Should I go back to school?
May 5, 2016 3:27 PM   Subscribe

My job hunt has proved to be totally fruitless and I find my lack of success concerning. I have a career path picked out and think going back to school could help, but given that it's nothing that's currently trendy, am I wasting my time?

I've written here before about the numerous issues I've had job searching. (TL;DR: Lost last full-time job a year ago. Have had multiple interviews for FT positions and zero offers because of the mythical "more experienced candidate." This makes me feel terrible because people keep saying "You're so great! But...") I currently have two part-time jobs. One leaves me underemployed since it's not something that requires a degree, while the other is seasonal but in my chosen field of sports management. So far at the second job, I've been sparked to get back on a career path in a way my old field of journalism did not light this fire. I wanted to be a sports journalist but I could see myself working on the business side. I feel more energized to have a professional Twitter account, observe what my team's full-time staff is doing/ask questions where I can and just have a good attitude about work.

I'm starting to toss around the idea of going back to school for sports management. However, I realize this is a risk. The pro is that I'll have my team experience to show I've worked in the business, have met people in it and am at least gaining an understanding of how a sports team runs. I've also learned how important experience is and plan to use my time in school wisely to stay in touch with contacts and volunteer at events where possible. Plus some grad programs require an internship anyway, so I could add that to my resume.

Also, I did kind of mess up in undergrad. I didn't party too hard or anything major, but I did one internship and wrote for the school paper. That obviously was not enough experience, and now I feel I understand a lot more about what it takes to get the resume needed to land the best job possible at my career level. If I go back to school, I know I won't flounder or put off getting experience this time.

The cons? Having to take the GRE depending on the program (this makes me nervous for a reason I can't explain, but mostly due to being out of school for eight years), knowing that so many people think my chosen career is a "useless" major and that it's not something in demand. I've had people say to me "Well why can't you just be a nurse or a physical therapist?" I have nothing against nurses or PTs, but for various reasons (one being that I can't handle advanced science and math), these are not the paths for me. And I'm obviously not guaranteed a job, but I think that's the case for a lot of fields these days.

I'm worried about my future. I'm pretty much the only one of my friends who does not have gainful employment that I love. They all make decent money to have comfortable lives while I'm sort of getting by but want to be doing better. (While I understand social media is curated and all, I do get envious of my friends who make "I love my job!" posts on a weekly basis and show off their trips to NHL playoff games, fancy honeymoons and the like.) I'm 30, and I fear if I don't start turning things around soon, it'll be like I never really grew up.

What to do?
posted by intheigloo to Education (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You don't mention the cost anywhere, which IMO is a huge deciding factor. Have you priced this out? If you're going to do this at a local school and it'll cost you $2K a semester and there's financial aid available, that's a completely different story than going to Big Name University and leaving with $50K of debt you didn't have when you showed up.
posted by griphus at 3:45 PM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

How confident are you that a) you need a degree in sports management to get your dream job, or that b) it will be easier to get your dream job with a degree in sports management? Have you met with people who have the kinds of roles you would like to have to talk to them about their backgrounds and how they would advise that you work toward your goals? You need to discuss this with people who work in the industry, especially hiring managers if possible, and do not trust any information you obtain about career trajectories from the schools/programs themselves.
posted by telegraph at 3:52 PM on May 5, 2016 [10 favorites]

Do you know for sure that there are things to know/skills to gain that you can only get through school at this point? If you haven't already, I'd try to some informational interviews people in your network who have the sort of jobs you're applying for. I went back to school for a grad degree after about 10 years in my field and it worked out great because I knew exactly what program and what I needed. Don't undervalue your work experience, though; you're in a competitive field. I think you really need to think about how married you are to sports management vs. some other field where you have transferable skills. Could you be happy elsewhere if you had a good quality of life otherwise?

Also, maybe you and your friends are particularly blessed (and I hope so!), but as an adult, I have NEVER had a bunch of friends who truly, genuinely love their work everyday and I've been in a couple different fields.
posted by smirkette at 4:07 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

OK maybe the part about my friends was a *little* exaggerated, but they do seem to be particularly blessed. Among the group:

-One who wanted to teach high school but got a job teaching preschool. She posts pretty regular stories about being happy in her job and thrilled to find it, things her students do that are cute and projects in the classroom.

-A finance major who got hired pretty much by the first company she interviewed with and is already successful after being out of school like a year and a half. Not that she's high ranking or anything, but she has a good career and money.

-I've obviously met people in the sports biz, wanting to be in it and all, and in addition to having dream jobs, they have settled into long-term/serious relationships so in my mind, they have it all. And they can probably live comfortably and have climbed the career ladder to boot. One of my career cohorts is a year and a half older than me and already a sales director. He deserves every bit of his success (and I love him like a good friend or older brother), but it does make me feel a little insecure knowing I have yet to achieve that kind of success in life. It makes me feel abnormal or behind the curve.
posted by intheigloo at 4:37 PM on May 5, 2016

The intense comparing yourself to other people is probably something to work through with a therapist, because it is obviously impacting your happiness. At some point you just have to live your own life, and there is no way to know looking from the outside if someone is secretly unhappy, or if they owe their entire success to Dad calling in favors, or whatever.

Have you met with people who have the kinds of roles you would like to have to talk to them about their backgrounds and how they would advise that you work toward your goals? You need to discuss this with people who work in the industry, especially hiring managers if possible, and do not trust any information you obtain about career trajectories from the schools/programs themselves.

