Continuing Education for the New World of Business

The way we do business is changing fast. Ten years ago, Google Drive didn’t exist. Affordable 3-D printers didn’t exist. Social media marketing didn’t exist. Mobile money didn’t exist. And it’s not just technology that’s changing fast. Our preferences for socially responsible products, on-demand access to content, meaningful work, and mobile applications have also evolved dramatically over the last ten years.

These technologies and preferences are driving the rise and decline of entire industries and the skills that are needed to succeed in those industries rise and decline with them. If we are going to lead a long and meaningful career, we need to consistently re-invent ourselves just to keep up with the pace of change.

So why are we paying so much money for business and management education that will almost certainly be outdated at some point in our careers?

While I was working at Impact Business Leaders – a social enterprise that helps talented professionals transition into more meaningful career paths - we consistently attracted professionals who had worked in big companies for the first 10+ years of their careers and were ready to work on something more meaningful to them.

These professionals were often senior managers with MBAs or other graduate degrees who were ready to take a serious pay cut to find work that excited them. Yet we found that these more experienced professionals had a much harder time breaking into the social enterprise ecosystem than the younger professionals we worked with. Why?

Time and time again, we found that employers didn’t care where these professionals had worked or what degrees they had. What mattered was whether these professionals were a functional and cultural fit. And often, they didn’t have the digital skills or savvy to be competitive in the hiring process of a lean, 21st-century organization.

These professionals don’t need to go back to grad school, but they do need to tune up their skills for a new industry and changing business environment.  

This experience made it clear to me that we need continuing education that enables professionals to grow throughout their careers.  This means continuing education that is accessible and effective. The computer programming space has taken the lead in this regard. There are several continuing education opportunities that teach programming.  They range from free online training, such as Code Academy, to rigorous in-person courses like those at General Assembly. Many professionals use combinations of these tools to achieve greater mastery of programming.

At Mission Driven, we want to apply this same idea to business and management education. We see a growing demand for business solutions to social and environmental challenges. There are already many training programs on the fundamental skills of business, but they fail to address how these skills can be used to create a better world. We aim to build practical activities and workshops on top of these training programs to create a distinct set of continuing education opportunities for professionals who want to use business to create a better world.

Many argue that these continuing education alternatives will never have the credibility to become widespread and mainstream indicators of talent. Graduate degrees from higher education institutions remain the most widely accepted standard for continuing education and a few other professional certifications have also achieved widespread recognition.

But I believe that, in the next ten years, we will no longer need indicators and standards for talent. We will simply test for it.  More employers are using activity-based interviewing and psychometric screening to assess potential a candidate’s technical skills and cultural fit.

Soon, every employer will be able to directly assess your skills and cultural fit. The best continuing education opportunities will give you the skills you need to stand out and the self-awareness to express your purpose, not some credential on your CV. Ten years from now, it won’t matter what you have done. All that will matter is what you can do. Will you be ready?