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  • Post published:08/05/2021
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Grad School Gave Me the Courage to Change Careers

To submit or not to submit. That was the choice I was to make as I contemplated applying to grad school for the third time. The first time had been a hard reject from a Library of Information Sciences program. The second time, I failed to follow through with completing the entire application for an online MBA. This time, something was different.

Oh yeah. That something was me.

Third time a charm, hitting that submit button would change my life forever.

Rocking the Boat

Laptoop,books,mobile phone and books on a wooden tableWhen I started grad school, I was working for a local government entity. It was the longest I’d ever had a job, closing in on a decade. I wasn’t about to leave it. Instead, I wanted to use my graduate degree to increase my career development opportunities and enhance my learning.

Instead, my new studies began to show me a side of my job I hadn’t noticed before: the failures of management. I began to see my inexperienced boss’s open-door policy for what it was: a way of appeasing her employees without actually having to interact with us. Even the weekly meetings she instituted weren’t enough.

She did one thing right by holding them on Monday mornings, but instead of being a collaborative meeting, they turned into a platform for many of the team members to complain about others. I began using it as an opportunity to rock the proverbial boat.

Before I started grad school, I wasn’t one to question authority. However, I began noticing that my organization’s management told employees one thing and did another. I realized it was time to ask myself some questions about the authority figures in my organization.

Finding my Confidence

My leadership development course was one of the main contributors to my newfound confidence at work. It was critical in my ability to effectively challenge authority at the organization. We studied emotional intelligence and learning styles. I began to see that emotional intelligence in my workplace was very different from the classroom.

Emotional intelligence has become a buzz term in leadership and management circles, but having invested a lot of my academic time in studying, I’ve realized it is a legitimate theory. We can develop our EQ in order to manage our own behaviors and those of others. In fact, EQ can be used to manipulate rather than manage.

However, I saw instead that many members of management thought of themselves as highly emotionally intelligent when instead, they were emotionally stunted. As I learned more about EQ and other leadership concepts, I began to assert myself.

Leaving the Ship

In fact, I began to assert my desire for career development as I’d never done before. Career development is key for employers who want to retain top talent. Yet, my organization failed at career development in all aspects.

Graduate degrees became prerequisites for getting interviews, no matter the experience of the individual applying for the position. This is certainly the trend in business today, but I questioned the validity of the practice in a government organization with no real career development program.

A year into my graduate program, I was starting to exhibit many of the signs that a career change might be in order. My skin looked terrible, I was grumpy, and I was starting to get bored by work that used to challenge me.

It was time I took the qualities that made me a successful online learner and the skills I was building elsewhere. During one of my courses, I was asked to make a to do list for the next five to 10 years. One of the things on my list was work at a local tech startup.

Eight years to the day I started at the municipality, I was able to cross that off my list. When I tendered my resignation, I had the courage to tell my manager there was nothing left for her to do to keep me. I took my new self-confidence, degree, and desire for a challenge and waved good-bye to an established career and said hello to my ever-evolving new day job. Hitting that “submit” button two years ago was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.


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Guest Author Bio

H. E. James, MBA
H. E. JamesHattie is a writer and researcher living in Boise, Idaho. She has a varied background, including education and sports journalism. She is a former electronic content manager and analyst for a government agency. She recently completed her MBA and enjoys local ciders.

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