Going Back to School for a Career Change

One of the courses I took after my layoff was to get certified as a health coach. I wanted to make the most of the tuition reimbursement benefit from my company, and I had an interest in health and nutrition, so I thought it might be worthwhile to try. What surprised me was that I not only gained a better understanding of health and nutrition, but the course had the added benefit of preparing me for my graduate social work studies.

Expected Benefits
If I were actually planning on launching a career as a health coach, the course was beneficial in providing a structure and the materials for starting a practice. Although I ultimately decided that being a health coach wasn't for me, I definitely learned more about health and nutrition, like how exercise can be better for addressing metabolic disorders (e.g. diabetes) than medication. The best part of the course though, which I didn't realize until after I went on to take a graduate social work class, was its gentle re-indoctrination into studying for exams and writing papers.

Unexpected Benefits
Without having taken this course first, I would have been a lot more apprehensive about taking the graduate social work class. I only needed to get a C or better in the health coaching course to get reimbursed, so there was a lot less pressure. The course also introduced me to the concept of APA-style writing and gave me a chance to learn about it and get comfortable using it.

Preparation for Graduate-Level Studies
Even having the health coaching course under my belt, I was still nervous about taking the graduate social work class. It was an entirely new field from the one in which I had spent my career, which was financial services. I anticipated an entirely new vocabulary and way of thinking about the world that many of the other students would already be immersed in, and which I would need to quickly catch up on. I know some people going back to school after a long break also worry about the academic aspect, and my worry in that regard was abated by having successfully completed my health coaching course.

When I wound up taking the graduate social work class last fall as a non-matriculated student, to test it out before I applied to the program, it wasn't nearly as drastic a shift as I expected. Many of the students were already working in the field, or had been for some time, but there were also a few students who were mid-career changers, like me. The concepts and vocabulary was new, but the professor was very supportive and I never felt like I was out of my depth.

In Closing
The hardest requirement of the class was writing papers using in APA-style, and it would have been a lot harder if I hadn't already dipped a toe in during my health coaching course. Even so, it was still challenging learning all the rules while also trying to write a coherent paper. Having some familiarity under my belt gave me a confidence boost, and I wound up enjoying the class, learning a lot, and doing well. In fact, the class shifted my world view and shapes my behavior to this day, and I'm looking forward to starting the Master of Social Work program this fall.


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