But they also require a big time commitment that can take away from doing other things. So for many considering online classes as an inexpensive form of professional development and career advancement, the key question is: Is it worth your time investment?
The answer is rarely, says Lou Adler, a hiring expert and CEO of the Adler Group. Adler believes that online courses are only helpful for career advancement when the course-taker can demonstrate to an employer how the knowledge or skills obtained in the class could apply to their job.
For job seekers looking to capitalize on additional online education, Adler says this might mean creating sample work that you can show. Instead of telling him, "Hey Lou, I've just taken a statistics class," he explains that the person can do some statistical analysis based on what was learned, and submit it as part of an interview or application.
For those already employed in stable jobs, Adler says it could be valuable to use online courses to stay abreast of the latest in their field. "If someone is past the entry-level kind of positions, if they're constantly evaluating some of the latest data trends or technical trends related to their position, I would give that person a plus," he says.
He adds that any STEM class would probably be somewhat useful to take, and have broad applicability in the workplace.
The bottom line: There's certainly nothing wrong with taking online courses. But in terms of your career, they're only valuable if you can prove to employers that what you learned isn't just helping you — it's also benefiting them.
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