My counter-points follow … (yes, originally written back in July, I didn’t post them here then)
Your article today was great for the traditional student. For a non-traditional student who worked her way through college & grad school – and ultimately has 15 years of professional experience (and probably a family) by the time she has a masters degree and is applying for a PhD program – the “first job out of college” is also likely the job that got her through to graduation and there are some very challenging loyalty land-mines awaiting her.
1. This job probably helped you with tuition assistance
– if you start looking you know that you’ll have to pay back that tuition assistance – and the company knows that, so finishing your masters might not be worth nearly as much as it would be to another organization BUT that other organization is going to have to give you a signing bonus of about $15K to cover the tuition assistance AND the taxes on it (since tuition assistance programs are, if written & administered correctly, tax free benefits to employees unless they depart before it’s paid back).
2. After investing so much time, energy, and money into a career and its accompanying education, if you decide you’re not going to spend the rest of your professional life doing what you’ve just finished educating
yourself to do you’re in a Catch-22: starting over in a new field can be a costly proposition, but 15 years of experience might not be enough to become a consultant. Writing your resume will be a challenge.
3. The classic Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office
and Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman
advice applies: if you’ve been with an organization long enough to get through grad school, chances are you’ve
(a) been pigeon-holed – which may limit your advancement and/or may have caused someone above you to get in the unprofessional, but real, habit of treating you like a kid because, despite being in your early 30’s, they think of you as a student
(b) been auditioning as a “professional” every day – which means that those mornings when you weren’t on your game because you were up all night writing a paper OR with a sick child OR with a far away family member in need of a shoulder, your boss (and all your colleagues) noticed that you weren’t on your game and – because it’s business, not personal – they don’t care WHY, they just care that you are.
(c) in a multi-generational office, exceeded the educational attainment of anyone who didn’t have to pay their dues in a lousy economy – which digs up the education + experience vs experience squared work-place conundrum
4. If you used student loans to achieve your academic goals, you’re suddenly taking home a lot less money unless you got a $12K/year raise – but you’re still responsible for maintaining a professional appearance
5. If grad school created a significant change in your weight, you need to get the weight back off while maintaining a wardrobe that fits & is professional, without showing up at work looking like you just ran out of the gym every morning.
6. Colleagues will assume – erroneously – that now that you’re done with school, you have an over-abundance of free-time. This is false – that free-time is now going to be dedicated to the things you put off while in school – the gym, a tidy home, hobbies, getting more than 3 hours of sleep per night, etc.
7. The new skills you attained while achieving a state-of-the-art education won’t be appreciated by those whose education ended the year Nixon & Ford served as POTUS
. These people are (a) old enough to be your parents, (b) above you in the food chain, (c) not going to retire for another 5-12 years. This will be a challenge to your ongoing professionalism.
8. If you look for something new after finishing grad school while working somewhere, you will face the awkward question “why are you leaving your current position”. It’s egregiously unprofessional to say “just because”. It’s fruitless to say “because I wanted to see what the market had to offer now that the economy has recovered”. If you were only at the position for long enough to finish your education, prospective employers are going to know that you used the benefits package as a spring-board to achieving a goal, and this creates some questions about your character. If, while working through school, you relocated – whether because of family, academic or economic reasons – the question is further complicated.
9. The questions you get asked in interviews will make you realize that you’re the only person in the room who has been balancing school and a profession in the recent past – “Tell us a time when you exceeded all expectations” isn’t a question that’s begging for “well I worked full time while raising a family and maintaining a 3.85 GPA for the past X years to achieve my goals” … partly because you have no idea what the GPAs
of the interviewers were, and partly because they want to know about your professionalism, not your sleep deprivation.
10. If you managed to work full-time while being in school full-time and having a family, chances are you finished your academic work
at least partly online – and you’re not in your early 20’s. There is still a pall cast upon non-traditional students and online programs by those who feel that college should be (or is) a 4 year residential season of your life between the ages of 18 and 22. You’ll need to find someone above you in the food chain at your employer who completed the same program, from the same university, to mentor you through the slalom of being a new-graduate with more than a decade of experience.