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If you’re lucky enough to work in a field you’re interested in and are passionate about, you probably have grand plans to climb the ranks. On the other hand, after working in one industry for a while, you might be feeling ready to explore new fields and expand your experience.
Taking the initiative to master your skills and become an expert in your discipline will be noticed by employers – whether that’s at your current organisation, or an entirely new one, says Deakin’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Education Professor Liz Johnson. As well as showing you’re across your discipline area, holding a postgraduate degree is evidence to employers of your commitment and desire to excel in your field.
Your resume will show ‘you’re committed enough to undertake a course of study and you’ve spent dollars investing in your learning,’ Prof. Johnson says.
Many of the opportunities you’ll be looking for to progress your career will come from people who notice you. That’s why it’s important to project a highly skilled picture of yourself wherever you work.
Being seen as an expert in your field can lend you countless advantages, especially with the competitive nature of recruitment and promotions. This is shown in the fact that 89% of postgraduate students work in managerial or professional roles after they graduate.
It’s also possible that your position as a distinctly knowledgeable and skilled worker will make you influential enough to create your own opportunities.
While on-the-job training can be an effective way to enhance your skills, Prof. Johnson explains a key difference between enhancing your skills that way and a postgraduate degree is the resources you’ll be offered.
‘If you’re learning on-the-job, you’re going to be doing that incrementally, and you may not have access to the things you need. Your professional development on-the-job also might be more focused on the role you’re currently in rather than the thing you want to do in the future, so you may not have the opportunity to pick up those new skills,’ she says.
Whether you complete a master’s degree or dip your toes into a shorter course, postgraduate study will allow you to gain depth of knowledge in your discipline, which Prof. Johnson says will ensure you become a true expert. This can push you into higher roles.
‘You’re more likely to be innovating, critiquing or developing,’ she explains.
'You’re committed enough to undertake a course of study and you’ve spent dollars investing in your learning.'
Prof. Liz Johnson,
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Education, Deakin University
Your skills won’t be the only thing getting a refresh if you decide to study a postgraduate degree. Prof. Johnson says it will also equip you with an enhanced sense of confidence for your career.
‘Most postgraduates I interact with are really pleased with how much they’ve grown as a person,’ she explains. ‘You see yourself as a professional in the field, and you see yourself as capable. That helps you to really step forward.’
This kind of confidence doesn’t just come from attaining a greater knowledge and understanding of your discipline. It also comes from being around people who are experts in your field – your tutors.
‘As you go into postgraduate study, you’ll feel like you’re a lot closer to them, and you can more readily see yourself in the people who are teaching you.’
The 2018 Graduate Outcomes Survey echoes this sentiment, as 82% of postgraduates in full time work indicated that their degree prepared them ‘well’ or ‘very well’ for what was ahead.
In a future of work that’s still uncertain, having this kind of assurance in your own abilities as a professional can give you a competitive edge. When you’re confident in yourself, others will show confidence in you.
‘Don’t underestimate the value of practicing your learning and exploring your field in greater depth,’ Prof. Johnson says. ‘It really does make a difference to how you see yourself as a professional.’
Another big positive of a postgraduate degree is the convenience it offers you.
‘A structured degree brings together lots of elements that you would otherwise have to source yourself,’ Prof. Johnson says. If you’re already employed full time you might not have a lot of spare time on your hands, and if you’re juggling a family on top of that, trying to find resources, attend talks or events and teach yourself new skills can become an arduous (and potentially disheartening) task.
A postgraduate degree consolidates everything you’ll need to be working at the next level, whether that’s more advanced skills, management, research, or even going out on your own. Being able to learn from industry experts, deepening your knowledge and skill base and having access to practical experiences all in the same place is an invaluable advantage if you’re time-poor.
Because it’s a structured learning environment, Prof. Johnson says, ‘it will walk you through a new space, and the deadlines will keep you moving an on track.’ You’ll be motivated, and able to visualise a clear trajectory to your goals.
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