Asking For a Friend | Chapter 43
Advice from Babe to Babe
Curious about going back to school? Switching careers or deciding if you just have itchy feet? The BWH advice gurus have lots of wise words coming your way in this chapter of Asking For a Friend!
My experience was similar to what you are describing—I worked in technology for about two years after graduating, then began earning my MBA part time at night on-campus. I will say that full-time work, nine credit hours of business classes, a social life and a long-distance relationship was a lot to manage, and that’s coming from someone with no children. For a year and a half, weekday life for me consisted of leaving the house at 6:15 to work out before work and not getting home until 9:00 p.m. most nights of the week; that has to be worth it for you. I marveled at my classmates who had families and still made it work, and from chatting with them about it, they typically had to work out deals with their rock star husbands/wives/families to recognize that the pendulum of this so-called “work-life balance” would swing in one direction for some time while they were in the program.
Before starting my degree program, I did a lot of research to determine course load, ability to accelerate or slow down, ability to transition to distance learning and made sure I was aware of (and taking advantage of) all available financial aid opportunities. I then talked it through with my boss, making it clear I would need to leave early several days a week to make it to class on time. We worked out a schedule to accommodate that, but some managers or companies might not prioritize continued education as emphatically. Many companies also offer tuition assistance (though it sounds like you might be making a career change and so that might not apply). If going back to school is a personal goal of yours (rather than something that will directly and immediately benefit you professionally), I suggest talking to a financial planner to make a plan. Taking on student debt isn’t always a bad thing—and is often necessary—but it can be quite impactful on your future. If you’re transitioning into a career in physics, explore teaching at the university or another form of work study to subsidize tuition in addition to (or instead of) staying at your current job.
As far as staying sane, you really have to be interested in the subject matter and want the degree to make all of the work worth it. Celebrate making dean’s list, crushing a paper and other milestones, and be open and public about your journey so you can grow your support system. Reminding myself how important it was to just finish the dang thing got me through the really tough weeks of finals and presentations. Good luck!
–ALISSA MCSHANE, CONTRIBUTOR
Here are the basic steps I followed when I made my career switch from yacht insurance to change management consulting:
Find people you have something in common with who are doing what you want to do. Look at the companies you aspire to on Linkedin and then poke around their employee base and see who you might have something in common with.
Once you find someone, try to “connect” with them, but customize the request message so it shows you’re reaching out with a clear and direct request. Something like, “I’m making a career switch to “X” and saw we have “Y” in common. Would you have 15 to 20 minutes to talk to me about your experiences in your field?”
Don’t forget all the standard follow-ups and thank-you notes. Not all of these will turn into mentors, but taking all the right steps will ensure you set yourself up for success should you and someone click.
—HILLARY KIRTLAND, CONTRIBUTOR
I'd check out meetups, affinity groups related to the career or general career or networking groups focused on your desired field. It's less targeted than sending a cold LinkedIn email to someone, plus you can meet multiple people and understand your chemistry together and their expertise better before asking for full-on mentorship.
—ASHLIE JOHNSON COGGINS, CONTRIBUTOR
I like the keep this kind of stuff casual (and like when people keep it casual with me). Shoot the person you want to connect with an email and just be like: “Hey, I think you’re awesome. I’m inspired by your work. I want to respect your time, but I’d love to grab coffee or schedule a 30-minute Zoom chat.” Or some variation of that, depending on the level of professionalism that seems appropriate.
The answer to these kinds of questions always lies in self-reflection, for me. No matter what role you’re in, only you can figure out if you’re truly in need of a change. If you’re feeling burned out, bored or are only staying in a role because you’re “supposed” to be grateful you even have one, then maybe your heart really isn’t in it. To me, being young in your career is a time to take risks, but you’re also probably fearing being labeled a “job-hopper” for a reason. If you’ve hopped around a lot already, you may just be adjusting to your new routine and space. I find that adjusting to new roles takes the same path as adjusting to new cultures, and maybe you just have to figure out where you are on the Culture Shock Curve. If you find you always want to jump ship at the point where things (inevitably) get hard, maybe you should wait out the phase and see if you really want to leave your role. If you feel like you’ve already gone through all the phases and your role still leaves you wanting, then it’s never too soon—or the wrong time—to do what is right for you.
—HILLARY KIRTLAND, CONTRIBUTOR
My advice here is to explore some other options, but be picky. No one says when you start looking for a job you have to apply to every single job you see or hear about, and it's always smart to have a pulse on what the job market is like. If nothing else, when you get an offer you can use it for a bit of leverage in your current job—whether it be for more money, less workload, new opportunities or anything else you think could be better.
—OLIVIA WILSON, BABE #51
Until Next Week,
—THE BWH ADVICE GURUS
Asking for a Friend is Babes Who Hustle's weekly advice column that asks and answers the work-related questions on all of our minds. Looking for advice and guidance? Hit us with all of your questions below and stay tuned for next Wednesday's edition!