Schools, colleges and universities are all places of learning. As August looms and the public exams in the UK publish the results, the focus is very much on qualifications. My social media feeds are currently full of smiling graduations posted by proud parents. Our household is waiting to find out A level results. Pathways to the future are being set.

My training role finds me most weeks in universities working with researchers, teachers and those who support them. In short, the people who make these fascinating places work. I feel given I am writing this in the summer, I am duty bound to point out that they (and their trainers!) do not have the ‘summer off’. A typical Springboard training room for early career researchers may contain 30 women who hold collectively at least 60 and possibly up to 90 degrees between them. They are there because they want to boost themselves – in confidence, assertiveness or goal setting. Qualifications do not deliver everything.

A great book landed on my Springboard resource table which got me thinking about qualifications more strategically. “Careers Advice for Ambitious Women” by Mrs Moneypenny (Financial Times columnist and entrepreneur) is a very readable, funny book with plenty of great advice even if I found it more biased towards the corporate world. She breaks down ‘what you know’ into qualifications and experience. Her top three reasons for why qualifications matter are really in concert with why people come to Springboard:

  • They boost confidence
  • They provide a testimony to your capabilities
  • They provide networking links to other people

The book also highlights the fact is it never too late to ‘go for it’. This is certainly a lesson that I have learnt from the great female speakers who share their stories as part of Springboard. Some top tips from participants and speakers in relation to qualifications are:

  • Non-traditional routes into qualifications are increasingly open. You don’t need a string of A stars to be a success.
  • Banishing head tapes which were formed at school which start “I was always rubbish at …”. Thankfully we are not our 16 year old selves forever!
  • Consolidating your wealth of experience and knowledge can be a great confidence boost. Think about ‘experience based’ pathways to professional qualifications such as CIPD
  • Use those assertiveness skills to ask for a contribution to costs or time to study from your employer
  • Mature students are typically focused, determined and organised.
  • Choose a qualification that will boost you or your career so when it gets tough you know your ‘why’
  • Qualifying in a current hobby can open the gateway to a new career

I have had the joy of managing some incredibly talented trainers who have academic qualifications coming out of their ears. They also had the training and facilitation skills the keep even the most sceptical bunch of graduate students engaged and learning. But they have asked to be trained formally ‘so I have a qualification’. They do not need it for their role. They need it for their confidence.

I have a GCSE in French (grade A, thanks for asking). It is alas now a meaningless piece of paper. My French is rusty. But my professional qualifications give me credibility, knowledge and all importantly confidence.

This article was written by Emma Williams, Director of EJW Solutions Ltd. @ejwsolutions

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of The Springboard Consultancy.

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