Over the past few weeks, kids across the country have started heading back to school, prepared for their classes with new highlighters and spiral notebooks in every color. No matter our age, this period of early fall brings with it the feeling of a reset. Even if we're not headed for a classroom, this a great time to take stock of our educational goals for the next year.

According to a Pew Research study, "87% of workers believe it will be essential for them to get training and develop new job skills throughout their work life in order to keep up with changes in the workplace." To keep up with changing workforce needs brought about by technology, professional development has become a necessity for employees.

So what are your plans for back to school? Start by thinking about the outcome you hope to gain from these additional skills, and it may help to determine your path.

Major Career Change

According to a recent study by Dale Carnegie Training, 41% of Americans polled either intend to look for a new job within the next year or are actively looking. For anyone looking to switch jobs, adding additional skills and certifications can be a major differentiator on a resume.

However, if you are looking to explore a major career change, it may require a new degree. A U.S. News & World Report article about evaluating masters programs urges those looking at graduate degrees to get to know the industry they want to work in well: "Interview individuals in the field you are considering. Ask if you can 'shadow' them for a few hours." Also ask them about their educational background and which skills have served them best.

Minor Pivot

According to the Pew Research study, "Roughly seven-in-ten (72%) say 'a lot' of responsibility falls on individuals to make sure that they have the right skills and education to be successful in today's economy." In other words, we're all responsible for keeping up with the demands of our careers as time goes on.

Look for continuing education courses at local universities or scan the internet for online courses. Companies like General Assembly specialize in training professionals for digital careers in fields like coding and digital marketing, but also offer workshops in topics like blogging or understanding Wordpress that can help employees understand the rapidly changing digital landscape without dedicating their careers to it. Sites like Skillshare and Coursera offer a subscription model, allowing you to take unlimited courses in areas of interest.

Lifelong Growth

One of the best ways to ensure that your drive for new skills and knowledge directly supports your goals is to make learning a daily habit.

There is no denying the benefits of reading for children and adults alike. Reading daily allows you to continue to grow your knowledge base while also keeping your brain sharp as you age. Keeping up with a daily reading habit helps you pick up new ideas, learn about new industry trends, and better understand other people. In the short run, it is the simplest and most cost-effective means of continuing your education and broadening your skills.

Whether you're looking to launch in a completely new direction or simply tack on a new skill or two, the back-to-school season is the perfect time for an honest assessment of the skills you need to gain to reach your professional goals. So as the kids return to school, take some time to put yourself in their shoes and make learning a priority.

Published on: Sep 7, 2017