Should You Apply to Graduate School? There Are Four Key Questions You Need to Answer First

In a series of three articles for recently, we discussed how people can best decided whether, when, and where to attend graduate school.  Here are some excerpts and some recent information in other news outlets that we think will be helpful:  Tbe key questions to be answered are:

  • Why do I want to do this?
  • When is the right time to pursue such a degree?
  • Who can I ask for advice about this, andwhat do they say?
  • Where is the best place I can obtain the degree, and how do I determine this?

In our first article in this series, we asked our network of over 100 MBAs on LinkedIn Linkedin to help us answer the first two questions, the Why and the When. In the second article, we addressed the Who and the What. We now answer the last question, involving the Where and the How.

As mentioned in our previous article, considering the needs of your spouse, partner or family should be of paramount importance, because their support is critical. One alumnus integrated several criteria when answering the question. “We needed to be in state where my wife, a PA-C, could not only be licensed but maximize her clinical skills as well. The second factor was the quality of the program. The third factor was the financial aid package.”

Once again, deciding to pursue a graduate degree is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. So make sure you answer all four questions before making it. Getting input fromClose Connections who have already earned graduate degrees, Trustworthy Talent whose opinions you can trust, Professional Pundits like HR folks and recruiters, and alumni from those institutions you are considering, can all help you make the best decision for you.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that some employers are providing tangible assistance for graduate school to their employees, beyond the traditional tuition reimbursement that employers have offered (and sometimes discontinued) over the past several decades:

As a means of attracting stellar young hires, an increasing number of firms in finance, consulting and technology are shepherding employees through the graduate-school admissions process by organizing and paying for test-preparation courses, inviting admissions consultants to help with applications, arranging mock interviews with senior staffers and even bringing school representatives to information sessions at the office.

Companies support staffers attending a number of graduate programs, but business school is by far the most common destination.

It may seem counterintuitive to encourage employees to head for the exits, but firms say that assisting with the graduate-school application process leads to long-term loyalty and, with strings attached to tuition money, improves the chances that employees will return after graduation. (Most companies reimburse employees only after they’ve been back for a number of months or even years.)

Such programs have been in place for a while, but have grown more popular in recent years as the recruiting process heats up.

Does your employer encourage you to pursue graduate school, and if so how?  What advice have you sought in evaluating whether to return to school, who has influenced, and how?


Extending Gratitude to the Job Search

My sister, Lisa, knows about my year of thanks, and sent me this article on ways that gratitude can improve your job search.  I never considered gratitude in that context, but after reading how to incorporate a positive attitude into your search, I can see the benefit.

First of all, the author encourages job seekers to write down 5 reasons a job search is struggling.  Then, she says to write down 5 positive things about you or assets you bring to a job situation.  It is much more encouraging to focus on the positive and see how those can help you as you reach out to prospective employers.

The author maintains that a positive and grateful approach helps an employer see that we are 1) positive, 2) resilient, and 3) having an abundant approach.

I am going to teach my students how to create a self-marketing plan soon.  I think I will share this advice with them as they create their resume, cover letter, and profile.  This advice just might give them an entirely new outlook on their career and their life.



3 Career Mentors You Should Have | Career Lab Virtual Campus : Forté Foundation

This is great advice for young women (and men) as they are in school, graduating, and thinking ahead about their careers.  We often encourage them to think about pursuing informational interviews, but this advice is even more intentional: help for one year; looking head to five years; and looking at your career from a big picture perspective.

3 Career Mentors You Should Have | Career Lab Virtual Campus : Forté Foundation.


Developing Mentors While Pursuing an Online Degree

I’m interviewed in an article today by Menachem Wecker for the US News & World Report.  In it he discussed several challenges to developing effective mentoring relationships while pursuing an online MBA degree.

Mentors, who have their feet firmly planted in industry, can provide practical advice that supplements what MBA students are learning inbusiness school. But the mentorship relationship can get controversial and more complicated when it comes to online MBA students, some experts say.

Some MBA faculty and students view digital mentors almost like invisible friends, which are unlikely to yield fruitful interactions, while others notice unique opportunities when mentors communicate with business students online.

Here are some of the thoughts I shared with Mr. Wecker during my interview:

Interacting with mentors online can be convenient for b-school students, according to Aneil Mishra.

Digital communication tools, particularly LinkedIn, help Mishra stay in touch with the many students from overseas that he coaches, he says, but he recommends a hybrid approach, where there is some face-to-face interaction for trust building amid the communication via social media and digital tools. Sometimes, that may mean making more of an effort to go to events or to network in person in other ways.

