Should you commit to further study to further your career? | Women's Agenda

Should you commit to further study to further your career?

I am thinking of doing further study but I’m not sure what I should do, and whether to do it for personal or professional reasons. Can you please give me some advice on what I should be thinking about in making a decision?

Mary, Marketing Manager, Manufacturing

It is great that you are looking at furthering your education, as continual learning is one of the keys to thriving and growing. There are a few areas to consider as you progress here:

  1. What is your intent for the study?

    Are you clear on why you want to do more study? Is it to further your career, deepen your skills in your professional area, or make a total career change? Get clear on your intent and make sure you know the impact the study will have on your career. Sometimes we believe that if we get our MBA then some magical ladder will appear to take us to senior management. But in some professions and organisations, an MBA doesn’t hold as much value or cache, whereas another qualification might make a big difference. Make sure you know what skills gaps you will be filling and the difference that will make before you dive in. I have seen too many people slog their way through degree or post graduate programs that were never going to have a great impact on their career prospects. It is just not worth it. So do your research, speak with your mentors, sponsors or manager, and get clear.

  2. Is it a passion play?

    Sometimes we do study for pure passion. My first Masters degree was in management and was definitely to tick the career box. My yoga teacher training, Masters in Wellness, and now my PhD in Women’s Studies, are all passion plays. They now also support my career plans. It is just as valid to do further study to indulge your passions as it is to progress your role. I know people who do pottery, photography, jewelry making, philosophy and psychology amongst others, and sometimes it leads to merging career with passion, which is the ultimate. Don’t let anyone make you feel like it is a waste of your time. It is one of the most important things you can do to contribute to your wellbeing.

  3. What is the time and financial investment?

    Go in with your eyes open. I suggest you map out the financial investment, which most people do, but also the time and energy commitment that your study will require. Be realistic about this. If it is work related study, can you get financial contribution from your employer? Will they give you study leave? If it’s for your personal benefit, can you afford the program and the time required to get the benefit from the effort? The more thorough you can be planning these areas out, the less stress you will have as you get underway.

  4. What are you willing to trade to undertake the study?

    As someone who has done a lot of study, for both professional and personal purposes, I know that there have to be tradeoffs involved in carving out the time you need. Note that I do not use the word sacrifices, as having a positive mindset about where your focus goes is key to your success. But there are tradeoffs, and that is fine if you know what they are and are prepared to make them.

The final thing I would say is to make sure you have the support you need to move forward. Regardless of what you decide to undertake, having the right infrastructure in place to support you, your work, and your personal wellbeing and life, is paramount. Whether it’s your partner, parents, team mates, or hired support, get some infrastructure in place so that you can enjoy the experience, not suffer your way through it.

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