For many millennials, a graduate degree is seen as just the leverage needed to either compete in the workforce or grow their business. While both can be true, simply earning credits will only get you so much closer to accomplishing your goal. Before you pack up your life and head back to academia, consider the tips below.
Examine your motives.
Why are you really doing this? Is it for a better job, more money or simply to stroke your own ego? Many view the graduate degree as yet another notch on their academic belt or accolade on their resume. However, since the economy nose-dived, we’ve all had to seriously evaluate how we invest our time, money and resources. FYI: going to graduate school will cause you to overextend your time, money, resources and, at times, your sanity. Ego is the absolute worst reason to go to graduate school.
Or maybe your motivation is money. You’ve been told that obtaining a graduate degree will catapult you to the forefront of your industry and will lead to better opportunities. While true to an extent, weren’t you sold the same dream about your undergraduate degree? Unless your employer/client explicitly (and more importantly, contractually) states that a graduate degree will lead to a promotion or higher retainer rates, please reconsider.
Go back with a purpose.
Once you’ve examined your motives and found them to be pure, identify the specific purpose or reason for going back to school. Once identified, consider tattooing this on your forehead—you’ll need a constant reminder as to why you decided to willingly subject yourself to academic torture. Your purpose could be to obtain high-level skills and knowledge that will allow you to apply for more lucrative government or corporate contracts. Or maybe you’re great at executing one aspect of your work, but you want to learn the strategy behind said execution. Or maybe you want to win over investor confidence by showing your commitment and dedication to your industry. All of these are perfectly acceptable reasons for going back to graduate school.
Master the hard stuff.
You’re not going to graduate school to take the easy way out; you’re going back to obtain high-level skills that will help you accomplish your purpose. Be a sponge. Soak up as much as you possibly can, even when it’s something you find difficult or you don’t particularly enjoy. I recall hating SPSS (a computer-based statistical program and the bane of my academic existence) because I found it too be hard. To this day, I regret not learning the nuts and bolts of the program, because I’ve since identified 2-3 different ways I could incorporate that knowledge into my service offerings.
Don’t just learn. Apply.
This is the most important (and my favorite) tip for entrepreneurs considering getting a graduate degree. For every assignment, including your final capstone project or thesis paper, you should be selecting topics that are most relevant to your purpose (see tip #2) and applying them to your business. For example, my master’s thesis topic dealt with how television networks used their websites to engage audiences around their television programs. At the time, my career goal was to return to my job at a television network and work in programming and audience development. My thesis topic directly related to my career goal. When my career goal changed, I was still able to apply my thesis knowledge to my own entrepreneurial endeavors. Your goal is to actively apply your fancy new knowledge.
Create your ideal work schedule—and then cut it in half.
Graduate classes are deceptive. You may only enroll in three classes that each meet once a week for three hours. The overachiever in you instantly realizes that’s only twelve hours of work, which leaves 48 hours (based on the typical 60-hour work week for entrepreneurs) left to run your business. Don’t be deceived. Although you’re spending less time in class, an average assignment may require reading 60-100 pages and writing 10-15 page papers, which are typically due by the next class meeting.
By nature, we’re multi-tasking pros with overly ambitious views of our own capacity. Put simply, we do too much. Graduate school is designed to challenge you in every way imaginable. Attempting to maintain your standard workload while adding on a “few classes” will leave you exhausted, depressed and ready to quit. Do yourself a favor, create your ideal work schedule and then cut in half.
Remember, your goal is the knowledge, not the degree. Employees are concerned with degrees; entrepreneurs are concerned with actively applying their knowledge to generate revenue. Another fun fact: clients don’t care about degrees; they care about how you can positively impact their bottom line.
Are you a millennial entrepreneur contemplating grad school? I would love to hear from you! Please comment below!