Community Services The Chang School

Boosted Confidence In Your Career Through Continuous Learning

After entering the workforce, you might start to feel the itch for some kind of growth in your career: it might look like a promotion just out of reach, or an entire repositioning into a new job or field. But without the right certification or formal experience to back you up, you might not feel confident to meet this hurdle alone. Returning to school and pursuing continuing education can not only set you off on a new career trajectory – it can set you up for personal growth as well.

Nancy Collamer, career coach and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+ Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement, says most people who choose to return to school later in life are doing it “to bolster their range of marketable skills and credentials, which, in turn, makes them more competitive – both at their current employer and in the overall job market.” It’s common for professionals to re-evaluate their career path and revisit education as a way to keep their knowledge fresh and relevant. So whether you’re venturing into continuing education to sharpen your existing skills or add some new ones to your toolbox, it shows employers your ongoing commitment to learning the ins and outs of your profession. Showing initiative to expand your knowledge, or keep it up to date with best practices for your chosen industry, is nothing but a boost on a resume. Not only is this lifelong learning approach attractive to employers and supervisors, using what you learned – putting theory into practice – is a clear path to building confidence and self-esteem in your career. 

Marcia Blair, a graduate of the Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety, had pivoted into the Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety (OH&S and EH&S) profession shortly before she decided to pursue the certificate. While she found it was daunting to transition out of her comfort zone, “​​the overall rewards of being a health and safety professional far outweighed the fact that I was starting over in unknown territory,” says Marcia. “I had many transferable ‘soft skills,’ but realizing that starting a new career would require some foundational knowledge, I decided to enrol to gain a broader understanding of the many health and safety topics.”

After obtaining her Chang School certificate, Marcia was promoted from an administrator to a coordinator, and her career has only continued to grow from there.

Beyond the technical know-how she gained during her schooling, Marcia notes that attaining the certificate also boosted her manager’s confidence in her, as he gave Marcia more opportunities to be involved in a range of different projects that required a health and safety resource. As a result, Marcia felt she was recognized as a valuable asset to the team. “Taking the courses and receiving the certificate has boosted my confidence and has given me a personal sense of satisfaction,” she says. “There is that intrinsic pleasure that has come from expanding my knowledge and feeling secure in being able to communicate intelligently about topics pertaining to health and safety.”

Particularly for women entering a field like OH&S that has typically been male-dominated, Marcia suggests developing a mentor-mentee relationship with a more established coworker or boss – someone to transfer skills and knowledge along to you, and be an intentional source of support both in the workplace and behind the scenes. She notes that there are now LinkedIn pages dedicated to women in OH&S, along with higher numbers of women in leadership and facilitation roles. “I have always felt that I have enough knowledge, people skills, and support to be able to work well with anyone at any project site,” Marcia says. “I feel that if I go in with the attitude that we are all here with the same common goal which is to get the job done and get it done safely, then it usually results in a positive experience.”

If the concept of returning to school is daunting to you, consider that it’s also an opportunity for you to grow your professional social network and freshen up soft skills you use every day at work. Public speaking, negotiating, and networking are all part and parcel of the continuous learning experience, and best of all they’re transferable to career milestones — from creating presentations to marketing yourself as worthy of a raise or promotion. 

Trepidation about returning to a more structured learning environment is normal, particularly if you’re already integrated into the workforce, but manageable, well-balanced courses and flexibility in virtualized and online courses – offered at the Chang School – can lighten your load. “Taking courses as an adult learner can present some challenges,” Marcia notes. “Balancing children, work, and life in general…but taking the courses, especially in something that was completely new to me, has taught me the power of perseverance and how important it is to stay motivated.” 

What continuous learning can offer you is often more personal than quantifiable, no matter the career path. Alongside the practical skill and expertise you’ll be equipped with, oftentimes it’s the internal confidence and authority you hold in the work you do that can make a world of difference. In her experience with The Chang School and its role in helping her career in OH&S progress, Marcia says, “without a doubt, I feel there is so much room for me to grow within this industry, and it’s one I’m very proud to be a part of. I believe taking this path to continue my education has opened the door of change for me, not only career-wise, but personally as well.”