Every August, hundreds of supermarkets, stationers and sportswear retailers start putting up posters of a beaming mother with a disinterested child, possibly holding a cuddly toy or doing a terrible job of colouring in a picture of a cute dragon with a bright purple crayon. “Get Your Child Ready for Term with 50% Off Folders/Pencil Cases/Trainers!” they shout at us, reminding us further how long ago those glorious, carefree years were where you could run around like a lunatic, waving sticks above your head and screaming, “DIE, DARTH VADER, THE JEDIS HAVE RETURNED” and not have to appear in court (I had quite a colourful imagination as a child). Many of us remain in education until our early twenties, choosing academic subjects to study at revered institutions across the country until we are spat out into the real world, supposedly armed with all the knowledge we need to succeed.
In my case, the knowledge I accumulated at university was useful for two things: 1) I am able to better understand the changing political landscape through Political Theory modules; 2) My liver is far sturdier than it would have been had I not attended a university in the North East. My first three years in the world of work were a joyous mix of being both underwhelming and overwhelming: underwhelming by virtue of a lack of job satisfaction and overwhelming due to the irrelevance of the experience I’d had up to this point. So, while I have taken it upon myself to appoint myself as a part-time flâneur (Noun: A man who saunters around observing society), I have also decided to apply for a one-year diploma course in Music Production to further tap into the well of creative genius that is my brain (NB – heavy sarcasm). I have essentially decided to go back to school. It’s so easy to think that once you have graduated, if you don’t want to follow a Masters’ degree or PhD in what you studied then your education is finished – I humbly present some arguments against this theory.
1) You Have More Time to Grow
There is no shame in admitting that you’re not ready for the real-world after university. The culture shift is massive and it can be extremely hard to acclimatise. Some people take it in their stride and are built for a professional life but for others it’s much, much harder to adjust. For me, the two roles I took after uni weren’t quite right for me and it made me frustrated and upset that I wasn’t happy despite having a good job. While I left working in London primarily to look after my mother while she had surgery, I also needed time to get over the fact that what I had done up until that point hadn’t been the success I had wanted it to be – taking on a year’s diploma course is the perfect way to draw a line under my previous experiences and to start afresh in something that I know I have a real love for. That being said, I wouldn’t have come to this decision had I not discovered what I didn’t want to do through my first few years of work – I don’t regret the last three years as I have learned from them.
Time brings increased understanding of yourself, especially going through hardships, and this increased self-awareness means that you can better focus your attention on the things that will make you happy. For me, this is music, but it could be anything – you may actually want to be outside more than you are inside and go into something nature-related; you may want to do something more physical than just sitting behind a desk and go into something sports-related; it might be as simple as realising that living in a big city isn’t for you and you want to find a job in a smaller community. Either way, the older you are, the more experience you will have and, by extension, a fuller knowledge of how you want to develop will bring renewed vigour to your studies – I want to do as well as I can at music, whereas I only gave half a toss about 18th Century Pre-Classical Liberalism and, as such, only applied half a toss to my studies. Time brings maturity and maturity means better decision-making – too much is asked of us too young in terms of where we want our education to go. What’s the shame in following our dreams when we actually know what they are?
2) It Makes You More Marketable, Not Less
When you think of going back to study more, you think that it will be a blot on your CV. Rather than pursuing your career by jumping through the right hoops for promotion, you’ve taken a sharp left-turn and “regressed” back to study. But is this actually the case? If you’re going to study something completely separated from your current line of work then you clearly don’t have the love for your job that you think you do, and if you’re studying something relevant then it’s another big, big plus on your CV. Additionally, doing something like a diploma course helps to frame your ambitions into something tangible as opposed to vagaries around promotion – a defined certification in a skill is something that you can take to market in the search for a job, rather than having to twist your degree into something relevant (try making Middle Eastern Studies apply to recruitment, for Christ’s sake). So, not only are you setting yourself a clearly-defined goal, at the end of that goal you have something that will help you make a success of yourself in your given career choice.
Your education will also be given to you by people who understand and have vast experiences of the industry you’re going into, making them the perfect people to give you an understanding of what to expect and how best to succeed. Many of the tutors for my music production course are ex-musicians, recording artists, recording studio techies and generally people who have lived half a lifetime in the industry I want to get into – why on earth wouldn’t I want to learn from people like that? Not only can you learn from them but if you impress them enough you can get them on-side and introduce you to key figures within the industry. With my knowledge from business, I know that making friends and networking are vitally important in getting ahead and most universities or institutes will proactively help you to find roles within the industry – they all want to see their students go into the areas in which they studied as it looks great on the institute itself. The people you learn from and the things you learn both give you a head-start on the journey that you want to take.
3) It Doesn’t Have to Be Full-Time
The course that I have applied for is only two days’ contact time a week (with another two taken up with practice and developing your work), which will allow me to continue writing these missives to my adoring fans and have interests outside of what I’m studying. Diploma Courses don’t have to be the be-all and end-all of your life while you study – you can have time to do other things. Indeed, many companies actually offer discounts for taking night courses in many subjects. If you’re currently happy in your role but know that it might not be right for you further down the line, why not take that course in horse-whispering that you secretly, desperately want to do? If nothing else, it’ll give you some variety in your evenings and it could help you to better understand what it is that you actually want to do.
4) STUDENT DISCOUNT
I really shouldn’t have to explain this.
So there you have it – load up on Bic ballpoint pens and make sure you have a metric tonne of folder dividers. Going back to school, in whatever form, only serves to help you grow as a person and as a candidate in your preferred industry. The fact of the matter is that you’re never too old to keep learning and the more that you learn, the more completed you will be.
Plus you get 10% off at Asos.