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Can a move to school help your career?

Education for Career Change: Choose your Game and Choose your League

Because of my long sojourn in academia, people often expect me to say, " When it comes to education, more is better!" In reality, I think education is part of playing a game. You just have to choose your sport and learn the rules.

My neighbor Julia chose not to play at all. She skipped college altogether. Now thirty-four, she has earned several promotions in the insurance industry. She loves her job and has no regrets. She began saving for retirement at a very early age and plans to find a new "fun" career when she turns forty.

By then, Julia says, her retirement will be fully funded and she has twenty-plus years to follow a low-income dream.

Alvin, one of my doctoral classmates, viewed school as hopscotch on a playground. The joy was in the game and you never had to worry about turning pro.

Alvin had been in grad school for fifteen years when he joined our program. He enjoyed two years with us, studying organizational behavior. When he ran out of courses he decided that a public health program would be better suited to his personality and lifestyle. We never saw him again.

Laura, on the other hand, was like a high school student who played lacrosse because the guidance counselor said she needed a sport on her college application.

As a student in California, she asked me for advice: "Dr. Goodwin, my boss says I need to take more business courses. What would you suggest?

Now I knew Laura had a Ph.D. in social psychology, superb interpersonal skills and solid corporate experience. She'd already taken management, marketing and finance courses.

I asked her to think about her manager's reasons for encouraging her to stay in school. She began to suspect her manager was using coursework as way to hold her back. She would never have enough! She decided to negotiate with her manager and perhaps ask for a transfer.


John was the academic equivalent of a sports phenom: a straight-A student who loved research, was determined to be a college professor at a top-tier research university.

John was like Chamique Holdsclaw or Diana Taurasi. He knew that, when there's a pro league in your field, you can benefit from playing for a top college team. He will win approval from what Julia Cameron calls Gatekeepers, in her wonderful small book Supplies (Tarcher 2000).


You choose your game and you choose your league. Many of these decisions can influence a lifetime, but I encourage people to remember two key principles.

First, no degree will hand you the brass ring. I've met unemployed and underemployed folks with Harvard MBAs.
Second, if you focus on choosing the game that feels right, you'll have all the joy and success you want in this lifetime.

Related articles: The Mature Student and
Do you need that degree?

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com or call 505-534-4294.


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When school is part of your freedom plan