“I’m three years out of law school and I’ve made a terrible mistake. Law is definitely not for me! Can you help me find some other options?”
There is one—and only one—reason to go to grad school. But before I get to it, let me review a few of the wrong reasons to pursue a graduate degree. These are not just my opinions. These are what the people whose graduate degrees turned out to be a mistake told me.
1. Because you think it will make you more competitive in the job marketSounds legitimate. Maybe people around you have an advanced degree and you see them moving up. Or maybe you’ve been applying for jobs and keep losing out to people with more education.
2. Because the economy is bad and you can’t find a jobThe logic for this one doesn’t make sense to me, either: “I can’t find a job. Which means I’m not making money. So let me go spend a bunch of money to get a degree. In fact, let me go into debt to do that—even though I’m not making any money.”
3. Because all your friends are goingHere’s another lawyer story. A guy came to see me because he wanted to quit law and do something else. As soon as we identified his giftedness, it became obvious why he had no business being in law.
4. Because your parents are willing to pay for itThis one is loaded with landmines! Once you’ve graduated from college, anything that involves you, your parents, and money has so many emotional, relational, and financial wires running around in it that you ought to treat it like something out of The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow’s riveting film about a bomb squad in Iraq).
5. Because a college professor told you toRecently one of my clients related that when she was in college, she was a business major, but was struggling with what career to go into. As an elective, she was taking a journalism course. She really enjoyed the way the professor taught that course, so she decided to talk with that professor about her quandary.
Because you are confident that you have identified a job that fits you, and you need a graduate degree to get that job.
Question: If you have a graduate degree, what’s the one thing you now wish you had known before you went to graduate school?