Professionals hoping to take their careers to the next level know that advanced education can serve as a valuable springboard. However, committing to a graduate degree often demands a large financial investment. In addition, years must be dedicated to the pursuit – a luxury most busy professionals simply do not have.
Executive education certificate programs are fast becoming a popular alternative for those who want to develop important business skills but can’t devote the time or money a master’s degree requires. They provide highly specific training in the abilities professionals need to advance.
The exact content of executive certificate programs varies from one school to another, but students are likely to find they all seek to hone one or more of these four essential skills that are attractive to employers:
- Applying Business Strategies – Executives are frequently tasked with developing strategies to drive their organizations forward. But having the ability to determine a course is not enough to guarantee success; effective executives also know how to develop strategies to meet specific goals, such as increasing revenue, enhancing approval ratings or completing a large project at or under budget. In addition, they must be able to analyze resources, identify strategic options and evaluate for the best possible path to take. Executive programs are designed to teach these specific skills while also focusing on such issues as business ethics, social responsibility and performance measurements.
- Leading Strategically – Strategic leaders have the ability to guide and influence personnel to make critical decisions that enhance the long-term goals of their organization while keeping financial stability in the forefront. Executive certificate programs that address strategic leadership provide students with the skills they need to develop intellectual capital while creating an organizational culture that supports the underlying strategy. Students develop a proficiency with such important skills as systems thinking, strategic foresight, transformational strategy, industry structure, corporate core values and competitor analysis, among others.
- Managing Effectively – Executive-level management goes well beyond providing day-to-day oversight of personnel. Effective management at this level is defined by the ability to set strategies and goals while providing the motivation necessary to influence personnel to successfully execute plans that are set in place. In addition, managers at this level must be able to align organizational strengths with marketplace opportunities while assessing a company’s strengths and weaknesses to better position it for success. To those ends, effective managers must possess strong interpersonal communication skills, delegation abilities and the wherewithal to manage a diverse workforce. They must also know how to build effective teams while having the ability to empower employees.
- Negotiating Conflicts – Executives that know how to successfully navigate situations involving difficult people or circumstances while keeping their organization’s goals and strategies in mind are valuable assets. Having the ability to handle a diversity of conflict scenarios with success, however, often requires advanced training. Conflict negotiation is such a sought-after skill that many executive certificate programs break this topic out as its own separate course. Students study such related topics as conflict styles, the costs and benefits of conflict, and strategies for addressing conflict. Understanding how to field confrontations, manage disputes and successfully work with difficult people is also important. So, too, is having a grasp on the emotions and relationships that often drive conflicts.
Gaining the must-have business skills required to advance careers doesn’t necessarily demand a graduate-level degree. Executive certificate programs target the specific abilities and knowledge leaders need to open doors to potential advancement. Students interested in earning an executive certificate are urged to conduct careful research, as the courses offered by particular programs may differ in the topics covered and skills addressed.
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