This is the advice I was going to give, but better written. You want to be talking with people who are a bit older than you and somewhat further along in their careers (especially if they have hit the point of having a voice in hiring) to understand what the criteria are and how you can move from where you are to the kind of position that you can build a career from.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:42 PM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I looked back through your older questions and several of them involve comparing yourself to friends and acquaintances. You need to stop comparing yourself to other people. That way lies madness. People do curate themselves, and not just on social media. No one ever posts a photo of the vomit they're cleaning off their shoes after little Timmy in their preschool class drank his milk too fast. No one tweets about the huge fight they had last night because they're spending too much money on sports vacations and luxury honeymoons and are accruing massive high-interest credit card debt. I had a friend on Facebook who used to post gorgeous photos of all of her truly amazing parenting-adjacent projects but would bitch to me on the phone that her marriage was shit and that her mommy identity was driving her insane. So. Yeah. Stop comparing yourself to other people.

As for going back to school... Do you have any evidence that having an advanced degree in sports management directly translates to better salary outcomes and an easier job market? If this is truly your passion, are you willing to search for full time employment in other states with higher demand for sports management? Are you willing to do sports management adjacent work? For instance, someone I know was absolutely sure she wanted to do social work in public schools, but it took her 8 years to get from hauling around in a poor county doing home visits with drug addicts to the union job with a school calendar. Before you start polishing off your quantitative math skills for the GRE, I strongly recommend you follow telegraph's advice.
posted by xyzzy at 8:46 PM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I did not have a degree in sports management when I co-managed a franchise bid to bring a pro basketball team back to a major UK city. It took confidently asking for money/work that did the trick. Sports management in and of itself is incredibly varied and trade-specific, involved with dozens of professions all at once. You may go back to school and only get experience at a level you won't want to work in the future. If there is a sports team near you, reaching out to a person in the area you want to work in and offering them lunch can be a great way to suss out what's what in the fields better than a career guide or feeling envy of your dumb friends. Hit me up if you want.
posted by parmanparman at 11:40 PM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Part of the reason I want to go back to school is because in sports (and I guess like a lot of other fields) is that you have to do internships to even be looked at seriously. In fact, some hiring managers see it as a red flag if you come out with a degree, want to work in sports, but didn't intern. And anyway, most internships are only reserved for students. Now, I have my seasonal sports job, which will start building my resume, but I feel going back to school to be eligible to intern again/possibly get a GA role would make my case stronger for a regular job. I'm not saying it's not possible to be promoted out of a seasonal job into a full-time role (someone else working with my team did this exact thing, but I also don't know what other internships/volunteer experience he had otherwise), but obviously some hiring managers are going to see "Oh she didn't do any internships/volunteer enough; I wonder why" and pick someone who did. (I also did volunteer at the Super Bowl in 2014, for what it's worth.)

I know grad school costs a lot of money, so I wouldn't want to go without the help of scholarships or a GA position. I'm not so desperate that I'll take out a ton of loans to fund the whole thing.

I am willing to move, as it's pretty normal to do so to get a job in this field. Also, my hometown has a pretty crap job market. It's mostly call centers, general admin jobs or retail/food service, with some blue-collar work mixed in. Very few career positions are to be had. I doubt I'd even miss living here.
posted by intheigloo at 5:11 AM on May 6, 2016

I agree with everyone who is saying you need to do research (eg information interviews) to see if a degree is worth it.

This is totally personal but maybe it might spark a thought in you. Reading your question and the emphasis on relative success of your friends made me think of my own 20s. I had a rough undergrad (depression, self-esteem issues leading to dropping out; eventually finished with middling gpa after a life of straight As) and was less clear on my career path than my friends in my chosen field of publishing. I didn't stay in publishing for a variety of reasons, but one that I don't give enough due is that I couldn't stomach pushing for the jobs I wanted, or doing lot of information interviews to see how I could be a better candidate to jump into editorial.

I ended up going back to school for a professional degree and now I'm a lawyer.

Now reading your question I wonder if there is a connection between the shame I felt at my missteps at university and my long-standing self-esteem problems, and the choice to go back to school where there were objective markers of my worth and a clear job path that did not involve information interviews and networking and the like.

It worked out okay for me to do that, but if I'd been able to reframe my outlook to make it easier for me to just pursue my publishing path rather than comparing myself to others and letting the shame infiltrate my efforts, I might have had a fulfilling (and possibly more fun!) career in publishing.

So, if there is any chance that you are holding back from talking to people you've made connections with in your sports management job -- don't!!
posted by girlpublisher at 5:53 AM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Hey guys! I wanted to post that my non-baseball job has plans to take me full-time. I found out yesterday through a phone call from my boss, but she had to get to another commitment, so we're going to talk more on Monday to figure out all the details. This may mean I have to give up my sports job and that God has an entirely other plan for me. (As in, not working in sports.) But I'm not going to refuse to leave the baseball position and lose my shot at full-time if that's what the day job expects me to do.

Going full-time will definitely help me financially, and I also know that my day job has a great company culture, so I feel comfortable giving them to at least the two-year mark (which I'll hit in 2017) and maybe beyond.

I appreciate all the help, but I'm ready to step back from the job search and making any grand plans for a good long time!
posted by intheigloo at 6:02 AM on May 7, 2016

Hey good feedback. My feeling is if you want the internships you need, you will do better finding them yourself than if you go to grad school. I can only see it as positive that you are looking for them now, considering your costs will only go up if you go to grad school.

If you can zero in on the kind of experience an ideal employer is seeking, it might be easier to help you.
posted by parmanparman at 2:35 PM on May 8, 2016

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