If you're looking at a career change that will dramatically improve your earning potential and job security, odds are you'll need additional training. Whether it's a specialized certificate and the kind of real-world training VCMC specializes in, or a community college or other program, getting the education you'll need is vital to launching your new career. But a lot of students are worried about returning to the classroom — some are so scared they let it hold them back from pursuing a better future. Over the next couple weeks, we're going to offer a series of posts about pursuing career education that will help you. This week, it's all about getting your head on straight.
Many adults never liked school much, and felt like studying was not one of their skills. Others worry about other responsibilities — they have families to raise, they're out of work, or they're working two jobs to make ends meet. All that is hard, but it's important to remember that right now, as you read this, thousands of people in those exact situations are sitting in classrooms, or studying at their kitchen tables, and making it work.
Here are four tips for getting yourself ready to go back to school:
Start with your goals. Why are you doing this? To make more money? To open up longer-term possibilities? To fulfill your dreams or feel better about yourself? There will be times when all your responsibilities seem overwhelming, when a class is too hard or your life is too demanding. It's important to be focused on exactly why you're doing this, so you find the will to make it through.
Accept the Stress. Whatever your life is today, it's going to be a little harder when you add school as one more responsibility. You're going to have to adjust your schedule. You might have to budget your money differently. You're definitely going to lose some free time. But there's a reason why you're making these sacrifices, a reason you came up with this plan. On days when it's not easy, remember that that's okay, that you'll get through it, and that you're working right now to build a better future for yourself and your family.
Look at Your Weaknesses. Any adult student is going to find one or two things that are most difficult, and it's different for each of us. What are your “pain points”? For some people, it's really hard to sit in a classroom listening to a lecture. Others are great in class, but don't like to sit down and read a textbook. Some enjoy school, but less time with their family is emotionally hard, or adequate child care is difficult to arrange. If you can identify a specific problem facing you, then you can start to create specific solutions to help. One example: You can't take notes fast enough during a classroom lecture? Tape record it, and finish filling in your notes later. Another: You have a hard time learning from long textbook chapters? Break it up—every few minutes, write down what you read in your own words, and make sure you understand it. Then you can look back at those shorter, more natural versions of the information.
Get Support. Talk to everyone who is going to be affected by your educational plans. Tell your kids that you're going to need their help. Ask family members and friends to offer some support, whether it be a little child-care backup, or just being understanding and offering some encouragement. It's important to have people helping you, and it's important to have people just cheering you on, asking you how it's going. It also never hurts to have someone quiz you on the sofa the night before a test.
Going back to school is a challenge, but only one of many challenges that we face and conquer in our lives. When you see career opportunities in new field, like medical billing or nursing, extra training is what it takes. Going into it with a plan, with goals, and with as much insight as you can manage makes it easier to succeed. Next week: A practical guide to finding time to study, and using it effectively.
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