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How a return to study could reignite your passion

Ever feel like your initial passion for your career is fading – or has already disappeared? That your drive to climb the ladder has plateaued and work is now all about paying the bills?

If this sounds familiar, it could be worth exploring how a return to study could help reignite your passion for your current career or lead you down a new path entirely.

However making a big change – particularly if you’ve decided you want to up-end your career – can feel daunting. Where will you find the time? Will uni be completely different a second time around? And what if you don’t end up loving your new career?

Making the decision

For Ben Lisson, a former sports reporter with the ABC, his decision to hang up the microphone after about 10 years and pursue a career in international relations came about organically.

But it wasn’t because he didn’t enjoy his job.

‘I was privileged to go and witness some of the greatest sporting events in Australia and even the world,’ says the 31-year-old, who covered the Winter Olympics in Korea in 2018.

There was also AFL and NRL grand finals, and the Cricket World Cup.

‘It was a full-on job but it was really interesting to see so much, and as a young guy growing up loving sport, it was kind of a lot of dreams come true in many ways.’

However, Ben eventually realised he’d done much of what he’d set out to do. He also often found himself talking about international relations in his spare time.

‘It’s a great job and a lot of people would love it, but just for my own personal life journey, I’d reached a point where I felt like I wanted something new.’

With an interest in both human relationships and the world, he says international relations was a natural career progression.

A return to study – one step at a time

Fittingly, he began studying remotely from Cambodia, where his wife was undertaking a one-year volunteer placement in public health.

Ben says he dipped his toe back into uni studies slowly, taking on a single unit.

‘I’d never really been an academic, so I was very cautious about wading into an area that obviously I hadn’t done my bachelor in. But also I’m not ashamed to admit I hadn’t picked up too many textbooks in my first undergraduate degree either,’ he says.

‘So I was nervous going into it and didn’t really have a great idea of what I was getting into until I picked up the first book in the first unit and started to read.’

Luckily he knew instantly he’d made the right decision, and went on to complete a Graduate Certificate and a Master of International Relations at Deakin.

Juggling a career switch

For Ben, the biggest challenge was juggling full-time study with his full-time job at the ABC.

‘I’d be at football press conferences during the day and writing stories and putting them into the bulletin at 7pm, then I’d go home at 8pm and make dinner and write an essay or two,’ he says.

‘Because you are trying to shift something, it does require you to be really passionate. You have to be able to push through when it’s not all that fun because it’s late at night and you want to go to bed.’

The pay-off

In February, not long after completing his masters, Ben landed a job as a policy officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra.

Not only did he begin a new career, but he and his wife moved from Melbourne, then welcomed their first child, a little boy, in March 2020.

'Because you are trying to shift something, it does require you to be really passionate. '

Ben Lisson,
Graduate, Deakin University

‘It’s a lot of change, but it’s been fantastic,’ says Ben, who is thriving in his new job.

‘I think to have the opportunity to not just study and learn about the area you’re interested in, but then actually transfer that into what you do every day, that’s the really exciting thing.’

If you want to reignite your passion, keep this in mind

Having successfully changed tack in his own career, Ben’s advice to others in a similar boat is to not let your own fears stand in your way.

‘You can’t know (if it’s the right fit) until you try, but it’s important to try,’ he says.

‘Everyone’s got their own circumstances but I think what’s important is that life’s too short to be spending doing something that you’re not totally invested in.’

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