People go to graduate school for many reasons, whether it is to gain experience needed for management, learn specific skills, or because they finished undergraduate and don’t have a job. Too often though, people start grad school for the wrong reasons, so let’s dig into the question of should I go to grad school.
If I’m honest, I have told so few people my story of when I went to grad school for my MBA (Masters in Business Administration). The reason why is because most people would view my effort as a failure or a waste, even though that’s not at all how I see it.
Shortly after I finished my Bachelor’s degree, I landed a full-time job working for a large company. I ramped up and worked hard, but I always felt like that job would be a stepping stone to what I really wanted to do. I never connected with the work I did, but tried to excel because of my nature.
When I had been there for a year or two, I was starting to get bored with what I was doing, but the job market was still awful from the recession, so changing jobs wasn’t feasible. I saw my company offered tuition reimbursement, so I thought, what better time to get my MBA than when my employer is helping me pay for it?
SPOILER ALERT – there are way better times, say for example, when you actually want to go to grad school.
I made the decision to start my program and I was off to the races. My achiever mentality had me recording everything that needed to be done to pass the program with flying colors and thought through the timeline to completion.
One thing achievers don’t really think about though, is whether they should be investing the time, energy, and money into a particular effort. Achievers work hard for the reward of a pat on the back, not because they particularly enjoy that effort.
Quickly after I began the program, I knew it was all wrong. I was working full-time, training for a marathon, investing in my new marriage, and trying to throw my MBA program into the mix. Now that five years have passed and I have a child, I know there is always more time to carve out for what is most important to you.
At the time though, adding this commitment to my plate was the wrong choice. Have you ever made a wrong choice, knew it was wrong, and let the commitment eat away at you because you were too afraid to say no or quit?
I had worked my way through two courses when I stumbled across a tweet by one of my favorite authors, Bob Goff. Bob makes a habit of quitting things that aren’t serving him on Thursdays. Sometimes that’s a commitment and sometimes it’s letting go of anger towards someone who hurt him. This is a great practice to regularly follow in your life to shed the things that aren’t central to your life.
In my case, it was the affirmation I needed to quit. Bob’s tweet said “Trading purpose and passion for title and position is a bad deal you can unwind any time you want. Just decide.”
I was going to grad school for the wrong reasons and it was impacting my relationships and happiness. So I did something that’s always been unacceptable in my life. I quit. I haven’t regretted quitting.
What Does This Mean For You?
Maybe you stumbled across this post in a Google search for “Should I go to grad school?”. If you did, I hope you saw the flip side of the coin in this decision. In no way do I think grad school is a bad choice for the majority. If you are looking to move into traditional management, it’s one of the best ways to do so.If you are trying to develop specific skills for a particular job or industry, grad school may be the best way forward.
What I am saying though has less to do with grad school as it does with your life and what you devote your time to. We all have limited time. Many millennials have kids now, which automatically commands most of our free time.
Are you spending your time, energy, and money in the areas that are closest to your core values?
Do you have a commitment that sucks the life out of you and you know you should have quit a long time ago?
Are you saying yes to everything without seriously considering how each yes impacts your relationships, time, and mood?
One of the beautiful things about growing older is that we become more sure of who we really are and what makes us uniquely different than the person next to us. We all have specific skills, interests, and passions that rarely look like someone else’s. Only you know if a huge commitment like grad school is the right choice for you.
The best part is that if you make the wrong decision, like I did, you can always quit. You have permission.
I would be unwise to omit the disclaimer that quit something Thursday shouldn’t be used as excuse to stop parenting or stop paying your bills. Some things we just can’t quit!
Tell me – have you thought about going to grad school? If you have gone, was it worth it?
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