Having the right mindset matters
Allie says: I’ve seen students coming into postgraduate education who have been working to transform. I’m not going to speak on an evidence basis here, but I think that it’s about the fact that they mostly have a growth mindset.
They’re approaching the learning with a view to absorbing knowledge that they didn’t previously have or enhancing knowledge that they have and taking it to another level.
You can see how they evolve over the course of their studies, moving from taking quite tentative steps to becoming much bolder and more confident and much more articulate in terms of how they approach the problems that they are facing.
Experiment With New Ideas
Mike says : One of the difficulties in the real world of business is that it’s often quite hard to experiment. It’s quite hard to play. It’s quite hard to test ideas.
In an educational environment, it’s a great place to experiment. You don’t have to worry about the politics of being wrong or being shown up. You can test things out.
And I think the key that I see in students that I’m interacting with is that they broaden the base on which they are confident. So many people come into a qualification like this, where they are quite confident in quite a narrow set of skills.
Then they will move from that and they will broaden that set of skills and they will get much more confident about things that they were not previously confident about. And they will therefore be able to tackle much more sophisticated, much more strategic type problems than they were before.
Once you have quite a lot of experience, you tend to find that you don’t get thrown by the new circumstances that might have thrown you in the 500th hour or 1,000th hour.
So you build resilience. You know that there are frameworks and models that I will have used somewhere before that I can reapply to the situation that I currently find myself in, even though I’ve never been quite there before.
Having that resilience is really key and a qualification like this builds and broadens your resilience.
Allie says: The resilience aspect that Mike’s just talked about is very important as you progress in your career. You might be going into an early level leadership role, or you might be seeking to really hit the zenith of your career where you want to take on a very senior role.
In which case, whether you’re hitting the zenith or you’re just beginning your journey, a resilient and structured approach to what you would do is what gains you the respect, I think, in business.
A level-headed, pragmatic yet creative and innovative approach to what you do is so very valuable.
And when you go through the recruitment process, people see that in you.
They see that you are excited about the industry that you’re in. They see that you are a person who has an endless curiosity for what they do. They see that you’re a person that wants to apply that in a structured, practical and business-critical way.
We don’t go into this world of digital marketing because we haven’t got anything else to do. I hope we do it because, number one, we love people. We need to understand the customer. We need to actually be totally in tune with them. But we also are commercial.
We’re not doing this as a throwaway thing. We’re doing this to invest in ourselves. And because we do this, we can then add value to the businesses that we then are recruited by.
Our experience re-entering higher education
Allie says: It was only five years ago that I went back into higher education myself. And that was a very nervous period of time for me. I didn’t know whether I would be able to do it. I did my first degree in the eighties, and so I’d been out of education for 30 years.
I approached it with some degree of trepidation and a great deal of imposter syndrome around what I wouldn’t be able to do, as opposed to what I could do. But the thing for me, it was the opportunity that it gave me to explore something that I truly, truly was interested in. It started immediately that I started to learn again. It started to add dimension to the way in which I approached my work. And I was working at that time in a creative agency, in a digital agency.
So pretty much from the get-go, the way in which that I was interfacing with the clients, the way in which I was approaching the problems that they were giving us as an agency to solve, it was already kicking in.
I started to think, well, this is great. It’s giving me a new perspective. It’s giving me dimension. It’s giving me the tools of the trade here to really add value in terms of how I approach the client, but also how the agency approaches the client, which ultimately had implications in terms of client retention and satisfaction levels.
I think if I’d been able to go back 10 years, actually, looking at myself and having a word with myself, I might have said, “You know what, Allie? You could have done it sooner.”
It’s just that circumstances in the world of work are such that if, like me, you’re an opportunist and you go with the opportunity in your career, that there isn’t always that opportunity at that time to study.
Was it the right time to study? Yes, it was. Because for me, the opportunity arose to become a specialist and becoming a specialist has meant that I can develop my career in a different direction. And I’m hoping that I’m heading now towards the zenith of my career, and long may that continue.
Mike says: Transformations that I’ve gone through, I think they’re probably too many to count, to be honest. In the expert sessions that I’ve been doing with Allie, we actually go through some of that ancient history that I’ve been through.
So I spent about 25 years changing career quite dramatically every five years. And I think that was a great thing to do.
And just to give you an indication of the order of magnitude, I started off as a scientist, then I moved into becoming a designer. Then from then, I went on to run a research institute. After that, I was a professor of design at a higher education college, then I’ve been a consultant and software entrepreneur more recently. So these are quite big changes.
Start Sooner Rather Than Later
Mike says: My regrets, if I have any, is probably that I didn’t do quite a lot of them sooner.
And one of the real benefits that I have had as I have moved into this consultancy phase of my life is autonomy and independence. That I am able to do the stuff that interests me, that I don’t actually have to do something because somebody’s told me I have to do it. I get the offers of a job and I go, “Hmm, do I want to do that job? Yeah, I think I want to do that job.”
And I’m able to control that, and I’m able to have that independence and autonomy. That is such a luxury in terms of a career.
And I continue to count my blessings that I have had that degree of autonomy, that I don’t have to dance to anyone else’s tune. I sometimes get myself into pretty tricky situations by taking on the wrong consultancy job, but that’s all me.
So if there was one thing that I would pinpoint, is get yourself to the stage where you’re building greater autonomy so that you are more in charge of what you’re doing and where your career develops.
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