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The Value of College

College is expensive. Private college is even more. My undergraduate school is now charging approximately $50,000 per year, just for tuition. Assuming you’re paying of pocket, that’s two hundred thousand dollars for a four-year degree, not including room and board.

I love my college, but this is bananas. The idea that a student or parents are expected to come up with this much money for school is difficult to wrap the mind around.

The high cost of college makes you wonder what the money is for. College is more than a finishing school. It’s more than a place to learn about history. It will set the foundation for your future professional career.

To facilitate this career, many colleges offer a career resources center. But, they are typically opt-in. In other words, career resources isn’t a priority.

If finding a job is the ultimate goal, why doesn’t every college offer a mandatory class about just this topic? Along with history, math, and writing, why isn’t there a class in how to get a job? After all, we spend four years learning the skills we need to do the job. Why not have a course in how to get that job?

It seems simple. Universities could use leverage existing career resources staff, or they could find outside coaches or professionals. Fundamentals might include elevator pitch, resume writing, and professional networking.

If students knew how to get a job, they would be more likely to land one upon graduation. They very well might make more money, and in turn, the school would become more valuable. If your school already has a program like this, that’s excellent news. But, sadly, most of the students I speak to don’t have such a course.

If you are evaluating where you want to go to college (or graduate school), consider this. Most schools publish what’s called a post-graduation report. You can typically find it through a straight forward internet search such as “post-graduation report for Harvard University.” This report will typically share information, including: which industries graduates work in, which companies hire graduates, where graduates live geographically, and how much graduates make.

The how much graduates make portion is important. Graduates from certain colleges (or with certain degrees) make much more (or much less) than other graduates. This is real. Companies will very often pay a graduate from a pricey school more than one from another school. Or, they will pay graduates with science or computer backgrounds more than those with art or history backgrounds. This may seem intuitive, but the post-graduation report outlines it clearly.

The next question is – will this education have a good return on investment? Education is an investment. It’s an investment in future income. Fortunately, there are ROI calculators online that can help think through this process. At the end of the day, the college and major you select may be influenced by the ROI of the degree.

Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at copelandcoaching.com.

Graduate School: Money-maker or money-taker?

There’s one question that never goes away. “Should I go back to graduate school?”

This is an age old question, and it’s one that truly deserves careful thought and scrutiny. First, consider these questions.

Why do I want to go to graduate school? Am I going because I’m struggling to find a job and I believe a graduate degree will make all the difference? Am I going because I want to rebrand myself into a new career? Am I going because I want to increase my knowledge in one area, for the sake of learning?

Do I believe I should definitely make more money after I complete graduate school?

Will I need to quit my job to go to graduate school?

How long will it take to finish graduate school?

Where will I go?

What will I study?

Who will pay for graduate school, and how much will it cost?

If your answers to these questions leaned toward wanting to find a better job that pays more money, graduate school is a big decision for you. It’s not just about what you’ll learn. It’s an investment in your future.

And, as an investment, it should be treated as such. With any other investment, you measure return on investment. And, graduate school is no different!

Fortunately, there are many graduate school ROI calculators online to help. Here’s one from Learn Vest. The things you’ll need to take into consideration are current salary, expected age at retirement, cost of graduate school, and post graduate school salary.

So, how can you predict how much you’ll make after graduate school? A *great* predictor for how much you’ll make after graduate school is how much other graduates from your school made after graduate school. The best place to find this information is called a “post-graduation report.”

If you’ve never seen your school’s post-graduation report, you can usually find it on Google. Just type in something like “Harvard MBA post-graduation report.” Typically, the top search result will be a report that shares the average starting salaries of graduates from their program.

If you’re looking to make more money after graduation, it may be surprising to know – the school you study at will influence your next starting salary. In a quick search while writing this article, I found one MBA program with a starting salary of approximately $73,000 per year. I found another program with a starting salary of approximately $138,000 per year. That’s a huge difference! In fact, it’s almost double. It shows that not every degree is equal.

It doesn’t mean that you should go to the most expensive school, but it does mean that school is an investment. In the above case, the higher starting salary most likely also meant a higher tuition and higher student loans. It’s all about tradeoffs.

