To study or not to…remain relevant?

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To study or not to…remain relevant?

Written By: Akunna Onwu, Associate Coaching Course graduate

                Prospective Executive Coach

                Mentorship & Wellness columnist, The Corporate Canvas

The world in which we live in is constantly developing. New technological advancements are constantly being churned out. Information is at our fingertips and at the press of a button. New studies are being released informing us of the many changes and happenings in the world. There is so much information in and around us that it sometimes feels a bit too much. The question becomes how, then, does one keep up? Well, not just keep up, but remain relevant. In other words, what is my distinguishing bar code from Miss Jane in the cubicle across from me? I am sure as you read this you are probably wondering how any of this pertains to studying and working at the same time, but permit me to elaborate further on my  musings.

The current environment in which we play in is one of competitiveness, innovation, rapid growth and development. We are constantly reminded of the need to remain relevant. The question for so many of us is “how then do we remain relevant?”  For some people, understanding the current complexities and the new advancements is a sure way of setting themselves apart from others.  For others, it might be pushing the current boundaries set out by themselves and society by creating new niches. And for the rest,   gaining new knowledge in a field of choice is the key. Whatever your choice is, remaining a step ahead is vital.

For me, the above musings were what constantly plagued my mind. How do I remain relevant?  How do I ensure that I obtain that ever elusive competitive edge?  With all of these thoughts floating in my head, it became obvious to me that I would fall into the latter category- those wishing to gain new knowledge and skills by  further studying while maintaining a full-time job. At the time, I felt that in order to obtain that elusive competitive edge, I needed to consider furthering my studies particularly because I wanted to make a career change.

The decision to further your studies, particularly while holding a full-time job, is not a whimsical idea that manifests itself immediately. There are many factors that need to be considered, such as what to study, where to study, financial implications, full-time or part-time and the likelihood of potential job opportunities post studies, to name a few. Based on my own experience, I have put down a few things to consider when making the life-changing decision to further your studies while maintaining a full-time job.

What to study?

This must be the most difficult of all the factors to take into consideration. This is particularly difficult because of all the elements at play. The one piece of advice that I received from my mentor was to ensure that my chosen field of study was within my area and field of interest, particularly if I was sponsoring it myself. There is nothing worse than studying something you do not enjoy. Coming home after a long day at the office to open a book to do an assignment or prep for an exam, knowing fully well that it saps the life out of you, can be very frustrating to say the least. It makes the whole experience dreadful and painful and you tend to not put in your best.  So, make sure that your field of study is in line with your field of interest.

Which Institution to study at?

Now that you have decided on what you want to study the next step is where. There are many -a –institutions offering you their golden egg.  Do yourself a favour and research properly, in terms of accreditation, international standards, cost, variety of lecturers, variety of courses, availability of extra-curricular activities, alumni, proximity to where you live (I know you might see this as a joke, but trust me for those late night courses you do not want to be travelling from city to city) and the cost implications as well.

Financial Implications

This is another huge deal breaker – I should know! Yours truly was not really prepared for how my lifestyle would change, once I made the decision to further my studies. Do not make the same mistakes I made. Plan ahead. Consider all possible costs – something as silly as travel and accommodation costs if your course is located in a different city from where you live. Remember, there are many avenues that you can explore for funding. There are government sponsored bursaries, educational loans and even your employer may be willing to sponsor your studies. Do not be discouraged by the costs, good planning and good research can see you attaining that qualification you so desire.

Study life and Social Life balance

The decision to study while working will affect many areas of your life. Be it your social calendar, your financial lifestyle and even your work life. Be prepared to plan to live on a budget and manage your time wisely. I find it helps tremendously when your employer is aware of your studies as it helps you to adjust and plan accordingly.

Potential job opportunities

I am a firm believer (and there are many who will disagree), in not just studying for the sake of studying. There are some that do, and can afford to do so, but I think it just brings to mind the age old adage – “Jack of all trade, Master of none”. I believe in having a set goal in terms of what your purpose is. Perhaps you need to acquire new knowledge in that field or to upskill yourself or even to remain up to date with the latest developments in your field of choice. However, whatever it is that you decide to study must be geared towards attaining a specific goal. There are those who study for the sake of studying, but those are few and far between. Studying while working, I believe, should in some way help (in theory at least) propel you to a state in which you are better off than when you began. In my case, I decided to study because I knew I wanted to make a career shift, and as such, required new technical skills and knowledge which the course assisted me in attaining.

The decision to study while maintaining a full-time job is not for the faint-hearted. It requires discipline, commitment, exceptional time management and guts.  I never fully comprehended the amount of sacrifices that I had to make in order to achieve this goal. Be it time spent with friends and family or even forgoing a pair of shoes at my favourite store. However, if it is a well-thought out decision it can be used as a step in assisting you gain that competitive advantage that would in some way enable you to remain relevant.

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