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Last Updated on July 18, 2019

How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible (And Meaningful)

How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible (And Meaningful)

All through your teens and twenties, you thought that once you arrived at the “big 30,” your life would all fall into place and you could just coast in your career. But now that the milestone has passed, you realize nothing is static about your career and you’ll need to scramble to stay ahead. Going back to school at 30 (or even 35 or 40) is a real possibility.

Today you can never afford to stop learning. If you’re not moving forward in terms of amassing new skills, you’ll be left behind. Employers today seek continuous learning. More than ever before, today’s workers must anticipate what technological and societal disruptors could impact their jobs in the next few years, then proactively prepare for them. This usually comes down to further education, be it getting an MBA, taking additional seminars and classes, or obtaining new certifications.

To remain relevant in today’s workforce, you must get trained — and often retrained. But at least the effort will likely yield monetary rewards. Studies show that students with a college degree earned 57 percent more than those with only a high school degree. And those with a master’s degree or higher had 28 percent higher earnings than those with a bachelor’s degree.[1]

The message? Keep learning!

1. Position Yourself for Your Future-Ready Career

Your skills need to improve at the speed of technology — which is lightning fast. To position yourself for the future, you’ll likely need advanced technical training that allows you to stay on top of new changes.

When setting out to go back to school as a working adult, look for programs that will arm you with the practical skills you’ll need.

Ask professionals in the field of your dreams what specific training is required. One way to meet these professionals is through LinkedIn, or start attending industry events.

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Learn the industry’s standard requirements by reading job postings and noting the educational and technical qualifications. Make sure, too, that the industry is on an upward trajectory so that your effort will pay off. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, only to be told you’re now “overqualified.”

2. Learn the Lingo: Certificates, Certifications, and Degrees

But before you start those conversations, you may want to brush up on the lingo that defines today’s advanced education.

Figure out if you should pursue a certificate, a professional certification or a degree. A certificate is likely the easiest, lowest-cost option.

Certificates are generally awarded in non-degree granting programs. You take classes to bolster your knowledge on a particular subject. But make no mistake: adding this information to your resume will help you stand out. After all, you’re showing a commitment to lifelong learning!

By contrast, certifications qualify you to perform a particular job or task. Some technical and educational fields require professional certifications as a cost of entry.

Advanced degrees often require even more of a time commitment, but can help your earnings skyrocket. MBAs and MFAs are good examples.

An MBA (Masters of Business Administration) is often required if you plan on transferring to a financial field. An MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) allows writers to teach at accredited schools and colleges.

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If you can’t see yourself leaving your job for a few years to pursue these degrees, investigate Executive MBAs and other low-residency options. Maybe there’s a way to accumulate credits toward your degree while you hold down your job.

3. Tell Yourself: It’s Never Too Late to Learn

While further training is one lure to send you back to school at 30 or beyond, you might also decide that it’s important to finish a degree that you started, but for various reasons put on hold.

This was the case with Shaquille O’Neal, or “Shaq” as he’s widely known. He embarked on his 19-year NBA career having completed only three years at Louisiana State University. But he later earned his Bachelor’s in general studies, and went on to earn an MBA and then a PhD in education.

Steven Spielberg was also compelled to finish a degree he hadn’t completed. He dropped out of California State University, Long Beach, just a few credits short of earning his degree. More than three decades later, he finished his requirements, which included submitting his film, “Schindler’s List,” to satisfy a film course requirement.

It’s possible that, by age 30, you’ve discovered the career direction you pursued in your 20s is to no longer a field in which you ultimately want to remain. This happened with Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett Packard and U.S. presidential candidate in 2016.

She enrolled in law school after earning a history and philosophy undergraduate degree from Stanford. But after one semester, she dropped out and found employment at a commercial property brokerage firm. Ultimately, she wanted to explore other areas of business and went back to earn an MBA. It landed her a job at AT&T, where she was promoted within two years to a management position. The company sponsored Fiorina in a fellowship program at the Sloan School of Management at MIT that set her on her trajectory to become CEO of HP.

