is it weird to vape on a Zoom call, should you go to grad school to avoid a bad job market, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Is it weird to vape on a Zoom call?

I am one of the many students whose classes have all been moved online for the remainder of the semester, but I am in grad school, so many of my colleagues (including me) worked for a time before coming back to school. One of my colleagues regularly vapes on camera during our Zoom classes! I feel like this is really weird and distracting and am hoping for your take.

It’s weird and distracting. This is a class rather than work so things are a little more relaxed, but in most work contexts it would come across as unprofessional — overly casual, like cracking open a beer or painting your nails on a video conference.

You’re expected to maintain at least some illusion of professionalism and adherence to work norms, even when you’re at home.  (And granted, those are relaxing quickly; on a lot of teams, hoodies and pajamas are suddenly fine on video calls. But most teams still have some lines they frown on crossing.)

2. Should college seniors go to grad school to avoid the bad job market?

I’m sure you’ve received variants of this question already, but I am desperate for some advice on how to go about job searching in an economy that seems on the brink of collapse.

My college’s advisors are recommending seniors to postpone our entry into the job market by enrolling in a graduate program. While I was considering going back to school at some point, I don’t know what I would want a higher degree in, and I haven’t started the application process. Additionally, I’m graduating without debt, but would have to take out loans for a master’s program, which I’m not keen to do. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t apply or attend right now, but of course, these are not normal circumstances. Any advice?

Aggh, I hate that they’re blanket recommending this to students. I’m sure it seems like an easy escape option to them, but they should really talk to people who tried the same strategy during the 2008 recession and emerged from grad school to discover it had made their job searches harder, not easier … because employers often assumed they didn’t really want the job they were applying for if it wasn’t in the field they went to school for. It also can limit you by requiring you to find a higher-paying job than you might otherwise need since you need to pay back grad school loans, but without actually increasing your earning power (so now you’re in a tight job market with a ton of jobs off-limits to you because they won’t pay enough for your loans).

By all means, if you want to work in a field that requires a graduate degree, go to grad school. But if you can’t explain why you need the degree or you’re going because you don’t know what else to do in this job market, it’s often a very bad (and expensive) idea. At a minimum, they should be talking you through those downsides, not recommending it as a panacea.

3. Will my old manager sabotage me if she knows where my new job is?

After securing a new job, I left my last company because of a bad manager. I don’t want that former manager to know what company I went to, at least not for a few months or so, so I didn’t tell any of my former coworkers the new company name. I told them I’d share it later, as there was someone whom I didn’t want to know, and I didn’t want anyone else to be in the awkward position of keeping a secret.

I am not connected to the former manager on LinkedIn, but she could easily look me up. Some of my new coworkers have already connected with me on LinkedIn. Now I’m wondering, when should I update my employer name on my LinkedIn profile?

Could my former manager even do anything to sabotage me in my new position? My new manager doesn’t know her.

It’s possible but not likely — and really depends on how vindictive and deranged your old manager is. In theory, she could badmouth you to people at your new company, but if she doesn’t know people there, it’s unlikely she’d do that … it takes a relatively rare kind of awfulness to contact total strangers in an attempt to sabotage someone. How much to worry about that depends on what you know of her. If she’s just a garden variety bad manager, I wouldn’t worry about it. If you’ve seen her go out of her way to try to hurt people, then maybe.

But there’s nothing wrong with waiting a few months before you update LinkedIn. If anyone asks about it, you can just say you haven’t gotten to it yet (lots of people aren’t super on top of LinkedIn updates as long as you’re not in a field that depends heavily on it, like recruiting.) You’d also probably get some peace of mind if you block your old manager on the platform.

4. Can my company cut us to four days a week and make us take PTO for the fifth day?

In this crazy time, my company, to somehow save money with all of us working from home, has decided to cut us from five days a week to four. We also have to use our PTO time to make up that fifth day. This was, they said, in order to not have layoffs.

We don’t know what’s going to happen when we run out of time. We get 15 days a year, but some have already used days, and others have days scheduled. Will we just suddenly one check drop to 80% of our salary “until things change”? Is making this change starting immediately even legal? Is it just skeevy? Am I overreacting?

