Crack the code: How further study can boost your career

‘Learning gives us confidence, and it shows employers that you mean business’

There are many reasons to take on a postgraduate course, but boosting your career is probably the biggest.

Michael Kelly, a graduate of WIT, worked as a coalyard attendant after school.

“I was doing long hours for little pay, and I wanted to provide a better life for my family,” he says. “So I picked up on a Fetac [now QQI] course I did in 2008, got a bachelor’s degree in information technology from WIT and then got work experience with a company where I did some coding.”

Wanting to move forward in his job, Kelly then went back to WIT and studied for a higher diploma in computer science.

“The postgraduate course was part-time and intense and, if you love coding, a coder’s paradise. I had to defer for a while in the middle of it, and the college was very supportive. I’m now doing the final project and working on a new programming feature. I’m currently working as a software engineer: the course has really helped my career.”

Jane Downes, career coach at clearviewcoachgroup.com and author of The Career Book, says that the pandemic has accelerated a sense among workers that they want to change, grow and develop.

“A postgraduate course definitely adds value. It can turn a career to Technicolour when you begin to see new angles and approach to work, or make sideways shifts into new areas.

“Learning gives us confidence, which we will display in interviews, and it shows employers that you mean business and have high standards – as well as indicating to them what track you are on. There is little point in doing a postgraduate course if you can’t sell what you’re getting from it.”

While many students focus on the ultimate qualification they’ll get from a postgraduate degree – and some of these students do require the professional accreditation to advance in their job – a good postgraduate course will help build transferable skills that can be applied in a range of roles and industries.

Mediation training

This journalist, for instance, did postgraduate mediation training in Griffith College and, while I ultimately chose not to become a mediator, I built on emotional intelligence skills that I have used in interviewing, and I’ve developed a better sense of social dynamics and conflict management, which have also helped in my personal life.

Downes advises potential postgraduates, when doing their research, to check out the “first destination” statistics, which will tell you where postgraduates go when they’ve completed the course.

"A lot of them are being offered on a modular basis, so you can get a postgraduate certificate, then a diploma and, after that, a master's"

“It’s also worth going on LinkedIn and finding people in the area you want to work in, and see what courses they did. There are good opportunities to learn from others.”

As more and more courses become shorter, flexible and online, the main reservations about taking on a postgrad – time and money – are becoming less pertinent.

“A lot of them are being offered on a modular basis, so you can get a postgraduate certificate, then a diploma and, after that, a master’s,” says Downes. “This means that you can do it on a slow burn over perhaps five years, which is doable for most people with a bit of planning. There are also more flexible payment options than before, or there may be supports from your company or scholarships offered by the department.”

Before you make the leap into a longer postgraduate commitment, it's worth looking into shorter courses, which are offered on sites such as Udemy, Coursera and Digital Charity Lab and can run for 15 minutes, five hours or more.

“This will give you an introduction and sense of whether it’s for you,” says Downes.

HOW A POSTGRADUATE ADVANCED MY CAREER

Kevin Koyce, senior manager, EMEA logistics at Dell Technologies and a graduate of Technological University of the Shannon Midlands Midwest (formerly LIT and AIT:

“I studied marketing and management in LIT and then did a master’s in business strategy before going to on to a doctorate on the topic of navigating the pitfalls of big data.

“I looked at the topic through business eyes and with a legal and marketing perspective, and it was an interesting time to start in 2016 when the US presidential election highlighted issues of data privacy and GDPR kicked in here.

“I worked full time during the PhD and did the college work at weekends – you do need to be motivated but it is doable .

“Having a PhD has really helped me: it’s a ticked box for an employer, yes, but it also really does show that you can do qualitative and quantitative research, and that you’re diligent and organised. I regularly use the skills I gained in my postgrad courses – presentation and communication, and looking at complex problems and developing solutions – in dealing with some of the complex and dynamic supply chain problems all companies have faced because of Covid and shipping issues in recent years. It has really helped my career.”

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