Chapter 19 - "Should You Pursue Further Education?" - The Incompetent Investor

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Sunday, December 8, 2019

Chapter 19 - "Should You Pursue Further Education?"

This is a question that I think I can answer quite satisfactorily from personal experience. Before I do that, I would like to point out that doing a trade, other industries or becoming an entrepreneur can be a great life decision. Particularly in a place like Australia.

I know many individuals who have started their own business and have a great work/life balance. This entry assumes you are not necessarily a tradie given the trades/entrepreneurial life is not for everybody.

When I was a young fella, my best mate’s dad owned a pool business down in Melbourne. It is a vivid memory for me because I can remember falling apart as we dug a large hole in 35-degree heat out in the outer suburbs of Melbourne with the UV blaring (ironic that I moved to Darwin :D). As a hypochondriac, I remember applying sunscreen on every hour in fear of the extreme UV levels. I was spending more time applying sunscreen that I was digging I reckon.

Me and my mate to this day did not follow through with the tradie pathway. He went onto to run his own Accounting firm in Melbourne and Sri Lanka and I ended up working in the Caring sector.
Anyway, what I am trying to say is, doing a trade, or becoming the next entrepreneur is not for everybody. What is an alternative pathway? I would argue further education.

I am pulling some life experiences to illustrate how education played an important part in improving my family’s quality of life.  When I was medically discharged from the Army, I came out as a Rifleman. In the real world, I had no idea what I was going to do. I initially wanted to join the police. But why would the police accept somebody who was ‘broken’ in the literal sense both physically and emotionally at the time?

Fast forward a few years of rehab and staying at home, I ended up watching a film called “The Intouchables”.  It really inspired me to work in the Caring Sector. And so I went ahead and did a Certificate IV in Disability at Victoria University so I could become a support worker.

“After he becomes a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, an aristocrat hires a young man from the projects to be his caregiver”

I loved the work. I would often go to the movies with clients and spend time with them around hobbies that interested them. This included playing yu-gi-oh, playing computer games, watching Star Wars and more. I particularly loved the families I worked with too!

While the positive experiences outweighed the negatives, being completely transparent here, the rumination you received for working a role that required such a high level of patience and emotional intelligence was not in balance in my opinion. For example, at no fault of the client, in some instances you had to deal with some really challenging situations and behaviours that left you exhausted at the end of the shift.

In the end, I could not envision myself fulfilling this role for the next 25 years. I have so much respect for Support Workers who are able to do that. In fact, I honestly believe Support Workers (and childcare workers for that matter) should have their pay increased. Support Workers work with our children, fathers and mothers, uncles, aunties, grandmothers and so on. You may find yourself needing a support worker one day and if we want the best workers to stick around, we need to respect their profession/skills.
Anyways, with the cost of living increasing and house price exploding upwards, I made the conscious decision to peruse further study.

Out of all the qualifications, I picked a Bachelor of Arts through Murdoch University. Yep, fully acknowledge there were better qualifications out there that lead to employment outcomes at the time. But I was so far in I decided to just complete it.

According to Natasha Robinson (ABC,2019), the bottom five areas of study were creative arts, tourism, communications, humanities and psychology. While this may true in respect to the raw numbers, I personally believe if you are passionate about something, then good things will come your way.

An Arts degree for me was enough to get my foot in the door in my industry of choice. It also provided a steppingstone to go onto post-graduate studies (Social Work)

Since moving into a ‘professional’ role I can confidently say my work/life balance has improved. My earning ability has improved. My mental health has improved (relative to the past). My confidence has improved. I remember working in a call centre environment and I was quite literally working from 8:30am until 5:00pm (with the exception of lunch). 

The phones were relentless. I had to put in time allocations towards taking a piss or a poo. In my new role, having the freedom to go to the toilet without being monitored is a luxury that I do not take for granted. I found the image below quite interesting too.

Coming from an Indian cultural background myself, I can understand why education is pushed so hard onto children. In India, life can be really challenging without a ‘skill’ or qualification. Also, consider the competition. Approximately 1.3 Billion live in India compared to approximately 25 million here in Australia. In India, you HAVE to be the best you can be given there will be hundreds if not thousands of applicants applying for the same role you intend on applying for.

Disclaimer: I acknowledge there will be heaps of people who are happy doing tough jobs in India, but if they had the opportunity to get an education, I am sure they would have loved the opportunity. Unfortunately, throughout the world, we are not all born with the same opportunities. This is the case in Australia too.

Moving back to an Australian context I can honestly say education has most definitely improved my quality of life. Living with chronic pain can be challenging in that being functional 24/7 is not always realistic. 

Fortunately, I was able to negotiate working 4 days a week and still earn a fantastic income (which I am truly grateful for every day) that allows me to look after my family, keep up with my sons extra curriculum, send money overseas for family, invest a bit after our expenses, participate in hobbies, travel and look after our health (massage, supplements and so son).

If I can pass on one technique that may help you, I would suggest you do the following:

  • When you have a REALLY tough job, try reminding yourself that you are still lucky to have a job! People O/S would no doubt love to have your job.
  • Remind yourself that your current role, while difficult, is only temporary!
  • On your front door, before you leave the house, write down the things you are grateful for. For instance, you are happy to be walking, breathing, and talking. Or, you might be grateful to have a beautiful family. You get the idea!
  • Finally, should you study, studying part time is the best way to avoid burn out. Slow and steady wins the race!

In summary, I will always encourage others to attempt further study if they are able. I honestly believe it can make a big difference in your life and you will be thankful for it in the long run. Studying later in life can also be a blessing in disguise. You may have the resilience, discipline and life skills that will allow you to get it done.

For some context, for those who are not ‘academic’, I got a 32 Enter in Year 12 (which is basically a fail). I failed a Bachelor’s in Financial Planning twice. I failed my attempt at studying an undergraduate in Social Work. I also failed a Diploma in Human Resources. I was your perfect example of the worst student who was incapable of learning at the time.

Despite the above, I had this self-realisation that if I wanted to improve my situation, I had to make some changes in my life.

Again, studying is not for everybody, but if you feel you have it within you, I certainly encourage you to consider it no matter your age.

 Photo: Katherine Hot Springs - it was amazing!! 

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