Is Finishing Up Your College Degee Going to Pay Off?

Dear Office Mom,
I’m 29, over-worked, underpaid and miserable. I graduated from High School at the top of my class and everyone assumed I would go out into the world and cure cancer or something, but that hasn’t happened…(yet). I made some poor decisions and dropped out of College before finishing with 32 credits to go. I spent a long time working odd jobs trying to get back on my feet. Now, I have a decent job with nice people, but I work a lot, have a million things on my plate at once with no help and no monetary incentive. And now I feel stuck in a career with no advancement in sight in a profession that bores the hell out of me. Is it worth going back to school? Or, can I get to the next level without finishing my degree?
— K.L.

Dear Kelly,

I can feel your angst on this one, but stop beating yourself up. People drop out of college all the time for all kinds of reasons.  According to CNBC's article Bill Gates: US college dropout rates are ‘tragic’ as 54.8% of college students do not complete a 4-year degree within six years. There's a lot of debate on this topic, but you can't argue with the numbers. The piece of paper opens doors and pays the bills. In 2016, the unemployment rate for young adults ages 25-34 with a bachelor's or higher degree (5%) was lower than the rate for young adults with some college (10%). And, the median earnings were higher too. 

Do you need a college degree?

Let's look at your situation to see if it's worth it. Is a degree required for your desired profession?  If so, that's a vote for college. Have you looked for jobs only to be turned down for the ones you wanted because you lacked a college degree? Chalk another one up for academia. Is it possible that the profession that bores the hell out of you has given you transferable skills for the jobs you want, but you haven't been able to connect the dots for hiring managers? Tally one for the other side.

With your hectic schedule and no help, it probably sounds daunting to think about college. But, what if you had a strategy to go to school and get a better job, perhaps before you even graduate? Sound too good to be true? Let Your Office Mom explain how you might approach it. 

Take a college course and use it to your advantage

Granted,  you don't have a lot of time, right? What if you start slowly and begin working on those 32 credit hours?  Begin by figuring out the exact requirements for graduation and how and where you can meet them.  Can you receive credit for any work experience, take online courses, or enroll in a fast-track schedule? You'll probably find classes are easier (your smarter and more disciplined now) and scheduling options are more conducive to working adults.

While you take a class or two, you're at an advantage. Working toward your degree is noteworthy! You can shout your new academic standing to the world on LinkedIn,  cover letters and resumes and interview when great opportunities arise. 

Identify transferable skills and update your resume

Spend some time working on that resume of yours to connect the dots for hiring managers! Focus on your experience and transferable skills. If you need to learn a new skill or broaden your knowledge base, take some initiative to learn on your own. Search sites like Udemy.com. Employers often don't care where you learned your skills, just that you have them.  Your experience, skills and college enrollment will help get you in the door for those college degree required,  and college degree preferred job postings before you graduate.

You don't have that many hours to finish. So, I say go for it. Just starting in that direction may change your world for the better. Wishing you all the best!

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