Unemployed or under-employed this is a time when some people may consider using their time and limited dollars towards educational upgrading. In a competitive job market this may seem like a logical step, but before you take that leap there are a few things I would like to share.
Many clients have sat in front of me placing their head in their hands after spending money on an education that did not yield the desired employment. Though the problem could be from a lack of proper job search, it also may be that they did not ask the right questions before heading back to school.
Before even approaching Universities, Colleges or Continuing Education departments, you should be speaking with people who are currently working in the field and the potential employers. Colleges, as helpful as the may be, have a vested interest in getting you in the door. The people who matter most upon graduation are the employers.
Those that are currently working in the field can also share information about how they got there. Sometimes there are back doors that don’t require more than a simple upgrade. People like to talk about themselves so it is not as hard as you may think to approach these individuals. Both employers and employees can tell you where the best place is to receive your education among other helpful tips.
Example: I worked for an office that only accepted applicants who had graduated from a particular college. Anyone who had taken their education elsewhere were placed in the “No” pile and sent the standard letter. For some companies, where you get your education from is extremely important. They recognize a particular institution for very good reasons and you need to know through your research what and why that is.
You gain consensus from information interviews with these individuals and companies. Establish when contacting them that you are simply ” doing research, as you consider the field of…” Right then and there nobody can assume you are looking for a position that they may not currently have to offer. Make your call or visit, that you set up, quick and painless for all involved and be prepared. Note, you never bring up your resume as you are simply collecting information not turning it into self promotion. (unless asked)
Questions to ask Employees:
How do most people get into this field? How did you get into this field? What skills/abilities are required in this occupation? What school or program would you recommend?
Questions for Employers:
How do most people get into this field/company? What future opportunities do you foresee in this field of work? What school or program would you recommend? Is there a particular background required in addition to training?
Questions for Educational Institutions:
What programs are offered? What are the details of the course content? What are the full cost associated with the training? What support is available to students? Who hires your students? * When an institution states their students are employed after taking their course or program the question becomes ” Are they employed in their field of study? Note the difference.
We take plenty of time to research before purchasing a car, owning a home or planning a vacation. We talk to people we don’t even know personally to obtain their expertise and knowledge all the time. There is no greater time to exercise caution and do your homework before investing in your education. Do it right the first time and you have a chance to keep your career on track for many years to come.