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How to Know If You Should Go Back to School

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One question I often get from my mid-career clients wanting to make a career change is,

“Should I go back to school?”

You might expect someone who previously worked in higher education and who’s a huge fan of lifelong learning to enthusiastically respond with, “Yes!” However, this is not my typical response.

Instead, I respond with,

“Is it necessary for your career goal?”

If you don’t know your career goal yet, then you can’t answer this question. Therefore, my first order of business is to help you figure out what’s next for you.

Once you know what you want to do, then we need to determine if taking the plunge into a new degree program is necessary for your goal.

Are the educational qualifications required, or just preferred?

Does the job you’re now targeting require a degree or coursework you don’t have? Make sure you read the job description carefully. Don’t confuse the word “required” with “preferred.”

For example, if the majority of the job ads for the type of job you’re targeting typically requires a 4-year degree but prefers a master’s, you probably don’t need to rush back to school for the master’s and get yourself in more debt.

If you already have the required 4-year degree along with a substantial amount of experience (at least 5-10 years), you’re likely a qualified candidate. Especially if the master’s is about the only thing you’re lacking from the listed qualifications.

Employers typically put more stock into your experience and skills than they do your education. Think about it. If you’re mid-career, when was the last time someone asked you in an interview what your college GPA was? But they probably asked you about your skills and experience instead, right?

And if there are still a couple skills you’re lacking from the job ad, determine if those are skills you could learn quickly and easily through some online courses or tutorials.

However, if the job ad says an advanced degree is required, then you will need to go back to school.

Educational alternatives

Certification programs and boot camps

Let’s assume you’re making a career change and you’re going to have to learn some new skills. Before committing to a lengthy and expensive degree program, find out if the educational requirement can be satisfied with a short-term intensive certification program.

Perhaps you can satisfy the educational requirement with a 12 to 24-week certification program or a 10-month boot camp. These alternatives are sometimes offered online and part-time so you can continue working your current full-time job while attending. There are numerous options like this which serve as an alternative to going back to school full-time.

Beware though when you begin searching for certification programs. There are a lot of certification programs out there that are just money-makers. The only value they add is giving you another line on your resume or more letters behind your name, but aren’t really necessary for compliance in your chosen field. You’ll want to make sure the certification is necessary for the type of job you want. Otherwise, you probably don’t want to spend your money on it.

Also, look for certification programs with a good reputation (like those offered by accredited universities). And look to see if they offer some type of career placement assistance. Before registering, talk to others who’ve completed the program. Get their thoughts of it and see if it has significantly boosted their careers. They will be able to tell you if it’s worth the time and money.

A few of my clients have made a successful career change to the field of coding by investing time and money in a reputable coding boot camp. One such client had no previous experience at all in coding. She landed a job a week before her graduation from the boot camp with a well-known company she’d always wanted to work for.

MOOCs

Another great alternative to a traditional degree program is MOOCs which stands for massive open online courses. They’re taught by professors from highly reputable universities such as Stanford, Princeton, and Duke. Others are taught by professionals from companies like Google and IBM.

These courses are delivered online and vary in costs. Some are free if you’re just wanting to learn something new for personal interest. Others have affordable rates allowing you to learn a new skill, prepare for a career change, or even earn a certificate or degree.

One of the best MOOCs sites is www.coursera.org. They offer over 4,000 courses in subjects such as business, computer science, arts & humanities, engineering, social sciences, and even personal development. I’ve taken a few interest courses myself on this site and really enjoyed the flexibility of it. Once I completed each course a badge was added to my LinkedIn profile.

Reading and Listening

Finally, you can still learn the old fashioned way through books. It’s been said that reading at least five books on one subject can bring you up to near-expert level on the subject.

If you don’t like to read, there’s no excuse! Many books are now available to listen to on Audible or other audio platforms. There are also numerous podcasts available for you to listen to and learn about new subjects.

Improve your job search skills

Sometimes going back to school isn’t the answer. Sometimes the answer is to get help in improving your job search skills.

I recently had a new client come to me thinking he needed to go back to school to get another degree in something else. He assumed this because he wasn’t having any luck with his job search in his current field.

I asked him if he was having trouble finding jobs to apply for. He said he’d applied for several but wasn’t getting many interviews. And when he did get interviews, he wasn’t getting any offers.

Since there were jobs available to apply for, the problem wasn’t a lack of demand. It was his approach to the job search, specifically his resume and interview skills.

Spending A LOT of money on another degree instead of a little money on some career coaching didn’t make sense. So he hired me to help him improve his job search skills.

I spent time giving him new and fresh approaches to networking, helping him tweak his resume, revealing his blind spots in his interview skills, and coaching him on how to improve in future interviews. It’s now up to him to apply what he’s learned from the coaching.

If he’d just gone back to school full-time for another degree program requiring two additional years of studies like he’d originally planned, he would not only be out the money he spent on tuition but also out the money he could’ve earned in those two years. Plus he’d be two years behind in salary increases.

Is going back to school worth it?

