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Last Updated on February 9, 2021

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.

For those who want to supercharge your learning ability and pick up any skills faster, try the FREE Learning Fast Track Class offered by Lifehack. It’s a 20-minute intensive class called Spark Your Learning Genius, and will surely upgrade your learning skills right away. Find out more about the Fast Track Class here.

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.

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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]

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.

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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.

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

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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Published on March 1, 2021

How To Find a Mentor And Make The Relationship Work

How To Find a Mentor And Make The Relationship Work

One of the fastest shortcuts to success in anything is to learn from someone who’s already done it. No matter what your goals are—from starting a business to inventing a new technology, from becoming a better public speaker to getting a promotion—there’s someone out there who’s done some variation of it. They’ve already faced the trials and tribulations of that journey. They have the connections. They’ve gained experience and wisdom. They know the pitfalls and challenges, and they know the shortcuts. If you want a higher chance of success, find a mentor.

Pick up a biography of any successful person, and you’ll quickly learn that there’s one thing they all have in common: they’ve all had mentors—people who came before who taught and championed and supported them, people who helped shortcut their path to success in their given field.

Mentorship Isn’t Exactly New

The recorded history of mentorship dates back to at least Ancient Greece.[1] In the Middle Ages, most skills and crafts were learned through apprenticeship.[2] And since the 1970s, mentorship has become a critical part of many businesses and enterprises.[3]

But it’s not just an enduring legacy—research backs its benefits up. People with mentors are more likely to get promotions, be more engaged, and even feel more satisfied at work.[4][5] In fact, a study at Sun Microsystems found that 25% of employees who took part in mentorship got a pay raise and were five times more likely to get a promotion.[6]

So, how do you take advantage of all of these benefits and find yourself a mentor? The good news is there are more opportunities today than ever before—from free to paid, from formal to informal.

How to Find a Mentor

Here are five ways to find a mentor and make the relationship work.

1. Start With Your Human Resources Department

If you work in a corporate setting, start with the HR department. They’ll be able to connect you with any company-sponsored mentorship programs or, at least, point you in the right direction.

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Even if you haven’t heard of a company mentorship program, it’s worth checking in because you might be surprised—71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs, but only 37% of professionals actively have a mentor.[7]

If your company doesn’t have a formal mentorship program, HR may be able to recommend aligned organizations or affinity groups, or even help you set up an informal meeting with a potential mentor in the organization.

2. Join a Club, Organization, or Affinity Group

You don’t need to work in a corporate setting to join a like-minded group or club. If there’s an area you’re passionate about or if you’re looking for a mentor with similar background and interests, there are several non-profits, organizations, and groups that can help you meet a potential mentor.

Join a club or group in your area of interest and start networking. There are groups related to everything from skills like public speaking to fields like entrepreneurship or art, to celebrating and supporting your culture, background, sexual orientation, or identity.

If you start with your passions and values, you’re more likely to find a mentor who’s aligned.

3. Sign Up for a Networking App or Service

In the 21st century, networking can be as simple as a swipe on the phone or a click on the computer. There are plenty of networking and mentorship groups already in place, from SCORE, which helps small businesses connect with mentors for free, to Meetup.com, which helps people with similar interests to meet up, to even Shapr, which is known as the “Tinder for business” and helps you connect with other professionals in your area.

The ultimate social networking tool for business, of course, LinkedIn, can be a powerful asset in helping you to find a mentor or be introduced to one through a mutual contact if there’s a specific person in your field that you’d like to meet.

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Most of these services are free or low-cost, so do some research and join the service that makes the most sense to help you meet a mentor.

4. Pay for a Mentorship Program or Mastermind Group

In addition to the numerous free resources, you can also pay to be connected to a mentor or a mentorship community. Some high-level leaders actually sell formal mentorship programs. There are also paid groups, organizations, and masterminds that span every industry and area of interest.

If you’re interested in a paid program, do some online research on potential mentors, and ask people in your field if there are any mentors or programs that they’ve hired themselves or heard about. Though a paid relationship does change the dynamics of a classic mentorship, it can be extremely beneficial if you’re looking for specific structure and results or access to a very prominent person or group of people.