Going back to school at 30 — or once adult life catches up with you — can prove challenging, especially if you’re juggling multiple obligations. For example, Mandy Ginsberg, CEO of Match Group North America, the parent company of Tinder and other online dating services, enrolled in one of the most challenging academic environments in the world as a single mother. The chaos of earning an MBA from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and raising a child at the same time proved doable by mobilizing a support team around her.

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And therefore, it’s never too late to learn and change your life.

4. Find Your Balance

Whether you’re taking a few skill-based classes or aiming for a full degree, often the most difficult aspect of going back to school when you’re 30 and over is finding the time.

Not only do you have the demands of staying on top of course work, but you also may likely have to balance them with the demands of your day job — and perhaps even a spouse and kids.

If you plan to go back to school at 30 or beyond, make sure you know precisely what you want out of your degree.

Do your research before choosing a school or program. Look up the school’s program rankings and make note of the program’s graduation rate and what types of jobs its graduates land. Write yourself a goals chart, and tack it on a bulletin board above your home computer. Studies show that writing down your goals is the best way to achieve them.

And what about online options? Online programs may be your best choice in terms of convenience and targeted degree options. But they sometimes lack the cachet of the in-person study programs.

Before deciding to go the online route, make sure the school is reputable, accredited, and that students are offered the support they need. Look for reviews to give you a glimpse of student reactions to various programs.

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If you can afford to take time off from your current job and return to campus, you may find it easier to foster new connections among professors and classmates who will hopefully all become an integral part of your business network.

As you investigate how to straddle the simultaneous demands of work and school, determine whether you can cut back to part-time work and go to school full-time. If so, you’ll finish your degree more quickly.

But, if you need to maintain a full-time job, find out in advance the minimum course load for enrollment. While part-time enrollment can make work more manageable, it may not allow you to be eligible for financial aid.

The Bottom Line

Ideally, your education should open doors to a career that will allow you to pay back any resulting student debt. Still, it’s important that you do the math to know whether it will pay in the long run to go back to school. Compare the cost of tuition and other fees with the revenue you’ll likely earn.

It’s a good idea to tell your coworkers and boss that you’re going back to school. This will show them that you have the drive to better yourself. When they know what you’re undertaking, they may be more understanding as you juggle your added responsibilities. Your employer might also be able to help out with paying some of the cost if the company has a tuition-reimbursement program.

Going back to school at 30 will show current and future employers that your brain is still active and your outlook is still expansive. At 30 — and beyond — there’s no reason not to pursue schooling that will pay dividends in the future.

More Articles About Lifelong Learning

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] National Center for Education Statistics: What are the new back to school statistics for 2018?

More by this author

Vicky Oliver

Author of 6 best-selling books on job-hunting and job interview questions, business etiquette, frugalista style, advertising, and office politics.

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Last Updated on July 18, 2019

How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch

How to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills For a Swift Career Switch

Most people grow up with dreams to go to college and graduate with high-paying job offers waiting for them the week after graduation. Others may favor non-traditional career paths. But the desire is the same: to find a job we love where compensation is commensurate with experience.

However, plans change. For instance, what started out as a dream to be a surgeon is cut short by a nasty injury and you’re debating how to transition into a new role. Or you might be facing being let go from your current employer and are anxious about “options out there.”

Whatever the case may be, switching careers can be intentional or unintentional. What matters is that you’re well-prepared, and the only way to do so is to learn new skills — hone in on your transferable skills.

Why Hone in on Your Transferable Skills?

There are several reasons you need to develop these skills if you want to go far in life and your career. In a nutshell, honing in your your transferable skills can lead to:

Better Job Offers

Continuous assessment and improvement of your skills widens the pool of job offers for you to make selections from. You’re no longer tethered to one industry as you’re able to lead your career by design, not by default.

