Sometimes the only path to advancement is to step out on your own and just begin.

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With technology growing ever more complex, even people whose education is relatively recent are turning to refresher courses.

If your schooling goes back a few years, or if your job is in danger of becoming obsolete, or if you are thinking about a career change, you should definitely be considering additional study or training.

The good news is that often you can go “back to school” while still staying at your old job. Your dual student/employee role will keep you ultra-busy for a while, but a smooth transition, with no gaps in pay, could be worth it.

Perhaps your job is secure but you seek to grow in ways your current employer isn’t offering. Sometimes the only path to advancement is to step out on your own and just begin. Again, you don’t have to immediately quit your current position before setting off in a new direction. Start by signing up for seminars or taking night classes. Consider the merits of certifications as opposed to formal degrees. If your new focus is at all related to your current job, your company may agree to foot (part of) the bill.

Speaking of money, do think carefully about how you’ll finance your education. Don’t just automatically assume you’ll have to take out a loan. Consider working a second job for a year or so to build up a nest egg, or asking a spouse to optimize his or her income. Always keep in mind that financial aid people who work for schools are not impartial. And if you’re currently carrying debt, try to pay it off first.

Finally, remember that acquiring a new degree or certification has other benefits, too. If you find yourself unemployed, signing up as a student gives you something solid to plug into that résumé. Learning is also stimulating and confidence building. Plus you’ll be meeting many new people, thus growing your network (and you should always be growing your network).

In fact, chances are you’ll discover that continuous lifetime learning is inevitable. You’ll probably transition through five or six substantial job changes over the course of your career, and it’s always better to put our energies into active preparation rather than into dreading an uncertain future. Try to have fun with it.