With the economy being what it is, grad school applications have skyrocketed. Many people, even those who would otherwise not considered grad school, are finding themselves filling applications, writing essays, and taking the GRE/GMAT/LSAT. They hope that by the time they have their education, the economy will have recovered and they will have a nice master's degree under their belt, improving their job prospects even more.
Let me first say that there isn't anything wrong with grad school. Wanting to get specialized education in a given field is a commendable goal.
What bothers me - strikes me as wrong, even - is that many grad school applicants today are applying not because they are actually interested in that field, or even like school itself, but because they don't want to bother with job hunting. It is the path of least resistance, and that is only true for the moment - when they graduate two years from now, they'll find themselves competing with tens of thousands of people like them, and they'll be in a very similar situation as far as job prospects go.
The situation is even worse for MBA or Law students. Both fields are in a very shitty situation. Law especially is suffering from a horrible over-saturation of newly minted JDs and very slow growth of the field itself.
Reports from the field are pretty bleak
. Most new JDs are finding themselves unemployed, except this time they are in shitloads of debt. Those who are lucky to find jobs aren't actually that lucky, because no one wants to hire inexperienced JDs for anything other than document review which pays hilariously little.
In any case, I came upon an article by Seth Godin the other day and it made real sense to me.
Graduate school for unemployed college students
Fewer college grads have jobs than at any other time in recent memory—a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers annual student survey said that 20 percent of 2009 college graduates who applied for a job actually have one. So, what should the unfortunate 80% do?
How about a post-graduate year doing some combination of the following (not just one, how about all):
* Spend twenty hours a week running a project for a non-profit.
* Teach yourself Java, HTML, Flash, PHP and SQL. Not a little, but mastery. [Clarification: I know you can't become a master programmer of all these in a year. I used the word mastery to distinguish it from 'familiarity' which is what you get from one of those Dummies type books. I would hope you could write code that solves problems, works and is reasonably clear, not that you can program well enough to work for Joel Spolsky. Sorry if I ruffled feathers.]
* Volunteer to coach or assistant coach a kids sports team.
* Start, run and grow an online community.
* Give a speech a week to local organizations.
* Write a regular newsletter or blog about an industry you care about.
* Learn a foreign language fluently.
* Write three detailed business plans for projects in the industry you care about.
* Self-publish a book.
* Run a marathon.
Beats law school.
If you wake up every morning at 6, give up TV and treat this list like a job, you'll have no trouble accomplishing everything on it. Everything! When you do, what happens to your job prospects?
Basically, take the initiative to do something new, something you have always wanted to do and those in a similar situation as you won't even consider. 2 years is a long time, and there are much more productive (and cheaper) ways to spend it.
Has anyone found themselves at a similar cross-roads because they are unemployed?