Returning to School to Advance Your Career
Invest in yourself today and reap the benefits for years to come. Learn how educational investments can help you forge a new career path.
You work hard for your money, so every penny counts. However, some spending is easier to do than others. Deciding to buy someone a small gift or treat yourself to a nice meal is easy, but moving abroad or investing into further education for your career? Not as straightforward.
Any major investment is difficult to make on a whim. Investments have long-term implications. They involve time, effort, belief, and money, so you think about them long and hard. You do your best to prioritize investing in those things most valuable: money, high-value items, and relationships. Moreover, you must also continually invest in what’s most important in your life — yourself.
Making the decision to invest in more education is challenging
You can invest in yourself in many ways. You can take up a new skill, learn from your mentors, or even just give read a useful book. However, informal ways of learning can only take you so far.
One of the harder career decisions is whether to make more formal investments to reach the next stage of your career. Degree courses, additional degrees, and further studies entail serious effort, money, and time.
For professions that require a certain license, degree, or certification, investing in more training is more straightforward. However, if you’re already a mid-career and you’re just thinking about switching to a new profession or starting a side business, the decision to invest in additional training isn’t as clear-cut.
Trust me, I’ve been there.
After I resigned from medical school, I took a job as an analyst at Avalere Health, a health policy consulting firm in Washington, DC. My job as an analyst there primarily focused on doing research related to projects for our pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients. However, as time went on, I found myself becoming less interested in the legislative and regulatory research I was doing more interested and involved in the branding and marketing side of the business.
Why I decide to pursue an MBA
While I enjoyed my job, every day I felt like a bit like an impostor, especially in meetings. In my early 20s, without any form of formalized business or marketing training, I didn’t feel I knew what I was talking about when it came to anything related to business development. Every opinion I shared or decision I made felt more like an educated guess at best. I feared my lack of formalized marketing knowledge might catch up with me or get in the way of me progressing in my career.
An MBA began looking attractive, but the idea of going back to school was daunting. I found it easier to come up with excuses to not go back to school. Doing an advanced degree is expensive. Getting in is a lot of work. I wasn’t even sure if an MBA was going to be worth the investment. I also wasn’t 100% sure where I wanted to take my career afterwards. I had some ideas, including organizational consulting, which felt like a natural combination of psychology (what I studied during my undergrad years) and business.
I recently stumbled across a printout of an old email from early 2005, that I sent to one of my first managers after I made the decision to pursue an MBA. What’s interesting is that the direction I thought I would head post-MBA (organizational consulting) ended up being completely different from what I actually ended up doing (brand management).
Sometimes, all you can do is take your best guess at which direction broadly moves you in a more fulfilling direction, even if you end up changing course a bit later down the road.
I eventually decided to pursue an MBA, by far one of the best career decisions I ever made. I applied to only one school: the University of Michigan, Ross School of Business, which I felt was uniquely positioned to provide me with the experience I was seeking. When I was in medical school, I felt I wasn’t selective enough myself in deciding where to apply, so this time around, I decided to be more focused. Putting all my eggs into one basket isn’t a common strategy of mine, but I figured that if I didn’t get admitted, I could always work a bit longer and apply to more schools the following year.
In the end, I was fortunate enough to be offered a spot at Michigan. I still remember the exact moment I received a phone call from the admissions office because I knew my career was about to pivot toward a very promising direction.
I took out some student loans and was in debt for a while after I graduated, but the cost of that education has more than paid for itself by opening the doors to my eventual career in brand management, and now as a career consultant and public speaker.
Additional Education is an Investment For Life
Investing in yourself can be an incredibly powerful catalyst to creating change in your career.
If you’re dreading the thought of more school, just remember that formal education isn’t the only investment you can make in yourself. Plenty of people manage to reinvent themselves without going back to school.
However, being intentional in learning a new skill can not only equip you with the knowledge you need to excel in your role but also create a stamp of credibility to help you land your next one. At almost every major pivot point in my career, I’ve had to make some sort of investment in myself to unlock the door to the next chapter in my life.
The best part is that no one can ever take your knowledge, training, or skills away from you.
This reminds me of a quote from Warren Buffet:
Invest as much in yourself as you can. You are your own best asset.
Invest in Yourself
If you’re looking to do things differently in your career, I challenge you to make an investment in yourself. What’s one worthwhile investment you could make to help you build that bridge between where you are today and where you want to go next?
It doesn’t have to be a big or lengthy investment, but something that fills the training, skills, or knowledge gap standing in the way of you getting to the next stage in your career.
Investing in yourself is a continuous process and one that will inevitably hit roadblocks. If you’re thinking “ Is this worth my time, money, and effort?” or, “ Am I worth this much of an investment?”, I’m here to tell you that yes, you’re worth it.
Listen in as I discuss this topic along with how to “Creating a Unique Portfolio Career” on Career Relaunch® podcast episode 5 with IT founder turned IP lawyer David Gulbransen.
About Joseph Liu
Joseph Liu is dedicated to helping professionals relaunch their careers by more effectively marketing their personal brands. His work is informed by 10 years of global marketing experience in the US and UK, managing brands including Glad, Liquid-Plumr, Gü Pads and Häagen-Dazs, his involvement with four major brand relaunches, and his professional career coaching for thousands of professionals around the world. He now applies principles used to build and relaunch consumer brands to help aspiring business owners build and relaunch their personal brands. Joseph‘s spoken at TEDx and hosts the global Career Relaunch®podcast, which features inspiring stories of career change and has been ranked as a top 10 career podcast in the US and UK, with listeners in 169 countries.
Originally published at https://josephliu.co on August 15, 2022.