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Can’t find a job? Graduate degree isn’t the magic answer

Dear J.T. & Dale: I graduated with my bachelor’s degree right before the pandemic hit. I couldn’t find a job and so it was suggested to me that I should just go back and get my master’s right now and by the time I’m done the pandemic will be over and I’ll be able to find an even better job. What do you think? — Calvin

J.T.: I’m glad you’re asking this question, because I actually think it’s a terrible idea! If you couldn’t get a job with a bachelor’s degree, getting a master’s will only make it harder after the pandemic. Yes, harder! That’s because companies hire for experience, not education. So, spending all that extra money and going into debt for a master’s will still end up having you take an entry-level job that you could have gotten with your bachelor’s when the pandemic is over. I cannot stress it enough: Please don’t go back and get an advanced degree just because you can’t find a job. The better thing to do is get a job and then see if you can get an employer to pay for your master’s. Remember, whenever you get an advanced degree, you’re telling the world that you expect some type of higher-level job, and there are always fewer of those. Plus, with so many people going back to school for advanced degrees, the competition only gets stiffer.

DALE: I don’t think I’ve ever heard J.T. be so emphatic. And while she makes good points, there is one crack through which you might want to take a peek. There are master’s programs that lead directly to terrific job opportunities. Indeed, some programs are almost training academies for certain companies or careers. If you think that might be true for your career dreams, then I’d investigate degree programs based on what jobs their graduates land. And don’t take the school’s word for it — find recent grads and talk to them and ask if the degree is essential. I’m betting you’ll find out from them that J.T. was right and it isn’t, but, even so, it’s great networking, and you might just find a job along the way.

Dear J.T. & Dale: Since the pandemic hit and my company cut a third of our staff, I’ve been miserable. I’m doing three times the work, and my manager constantly reminds me how lucky I am to have a job. I was actually contemplating a career change before the pandemic hit. My family told me that I should stay put until things are better, but I am at my wit’s end. Do you think it’s possible to change careers right now? — Beatriz

DALE: This is a time of change, and the perfect time for you and your career to get in on it. In corporate circles, the word for this year is “disruption” and that creates openings, and you can evolve your career to fit them.

J.T.: Whenever you’re unhappy in a career, it’s time to change; after all, being unhappy in your job is a lose-lose situation. First, you’re miserable going to work every day; and second, I guarantee you that your performance is slipping, and your employer sees it. The worst outcome is that you stay miserable and eventually lose your job.

DALE: That’s maybe not the worst outcome: It is, sadly, how most people get a new start, by being forced down and out.

J.T.: You should figure out what you want your career change to be by thinking through who’s hiring for your skill set and start networking your way into those roles. The pandemic will end, and the economy will bounce back and there will be lots of growth opportunities. But, that’s when the whole rest of the world will start looking to do career changes and the competition will be fierce. So now is the time to make the change! Just make sure that you find a great company that you know is solid, so you don’t have to worry about them doing unexpected layoffs. Other than that, go for it!

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2021 by King Features Syndicate Inc.