Study – When is enough actually enough?
Over the past week, I’ve had quite a few conversations with HR professional on the brink of a role change or looking to undertake some study in 2017. The conversations go something like “I’ve just finished my Diploma in X and I have a few modules to do on my Cert IV in Y, but next year I’d really love to study something new”. Or “maybe I should do a Masters but I’m not sure what to specialise in”. This time of year does get us looking towards the new year with a change and growth mindset but I wonder why some of us feel like we need to keep adding to the trophy cabinet? When is enough study simply enough. Are we learning for the sake of growth or to fill an imaginary competency gap inside ourselves?
I see this a lot in women in particular, and maybe it’s related to the imposter phenomenon conundrum. Do we compare ourselves to others and think once we get some more qualifications we can be taken seriously in our field; be seen as someone who really knows their stuff? In reality much of what makes us unique and offers value to our employers and clients is not directly related to how many pieces of paper we hold from learning institutions.
What is enough?
I remember some years ago I attended a conference where the MCs were the fabulously funny Zara and Troy Swindells-Grose. If you are not familiar with their enchanting kids book for grownups titled “What is a Nuff?” I suggest you take a quick look. Zara and Troy explore the concept of being a nuff through rhyme. I wonder why we don’t think we are enough, just as we are – smart, competent, experienced human beings.
Clance and Imes discuss the dilemma in their 1978 article titled “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention”. They state “The fear that ‘my stupidity will be discovered’ is constantly present; consequently, the woman studies or works very hard to prevent the discovery.” So starts a cycle of study, success, acknowledgement (and therefore reward), return of feelings of unworthiness – and repeat. The achievement doesn’t negate the underlying sense of inferiority. The reward becomes the driver to repeat the cycle again and again unless we find a circuit breaker. It has also been said that we may need to see ourselves as outstanding and “the best” in our field to feel worthy. In reality we can provide so much benefit and value to others even when we are not in the top 1% of our field, where very few sit.
I’m a big fan of lifelong learning. I love to keep mentally active through reading, podcasts, webinars, learning from others and more formal study. I think it is important that we remain open to ideas and keep challenging our concepts and beliefs. However, when the study becomes an avoidance or delaying technique it’s holding us back not moving us forward. If we feel we won’t be good enough until we achieve another certification or qualification, we may never feel good enough.
Changing the mindset
So how do we ensure we get off the study bus? Where do we draw the line in the qualifications sand? When looking at the “what’s next” I’d encourage you to view it through the following lens.
- Make sure you are very clear on your values, goals and priorities.
- Take a close, honest look at your current qualifications, experience, knowledge and competency.
- Do you really need further qualifications or knowledge to progress you towards your next goal?
- Do you have the resources to undertake the study – time, money, etc.?
- If you answered yes to 3 and 4, then full steam ahead! If not, then let’s stop, reassess and cut ourselves some slack. After all, at some stage we will just have to say “we are a nuff” and mean it!