Is Going Back to Graduate School Worth the Additional Cost?


One of the first things people do during a slow economy is consider hiding out in the academic world. Of course they don’t consider it hiding out. They apply to and are accepted to work on a graduate degree in the hopes that the additional degree will give them better career opportunities and that by the time they complete the degree the economy will have turned around. Graduate degrees are not always the answer. Sometimes they are a poor financial investment.

There are some occupations, psychology is one, that without an advanced degree, you can’t really work in the field in the manner you want. To be a licensed psychologist, for example, you have to have a doctorate. Even to be a licensed counselor will require a master’s degree. Careers like this, those that require a terminal degree, are not the ones in question.

The careers in question are often technology and business careers. A bachelor’s degree in computers, and then hands on, real world, experience is far more valuable than a master’s degree with no work history. Business degrees have a similar problem. One of the biggest financial mistakes you can make is to set your business career aside and work full time towards your M.B.A. Business careers cannot be successfully put on hold. While an M.B.A. is certainly desirable, get it while you are working. This allows you to continue adding to your real world knowledge and keep up your networking while furthering your academic credentials.

Before setting aside the time and placing yourself into debt for a graduate degree, make sure that it’s worth it in the long run.

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Don't Write Your Resume Like You Are The Only Applicant
The job market is competitive. And it is even more competitive today than ever before. This means that you need to up your game and quit playing around. You can’t just put skills or experience on your resume haphazardly. If you do that you are writing your resume as though you are the only person applying for the job. That is the farthest thing from the truth. You are competing against many applicants who are just as qualified as you are. So what do you do? You compete. You show that you are the best candidate for the job. How do you do that? You make your resume speak for you and make you look impressive. Just follow the tips below to help you create an impressive resume that will compete against the other applicants.

  • Organization: The way you organize your resume may seem like a simple thing, but it can change the impression that your potential employers get when they read your resume. Organize your skills by listing the most applicable skills to the job first. If you are not sure what skills will be most applicable, then list your strongest skills first. Do the same with your experiences. List the most applicable or the most impressive experiences first. This will put stronger focus on the most important skills and experiences in your resume.
  • Keywords: Use keywords throughout your resume to put emphasis on the skills or ideas that you want your potential employers to remember about you when they are deciding about interviews and the job. Don’t overdo them though. If you use keywords too repetitively, then it will turn off employers and possibly annoy them. Keep a good balance. If you are unsure, then have someone read over your resume to see if you have used to many keywords.

These are just two very simple ways that you can make your resume more competitive and more impressive to potential employers, which will lead you to getting an interview and hopefully getting that job.

The most popular misconception when the economy is less than outstanding is that no one is hiring. It’s actually almost never true that no one is hiring. What is true is that companies tend to streamline when times are tough and while they may not officially be hiring, there is always room for someone with a proven track record. Most job seekers are fully aware that it’s easier to get another job when you already have one and that is never more true than when the economy is down.

The problem is that when you suddenly find yourself without a job it can be tough to both deal with the emotional shock and hit the ground running to find another job as quickly as possible. There is where your previous networking skills as well as an updated resume come into play. You can immediately start looking and contacting people letting them know that you are looking for a job change (think: networking & LinkedIn).

It’s also important to remember that you have a proven record of success and you have been in the business world for a number of years. This immediately places you ahead of many candidates that are recent graduates with no real-world experience. Unfortunately, many young people today do not have the appropriate business skills, and as a result many hiring managers are reluctant to interview them. They have a large pool of seasoned applicants to choose from so they opt for experience. This works in your favor if you have practical experience.

The best way to get a job when no one is hiring is to remember that there is always room for someone who is energetic, driven and has a resume that shows them to be an asset to their employer.


Quickly Increase Your Salary at a New Job
Salary negotiations are always tricky. The worst part is that while this is going on you almost have the new job but not quite. You have to get through this sticky situation to be hired. When the economy is poor that makes salary negotiation even more difficult; there may be several great candidates vying for the position.  You know what you are worth, but the company may not be willing or able to pay it. Breathe easy– there is a medium ground to this problem.

