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Published on June 26, 2020

Why You Are Never Too Old for College (And How To Make It Work)

Why You Are Never Too Old for College (And How To Make It Work)

Today’s jobs require continuous learning. Consider how the current pandemic forced the whole world to switch to remote office work overnight. Suddenly, all in-person meetings went to an online format. Now, many employers are telling their workers to stay home and work remotely

After there is a vaccine, perhaps life at the office will return to the way it was. But it is more likely that there will be more flex time, more staggered schedules, and less travel to see clients. All of this requires learning new skills, and college is a fantastic place to learn these skills.

If you are old enough to work, you are young enough to go to college. The only thing required is curiosity, an active mind, and the desire to learn.

As the world reshapes its ways of working together and industries prepare to adapt, now is a promising time to enter into higher education and become immersed in the incubation of innovative new ideas.

Here are some reasons why you are never too old for college.

1. Going to College Keeps You Competitive

Especially in today’s rocky economy, you could find yourself competing with someone 10 or even 20 years younger. Armed with fresh bachelor degrees, your competitors have an edge unless you get your degree, too, or pursue an advanced degree.

If you find you are at a dead-end in your career, going back to college can help you acquire the skills you need to switch careers. And, just as you are never too old for college, you are never too old to take up an exciting new career.

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Advancements in technology, for example, are making some careers obsolete. If you are in a declining industry—which these days spans the gamut from travel agents to postal workers to mortgage brokers—and foresee an inevitable move to automation, you will be better off retraining for a career better aligned for the future.[1]

Now, it is not just people in their late teens and 20s going to college. Today’s college students are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. Some 40 percent of people obtaining a college degree these days are adults.[2]

Class cohorts of mixed ages can benefit both young and older students alike. Generational attitudes toward life and opportunities can be shared and perspectives of other generations’ viewpoints will broaden your own.

Additionally, when you go on a job interview, you can make the point that you are comfortable working across all generations.

2. Going Back to School as a Bucket List Item

Maybe you got a great job after high school or couldn’t afford to go to college directly after high school. Now, you have decided it is time to earn the degree you have always wanted to pursue. You may be at a crossroads in your current career, ready to take on a new challenge, or looking for more financial stability.

Earning a college degree can be a way to fulfill all of these dreams.

When you feel that the time has come to take the leap into higher education, be sure to look into degree options and their return on investment .[3] Getting a college education can be a time-intensive and pricey proposition, and you will want to make sure the cost and the effort will pay you dividends in the future.

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Or, if you simply want to augment your knowledge with a few skill-based courses, you are never too old to go to college to hone your expertise. Given how many of today’s careers are rapidly evolving, it is to your credit—and your company’s benefit—that you take initiative in improving your skills to keep up with the economy of the future.

Additionally, you are never too old for college classes to expand your interest and your knowledge in an avocation. Several colleges and universities offer not-for-credit courses on an array of topics—from current events to genres of literature to music appreciation and more.

3. Do the Legwork to Make It Work

Know in advance what skills you are after, and research the type of certification you need. Make sure the schools that you are investigating are accredited.[4] Often, a community college can provide a certificate program that will be all that you need to put your new career goals into motion.

Look into the requirements for admission. If it has been decades since you took a college admission test—as in an ACT or SAT—you may need to take one again. Be sure to make use of the online practice tests to help you prepare. But you may also be able to skip this step (some colleges are waving these requirements in light of the current pandemic).

You may also need to call up your high school and request that they send a transcript to the colleges to which you are applying.

Higher education institutions have several options for pursuing degrees with scheduling flexibility—through online or evening courses, accelerated-track programs, or self-paced programs. And while you are never too old for college, you are too for dorm living.

Adult students—often labeled “nontraditional students”—in some cases, may never need to set foot on campus. Depending on the nature of your degree, you could feasibly complete it entirely online. However, if you are interested in the sciences, for example, chances are you will need to complete lab work on campus.

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Make full use of the institution’s resources and particularly of those serving in the roles of admissions counselors, academic advisors, and financial aid advisors. They offer a well of resources and are there to make your transition into college easier.

If the college offers you the option of having a peer mentor, accept the offer. A peer mentor has already navigated the complexities of adjusting to college and can provide you with insider tips.

As an adult learner, career advancement may well be your key motivator in going back to school. Be on the lookout for any opportunities that can bolster your resume or expand your business network as you immerse yourself in your program.
For example, it may mean that you team with a professor on a research project—and hopefully, add your name among the authors. Or, it could mean presenting a paper at a conference related to your prospective industry. Take on the added work to stand out or make a positive impression.

All these stretch projects can help when you ultimately begin looking for employment with your newly minted degree.

How to Hold Down Your Job While Attending College?

If you intend to straddle the demands of both work and school—which is the usual scenario for adults earning a college degree—you will need to do some careful planning. Recognize that as an adult learner it may take you longer to complete some of the assignments. You will have to organize your schedule to find the time to study.

First, determine whether you can cut back to part-time work and go to school full-time. If you can make happen, you will be able to 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 your work life more manageable, it may not allow you to be eligible for financial aid.

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It is best to tell your coworkers and boss that you are going back to school—unless it is your intention to switch careers. This will show them that you have the drive to better yourself. When they know what you are juggling, they may be more understanding when you have to leave work early to take an exam.

Some employers have tuition-reimbursement programs to help with paying for the cost. Check with Human Resources to find out if your company offers any reimbursement for attending college.

It Is Never Too Late to Pursue More Education

The attitude that someone could be too old for college is outdated. Fortunately, students attending college in their later years are dispelling these old assertions.

Unlike some students in their early 20s, older students know what they are after, and are better focused on attaining it. If you are an older student, it is more likely than not that you are on a mission and no one can dissuade you.

You are never too old to create a life you love.

More Tips to Help You Go Back to School

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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.

Why You Are Never Too Old for College (And How To Make It Work) How to Write an Impressive Cover Letter (With Examples) 13 Ways to Demonstrate Integrity in the Workplace How to Write an Effective Meeting Agenda (With Templates) 20 Critical Skills to Add to Resume (For All Types of Jobs)

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

1. Make Time for You

If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

4. Work on Your Personal Brand

Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

5. Be Accountable

Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

8. Learn to Embrace Failure

Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

9. Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

10. Ask for Help

It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

  1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
  2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
  3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

Final Thoughts

You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

Reference

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