Whether you’re starting a small business, climbing the rungs in your current company, or just looking to get a foot in the door, it’s likely that you don’t have the time or money to pursue a formal education. Yet keeping up with the trends in your chosen field is crucial, as is learning how to market yourself most effectively.
Until recently, paying to sit in a classroom to attain that knowledge was one of your few options. But these days, technology and professional networking have made that thinking virtually obsolete. Professional associations such as NAPW and LinkedIn sponsor, produce and catalog the best of the best. So while growing your career is undeniably challenging, you truly don’t need to spend a fortune to fund ongoing education.
Webinars and Lectures
An endless supply of free educational materials is available online, given by experts, and often coordinated by organizations like NAPW. The materials range from generalized career advice to targeted information about your chosen field. Among some of the more notable resources are:
- NAPW’s video series, available on BrightTALK. This ever-expanding resource is especially geared toward advancing your career, whether it’s landing the dream job or growing a business. Look for webinar topics in the “HerizonInsights” series such as “Writing an Amazing Resume and Cover Letter” and “Building Your Brand Through LinkedIn.” You’ll also find subjects of particular interest to working women, such as “A New Approach to Managing Work-Life Balance.”
- LinkedIn’s free membership platform. This includes online classes webinars in hundreds of fields, from the latest trends for health and nutrition professionals to the testing and engineering of data systems. You may not have the time or money to attend classes in your field, but LinkedIn webinars are like a “college catalog” of free classes. (For a paid upgrade to your membership, you’ll have access to actual courses, consisting of several classes each per topic.) In addition, you’ll find a treasure trove of webinars geared to what LinkedIn does best — promoting career advancement and networking opportunities.
- TED talks. These free webinars continue to be popular among people seeking to find inspiration in their quest to become leaders. And while such talks are still a staple at TED, the website also includes hundreds of specialized topics.
Detailed reports are often generated by a corporation or business with a view toward selling a product — yet they are still useful sources of information on emerging technologies. Other white papers are prepared by universities, governmental and nonprofit agencies, or industry-specific publications.
Chances are, a simple online search for “[my professional field]” plus “white paper” will generate a wealth of documents which you can download. If you prefer hard copies, your own company may also have them in their media center, as will your local libraries.
And speaking of libraries, it’s never a bad idea to go old school with actual books! Libraries allow you free access to both print and digital books on thousands of topics. Often, what your local library doesn’t have can often be ordered for you, again at no cost, through inter-library loan.
Professional Association Resources
Professional association memberships are often without charge, or they may carry a nominal fee. Along with their networking and job-search tool opportunities, these associations’ websites are likely to have a large archive of professional development resources. That’s certainly the case with NAPW, which offers trial memberships which allow you to explore the website’s resources.
Among the NAPW educational resources are webinars and exclusive seminars, given by leaders in individual industries and by experts in achieving professional success. There’s also the increased availability to attend conferences, which are a rich mixture of inspiring keynote speeches and individualized breakout sessions on a range of topics.
Memberships in NAPW, LinkedIn and other professional associations are too easily pigeonholed as simple job-search tools — although they certainly excel in that arena. Yet, the networking and educational opportunities that come with these memberships, often at no additional costs, can’t be overlooked.