Is Grad School Worth It? It Depends on Your Value Drivers

There were a lot of great comments revolving around the grad school question. Thank you to all those who commented.

Although not explicitly communicated, many of the comments illustrated the values driving each person.

At any given time, we can be GOOD at only one or two (rarely three) of our most important values. Therefore the most important question we all need to ask ourselves:

What are my core value drivers at this moment in my life?

Your personal values must drive the decisions you make. They are like your personal mission statement. This means we need to be aware of our top one or two values at any given moment.

For example, your top two values might be money and location. Therefore, you focus on those opportunities for professional and personal development that fit within those two values–you go to grad school to increase your financial return and you focus your job search on a specific area.

At another time, your top values might be family and professional development. In that case, you might search for positions with flexible environments, offer tuition support and/or other professional credentialing, and that could be anywhere in the U.S. or the world. Therefore, positions that might pay you more money than you could imagine but require you to be tethered to your BlackBerry 24/7 are out.

The application period for graduate school is just starting (ours is Feb. 1) and occasionally I’m given the opportunity to look through applications. When I do, I look for evidence that each applicant has taken the time to really examine their current value drivers. They don’t need to know exactly what they want to do with their lives, but they should understand how our programs support their value drivers.

For me, this is the most important starting point for making the grad school decision–and every other decision.

So what are your top two value drivers?

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Corey McCarren

I would say that my top 2 value drivers is that 1) I want to do something that helps people. Though I work 2 jobs, I still find time to be in the movement against human trafficking. I don’t need my paying job to be something like that, but I want to always be a part of it. In the same vein, I like working for growing companies because I strongly believe that employers are doing a great service to society. 2) is that I want do something that I enjoy and don’t, as you’ve said, “need to be tethered to my BlackBerry 24/7”. My money goal is to have enough to go out to dinner whenever I feel like it and not have to feel guilty about it.

Paul Binkley

Thank you both for those comments.

Robert, I totally agree with you on graduate school helping to create more options. I think graduate school can also serve as a vehicle to focus the area(s) in which you have options. In other words, it is very easy to be overwhelmed by all of the options available in every possible area. Graduate school can focus our attention on one or two areas of interest, and potentially improve the “quality” of the options we see before us.

Of course, it has to be the right graduate program.

And Corey, I think it is terrific that you are staying connected to your interest in human trafficking. Nice work.

Camille Roberts

Excellent post, Paul! You are so right. Things can change in a moment. Performing some serious research and deep soul searching is the best way to make these important decisions. Thank you for sharing your experience. (My heart sunk when I read the offer. Yikes!)