Whether you’re looking to land your dream job or future-proof yourself in the time of mass layoffs, continuing education is a powerful place to start.
Continuing education is fantastic for helping you keep up-to-date on trends, stay competitive, build a network, expand your skill set, enhance your creativity, and increase your job opportunities. But it can mean many things, from soaking up a podcast or book to attending a workshop, securing a mentorship, or getting certifications and advanced degrees.
With limited time, you’re probably wondering: Which continuing education route will be most worth my while?
Attendees of the Craft Marketing event on March 27th got to hear the answer to this question and more from a panel of experts: Ace Hilliard, Academic Advisor at UW-Madison, Hailie Rivera, HR Generalist at Sonic Foundry, and continuing education success story Alyssa Spiel, Associate Manager, Claims & Product Experience at SC Johnson.
In their presentation, Ace, Hailie, and Alyssa shared their unique perspectives on the value of continuing education and how marketers can best utilize it to crush their career goals. Read on to get advice from all three of them:
Ace: How to find the right path to meet your goals.
Hailie: How to position your continuing education experiences to catch a recruiter’s eye.
Alyssa: How continuing education helped her reach her career goals and get hired at one of her dream companies. Plus, her tips for fellow marketers looking to start their continuing education journeys.
How to Find the Right Continuing Education Path for You
To find your ideal continuing education path, Ace Hilliard recommends following these steps:
- Assessment and Reflection
To pinpoint your ultimate career goals, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where do you want to go in your career?
- Can you see yourself enjoying your current role forever?
- What skills do you have right now?
- What’s the “why” or purpose driving your current work? In other words, why do you want to build your current skill set or develop an entirely new one?
- Research and Strategize
Determine what qualifications are needed to reach your dream position. Whether your vision involves getting a promotion or changing your line of work altogether, hirers want the most efficient hire. That’s why you’ll become the most marketable by acquiring as many job qualifications as you can.
- Plan and Execute
As we just acknowledged, your skill wishlist might be intimidating, but you can’t afford to postpone your efforts. Ace recommends planning to find ways to insert continuing education into your daily life. You’ll likely need to make adjustments and reprioritize to ensure it happens, but you just need to do it.
Ace’s bonus tips:
- Maintain a running resume. This way, it’ll be ready when you need it, which will greatly relieve the stress of the job hunt. It’ll also ensure you don’t forget to include any skills or achievements you’ve made in your career thus far.
- Keep your relationships active. At least once a year, get together with key people from your network. Think of the business professionals who you might like to add as references for future job applications. If you don’t interact with them until you need a reference, that connection won’t be as solid.
- Do a digital cleanup. Google yourself. If anything pops up that you don’t want future employers to see, wipe it from the internet.
- Don’t ignore your emotional intelligence. If you feel unhappy in your job, let yourself feel those feelings right now. If you try to ignore these resentments, you’ll carry them as a chip on your shoulder to future job interviews.
How to Make Your Continuing Education Efforts Pay Off
Now it’s time to make sure your continuing education efforts pay off. Drawing from her perspective as a recruiter, Hailie shared the following pieces of advice:
Don’t Keep Your Efforts a Secret
When you complete a form of continuing education, don’t be discrete about it. Add it to your LinkedIn profile, tell your manager, and make a LinkedIn post about it to share your achievement with your network. Don’t just announce it, either, be sure to explain your top takeaways, how it’ll impact your role going forward, and any new ideas you’re planning to try out.
Letting the world know you’re learning new skills can even give you a leg-up on potential promotions and even decrease your chances of getting laid off when there’s not enough work to go around.
Demonstrate Your Efforts’ Impact
Regardless of your continuing education path, you need to be able to demonstrate the impact this endeavor has had on your career. This skill will come in handy during interviews, filling out job applications, and when you’re optimizing your LinkedIn profile. Being as specific as possible is key. Hailie favors the XYZ equation: “I accomplished X as measured by Y by doing Z.”
Hailie also emphasized that big-name degrees aren’t necessarily the end all be all of continuing education. What really matters is how you market your degree and connect it to your desired job.
