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From teacher, to student, to new career in HR, all in 12 months!

Marian Conder is in her mid-40s and has had a 20-year career as a primary school teacher, but at the end of 2021 she decided she wanted a change. 

Marian has now completed her Graduate Diploma in Human Resource Management at Wintec and landed a job in the industry. 

We recently caught up with her to learn about her experience as a mature student and what it was like to make such a big change. 

The recent graduate has three children, one is at university, the second in her last year at high school and the youngest has just started high school. 

“We were all at a very busy time of our lives so making a career change was a big decision for my family and me. I was very lucky that I was in a position where I was able to take a year off work to study full-time. 

“It was a challenge getting started and back into study again. It had been 20 years since I completed my teaching degree, however, after a few weeks, I had settled in and felt comfortable.” 

Marian said her first semester was all online, making things quite different to previous study she had done. 

“I found the online classes were really focused and the lecturers were prepared. I learned a lot during those classes. It was challenging not getting to know other students or having open discussions like you would when classes are in person, often, face-to-face conversations can be useful alongside the learning. 

“During semester two we were able to attend classes on campus again which was exciting. It was invaluable to have lecturers that not only taught but also worked in their field outside of Wintec. They were up to date with their knowledge and what was current in the HR world. It was useful to hear first-hand experiences which contributed to those discussions alongside the learning that we were focusing on in class.” 

Marian’s favourite papers were Advanced HRM and Industrial relations. 

“They are the foundations of HR that you really need to have exposure to before you head out into the industry.” 

A requirement of the Diploma saw Marian complete an internship with Stapleton Consulting. 

“I was very lucky with my internship; I found an HR consultancy that was willing to take me on. It provided the opportunity to be exposed to the different types of HR work that they dealt with. I learned their online systems and over time met all of their employees; it was a valuable experience.”

She also had to complete a research project for her diploma and decided to use her teaching knowledge as the foundation. Marian wanted to identify the critical role of human resource management in New Zealand public primary schools. 

“I interviewed principals and deputy principals, enquiring into how HR was managed in schools. Most participants admitted they were integrating HR into their everyday workload. They identified that their workload was difficult to manage and that there is a potential place for a specialised HR role in public primary schools to support them in the future.” 

Marian was awarded excellence for her research project. 

As a result of her successful internship, Stapleton Consulting offered Marian a position, which she started late last year, along with training to get her well established in the HR industry. 

“The graduate diploma has given me an excellent foundation to work from, it provided the knowledge base I needed as the teaching world is completely different, and I knew very little about the HR world beforehand. 

“I think this an effective course for mature students, it’s an efficient and affordable way to shift careers. It’s crazy to think that within a year I finished one career, studied for another and now I’m employed within it. If you had asked me at the end of 2021 whether I thought that was possible, I don’t think I would have said yes.

“I’m so happy with the lifestyle change, I have better hours now, I can enjoy the weekend without homework. Yes, the work is fast paced and full on, but when you come home, you’re home and you don’t have to bring work with you. It’s been the change I needed, even though it was a huge personal challenge initially.

“I was really lucky that my husband was so supportive, I couldn’t have taken a year away from work without his backing and encouragement. My children were also very supportive, it was a change for them to see me at home studying as a student, instead of marking student work as a teacher. 

“In the big scheme of things, it’s important to remember that 12 months studying for a new qualification is actually super short, even if the workload can seem intense at times you just have to remember it won’t last forever and you’ll have a new qualification soon.”

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