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My Choice to Go to Graduate School


A very difficult decision we often face as professionals is whether or not to pursue a MBA, PhD, or some other terminal degree. I hear from professionals each week that are wading through this important choice. One of the things that makes this decision tough is that many graduate programs prefer that you have work experience. That means that by the time you’re thinking of going to graduate school, you might have a good paying job, a spouse, a mortgage, and kids.

I want to share a little with you today about how I decided to go to graduate school. My hope is that the thought process may help you to sort through your own complex decision making process.

For starters, I suspected in undergraduate school that I wanted to pursue a MBA. The thing is, my major in college was computer and systems engineering, with a concentration in manufacturing. My degree was like a combination of computer programming, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.

The problem was, I started to think I might want to pursue a career in another field, like marketing. This was especially tough because hiring managers rarely thought of me for anything outside of technology back then. I remember being invited to interview for an engineering management role with Motorola. I agreed to the interview, if they would also allow me to interview with the marketing managers. But, my interest in marketing alone really wasn’t enough. I needed more credentials.

I considered the idea of going to business school right after college. But, I did a little research. When I spoke to other professionals, I learned that having business experience under my belt would give me a better foundation for my MBA studies. It would give me experience to pull from during class discussions. And honestly, it would give me a few years to confirm that business school was the right route for me (before investing time and money into it).

So, then what? Well, I needed to decide where to go – and what kind of program I was interested in.

When it comes to the type of program, there are a few options. Some programs allow you to study online while others allow you to go in person. When it comes to business school, a big part of the value you gain is through the real life connections you make. And, at least for me, in person learning is typically better than online. So, I knew I wanted to be in an in person program.

Then, I had to decide if I wanted to study part-time, or go back to school full-time. Going back full-time typically requires you to quit your job to focus on school. For me, this was the best option. I wanted to focus completely on my studies. And, I wanted to finish my program in a reasonable amount of time. Studying full-time allowed me to complete my MBA in 15-months. If I had been a part-time student, this may have taken years.

Next, I decided what sort of concentration I wanted to have. I decided that I wanted a concentration in entrepreneurial management. I also wanted a program that was heavy in marketing options. And, I wanted a program that values giving back to the community. On top of these requirements, I was interested to go to a school that was near where technology related things were happening – in California. I was going through this process around 2003, so this list quickly narrowed my choices down. Entrepreneurial management in particular was hard to come by back then because it was still a new discipline for business schools.

Once I had my list of schools ready, I started to look up data on their programs. It’s almost like looking up reliability statistics on a car before you buy it. Long story short, not every MBA is worth the same amount of money. I looked at the rankings in US News & World Report. I looked up a report that’s called the ‘post-graduation report.’ Most schools publish these reports on their career site. They share how much money their graduates are making.

Then, I did an ROI calculation. Yes, you heard me right. A return on investment calculation. Business school is an investment. I compared the amount of salary I would give up (by quitting my job), along with the cost of school and living expenses – to the amount I would make after completing business school (or at least a decent estimate). I was only willing to pay a high tuition if I would end up making a high paycheck after graduation.

Alright, so that really narrowed down the schools. I ended up selecting Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.

Well, the last piece is this. How was I going to pay for the program? This was a tall order. I was in my early 20s and the thought of dropping over fifty thousand dollars on an additional degree was a big decision.

I worked for three years before going to graduate school. I lived cheaply, and was able to save around $1,000 per month for school. I stashed the money in a savings account. By the time I quit my job to go to school, I had saved over $30,000. To make up the extra money I needed for tuition and rent, I did two things. I asked the school for a scholarship, and I took out student loans.

Student loans are a hot topic these days. I won’t dive into all the pros and cons here. But, in my case, with a lot of research, they worked for me. They were low interest, and they allowed me to put myself through school.

So, what happened? Well, I graduated with my MBA in 15 months. Companies started to consider me for jobs outside of computer programming (like marketing). And, I was able to land job offers that were twice what I was making before graduate school.

Hooray!

For me, the decision to get my MBA was a good one. But, as I mentioned before… not every degree is created equal. The only way to make the right decision for you is to do lots of research. Calculate the return on investment. Talk to people. And, time it right. Don’t go too soon, or too late.

I know — it’s a lot to think about. But, it’s a big decision. Best of luck as you make yours. 🙂

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Visit CopelandCoaching.com to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes or 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.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach

 

155 | Career Rebranding – Isaac Lake, Hilton

Episode 155 is live! This week, we talk with Isaac Lake in Memphis, TN. Isaac is a Manager of Brand Performance Support at Hilton. Previously, Isaac worked at the University of Memphis where he was the Manager of Facilities and Programs at the University Center. This is Isaac’s second time on the Copeland Coaching Podcast. He’s a former client and a friend. On this episode, we check back in with Isaac after 3.5 years at Hilton.

On today’s episode, Isaac shares:

  • The biggest differences between working in a corporate environment and at a university
  • Which transferable skills (and side hustles) helped him to transition into corporate
  • The role of networking in the job search
  • Advice for others looking to make a major career shift

Listen and learn more! You can play the podcast here, or download it on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

To learn more about Isaac, you can find him on LinkedIn.

Thanks to everyone for listening! And, thank you to those who sent me questions. You can send your questions to Angela@CopelandCoaching.com. You can also send me questions via Twitter. I’m @CopelandCoach. And, on Facebook, I am Copeland Coaching.

Don’t forget to help me out. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave me a review!

