I have completed my undergraduate degree

Today I sat the exam for the final module of my undergraduate degree.  So that is the first step complete in my career change.

Because of how the degree marking works, if I get 70% or more in this exam (not terribly likely), I get a 2:1 for the degree and get to do a Master’s Degree, otherwise a 2:2 and I’ll need to re-think my plans.

MA application done and sent

I have received two excellent academic references from my two Level 3 Open University tutors.  I am very pleased with them.  I’m considering framing them!

I have sent these, along with my application form, to Liverpool Hope University asking to join the MA in Peace Studies starting this autumn.

Well done me.

I’m very excited.  🙂

A quick reflection on where I’m at so far, and generic advice to others

In 2012 I decided to change career from large scale IT project management to war prevention.  I have made progress in doing so.

  • I’ve nearly finished my ‘Peace Studies’ Open Degree.  In the next few months I’ll be putting in applications for doing a Peace Studies Masters Degree starting in 2018.
  • I’ve a few years experience at volunteering in the sector, giving me work experience to talk about.  I also have and have had director-level voluntary posts in the sector, giving me kudos and credibility.
  • I read everything I can so can hold meaningful conversations with interested people about peace work.  I think I can just about cover a stand at a conference or exhibition on my own (having just done so under tuition and supervision of an expert) although I need more practice.
  • I am working for an employer who advertises roles I would like.

That is in accordance with the plan I had in 2012.  I have not done everything in the plan as some has not worked out – I was too optimistic about being able to change the world quickly.  But I am getting there.

My ‘how to change career’ plan came from books I read about 5 years ago, and the generic advice boils down to this:

You need three things: relevant qualifications (to get your CV through the tick-box checklist); work experience (nobody wants to give training or risk taking on someone who may be unable to do the job); to know the culture (so you can get through the interview).

To get these three things:

1. Volunteer for anything in the same sector or doing the same kind of work. This gives you knowledge of the culture and starts your people networking. Volunteering is way to get work experience.
2. Make sure your study is appropriate for what you want to do. I am doing an Open Degree because the OU doesn’t do a Peace Studies degree. Check the careers information on government and academic resources for what qualifications are expected and decide if you need anything else. Sometimes free courses through MOOCs can be a good enough substitute
depending on what you want to do.
3. Read everything you can about your desired role / sector. Wikipedia, text books, online articles, journals, e-journals, blogs. Get to know how things are done, what is the jargon, who are the big names.

Also, networking is essential these days.  See who is doing the job you want on LinkedIn and try to join the same groups as them to see what is being discussed and what is important. Also, try to make connections with them.

Getting a job doing what you do now in an organisation which also does the job you want, and then moving sideways, can be much easier than trying to get the job you want straight away.

I would also suggest self-advertising.  Blog about what you are doing and how you are getting on. Create a web site about it. Have business cards describing you in your new role. Give them out and tell people what you are doing: strangers like to help and offer advice and there can be gems in that free advice.

That is what I have been doing, so I do follow my own advice.  🙂

Challenges as a student – employment

I have been silently turned down for a job I am currently doing to support my studies.

I was the major breadwinner but to support me in my studies my wife stopped being self-employed and took stable permanent work so I could reduce my time spent at work.  For a while I was a full-time unemployed student but I took a part-time, fixed-term Admin Assistant job six months ago to help a little with the bills (and to meet other people and not go stir-crazy).  I have never worked at this level before and I am enjoying it immensely.  Not being solely responsible for delivering a £20m project nor driving the output of a dispersed 20 member multi-disciplinary team nor having to work 60 to 100 hours per week is quite a delight, as is being able to talk to peers about problems without them using the information to stab you in the back to further their careers.

As it is fixed-term I have been applying for similar roles in case I do not get an extension.  I had an interview a couple of weeks back and I’ve been waiting to hear, they said they would know in a couple of days.  So I checked the jobs site through which I applied and it says:

Which is unfortunate.  I am enjoying doing the same job at the moment and the role I have applied for is fixed-term anyway.

I did explain I am enjoying working at this level and that I intend to do so for another two years until I have my degree.

Hey ho.  I always thought “over-qualified” was a euphemism for “Too old” or “Face doesn’t fit” anyway.  But they could have emailed me to tell me I hadn’t got it instead of leaving me hanging on.

And at least I can spell ‘believe’ correctly.