Many people have a default strategy to solve all their career and life problems: to go back to school*. They hope that an additional degree, certification, or learning how to be a web developer bootcamp is going to solve all their career issues.
*Outside of a necessary credential to achieve a career path. I.e. RN for nurse, MD for doctor, JD for lawyer, MBA for management consultants, MS/PHD for high tech roles (scientist, biostatistician, etc.).
This type of “solution”, as an antidote to inaction, often leads to unintended consequences. You may have been better off if you didn’t undertake this decision in the first place. The irony is, the people who want to go back to school don’t want to hear the litany of reasons why it’s bad idea. Their desire to be busy overrides common sense.
As a headhunter and career coach, I personally see the havoc propaganda by educational institutions and parents wreak on our generation, the millennials.
Before you consider any graduate program, please consider these points below:
#1. Schooling consumes additional cost and time, with minimal ROI. The numbers don’t add up! People forget about the tax impact on money. Schooling is paid for with post-tax dollars. Income is earned pre-tax. Thus, paying for $1 of student debt requires you to actually earn $2 to pay it back (rounding up to include interest, inflation, etc.). Add in the opportunity cost of missing out on investing that money instead of paying back debt, you’re looking at some serious dings to your financial future.
As pure as your desires for learning are, the majority of Americans can’t afford NOT to make money in their adulthood. Yet like all consumers, our system allows us to buy on credit. Sadly, too many people get sucked into using student loans to fund their #studentlife. The way politics are going, there is no recourse against your decision: no write-offs, no foreclosure option, no nothing. No backsies!
#2. Skills necessary to succeed in the corporate world are not taught in the classroom. If you’re not hoping to use your graduate education in a corporation, you’re delusional. The reason why we (middle-upper class demographic) are all forced to complete college is the fear that corporations don’t want to hire us if we don’t have degrees. So, if you think paying for a new degree is for personal enrichment, you’re either really rich or really ill-informed.
The real skills NO academic institution teaches are the ones we need the most. The ability understand the job process, negotiate our salaries, and clearly define what it is we want to do next. How to impact people, how to love yourself, how to believe in yourself, how to be self-thinking: none of these topics are covered in graduate education, yet these are the basics of what you need to succeed in the real world. The graduate school system churns out sheep led by shepherds; you won’t learn how to think different here.
#3. Employers will no longer pay extra for grad students. Employers have been unimpressed by graduate grads of yore. MBA grads who don’t immediately get snatched by the top consulting firms find themselves completely unemployed. Forced to start at a mere $75k. A salary they arguably could have gotten had they just stayed employed system to begin with.
What’s more alarming (this should scare you) is that undergrad graduates and even college dropouts are more impressive today than ever!
Not only do they have more real life work experience, they’re hungry, charismatic, and know how to maneuver themselves into jobs that you wouldn’t dream possible. The trend is that employers are now more impressed by work experience than schooling.
Especially as the wave of older employers will continue to be replaced by millennials, this anti-establishment, anti-institutionalized-education attitude will continue to flourish! If you don’t have the working history to back up your education, you best believe that your graduate degree can’t be used to negotiate for a higher salary.
#4. Networks are now freely accessible. Before the internet existed, there were secret societies and networks that any regular job seeker would be excluded from, unless you had a connection. What’s beautiful about LinkedIn is that those connections are now fully public! No longer do we need to know uncle Johnny who knows hiring manager Mary who’s going to get us that investment banking job.
We can find Mary, and thousands of other Marys on LinkedIn within 1 second.
What graduate education doesn’t teach is HOW to access and leverage those Marys. Instead of teaching students how to fish, they continue to coddle their students and say, our career fairs are the solution. Our alumni network is the solution. Both of these simplistic avenues to reach employers are not only easily accessible by everybody, but also statistically unreliable! You need to take a lot more shots than wishing on some serendipitous meeting to find your next employer.
#5. Graduate school is un-customizable and mass-market. The reason why a lot of lost souls end up back in the classroom is because they lack guidance and self-direction. They hope school is the solution. What is marketed to them quickly dissolves in the reality that these schools will not treat you like mature adults. The professors reign like gods, you’re a slave to your GPA and peer pressure, and you’re tasked with projects that have little to do with real life work and wage-earning.
Graduate programs revolve around group teaching. While your hope was to seek support and guidance, what you get is the politically correct jibber jabber than doesn’t directly resolve your knowledge gap, learning needs, and personality flaws. Once the schools get your money, they’ll throw you right back into a system where you’ll be treated like cattle – herded, un-special, and direction-less.
The biggest career mistake is perpetuating the mentality that someone else is going to show you how to learn. True success relies on continued self-directed learning. Hoping that a school will somehow transform you, teach you things that you didn’t know, help you meet new people: all of these hopes have something in common – you’re always the passive recipient of these hopes.
Passively hoping for something didn’t get anyone anywhere. Career and life success arises from proactive efforts to get what you want. College, highschool, elementary school is over: there will be no more relying on teachers, professors, parents to show you the way to the promised land of success.
The solution? It’s time to take life into your own hands!
Start spending time, money, and effort on reading books, listening to podcasts, going to conferences on self-help, self-improvement, self-confidence, self-love, self-discipline, and people skills. Then, gather the courage to implement these true nuggets of wisdom into your life. Create your own syllabus and learn on your own. Not only is it more effective, it’s also a lot cheaper than taking on student loans!
To hear more on this topic, tune into the Daily DANDAN podcast Episode 57. If you’re a go-getter who’s hungry to succeed, message Dandan Zhu for career coaching, advice, and job opportunities as a headhunter.