On a dreary December day in 2019, just before the boys were breaking up for Christmas holidays, I finally hit the "Submit" button on my 12,000 word Masters dissertation. I felt a mixture of relief (that I had managed to finish something I swore I would never do again a few years ago), excitement (that I would have so much time back to continue building my business now my studies were complete) and profound tiredness (for obvious reasons).
I took the decision to apply for the Masters in Executive Coaching when I was still working full time. By then I knew that my intention was to leave my full-time job working for a large organisation but I didn't feel that I could commit to that until I had formulated a Plan B. That plan was to become an executive and career coach, but having done some research and spoken to some contacts, I knew that in an increasingly competitive market, being officially accrediated and suitably qualified would be really important.
Fast forward three years, and, having been thorugh the process myself, and being aware that the question of re-training or gaining new qualifications is often one that comes up in my coaching sessions with clients, I thought sharing my top tips might help any of you who are currently pondering study as part of your next career move.
(1) Do your research! Whatever you are considering studying or training in, there are bound to be countless providers of that training. Be thorough about researching which are the best providers, which are considered the most reputable, what they cost (and are they value for money). Use your network to find people who may have done similar training, or may be a buyer or recruiter of the particular career or service you are considering and get their view. Go to any open days or information session and get a good feel for the course. How experienced and well regarded are the faculty teaching the course, how will you be supported in your studies, how do you feel as you hear the information offered and chat to your potential peers?
(2) Be realistic about how much time you have to devote to your studies. This is an important consideration when choosing a course. For example, if you have a young family and a partner in a demanding job, is it realistic that you will be studying full-time for the next two years? What alternatives might be out there that allow you to study remotely / in modules / in the evenings. Can you gain your qualification in stages, to allow you to start to build your career or business in your chosen field at the same time?
(3) If you are balancing studying with other commitments such as an existing or new job, starting a new business and / or a family, accept that your best will be good enough. Whilst many of us like to think that this is our opportunity to gain that Distinction or achieve a First, realistically you just may not have the time or emotional energy to devote to that. Keep in your sights the long-term view about why you are doing this and focus on that. It is likely that for most, the achievement of the qualifcation is the important thing to allow you to do what you want to with your career.
(4) But you may need to accept that some other things in your life might need to be put on hold when you are studying. Don't underestimate the amount of time you will need or indeed want to devote to doing a good job. You will need to be organised and disciplined with your time to give yourself the head space and/or creative space you need. And on a practical level, you may need to think about what childcare or other support you might need in place to allow you to attend classes or workshops.
(6) Remember that in many cases the course or qualification will help you get the job you want, but you will still need to devote time to getting that job or starting that business once you are qualified. Whilst you might be lucky enough that the ideal opportunity falls on your lap while you are studying, for most achieveing the qualification is just part of path to achieveing your goal and your plans should reflect that when you are thinking about how long it will take you to get to where you want to get to career-wise.
(7) Enjoy it! For me, studying as an adult has been a very different experience compared to first time round. A lot less time has been spent in the bar (although there were still a few late night debates over a glass of wine) and a lot more time has been spent feeling driven and motivated to get the most out of my learning, knowing that the time I was devoting to this was helping me to achieve the career goal I had been visualising for some years.