Before you decide whether or not to take the plunge, be sure you’ve answered all the questions above – and calculated the ROI for your graduate school’s program.

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 Apple Podcasts 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 Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach

 

Advice to My Younger Self

In the past week, two interesting things have happened. First, I was asked the question, “What advice would you give your younger self?” Then, I attended my high school reunion. Walking through the old halls of my high school brought back memories of where it all started. Needless to say, both moments made me think about the past and what advice I would give a young person today.

First and foremost, focus on your strengths. Growing up, there’s often a large emphasis placed on being well rounded and equally good at everything. We spend so much time trying to be better at skills we struggle with. In reality, it’s the things that we’re good at that make us special. You will go much farther pouring your time into an area where you excel than stumbling around in something you are weak at. Worry less about your weaknesses and instead, celebrate your gifts.

Second, listen to your gut. Other people with good intentions will try to guide you along the way. They may be parents, teachers, or friends. Some of their advice may be helpful, but some may not. It’s your job to sort out the good from the bad. Do a gut check with yourself before you make big decisions. And remember, most people are best at giving advice for one specific area. Seek out mentors to help with specific decisions rather than all areas of your life. If you begin to head down a path that doesn’t feel right, take a step back and reassess. Similarly, if you’re on a path that you are sure about and are receiving negative feedback from those who may not be in a place to advise you, take your time before switching paths. When I made the decision to move from Oklahoma to upstate New York to study engineering, I received some negative feedback. But, I’m very glad I stayed focused on my mission because it was the best choices I could have made.

Last, your path may not be straight – and that’s okay. Today’s professionals will change their career path many times over the course of their working life. There’s a good chance you will change roles, industries, or fields more than once. Each change will take you closer and closer to your ultimate destination. Be prepared for this change. It’s not the same as failure. Don’t dwell too long if something isn’t working. Adjust your path and continue to move forward in a new direction. That’s where you will find your success.

One of the most important elements of finding your way is to stay informed – and to be prepared for change. It’s not always possible to predict what change will happen, but change itself is inevitable. Being nimble, aware of your strengths, and willing to listen to your intuition will take you far. This is the advice I’d give to the younger me. And, with the ever changing job market, it’s a good future lesson to remember too.

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

Breaking the rules and finding your perfect job

Sometimes in your career, things don’t always work out the way you plan them. For me, the first time I learned this lesson, I was in college. I went to one of those fancy, private schools to study computer engineering in the late 90s. I knew that an investment in such a great degree would guarantee me a job when I graduated. Not only that, it would guarantee me a great paying job.

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The dot com crash came along right in the middle of my studies an put a halt on hiring. Even the recruiters that normally came to our school to hire students canceled their visits. It was something I’d never seen before and couldn’t have predicted.

This experience took me down a path of finding my transferrable skills and learning about new careers. Transferable skills are the strengths you can take from job to job. I also learned to interview for all sorts of jobs in many different industries – and I lost my fear of reaching out to strangers. It’s truly a skillset I developed out of survival. I needed to pay the rent.

I know it sounds strange, but when you look at interviewing from a different angle, it’s less scary and much more interesting. I looked at (and continue to look at) interviewing as making new professional contacts and learning about new jobs. I look at interviews as networking meetings, not as an opportunity to be rejected by a stranger.

And, you know what else? I don’t care as much if I meet every little minimum requirement on the job description. You know why? Because, truth be told, many employers don’t really care if you do. If an employer brings you in for an interview, it’s because they think you can do the job. Why not submit your application and let them decide?

If we could all spend a little less time worrying about being the perfect candidate, and a little more time just being the best candidate we can be, we’d all go a little further, faster. When I learned this lesson, my own career path changed dramatically. I went from being an engineer to a project manager then from a project manager to a digital marketing executive. Now, I’m a career coach. I could have never guessed in the 90s that my career path would have been so winding.

