Education Always A Wise Investment
by Patrick Cataldo, Associate Dean for Executive Education
Lifelong learning is more than just an educational buzzword. It's a philosophy and a process that keeps your skills current and ready for the latest challenges. Whether it's challenging the status quo or transforming for the future, investments in broadening your thinking always pay dividends.
If you think about it, though, tough times may offer the best opportunity for companies as well as individuals to add to their skills and knowledge base.
There's no doubt that we are still facing months of economic strife. In a recent article in Eye on the Markets, Jerry Webman, senior investment officer and chief economist for the Oppenheimer Funds, wrote: "The second half of 2009 will mark the official end of the recession, the trough in the economy following more than 20 months of damage. ... For many Americans, conditions are likely to feel quite recessionary heading into 2010. This was not a normal recession, nor will there be the sharp cyclical recovery we've come to expect."
Regardless of your feelings about the recession, you should consider a variety of options for additional education and training. It makes perfect sense to do so.
The most forward-thinking corporations have not stopped their ongoing internal or external investments in growing future leaders. For companies to continue to prosper, it's not only about being more cost efficient and effective but also about making learning investments to shape their future thinking and strategy. Two recent examples are:
The CEO and the senior leadership team of a leading Pennsylvania-based franchise food service business engaged Penn State Executive Programs to help create the vision for the next stage of the company's success.
The process is based on two two-day sessions on campus, group projects on critical strategic imperatives, coaching to translate innovative ideas into tactical plans, and integration into the overall budgeting and organizational planning process. Using key faculty as a catalyst for transformation and doing it in an academic setting provides an unencumbered environment where executives can apply their best thinking to the "art of the possible."
A financial services institution supported its ongoing leadership development efforts internally with a half-day program focused on employee engagement for 50 high-potential leaders. The program identified employee engagement challenges and opportunities and ended with a planning session of actions that could be implemented immediately back on the job.
While companies may be more selective in tough economic times on educational development efforts, they make them to encourage broader thinking, to grow their key talent, and to maintain a level of teamwork and commitment to the business.
Individuals must do the same in order to be prepared for the upturn when it comes. For some, that may mean going back to business school to earn an advanced degree. Investing in an MBA degree offers additional career flexibility and can help to refocus or even change occupations. With the increase in application volumes, the competition for slots in the top business schools will remain fierce. The time and effort, historically, has been worth the investment as advanced degrees have led to higher-level jobs in larger corporations.
Whatever and wherever the lifelong learning journey takes you, those who commit to advancing their education and increasing their skills and knowledge base will achieve greater returns when good times arrive.
This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times.