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Why I returned to education as an adult.

A couple of years ago I attended a University reunion. Scarily, it turned out that over 15 years had passed since I’d worn the mortar board and gown and cockily processed up to the front of Canterbury Cathedral to collect my degree certificate.

Meeting up with old friends made me ask myself some serious questions. What had I been doing for the last decade. Marriage – check. Kids – check. Work – check. But what had I done to develop myself? Short of a few online courses I couldn’t come up with anything solid to demonstrate that I’d enhanced my knowledge or skills.

My career had moved on at a fairly decent pace thanks to some excellent managers and a little bit of luck. In all honesty though, I didn’t have the qualifications to back up that experience. That hit home when I was looking to change jobs. I had the skills and experience, but no piece of paper to prove I met the person specification.

In a mild panic, and after a bit of financial planning, I booked myself onto a Level 6 qualification (equivalent to a degree) in my professional field. Some might call it a midlife crisis. I’d like to think it was a bit too early for that and that the sports car is still to come…

From the moment I started that training job opportunities, and offers, started flooding in and I was lucky enough to be able to take my pick of a few different options.

So all’s well that ends well, but here are a few lessons I learned along the way:

Find a way to study that suits your lifestyle. With a busy job and a young family, I knew conventional study wouldn’t suit me. Fortunately I found an excellent training provider that delivered my course online through webinars, lectures and loads of resources. That meant I could study when the family had been safely tucked in for the night. There are plenty of different study options – choose the one that suits you.

Plan your study time, and stick to it. Work with your tutor to plan your progress and put deadlines and milestones in to keep yourself moving forward. Try and study at times when you won’t be interrupted or when you won’t feel guilty for letting someone down. If you need to referee (sorry, supervise) a party of three-year-old girls, plan your study around it instead of missing the ‘fun’ and feeling guilty about it.

Remember it’s an investment. When we return to education we have a goal. For me it was career progression. For you it might be to meet new people, or to develop a hobby or interest. When it gets tough (see point 5) you’ll need to remind yourself why you’re bothering. Surround yourself with cues to keep your motivation up.

Share what you’re studying with friends and family. You might think you’re being a bore, but they’re probably interested. As you describe your study you’ll be reinforcing your learning, and giving them an insight into the reason you’ve been working so hard.

Be disciplined. Those deadlines and milestones I mentioned – you’ll be so tempted to miss them. After all, when you’re an adult evenings and weekends are for ‘me time’ aren’t they? You’ll need to be disciplined, because no-one else is going to pick up the slack for you. No-one else will be holding the pen when you have to write solidly for three hours in an exam (I seriously hadn’t used a pen for that long since 1999).

It’s going to be tough, but receiving my certificates and seeing my career develop made it all worthwhile.

You can find out more about adult learning in Kent here. 

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