1. Youre getting promoted (or want to be)
Moving up in a company means you’ll be managing people whose jobs are outside your expertise. So, expand your knowledge base, whether that means learning the basics of finance and technology or building muscle in large-scale strategic thinking.
No matter how impressive your track record as an executive has been over the course of your career, even the most seasoned business leaders learn at one point or another that additional development is necessary, especially when making a push for a promotion.
Harvard Business Review recently outlined the experiences of Ralph Thomas, vice president of operations at Smith & Mullins. While Thomas was perfectly qualified for a promotion to general manager, he was ultimately passed over by another internal candidate who displayed a stronger knack for strategic thinking and communicated more effectively with other upper-level executives than he did. Executive education courses in areas such as strategy and corporate development were built with these opportunities for growth in mind.
2. You're considering a full degree, but want to try a single course first
With the number of free, low-commitment educational resources available to executives online today, it’s no surprise that skepticism creeps in when considering the necessity of additional academic or professional degrees. Ultimately, only you can decide whether another degree is a worthwhile investment for you. For some, sampling the field with a single course can help in that decision.
The biggest benefit is also the most apparent: an executive education course is a far smaller personal investment than a full degree. Business schools offer executive education courses that are certificate-track, should you end up deciding to continue on that path.
3. You want to discover what you don't know
It can feel like a blow to the ego, but acknowledging that you don’t know something is an effective way to show that you’re motivated to figure out how to do it. As Business Insider put it when referencing the popular book, “Freakonomics,” while saying that you’re unsure is a good first step, you still have to work like a dog to learn.
While you cannot predict every challenge your business will face, you should always be preparing yourself to tackle the unknown. There are plenty of executive education courses that will keep you ahead of the curve and stay ready to rise to the occasion in new and unfamiliar waters. Such programmes cover topics including developing a vision, strategic leadership and thriving in complex scenarios.
4. You're considering switching careers and want to start gaining skills and knowledge in a new field while still at your current job
Surely, you possess a number of shared skills that are valuable and transferrable across a number of fields. However, it’s common to discover larger-than-anticipated knowledge or experience gaps when considering switching careers. Allen Blue, co-founder of LinkedIn, recently told Business Insider that in the end, nobody makes a career switch on his or her own. “People will help you make that transition,” he adds, “and people you know right now will help you find those people.” As important as it is to seek out courses that will prepare you for your career shift, it’s just as important to look for networking opportunities within those programmes.
5. Your employer wants you to go for it
This is what corporate education budgets are for. If you’re lucky enough to have a boss with the budget and initiative to encourage your continuing growth, take advantage. Even if your employer doesn’t broach the topic, don’t be afraid to bring it up yourself, especially if you’ll be returning with additional skills to help you perform your job duties at a higher level. If this is the case, many employers understand the value of investing in their employees’ growth, even if they initially need some convincing.
This article originally appeared on The Economist Executive Education Navigator blog.