College and university marketing of professional development and adult degree programs truly begins in the human resources (HR) office of an individual’s company. The bias of an HR director toward the Seven Sisters, Ivy Leagues, Christian schools, state schools, liberal arts or community colleges will shape how a professional views his or her prospective career development and educational path.
What if the path is wrong for that professional? What if the professional would have thrived in a women’s executive leadership course, but is in a professional program where the only leaders are male? What if the individual really needs to spend a couple of years maturing socially and intellectually at a community college certificate program but is steered toward a more academically challenging MBA institution? How can professionals counteract an HR director’s advice if it is not good for their career?
Ultimately, professional development is a deeply personal endeavor. According to Kirk Baumann, a recruiting specialist and vice president of career services at Enactus, you are the master of your own career path and should have the ability and freedom to engage in whatever learning opportunities you feel will get you further in your careers.
Know Thy Options
There are many professional development programs available, both online and in person, so it is important for you to have done research before considering the options the HR office may recommend. If your company is paying for internal training, it is understood you would take the recommended training, but if your company expects you to seek training in addition to, or instead of, training in-house, it is essential to research and know your options.
While setting your own learning path is important, it is necessary to be a good steward of both the time and money invested in your career growth if your company is paying for your professional development opportunities.
Know Thy Future
If you are seeking a degree program to advance your career, the stakes are even higher than for a weekend professional conference, week-long leadership workshop or six-week class.
If you follow HR’s advice and take out a large amount in student loans to go to their prestigious and expensive alma mater, you need to make sure your future career options will be able to justify the up-front costs as well as the expense of any loans needed. In addition, a reality check must be taken to understand if you are up to the academic challenges of a prestigious institution, possibly while also working full-time and managing your family life.
As a non-traditional student, you may very well be academically and financially able to attend your HR representative’s recommended college or one that is even more prestigious but, again, it is important to do some research to see if your budget, future learning potential and current academic strengths are a match for the recommended school. Another question is whether an online, in-class or hybrid program is more practical given your work hours.
Along with the question of whether you desire an academic challenge or a refresher series of courses at a community college, ask HR and others in your desired profession if you really need a master’s, bachelor’s or associate’s degree. Or, if you already have a degree, does your career advancement depend on a CPA or other professional license? It is important to know which degree or professional program is best suited or required for the future career you envision.
While HR may be one of your first stops on the journey of furthering your education through professional development, there is no need to make this decision alone. There are many others who have had to make these decisions and who may have stories to share. Of course, what worked for them may not be the right plan for you, but you will be a more educated consumer when you go back to HR with an education plan in mind.
There are many arguments for and against prestigious schools, as there are for community colleges. Just like high school students, adult learners have to do their research before making a decision that will have a lifetime impact.
Colleges and Universities: Know Thy Marketing
If you are a higher learning institution or a professional development marketer, it is important to share all of the pertinent facts with HR leaders in order to provide employees with the best decision making possible. Even though employees will do their own research, the HR office’s opinions and recommendations may have a lot of influence over employee decision making, especially if the employer is funding the educational opportunity for their staff.
The best marketing for these educational opportunities will share outcomes as well as the details of the programs so both the HR office and student-employees can make the best decisions for their professional growth.
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