Josh was getting pretty bored in the evening. His wife’s work schedule often kept her away till 10 PM, and he’s not the “hang out with the guys at a bar” type of person.
However, Josh is a professional in a corporate position. “Being Marketable” should become a priority. If he’s got time and energy in the evenings, he embark on local training, an online course or even a whole degree program.
Each week, ask yourself, “Have I taken steps to learn a new skill that will make me more marketable? Can I point to accomplishments from work (or outside work) that will help my resume? Am I building up a side hustle in case my job disappears — or saving money so I’ll have time to make a transition if that happens?” These steps aren’t always easy, but in the twenty-first century, they’re increasingly important.
Josh doesn’t have an MBA. He needs to find out if the senior managers in his company hold MBAs. If they do, he may not be taken seriously until he has one too.
If Josh decides to seek a new position, he needs to know what qualifications he’ll need. Maybe he doesn’t need the MBA. Maybe he needs to learn how to code or set up a blog or become a better speaker.
If Josh is over 40, he could consider some entrepreneurship courses and learning about side hustles. When you start facing age discrimination, you may find that self-employment becomes your best option, whether you want it or not.
“My company pays half the costs of education,” he said.
“That’s terrific!” I replied. “Half is better than zero.”
Here are a few cautions for him (and for you, too, if you decide to move ahead).
(1) Choose a degree program wisely. Ideally, choose a program that’s respected by top employers in your field and in your community (if you don’t want to move).
(2) Before signing up for a degree program, talk to alumni. Find alumni who resemble you. Were they entry level when they signed up, and you’ve got ten years experience? Your results won’t be the same.
(3) If your acceptance seems to depend solely on possession of an active credit card, be suspicious. And if they won’t answer questions when you apply, what will they do later?
(4) Even in the top notch gold-standard programs, your primary contact will probably be an Admissions Rep or Enrollment Manager. These folks are rewarded for making sales. Their job is to get applications, rarely to help you make the best decision about your career and your education.
(5) In most programs, interaction with others and networking will be a real plus.
Group projects present unique challenges in the online world. Inevitably students get frustrated because their work schedules, computer platforms, browsers and time zones create conflicts.
But even in the online world, you should get access to an alumni group when you graduate. If your online university is associated with a brick-and-mortar university, you’ll be better off.
(6) Find out the credentials of the professors. If many faculty members graduated from the same university, you’re seeing a red flag. If they hold degrees from “independent” schools, you have to dig deeper, especially if you’re seeking a PhD and/or have to write a dissertation.
(7) If you’ll be required to write a dissertation, ask if you will be prepared through rigorous research courses. Find out if you’ll get practice writing papers throughout the program, or if your first paper in the program will be your dissertation.
In some programs, students coast through the courses with easy A’s, only to stumble at the dissertation, which is an abrupt disconnect. I’ve seen this pattern in both MBA and non-traditional doctoral programs.
Most important: Thank the admissions officers and enrollment managers politely but don’t rely on them for information. Insist on talking to alumni. Target folks who have graduated over a range of 6 months to 2 years. Don’t ask for advice. Ask for their experiences.
Of course, education may not be your own best path to becoming more marketable. You might do better to become visible in a professional organization or your own community. But if you’re not sure what to do, start here.
For an in-depth discussion of midlife career education, check out My ebook on Returning to School as a Mature Student.
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And click here to learn more about working with me, one-on-one, for a confidential consultation on your midlife career strategy.