I always encounter people who are looking to return to school at the start of each new year. As an individual who has worked in higher education, and that is currently a non-traditional student, this excites me. I always advocate for education when people seek a career change, an increase in salary, or personal advancement in life.
If you are exploring the possibility of returning to school, or if you know of someone that is, I’d like to share a three-step process to help you with your pursuit.
- Clarify your goals
In his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey suggests that highly effective people “always begin with the end in mind”. I believe that this is great advice. Clearly defined goals help us find a starting point and serve as a guide for making decisions. We have a tendency to run around aimlessly without one. Without clear direction, you may find yourself changing your degree program several times before you align yourself with one that fits you.
Most people return to school to find a fulfilling and purposeful career that leads to an increase in salary. If you are unsettled as to which degree will help you find this, I encourage you to sit down with a pen and paper and ask yourself the following question; “If there were no limits in life, and I could have any career that I wanted to have, what would I want it to be?”
When you ask yourself this question, you may find yourself coming up with a whole bunch of ideas. Once the ideas start coming to mind, make a list of them. Once you are finished, circle the top 3-5 career choices that resonate best with you. Then take your condensed list, and over the next few days, begin to research each career choice. Use your research to identify which of the career choices aligns most closely with your dreams, passion, life purpose, and desired salary. Use these factors to determine which of the career choices will work best for you.
- Determine what type of degree is needed
There may be more than one degree path that leads to your career of choice. For example, in my line of work, it is common for me to hear people say, “I want to work with autistic children.” While many of them will opt to apply for a social work or special education degree program, there are many other degree programs that may help them achieve their career goal. Depending on the job title they want to have, they may select from an abundance of other degree programs; such as occupational therapy, nursing, human development, family science, human services, and non-profit management. It is likely that you will have several degree plan options to choose from too.
Before you settle on a degree program, I always recommend that you interview someone that works in your field of interest. Their experience will help you find out which degree programs will make you more marketable and desirable to your future employer. Although many people recommend that you speak with an academic counselor about career options, I do not recommend doing this until after you have done your research. Most academic counselors and admissions representatives are versed in the language and lingo of the department that they work in. They may not be familiar with opportunities that other degree programs may create for you.
- Create a plan.
Determine what your next step will be. Will you research schools? Search for scholarships? Apply for financial aid? Whatever the steps in your plan may be, I encourage you to write them down and set firm deadlines for each task that you have listed. You may also want to share your goals with someone that you can trust to encourage you, and hold you accountable, as you start this new journey.
Until Next Time…. I wish you blessings and prosperity…….. Godspeed!
John Eli has spent over 15 years mentoring and coaching individuals in life skills, career transitions, and through organizational change. He has worked in behavioral health, pastoral care, and higher-education. He has found that he is most satisfied in life when he is helping people recognize their potential and assisting them to reach their goals.
He currently lives in Chandler, Arizona with his wife, mini-schnauzer and an antique piano whom he calls, “Betty.”