7 Ways to Educate Yourself Without Going Back to School

Graphic of student learning from home

You know the only way to advance in your career is to keep bettering yourself. But, you’re bored with your current professional development go-tos and you’re looking for new ways to grow as a person and as a professional.

Don’t stress — there are so many ways to educate yourself outside of a classroom. Here are our seven favorite options for growth, with many being free!

1. Read

One of the easiest ways to gain knowledge is by reading. Grab your library card, download a new read to your Kindle, do a curbside pickup from your local independent bookstore, and then immerse yourself.

Now, you may think: I’ve read all the self-development books out there (I promise, you really haven’t). That’s okay, in today’s digital landscape, there are so many other methods of reading for you. Read blogs, download ebooks, subscribe to email newsletters, and scrutinize case studies.

2. Listen

Want to give your eyes a rest? Make your ears do the heavy lifting. There are so many podcasts and audiobooks that can help you further your career. Search out topics in the mortgage industry, or widen your range with general business topics. If it’s possible that you can get tired of listening, consider even starting your own podcast, and interview people that you’d love to learn from.

Julie Neale, host of the Mother’s Quest podcast, says, “Creating my own podcast and inviting guests on who can shine a light on the areas where I know I want to grow has been transformational!”

3. Watch

At this point, your eyes might be rested up, though you may feel a little too lazy to pick up another book. Get your brain fix with video this time. Your TV programming and any video subscription service will have many different shows and videos to get you learning about something new, or something you’ve been wanting to study for some time now.

If you want to have more control over what you’re learning, head to YouTube, the world’s second-largest search engine on the internet. Here you can take a deep dive into TEDx Talks, or watch videos from business coaches or infopreneurs on any topic that would further your career the fastest.

4. Gather

Ah, don’t you miss the days where you could attend in-person events? While most of your usual educational opportunities are temporarily on pause, keep an eye out for socially-distanced lectures or lunch-and-learns on topics relevant to your field.

And while in-person educational or networking events are far and few these days, there are many opportunities to engage digitally. Online summits or challenges can help you expand your skills (especially in regards to using social media for work, but of course any topic) are often a free or low-cost option for learning.

5. Hire

If you know the type of help you need, go out there and hire someone to help you. A business coach can be instrumental in your career.

Life coach Jenni Schubring says, “My coach is constantly stretching me on my own personal growth.” 

It’s also not necessary that your “hires” cost money either. A mentor is a great way to boost your skills without returning to the classroom. Who can you connect with in your field, or even in your own organization, that is more advanced than you? Reach out, and ask if they’d be willing to mentor you. Not sure? Ask your direct supervisor for suggestions of people you can turn to for mentoring.

6. Apply

Apprenticeships are great ways to work with a mentor, while also learning the peculiarities of your future job. If you’re looking to advance in the mortgage industry, ask your supervisor if there are any apprentice-like opportunities to move up the career ladder while still getting all the training you need.

Or, better yet, apply for a job that feels just outside of your comfort zone. Then, make sure to get the training you need as you begin.

7. Buy

There are many other places you can look for courses other than your local college or university. Search online for what you’re looking to learn, and there will definitely be options for products or services you can buy that will help. Looking to learn or get better at speaking a different language? There are programs and apps for that. Want to improve your social media skills or get more testimonials on LinkedIn? You simply have to search. In fact, you’ll probably find more options than you know what to do with. Do your research before buying so you’re confident you’ll get your money’s worth.

And remember, you can find courses that don’t cost a thing. Danielle Kempe says, “Coursera has a bunch of free awesome courses and my library offers Lynda trainings for free, too.”

There are always ways to grow as a person and as a professional. Whatever you do, don’t stay stagnant in your career — push yourself to learn and grow. You’ll thank yourself later.

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Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila is a content strategist and writer who believes in the power of words and how a message can inform — and even transform — its intended audience. Reach out to her on Instagram at @ErinOllila, or visit her website erinollila.com.