The way around this problem is to be open and honest by simply telling the hiring manager that you had hoped for more money but you are willing to accept their offer in exchange for a performance review within six months of taking the job. I think this is a pretty reasonable request and most hiring managers will be happy to accept the deal. This can seal your offer in more ways than one.

Not only is the company getting you at a premium, and believe me they know what you are worth, they also have an employee that is ambitious, realistic and willing to prove himself right from the start. Being reviewed within six months also gives you a head start on any bonuses that your company may be giving out because you will have just been reviewed.

By the simple and reasonable request to review your job performance a bit earlier than they might otherwise, you are showing yourself to be a strong and decisive employee that is someone who can be worked with and is results oriented.


Cover Letter Tone: Formal or Friendly?
When creating cover letters, a common mistake is to essentially use the same letter every time. Many applicants change nothing more than the name of the company. This is a bad idea and you can be certain that your generic letter is seen as such by those who read it. The other common mistake is in tone. As a general rule, formal is better. But this is not always the case, though it is a safe fall back position.

I’m going to assume you have done your homework and know enough about the job you are seeking to be specific in your cover letter. If you don’t have that information, then get it before you begin writing. You cannot craft a decent cover letter without specifics.

The tone of the letter will be dictated on the position you are seeking. The rule is that the more authority the position has then the more formal the cover letter should be and the more specific. You want the letter to be brief but complete. It’s important to highlight your skills in relation to the specific job being offered and to explain why you are perfectly suited to the position.

Of course you will address the letter to the person doing the interviewing. If you don’t know who this is, then just call and ask. Address him or her formally throughout your letter. Never shorten someone’s name unless given permission to do so. Save the informal and friendly approach for your friends.

When writing a cover letter you want to get your point across as briefly as possible while showing respect to the reader. The tone should always err on the side of formality.

Should You Update Your Resume?
One frequent question I hear from my clients (even those who are happy in their jobs) is, “How often should I update my resume, or should I?” After all, they aren’t looking for a new job and are happy where they are in their careers. This is a stumbling block that people need to get over quickly; you should always have an updated resume.

From a practical standpoint, are you really completely content to remain in exactly the same position you are currently in for the rest of your career? Even movement within the same company can often come with a request for an updated resume. And isn’t movement the whole point? Keeping your resume updated for such occasions makes sense… especially if you are on a senior or executive track. Plus, you have most likely learned new skills, taken a few new classes or seminars, tucked some new accomplishments under your belt, and/or just generally changed since you took the position you are currently in, so your resume should reflect that.

There is also the reality of economics to consider. Companies shift focus, change and develop over time. People lose jobs and move on to other careers. All of these factors mean that you will likely be hunting for another job some time in the course of your career. Having a resume ready to go will allow you to quickly find a new job. It’s also far easier to keep a resume updated than to start over and try to fill in the missing pieces.

Keeping your resume updated makes sense, and is a practical way of handling your career. You will always be ready to hand over a current copy when the opportunity presents itself.

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If you have recently completed military service and are looking for a new career, you might be surprised to find that your branch of the military has career resources and job search materials to help make your transition to civilian life easier. There are also many companies that specifically give hiring preferences to those individuals that have honorably served their country.

In addition to hiring preferences, there are also educational opportunities available to help you find a new career. Many people, both military and civilian, falsely believe that being former military means you are only qualified to work in security or police careers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today’s military trains men and women for careers in everything from medicine to computers. You just need to let people know what your specialty is in and the best way to do that is in your resume.

When completing your resume, be sure to have a civilian look at it just to make sure that you aren’t using terms that are familiar only to someone in the military. You will also want to highlight your leadership abilities as well as your skills in your specialty area.

When writing your cover letter, you will want to briefly mention your military career and how it trained you for the position that you are seeking. Civilian life is very different from military life, but leadership, honesty and reliability are important in both worlds. Employers recognize this, and many if not most know that an employee that is former military is likely to be an asset to their company in whatever capacity he or she is hired.



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