People with transferable skills on a resume also open up opportunities for more potential employers.

Increase in Pay and More Responsibilities

You’ve heard the saying “with great power come great responsibility.” In your case, transferable skills make you more marketable to employers which could lead to pay raises.

Although this isn’t an automatic process– you have to be proactive about what you want in the marketplace, there is a chance that these pay raises will come with change in titles and roles.

A Shot at Entrepreneurship

Yes, changing career paths also includes the possibility of working for yourself. With these skills and work experience, you could live anywhere in the world and design a life and career you want.

We’ve talked about why you need to strengthen your transferable skills but what are some these skills, and how can you work on them?

13 Tips to Sharpen Your Transferable Skills

1. Update Your Resume

You might be surprised to know this but yes, updating your resume is a skill. The very first thing you should do while thinking about switching careers is to highlight attributes that make you very desirable candidate to employers.

Think about your volunteer experiences, freelance projects, and school projects. Although they might seem insignificant, they demonstrate your ability to deliver results that several companies are looking for.

While you might have held several positions since college, switching careers will require you to have a different type of resume.

There are three different types of resumes: functional, chronological, and a combination resume. However, if you are looking to switch careers you’ll want to have a functional resume. A functional resume is strengths-based that emphasizes skills that are transferable rather than a collection of dates and job titles.

2. Brush up on Your Communication Skills

Every attempt to get ahead in business and in life starts with the need to communicate effectively. Whether it is interpersonal, intercultural, or multi-generational, the ability to be seen and heard while respecting the boundaries of work relationship matters.

That’s why it’s one of the top skills you need to master. Strong communication skills allows you to effectively tailor your messages to specific audiences, which will make you a stronger asset to any organization.

To hone this skill:

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Pay attention to your listening skills. To communicate effectively, you need to first learn how to understand others.

Your ability to decode overt and implied messages, no matter how nuanced they are, is key to knowing how to foster deep relationships with others.

This article can also give you effective ways to enhance your communication skills:

How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

3. Learn Technical (or Business) Writing

Another form of communication, writing, is a skill that can take you anywhere.

Companies communicate a lot through written memos, emails, newsletters, and other audio-visual means. But at the crux of this all is someone or some people who are tasked with translating the organization’s vision into statements anyone can understand.

To hone this skill:

Consider taking some free or paid classes online. You can accomplish this through several community colleges or online platforms like Lynda, Udemy or edX .

4. Practice Public Speaking and Presentation Skills

No matter how intelligent you are, no one will take you seriously if you’re unable to pull off a decent level of persuasion through presentation skills.

Most presentation can be done through either electronic devices or require your physical presence. Your chosen career may require you to be in front of several hundreds of people or you could be charged with developing materials for presentation.

To hone this skill:

Volunteer to lead projects that give you some responsibility for putting together presentations.

Also, try taking courses that will improve your public speaking skills if you feel lacking.

These tips on public speaking would be helpful too:

The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

5. Get Comfortable with Identifying Problems and Solutions

Every organization has got its problems no matter how greener the grass is on the other side.

How to hone this skill:

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Practice being resourceful.

Do you know where to find every company policy on the intranet in less than five minutes?

Think about a time you noticed some inefficiency at work and proposed a solution. Think about instances where you lent your voice to a cause which resulted in improved processes for your department.

No matter how small or inadequate you might feel, you’ve got some problem-solving skills that some organizations want.

If you look for more ways to improve your problem solving skills, take a look at this article:

6 Effective Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills

6. Recognize Your Team-Building Ability

Your ability to smoothly switch careers also depends on how well you can energize your team, especially if you’re aiming for a leadership role. Unfortunately, team-building usually isn’t something you learn on the job in most careers unless you hold a managerial position.

The good thing is that you possibly know one or two things about team-building. Think back to moments in college when you had group projects with colleagues and had to work with 3 to 4 other strangers for months. Were you able to get past your differences and disagreements to focus on the uniqueness of everyone at the table?

