Going Back to School as an Adult

Going Back to School as an Adult
Beth Dumbauld

Going back to school as an adult is a great way to take hold of your career and develop yourself into the person you’ve always wanted to be with the career you’ve always wanted to have. Once you’ve made the decision to take classes again, be sure you’re taking all the appropriate next steps to successfully slide into a career you’ll love when you’ve reached your graduation goal.

Ask yourself these questions to determine your education goals

  • What are my interests? Think about how you spend your free time and consider any careers that could spring from your activities. For example, if you like to volunteer to work with kids, you may want to consider education.
  • What subjects do I like to study? Consider your choices in books, documentaries and previous educational endeavors. When you have a strong interest in somethings to begin with, making that the focus of your education feels right and exciting.
  • How am I already building work skills through my hobbies? Your hobbies will shine a light on areas of study in which you may thrive. The things you’re already doing can help build a stellar resume. Take a look at the details and discover your underlying passion.
  • Who would I like to work with? Do you enjoy working with kids, sick, the elderly, or peers? Are you an introvert or extrovert? Let who you work best with guide you to the types of work available with people you’d enjoy.
  • Where would I like to work? Does working in an office give you energy or do you work best on your own? Options available include working from home, extensive or limited travel, outside environments, and various office setups.

Bonus: try this StraighterLine guide to getting your college degree to assist in making the decision to go back to school, set yourself up for success, and defray college costs.

Compare different careers

  • Which careers include the things I like? Now that you’ve inventoried your interests and learned how you work best (and with whom start listing the careers that fit into your strength categories. If you like working with elderly in a fluid environment, health care careers might be appealing. If you’re an introvert who works best at home, IT careers could work well for you.
  • Make a short list of appealing careers and hang on to it. Once you’ve compiled this list, don’t put it in a drawer and forget about it. Put it somewhere you will see and refer to it, and plan to review it periodically to add or eliminate things. Make this a living document to help guide your path.

Find out about employers to see the validity of a career path

  • How can you get in touch with them? Once you know what you want to study, do some research about careers in these areas. You can learn more by doing online research, researching school projects, and by attending events, like seminars or career fairs. Speak to friends involved in your areas of interests.
  • Get inspired by people. If you find yourself intrigued by interesting folks, listen to interviews, talks and attend events both in person and online that put you in the room with interesting people. Podcasts about careers and education are a great place to learn the latest in industry.

Bonus: keep up with trends in college as you go back to school as an adult, including online options, new programs available, and the best careers to access through your degree.

Learn what qualifications you need for your career

  • Apply for courses that will fill these qualifications. In doing your research, you will learn what degrees and courses are valuable in different fields. Be sure to keep your options open and take classes that could fill multiple choices for related careers, especially if you have trouble narrowing down your choice.
  • Get some work experience. While you’re in school, apply for internships, part-time jobs or take a gap year to work. Not only will this help you build a resume, it will help you to make sure you like the job. In some fields, this may have to wait until you’re done with school, but always ask about work possibilities regardless.
  • Find a mentor. Mentors are often a professor or leader in the field you’d like to enter. While mentorships are sometimes formalized, often they are organic relationships that grow from shared interests where you feel comfortable asking for advice.

Make a CV & Resume

  • Create and use a CV and resume. Using the skills from internships, coursework and part-time jobs, develop a resume that will highlight the skills you’ve learned and how they will be a match for your desired job.
  • Keep it updated. Always remember to update your CV and resume when you have a new experience or take on a new responsibility. This shows you are always working to improve your skills and make yourself marketable.

Build soft skills that can be used in any job

  • Soft skills are things like leadership, teamwork, communication skills, problem solving, work ethic, flexibility, interpersonal skills. While these skills aren’t always listed on a job ad, noting them can show that you are a good fit for a company’s culture.
  • Be able to share specific examples of your soft skills when asked. For example, if you list your strong oral communication skills, you may also have a video clip or presentation you used to demonstrate your capability.

Continuously evaluate where you are

  • What do I like about my life right now? Being able to continuously consider your position is important. Take time to think about what is working in your life and what is not. Lean into what works, especially when it’s something you enjoy.
  • What is hard for me, what causes stress? This is tricky because avoiding something difficult or stressful may cause you to sell yourself short. Consider why something is hard or stressful—is this a short-term situation that will improve as you learn? If so, keep working. If not, you may want to consider a change.
  • How can I build my skills and continue to improve? If you see an area of improvement, evaluate how to improve and develop a plan of action. Learning new skills or bolstering areas of concern will eliminate surprises and stress.
  • If something isn’t working out for you, don’t be afraid to make changes or go back to your short list. It’s important to know when to cut losses and take up a new direction. If you feel dissatisfied with your direction, return to your short list and see about making a change.

Congratulations on your decision to go back to school as an adult. Because you have considered your next steps carefully, you are well on your way to finding personal and career success. Following the steps discussed here can make going back to school as an adult much easier and ensure you’ll be ready for a rewarding career when the classes are done.

Looking for more tips for going back to school as an adult? Check out this helpful guide: Guide to Going Back to School at Any Age

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