Considering going back for more education? Make sure the scope of the program is right for your goals.
By Lee E. Miller
The current unemployment figures may mask opportunities: Even while employers are laying off employees at a furious rate, those same companies are seeking to hire in other areas of the company.
They often have to look outside the company, not transfer employees internally, because current workers lack the skills required for those jobs. For example, although the Boeing Co. plans to layoff about 10,000 employees this year, it also has 1,500 open positions.
More than 4 million jobs were filled during April 2009, based on figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some fields like bio technology, alternative energy, health care and education are expected to experience explosive job growth in the coming years . This expansion will create a need for chemists, engineers, programmers, nurses and those who manage teams of these professionals.
In light of that, does it make sense to go back to school to acquire the skills needed to fill the types of jobs that are in demand?
Going back to school full- time to change careers or to take your current career to the next level is a major decision involving a significant commitment of time and money.
John Mone, a management consultant in Randolph, N.J., held a senior operations position for a large trading company when he decided to pursue an executive MBA at Wharton. For him, this turned out to be a good decision, leading him into a successful career as a management consultant.
However, returning to school full time is not for everyone. Mone suggests that you should have “a specific purpose and ‘destination’ in mind before making what can be a substantial investment in time and money pursuing additional study.” If you have a passion for what you want to study, returning to school may be exactly what you need to take your career in the right direction. That passion will enable you to find a way to use what you learn to build a career in your field of interest.
Dr. Karen Boroff, dean of the Seton Hall Stillman School of Business in South Orange, N.J, points out that, depending on your employment situation there are many different educational options available.
- Part time. If an individual is employed, taking courses on a part - time or ad-hoc basis may be a good option.
- Continuing education. Enrolling in courses offered through a continuing- education or certificate program is an excellent way to develop or enhance specific skills that will keep you marketable.
- Full time. If an individual is unemployed, studying on a full-time basis becomes a more attractive option.
According to Dr. Boroff: “When an individual is pursuing an advanced degree in order to transition back into the work force, a part-time graduate program is an option worth considering because it allows the student to network with working professionals.”
A competitive edge
Success in today’s rapidly changing world requires continuous learning. If you do not stay current with what is happening in your field, sooner or later, you are likely to find yourself unemployed and unmarketable.
Everyone can benefit from updating their skills, and learning new ones, by taking courses at a local college or online, or by attending seminars. Understanding the latest technology and its potential uses in your job will help you stand out from a crowded field of candidates. Most potential employers will view your efforts to stay abreast of developments in your field as a major plus when they are making hiring decisions.
You need to be strategic in pursuing job retraining and educational opportunities. If you go back to school simply because you don’t know what else to do, you are likely to be disappointed in the results. Caroline Ceniza-Levine of Little Silver, co-founder of the SixFigureStart, a career -coaching firm, summed it up well when she stated: “ Many students mistakenly use a return to graduate school as a way to escape a bad job market, not realizing that they will likely graduate into just as weak a market, and this time with a big debt load.”
Lee E. Miller is managing director of NegotiationPlus.com and an adjunct professor at Columbia University, New York. He is a career coach, corporate trainer, negotiating strategist and professional speaker. He is the author of Get More Money on Your Next Job … In Any Economy (McGraw Hill, 2009) and A Woman’s Guide to Successful Negotiating (McGraw Hill, 2010), which he cowrote with Jessica Miller, his eldest daughter.