In recent weeks, I've logged onto my Facebook page to see that another round of virtual acquaintances have graduated from their university or college. Massive congratulations are in order, and all graduates should be celebrated for their hard work and dedication as they take the next step in securing their future. If that's you, your child, sibling, significant other, that feeling of pride you have is an understatement. Prior to my own graduation, my pride levels were already full from another person in my life wearing that weird, yet iconic, cap and gown. Five years ago, this was my 45 year-old mother.
My mum is now a qualified social worker. She started out as a carer just before I was born 26 years ago, and gradually worked her way up through the company with the help of her skillset and experience. However, she soon reached the top of her game with no more career progression available for her type of role or within her team. With her company recognising her talent and further potential, they funded her to go back to university for three years to qualify. It wasn't quite the Freshers excitement you come across when an 18 year-old gets accepted on a course. She was scared as hell. She didn't know what was going to happen to her after she qualified. She had never really been interested in pursuing education after finishing school at 16. She had never written an essay before in her life, and this course required a lot of them. Nevertheless, she prevailed and flew through the years, graduating with a 2:1 and returning back to her company amidst faces old and new.
This opportunity isn't rare, as much as it may seem it. Many employers are now recognising the benefits of investing in their staff in the form of courses and further education to aid in their career progression. This helps two parties: the company, because they get to retain and improve on their talent, and the employee because they get an opportunity to reach their full potential and land their dream job.
However amongst the 'mature student' ideology, there are myths that should be busted. Firstly, in relation to companies investing in their employees education, it's not just fresh 21 year-old graduate meat that everybody wants. Secondly, after a conversation with my 30 year-old friend who said that they were 'too old to go back', education is not just for the young. That whole idea that you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Rubbish. It's never too late to gain an extra qualification and learn - or even relearn - skills to better your career.
Following the conversation with my friend, I done some digging at work with my colleagues. Surprisingly, every one of them said that they would love to go back to college and get a degree in something, but that they thought they were too old or it would be wasted on them. Either that, or the company wouldn't choose them for extended training because they weren't in their twenties anymore.
Hello?! Did you not hear? The thirties are the new twenties. The forties are the new twenties. Whatever-decade-bracket-you-fall-into are the new twenties. And if you're in your twenties, buckle up because you'd still be classed as a mature student if you decided to head back to college or uni. I laughed at that one too.
So, if you ever find yourself in a boat where your company offer you the chance to go back, or even someone outside of your company chooses to sponsor you, shut down every fear and anxiety that fills your mind with dread. At the risk of sounding like a Nike ad, just do it. It might just be the best thing you could do for yourself. If you have the privilege to afford it, fund it on your own, and show not only your employers but yourself that you can do it. You might even pluck up some courage and directly ask your boss if they'll support you if you went and picked up an extra qualification. If you don't ask, you don't get, and your answer may be a big fat YES.
So the next time you hear someone talking about our ticking biological clocks, or how we can't do something because of how old we are (regardless of whether or not they're referring to education), make sure let them know that age is nothing but a number and can't is nothing more than a four-letter word.