Sure, a four-day work week seems cool, but not at 80% of my current salary. I can’t pay bills on that.

A lot of companies are doing this right now as a way to avoid layoffs. Often their hope is that their revenues will start to recover in a few months and this will buy them time meanwhile. Whether or not that’s realistic depends on what field you’re in and what those projections are based on. In other cases, companies aren’t necessarily expecting revenues will pick up in a few months, but doing this is better than moving straight to layoffs right now. They’re trying to make it work, and they don’t have a lot of options.

In any case, yes, it’s legal. I don’t think it’s skeevy unless they’re rolling in money. Lots of businesses genuinely can’t afford to keep people employed when business is way down, even if they’re hoping for an eventual recovery, and they’re looking for ways to avoid cutting people outright.

But I’d also brace yourself for further cuts — layoffs, furloughs, having people go half-time, etc. It’s happening all over the country right now.

5. Should I offer to pay the insurance on my company car?

I am a senior manager at a large-ish nonprofit. We’re anticipating a 15-20% shortfall in income this year because of COVID-19.

My role requires a lot of in-state travel, and I am one of about five employees who drives a company car as my primary vehicle. I’ve been working from home for the past few weeks and the car has just been sitting in my driveway, except for the few times I’ve made personal trips to the store.

My coworker suggested offering to pay the insurance on “our” vehicles this month since the only use they’re receiving is personal, not business. (If it matters, our positions — and the vehicles we drive — are 100% grant funded and we’ve already received the check to cover expenses through May of 2021.)

On one hand, I don’t really like the idea of the company spending money for me to use something that belongs to them. On the other hand, I really don’t like the idea of making personal payments for the use of a business item. It’s probably a moot point because I’m 99% sure we’d be turned down if we made this offer, but it might be worth making as a gesture of goodwill. What’s the right thing to do?

Don’t offer to personally pay for a business item. Yes, it’s true that you’re getting some benefit from the car right now when your organization isn’t — but it’s not like you’re taking it on week-long road trips. You went to the store a couple of times.

The company needs to keep the car insured whether you’re using it or not, and frankly it’s better for the car to get used occasionally.

{ 392 comments… read them below }

  1. Basement designer*

    Related to OP 1 – I am not familiar with Zoom, but our company uses Skype. So far, all of our conference calls were on audio only (to save bandwidth), and I mute my mics unless I have things to say (to avoid letting background noises through). Is this audio only not an option?

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Sometimes the purpose of zoom is to provide video calls so turning off video defeats the purpose. Sometimes the meeting organizer wants it for good reasons or bad.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        I think that at this time, with classes and work moved online for the crisis, it is far more legit to resist video if you don’t want to use it.

      2. Violet Fox*

        Right now people use Zoom because it works, and it’s relatively simple to set up at scale, not because they have a burning need that everyone *must be* on video all the time.

        1. Fikly*

          Slightly tangential, but Zoom is not working for many right now, likely because of sheer numbers trying to use it.

          1. KimmyBear*

            Zoom also has security concerns which is why some large school systems are switching away from it (Source: NPR)

            1. Violet Fox*

              A lot of the of the issues are honestly in peoples settings, such as allowing guest accounts to join rather than forcing people to authenticate, which is something schools should be doing anyways for the sake of student privacy (not allowing non students or teachers to join).

              A number of the security issues listed in the articles have been patched, some a year ago or more.

              It’s possible also to set it up with end to end encryption rather than going through Zoom’s servers in the US, but one of the things with it is that Zoom takes a bit of time an expertise to set up correctly, as well as to have people continually maintain the setup.

              School systems are not really known for paying their IT people well, or treating them well, and often you do end up getting what you pay for.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                School systems are not really known for paying their IT people well
                That was my takeaway from the two years when i dated a liberal-arts college professor. He’d bring me to parties and some of the guests would be IT, with most being faculty. IT was treated by everyone else as the lowest caste, for lack of a better term. People working in IT would usually end up at (unofficial) faculty get-togethers only because their spouse was faculty. As an IT professional I found this attitude mind-boggling and annoying. Turnover was high and yes pay was low.

