Become Education and Career Savvy

Education is not your barrier to success it is your gateway. Simply ask someone to identify if they have a job or a career. Or ask if they are looking for a job or a career.

It’s amazing how many people will answer, with a resigned expression, “I’ve just got a job” as if it’s a negative or “I just want a job” as if they don’t have a right for ambition beyond that.

A career is such a close step behind a job that it is within everyone’s grasp.  Another common misconception when starting to study is the belief that it’s starting from scratch, which is never true. As adults we all have a wealth of experience that will underpin all future study.  As children we learn from scratch. As adults we contribute to our learning through what we already know and the experience we already have.

“Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.”  — Chris Grosser

The only difference between a job and a career is potential to grow within the role. Not all jobs, especially in small companies, have the potential for growth and not everyone is chasing promotion. If the latter is you, then you already have more than a job, you have your chosen career.

If you do want to progress, however, and the opportunity does not currently exist, use the skills of that role as the springboard from which your career will grow. This growth can be in the same field, an extension of that field or, on face value, totally unrelated. The latter rarely turns out to be the case.  Regardless of how close your current role is, the skills you have learnt so far are key to achieving the next skills level.


The first step is accepting it’s okay to be nervous – stepping outside of your comfort zone is scary, but remember you are not closing doors. In studying you are simply looking for better doors to open.

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” –John D. Rockefeller

You may have already investigated a career change and mistakenly thought one of the following:

  1. Study is prohibitive in cost
  2. The level of study is unattainable
  3. Your career goals are unachievable

These thoughts lead to your second important step. The bullet points above are not true. You only feel that way because at the outset of change you only see the start and the finish. In between are many small, affordable and totally achievable steps that will eventually and easily take you over the finish line.

Your third step is to always believe in yourself.  Never forget that you ‘can do’ because the want behind the ‘can do’ and the belief in yourself, will drive your ability to study and succeed. It won’t be a totally smooth journey because something worth achieving never is. However, every obstacle you overcome, is a strength you have built for the future.

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

— Winston Churchill

The fourth step is to always trust in yourself and your own belief in yourself.  Only you know what you can achieve.  Some people may try to put you off, but recognise they are voicing their own insecurities and their fear that if you change, their comfort zone will change too.

“There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.” — Ray Goforth


Everything is possible and only you know what your goals are. Choices are often led by what people are good at and what they have interest in. This alone sets study as an adult apart from study in early life so try to avoid any preconceptions. Students have more motivation and enjoy study far more as an adult simply because it has purpose and every lesson learnt has a reason.

It has been this writers experience that students who have a clear direction to their study, i.e. accountancy, law, retail, sales and marketing, etc, progress further and achieve more employment success than those without specific direction to their study.

Whilst GCSEs and A levels have significant value to school leavers, they have little value for an adult going back into study. As an adult looking to build a career – you should be looking at accredited professional qualifications. These are the qualifications employers are looking for. If you are unsure of direction, look at what you know already and enjoy.  Are there qualifications in that area, can you then link it to management qualifications with a specialism?

An example of the above is working in retail.  The first qualification could be in retail to consolidate what is known, followed by sales and marketing and then management with a specialism in sales and marketing. Whilst your career may stay in or move away from direct retail, you will always have the experience to demonstrate a hands-on knowledge of direct customer sales and merchandising – all key knowledge areas within a sales and marketing career.

Past work experience is always a career plus no matter how diverse it is from your new future. Promote these plus factors as you study more and update your CV.  Write them as an advantage and the employer will sense the positivity. Make the updates sensible, but also think outside of the box.  Remember, your new and old careers is what make you the unique and employable person you are today.

This writer has taught many students over the years who have used past careers to stand out and achieve future careers.

An example is a long-distance lorry driver who wanted to become an accountant. He part-time studied AAT and then ACCA. When he had taken his first few exams he moved to accounting roles that paid low money but built his accountancy experience.  As the years went by and he qualified further, his job roles rose in line with the study.  Throughout, he never forgot the industry he loved – haulage.  Several years after he qualified as an accountant, he used his first-hand haulage experience to become the financial director at a major logistics company.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” — Confucius


When this writer is asked what offers the most reward in their role, the answer is always the same. It’s the first career advice conversation you have with a stranger. In that one conversation, you get to know the person and help them identify their options to gain their new future.

