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Keeping up with the kids: Why I decided to go back to school

By Charli Edwards | Creative Director

Cavendish Consulting

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September 18, 2023 | 7 min read

Cavendish Consulting’s Charli Edwards has spent the last three years studying for a second degree. She shares the imposter syndrome that led her there – and the invaluable lessons she learned along the way.

A yellow pencil on a brightly colored background

Cavendish Consulting's Charli Edwards went back to do a second degree. Here's why. / Tamanna Rumee via Unsplash

On Sunday 10th September, I handed in my final assignment. That’s Sunday 10th September 2023, a little over a week ago.

During lockdown, I made a hard pass on learning how to bake banana bread and decided to undertake ‘further education’ instead.

Back to school

Like many, the past three years have seen my professional and personal life change exponentially. Some good changes, some not so good. Some because of the changes the pandemic brought and some just the natural wheel of progression. But all pretty damn beneficial to my own personal growth.

I once had a former boss throw in my face, several times, that I ‘didn't have a design degree, so what would I know?’

Well, three years ago, I decided on a bachelor of arts degree in design and innovation. It was the most rewarding, growth-enhancing milestone to happen during those three years.

I know. I'm a grown-ass woman with a successful career as a creative director, I don't need to go back to school. But nor do I know everything, and I couldn't shake the feeling that I was missing something.

A design for life

My original degree was in fashion. A return to education broadened my knowledge and skills, but the most significant benefit wasn't the ability to think more critically and creatively – I had already learned how to do that 'on the job'. But the confidence it brought, knowing that what I was doing wasn’t any different (or wrong) to those who had studied the specific thing I do for a living, was invaluable.

This allowed me to approach problems from multiple perspectives and develop unique solutions with a bigger dose of confidence. I also (somewhat thanks to remote working and studying) had the privilege of collaborating with talented and diverse individuals, which helped me to expand my network and gain exposure to different cultures and ideas.

The world of design is ever-evolving; those entering the workforce after graduation may face new and exciting challenges vastly different from what they were taught in school. Design graduates today are encouraged to look at the industry through fresh eyes, exploring new techniques and technologies that allow them to break free from traditional design norms. This shift toward a more innovative approach is changing how graduates work, creating a more dynamic creative landscape that demands a willingness to experiment with new ideas.

This is vastly different from the teachings I received, sticking like glue to old norms and processes because that was the way it had always been. It was refreshing to see how these tried and tested methodologies that I’d unofficially picked up were still present but in albeit different ways.

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A rediscovery

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of rediscovering your energy and motivation. For me, it was a game changer. It propelled me to stay ahead and on top of my game. My newfound vigor allowed me to take on challenges I may have shied away from and achieve things I never thought possible.

Pursuing further study or a career change can seem daunting but taking that first step and committing to the process is key.

If you’re considering embarking on this journey, trust the process and be patient with yourself. Adjusting to new routines and academic demands may take time, but sticking with it will pay off. Seek a support system (friends, family, or colleagues) to help you. Most importantly, believe in yourself and your ability to succeed. With perseverance, dedication, and a willingness to learn, you can conquer any challenge and achieve your goals.

Not only did I learn a ton of new stuff, but I also gained a lot of confidence. I realized that I was just as capable as anyone else, even if I didn't have a design degree. Of course, there were challenges along the way. I had to juggle work, study, home life, etc., but I pushed through, and I'm glad I did. Because now I feel like I can take on anything.

So, if you're considering returning to school, go for it. It's never too late to learn something new. And who knows, you might even have some fun along the way. Just be prepared for the imposter syndrome. It's real, and it's not going to go away overnight. But the more you learn, the more confident you'll become.

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