So is going back to school really worth it? Definitely not in the example described above. But you have to determine based on your own career goals if it’s worth it or not.

Make sure you take into consideration the following factors:

  • Is it required or necessary to achieve your career goal?
  • How much will it set you back in both time and money?

Also, consider how higher education has changed since you last attended college. Tuition has gone up while the quality of the programs have been watered down.

One client hired me after having started a master’s degree in a new field because she was extremely frustrated and disappointed with the lack of challenge from her classes. The rigor did not equal the amount she was paying in tuition. Therefore, she felt she wasn’t getting her money’s worth and wanted to find out what other options she had.

School vs. lifelong learning

The main reason to go back to school is if it’s absolutely necessary for your career goals. And you don’t want to go back to school simply because you don’t know what to do next.

However, this doesn’t mean you should ever stop learning! You always want to invest in yourself and stay relevant with lifelong learning. Start with some of the more affordable alternatives listed above. Doing so can help you better determine what you want to do next in your career, which will help you know if going back to school for another degree is really the answer.

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Sunday Inspiration: You Can Start Again

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a bi-weekly devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. Each post comes from an outside resource (as referenced). I hope these posts will inspire and motivate you in your life and career in addition to our weekly original blog posts. Enjoy!

“Don’t keep going over old history…be present.” Isa 43:18 TM

Although it’s true that we all fail, here’s something worth remembering: You can fail successfully. How? By learning from your failures and growing stronger and wiser through them.

Surrendering your future to your past just means you drown in remorse and hopelessness. But if you practice “failing forward,” you can experience future success. So acknowledge your failings, see yourself cleansed by the blood of Jesus, let go of your disappointment in yourself, and get up and try again.

At one point in Elijah’s life, he got so depressed that he prayed he might die: “‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors’” (1Ki 19:4 NIV).

Later when he was strengthened by God’s grace, he emerged from his depression a new man with a new mission in life (See vv. 15-16 NIV).

After he’d denied Christ openly, Peter was forgiven. Despite his weakness he was restored, and became the apostle who would “strengthen his fellow apostles” and build the New Testament Church (See Lk 22:31-32).

It’s not a matter of how badly or how often you’ve failed—it’s a matter of what God can make you when you accept His grace, get up again, and allow Him to empower you to do better.

Peter is proof that God takes us when we are weak, and speaks and acts through us in ways that bring glory to Him alone! (See 1Co 1:28).

Will God sometimes correct you? Yes, He’s a good parent, but He won’t discard you. So the word for you today is—you can start again.

Source: https://www.jentezenfranklin.org/daily-devotions/you-can-start-again-2

A Google Insider Shares His Interview Advice

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I often publish posts on Medium, a platform designed to bring readers interesting takes on important topics. Whatever your interests, you can always find fresh thinking and unique perspectives on Medium. One of my most viral posts on Medium was the one entitled “Get Interview Advice From an Insider at Google.”

The reason this post was so popular was because many Medium readers are techies with hopes and dreams of working in Silicon Valley at places like Google and Facebook. Interviews at such companies are very unique and they often ask questions you wouldn’t hear in interviews with other companies or industries.

But even if you’re not interviewing with Google, the interview question in this post could potentially be asked in your next interview. So pay attention to the advice from this Google insider!

Can you teach me something complex in five minutes?

How would you answer the interview question, “Can you teach me something complex in five minutes?”

The following response was originally published on Quora by Google insider and Google’s hiring manager, David Seidman. He’s graciously allowed me to publish his advice here under a new headline and format.

This is a great interview question and the answer can’t be faked.

Before you even send out applications, you should know your strongest skill, the thing you would compete on if you only had one. It might be your college thesis topic, your favorite project at work, or the job you held the longest.

To answer the question, think of something that is surprising about your field, something that most people in the field know but most people outside it don’t.

For example, in security, most people don’t realize how common and successful nation-state hacking is.

You should be able to state this in 1–2 sentences.

The reasons to use something surprising are that you will teach the interviewer something in the first two sentences and you will interest and engage them for the remainder of your answer.

Then, describe why people believe the incorrect thing.

What underlying facts do they believe to be true that are false?

How did they come to believe the false things?

What is the truth and how do we know it?

Did experts always know this truth or is it a recent discovery?

As you proceed, check occasionally to make sure your interviewer is familiar with any technical terms you use.

If you still have time, you can talk about the implications.

Are people afraid of the wrong things or not afraid when they should be?

What should be done and by whom?

How is this relevant to the company you’re interviewing with?

In the best case, your interviewer will want to hire you so they can learn more from you and so that you can fix the problem you just described for their company!

When I first saw this question, I wondered to myself how I would’ve answered this question if I’d been asked it in one of my previous job interviews.

The example I first thought of was one from my past experience working with songwriters and recording artists in the music industry: the process of how a song shoots up the charts and becomes a hit.

It’s something most people in the music industry understand, but people outside the industry don’t.

And a lot of it is very surprising to the outsiders. And very interesting.