I was recently invited to share my own story of career success as a TEDx Talk. My talk, titled “How I broke the rules & found my perfect job,” shares my story of not waiting for permission and a little obsession I developed along the way. You may have already noticed. It turns out, I really like interviewing.

I invite you to check out my TEDx Talk on the TEDx Talk YouTube channel (http://bit.ly/broketherules). It’s my hope that you will be inspired to bend the rules in your own search, so you can find your perfect job.

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

Is College Really Worth the Investment?

I’ve met a number of people lately who have said something that’s surprised me. They’ve told me that they aren’t sure if college is really worth it. They believe it would be a waste of money to pay for something they might never use, especially if they change their mind on a career path later.

The group I’m talking about is made up of twenty-something millennials. They are college age and very unsure if they trust this system. They’ve seen their friends go to college and end up with little more than a pile of student loans and a degree that seems to open zero doors. They see friends living at home with parents, unable to get their own apartments.

The economy has struggled for years. College tuition is at extremely high levels creating high student debt. And older workers are being forced to stay in their jobs for longer than ever before, leaving fewer good jobs for new graduates.

When you think of it this way, this perspective makes sense. It can seem that the return on investment just isn’t there to justify spending the money. It also ups the importance of picking the right degree.

But, this perspective worries me. In today’s workforce, a college degree is often considered the minimum threshold for entry. It’s similar to how a high school diploma was perceived in a previous generation. Without one, a job seeker will likely be at a disadvantage compared to someone with a degree.

Very often, the specific degree is less important than having one. Ask anyone over the age of forty what they studied in college. There’s a decent chance you’ll be surprised by their answer because they likely have switched fields along the way.

When I hear this new doubt about the value of college, I think about a number of the older job seekers I’ve met along the way. Early in their careers, they were leaders in their field — perhaps in something like sales. They worked at the same company for years, building up clients and a big paycheck. Then one day, the industry shifted. The company they worked for went out of business and they were out of work.

Suddenly, the successful, seasoned professional they were disappears. They feel helpless. They feel lost. Employers are less interested in them. They have all the right experience and the right knowledge, but they don’t have a degree. They don’t meet the basic requirements. They struggle to find work that will pay the bills to maintain their existing lifestyle. This experience is devastating.

If you’re struggling to decide, remember the long game. Education is expensive, but it’s worth it. Think of how much you’d be willing to pay for a new car, because it drives you around. Education gets you places too, but just in a different way. And, if college isn’t for you for whatever reason, consider a trade program. Additional training will put you ahead of your competition, and help to secure your future.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Helping your college-aged kids

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I wanted to take a moment this week and talk about something that’s a bit outside my normal range of topics: college students. If you have a college aged child, this newsletter is for you.

In the past few weeks, I’ve received a surprising number of calls and emails from concerned parents. Since this is clearly an important issue, I wanted to share a few thoughts that I hope may help.

I don’t have college aged children myself and I have a great deal of respect for those who do. My thoughts come from my own personal experience, my experience talking to others who are living these issues today, and the trends that are playing out in the job market.

Concern: My child isn’t sure what to major in.
Response: First and foremost, the most important thing to come away with from college is a degree. Most important. It is often more important to finish in four or five years than to go to school for six or seven years trying to find the perfect degree. At the end of the day, your child may or may not work in the field that their degree is in. But they will need a degree to stick out from other job interview candidates. With that said, degrees are expensive. Your child will want to pick the best one they can. Look at degrees that offer flexibility in future job prospects. For example, a computer and systems engineering degree led me to jobs and interviews in engineering, computer programming, IT management, sales engineering, manufacturing management, and project management. It’s the sort of degree that qualifies graduates to do many different types of jobs. And, if one career option goes away because the industry dies, or jobs are outsourced or automated, there are other options.  With that said, it’s better to finish college than to switch majors many, many times.

Concern: My child isn’t sure what to minor in.
Response: It depends on the particular situation, but in most cases, a minor is (relatively) irrelevant. Many people even drop it off their resume after a few years. So, don’t sweat it. They should pick something they’d like to learn more about — or something that will add a level of diversity to their major. My minor is in studio art. I learned to draw and paint and sculpt. It helped to balance out my science and math classes a bit. It gave me diversity on my resume. It showed that I was multidimensional. It gave me something relatable to talk about in interviews besides engineering.

