If you think career progression is all about climbing ladders by pushing for a promotion, you'd better take a look at the new paradigm where things are getting competitive in the skills stakes.
There's no denying that workers in Australia are more educated today than they've ever been. Tertiary enrolments are up, and new graduates are vying for a foot in the door and some purchase on the ladder in their chosen field. The reason for this is clear: tertiary study enables young people to leapfrog those who choose not to pursue further education by entering the workforce at a higher level, with better pay and with more job opportunities.
Employers are partly responsible as the number of job advertisements that ask for minimum qualifications have increased. Recruiters do this to secure candidates that they believe have the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job, in effect using the qualification to vouch for the graduate's abilities.
We know this, and it makes sense. And yet, it's funny that we forget this concept when we are mid-career. After the flush of youthful ambition, we spend the rest of our working lives eyeing the rungs of our career ladder thinking that pushing for a promotion and playing workplace politics are the only ways to get ahead.
By the time you hit mid-career, you already have enough experience behind you to validate your existing qualifications. Step back for a minute and consider whether further education may actually be a better investment of your time. Perhaps your career would be better served by extending your skill set rather than working harder, allowing you to move into a different area, make a clear case for promotion and/or a pay rise, or accelerate your career—perhaps with another employer.
I've known accountants who have transitioned into finance lawyers, massage therapists who run their own business and salespeople who've become savvy business development managers, all due to adding extra study that allowed them to pursue opportunities they felt they couldn't with their initial qualification.
The trick is that you need to be proactive. It's no good flicking through today's job ads wishing you had the skills to apply. Do some research and find out what it would take to elevate you from your current position to the role you want, enrol and study. If you're worried about study interrupting your career momentum, consider an evening class, study by distance learning or choose the online option: there are so many courses that will allow you to study while you work. This can also give you an opportunity to apply what you've learnt in your day job.
Increasing job opportunities through further study is not just for school-leavers; with a little bit of research and pinch of passion it works just as well for employees at mid-career. That way, you'll be prepared for when the next opportunity arises.
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