154 | Making Meaning of Work – Amy Wrzesniewski, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Yale University

Episode 154 is live! This week, we talk with Amy Wrzesniewski in New Haven, CT. Amy is a professor of organizational behavior at the School of Management at Yale University. Her research interests focus on how people make meaning of their work in difficult contexts, including stigmatized occupations, virtual work, and the absence of work. She also researches the experience of work as a job, career, or calling. Her current research involves studying how employees shape their interactions and relationships with others in the workplace to change both their work identity and the meaning of the job. She teaches both on managing groups and teams, and global virtual teams.

On today’s episode, Amy shares:

  • The tie between purpose and meaning in work
  • How closely our career is tied to our identity
  • Why we may regret our occupational choices mid-career
  • Whether or not having purpose at work can increase your success
  • A common mistake job seekers make
  • The impact of unemployment on our identity

Listen and learn more! You can play the podcast here, or download it on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

To learn more about Amy, find her on the Yale website and on YouTube.

Thanks to everyone for listening! And, thank you to those who sent me questions. You can send your questions to Angela@CopelandCoaching.com. You can also send me questions via Twitter. I’m @CopelandCoach. And, on Facebook, I am Copeland Coaching.

Don’t forget to help me out. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave me a review!

153 | Potential Principle – Mark Sanborn, Speaker & Author

Episode 153 is live! This week, we talk with Mark Sanborn in Denver, CO. Mark is an international inspirational keynote speaker and author of seven best-selling books that have topped the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. Mark is also the author of his new book, The Potential Principle: A Proven System for Closing the Gap Between How Good You Are and How Good You Could Be.

On today’s episode, Mark shares:

  • Tips for escalating your performance at work
  • How to be identified for internal promotions
  • How to focus on our potential

Listen and learn more! You can play the podcast here, or download it on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

To learn more about Mark, find him on Twitter and his website.

Thanks to everyone for listening! And, thank you to those who sent me questions. You can send your questions to Angela@CopelandCoaching.com. You can also send me questions via Twitter. I’m @CopelandCoach. And, on Facebook, I am Copeland Coaching.

Don’t forget to help me out. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave me a review!

152 | Body Language – Joe Navaro, Author & Body Language Expert

Episode 152 is live! This week, we talk with Joe NavaroJoe is an international bestselling author and body language expert. He spent 25 years at the FBI, working as both an agent and supervisor in the areas of counterintelligence and counter terrorism. Through his work, he was able to study, refine, and apply the science of non-verbal communications. Joe is the author of numerous books and articles on body language, including: What Every BODY Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People.

On today’s episode, Joe shares:

  • What is non-verbal communication
  • Which parts of the body are most important when it comes to sending the right signals
  • The body language advice you should ignore
  • How to tell if the hiring manager likes you during a job interview

Listen and learn more! You can play the podcast here, or download it on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

 

To learn more about Joe, find him on Twitter and his website.

Thanks to everyone for listening! And, thank you to those who sent me questions. You can send your questions to Angela@CopelandCoaching.com. You can also send me questions via Twitter. I’m @CopelandCoach. And, on Facebook, I am Copeland Coaching.

Don’t forget to help me out. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave me a review!

Best Places to Work in 2018

For the tenth year, Glassdoor.com has released their Employees’ Choice Awards. For 2018, they’ve expanded the list of best companies from 50 to 100. Glassdoor CEO Robert Hohman explained, “We know today’s job seekers are more informed than ever about where they go to work, researching everything from company culture to career opportunities to pay philosophy and more. To help people find companies that stand out from the pack, the Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards recognize employers that are truly Best Places to Work because they’re determined by those who really know best – the employees,”

The Glassdoor top company list is unique in workplace awards. It is based on the input of company employees who volunteer to provide anonymous feedback by completing a review about their company, their job, and their work environment. This year, Glassdoor is featuring six categories, honoring the best places to work in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France and Germany.

The Top 100 U.S. list of large companies (with over 1,000 employees) has a number of very familiar names. Facebook leads the charge with the coveted number one spot. Spots two through six are held be Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group, In-N-Out Burger, Google and lululemon.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital also made the list at number nine. A scientist at St. Jude loves working there because, “The people are fantastic and welcoming! It feels more like a family career than just a job. The researchers and facilities are top notch, and everything is collaborative.”

Three companies have now made the list for all ten years: Bain, Google and Apple. Of these repeat nominations, Homan says, “These employers have shown an impressive consistency and ability to keep their workforces engaged and satisfied. Amount these three employers, the common attribute they share is that they offer company cultures that are unique to them and what’s more, they offer a company culture that their employees truly believe in.”

The Top 50 U.S. list of best small and medium companies (with less than 1,000 employees) includes Silverline at number one. New Home Star, New Century, Acceleration Partners and Zoom Video Communications took spots two through five. Other notable companies include social media tool Sprout Social and digital marketing agency Elite SEM. As one account lead shared, ‘The benefits are ridiculous. They sound too good to be true, but they’re not. Unlimited PTO, free lunch, free dinners if you work late, annual corporate retreat.”

One of the top factors that determines whether or not an employee wants to change jobs is often happiness and job satisfaction. During the interview process, it can be hard to tell which companies are healthy are which are struggling. Sites like Glassdoor provide insight into what’s really going on behind a company’s doors. And, best of all – the reviews are left anonymously, and the companies are not allowed to edit them. This means that you get the real scoop – directly from the employees. They’re like hotel reviews, but much more impactful to your future.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.