As a Realtor®, I have always seen continuing education as a fact of professional life. While the requirements vary state by state, both legal requirements and increased professionalism dictate knowing the changing laws, customs and general procedures for doing business.

Unlike Realtors®, network marketers are under no legal obligation to complete a certain number of hours of continuing education each year—but professionalism, legal considerations and increased knowledge of changing times dictate this same need.

Why? After all, network marketing is a very simple business. You find prospects, approach them, qualify them, present your business, product and/or service, and close. If it’s so simple, why would you ever need continued education once you’ve learned those steps?

Because while the steps remain the same, the tools, methods and legal and social context change vastly over time.

For example, the laws and enforcement and interpretation of those laws change over time. Gone are the days of advertising “MAKE $10,000/ MONTH - ask me how!” It is vital to be aware of changing laws, practices and interpretations of law as you present your product, company and industry to your prospects.

In the late eighties, when I first entered this profession, small, well-written newspaper ads would draw a response from hundreds of interested parties. But remember the context: The Internet did not exist (except in universities). Fax machines and photocopiers were expensive tools only a few could afford. Many companies still shipped large group orders to one lead distributor, who was then responsible for dispersing orders to his downline.

Times have changed. They always do!

Only a few short years ago, many thought they could build a business solely on the Internet, with no personal contact required. Oh what a difference a few years can make!

The steps haven’t changed —but the process and tools certainly have. Knowing what is working here in the fall of 2005 will have a huge impact on the health, growth and future of your network marketing business.

Be a sponge. Soak up the ideas of those offering their expertise in continuing education—seminars, books, CDs and DVDs, conventions, Internet trainings, phone trainings.

Here’s the caveat: Not everything you learn will necessarily apply! Your business is your business. Your product or service is uniquely positioned; your company and leadership have systems that already work; what works for me may not work for you. And be wary of gurus whose information sounds great in theory, but who have never actually done the things they’re teaching. Be a sponge—but be a selective sponge.

Most importantly, avail yourself of the vast resources in self-improvement. Make your personal development education a lifetime endeavor. Your business will grow as much as you grow yourself.

MARY NELSON is a veteran network marketer and past contributor to Networking Times.