From open enrollment to closed, alumni-only programs to short executive sessions and longer certificate programs, now there are more, and more varied, continuing education alternatives for you to choose from. Here we’ll help you identify one that fits your particular needs and career stage.
Open Enrollment Programs
Open enrollment programs are just that—available to anyone who meets a specific course’s admissions requirements. One might focus on a specific industry, such as technology or media, while others tackle different disciplines such as finance or marketing strategy. They can be as diverse as the various priorities you have at different stages in your career. Some require a larger commitment than others and some even help you switch industries or temporarily scale back to accommodate family obligations.
If you just want a quick brush up or newsflash, spend a weekend or a workweek back in class focusing on the issue or industry of your choice. Short open enrollment courses give participants a high-speed update in a convenient format for those looking forward to returning to campus (but not for too long).
If you are gearing up for your next promotion, you might think about taking a leadership strategy course or seeking formal training on a skill that will help you position yourself for advancement. Consider the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School’s open enrollment course, Negotiation Skills for Effective Mangers. This two-day course teaches you new bargaining methods, helps you improve interpersonal skills, and assesses your strengths and weaknesses as a negotiator.
To find out more about what open enrollment programs are offered at Forté’s partner schools, visit the schools’ executive education Websites for a list of upcoming courses.
Long Session Programs
If you have significant personal commitments outside of work, you will most likely want to steer clear of the executive education programs with long sessions that require residency on campus. Some programs can last several weeks or even a couple of months—a great learning opportunity, but not very compatible with a working parent’s schedule.
Several schools, however, are now finding new ways to offer long session programs to people who can’t leave their families for multiple weeks. Myra Hart, a professor and executive education course creator at Harvard Business School, says Harvard is creating new programs that are more family-friendly. “Accelerating the Careers of High Potential Leaders,” for instance, is a nine-month leadership course separated into five modules—students complete three modules at home and attend two, two-week sessions on campus.
Closed alumni-only programs
If you’re interested in reconnecting with old classmates or meeting others who completed an MBA at your school, closed, alumni-only programs help you update your skills while allowing you to expand your personal contacts in your existing alumni network. Harvard Business School has seven alumni and past participant courses.
If you are looking for variety, flexibility, and recognition for your expanded skill set, a certificate program will meet all of those needs. These programs often require participants to take a set number of courses or hours to earn a certificate of completion, but they allow participants to choose which courses will be most relevant to their individual needs and enroll in them as they are able.
For example, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business offers the Certificate in Management program through which students can build a professional development portfolio with a specific concentration or with a variety of career-enhancing sessions. Students earn a certificate after completing four of Darden’s open enrollment or custom programs within a four-year period.
Industry-specific programs are also available at some schools, such as Duke University, which has created the Nonprofit Management Certificate program. It requires participants to attend 50 classroom hours covering topics such as fund raising, marketing, information technology, board relationships, legal issues, and organizational development.
Back In Business Program
For both women and men who have for one reason or another left the business world for awhile and feel a bit out of the loop, Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business has created a one-of-a-kind program that helps professionals reintegrate into corporate America. Tuck developed the Back in Business program with stay-at-home moms in mind as well as people who left the workforce to take care of parents, those who moved out of the country and were not able to work, and entrepreneurs interested in rejoining a corporation.
“These MBAs are ready to re-enter, but feel that their skills are rusty,” says Constance Helfat, faculty director of the Back in Business program and the J. Brian Quinn Professor in Technology and Strategy. “A lot of the women we’ve talked to are stay-at-home moms running volunteer organizations and have tons of experience—it’s just not in the business world.”
Tuck offers the Back In Business Program in four short session modules—two on campus in Hanover, New Hampshire and two in New York City. The program also offers career assistance to help participants leverage their experience and assets and overcome the difficulties of re-entering.
“There are very few natural routes back into a company. Most firms hire MBAs during fall recruiting season, and there’s nothing like that for people who are trying to re-enter,” explains Helfat. “It’s different from when you are trying to switch jobs in a company because you have a whole network to help you.”
This program helps professionals step back into the business world with confidence and with new resources at their fingertips.
Interested in expanding your network of female colleagues? Several of Forté’s partner schools offer executive education programs specifically designed for, and only open to, women. Harvard Business School, for example, offers three programs tailored for women at different career points. Charting Your Course: Developing Options That Work is an open enrollment program for any woman with professional experience who has left the full-time workforce or plans to reorganize her work situation.
Harvard’s Myra Hart, creator of all three of the school’s executive education programs for women, says that Harvard decided to develop the classes after finding out that many of its alumni are likely to consider alternative career paths after the birth of a second child. Further, many women do not begin pursuing relationships and having children until their mid-thirties—the same time their career is likely to take off.
“This is a pretty significant challenge,” Hart says. “Women want to know how to maintain their career and fulfill a positive role as a parent.” They’re considering whether they want to change their role in the company, slow the pace, or put limits on travel and times they’re available for meetings. “Or if women want to stay home, they’re thinking about how they will keep up their network and stay abreast of changes in their field,” she adds. Charting Your Course provides an opportunity for women to network with each other, discuss the effects of career changes, and consider strategies for future career moves.
A New Path: Setting New Professional Directions is Harvard’s alumni-only course. Similar to the Back in Business program at Tuck, A New Path is designed specifically for women ready to create new and successful careers after a five- to seven-year hiatus. Hart says she anticipates this course opening up to non-alumni in the future, since the market of HBS female alumni re-entering the workforce at any given time is probably not high enough to continuously fill its classes.
Finally, leadership courses are the most common women-only executive education programs. They are designed for female executives who hold top positions or are positioned to take on a leadership role in the near future. These programs tend to focus on examining barriers to female leadership and creating a strategic approach to developing one’s own leadership strengths.
The participants in these programs are almost always sponsored by their companies. “If your company sends you to this program it shows that it values you and is willing to make an investment in you,” asserts Hart. “It also signifies to your colleagues that you have been identified as an up-and-coming leader.”