Nothing makes school look rosier than unemployment. Somewhere between months one and eight of a fruitless job search, the grass on the campus lawn can appear blindingly green.
But don’t confuse school for a safehaven, an ivory tower to bunker in while you ride out the recession. “There’s certainly a lot of people who have chosen to do that in this economy,” CareerBuilder.com advisor Allison Nawoj notes.
That doesn’t mean you should join the flock.
“First ask, ‘Why are you thinking about going back to school?’” urges President Natascha F. Saunders of Youth Career Coaching. “If it’s just, ‘I can’t find a job,’ that’s not good enough. You’re spending so much time learning new curriculum that you’re going to be frustrated if it’s not truly a desire for you to get those additional skills.”
Before you scoop out a second loan to cover two years’ tuition, “take a few courses to test something out,” Nawoj encourages. “There’s all kinds of continuing education and evening courses offered at universities,” she adds.
“Instead of enrolling at a formal program, that’s a great way to get your feet wet and see if it’s something you want to pursue.”
If so, consider your spending habits—can you afford more university?—and your study habits: are you emotionally ready?
“People forget how you fall out of study mode,” Saunders stresses. “When you’ve been away for a long period of time, it’s hard to get started. But if you feel like you’re in that zone, ready to hit the books, then go for it,” she adds.
At some point, you’ll likely need a master’s degree, Saunders says. The killer question is when.
“Find some key people in that particular sector and interview them: Do they have an advanced degree and if so, when did they get it?” Saunders suggests.
“See some data, some facts, what is the norm, before you jump right into it. Map it out. It’s about planning ahead,” Nawoj concludes.
“It certainly isn’t, ‘I don’t know what I want to do, I just want to go back to grad school.’”