We’re safely into summer, and for most recent graduates (unless you’re gearing up to pursue another degree this fall), the last thing you’re probably thinking about is how to continue your education once you’ve finished school.
But for many of us, especially those who have been out of school for 5, 10, 15, even 50 years, can start to get a little antsy. The working world—or “adulting,” as the kids call it these days—easily becomes monotonous and sometimes even downright discouraging.
I graduated college with my Bachelor’s in 2016, and although getting my Master’s is something I’d like to pursue in the future, I’m in no (financial) situation to do so now. Yet, I find myself longing for the feeling of learning new things, having that “light bulb” moment when suddenly, something you’ve been struggling to grasp makes perfect sense. And while there are opportunities to learn in my current full-time job, it’s not the same as gathering in a circle to discuss literature and humanity and cultural and sociopolitical phenomena.
It’s important to remember there are things you can do to continue your education once you graduate, though, and these things don’t necessarily involve sitting at a desk at an assigned time while an instructor talks at you. If you look hard enough (and sometimes get creative), there are all kinds of things you can do to push yourself intellectually:
- First, determine what’s in demand in today’s workforce. Some people know they want to continue their education and have a clear path forward. Though, not everyone has this much clarity. We may know we want to do more but aren’t sure what that is yet. For others, the option for continued education is presented on a golden platter whether that’s military education benefits, employer sponsored education, or tuition reimbursement. If the last two scenarios sound like you, do your research first! Find out what’s in demand and what you can do with a degree before blinding trudging through a traditional degree path. Organizational leadership for example, is one such area. In today’s ever distracted world, businesses need individuals who can lead employees to successful output for their companies all while utilizing the latest breakthroughs and technologies. According to Maryville University, “jobs for online leadership degree grads will increase faster than average for all other occupations.” The point? Think ahead. Finding out what’s needed at your organization, for the next generation, or for the next decade.
- Check out online classes. Perhaps the most obvious thing you can do to continue your education is to do it the traditional way. Unfortunately, most working people can’t afford to put their jobs on hold and go back to school full-time, which is why online programs are becoming more and more popular. Nearly every school has virtual classes you can sign up to take, and there are even some universities that operate completely online. Many employers will even help you pay for tuition—perhaps you can present to your boss how you getting an online degree will help the company.
- Sign up for a conference/lecture. Lectures and conferences are great networking events and serve as a way to meet industry experts. Oftentimes more personal than a traditional classroom setting, conferences usually benefit all types of learners (auditory, visual, and hands-on) thanks to their various workshops. Check out this article for ways to find networking events in your city or search Conference Monkey for conferences, workshops, exhibitions, fairs, and tradeshows.
- Find/become a mentor. How many times has your teacher friend told you they don’t just teach their students, their students teach them as well? That’s because it’s true—you learn so much by teaching others. Reach out to your university’s alumni network about becoming a mentor for a current student. There are so many benefits that reach beyond just knowing that you helped someone. It is just as beneficial to seek out your own mentor, as well. They can bring their unique perspective and experiences to help you see your career or your education in a different light. We can learn so much from simply spending time with other people.
- Experiment with freelance work. The only thing more fun than learning is getting paid while learning! Dip your feet into freelance work if you’re looking for ways to challenge yourself, while simultaneously pursuing a passion and growing your experience in a particular field. Plus, with freelance work, you can be your own boss. Experiment and learn, without the hassle of someone breathing down your neck. If you work 40 hours a week as an accountant, but you’ve always enjoyed graphic design, put an ad out on Fiverr or Upwork and showcase your talents. Oftentimes, the best way to learn is to keep practicing, so freelancing is a great way to learn more about an industry in which you may not necessarily work.
- Book a plane ticket. My semester of study abroad taught me more than 16 years of formal education ever did. Immersing yourself in a foreign country can especially get you reconsidering your worldview. If you have the financial means, I encourage everyone to visit a different country at least once in your life. Even taking a road trip and seeing a different part of your own country can be beneficial in teaching your mind to learn and try new things. You will almost always come back from a trip feeling inspired and challenged.
The possibilities of continuing your education once you enter the working world are limitless; you just have to find the way that works for you. Whether it’s dedicating some time after work to do some virtual learning, carving out some time on the weekends to meet up with other likeminded individuals, or setting aside part of your summer to travel, there are tons of ways to expand your mind and deepen your understanding of the world.
This post was originally featured on onMogul.com.