Dear Hobie & Monk,
I’m in my early 30s and have a good job that I’ve enjoyed for eight years. Although I have no immediate intention of finding another job, I don’t see myself in my current job for the rest of my life because I would probably get bored and there is not much opportunity for advancement. But when I look into other jobs or careers that interest me — even at basic entry-level positions — they require a bachelor’s degree.
I went to college for several years and have a lot of credits, but I never graduated. School was hard and expensive and just not for me. Now I feel stuck, even though I know there are a lot of things I would enjoy and could do very well. Should I go back to school and finish my degree?
– Ambitious but degreeless
Monk: I’m happy to hear that you enjoy your job and equally happy that you are considering your future career options. You recognize that “future you” will be looking for something different in a job, because “future you” will have different goals, interests and motivations.
Play that logic backward, and you will agree that “college you” was a different version of the person you are today. In the eight or so years you have been out of school, you’ve matured in many ways. Even your brain has evolved. So the good news is if you do return to college, you will do so with work and life experience and a more mature frontal lobe (which will work to your organizational advantage).
My advice? Baby steps. Put the question of finishing the degree on hold, but return to school to take one college-level course in an area of interest. Take your time, enjoy the ride and let your back-to-school experience guide you in the bigger decision about finishing (or starting a new) degree.
Hobie: Run — do not walk — back to college and finish your degree. I wish I could see the look on your face, because I’m sure you found Monk’s advice much more to your liking, and that may be the problem.
You describe yourself as ambitious and stuck, but at the same time, you say that you don’t really have any immediate intention of doing anything about it. That spells ambivalent (at best) in my book, and the proof is in your reaction to a piece of bold, in-your-face advice to step outside your comfort zone and make dramatic changes.
If you’ve identified that you need a college degree for jobs that are more appealing to you in the longterm, yet you’re resisting heading back to college, then you’re the only one who knows the real reasons behind the disconnect. And you’re the only one who knows whether you also have a pattern of getting stuck in personal as well as professional contexts. Pay attention to how and when you eventually extricate yourself from these situations.
Although there is nothing inherently wrong with ambling through this phase of your professional and/or personal life, you’ll want to know the difference between content and stuck, and appropriately cautious versus immobilized, so that you can distinguish between enjoying the ride and needing to kick into high gear.
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