Like many, I went to college following high school. Also, like many, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. After a few years spent jumping from Entomology to Pre-Law, to Microbiology, I settled on pursuing my degree in Psychology — but not to become a therapist. My goal of getting a degree was so I could, ideally, head my own research lab. Over a decade and a half since I started on that journey, I’m no closer to doing biochemical research, and that’s okay. It turned out that Psychology, while my passion, was not my true calling in life. Business, especially working with startups, ended up being what I loved to do.
Over ten thousand dollars in student loan debt later, I was approached with an opportunity. I was working in an architecture firm at the time and was contacted by two local businessmen. They had seen the way I worked and thought that with a little mentoring, I could manage a few companies they had invested in. Turns out, they were right. Within a few months, my naïve, fresh set of eyes had uncovered policies and processes that just didn’t make sense. Eventually, new practices were put forth that made the company’s successful, and the investors happy — and I had found my niche.
Now don’t get me wrong — my education in Psychology has been extremely beneficial, but for many years, I thought that without “MBA” after my moniker, I would never be taken seriously in the business world. Once again, I was schooled in ways that I never expected — and mostly for free.
The library has been a business owner’s best friend. MOOCs have helped me learn new industry standards in business, as well as other areas that have drastically changed how I run my company. Mentors and advisers have taught me that hands-on doing is far superior to hands-off learning. Most important of all, I learned how to think about problems and solutions, not just what to think.
The recent financial crises have proven that a college education doesn’t mean that you will have a successful career. Looking throughout history, many successful and memorable thought leaders were either drop-outs or drastically changed paths or careers. This isn’t meant as an attack on higher education — it still serves its place in terms of careers that require certain licensing, as well as being a part of the adult maturation gap between high school and “real life.” My main point is that a crowdsourced education can be just as helpful in your career, and won’t leave you penniless.
Continued education is huge in most careers, and many resources are available for free, or a low cost. Coursera, edX, Lynda, BrightTalk, and Future Learn are just a few of the places you can find classes to learn new skills to build your educational background, including many classes from top colleges and universities. Over the past several years, I have taken free classes in Lean Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship, Project Management, Coding, Foreign Language, Astrophysics, Cognitive Behavior, and Infectious Diseases, just to name a few, all from the comfort of my own home. Take a look — you never know what you’ll learn next!
What are your favorite sources for free online learning?