Career Corner: Ask Becky
Contemplating grad school and career changes
These past two years have me really questioning my day-to-day. Where do I begin if I want to make a big career change? —On the Cusp
Dear On the Cusp:
Whether you call it the Great Resignation, the Great Reimagining, or the Great Reflection, the pandemic has everyone talking about values and purpose at work. Many of these discussions center around the meaning of work, whether it needs to be place-bound, how it can be more time-flexible, and ways to make room for the things we want in life outside of work.
A value is something that has intrinsic merit and importance to you. Although you can make distinctions between life and work values, they tend to overlap. Your values will have a direct impact on the type of work you will find satisfying, the best-fit environments for you, and the types of people with whom you want to spend your working hours. Clarifying what’s important to you is one of the most vital ways you can support your career.
If your role or organization doesn’t align with your values, you are more likely to experience dissatisfaction. Values may evolve and shift over time due to a change in personal circumstances, so it’s also important to regularly reflect on them.
Visit the Alumnae/i Career Services web page for a values activity (PDF for download), or contact me for other related resources. Schedule a career coaching appointment, start a LinkedIn group or Mawrter Connect discussion, and engage with your network for further exploration.
I want to go to grad school but worry about the right time since I also have a job I really like. —On the Fence
Dear On the Fence:
Since only you can decide the “right” time, the most fundamental question to ask yourself is: What is my goal? If a specific degree or credential is required to get where you want to go, pursuing it sooner rather than later may give you more time for advancement and growth in your field, as well as more time to recoup any loss of income you incur during your studies. Many people, on the other hand, wait to pursue further education until they have more economic ability to do so.
If further education is simply something you want to do, not a critical component to career progression, then you can think more flexibly. People regularly pursue continuing education to obtain new skills, knowledge, experiences, and networks. Some things to ask yourself and ask others:
- Do you actually need another degree? Are there professional development opportunities, institutes, or certificate programs that could also support your goals?
- Can you find part-time, online, or evening/weekend programs while staying in the job you enjoy?
- Can you negotiate with your current employer for professional development support? Would you consider changing employers if you could find such support (i.e., tuition benefits)?
- Have you considered applying now but then deferring offers of admission if you ultimately decide you aren’t ready yet?
There are so many excellent resources to help you research and prepare for applying to graduate school, including career coaching, that I strongly recommend first focusing on informational interviewing. Talking to others (in the BMC community and other networks) about their experiences, why they pursued what they did when they did, and so forth, can provide a lot of perspective, debunk misperceptions, and uncover additional avenues to consider.
Need help navigating the world of work? Career guru (and Bryn Mawr’s senior associate director of Alumnae/i Career Services) Becky Ross is happy to take your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.