When Clare Jackson embarked on a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with Charles Sturt University (CSU), she wasn’t sure exactly where it would take her career. But now having graduated, she’s pursuing her passion – one she discovered during postgraduate study.
Why did you choose to do postgraduate study?
Clare had a great experience with study the first time around. So when she started to think about advancing her career she knew postgraduate study was going to be the right path for her.
“I had done my undergraduate degree with CSU while working in the Queensland Police Service – a Bachelor of Policing. After completing that degree, I realised that I enjoyed the challenge and skills earned through formal learning. Plus, I was looking to advance my career. So I enrolled in a Master of Business Administration (Law Enforcement and Security) at CSU.
“After doing a bit of research with different universities, I found that I was able to receive recognition of prior learning for some of the study that I had done throughout my police career in both New Zealand and Australia. At this time I think I still really wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do. However, I knew that I wanted to formalise my law enforcement skills. And I wanted to learn through a structured process to set myself up for any future opportunities that came up internally or externally to the police.
“I quickly decided that I wanted to broaden my learning and skill set. So after the first session I transferred to the MBA program. After completing a couple of courses in regards to both environmental and business sustainability, I realised that this was the area that I was passionate about and wanted to pursue as a future career. The emerging technologies in waste management, renewables and sustainability are ever evolving. I find that it’s a really fun and innovative area to be in.”
How did you manage your study schedule?
No stranger to balancing study and a hectic work schedule, Clare put her lessons to good use during her postgraduate degree.
“At the time of enrolling in postgraduate study, I was a plain clothes senior constable with the Queensland Police. I had spent seven years in the New Zealand Police, having started at the police college straight from school, and another four in the Queensland Police Service. I was working full-time 24-hour shiftwork in a busy and high-demand region just south of Brisbane.
“There is definitely an art to combining study with life commitments. While combining both study and work seems like a task within itself, I decided to throw a new passion for ultra-distance trail running in there too. I completed two 100km races and various 50km races over the time I was studying. As strange as that sounds, I think that long-distance running probably helped me complete my study. It was a form of both stress relief and social interaction.
“I found that planning the weeks ahead as best as I could helped. I would often write out plans for what assignments and tasks I had due in the coming weeks. I’d then align them with my shiftwork roster, and assign days, mornings or evenings to achieving these plans. A trick for me was to always convince myself that the due date for the assignment was the week prior to when it was actually due. That way I would be able to finish it and then have a week to review.
“I think you just have to be honest with yourself about when the best time for you to do different things is. For example, I know that I can’t focus on study after a full day at work. So most of the time study had to come before work in the mornings. On days off, I knew that sitting down to study wouldn’t be time effective prior to running. Consequently, I scheduled my long runs in first thing in the morning and then dedicated the rest of the day to study.”
Was postgraduate study very different to undergraduate study?
“I found postgraduate study very different to undergraduate. The qualification I did as an undergraduate was both familiar and relevant to the role that I was doing at the time, so I could put real-world context into my assignments. In contrast, I found the courses in the MBA were much more advanced than what I already knew.
“In saying that, although the prior learning or experience wasn’t there initially, as I learned new skills through the MBA I began to make them relevant to my career at the time. It was definitely a leap of faith enrolling in a finance and accounting subject, with no experience through school, university or the police in this area. I found that I almost had to backtrack and learn the basics to help me understand the advanced information. Looking back, it was all part of the challenge!”
How did online study help you achieve your goals?
With an already full life, Clare knew study had to fit around her. So online study was the obvious choice.
“Right from the beginning, I’ve found CSU to be a fantastic base for online study and it’s been great over the years since starting my undergraduate degree to see it continually evolve and improve.
“I found that I was well supported by my online course coordinators and others studying the same course. It definitely helps to contribute and interact with the online meetings, forum posts and others doing the course. The more I interacted, the more I learned and the more I felt I was getting from the course. Through the group work, I met others from around Australia and internationally studying the same course. To understand that others were negotiating the same day-to-day life challenges with study, work and other commitments definitely highlights that end goal of completing a degree.
“After struggling with referencing through the first couple of papers of my master’s, I found the ALLaN service and continued using them throughout my degree. They were fantastic and definitely assisted me in improving my writing, grammar and referencing skills. I would have to attribute some of my marks to them!”
How did postgraduate study change your career?
For Clare, graduating from her postgraduate degree at CSU radically shifted where she wanted to take her career next.
“Postgraduate study gave me the self-confidence to apply for roles that I didn’t think I had the skills or intelligence for. Study broadened my horizons. It allowed me to find an area of learning that I was passionate about – sustainability, renewable energy and waste management.
“At the end of 2017, I chose to leave my career as a police officer and embark on a new journey through local government. I’m currently employed by a large city council as a supervisor of litter and illegal dumping. The role is a mixture of compliance, regulation, enforcement and education. It brings together my previous experience in investigations along with a managerial and leadership aspect.
“Reflecting on where I was prior to completing the postgraduate study, I was in a position where I enjoyed my job; however, I knew it wouldn’t be for ever. But I didn’t know that a career change was going to come at the time. Ultimately, postgraduate study has led me to the position that I’m in today.
“Time management, confidence and being open to new ideas are all things that have been assisted by my time studying with CSU. Challenging others to think outside the square is something that I encourage others to consider. Also, doing something outside your comfort zone, and that isn’t just academic but in life in general. Not only did I never think I would end up with a master’s degree, or a degree at all after not heading to university straight from school, I would have never thought that I would be running 100km trails, or find myself relocated to Australia. It proves that if the determination and motivation are there, you can achieve things you never thought possible.”
Are you ready to make your next move?
If you’ve graduated from CSU, we would love to hear from you. Share your story of how study has transformed your life and career – and inspire others to follow their passions.