“If you’re attending a pure online degree [program] or have limited face-to-face connections with your peers and professors, it’s more beholden to you to join professional associations,” he says. 

For the rest of the article, please go here.


Minecraft: Waste of Time or New Career Development Tool?

Today’s article in the Wall Street Journal on the popularity of Minecraft really got me thinking:

Minecraft fans make Minecraft baked goods, create Minecraft pointillism art and marry each other in Minecraft weddings.

And they create parody music videos of hit songs, rewritten to feature Minecraft characters and themes. Some, like Mr. McLemore’s, have reached views in the millions, at times rivaling the viewership of the original song’s video.

A parody of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” has racked up more than 37 million views. Another video, parodying Usher’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love,” has more than 54 million views.

One version of Martyn Littlewood’s parody of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” has been viewed nearly 10 million times. The video, called “Form This Way,” plays like a love letter to the game, following a gamer as he purchases Minecraft and then logs on: “I’m so in love with this game / Don’t care if I sound lame.

Instead of Lady Gaga’s character giving birth to evil, as happens in her video, Mr. Littlewood starts his story with a little guy lifting up his mining pickax. “Oh a zombie run away! Found a sword, I’m gonna slay!” the song goes. “Oh a creeper stay away!”

Mr. Littlewood, of Nottingham, England, says he gets anywhere from £700 to £1,500 (about $1,100 to $2,300) a month from sales of the song on Apple’s iTunes music store. “It just about covers monthly bills—or at least the rent,” he says.



Here’s what I commented:

My son and I have an ongoing negotiation about how much time he spends on his Xbox and Minecraft on his computer. He’s an excellent student, and also plays on both lacrosse and soccer teams. Still, until reading this article, I was generally of the opinion that it is a waste of his time. But because it is my fault I got him originally hooked on Legos when he was little, I must accept some of the responsibility. The $10 I spent at a garage sale on used Legos years ago led to hundreds of hours playing with them (and hundreds of dollars of additional Legos), and now this online version. As a Frank Lloyd Wright fan myself, and 50 year-old b-school professor who loves social media, I’m going to now find a way to help him use all of his skills he’s developed to generate some revenue to support the family unit! 

Do you or your kids play Minecraft, and if so, what do you think about it?


Minecraft Video

Seven Habits that Will Change Your Life

Our latest article in PoliyMic addresses how changing your habits is necessary if you want to change your situation, either at work or in life.   I used this book with great success with my undergraduates when I was a management professor at Penn State, and Karen and I both to continue to recommend it to our students and our coaching clients.  Here is an accept of our article:

Dr. Stephen Covey, author of the highly acclaimed The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People died earlier this summer. My wife and I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Covey in action at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan when we were in graduate school. We were there to study business (MBA and Ph.D.), but had no idea that a chance encounter with Dr. Covey would also be so instructive and would influence not just us, but so many future students as well. We have learned so much from his book that we often give it as a graduation present to our students. If you have received this gift yourself and it is still sitting on your shelf, take it out and read it, as tribute to Dr. Covey.

To read more about each habit is critical to your effectiveness, our article continues here.


Assessing Culture is Critical

We talk extensively in our next book about how leaders build a trusting culture.  This HBR article is also helpful in understanding what specific questions to ask today when you are interviewing for a job in order to assess an organization’s culture to determine if it is a good fit for you.

Aneil and I have both worked for leaders and companies where we thought we had found a good fit, only later to discover that the fit was not right for us.  We were blinded by either the job or the friend that hired us, only to find out that there were deeper issues at play that kept us from truly trusting that leader and that organization to not only have our best interests at heart, but our customers best interests at heart, too.

We all want to work at a place we can trust to be excellent, care for us and for its other stakeholders, but today, it is a complex proposition.  A recent MetLife survey shows employee loyalty at a seven-year low.  Employees are not loyal because they don’t feel that employers are loyal to them.  There is definitely a trust gap here.

How have you created a more trusting culture at your workplace?

When Someone Helps You Look Better On LinkedIn (or Anywhere Else), Say ‘Thank-You’

I’ve given plenty of unpaid help to people looking to improve their professional communications over the years, mostly to my students looking for feedback on their resumes, but also to friends and colleagues who wanted to improve their resumes, cover letters, academic manuscripts, and other important written communications.  I’ve received such help myself as well from many people over the years, and I’ve always been grateful for it.  All I’ve expected for my help is a simple “thank-you,” either oral or written, and most of the time, I have received such thanks.

