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Careers Café

Do you really need more training?


This is the question that makes my soul say “argg!” because it typically comes from people with lots to offer, and because the prospect of taking on more training is often looming before them in the form of another degree—a completely different degree than the one(s) they have already completed. Usually, these job seekers feel that they would need to devote years to degree work they don’t anticipate enjoying in order to open up their career options.

The short answer about whether additional training is useful is: who the heck knows?  It depends on what you want to do next and where you want to do it. While the training required for an academic career seems clear, the waters get murkier when you explore non-academic professions. When you’re contemplating your career options while you’re in a university setting, though, degrees can seem like the universal solvent that will dissolve career barriers. So, before you decide that you’ve chosen the wrong degree, consider this:

  • Few careers require very specific degrees. Most of the careers that come to mind if you ask a person to name job titles do require a specific degree (doctor, teacher, lawyer…). But there are about 13 000 other job titles out there. You can find out whether a profession requires a specific degree by using resources available in your university’s career or student success centre (like Career Cruising). While you’re at it, you can also look for related careers that have more varied educational requirements.
  • Getting an additional degree is not the only training option out there. It may not even be the best training option.  The people hiring in your target profession may value college postgrad certificates, designations granted by professional organizations, or privately offered workshops above degrees. Your university may even offer some of the training you’re looking for through a student leadership certificate, a partnership with Mitacs, or the continuing education department.
  • Formal training may not be your best option. It could be that you do need more expertise, but that you can fill in your knowledge gaps more efficiently through research (drawing on people in your target field, reading white papers published by professional organizations, lurking on LinkedIn profession group discussion boards, etc.).
  • You may need no further training whatsoever to launch a career in your desired field.
  • You may think that your qualifications on paper aren’t strong enough, but other parts of your job search may actually be what’s holding you back. To find out whether this is the case, have your resume critiqued, ask people in your desired field what types of jobs you’d be competitive for with your current experience and training, talk with a career adviser about effective job search strategies, and put together a networking strategy that plays to your strengths.

There is no one right answer when it comes to the further training question.  An MBA may set you up for a frustrating job search.  Two weeks of project management training may get you interviews with your dream employers.  Before you commit (or despair of your job prospects!), find out what further training is—or isn’t—likely to do for you.

Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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