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?