conference
Professional meetings and conferences include talks about relevant topics and opportunities to network with other professionals. Often, speakers will describe how their companies are implementing an emerging process or technology. This can give you insight into the benefits and pain points that you might encounter in your business pursuits.
Networking activities include roundtables where people introduce themselves and opportunities to mingle informally. Leverage this time to ask for people’s insight into the best training resources and to make new business connections. If you can’t attend in person, check to see if a meeting is broadcast online or if some sessions will be posted afterward. You can find out about meetings and conferences through professional organizations, colleagues, and online searches. Some industrial organizations and casual learning groups post their meetings on Meetup.com in the Career and Business section.
Take an Online Class
Online classes are available through some universities, professional associations and online learning companies. While specific classes can’t provide the deep structure and collaboration of a degreed program, they can help you explore areas that you’re thinking about studying more deeply, learn the terminology and supplement your skillset. Some also offer a learning path. Some organizations charge on a per-course basis and others have subscription plans.
Explore Library Resources
Libraries provide access to career, trade, and industry resources for in-person reading, checkout and online research. These resources can help you narrow down a learning path, understand an industry better and research which skills are most applicable for specific careers and industries.
Library resources range from magazines to heavy books to online databases for trade and industry information. Some university libraries also provide public access during some hours or to some collections. Many public and university libraries belong to networks that enable you to request assets from other locations. Consult your library’s website for more details.
Watch Webinars and Videos
Webinars are a good way to get a taste of a specific concept or technology. They can give you insight into trends and help you decide if you want to dive deeper into an area. If you’re interested in manufacturing, for example, the National Association of Manufacturers provides short webinars and interviews with industry experts. For inspirational ideas and thought leadership, the TED Talks video channel provides interesting speeches.
If you’re ready to expand your knowledge about business and industry, there are lots of resources and learning methods to help you get there. Just make sure you keep your goals in mind and look for quality guidance that will help you effectively achieve them.