So you’re thinking about going back to school?
Over the past several weeks I’ve been corresponding with people thinking about going back to school.
Maybe you are or you know someone who is.
Change is certainly in the air in these chaotic economic times we’re living through!
The first question I ask them is “Why?”
I’m always encouraging people to learn new things and to improve themselves.
Life-long learning is no longer an option if you want to make your career more resilient.
BUT “going back to school” may not give you what you’re seeking.
Most of the people I coach really don’t want to “go back to school”.
What they really want is to fundamentally change how they feel and think about their work.
“Going back to school” won’t help you do that.
Not only will it not help you do that, but it’s also helping you avoid finding out what you really want to do with your life.
When you’re not quite sure what you want to do, but you know it’s no longer what you’ve been doing, “going back to school” seems like a safe bet.
It’s a socially acceptable excuse to duck out of the workforce to “find yourself”.
Trust me, there are much less expensive ways to explore your life options! (See below.)
You’re not going back to school for yourself, you’re going back to school because you think it’s what others expect of you.
You don’t want to appear directionless and lost, but those feelings won’t leave you even when you try to hide them behind in school.
Don’t make the same mistake I did!
I should know! I pursued an MBA two years after I was laid off.
I didn’t know what else to do, so I figured I’d go back to school to make it look like I knew what I was doing!
It cost me $50,000 and two years of my life!
I learned more about business by starting my own business after “going back to school”!
I wish someone sat me down and had the chat I’m trying to have with you right now via this blog post!
4 Questions To Ask Yourself
Before you “go back to school” I want you to ask yourself the following questions:
#1 How much will it cost?
A typical master’s degree in the U.S. goes for between $35,000 and $70,000.
Do you really want to get yourself into that much debt?
How much are your living expenses?
How long will it take to pay off?
How much will it bump up your annual income?
Evaluate getting a master’s degree like you would any other investment.
#2 How susceptible is the profession you’re pursuing to automation and AI?
Over the next decade, many white-collar professions will be more susceptible to automation and AI than blue-collar work, so you may be preparing yourself for fewer work opportunities.
#3 How many people in the profession you want to get a master’s degree in have you talked to?
Make a list of people you know doing what you want to do and ask them if they think it’s a good idea if you get a master’s or if there are their other options.
If you don’t know anyone, then find people to talk to!
You’re about to take on $50,000+ years of debt, so you need to do your due diligence!
- Ask them about trends affecting their profession.
- Ask them what they like and don’t like about their work.
- Ask them about the pros and cons of getting a master’s.
Get better informed by people in the real world if you aren’t already!
#4 What’s the feeling you really want to change in your life?
Write down how you feel right now and then write, how you would like to feel after getting your master’s.
Make a list of options beyond school that may help you achieve your desired feeling (see below).
In previous recessions, “going back to school” made so much sense, it was rarely questioned.
Going forward, due to the skyrocketing costs of traditional education and the rapid adoption of automation/AI, “going back to school” needs to be more deeply scrutinized.
I was actually one of the fortunate ones among my fellow MBA classmates. I treated school more like an incubator to test a variety of business ideas.
I wanted my freedom (so did they) but too many of them ended up taking conventional jobs.
Sure, the jobs they landed paid better than the ones they had before getting their MBA, but the money wasn’t enough to numb the feeling that drove them to “go back to school” in the first place!
They were right back where they started, just with more debt!
I’m not saying don’t go back to school (and there are many professions in which a degree is unavoidable). I just want you to make sure you go into it with your eyes WIDE open!
Alternatives To School
“So, Stephen, if I don’t go back to school, what should I do?”
Fair question, I thought you might ask that!
Here are some alternatives that not only provide you with the opportunity to learn new skills, but to explore your feelings about what it is you really want to do! They also cost much less than traditional school!!
- Talk to people doing what it is you want to do. Ask them alternative ways to experience the work beyond going to school first (this point is SO important it was worth writing again;)
- Experiment. Lean into your curiosity and start doing the work you think you want to do. You don’t need anyone’s permission to start experimenting!
- Apprentice yourself to someone. Ask someone if you can be paid enough to pay your bills as they teach you the ropes of their profession.
- Take an adult gap year. If you need a cover story about “finding yourself,” tell people you are taking a gap year like college kids do after they graduate to explore and experience your options. (Praxis is an example of a gap year program we featured in one of our podcast interviews.)
- Get support. I think most people like “going back to school” because it provides structure. You can create your own structure by creating an accountability mastermind or your own personal curriculum.
- Research alternative education options. There are so many new education programs (our Accelerator is a good example) for a variety of specific skills that are often lower in cost and shorter in duration to help you get a sense of what it is you really want to do.
I just want you to realize you have more options than the default one of “going back to school”.
Don’t BS yourself by getting a BS degree to ignore your true feelings. It costs nothing to start exploring them!
Have a question? Please ask me!