Learning as an adult, it’s not as scary as it sounds

Many adults every day consider a career change, but are just too afraid of taking the bold step and “going back” to study. Glen Patterson of Custom Enterprise Ltd, tells us about his career journey which has brought him to be Managing Director of his own business – all with thanks, to studying as an adult learner.

Glen Patterson, MD of Custom Enterprise Ltd

I initially started work after my A-levels at 18 in international banking whilst studying in the same field. After five years the opportunity arose to move to a life and pensions company and qualify in this area.

Two years and several levels of qualifications later the opportunity for advancement had ceased so I moved to a local stockbroking firm with a potential prospect of stockbroking. Here I undertook the unglamorous “back office routines” of a stockbroking firm.

Time to change

After a year, no option presented itself to me to continue studying to become a stockbroker so I looked around for another area that my  skills would be able to work in. The other main area that I hadn’t explored was accountancy. A colleague of mine was studying management accountancy and when I looked at his books I thought, “I can do that” and did!

After finally qualifying as a Chartered Management Accountant through my own funding in 1993, I did find that certain options were not open to me as I didn’t have a degree. At the age of 40 I gave up work for one year and studied with roughly 50 other students from all over the world at the University of Leicester on a full time Masters in Business Administration. Not only did I qualify, I was nominated the top student and then went on to become one of the top 16 MBA students from all European AMBA accredited universities. This would be approximately over 5500 students in Europe. Incidentally I also became a father during my studies just to add further pressures.

AAT, a key to developing my business

This success energised me to set up a national furniture company. I met a business partner and we set up the company after one year – I later sold my half of the business to him and started my Accountancy & Bookkeeping Practice Custom Enterprises Ltd. As it had been a little while since I had studied book-keeping I identified that I needed to add further qualifications so that I could expand the Accountancy Practice. So, at the age of 46 I studied the book-keeping course by the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers. I qualified the following year and also gained in that year my membership of AAT; as I saw this as key to the development of the business.

At the age of 53 I have now just signed up for a one year payroll course to update all of my payroll knowledge; due to the substantial changes in legislation. So I am still studying and will expect to do so.

Study stimulates personal growth

I am an advocate for encouraging others to study as an adult learner. Study, for me, is a key to unlocking the door to success.  One thing is for sure, if you do not study, there is a strong possibility that opening new doors will remain closed. You will never know what other job you could do, or how high up in your organisation you could go. Lifelong learning always means there are opportunities.

My advice for other adult learners

As an adult learner your motivation is totally different to a younger person. You tend to be focused on succeeding because you want to achieve in the field you have selected. With any study this does become easier if you have a passion for the area of study. You tend to remember more as you have a genuine interest in the subject. Don’t forget that everyone struggles with aspects of study – it’s never always easy. Where possible I’d recommend finding a mentor or even two so that when you are stuck on something you can turn to them and seek guidance.

Being qualified in your chosen area will definitely give you the opportunity to increase earning potential. From an employer’s perspective, I’ve found that encouraging learning later in life means there is a real commitment  to studying and up skilling and an appreciation and love for learning. School leavers, in my opinion can sometimes find it hard to commit to studying. I admire anyone who endeavours to study as most adults have family commitments and busy work schedules – however it always pays off in the end.

Have you ever wondered what type of learner you are? Take this quiz to find out if distance learning is right for you and receive some helpful study tips.

Glen Patterson is the MD of Custom Enterprise Ltd.

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