Concern: What if my child chooses a major they end up not wanting to do as a career?
Response: This is pretty normal. Don’t believe me? Ask you own coworkers what they studied in college. Chances are, you’ll be surprised. And remember, today’s college students will have many careers over the course of their lifetime. The average worker today switches jobs about every four years. It’s rare that every job will be perfectly aligned to their college education. Consider my case. I really disliked computer programming, but learning about technology gave me a leg up in other related fields.

Concern: What type of job should my child get while in college?
Response: Okay, this is where you may want to disagree. IMHO, the main purpose of college is to learn. School is a huge financial investment. It’s a big investment of time too. Their first priority should be school — going to class, studying, and learning. Period. But, a job can also be a super helpful extension of coursework — if chosen carefully. Internships can be great in college. I did four internships in college. Yes, four. Some were paid, but not all. But you know, I learned so much more at internships about what I wanted to be than I ever did in class. Try to put a little less emphasis on how much the internship pays and more on what the intern learns. We pay so much to go to school to learn what’s in books. Why do we really care if we are paid a real salary to learn at a job while in college? And, having internships on their resume will greatly increase their chances of getting a great job that pays real money upon graduation.

Concern: How can my child start to pinpoint which jobs they might like?
Response: Professors, mentors, the college career department, and internships can all be a great help in this area. Just remember, this takes time to figure out and your child may have multiple different careers over their life. It’s normal that there’s more than one answer to the question. But, if they’re struggling to get started, try asking them to take the Myers Briggs personality assessment. It often gives insightful suggestions on careers to consider. (If you don’t have access to the paid version of the test, there are a few free versions online that may help with ideas.)

Concern: How can my child learn more about a particular job or career?
Response: Informational interviews!! These are the best, and they’re free. As a college student, many professionals will want to help your child. They’ll be open to meeting and sharing more about their own careers. If your child isn’t sure where to start with this, check out episode 101 of the Copeland Coaching Podcast. I interview Zachary Croteau, who landed multiple jobs in college using this simple technique.

Concern: My child is choosing a career field that won’t pay enough to keep the lights on. Help!
Response: This is tough. Work isn’t always fun and when we pursue a degree that’s a hobby, we might be surprised at the end how little jobs pay. If I were advising someone on this, I’d recommend first that the student create a sample after college budget. One that contains rent, utilities, college loan payments, everything. This would help to setup a target desired salary range. Then, I’d check out sites like Salary.com and Glassdoor.com. They contain tons of great salary information. Some jobs pay $20K after college while others pay $60K. These sites can help to identify which jobs are which.

Concern: Should my child go straight to grad school?
Response: It depends. With a field like engineering, the answer can be yes. With a field such as business, the answer is often no. Delaying grad school is a good idea when the child wants to get more experience under their belt — or they aren’t sure if it’s the right field for them. Just don’t delay too long. Shoot to finish graduate work by age 30 if possible. It’s a better long investment financially, and it makes it easier to focus on the increased commitment levels that come with age.

Concern: My child had to take on student loans to pay tuition. Help!
Response: Sadly, this is part of the world today for most people. With the high price of tuition, there are rarely options to get through school without loans unless you’re lucky enough to have scholarships. Most schools are considerably more expensive today than thirty years ago. Look at the loans as an investment in their future career (as long as they aren’t abusing them). Below is an image Bloomberg.com released demonstrating the rise intuition since 1978. This shocking data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Concern: How can I help my child?
Response: One way to help is to share resources and ideas like this email. But remember, a lot of the growth and learning your child will get comes through struggle. You probably had the same difficult experience in your twenties. Struggle isn’t all bad. It can help a young person to figure out who they are and what they want. Don’t discount its value. It short changes the learning process.

These are my thoughts. Like I said, this has been such a common question lately that I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts. I hope these are helpful, and may provide a foundation for additional thoughts and discussion.

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.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts 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 Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland
@CopelandCoach