Postgraduate study at Charles Sturt University can have a profound effect on someone’s life. For Dayle McCallum, it gave her the confidence to make a career change. She not only started her own business, but also reorientated her work-life balance.
“Often when you work for a large multinational company, you feel like you are working 24/7. You have to navigate the politics. You have to constantly justify your ideas. And you don’t have permission, necessarily, to act.
“When you consult, as I do now, your clients recognise that they need a different perspective and they trust that you are the person that can help to navigate a solution to their problems.”
Taking the leap into postgraduate study
Dayle didn’t set out on postgraduate study looking to radically shift her career path. In fact, she initially wanted to go for a promotion.
“When I decided to undertake postgraduate study, I was in a human resources adviser position in the mining sector, and considering trying to progress into more senior roles. I spoke to my manager at the time and she suggested I do some initial study with the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI). I did their Professional Diploma of Human Resources.
“The AHRI has close links with Charles Sturt University. Completing the diploma gave me three accredited competencies as an admission pathway into the Master of Human Resource Management, which I applied for and secured a place in, graduating in 2012.”
The benefits of postgraduate study
Once she began her second step in her postgraduate study journey, Dayle started to feel that her career horizons could expand.
“I immediately found a huge difference with the master’s course. Previously I had learned the theory, but now everything was applied to my workplace, so I could see the effect first-hand. Most of the assessment tasks I undertook as part of that master’s I actually implemented as policy positions in my workplace. These included talent management strategies, recruitment strategies for getting more women into the mining sector
“My workplace would give me some time each week for study, and they benefited from my studies directly. So it was a great return for them on the investment of time they had given me.”
As Dayle got further into her studies, it stimulated her to think more about her own future and gave her the confidence to dream big.
“Seeing how different theories could be applied in different ways got me thinking about branching out into consulting. I have always wanted to run my own business and I had engaged a coach to help me work towards this goal. It turned out that coaching was something I became very interested in. So I started to see how I could apply my business knowledge to it. I was referred to the Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership (IECL) and their Graduate Certificate of Coaching and Leadership. They also have strong links with Charles Sturt University and because of my previous positive experience, I was confident it would be a worthwhile undertaking.”
The study experience
Dayle needed to fit study around her other commitments. So she approached study with the same organisational mindset she used in her professional life.
“I studied online and my lecturers used a lot of media to support the readings – such as videos and audio – meaning there were lots of different ways to learn, which really helped me. And the webinars with the academic and all the students having the ability to ask questions was great. We also had brilliant access to journal databases, so you could study when you were travelling. I thought of study as another part of my daily schedule. And I tackled it with the same logical approach I would take to work tasks.
“I know some people who graduated faster than me, and I understand why people want to get it done with. But I wanted to make sure I was not only doing the subjects that were most relevant to me, but also that I took the time to really soak up the ideas and consider how they work. I didn’t want to just tick the boxes to get a degree; I wanted to really take it in and learn as much as possible.”
Setting up a business as a career change
After completing her postgraduate courses, Dayle had the confidence to start her own business. This led towards more professional and personal fulfilment.
“Since my postgraduate studies, I’ve been able to build a career with my own company, Change Ops. This is more rewarding financially than a full-time job, without the long hours. I’m consulting across human resources, industrial relations, change management, organisational development – all the fun stuff! I get to work with a diverse range of clients on diverse projects that I’m passionate about. And now I don’t have to do any work that doesn’t excite me. I also don’t have to travel for work as much; I can keep a much healthier work-life balance.
“I’m now focused on setting up alliances with other small businesses like mine. And I’d like to spend more time volunteering to mentor other people transitioning out of traditional work and into their own businesses.”
Learning beyond the subjects
And Dayle found that postgraduate study at Charles Sturt isn’t just theory and practice.
“I feel that while studying my postgraduate course I really developed the ability to look at all the arguments on a topic, not just the ones that are aligned with my point of view. I learned from having to explore all the academic theories to consider other approaches. You can come to your own conclusions, but you need to be open and understand alternative ways of looking at things.
“Study helped me assess what was important in my life. It becomes a lot easier to prioritise the things that help you to grow and fulfil you. A lot of people might be concerned about what they have to give up in order to fit study in. But study helps you understand what’s important to you. You don’t take it on lightly. With your eye on the longer term prize – more choices, career security, network, personal growth – you can stay motivated to reach those goals.”