To say we are living in an unprecedented time is an understatement. When we strive to find ways to motivate our team, find connection with co-workers or jump-start ourselves into productivity no words are adequate. Many of us have taken this opportunity to reflect and, often times, reprioritize.
I have spent over a decade working within higher education. Therefore, I instinctively turn to learning to navigate this prioritizing process. In many conversations with colleagues, mentors and leaders across industries recently, I quickly realized I am not alone in this strategy.
We all have those in our network who recently completed dozens of brief, online trainings. This increased desire to set oneself apart through learning has been bolstered by the many resources that have become free or extremely affordable over the past months. However, it is important to always evaluate the source of these opportunities. Accredited institutions complete a rigorous process to ensure quality. Even when a course does not hold college credit or is delivered through an outside entity, all offerings at an accredited school are vetted by those who contribute to upholding educational standards.
For those transitioning careers, colleges and universities have thoughtfully scheduled direct-to-career coursework in the coming months. Agencies like the Lake County Workforce Development Department offer substantial financial and support services to complete a degree at partner colleges. By working with local resources, jobseekers can gain a quality education, ample guidance in their search and subsequently greater marketability in a new career.
While some people are looking to differentiate themselves on the job market, others are desperately searching for a way to make ends meet. Then there are those who have become aware of how their experiences might serve their community. For example, an accountant may consider lending her talents to a nonprofit or securing a teaching certificate to aid schools struggling to fill vacated positions. Or after realizing the expanding necessity for mental health resources, a successful consultant may begin a graduate counseling program. We are surrounded by those deciding to prioritize the needs of their community.
Our own backyard holds remarkable education providers to assist us in accomplishing these new career aims. At the University Center of Lake County alone, there are multiple teaching licensure programs and degrees at both undergraduate and graduate levels for those interested in nonprofit management or counseling. The College of Lake County offers constantly expanding health care programs in both noncredit and short certificates to ready graduates for work in clinical settings or to deliver services through telehealth.
Lake County abounds with learning opportunities. But these institutions provide even more than credentials and career programs. Perhaps you would benefit from engaging with dormant interests. Or, you may want to gain a deeper understanding of the background leading to our current events. At other times, I would have likely turned to a TED Talk or a new book to fulfill these desires. Now, human connection has become a much more coveted experience. An online painting class or talking about a particular social issue in a course at my local college is a much more appealing prospect.
As we look for new ways to motivate and engage colleagues, and ourselves, a dedicated learning space with fellow community members may be the perfect solution. More importantly, this intentional moment for learning may guide us to better understand our values, aspirations and society. Deeper learning, and investment in the local providers of that education, can only help us as we strive to break away from our current situation to a place even better than before.
• Laura Asbury is manager, Professional Development at College of Lake County in Grayslake.