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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible

How to Make Going Back to School at 30 Possible

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.[2]

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.[3]

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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 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?
[2] Encyclopaedia Britannica: Carly Fiorina
[3] Wikipedia: Mandy Ginsberg

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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 November 5, 2019

10 Ways to Find Learning Motivation (Even After You’ve Graduated)

10 Ways to Find Learning Motivation (Even After You’ve Graduated)

As human beings, we have a built-in desire to learn and expand our knowledge to grow and develop. The type of learning can be different between people. Some people love to hear about what other people are doing—the gossips— others love reading books about nature and some enjoy reading the news. We all have it and it is built in.

Like all learning, some of the knowledge gained is useful and some less useful. Gossiping and commenting on the latest news is not going to develop you very much as a person, and in all likelihood is going to make you angry, sad or happy, depending on your viewpoint.

While other knowledge, such as learning a new skill or a new language, can help you to grow intellectually and give you skills that can lead to better career prospects and an increase in your income.

The difficulty for many people is finding the learning motivation after we have finished our formal education. For example, I did not enjoy learning languages when I was at school. Now, many years after I left school, I find it hard to motivate myself to learn the language of the country I find myself living in, even though to do so would greatly improve my income growth potential and enable me to make new friends.

We are living in rapidly changing times. The work we do today is at risk of being replaced by automation and AI. If we want to continue to grow and develop, we need to make sure we are learning new skills faster than automation, and AI can keep up.

So, here are a number of ways that can help motivate you to continue to learn after you have graduated from school.

1. You Get to Choose What You Learn

When we were at school, we had little choice about what we learned. We all learned to the same thing.

In my case, the basic subjects were maths, languages (English, Latin and French) and science. It did not matter that I hated maths, I still had to learn it.

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Today, I can choose what I want to learn. That makes learning new things a lot of fun. Over the last twelve months, I have learned about neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), social media marketing and meditation. All of these subjects have been fascinating and have been enjoyable to learn.

2. Remind Yourself of the Outcome

One of the things I have chosen to learn this year is Korean. I live in Korea and do have what I describe as ‘survival Korean’, but I wanted to take my ability to communicate in Korean to fluency.

I do not enjoy learning languages, largely because it is a slow process. So on the days I am not ‘in the mood’ to learn, I remind myself of why I am learning it.

I visualize being able to walk into a shop or restaurant and having a full conversation with the staff. Or riding in a taxi and discussing the latest news with the driver. Doing this very quickly gets me back ‘in the mood’ and I am soon learning more verbs, nouns and conjugations.

3. Make Your “Why” for Learning Emotionally Strong

Learning something new so you can win an argument in your office is not likely to be a strong reason to learn something new. Sure, that brief moment of victory may give some satisfaction but it will not last.

But if your reason for learning is so you develop a new skill that will make your work better or more efficient, you are always going to have a strong incentive to continue learning.

Before beginning a new learning project, think about why you want to learn that particular subject and make sure the reason why is strong and connected to some form of emotional need.

When your reasons are connected to an emotion such as happiness, love or fulfilment, you are always going to find the motivation to sit down and learn.

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4. Have a Goal

My goal for learning Korean is to do a TED-like presentation in Korean in June next year. Every time I sit down to study Korean, I remind myself of my goal and I imagine introducing myself in Korean to the audience.

But not only that, I also want to speak the language so well that if someone was listening to me on the radio or on a podcast, they would not be able to tell I was a non-native Korean speaker. This goal not only gives me a time pressure (speaking fluently by June next year), it also gives me some excitement because I can imagine how I will feel when I sit down after giving my talk.

5. Mix up How You Learn

When I was at university, there was only one way to learn and study — read the textbooks. My degree was in law and if you have never sat down to read a land law textbook, you have never discovered how intensely boring a textbook can be.

Today, we have so many different ways to learn. We can begin with Wikipedia to get a basic understanding of a subject, we can then do a search on Amazon to find books on the subject, and we can go to YouTube and watch videos on the subject. All three of these avenues of learning I’ve used recently when I learned about neuro-linguistic programming.

It was fun and enjoyable. I could choose which way I wanted to learn depending on my mood.

6. Join Online Groups

Discussion groups are a great way to maintain your motivation when learning. Facebook, Quora and WhatsApp all have user groups you can join to get involved in discussion groups and have your questions answered.

You can even post a question on Twitter and with the right hashtags, attract other people from all over the world to answer your questions or get involved in a discussion.

If you find your motivation is waning, post a question in one of these groups and see what happens. You will soon find your motivation again.

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7. Set a Fixed Time Each Day to Study

This one has really worked for me. Earlier this year, I decided to begin waking up at 5 AM (to join Robin Sharma’s 5 AM Club[1]). The question I had was: what would I do between 5 AM and 6 AM? The answer for me was to use that time to study Korean.

Now, six months into the journey, I love waking up at 5 AM, and sitting down with my morning coffee and learning Korean. I begin with doing my self-introduction while walking around my living room imagining presenting in front of an audience. I then spend twenty minutes learning new verbs and I finish off watching a video from my favourite Korean teacher (Korean Unnie[2]) on YouTube. Six months in and when I wake up, I know exactly what I am going to do and I have no difficulties with motivation.

8. Create Mini Goals

A few months ago, I set the goal of being able to ask a taxi driver to drop me off in front of the subway station. This was something I regularly found myself wanting to do but did not know exactly how to do it. So I asked a Korean friend of mine how to say the sentence and I then spent a couple of study sessions practising it.

The next time I was in a taxi, I used the phrase to ask the taxi driver to drop me off in front of the subway station and he understood me perfectly. WOW! The feeling of pride I had was fantastic. This gave me more motivation to continue to find other phrases I wanted to learn to use in my everyday life.

Setting mini-goals that you can use to check your progress is a sure way to keep you motivated to continue your learning journey.

9. Seek Different Ways to Learn

Whenever you find your motivation disappearing, change the way you learn.

Last year, I decided I wanted to learn how to use Adobe InDesign and I began my learning on YouTube with one of my favourite Adobe experts, Terry White. Terry White has put together a series of videos called “How To Get Started With… ” and these videos are fantastic to get you started. Once I had completed that video, I enrolled in an online course on Skillshare that took my understanding of InDesign to the next level and once that was completed I gave myself a project to develop a workbook in InDesign.

While I was creating the workbook, there were a few more things I needed to learn, so I searched Google for ways to learn how to do them.

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By the end of three months, I was proficient in using InDesign and it is now one of my favourite Adobe tools. By mixing up the way I learned, I found myself motivated and eager to learn more.

10. Give Yourself Mini-Rewards

This is a great way to keep yourself motivated. When you have successfully completed a new area of learning, reward yourself. The reward could be a night out with your friends to celebrate successfully mastering a new area, or it could be buying yourself a new toy.

Having these mini-rewards taps into the “pleasure/pain” part of your brain and your brain soon begins to understand that when you successfully study, something pleasurable happens. When your brain understands this, all you need to do is remind yourself of what reward will come whenever you feel a lack of motivation and your motivation will soon return.

Final Thoughts

Learning something new can be difficult. In the rush of initial excitement, it is easy to be motivated to learn; but over time, that initial excitement recedes and you need to find other ways to motivate yourself.

These ten tips will help to make sure when you have gone through the initial enthusiasm and learning more becomes difficult, you have the means to get motivated to continue your journey and expand your knowledge.

More Resources About Boosting Motivation

Featured photo credit: Lonely Planet via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Robin Sharma: Be Wise, Early Rise
[2] YouTube: Korean Unnie 한국언니

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