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4 questions to ask yourself if you're considering going back to school

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Difficult bosses, career changes, potential layoffs. From the logistical to the emotional, work can be full of challenging situations and dynamics.

And often, it can be hard to know who to turn to when dealing with career obstacles.

That's why Life Kit asked Brandon Johnson, a certified professional career coach from Embrace Change, to answer a Life Kit listener's question about when to step back from their career and focus on furthering their education. We're only using the listener's first name to protect their livelihood and career opportunities.

Going back to school

I've hit a wall in my line of work. When do I decide to step back from work to advance my education and therefore my earning potential? - Talia


Great question. It's tough to determine when more education is necessary because it's such a personal decision and many factors are involved.

Here are some questions to consider to help guide your decision:

Do I have the necessary resources to make this happen?

How will further education impact your resources (time, money, energy, etc.)? Is that impact acceptable to you? For example, if you have to take out loans to cover your expenses, you might want to get clear on how much debt you're willing to take on to get that degree.

What options make the most sense?

You may be better served by professional certificates, conferences, or boot camps, instead of a college degree. Wait until you've done some research and know what would best suit you. Reach out to your network to see if you can identify people who are already in the positions you aspire to be in. Ask them what types of training programs they would recommend.

Do I know what to go back to school for?

What type of program/degree would best serve your interests? Not all education programs will do that equally, and the right program for you may not be immediately obvious. You'll want to know which program will impact your earning potential most based on the specific positions and goals you're trying to achieve.

Is it really education that's holding me back, and not something else?

If you're sure it's schooling, then maybe it really is time to go back. However, make sure you know it's not other factors, such as burnout, your company's culture or your manager. Going back to school is a big undertaking, so you want to make sure it's the right solution. If it's your company culture or structure, you may be better off searching out a new organization that offers greater growth opportunities and support for your development.

If you work through these questions and still feel like going back to school is right for you, it may be time to start looking at some programs! Again, I recommend trying to find a mentor and/or connections that have gone through the path you are considering. They may be able to help you navigate your questions, manage your expectations and gain some insight into what you can expect before, during and after your schooling. Brandon Johnson


We'd love to hear from you. Email us at LifeKit@npr.org. Listen to Life Kit onApple Podcasts andSpotify, or sign up for ournewsletter.

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