The Higher Education Trap.
You’d be surprised at how often someone says, “Angela, I’ve decided to go back to school. My resume just doesn’t have the right education to land me the job I want. I know my current degree is standing in my way.”
Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big supporter of higher education. I earned bachelor and master’s degrees from well-respected institutions, and I can attest that my degrees have been a huge help to me.
But, if you’ve already completed your education and have been in the workforce for some time, you may want to take a second look at this idea.
Why are you considering going back to school? Is it because you love to learn? Do you want to switch to a field like legal, medical, or architecture where specific degrees are required? Or, do you believe that a new degree will transform your job search?
If you like to learn, or if a degree is required in your new field, I’m with you. I understand why you want to go back.
If you don’t want to work in a field where a specific degree is required, and you do believe your job search will be transformed, it’s time to ask a few questions.
The reason I say this is because all too often, people spend years of their time and many thousands of their dollars financing a second education. Upon graduation, they’re surprised to find out their search is just as tough as it was before. But, now, they have student loans to pay back.
No matter which degree you have, finding the right job is still hard work.
If you’re thinking of returning to school, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Why do I want to go back to school? Again, do you want to learn, is a degree required, or are you betting that a new degree will change your odds?
- Is a degree really required for the new field I want to get into? Setup informational interviews with people in the field you want to work in. Ask them about how they got there. Find out what they studied in college and graduate school.
- How well respected is the school I want to attend? So many people I speak with have obtained an advanced degree through an online program. After graduation, they’re shocked to learn that many employers don’t recognize their hard work. They don’t get a promotion or a pay raise.
- What’s the average salary of graduates from my desired program? Many universities share the starting salaries of their graduates with the public. When you begin to compare them, you’ll be surprised at how wide the range is, depending on the school you select.
- What is the return on investment for this program? There are many calculators online to help you with this question. You give up money for tuition, and sometimes you’re giving up a paycheck while you’re in school, and all as you pay for yourself to live. How much will you have to sacrifice financially to go back to school? How much will you gain in return (a.k.a. a salary bump) upon graduation?
- Is my job search truly going to be impacted by a new degree? Be honest with yourself. Are you failing at your search because of your education, or because of your approach?
- Do I have realistic expectations? Do you clearly understand what you’re giving up, what your goals are, and what you expect long term from your degree? Have you thought through this decision carefully?
If you feel comfortable with your responses to these questions, by all means, go back to school. In fact, start applying soon as many deadlines are fast approaching. But, do your best to not allow education to be the crutch that’s holding you back from pursuing the job of your dreams. Going back to school for the wrong reasons is a very expensive lesson to learn.
On tomorrow’s episode of the Copeland Coaching Podcast, I interview Roger Johnson, Director of Individual Giving at the Seattle International Film Festival. Roger started his own career in a very different area and has since worked for a number of organizations. Check out the podcast on Tuesday to learn how Roger was able to switch to from one industry to another, and from for-profit to non-profit. It just might inspire your own search!
Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes and Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.
Angela Copeland is Founder and Coach for Copeland Coaching, a great way to jump start your job search. Follow her on Twitter @CopelandCoach for tips on finding the perfect job for you.