Studying for career advancement
By IMRAN HASHIM
For most of us, we were told when young to get good a education to secure a good life and future.
That somehow was translated into getting a place in a good school, scoring good marks in exams, maybe securing a scholarship, graduating from university, and hopefully landing a job in a big company.
Sound familiar? Well it used to be. It is not that straightforward anymore.
Back then, few people bothered to mention one very important step – your career advancement. The truth is learning never stops. In fact, with the workforce being a lot more competitive than ever before, even a university degree is deemed minimal qualification these days.
More working professionals are looking into adding extra qualifications by doing postgraduate studies or professional exams.
The Government is supportive of this development, allocating RM3bil under the Budget 2015 for sponsoring education.
From this amount, RM1.9bil will be allocated to the Public Services Department, RM759mil to the Education Ministry and RM258mil to the Health Ministry.
Through the MyBrain15 Programme, the Government aims to produce 60,000 PhD holders by 2023. In 2015, RM112mil will be allocated for this programme.
MyBrain15 Programme, which is currently for the private sector, is proposed to be extended to civil servants and employees of statutory bodies who are keen to further their studies on part-time basis at local higher learning institutions.
The Human Resource Development Fund also plays a part in driving workforce training and development for those who are less inclined to go down the formal education track in favour of accumulating Continuing Professional Education points.
Incentives to pursue post-degree education
Apart from that, there are also monetary incentives in the form of tax deductions (subject to meeting specified conditions):
- Postgraduate education – maximum tax deduction of RM5,000
- Book purchase – maximum tax deduction of RM1,000
With various incentives available, not just limited to locally working professionals but also those all over the world, people are paying more attention to career development. That being said, the process of pursuing progress comes at a cost.
On top of tuition fees, it involves a considerable amount of sacrifice of personal, family and social time. Opting for full-time studies will also mean opportunity costs in income.
According to Kelly Global Workforce Index 2014 (KGWI), based on the 230,000 working adults surveyed, there is a clear distinction between acquiring new skills and advancing to higher levels.
Although it is a natural progression to climb the ladder, learning new skills does not necessarily promise role advancement.
According to the workforce index, 57% of respondents say they are willing to sacrifice higher pay.
That might explain why 61% of Malaysian respondents are looking to switch jobs within the next year!
Perhaps it is the pace of economic change that has prompted more working adults to add a variety of skills to enhance their value and, ultimately, employability.
A report by the US department of labour stated that 65% of future jobs have not been invented yet – a staggering finding reflecting the hard reality. Simply put, you either upskill, or be left behind.
On-campus or online?
Fortunately, we are right in the middle of an education boom. Before the turn of the millennium, if you were looking for advancement, there were limited options around, with most of them offering traditional disciplines.
Now, the number of unique disciplines is significantly higher, with a growing trend of future-looking courses in response to near future demands.
Not just that, there are multitudes of mediums and channels for learning, most notably online courses.
Massive Online Open Courses or MOOCs (pronounced mooks) have gained popularity worldwide. Quality content from the best schools around the world, without the overwhelming financial outlay, is right at our fingertips.
Granted, there are debates happening globally, regarding the effectiveness of e-learning, due to the absence of the traditional classroom setting, it certainly has not replaced on-campus education, because otherwise enrolment numbers for graduate schools would have been on a decline.
Whether it is online or in physical classrooms, higher learning requires a great amount of self-discipline and commitment.
As with any adult learning settings, it comes with great challenges in balancing work, study and life.
Of course, given the time commitment required to complete formal higher education courses, not everyone will be up to the demanding challenge.
On-the-job training/corporate education
Alternatively, corporate training can be another option for working adults who aspire for career advancement.
While job progression is very much an individual effort, more employers are paying attention to employee development.
Interestingly, according to the KGWI survey, Malaysian employees have among the highest percentage of career development discussions with employers (at 57%, above the global average of 38%).
This is common around Asia-Pacific, where 49% of respondents say that their career development resources are provided by employers.
At Leaderonomics, we have had great opportunities to work with such organisations committed to talent development.
Our corporate services solutions (assessments, learning and development, and talent acceleration programme, among others) have been engaged by companies from various industries.
Contrary to traditional classroom learning, our experiential workshops focus on active learning experiences to maximise effectiveness for a corporate education setting.
Instead of having classroom assignments, our personalised development plan and customised “live” business projects are integrated into our programmes to achieve in-house talent and career development objectives.
Learning never stops
The choice to pursue post-degree education is certainly a personal one to make. It holds a lot of factors that will ultimately influence your career development prospects.
Having a clear career path and plan will definitely help, balanced by other personal commitments at hand.
Being with an employer with a high dedication towards your progress will also be advantageous.
Regardless of the objective (new skills, promotion, or pay rise), our capacity to continue learning is relatively unlimited.
It used to be that we learnt to pass or get good grades, but now there are no real exams at work (outside formal learning, of course).
Learning is what we, as human beings, are wired to adapt to besides the changes in our surroundings.
Be it professional certification, higher education, or workplace training, one thing is very certain – learning never stops.
Imran Hashim is a talent acceleration programme manager with Leaderonomics. A big fan of learning new things, he draws inspiration from various everyday happenings and resources. To find out more about our customised Talent Acceleration Programme, email firstname.lastname@example.org