“Should I go back to graduate school?” This is a question many professionals wonder about each day. If you’ve struggled to find a new job in the difficult economy, you may be seriously considering it.
I challenge you to carefully weigh the pros and cons of graduate school before enrolling. It’s both expensive and time-consuming, so if you’re going to go, you want it to be for the right reasons.
If you’ve had trouble finding a new job, and think graduate school is your golden ticket to that perfect opportunity, think again. After graduating, you’ll find yourself going through the same process you are today: building your network, applying for jobs and interviewing. Contrary to popular belief, job offers will not pour in just because you have an additional piece of paper from another university.
Do a cost-benefit analysis of a graduate degree. Add up the total cost of your education, including salary you will forego while in school and the cost you’ll pay in tuition and expenses, such as books. How does the total cost compare to the increase in salary you expect to see after graduation?
If you want to go because you’re not sure of what you want to do with your life, look for another alternative. Graduate school is a very expensive way to figure out what it is you want to do. If you’re unsure, talk to professionals who work in the fields you’re interested in to learn about what they do. Look for an internship or volunteer opportunities to test the waters with less commitment.
Most of all, don’t go back just because society dictates that you should – or because mom and dad think it’s important. Society isn’t going to pay off your student loans, or stay up late at night to help you study.
On the flip side, there are a number of very good reasons to go back to graduate school. I went back 10 years ago and earned a Master of Business Administration. I did it because I was often pigeonholed with an undergraduate degree is in engineering, and wanted to move up in the ranks of management. I also knew that financially, the investment would pay off at future jobs. It opened doors that allowed me to grow my career.
Another great example of when a graduate degree makes sense is when you want to work in a profession like law or medicine. These are both examples of jobs that require advanced and highly specialized degrees. Without a medical degree, you can’t practice as a doctor.
If you’re still unsure if graduate school is for you, Google “grad school calculator.” You’ll find a number of sites that help with your own cost-benefit analysis. They’ll look at your current salary, the cost of graduate school and your expected future salary.
Whatever decision you make, be confident in your choice. Understand what you’ll give up and what you’ll get in return to ensure a positive experience, whichever direction you choose.
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.
Last week, I had the good fortune to attend a work conference in Chicago. It wasn’t your average work conference though. Attendees wanted to be there. In fact, their companies didn’t pay for them to go. Attendees paid their own way. And, they went to all of the workshops offered – even at the end, when everyone was tired.
The conference is called Podcast Movement, and its purpose it to help educate podcasters about hosting their own radio-like programs. It’s the second year I’ve attended and what struck me last year was how passionate this group is about their work. People told me how podcasting has changed their lives. A few podcasters even got teary eyed when they were talking about their shows. Have you ever had a job that got you teary eyed with positive emotion? Me either.
This year, the speech that stuck with me the most was given by Kevin Smith. You might remember Kevin from movies like Clerks and Mallrats. He’s the filmmaker who played Silent Bob. Kevin talked about two main topics: the importance of self-expression in your work, and doing what you love. Kevin said that he had the misfortune to get paid for what he loved to do early on in his career. For a time, it caused him to refuse to work on projects he loved, unless he was paid.
His talk brought up an interesting point. As we grow in our careers, we often opt out of anything work related unless we receive a paycheck. Why is that? It could be that our personal time has been more valuable, or maybe we’re just accustomed to our companies paying for things like training, mileage, and cell phones.
But, what would happen if we explored our career interests a bit more – even if we weren’t paid for it? Chances are good that new doors and avenues would open up for us that we had never thought of. We might even enjoy our jobs a bit more.
Perhaps we’d change careers altogether. That’s what many podcasters are hoping for. Most podcast hosts create a show about a hobby or interest they have that’s unrelated to their day job. To put together a show, a host will often spend a large amount of their own money on microphones, educational workshops, and technical equipment. Some people even install sound booths in their homes for recording. They spend many hours each week planning an individual episode, seeking our guests, recording, and editing. Rarely are they paid for their work – at least not initially.
This group learns and invests in themselves and their podcasts because they love it. They aspire to one day be paid to do it full time. Until then, they share stories about how podcasting has truly impacted their own lives for the better.
So, what inspires you, and what kind of work would you do for free? If money were out of the picture, where would you invest your time and resources to grow yourself?
Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.
My latest Memphis Daily News column is out, “When Education Falls Short.” In it, I discuss what to do if you feel your college degree is holding you back.
One of the chief complaints I hear from job seekers is that their lousy college education is to blame for their poor career success. Whether they went to the wrong school or got the wrong degree, the person wishes they could turn back time. They consider going back to school as a road to success.
Although I empathize with a college degree you may never use in your full time job (I once studied to be a computer programmer), the answer does not lie at the feet of your university. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Professions like law, medicine and engineering require years of training and specialized advanced degrees.
But, if you’re not in one of these highly specialized jobs, there’s hope! First, know that most people aren’t using their expensive degrees in the way they thought they would when they were 20. It’s not just you. Think of a friend whose career you admire and ask them what they studied. At least half of the time, you’ll be surprised.