By 2018, 60% of U.S. jobs will require post-secondary education . The good news is that it is easier than ever to further your education without adding unmanageable stress to you or your family. Dr. Mary Hawkins, president of Bellevue University, gives her tips on how adults can overcome the education gap to achieve their life goals.
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A recent Bellevue University study revealed, nearly 40% of Americans say they are not where they want to be in life . Twenty percent want to make a career change, but feel they lack the necessary education. With competition high for jobs, many feel trapped in their current roles, and the American Dream feels just out of reach for too many people. But the tough climate has also forced people to reconsider what they truly want to achieve in life. Many have taken the opportunity to return to school and pursue career paths they have only dreamed about.
Choosing A Career Path That Aligns Your Career Goals
In reality, this may be the best time to rethink your career. If you are one of the 40%, pursuing a degree or masters can open new doors and make your goals achievable. The following tips should give you some ideas about choosing a career path that aligns your life and career goals.
Career, job – or something else?
Before throwing yourself into a career change, make sure it is your career that is causing you stress. We spend so much time at work it is easy to blame our jobs for any general discontent we feel. But is your current role the problem? Is it your career as a whole? Or is lack of job satisfaction hiding something else? Undertaking a career change is exciting and empowering, but it’s also hard work. So, it’s worth taking the time to make sure it is what you really want to do.
What is your dream?
This is the hardest step because it is a decision only you can make. But what do you want to do? Be realistic: it may be too late to become an astronaut or a star line-backer, for example. But some of those childhood dreams can provide clues about your future career. A physiotherapist, sports journalist, pilot, or aeronautics engineer are all still possible. It’s about knowing yourself, what you’re passionate about, what interests you and what your personal values are. Do a self-assessment to understand what drives you. It’s OK if the answer is ‘more money’ – there is no right or wrong solution, only what is right for you. But take the time to make sure you’re not moving from one unsatisfying career to another.
Reality – or romantic whim?
Look at what your dream job entails and whether it really suits your working style and preferences. Most importantly find out whether it fits in with the rest of your life. There may be low-risk ways to test-drive your new career: perhaps there are short-term or part-time internships. Ask friends and family: the power of networking could get you a conversation with someone already in your chosen field. Read trade magazines and visit industry events if you can. Check out the blogosphere: getting regular updates from the front-line could give you great insight into what it’s really like to work in your chosen field.
Where is your education gap?
What qualifications do you need? One in three adults admit they don’t currently have – or don’t know if they have – the level of education and skills required to achieve their goals. Don’t be one of them. You probably have at least some of the experience you need from your current role. Consider carefully what you have done to date and how that applies to your chosen field – you may be surprised about what you have to offer. Then you can work out where the gaps are and how best to fill them.
Choose your college with care
There has been a seismic shift in American higher education during the past twenty years. Three-quarters of students are deemed to be non-traditional: they are working, they have families, they have deferred application. Forget campus-set movies. The demographic has changed – and colleges are responding.
It is easier than ever to choose an establishment that can provide the education you want at a pace and cost that suit you. There are colleges that will transfer your existing college credits, for example. Look for a college that takes work experience into account, offers online as well as face-to-face tuition, allows you to take one course at a time, and enables you to plan your assignments to fit the rest of your commitments. Accelerated programs are available if four-year study doesn’t suit you or your life. The key to success is flexibility and thinking long-term.
Regardless of the path you choose, you will rarely hear anyone say, “I regret taking the time to finish my degree.” The hardest part is getting started – but now you can choose the experience that best fits your needs and your lifestyle, and greatly increases your chances of success.
Education Dynamics, March 2011 Presentation titled: The Demographics and Demands of Adults With Some Credit But No Degree.
 Closing the Nation’s Skills Gap: Making Higher Education Achievable, Bellevue University, 2013
This post was originally published at an earlier date.
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