Making a career switch might require that you work with multidisciplinary teams whether you have a deep knowledge of what the other team does or not. I can easily think of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and social workers working closely to achieve the goals in a patient’s care plan.

How to hone this skill:

Look for collaborative projects and team building activities that excite you and challenge yourself with new possibilities.

Try some of these tactics to keep your team motivated as well:

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

7. Lean into Your Leadership Skills

Although similar to the previous point, leadership skills extend far beyond building teams, managing time sheets and correcting behavior.

What I’m referring to here is your ability to develop a vision, believe in it, and inspire buy-in from everyone involved. This isn’t about knowing how to run a particular machine; it’s about how to lead a team of people with various backgrounds, experiences, and ideas of how things should be done.

How to hone this skill:

Although more complex than the rest, it all starts with an introspective look into your strengths and weaknesses. Then get a mentor or a coach who can bring out your leadership qualities so you can operate from a place of strength.

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Learn more about the effective leadership types here:

5 Types of Leadership that Help You Build a High Performance Team

8. Improve Your Analytical Skills

Are you good at taking large amount of data and interpreting them? Your skills could come in handy.

Organizations are looking for people to make sense of the data around them, explain how it affects profitability, and make projections based on it. Best of all? You don’t need to be an accountant to be analytical.

How to hone this skill:

Try taking data interpretation classes online or at a community college. Learning Microsoft Excel or Access is also a plus. If you’re ambitious enough, you could consider getting additional certifications to up the ante.

Take a look at these ways to help sharpen your analytical skills:

What Are Analytical Skills and How to Strengthen Them For Success

9. Don’t Discount Your Time Management and Prioritization Skills

How good are you when it comes to deciding how important tasks are, organizing schedules, and coordinating plans?

Should you be willing, there is a market waiting for you out there. Organizations and busy executives are always looking for talented individuals to outsource these tasks to.

How to hone this skill:

Although not everyone possesses secretarial superpowers, you can improve this skill by focusing on taking huge tasks and breaking them into smaller goals or steps in order to achieve a bigger goal.

Here, you can learn to prioritize to achieve more:

The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

10. Embrace Your Creative and Critical Thinking Side

Although it’s often believed that creativity is for the arts and right-brained people, I believe everyone is capable of being creative. In fact, most organizations recognize creativity as a vehicle that will drive successful inventions in the future.

How to hone this skill:

Try doing something fun. As simple as this sounds, you’d be surprised to learn how much. In fact, behavioral and learning scientist, Marily Oppezzo, says taking a walk might be all you need to get your creative juices flowing.[1]

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Anyone can be creative, you just need the right way to train your brain:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

11. Don’t Stop Learning Tech Knowledge and Skills

Being tech-savvy is a huge plus. If you have an affinity with computers, software applications and are abreast of technological improvements, it is a transferable skill that is worth highlighting.

You don’t have to be a young college graduate with silicon valley dreams to work

How to hone this skill:

All you need is the determination and the readiness to learn. This article will give you some ideas on the types of skills to learn:

How to Improve Your Computer Skills to Get Ahead in Your Career

12. Build Networks and Relationships

You aren’t free from networking. Not at the moment. With your goal to switch to a different career, your networking skills will come in handy.

Fortunately for you, networking doesn’t have to be so hard.

How to hone this skill:

Attend conferences and job fairs. Chances are you already have people in your network you can move you closer to your dream career.

To enhance your networking skills, take these steps:

How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

Final Thoughts

Although there are several people with the same qualification and degree(s) you possess, what ultimately determines hireability comes down to a myriad of things such as culture fit, how teachable you are, cultural sensitivity, inter-generational awareness, and your ability to navigate uncertainty.

You have a chance to stand out by letting your dream companies know how these soft skills make you an invaluable asset, and how saying ‘YES’ to you is a win-win for both parties.

Happy career switching!

More Resources About Career Advancement

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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