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Go Back To School - A Guide To Adult Learning And Changing Careers

Rosie Allabarton

The thought of learning new skills or upgrading your current skillset in your pursuit of a new career path, as an adult, can be a scary one. There are few of us who would gladly return to the classrooms of our youth after a gap of what might have been years.

Let’s face it, it’s intimidating.

Common fears include feeling like you’re too “rusty” to really succeed in a learning environment. Or perhaps you worry you lack the motivation to complete your course when you’re not compelled by your parents like you were when you were a teenager. It’s not just the study environment that can make adult learners nervous.

Simply knowing how to get started again after a break from learning and where to go to get your education when you’ve been out of the loop can create anxiety, and understandably so. And this is before we’ve even touched on the problems associated with working full-time or looking after a family alongside studying a new course and breaking into a new industry.

This post is all about getting you prepared for that step back into education as an adult learner. We’ve got a whole load of practical tips to get you from just dreaming of that new career to making it a reality.

Going back to studies after a gap requires a certain shifting of your mindset. You need to embrace the opportunity to learn more and try to minimize your preconceptions about adult learners. You need to be open to new ideas and new ways of learning. And you also need to accept that you’ll be starting as a beginner and will likely have to take direction from someone else.

What to consider before going back to school

When looking to get started in a new field, it’s important to do your research about what’s out there and available to you. Consider the following:

  • What’s your budget?
  • How much time can you commit?
  • How much support do you think you’ll need?
  • What skills do you need for the career you are hoping to pursue?

If you already have an idea about the skills you need, reach out to education establishments who offer the course you want and discuss your goals, plans and options.

Timing - when’s the best time to go back to school?

The difference between studying in your youth and going back to education as an adult is the number of responsibilities you are juggling in your adult life that your new studies have to fit around, responsibilities that as a youngster didn’t even enter into the equation.

You might have a full- or part-time job , children or other family responsibilities–not to mention the need for some time to yourself. Despite the added effort studying later in life might require, the additional benefits, both personal and professional, cannot be disputed when you are hoping to change careers.

Finding time around your other responsibilities is easier than you might think with flexible and online learning models offering attractive alternatives to the old school classroom. Online learning in particular allows students to fit their studies around their lives, as well as making it possible to work from anywhere and in any time zone as long as a computer and reliable internet connection are available.

With personalised learning becoming increasingly popular, you can get the one-on-one help you need from a teacher or mentor without even leaving the house. Learning at your own pace and from anywhere in the world has never been more possible than it is now, and this fast moving educational environment is opening doors to all sorts of learners every day.

Is going back to school right for me and my new career?

Getting started in a new career can be tough. By approaching your new adventure by first addressing the gap in your education will make this transition far easier, while simultaneously increasing your confidence and skills.

If, when you finish your studies, you don’t find the perfect new role to apply for, another advantage to widening your skillset and investing in your education is the possibility of a pay rise or promotion in your current job while you look for that great new role.

When thinking about a return to education, consider the following questions:

  • Are you frustrated in your current employment?
  • Are you looking to dive into a new industry altogether, but lack the required skills to do so?
  • Would you like to earn more money than you are currently earning, and in a more interesting field?
  • Do you want a job that you can get excited about on a Monday morning?
  • Are you motivated enough to stick to a new course of study?

Crucially, make sure you know the exact requirements of your new career before embarking on re-educating yourself. There would be nothing more frustrating than finding out midway through a course that it won’t be enough to get you where you want to be at the end of it.

To get you started in your return to education, we’ve put together a quick checklist for you to download, for free. Check it out in the pop up to the right of your screen and you’ll be well on your way to re-educating yourself back into a brand new career.

What You Should Do Now

  1. If you’d like to learn about finding a career you love - sign up here for one of our free 7-day design or development courses.
  2. If you are interested in becoming a Web Developer, UX, or UI Designer check out our mentored beginners' courses (complete with job guarantee!).
  3. If you’d like to speak to an expert Career Advisor for free about how you can really get a new job in tech - connect with us here.

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Rosie Allabarton

Rosie Allabarton

Contributer to the CareerFoundry Blog