Recently I was introduced to someone at a networking event. He introduced himself by saying he was going back to school for a degree. So naturally we all asked, “In what field?” And then, “Where?”
The last question stopped him cold. He hesitated. “Well, it’s a school you’ve probably never heard of. It’s an independent school in the south.”
As it turned out, several of us knew the school. We knew its reputation was not up there with the state schools. We also knew people who had degrees from that school and gone on to great things.
I couldn’t help wishing he’d talked with a career consultant before investing in this degree. He’s entering a highly marketable field. He could have gotten a degree that would make him even more marketable. He could have skipped the degree, taken some courses and then gone to work for a company with education benefits.
The real deal-breaker for me was that he wasn’t comfortable talking about his education. That’s like buying a car and hiding it in your garage because you don’t want the neighbors to see it. Either you’re in the wrong neighborhood or you’ve bought the wrong car. Of course, you could also say, “Who cares? It’s my car. I don’t care what people think.”
That’s fine if you’re talking about cars. But if you’ve chosen to get a degree to enhance your career, you do have to care what people think. You will be judged by everything on your resume. A prospective employer will evaluate your education, especially if it’s directly applicable to the position you’re seeking. They might wonder, as I did, why you made these choices.
In his case, the degree would be much more valuable if he chose to live in certain parts of the country. One possibility would be to move to that geographic area, pick up a few years of resume-enhancing experience, and then leverage that experience in the location where he really wants to live.
The bottom line is that he would have saved a lot of grief by talking to a career consultant. As a good start, anyone contemplating a return to school could read my ebook: Back To School For a Midlife Career Change.
Hi Cathy, I agree with your advice in the article, but if you are trying to change careers in a substantial way, e.g. changing industries, then it’s really hard to prove to the potential employers that you have any knowledge of that industry; even if you have because you have always been interested in it. Many people think that getting a degree in the new field is a good way forward. While it is often helpful, it is never the ticket to the new career. Not enough
Very true! Sometimes you can come up with creative ways to demonstrate your knowledge. And a degree may be helpful – or at least some courses – but rarely sufficient. Many career changers can leverage their past experience to show they have the skills to function well and pick up the specifics of the new industry on the job.