A lot of people will have many personal obstacles, but there are always study options. A good teacher will be able to plot a career study plan that works within all obstacles, especially financial constraints.  There are many stages to building a career, but that first conversation is the one that will change lives – it really is that important.

All colleges and training providers should offer you this service as a fundamental part of pre-enrolment.  Don’t think you know it already and start the journey without speaking to an expert, it is key to your long-term success.

Don’t be afraid to ask to speak to a teacher, it’s your right.  That conversation is paramount and long-term could save you thousands of pounds in study costs and income. If you cannot speak to a teacher try another college until you can.  Likewise, find out all options, there is always more than the options advertised.

“Wealth is not about having a lot of money; it’s about having a lot of options.” – Chris Rock


The next step is choosing your course.  Make sure the course you purchase is the best you can buy. That doesn’t mean the dearest, it means the study that will give you the most opportunities.

Don’t assume that if ten colleges offer the same course(s) you will receive the same product or experience.  You won’t.  Always be aware of your limiting factors – affordability, time and support needs. A training provider should be able to meet them all.  To compare programmes, don’t rely on the prices charged.  Behind every price, is a different package.  Instead, ask each the same questions and then you will have true comparison.

The questions below cover key areas that you should know and are applicable to classroom and online distance learning.

  1. Ask for % pass rates. This information should be readily known and a measure of quality.
  2. Ask how long the course takes to complete and what is the estimated hours of study each week.
  3. Ask how long the support you will receive last beyond the expected completion time. There should be significant leeway between the expected completion time and the overall support time.
  4. Ask what resources are supplied online and what by physical hard copy. If books are offered, check they are published books and not just typed notes stapled together.  Ask how many books and how much of the course they cover.
  5. Ask what support is available throughout the week and what are the support response times.

“The whole purpose of adult education is to turn mirrors into windows” – Sydney J Harris


The biggest obstacle to education is seen to be funding the study.  It isn’t free but getting on the career ladder is not nearly as expensive as is perceived.  Here I am using AAT accountancy as an example but the following will apply to most career pathways.  To assess the cost, you can look at the scary whole picture or you can look at the picture that will get you your first job.  They are vastly different.

The whole financial picture reveals that to qualify as an AAT accountant is circa £5,000.  The cost of study to get you to your first job can be under £500.  The time to qualify fully is three years.  The study time necessary until you can apply for your first role is 8 – 12 weeks.

Become employment and education savvy and give yourself the best chance at employability.  All decisions matter, even the small ones.  Study accredited and recognised qualifications and study with a training provider.  Both are huge ticks to an employer and both can be achieved at similar prices to self-study.  Talk to the training provider, there is always a study option for the tightest budgets that is not self-study.

Employers are looking for the right qualification, study credibility and career commitment.  Most will ask for a study reference from your training provider to measure credibility and career commitment is satisfied by your willingness to pay for your first level of study.

Employers do not expect you to have studied the full qualification before gaining employment.  They do, however, want to see you have started your study, which means you are work effective from day one of employment.  Passing your first and or second exam will meet the latter criteria.

Once employed in your first role, it is highly probably that your employment contract will include fully or partially paid study.

It is personal choice but try to avoid multi-level course package offers. They are without doubt great value, but at the same time they are personally very expensive.  If you have already paid for all levels, your future employer cannot pay your study for you.

The key advice when choosing a course is take one step at a time. The first step is study to gain career entry employment. The next steps should be to work with employers to decide on a jointly beneficial career path.


When you set out on your career journey, knowing how far it will go is the six-million-dollar question that no one can answer.

This writer, as a past student, teacher of 21 years and a college owner, will guarantee that the study and employment journey ahead of you will go much further than you can currently envisage.

It is a journey that will be full of highs and a few lows. It will stretch your ability to a point that you feel is the limit.  Then, just when you think that’s it, the next challenge will appear and you will achieve even more. It’s an exciting journey and the rewards are there for you to take.

The hardest part of the whole journey is beginning it. Once started, each day is another step along your journey to success.

“ Our greatest weakness lies in not starting or giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time” – Thomas A. Edison.

Key Contacts

Christine Baxter

CEO of Gold Edge Training

02394 00 3559

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