I coach a lot of people my age or a little younger and a lot of them are stressed about their lives. They followed the steps: went to college, got good internships, worked hard, got a degree…and then couldn’t find jobs.
It sucks. It really, really sucks.
So they are stressed out about what to do next and they often come back to, “Maybe I should go back to school.” I can’t really blame them. I thought the same thing when I was ready to leave ELLE and had no clue what my next step was going to be. I thought about becoming an RD. I thought about getting a degree in exercise science. I thought about getting a life coach certificate. But ultimately, I decided to skip any more expensive schooling and here are the reasons why.
I have friends who have known that they wanted to go to grad school for years; it’s why they worked so hard in undergrad! But now the programs they are so passionate about are being flooded by people who basically just got bored. I would feel really uncomfortable walking into classes with the attitude of, “Oh hey, people-for-whom-history is your life! I’m just here killing time till the job market turns around!”
If a few weeks of post-grad unemployment makes you decide to just up and get a higher level degrees, know that when you graduate, you’ll be even more qualified…but so will all the other people who decided to do the same thing. And when you do finish, you’ll be competing against the people who graduated a couple years earlier, worked, and then got laid off. So you’ll have more education, but no real work experience.
Some programs are totally worth the money and you know that if you do them, you’ll be able to make more money in the long run. But that wasn’t the case in really any area of study for me — and I also started to get really frustrated with the realization that so many degrees mean nothing. Even a lot of cheaper-but-still-kinda-expensive certificates mean nothing. So…what are you truly paying for? And…is it really worth it?
That’s a really common justification for going to grad school. “Even if I don’t get a job, I can always just teach.” Um…nope. This op-ed from the New York Times nicely explains how grad schools are actually just creating too many qualified people for too few faculty positions.
If you’ve read my posts on how to use blogging and Twitter to get a job, you know that I truly believe you can do and learn pretty amazing things with the Web and other cheaper resources. And seriously, I’d rather my only debt be owed to the library for late fees…not to Sallie Mae.
And if you don’t believe me…take a look around at the young entrepreneurs and thinkers and movers and shakers who are doing this already. This article on 25 Entrepreneurs Under the Age of 25 is super inspiring; I’m sure some of them went to grad school (uh, three years ago, when it helped more)…but I’m willing to bet their second degree wasn’t the tipping point for most of them.
So before you drop $1,200 on a Kaplan course and start planning to be a student again, ask yourself one question…
Seriously. I know it seems ridiculous to think about that, but if someone said, “Here’s $50,000 to put toward your career; use it as you see fit”…what would you do with it? (And that’s $50,000 per year — grad school is more than a year long!) You could get a small business loan for $25,000 and start a business now instead of waiting until you’re already way in debt to your MBA program. Or pay a designer $1,000 to make you a sweet Web site and start the non-profit you’ve dreamed about your whole life! Want to be a writer? I bet you know how to write. Use your cash to travel the world for a year to get material and then pitch your first novel. Take the $10,000 you’ve saved for grad school and use it to support yourself while you live in L.A. and try to sell your screenplay instead of spending it on NYU’s film school.
The state of the economy is a bummer, but I hope that it inspires people to find a new method and discover their entrepreneurial spirit. The whole “nothing to lose!” mentality could mean huge wins for all of us.