Last week during my monthly touch-up, my hairstylist announced that he was going back to school. George was excited about transferring his talent for making people beautiful into a new career as a plastic surgeon. His plan is to work his way through school over the next seven years. I was completely inspired by George’s focused determination to reinvent himself, and I knew that he wasn’t alone. Frustrated by dead-end careers, a lack of job prospects, and the need to enhance skill sets--or be left in the dust--adults are going back to school in droves.
Wanting to find out more about this trend, I asked Jim Maxwell at Bellevue University to share with me the new reality of the adult student. Recently, Bellevue completed a study revealing that adults 25 to 54 years old are struggling the most in this economy. In fact, 23 percent of working adults are unhappy in their jobs and 60 percent of Americans are considering going back to school. They report wanting to change the type of work they do in favor of something they actually enjoy. Sound familiar?
Then there are the millions of Americans who are out of work--who have been displaced across industries that are in decline. If you count yourself among these folks, you need to deal with the changes, and take action now, so you can secure a job in an industry that is growing. That action most definitely will involve going back to school.
Here are four things Jim thinks all adult learners need to know:
- Don’t just get a degree. Find something that fuels your passion and is relevant to the market--a degree that employers will respect and value.
- Look for a program that’s flexible so that you can continue to work. That may mean online courses or finding a classroom with adult learners.
- You’ll want to make sure that whatever program you get into isn’t just about theory, but it gives you a chance to put theory into practice.
- Find a school that can help you make connections so that you graduate with more than a degree, but real world experience and a job.
Before going for that MBA, dig deep to find a degree that matches your strengths, not just one that looks good on a resume. You’ll also want to explore which degrees will be in demand in 2018 and beyond.
Whether you go to grad school or not, you need to be ready, not rusty, for what’s next. You could suddenly be let go or made the head of your department. Get a big contract or be stiffed on a deal. Just remember that change is everywhere and you can’t predict what’s around the corner. That’s why it’s so important to keep learning. Becoming stale, complacent, stagnant—these options are unworthy of you.
To embrace change, sharpen your saw by taking marketing, sales, leadership, public speaking, or computer courses after work. Make connections through volunteering, joining a team sport, attending conferences, or teaching a class. Or, like my hairstylist and over half of American workers today, go back to school and stretch yourself to earn a desirable degree.
It’s time to think of the actions you can take to reach your next peak and resist that doubting voice. When you stop being afraid of change, and you get in step with the ever-changing business environment, the landscape of what’s foreign to you shrinks--and so does the distance between you, others and your career destiny.