Upskilling to improve your prospects and keep the grey matter working 

One of the big regrets of my life is not going to university and getting a degree. I kept putting it off and before I knew it I had a husband and a mortgage! It most definitely restricted me in my working life. I went into magazine publishing but found it difficult to move on as everyone wanted a graduate, even though I had experience. Later, when I had children, I wanted to become a teacher, but 4 years of study wasn’t financially viable. If I had got a degree it would have been just a year.

I did feel the benefit of study later though. I became a yoga teacher which was a useful source of income when my children were small (and also proved to be the saviour of my sanity!). When I struggled  to find an office job I enrolled in the ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) with my local Learning Shop and started getting interviews straight away. I got a part time job with the local council which eventually led to the job I have now. 

I really believe that, to improve your chances of getting the best possible career and giving yourself more options and choices, you need to get trained and qualified. 

But if you have little money, what to do? If you are unemployed or on a low income the first place to go is your local learning shop (most towns have them). They will tell you about all the courses available to you, many of which will be at a hugely reduced cost and some could even be free. They tend to focus on English, maths, IT and employability skills and can also give careers advice.

You should also check out your local adult education centre. These are great for vocational courses such as hairdressing, beauty and complementary therapies. These are very expensive normally (£1000 plus) but a fraction of the full price if you are on a qualifying benefit.

There are also loads of free courses online. Just google it. For example, I have been exploring www.futurelearn.com, where I can learn Dutch, how to start a business or – a great one for this blog – Financial Planning and Budgeting. I have sent my daughter this site as they have useful looking courses on cv writing, applying for jobs and interview techniques. 

Older people can explore the University of the Third Age which offers subjects as diverse as history, yoga and singing. The members share their hobbies and skills and become teachers as well as learners, not for qualification but just for fun.

I now take as many opportunities to learn as I can, and encourage my daughters to get all qualifications possible. Do you do any learning and how has it benefitted you?

10 thoughts on “Upskilling to improve your prospects and keep the grey matter working 

  1. Sam

    Great ideas. Not all learning has to be traditional course work. I’ve been trying to improve my language arts and grammar skills to 2016 as ot had need decades since graduating. I found resources on line that habeas helped me refresh old skills.

  2. Margaret Powling

    I didn’t go to Uni, either. It was 1962/63, and I’d just met my boyfriend who was to become my husband. I attended a girls’ grammar school and there if you didn’t want to become a teacher or a nurse or go to Uni, you weren’t really considered at all, and so I applied to the local hospital to train to become a nurse. I had the promise of a place but then I reconsidered: three years training and we wanted to get married and then, eventually, start a family. It would be a waste of time and money to train when I was to become a housewife and mother. Mother’s stayed at home to look after their children in the 1960s.
    But I did a secretarial course, learned shorthand and typing, and that has always stood me in good stead. Well, the typing, because I never needed shorthand in my job in the civil service, a job I didn’t enjoy but stuck at it for five years until I had our first son.
    Many years later, children grown up, and I’d left the part-time job I’d had for years, I decided to try my hand at writing. I don’t have a degree or even A-levels (I left just months before I sat my A-levels; I didn’t want to be considered a schoolgirl, going out with my future husband who was 9 years older than me!) but I had had a grammar school education.
    I offered my work to the county magazine and it was accepted. I wrote for it regularly for a number of years and then, my confidence having grown, I offered my work to national magazines and, again, my work was accepted. I’m still writing for national magazines and, for the past five years, have had my own monthly column in one glossy style title. I don’t feel that not having been to Uni has held me back. The two assets I have are (a) being a touch typist and (b) having learned to drive. Those and an interest in so many things, from history to photography, interior design to art. I don’t feel deprived because I’ve not been to Uni.

      1. Margaret Powling

        Of course there is hope, the first step might be to stop regretting not having been to Uni. You have learned many valuable lessons in life already no doubt, and if you are interested in things, ideas, people, you will continue to learn – either formally or informally – throughout life. I’m retired, but that doesn’t mean I stop learning and, as I’ve mentioned, I’m still writing and being published. I have a dear friend of 93 – yes 93! – and she’s just finished writing her latest romantic novella to be published by D C Thompson. She also gardens (not as much as once she did) and cooks, and still has a thirst for knowledge.

        1. shoestringjane@outlook.com Post author

          That’s great. I will look out for your articles, Margaret.

  3. VickiEY

    Another alternative if someone is set on a degree is the Open University wbich is the route I took into teaching, even completing my PGCE with them and taking up my first post in Essex at the age of 42! I’m now retired and have found the University of the Third Age very useful in making friends in a new area as well as keeping the old brain ticking over (have been in groups studying geology, French conversation, a book club and walking group). However, I think U3A is a bit of a misnomer as lots of the activities are practical such as knitting and crochet, card making, yoga etc. Also you only need to be aged over 50 to join as long as you are a part time worker or retired.
    No new skill or study is ever wasted – they all go together to make you and sometimes their relevance only becomes apparent some time later.
    Thanks for your blog which I enjoy reading. Vicki

  4. Mrs LH

    I too didn’t go to Uni. I could’ve gone – I had 9 O Levels and 3 A levels but after 6th form ended in 1983 I’d had enough and still hadn’t decided what I actually wanted to do! Instead I enrolled on a 2 year secretarial course and learned Pitman 2000 shorthand as part of the course along with other traditional skills. This proved really useful and opened up loads of job opportunities. I started off in London at the BBC as a Secretary – loved the job, hated London! Eventually joined the NHS (marriage and 3 children along the way) where I stayed for over 25 years, retiring early at 50, with a small NHS pension. I’m now a self employed medical transcriptionist and work from home. I’ve never once regretted not going to Uni and I’ve never been unemployed luckily. Two of our 3 children went to Uni. They both have good jobs but huge student debt. The eldest who chose not to go to Uni, but could have gone, also has a good job, training paid for by his employers for 7 years, and he qualifies soon as a chartered accountant with no student debt at all. Personally although I did a few courses via the NHS, I’ve never really been that keen on additional learning – to me my work was just a means to an and and I never wanted to climb the ladder – the thought of it makes me shudder!

  5. Sol

    Love this post. I myself went back to college 2 years ago and retrained to change my career. I love constantly learning. Yes I do wish I had gone to university, it would have opened a lot of doors and paid more. money isnt everything, but it is needed.

    Would it be ok it I linked to this on my blog? I do hope so, more people need to read this for inspiration

      1. Sol

        I retrained in Wealth Management, in 7 years time I will retrain again as something else, the jobs market changes so much now that really I think you need to think about a new career every ten years. this gives me 3 years to train around my day job. People think I am mad when I say this, but 10 years ago there werent professional bloggers, or App developers etc. Technology doubles in cleverness every year. I do not wish to limit myself and I expect to work into my 70’s not only because the state pension will probably be non-existent by the time I come to retire, and I actually like working and enjoy being with colleagues. Got to keep the brain going

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