Student profile: Bob Keaton

Name: Bob Keaton
Location: Harrisburg, PA
Age: 53
Job title: Senior associate at consulting/lobbying firm

Like most of us, Bob Keaton is always striving to get better at his profession. And, like most of us, going back to school isn’t a realistic option — or even an available one — for what he wants to accomplish.

Bob has been an independent contract lobbyist for years. Companies and associations hire him to connect more closely with government, to answer questions, and to solve problems by going through the Pennsylvania legislature. A big part of his time is spent identifying prospective clients and explaining how his firm can meet their needs. “I want to get better at my craft,” Bob says, “And I wondered if there were things I could be doing to improve my performance in my current job and also build my personal brand for future opportunities.”

To determine his options, “I looked everywhere — community college, online universities, online certificate programs,” but none of them were what he had in mind. Bob considers himself a highly proficient Google researcher, so that’s where he took his quest and read a lot of positive comments about Udemy from other students.

He was still very skeptical at first and “didn’t know what I was jumping into,” but that feeling didn’t last. He started with “How to Market Your Business,” followed that up with Debbie LaChusa’s “awesome” course “How to Market Yourself as a Coach or Consultant,” and was putting his new knowledge to work within a month to fine-tune his elevator pitch. “I’ve sat down with prospective clients since taking Udemy courses, and I knew exactly what to say. I heard Debbie’s voice in my head, helping me remember things you don’t usually think about,” Bob explains. “What would’ve been a 20-minute discussion before was much more succinct and effective.” He’s now enrolled in courses on public speaking, proposal writing, and others.

For Bob, what he’s learning on Udemy represents “the difference between having a successful career and not.” Being a consultant, a lot of what he needs to excel at “is seat of the pants, not in a book,” so he puts a high value on having 24/7 access to “top-notch educators,” like Gary Vaynerchuk, who are on the ground working in the field and have experienced first-hand many of the challenges Bob faces in his daily work. He doesn’t think he could get the same insights and actionable advice through a school’s pre-set curriculum.

Bob believes everyone needs to be a lifelong learner, regardless of how secure they may feel in their jobs today. “Too many times, people become successful early and don’t learn all the other things you need to know when things get tough,” he says. Now that he’s discovered Udemy, he is confident and feels empowered to continue enhancing his skill set and arm himself with whatever his career demands. “Most of the people I know in the lobbying business never took the time to understand business principles, and I wanted to do that before I consider my own future.” Besides, things like social media didn’t even exist when Bob launched his career, so he’s thrilled to be learning from the best now.

“Nothing is lost when you learn; you’ll always be able to use it at some level at some point in life,” Bob says. “Even if you just get one kernel of knowledge, it’s worth it.”