Then I read David’s advice above and was glad to see I was somewhat on the right track.

I chose to post his response here on my blog because, as a career coach, I thought it was spot-on!

The biggest challenge with my example however is it would probably be difficult for me to make the song charting process relevant to a traditional company in another industry.

But this would just give me the opportunity to show my creativity and my ability to connect the dots between things that, at first glance, seem irrelevant.

What are your thoughts on this question?

How would you answer it?

What skill do you possess you’d try to highlight in your answer?

If you’re drawing a blank on the skill you would use in your own answer, you’re not the only one. Many of my clients come to me needing help in determining their transferable skills. They also come to me needing help on how to answer difficult interview questions. This is something I love to work on with my clients.

Is this something you also need help with? If so, take a moment to fill out the paNASH intake form to get started.

Finally, I would love to hear yours and others’ thoughts on this topic, so please respond in the comment box below!

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Do You Need to Make a To-Don’t List?

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Last week I wrote about how to say no and have more time for your passions. One of the things I mentioned that could help you manage your time better was creating what I call a TO-DON’T list.

Perhaps you’re one of those people who always make to-do lists and relish the feeling of checking off each item.

But to be successful and less stressed in our day-to-day lives, sometimes we need a TO-DON’T list.

I use a paper calendar called a Passion Planner which already comes with a section blocked off for each month where you can add “not-to-do” items in addition to your to-do items.

What Is a TO-DON’T List?

A TO-DON’T list has on it those things we shouldn’t waste our time and energy doing.

It’s probably the harder of the two types of lists to follow since most items are ones we have to remember time and time again not to do. We can’t just not do it once and check it off. We have to refer back to it, remember it, and develop it as a habit.

This can also take a lot of energy.

But, if you spend your energy working on your TO-DON’T list, you’ll save more energy in the long-run.

Below is an example of a TO-DON’T list. It’s my own personal TO-DON’T list for 2020.

Feel free to personalize it for yourself so you can de-stress and focus your energies on your personal and professional goals.

My TO-DON’T List:

  1. Spend time on meaningless things that distract me from my goals, like scrolling through my phone.
  2. Forget to maintain personal and professional relationships.
  3. Choose work projects which don’t support my company’s mission.
  4. Censor myself too much on my blog. I want to be more transparent so others can learn from my experiences instead of worrying they will think I’m talking too much about myself.
  5. Do anything that doesn’t support or line up with my personal mission statement.

Do you have a personal mission statement? If not, add this to your to-do list! It can serve as the basis for helping you make difficult choices when faced with different opportunities.

You can learn how to come up with your own personal mission statement in my book Personal Branding: Why You Need to Know What Makes You YOUnique and AWEthentic.

Your TO-DON’T List

What do you need to add to your own TO-DON’T list?

Perhaps you don’t need to continue feeling stuck in your current job.

Maybe you don’t need to keep putting off pursuing your passions or letting lack of confidence stand in your way.

Or, you don’t need to put off getting help in these areas any longer.

If this is the case for you, add to your to-do list, “Fill out the paNASH intake form.” It’s a simple item you can check off your list to get you started on a brighter future!

Related post:

How to Say No and Have More Time For Your Passions

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Sunday Inspiration: The Comparison Trap

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a bi-weekly devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. Each post comes from an outside resource (as referenced). I hope these posts will inspire and motivate you in your life and career in addition to our weekly original blog posts. Enjoy!

“Don’t compare yourself.” Gal 6:4 CEV

Nothing will destroy your peace of mind faster than comparing. It shows a lack of understanding and makes you “behave unwisely” (2Co 10:12 AMPC).

Cain measured himself against his brother Abel, and it ended in murder. When the disciples compared notes to see who among them would suffer and who would be spared, Jesus told them, “That is not your business” (Jn 21:23 NCV).

Observe: (1) Comparisons can make you feel superior, which leads to pride. Remember the Pharisee who made a great show of thanking God because he was better than everybody else? (See Lk 18:11). Pride was Satan’s downfall; that’s why he loves it when you struggle and fall into the same trap.

(2) Comparisons can make you feel inferior, which leads to low self-esteem and keeps you focused on yourself. You overlook the truth that “God doesn’t play favorites” (Ac 10:34 GWT) and start believing He’s withholding things that are rightfully yours. Society creates a sense of entitlement; then Satan reminds you of all the people who’ve already attained what you want, which propels you further down the road to discontentment. Anne Peterson says: “Satan’s lies have a little truth mixed in, which makes them harder to recognize. We need to refute them by saturating ourselves with the truth…it’s only by learning the Scriptures that we can sort them out.”

(3) We attempt to bring God down to our level by comparing how He’s working now with how He worked in the past. Stop trying to figure God out, and trust Him! “The way [God] work[s] surpasses the way you work, and the way [He] think[s] is beyond the way you think” (Isa 55:9 MSG).

Instead of comparing, start using and appreciating what God has blessed you with.

Source: https://www.jentezenfranklin.org/daily-devotions/the-comparison-trap-1