Use Your LinkedIn Profile Strategically
Some experiences and qualifications don’t have a home on a traditional resume, like leadership and many forms of continuing education. LinkedIn is an excellent way to show off your personality and spotlight your leadership experience, projects you’re proud of, and continuing education achievements you’ve made that are less resume-friendly.
Hailie also recommends optimizing your LinkedIn profile so it’s as searchable and eye-catching for recruiters as possible. The most powerful way to do this is by placing job-specific skills prominently on your profile. You can do this in three ways:
- Ensure the Skills Section towards the end of your profile page is filled out. Select the top 5-7 skills you have, and make sure they align with the qualifications of the jobs you want.
- Use your Job Title, or the editable text under your name strategically. Hailie advises against just typing in your official position title and using it to brand yourself in a way that aligns with your desired jobs.
- Let your About Me both show your personality and demonstrate your skills and how they connect to your desired jobs.
Hailie’s bonus tips:
- Don’t underestimate the power of networking on LinkedIn. You can comment or like a connection’s post or direct message them an article you think they may enjoy.
- If you’re ever approached about a new job opportunity, say yes, even if you’re happy in your current role. Doing so can give you insights on what else is out there, where your pay and benefits stand, and skill sets you might find value in adding.
Advice from a Continuing Education Success Story
Alyssa Spiel’s continuing education journey not only led her to crush her career goals but it landed her a job in one of her top three dream companies, SC Johnson. During the presentation, Alyssa shared her story and her advice for marketers considering a similar path.
After getting an undergraduate degree from UW-Madison in English and Journalism, Alyssa took her first post-graduate job at an ad agency as a media planner. Soon after, she moved to a tech startup as an account manager. During this job, she got to experience communications-related work, which helped her discover her true calling: marketing. She then got hired as a marketing project manager at a new company, which led to a promotion to Marketing Manager. Around this time, Alyssa got involved in AMA-Madison, becoming a board member and later, president, which helped her build her network and discover her fascination with product-based marketing and branding. This was a shift in focus, as she had worked in service marketing up until this point. That’s when it hit her: to fulfill her goals, she needed to go back to school.
Alyssa had known for some time that she wanted to go back to school, but the time finally felt right in early to mid 2020. She enrolled in an MBA program at UW-Madison through the Center for Brand and Product Management. She chose to do a 2-year full-time program, which helped her focus more and get the most out of the program. Outside of regular classes, Alyssa benefitted from her program’s weekly interview sessions, which helped her improve her interviewing skills. She also found the MBA program to be a launching pad for networking, as it was made up of faculty and alums representing countless big companies with good reputations. She completed her program in May of 2022 and now works at SC Johnson, working on the brand and product expression team. In her role, she gets to identify what brand stories will resonate with audiences and how this will translate to product claims and marketing communications. This position has allowed her to hit two career goals: work on product and branding marketing and experience working for a large company.
Alyssa’s bonus tips:
- It’s never too late to go back to school. Although most of her classmates were in their 20s with some freshly out of college, Alyssa found that having more experience in the field was incredibly valuable. This knowledge helped her put new concepts into context and understand their application on a deeper level.
- Continuing education through AMA-Madison was a vital part of how she stood out in her MBA application and in job interviews. Having leadership experience through AMA-Madison provided her with quality answers to questions, and it added some variety so she wasn’t just drawing from experiences at her most recent job.
- To make networking events less intimidating, preselect two people who will be attending the event. Look them up on LinkedIn and come up with talking points you can pull from ahead of time. This will allow you to have more meaningful conversations with them and put you at greater ease.
See You at Garth’s Brew Bar for April’s Craft Marketing
Craft Marketing invites you to its next live in-person event at Garth’s Brew Bar in Madison at 5:00 PM on April 24th, presented by Brian Lee on how to prepare a crisis communications plan, from the roles of your marketing and creative departments to examples of good and bad ways companies have responded to crises. And as always, you’ll get to network with your peers and enjoy a delicious craft beer.
You can register here. We hope to see you there!
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About the Author
Kara Martin, Content Writer at Naviant, specializes in written B2B content, from case studies to blogs and beyond. She transforms complex technical information into compelling, data-driven content that helps organizations turn their digital transformation goals into a reality.