Education is one key decision that we make as young adults, but it does impact our entire professional lives. Although more learning can help change careers, a specialised university degree probably remains the one factor that determines how far one can go in many careers.
With that in mind, it goes without saying that a lot of thought should be given to the chosen field of study. Many people, however, may be well beyond this stage in their lives. They even may have chosen a well-respected, highly employable field, but over time they have found that it doesn’t correspond to their ambition as expected.
Once that is realised, the options are clearly limited. Switching gears to take on a totally new career isn’t always the easiest route. It requires more education, starting over in an entry position and probably a financial setback that comes along with these decisions.
So what can you do to achieve your professional goals without having to go back to school? Here are a few ideas that might help.
Your education and experience may not be fulfilling, and jumping into a completely new industry may be unrealistic. How about swerving to a related industry? If you identify these industries, utilise your experience to avoid starting over from scratch and still get room for growth.
All you need to do is to look closely at the qualifications and see where else they can be utilised. Then you have to narrow down the options to those that are likely to provide better, and more fulfilling, job opportunities. Expect a learning curve in any new job, but if this new job is also in a new field, be prepared to work harder to grow.
Build your experience
If still early in a career and willing to take an entry-level job, employers may overlook your degree and education. But you will have to stick with the job and build a solid experience. But seek additional training whenever needed to be able to establish yourself among your peers. Will this make up for your education gap? Not always.
Some fields and employers are more forgiving than others, and they will accept your equivalent experience. So learn more about a particular industry or be willing to compromise in your future professional advancement.
To grow and build your experience in a way that appears to be solid to employers. You must be willing to stick to the newly chosen path for an extended period of time. In addition, avoid hopping from one job to another, which can be taken as a sign of instability. Try to show a consistently growing career in your new area.
If trying to jump into a job that you don’t have proper education for, you need as much help as you can get. You also need insider information. Join industry networks, groups, forums, associations, etc. In addition, find a mentor within the company or an outsider who can help avoid spinning your wheels and wasting precious time and effort.
In many cases, joining these professional networks also will help you exponentially increase your knowledge, learn about job opportunities, major trends, etc. In short, you will have yourself immersed in this new line of work and you will be able to develop contacts and grow your knowledge quickly.
Ask for feedback, as well. You may not always like the criticism — constructive or not — that you may get, but feedback is an essential catalyst to growth. Embrace it and see where you can improve on your skills.
Think about certifications that can polish your knowledge and give your more industry credibility. These may not place you at the same level of a university graduate in the field, but can give you the practical knowledge and show that you are serious about your new path.
The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.
Making up for missing education
Make a smart move to a related industry.
Immerse yourself in a new field.
Get help from peers and a mentor.
Consider continuing education.