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College or Career First?

Recently, an old question resurfaced. Should high school seniors go straight to college? Or, should they enter the workforce first? This can feel like a difficult question as young people face such big decisions.

Those who argue that seniors should work for a few years believe eighteen year olds are too young to make such life altering decisions. They will take college for granted. They will select the wrong major. And, they will incur high student debt before they know what they really want to do.

While I respect this perspective, I don’t agree with it. I believe high school students, if they can, should go straight to college following high school.

One of the biggest things working against us when we are young is a lack of information. At this age, part of this lack of information is due to a small circle. In other words, you get most of your information about careers from your parents.

Your parents may have very specific careers. They could have done those same jobs for their entire adult lives. And, their knowledge about other careers is limited. Those same parents are the ones who typically advise their children on career choices, such as which major to select. The problem is, parents also don’t have enough information to give a solid recommendation.

Sending these students out into the workforce (or on a backpacking trip) is not the answer. At this age, you’re qualified to do very few jobs. It can be hard to even secure an unpaid internship. A high school graduate may end up working in fast food, as a nanny, or in some other entry level job. These jobs won’t give more information about which major to select.

When a high school student goes straight to college, two things happen. First, they don’t get taken off their normal path. They don’t end up never going back to school. They don’t end up in some unfortunate life situation that derails them.

Second, they are exposed to many other students. Those students come from different families, with different parents, and different information about careers. They also have the opportunity to be exposed to professors from various backgrounds and other career advisors. And, they will likely have the option to complete an internship or two that will give them real life career experience. All of these things expand the amount of information they have access to. It gives them a better chance of making the right decision about their ultimate career.

This brings us to the worry about picking the right college major. It is very common to graduate with a degree in one thing, and end up doing something different in your career. A college major is often less important than we assume. Ask your friends what they studied, and you may be surprised.

But, what is the most important is finishing college. There is no substitute.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit 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 iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland


Avoiding Early Career Pitfalls

The summer is an exciting time for young job seekers. A new group of graduates has just been minted and are searching for their first full-time job. But, there are many pitfalls you may encounter along the way. Here are a few suggestions to help you in your search.

Don’t let your parents get involved in your job search. At the most, your parents should be providing you one-on-one guidance from the comfort of your home. Beyond that, it’s too much. Mom or dad should not be applying to jobs for you. They should not be perfecting your resume. They should not be editing your LinkedIn profile. They should not attend an interview with you. And, they definitely should not ever negotiate your salary for you. I get it. Your parents have been there and done that. But, in the professional world, getting your parents involved in a major faux pas. If you want to find a job, now is the time to talk to your parents. If an employer gets even a whiff of them through the interview process, it’s likely that you will be tossed out of the candidate pool.

Sharpen your online image.  Employers will look at more than your resume. Right or wrong, they will look at your social media. Get in there and be sure you would be comfortable with the content. Reduce posts that focus on anything that might be considered controversial.

Perfect your phone skills. I can’t tell you how often a future employer has said to me, “Wow. I wish the candidate would learn how to answer their phone.” If you’re applying for jobs, you may get calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize. Answer in a polite, pleasant way that uses your name. An uncomfortable, “Hello?” is no way to begin a conversation with your future boss.

Be on time. When you’re early in your career, your real world experience is still slim. But, there’s one thing you can easily do: show up on time.

Once you’ve landed your perfect job, don’t start hinting that you want more money. The time to negotiate was before you started. Once you’re there, you’ve agreed to work for what they’re paying you. Nobody is planning to pay you more just because you’re the smartest, fastest, or best at the job you were hired to do.

Don’t expect a promotion every one to two years. I wish it worked this way, but it just doesn’t. Working your way up the ladder takes time. Promotions often happen when your level of responsibility has changed. Perhaps you’ve started to manage a team. Or, maybe your job includes a new area that it didn’t before.

Early on, your job is primarily about learning and growing. Take the time to learn as much as you can. Give back to the organization. In the long term, this will result in both a fruitful and successful journey.

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

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

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 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 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


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 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 ( 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 or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.