Choosing the right qualification for your skill set can often seem like a complex mystery that nobody has the capacity to solve. In this day and age, there are thousands of degrees, diplomas and certificates on offer for men and women of all disciplines and distinctions. The choices seem endless.
As if finding the best qualification to advance your career isn’t hard enough, moving in the most logical direction towards achieving it can be just as tricky to decipher. The landscape of traditional learning in a university environment has been dramatically revamped since the introduction of the internet. There are a variety of study alternatives currently available that can be cost-effective, convenient and far less time-consuming, such as distance learning, blended learning, e-learning and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). The final destination might be the same, but the routes taken to get there may differ considerably, from person to person, depending on the needs of their situation.
Nevertheless, it’s still easy to get bamboozled and abandon your career goals entirely, or at the very least, temporarily. After all, Google has its pros and cons. Sometimes you can’t find what you are looking for no matter how hard you try, while on other occasions, your search yields overwhelming results that only adds to the confusion. This can lead to the worst place of all – information overload!
Before you have torn yourself away from that computer screen with impaired vision, a creased brow and a sore back. Before you’ve collapsed into bed and pulled the covers over your head in a state of utter exhaustion and emotional despair, consider this little piece of advice: the most important thing to remember is your end goal. Don’t get distracted from your true purpose.
Firstly, take three deep breaths and relax. You definitely won’t find the right answers if you are like a nervous ball of worry, stress and tension.
Next, go and do something you enjoy. Play your favourite song, read a chapter of a book, watch a movie, anything that makes you happy and gives you a chance to escape for a while.
When you are ready to resume where you left off on your frustrating quest for a qualification, try and adopt a completely different approach. Sometimes if you don’t succeed the first time, you shouldn’t need to bother repeating the same useless exercise over and over again, until you get it right. Practice doesn’t always lead to perfection.
Start thinking outside of the box. What would Sherlock Holmes do, for instance? Ok, so you may not feel like some sort of investigative mastermind, but try and lighten up a little and stop taking yourself too seriously. A simple deductive exercise could be just the solution to help snap you out of your self-induced career paralysis and actually get you back on a better track in a matter of minutes, not hours, days, or weeks.
Look at it this way, if you can become a detached observer on a strictly fact-finding mission you may just discover the necessary clues to crack the case without letting your doubts, emotions, or even Google impede your progress. The only difference is that you are the central subject, so you are actually conducting a self-investigation. It might therefore be useful to put pen to paper and organise the facts in a clear, concise and no-nonsense manner. Finding the right qualification and study option can easily be achieved if you follow a simple, straightforward process.
Step 1: Create a character persona
Get back to basics and write up a brief description of yourself, as if you are a stranger who is about to read it. Break it down by answering some or all of the following questions:
What’s your name?
How old are you?
Where do you live?
Are you married or single?
What are your hobbies?
Where do you work?
What skills and experience do you have?
Do you already possess a qualification?
What is your dream job?
What barriers prevent you from advancing your career?
Here are a couple of sample personas:
1) Liam Walker is 38 years old. He lives in Sydney. He has a stay-at-home wife called Emily and two young twins, Ruby and Jack, who are just about to start school. He likes playing rugby on the weekends with his friends and watching sport whenever it is on the telly.
For the past ten years, he has been working in a warehouse. He initially started out as a picker and packer, but worked his way up through the company to senior management level. He currently manages a large team of warehouse staff and handles all of the logistics, such as managing the flow of orders from pick up to delivery, organising client meetings and liaising with suppliers.
Liam has lots of valuable experience, but no formal qualifications. He wants to move into a similar role with more responsibility and a higher paid salary because he has a mortgage to pay, two cars in the family to finance, a wife to support and two children to put through school. He can’t afford to take time off work and go to university, so what should he do?
2) Sophie Thompson is 23 years old. She lives in Melbourne with her parents. She is single with no children. Her interests include photography, music and art. She loves to paint in her spare time.
Sophie is working two part-time jobs. She works as a waitress in a café, but she is also an aspiring freelance writer. She has already been published in a couple of well-known magazines, since she graduated with a BA in English a couple of years ago. However, she is unable to secure enough clients to make a decent living and finds it difficult to find full-time work as a feature writer.
Most of the job vacancies she is interested in are looking for copywriters as these positions seem to offer a good salary. However, they usually advertise for somebody with a background in digital marketing, or require specialist knowledge of online content management systems. She could probably take up further study, because she doesn’t have to pay rent at home, but she would prefer if she didn’t have to complete another higher education course. Sophie is also unsure about whether to undertake additional training in marketing or IT. What are the next steps for Sophie?
Step 2: Deduce the right conclusions
This step involves a close reading over your character persona in combination with some targeted online research. The type of qualification and study route you decide on must take into account how helpful and feasible it will be for career advancement in your particular situation. Hopefully, it should seem much simpler now that you have all of the facts in order.
Liam’s conclusion: In the case of Liam Walker, a diploma-level qualification in management will enable him to land a better senior managerial position in another company, particularly with the previous experience that he has attained at the warehouse. Even if he could afford to go to university, there really wouldn’t be much point, because he has already developed all or most of the required skills for his desired role.
It therefore makes the most logical sense for him to try and qualify through a quick and easy RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) assessment. RPL converts skills and on-the-job experience into nationally recognised qualifications in just 4 weeks without any classroom study. That way, Liam wouldn’t need to take any time off work, or spend hefty fees on extra tuition.
From there, he will either be deemed eligible to receive a diploma qualification, or he can gain credit exemption from one or more of the units specified within the diploma course. Any remaining gaps in his training could be filled in his own time, at his own pace, through a convenient e-learning portal.
Sophie’s conclusion: In the case of Sophie Thompson, a diploma-level qualification in digital marketing will provide her with the necessary skills to secure a job as a copywriter. Given that she has a highly visual and creative nature, marketing would likely be a better fit for her talents than learning advanced computer skills. Plus, there will be elements of website design and cross-platform development within any digital marketing course anyway. It would also complement her existing skills, experience and qualifications, by making her more employable in all fields of writing. She might even learn how to market herself better and make freelancing a viable career possibility that could be achieved much sooner than she anticipates.
Sophie could complete a full-time diploma course at a registered college or training organisation, or she could get her qualification through part-time blended learning at a much lesser cost. This way, she could still keep her waitressing job and pursue any writing opportunities that come along in the meantime. Blended learning for this type of qualification generally comprises of online study, live webinars and optional face-to-face tutoring.
The first step for Sophie would be to sign up for a course at a college of her choice.
Ready to take the next steps in your career?
The process of selecting the right qualification for your skills need not be as complicated as you have led yourself to believe. In fact, simplicity is key.
All it requires is a bit of common sense and an objective viewpoint to identify the obstacles in your way and explore the range of appropriate study solutions, many of which no longer require years of university training.
You see, it’s rather elementary, actually.