If you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you either hate your job or you don’t have one. I hear you, I’ve been there too and it’s not a great feeling. It can be frustrating and demoralizing to feel trapped in the wrong profession or worse, no profession at all. But will returning to study help you reach that dream you’re seeking?
Back in the good old days, you left school, got a job and stayed there for the rest of your working life, until you retired at 60 with a gold watch if you were lucky. Things have certainly changed! It’s approximated that the average young worker today will have up to 10 jobs in their lifetime and with job security being virtually non-existent in the modern era, sometimes changing careers isn’t even a choice. If you lose your job or maybe just hate-hate-hate it, you might be considering further study to get a better job with better pay. But is further study really the best way to reach that new goal? And if so, is it actually worth it financially?
Will it actually get you what you want?
Too many of us made our career choices back when we were pimply faced teens, inspired by caricatures on TV but with as much real world experience as a goldfish. It’s really no surprise that, when we discover being a police officer isn’t all catching bad guys and eating doughnuts that we return, disheartened, to the old drawing board.
Working out what you really want to do is difficult. Some psychologists even specialise in guiding people through this decision making process, so fraught with danger and difficulty it is. You will need to do some soul searching.
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What jobs are actually available? Is your dream job realistic? (We can’t all be prime minister!)
- Can you create your dream job? Could you start a business? Have you got the passion and wherewithal to take that challenge?
- Have you got a real understanding of your dream job or are you fantasising about what it would be like? Remember now, real writers don’t all wear designer shoes and lives in big city penthouses (thank you very much Carrie Bradshaw…).
Do you really want it?
The thing about study that we so often forget when we’re not doing it is, it’s hard. Really hard. It’s not that the content itself is too difficult (although sometimes it can be!) it’s more the self-disciplined reading, writing and forcing yourself to work for free. It won’t always be fun, you will be stuck at a desk while all your friends water-ski past your window on the perfect day, and the initial excitement will wane faster than you can look up “wane” in the dictionary.
If you are going to return to education to further your career prospects, you have to really, truly want it. I recently had a moment’s folly wherein it struck me as a brilliant idea to enrol in a masters degree in human resource management, expanding on my heretofore unused arts degree. At first I was nervous, then excited, then aghast. I don’t want to learn the intricacies of industrial law, nor do I want to be the schmuck who has to inform staff they’ve been made redundant! I had gotten all worked up about the title and the vision, but didn’t have the passion to get through the course, let alone spend the rest of my life in the job.
When you are at school or university the first time round, you are poor. Student cooking is the subject of a long standing joke as creative variations of two minute noodles and the mysterious contents of the pantry are created when the budget runs dry. When you are 20, this is funny, a bonding experience to share with your fellow students. When you are 40 it is not.
By the time you have left study, worked for a while and created a nice little lifestyle for yourself, you will have no doubt become accustomed to a string of little luxuries you weren’t even aware of. Things you made do without when you were younger are now essentials and the idea of giving up your insurance, dental care of fresh vegetables seems ludicrous.
Returning to study isn’t just a matter of paying for the course fees and text books, it’s more about lost money earning time. Think you can work full time, study part time and function as a normal human being? Think again. You might be studying to increase your salary in the long haul, but be prepared for it to take a beating in the meantime.
I suspect the White Rabbit in Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland may well have been a mature age student, juggling study, work and family. His declaration of no time (and also his propensity to disappear and be…well, a bit mad) are typical of those who dwell in that realm. So can it be done? When I took the question to the public, the results were mixed. One ambitious young fellow stated, “I’m studying a double degree in commerce and finance part time while I work full time. It’s easy if you love it.” Yet another lady complained, “I am literally bawling my eyes out right now with all the work I have to by the end of this week. I am tired and stressed and over it… masters sucks.” And one 30 something aspiring accountant put it succinctly, “yes I am doing it, yes it can be done and yes, you may explode”.
Do you really need it?
The thing is, you might not actually need a degree to get where you’re going anyway. It would be an awful shame to do say, a masters degree in creative writing only to discover three years and $15,000 later that you are still just as unemployable as ever and so much older and poorer for the pleasure of it.
First things first, you need to know exactly what job it is you’re after. It’s not enough to say, “oh I want to work in fashion” or whatever industry tickles your fancy, you need to know exactly what cog in that machine you intend to be. Let’s just say you’ve decided to become the editor of a fashion magazine. Well, a Certificate III in Apparel certainly isn’t going to get you there, though it does fall within the definition of fashion. So what course would?
The best place to start is the classifieds, the job ads in the paper and of course, online. It might be evident straight away that you will need at least a journalism degree.
Of course, most jobs (especially the good ones!) aren’t advertised. To get a better idea of what’s on store, check out the Job Guide at jobguide.thegoodguides.com.au, a helpful resource which lists most careers and how to pursue them.
Finally, and this is the best way to get a real idea of what’s needed, investigate people. No, I’m not talking about stalking Mia Freedman’s back yard in a trench coat, I mean looking people up and asking them questions. Think of someone who has the job you want, google them or see if they’re on LinkedIn. What did they do to get there? You might find after all this research that a degree isn’t necessary at all (although a good eye for quality trench coats might well be).