Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Should you go to graduate school?

Many people are now considering whether to attend graduate school - recent college grads facing a poor job market, people considering a career change or upgrade, and unemployed B.A. holders looking for something to tide them over until the recession ends. If you do it, make sure you have a clear, well researched career goal in mind for how to use it.

In the early 90s, I was in the first category - a college grad facing a job market where it seemed like a Liberal Arts B.A. was no better than a high school diploma for getting a good paying job. But I had a clear career goal - being a labor or maritime lawyer. I took several valid interest inventories like The Career Key, worked as a clerk in a law office during college, did informational interviews with other lawyers - to learn more about it and to be sure it was right for me. And it was - for 10+ years - I still work at a legal clinic.

I came across a great "pros and cons" discussion that you should read if you are thinking of going to graduate school. "What is a Masters Degree Worth" is a June 30 NYT blog panel discussion, with more links to other resources like MSN Money columnist Liz Pulliam Weston's column "Is your degree worth $1 million - or worthless?"

The big mistakes that people make with grad school is that they enroll because (1) they think they have no other options and don't know what else there is to do, and/or (2) they don't have a clear, well thought out and researched career goal in mind.

Here is an example of such a mistake: say you decide you want to work in Washington D.C. as a policy researcher for a think tank by getting a masters or Ph.D. in political science - without doing a lot of research about how much you would be paid, how long it would take to pay back your loans, and where you (seriously) would have a good chance of getting a job. And without talking with several people in the job of your dreams to get the real story about it.

You avoid these mistakes by choosing a career that matches your personality using a science-based process for making a decision. It takes a little work, but it is straightforward and intuitive. My choice to go to law school wasn't perfect, and it wasn't like I didn't doubt it in tough times. But I knew I'd done a lot of soul searching and research to make the decision - that ultimately proved to be the right choice and one without regrets. I hope you'll do the same.

No comments: