“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is an old saying that means it’s very hard to teach someone new skills or to change someone’s habits or character. But in today’s workplace where the competition for a single job is so intense, you would do well to gain more expertise to land a new job, to get promoted, or even just to keep your current position.
So how do “old dogs” learn new tricks? For most professionals, it means going back to school to get the specific skill. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics forecasts a 20% rise in enrollments of students 25 years and older within the period 2010 to 2020. It may be a personal decision to get back to school despite having a bachelor’s degree already tucked under their belt and being a member of the workforce, but the fact remains that the main objective in doing so is because a post-graduate degree is regarded as an important ingredient in achieving career goals, such as getting promoted with an attendant higher salary, or starting in a different occupation.
A higher education can also help professionals stay employed, as this 2012 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed: 3.5% of graduate degree holders were unemployed compared to 6.2% for associate degree holders, while it’s only 2.1% among those with a professional or doctoral degree.
There are really a lot of advantages of getting a post-graduate degree, but it also poses a different set of challenges. But if you’re planning to take the plunge, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Make sure you’re properly motivated and committed
Going back to school when you have a steady job and a family can stretch your time, finances, and energy. Money and time management is key, as well as a conscious effort that you will see this through no matter what.
View continuing education as merely an option
Weigh things first before you commit. If you convince yourself that spending time, effort, and money on a business venture can yield a better result than going back to school, that may really be the path to take.
Identify the best degree for the career you want to pursue
Consider whether a certificate or a degree program will best suit your needs (for example, a Master of Science in Social Media may be the better course instead of the more general MBA if you’re a marketing professional). Try to specialize on a clear career path.
Consider an online program
If you’re working full-time, this might be the best option, as it is more convenient. But if you value more the traditional classroom experience, as well as the networking opportunities it presents, then going back to a real school is your better option.
Make sure it’s worth the financial investment
A post-graduate degree is costly, but if it’s the best path towards the opportunity you are eyeing, then by all means commit. Just keep a lookout also for less expensive and time-consuming alternatives, like a certificate program or workshop series.