That is why I get so irked when people don’t express any gratitude, and the more help I’ve given without any thanks, the more irritated I become.  Earlier this year, I spent over an hour helping an MBA student in his job search over coffee, and then introduced the person to several people in my various networks so that the person could request informational interviews and advice about his job search.  I did this as a favor to a good friend, as I had never taught the MBA student and indeed he attended a university with which I wasn’t affiliated.  I never once received any thanks from the student, and recently learned that the person had received a permanent job offer.  I’m glad he got the offer, but I would have also appreciated learning this from the person himself rather than from someone else (who also had provided help to the student and who also had never been thanked as it turns out).

Then today, I learned that someone had viewed my profile on LinkedIn.  Curious person that I am, I checked out this person’s profile to guess as to why they might have wanted to learn more about me.  In reading the person’s profile, I noticed a grammatical mistake.  She had written “works good under immense pressure” when she should have written “works well under immense pressure.”  (Obviously, she doesn’t write well under pressure, even though she has a bachelor’s degree in “mass communication/media studies,” but I digress.)  I thought she’d want to know this, and so I sent her and InMail message on LinkedIn letting her about the mistake.

Several hours later, I was back on LinkedIn, and received a notice saying another person had checked out my profile, and so I went to see who it was.  It turns out it was the same person.  Again, being curious, I decided to see if she had fixed her profile.  Well, indeed she had, but she never bothered to thank me for letting her know about her mistake.

I’m certainly not going to let these two people keep me from helping others in the future.   Their lack of gratitude, however, means that I’ll probably first consider consider whether a person is the type to “pay it forward” to others in the future before I take the time to provide help, solicited or unsolicited.


best jobs 2012

Best and Worst Jobs of 2012

According to, as reported in today’s Wall Street Journal, here are the best jobs of 2012:, a career web site owned by Adicio Inc. ranked 200 jobs from best to worst based on five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress, and hiring outlook. The firm used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other government agencies to determine the rankings. The 200 jobs were selected for their relevance in the current labor market as well as the availability of reliable data. For instance, enlisted military personnel – the third worst job of 2012 – was added this year thanks to new data released by the Department of Defense.

Tony Lee, publisher of, said he wasn’t surprised to see software engineers topping the list. But he was surprised to find human resource managers rising to the No. 3 spot. In an era of layoffs, anxious employees, and cutbacks that often reduce back-office functions like HR, he says, he often hears HR managers complaining about the stresses of their jobs.

But with hiring on the rebound for the last few months and expected to heat up further as the economy recovers, the job outlook for human resource professionals is bright, and that brought the career to its high ranking.

The worst job out of the 200 examined? It’s lumberjack. The job replaced last year’s loser, roustabout, also known as an oil rig worker. With oil prices trending high, hiring for energy jobs is robust, while the ongoing slump in new housing construction has depressed demand for lumber and thus for lumberjacks, says Mr. Lee. Add to that the physical dangers of the job and a midlevel salary of $32,114, and it ranked at the bottom of the list. 

Here’s an interactive table of the 200 jobs that were ranked.

Do you agree with the rankings?  Where is your job on this list?  Our jobs as professors are not specifically listed, but as we love them, we would say that they should be ranked highly.


The role of B-Schools in preparing women for leadership roles (and others)

An article in Forbes is critical of business schools, claiming that they don’t do a good job preparing women for the multiple roles that they will play when they graduate. The author claims that b-schools focus exclusively on the roles at work and fail to help women (and men) plan ahead for how their work will eventually affect their lives, as well.

As a 1988 MBA graduate of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, I am happy to be able to disagree.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but a panel discussion I attended one weekend during b-school completely changed my perspective on life and how I made decisions regarding work and family.

Many of my female colleagues (who at the time made up approximately 30% of the MBA class; I think that number is similar today even though my school is missing from this list!) were not married (like me) and did not have children, but were still interested in hearing about life after b-school.  These women spoke honestly and candidly about the fact that women, more so than men, would have multiple lives and roles after b-school.  They presented us with the stark facts that by virtue of getting married and having children, we would make career decisions that would take us off the path we had in mind today which would ultimately lead us to have several different career paths.  “What?!  I was going to be a CEO by 30!”

As I veered off this path for the first time as we moved to State College, Pennsylvania.   I was filled with dread after I left my job, but I was not surprised.  I had been prepared for this by the panel of alums who alerted us to the fact that we might have to choose between our marriage and a promotion one day, which I had done.  As a result, I discovered a new passion and career path, college teaching.  As a result of that new road taken, I am now a b-school professor myself.  Now, it is my turn to prepare a new generation of women for the speed bumps ahead in life and work.