If you are thinking of undertaking further study, whether it is to improve in your chosen field, change fields or just learn a new skill, I highly recommend it. My loved ones would tell you (as they roll their eyes) that my endorsement comes as no surprise, since I am a relentless advocate for continual self improvement, and the improvement of those around me (much to their dismay).
When I first started postgraduate study, I didn’t realise that there would be so many aspects I was going to enjoy. So now that I have two small bouts of post-grad learning behind me and am about to commence my MBA, here are some benefits I have experienced which may help you make up your mind.
You come to embrace continuous learning
Plenty of people have said to me “Good on you for starting your MBA, I always wanted to but I dread the idea of studying again, I enjoy my spare time.” In this regard, time is like money. If I get used to having too much of it, it’s harder to make a lifestyle adjustment when I lose it all again. Plus, I like to keep busy. By undertaking further study, I’m keeping my mind open to new concepts and ideas, whilst retaining and/or developing the ability to absorb information for long periods of time. It doesn’t have to be a masters degree, it could be a photography course or learning a new language. I find that my work activities are very reactive or deadline driven, so I need to train my mind to be receptive to proactive learning.
You get better at your day job
Regardless of whether the further study relates directly back to your day job or not, it is highly likely that you will be able to utilise some part of the experience and learning. It could simply be the added confidence or boost to your mood because you are pursuing studies that you’re excited about, or that your newly acquired knowledge lends a fresh perspective. I work in a compliance and operations function and am very excited to see elective topics offered through the MBA such as Risk Management and Project Management. But even better will be the topics that I’m not so familiar with, at least theoretically, such as Data Analysis and People Management.
You actually want to be there
There are a lot of pressures moving from secondary school to tertiary studies and for most of us, there is an expectation that we complete University. So, at the age of 17 or 18 we are expected to make a decision on a bachelors degree which could potentially set the course for our working lives. So we do, and we show up and do the work. But everybody’s still figuring out adulthood, Uni’s a party and most people haven’t actually entered the professional workforce yet. I know I certainly didn’t devote the appropriate time and effort towards my bachelors, and feel that I could have done a lot better.
The difference with further study is that you’re more experienced and wiser, and (hopefully) you’ve come to the decision on your own and actually want to be there. You’re doing it for yourself, you’re motivated and you’re more realistic about what you’re going to get out of it. When you’re in this mindset, you’re more likely to extract value and a return on investment from your study.
You build your social and professional networks
The fact that you and others, actually want to be there brings me nicely to the next point. Personally, I think that undertaking a course off campus via an online mode robs you of a major benefit; meeting like-minded people and building your professional network. I believe that if you’re going to commit yourself financially to further study, you’re going to see more value if you attend in person. Of course, many people said the same thing about my undergraduate studies, however I wouldn’t reverse my decision to work full-time instead, so really it comes down to an individual’s objectives.
I found that my social circle reduced the further I got into my twenties, and that it was harder to make new friends outside of work. I met a wonderful group of friends through my practical legal training course and it was extremely beneficial to have a support network to firstly get through the course and secondly to navigate the legal industry together. These people were in the same boat as me, they were passionate about their careers and were juggling full-time work and part-time study. It has now been 3 months since the course finished and we continue to send one other job advertisements and invitations to networking events, in addition to arranging purely social catch-ups. These friends work in various organisations of differing size and industry throughout Melbourne, and it’s never a bad thing to have a diverse network.
Your CV will thank you for it
Further study demonstrates drive, a commitment to self improvement, good time management and intellect, among many other things. In my experience, if you are applying for a position where the qualification is not a prerequisite but rather an advantage, it’s hardly a deal breaker that you haven’t completed the course, but an indication of your potential and self motivation that you are working towards it.
Of course there are some caveats, for one, I question the merit of launching straight into postgraduate study without having first accumulated work experience, for example completing a bachelor of laws and launching straight into a masters of law. Again, it really is up to the individual’s circumstances and objectives. Also, weighing up how you see the study bettering your life and you as a person is important because in most cases, there is a significant financial and time commitment to be made.
I will have to write the ‘Negatives of Further Study’ post in the near future, but *spoiler alert* the good definitely outweighs the bad.