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Continuing Education and Continuing to Be Awesome

by Lies'l Hill | May 8, 2017

I’ve been out of school so much longer than I realize. People often ask if I’m in college because apparently I look younger, (cool, I’ll take it!) but in reality I graduated 5 years ago. FIVE?! Again, maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it sure feels like a lot to me… So now I am in that weird ambiguous land of constantly asking myself, “Should I go to grad school?” At the moment, this idea seems both wonderful and terrifying. Wonderful because I am one of those weirdos who absolutely LOVES to learn. Terrifying because #studentloans and #homework. I feel like I barely have enough time in my week to go grocery shopping, let alone write an 80-page thesis.

I’m sure there are many 20, 30, and 40-somethings that also feel this way -- especially if you also share my intense love of learning. So what are our options to try to stay sharp about the goings-on in our fields? Actually… it turns out there are lots of cool options and opportunities to stay actively involved in learning. And though that might look different for you depending on your field, financial things, time to dedicate, and so forth, I thought I’d share my ideas for things to consider.

  1. Workshops. You’d be surprised at the amount of one or two-day, or even one-off night workshops that happen in your area. They are relatively easy to search for (again, depending on your field of interest/work), and can provide a cool and interesting way to A.) Get out of work for a day for an approved reason, and B.) Learn something new and meet new people for a non-committal amount of time. I would also encourage you to explore themes and topics that might be slightly off your beaten path, but still encompass your interests in some way. You never know who you’ll meet or what ideas you will spark.
  2. Conferences. You guys...conferences are so fun. Yes it’s about learning and getting awesome free materials for your office/classroom/business/studio, but more importantly, you get to meet and connect with awesome humans that care about the same things you do. I can’t tell you how many “conference friends” I have that I literally only see once a year or every other year, and then the special occasions that we are in each other’s geographic area. It is so neat to meet people and network with humans that do not learn and work in your same area. It’s eye-opening and thought provoking. To me, learning from other people is the best way to learn. That is not to discount all the awesome interest sessions, panels, keynotes, concerts (if applicable), workshops, and demonstrations that are sure to be present at conferences as well. Added bonus: getting out of town for a bit.
  3. Newsletters. I know this might sound lame. And I hate getting bombarded with emails as much as the next guy. However, I have found out about A LOT of cool events happening in my area because of evites. The best thing to do is find organizations in your area that either host or advertise regularly about opportunities in your field. This requires you to do a little bit of searching, but is totally worth your time. I encourage you to seek out new outlets that you may not have heard of or may not be familiar with. THIS is where you find all the cool, underground, and unique opportunities. Search the interwebs and send some emails asking for suggestions for people or organizations! People are always willing to share and help. Also, if worst comes to worst and you end up not liking a particular newsletter, all ya gotta do is unsubscribe.
  4. Articles. Along the same line as newsletters which often provide some cool reading things, seeking out cool articles or signing up for a magazine or online platform that piques your interest helps you stay savvy and up-to-date. It kinda goes along with my previous statement (though a personal opinion), but I think learning from other humans is the best. Learning through their experiences, hearing a new voice and point of view, giving you something new to ponder...all good things. Having a platform of articles and news at your fingertips that involves your field and interests is key to learning more from a wider audience and staying in the loop.

Some of these ideas might seem obvious, but then again, they may not be things you have thought about in a while. I firmly believe that no matter where you are in your professional journey, there are outlets for continuing education that are for you. Everyone can always learn something new. And if you ever hit a point where you think you don’t have anything else to learn, it’s time to quit. (Idea being: it’s impossible!)

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