Whether you’re searching for a job or simply pondering your next career move, you might be considering going back to school. Returning to school to pursue a degree to be more career competitive is a commonly held belief. But… is it really the right thing to do?
For those out there aghast for questioning the wisdom of schooling or education, let me assure you that I’m a perpetual student myself. In fact, I think we should all continue to improve ourselves. The bigger question is around setting your expectations about what you are pursuing and whether or not your expectations can actually be met.
Is Going Back To School Right For You?
Here are some tips and things for you to consider:
Clarity Is Critical
Do your research.You need to understand the requirements for the type of position you desire to move into. Too many people think they know the path from where they are to the career of their dream without doing their homework to know for sure. You don’t want to invest both time and money without first confirming you are on the right path.
Specific Degrees Lead To Specific Careers
There are programs out there that have a direct correlation to the career you would pursue, such as engineering or nursing. Certainly if those professions are your direction, you should go for them in a big way. It also doesn’t hurt that both areas are in high demand right now in this tough economy.
Non-Specific Degrees Require You To Know Your Direction
Degrees in Environmental Studies or Business Administration are open to your own interpretation of what career you can pursue. Way too many people exit these programs without any concept of what career it might support. If you are looking into a program that is more general, identify if there are specialization programs within those degrees that could guide you directly into your next career step.
An MBA Degree Is No Guarantee Of A Management Position
Most companies want to grow you into a management position. The reason for this is they want to ensure you know “how things work” before allowing you to direct the work of others. Deep experience and a willingness to take responsibility are characteristics that will move you into management.
Course Content Does Not Equal Work Content
Don’t be fooled into believing that the types of classes you take in a program are the same type of work you would be doing professionally. When you study law, the environment for practicing law is very different and sometimes a surprise.
Building New Skills Can Help You Progress
If you are simply pursuing various classes to up-level your skill in specific things related to your profession, that is a great course of action. You already know the demands on you professionally and can see where the opportunities for growth exist. Going after specific classes to help your growth can make sense. Your challenge once you’ve done that is to see to it that you get work assignments to help solidify your new skills. You still have to do your own self-promotion around your new skills or no one will know.
If you’re pursuing a degree program to get promoted or go after a better position, make sure to check your expectations against the reality of the hiring situation. In our environment, employers are no longer just looking for a degree. They are looking for specific expertise, specialization, and depth of experience. Make sure you know what’s needed for your next career step.
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