5. Reach Out Directly to People Who Inspire You

You can try to reach out directly to people who inspire you or potential mentors. Do your research and find people who inspire you or who have achieved success in your area of interest, and then contact them directly to ask for mentorship.

Of course, if you have the opportunity to be introduced to them through mutual contact (check LinkedIn first to see if you have any in common), you may have a greater chance of a positive response. But many prominent mentorships started with just an audacious e-mail asking for mentorship. So, don’t shy away from reaching out directly if there’s someone you really want to connect with.

Get the Most Out of the Mentorship

A mentor-mentee relationship is different than almost any other relationship you’ll ever have. It’s not exactly a friendship, but it’s not exactly a boss-employee dynamic, either (unless your mentor is your boss). So, it’s important to set up the right structure to make sure you both get the most out of the mentorship.

Here are five ways to get the most out of mentorship.

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1. Get Clear on Your Goals

Before establishing a mentorship, get clear on why you want a mentor. What are you hoping to get out of the relationship? What skills do you want to learn? Where do you hope this relationship will help you get in the next six months or a year? How much time do you want to dedicate to this mentorship? How will you know if the mentorship is a success?

Once you’re clear on your goals, you’ll be able to better assess who is the right fit for you, where to find this person, and how to communicate so you’re both on the same page.

2. Set Clear Expectations and Boundaries

Any good mentorship starts with clear communication and upfront expectations and boundaries. Right away, clearly decide how and how often you’ll meet, what your goals and expectations of each other are, and what boundaries you have around the relationship.

For example, some mentorships meet monthly but text in between meetings. Others only meet quarterly and check-in via e-mail a few times in between. Others still have no correspondence in between meetings. A little work upfront to be clear on things like where you’ll meet, how often, what communication is acceptable, and what issues are within the bounds of the mentorship can go a long way to making sure it’s a sustainable, mutually beneficial relationship.

3. Keep It Consistent

Once you’ve ironed out the details, keep them consistent. Try to schedule out meetings at least 3 to 6 months in advance so that there are no misunderstandings. For example, you may choose to meet on the first Friday of every month, unless otherwise discussed.

Try not to cancel meetings unless something truly unavoidable comes up and, if e-mail is customary, be sure to consistently check in via e-mail in between. The biggest threat to mentorship is the lack of consistency. Over time, saying, “I’ll e-mail you when I’m free next month,” withers away into two or three months without any communication, and then a failed mentorship.

We all get busy, and things are bound to come up, so if the mentorship isn’t on your calendar and prioritized, it may fall apart after a certain point. Make a point to keep it consistent!

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4. Be Open to New Ways of Thinking and Trying New Things

The mentorship will challenge you and may ask you to try new things. You don’t necessarily have to agree with and resonate with everything your mentor says, but try your best to keep an open mind and try new things on for size—you might be surprised.

Your mentor likely has a lot of experience in your interest area, and they may have new ways of thinking about things from all of that experience. It doesn’t mean you have to accept their advice long-term, but being open to trying their advice shows your mentor you appreciate their wisdom and also opens you up to new possibilities.

If something isn’t a fit after you’ve tried it, talk to your mentor about that, and you can work together to find the right fit. But show up, do your homework, listen, and be open to new ideas and approaches. That’s the whole point of the mentorship, and it shows your mentor that you take the relationship seriously!

5. Be Grateful and Give as well

Jumping off that last point, be grateful. Especially if it is an unpaid relationship, your mentor is donating time to support you. Express gratitude and appreciation whenever you can, and take the advice and homework as seriously as possible. And don’t feel like it’s only a one-sided relationship. Your mentor gets so much out of the relationship, from appreciation to celebrating your successes to even the future networking and connections you can share with your mentor.

So, don’t forget to celebrate your wins and recognize that this is a mutually beneficial relationship. The better you feel about the relationship, the better it’s going to go.

The Bottom Line

Mentorship is an amazing and invaluable asset that can accelerate your growth, success, and even fulfillment. Finding the right mentor and getting the most out of the relationship can mean the difference between wasted time and connection, wisdom, and a shortcut to your goals.

So dive on in and reap the same benefits that successful leaders have been accessing for the past 3,000 years. Find yourself a mentor.

More Tips on How to Find a Mentor

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

Reference

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