College Degree

Do I Need to Go Back to College to Change Careers?

iStockphoto.com |  monkeybusinessimages

iStockphoto.com | monkeybusinessimages

You are well into your career. You’ve made all the right moves, you have a track record of success, salary increases, and promotions behind you, and yet you’re feeling bored and unfulfilled. What can you do to spread your wings and pivot into a new career path?

The most traditional historically has been to return to college to earn an advanced degree, or to study another discipline. In the economy of the past, this was a no-brainer, but is it the best approach today? Going back to college to earn a graduate degree or some other diploma can be an expensive, time intensive endeavor, and your return on your investment is far from guaranteed – even if your next diploma is from an elite and prestigious college or university. It’s important to weigh your options carefully. Here are some factors to consider:

Does the new field you are choosing require a specialized type of education?

Some jobs require specific advanced training and education. For example, you can’t just apply for a job as a nurse without a nursing degree, or as a lawyer without a law degree. But for those who have the time, resources, and aptitude to pursue such a specialized education, it’s entirely attainable to make such a change.

 

Do you want to jump start your career?

Presuming you like your line of work, if you want to jump start your current career, going back to college to elevate your position in your chosen field may be the best option. An advanced degree may open your world to new opportunities that would not otherwise be available, regardless of your talents and accomplishments. For example, many Fortune 500 companies have management training programs that are open only to newly-minted MBAs from top programs. Many careers have built in career progression ladders and at some employers your distance to the top may depend on your level of formal education, with the advanced degree serving as a gateway to promotion. And don’t underestimate the positive momentum an alumni network at a highly-ranked university can provide your career.

 

Do you need to reset your career?

If you’re not satisfied with your chosen profession, career advancement isn’t going to satisfy you. It’ll make you simultaneously wealthier and more miserable. Many individuals take a break from the workforce to find a new passion. For example, I’ve seen professionals of all disciplines (nursing, government, finance, you name it) go back to get an MBA and land new careers as brand marketers, management consultants, investment bankers, and other fields. That kind of “hard reset” can help you shift gears into a totally new career path with no penalty and, often a jump in pay. Which brings us to…

 

Can you afford to take the time and expense to go back to school?

If money is no obstacle and you can pay for higher education without taking out loans or making other major sacrifices, then your decision-making process will focus largely on the advantages another degree may bring to your career. But few people have such a luxury.

And yet, sometimes the risk and expense may be worth it. We are well acquainted with an individual who, in his early 40s, newly married, and with a baby on the way, was impacted by the Great Recession. He had a bachelor’s degree, and he suddenly found himself unemployed and competing unsuccessfully with applicants for jobs that didn’t require any sort of college diploma. After much deliberation, he and his wife agreed that he would return to college to get a masters degree while serving as the stay-at-home parent. He selected and was accepted to a local, elite university considered to be one of the best in the world for his discipline, but its marquee value would not come cheap. After three years of aggressive cost management, he earned his master’s degree and parlayed his new credentials into a full-time job with far more responsibility and compensation than he had ever had in his past. That said, he still has $40,000 in outstanding student loans to this day, and he needs at least one more promotion or a position with a higher salary to manage those financial obligations.

 

Are there good alternatives that won’t empty your wallet or consume years of your life?

Taking on continuing education that can positively impact your career doesn’t necessarily require returning to college. There may be well-regarded training or certification programs that will help you get where you want to go. You can become a computer programmer – fast – by signing up for programmer boot camps, Launch Code, or other programmers. Individuals with a passion for project management or business analysis can boost their qualifications with a certification from the

Project Management Institute (PMI). And functional subject matter experts in ERP systems such as JD Edwards, or customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Salesforce, can earn advanced certifications that can help transition into customer support or systems management roles. Certifications are often much more expedient and considerably less expensive than returning to college.

 

Are there development opportunities within your existing company?

Lastly, there may be new opportunities right in front of you. Many companies believe that investing in their employees improves their long-term success, and may offer internal training, continuing education, and outside certifications that will help reposition you for various roles within the organization – often in areas or disciplines you hadn’t considered. And work with your manager to see if there are opportunities to evolve your current job to include new responsibilities or participation strategic projects. These, quite often, open new doors while providing enrichment without the pain of having to change employers.

Philip Roufail contributed to this article.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

I'm Graduating From College With A Low GPA. How Can I Get A Good Job?

iStockPhoto.com |  inarik

iStockPhoto.com | inarik

 

You're about to graduate from college and join the workforce – congratulations!

Unfortunately, your overall grade point average is less than stellar. And this could hurt you in your job hunt as employers compare you to other recent graduates who performed substantially better academically.

How do you mitigate a low GPA, and still look great on a resume or in an interview? Here are 6 strategies you can use to beat the low grade blues.

  1. Analyze the numbers behind the GPA to identify positive patterns. I personally started college quite poorly, garnering low grades my first and second years. I got my act together my Junior and Senior years, earning a substantially higher grade point average during that period;  I was able to calculate a cumulative GPA for that period of time reflecting both solid academic performance and substantial improvement. I included both GPAs on my resume, side-by-side. You can also slice-and-dice your GPA by major, minor, business classes, and so forth to identify potential strengths.
     
  2. If you took difficult classes, spell these out on your resume. A curriculum heavy in hard sciences (i.e., organic chemistry or molecular biology) can be especially brutal on a GPA. Recruiters and interviewers are usually aware of this, and may be willing to cut you a bit of slack (or empathy). Create a section directly under your degree detailing "Notable Coursework" to detail these difficult classes.
     
  3. Get some professional experience. An internship or a part time/summer job providing real-world work can effectively mitigate a bad GPA. By getting real world experience, you validate that you are in fact employable, and you hopefully learned some valuable technical or business skills in the process to highlight on your resume and in interviews. Hiring managers like to see transferable work experience, as it reduces the learning curve and risk. Plus, you gather professional references who can speak to potential employers about your value and work ethic.
     
  4. Volunteer with a nonprofit organization. Not only does this provide many of the same benefits of professional experience as listed above, volunteerism also demonstrates an inclination toward making the world a better place. And yes, you can add volunteer work to a resume.
     
  5. Identify and address external factors which played a role in bringing your GPA down. Perhaps, while taking a full class load, you had to manage the family business. Or maybe you were a single parent. Or you had to serve as primary caretaker for your mother who was fighting terminal cancer. Or you had to earn and pay your own tuition. Life happens. You can provide important context on factors such as these to an employer in your cover letter or in an interview.
     
  6. If you were simply a lousy student, admit it. When an employer asks about your GPA, don't equivocate, don't avoid the topic, and don't get defensive. Own it. Explain that you were not a great student, you didn't put in the effort needed to get the good grades, and were fortunate to learn better study skills a bit too late in your college career. Then you can move on to the next topic, and highlight everything you did right.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.