                1. Eukomos*

                  Oh, anyone considered “staff” gets treated that way, not just IT. The hierarchy issues in academia are mindblowing. If you’re not tenured/tenure-track faculty or upper administration, you’re treated as a fundamentally less valuable human being, even by faculty who are otherwise lovely people. And the people who are in the valued class live in terror of being somehow proven to be not good enough.

              2. HQetc*

                I agree with a lot of this, and I do think that Zoom has done some good work responding to some of the issues raised both now and in the past, and they are managing a huge increase in usage. However, Zoom video and audio calls are not actually end-to-end encrypted: Zoom still has access to the video and audio, though they say they don’t use that access. They actually addressed this in a recent blog (link to follow) noting that “there is a discrepancy between the commonly accepted definition of end-to-end encryption and how we were using it.” The chat can be end-to-end, the video and audio are not (unless you are running your own Zoom instance, which 99% of us are not doing).

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          +100. We already had GotoMeeting, so we are using GotoMeeting. Some people use video, most don’t. my understanding is that the orgs that did not have the need for an online meeting tool and so never used one before, are now going with Zoom. I cannot think of a single reason why I have to see all my teammates on video at all times. We have screen sharing in Goto and it suffices for all our work needs.

        3. Rachel in NYC*

          Many of my colleagues don’t put their video on unless the intent of the call is to have a face to face meet-up. The only time we’ve found it beneficial is if you have a person in the group who tends to take notes and then goes silent (me!)- it is difficult for everyone else to know if the phone or internet connections have been lost.

      3. Black Bellamy*

        If the meeting organizer asked me to turn on my video my reply would be sorry I can’t. I’m pretty sure this would turn super-awkward for the organizer if they persisted.

        1. Anonapots*

          This. I hate the video part and nobody on our meetings is being asked to use it. If you want to, great. If you don’t, that’s fine. The important part is you’re on the call.

        2. HoHumDrum*

          Can I briefly advocate for using video?

          If it’s a meeting where people need to actively participate, I have a really hard time moderating my contributions without the added visual cues provided by video. Moving everything digital has really demonstrated to me how much I rely on watching people’s faces to discern a) if they’re done speaking/about to speak and b) how they’re receiving what I’m saying. In a big lecture style class/all staff meeting where my role is to just listen, no video is fine (definitely preferable) but in a meeting/class where we all need to talk I’ve noticed its much, much harder without video.

          1. A*

            Understood, but also some people find video distracting. It’s impossible to please everyone. There was a thread only a few days ago saying almost exactly what you did – but in the opposite direction.

            1. HoHumDrum*

              I mean I figure as much, just in the sense that people’s needs vary so much. I guess the real answer is we all need to just be a lot more forgiving than usual about gaffes and annoying behavior. So if your colleagues keep accidentally interrupting you, or ramble on too long, or clearly missed part of what you said, or are too twitchy on camera, or don’t contribute enough, or etc etc etc, maybe we all need to just learn to let that stuff go?

      4. TardyTardis*

        When you’re in an area with limited bandwidth, sometimes limiting the number of people on video is a good idea.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s similar for Zoom. I’m honestly surprised that they’re having students in any class larger than 10-20 students turn on their cameras. We’re on 100% remote instruction right now, and almost no one has the at-home bandwidth to run video and audio without connectivity or quality problems. Even our business meetings on Zoom are primarily video-off depending on each person’s connectivity.

      Which is all to say that it’s off-putting that OP’s classmate is vaping during class, but I can understand why the classmate may not have fully integrated that their video works both ways. I find that sometimes when folks are on video conference, they forget that they’re also on camera.

    3. Violet Fox*

      Generally speaking, yes to pets, animal coworkers/study buddies, turn off video for vaping/eating etc.

      At least for Zoom meetings where I work, it isn’t odd to occasionally turn off video for bits of time for the sake of spouses, kids, etc as well since we’re all a bit squished space-wise.

    4. LGC*

      It is – and she should be able to focus only on the host (the professor leading the class) and not have to look at Vapebro depending on her settings. But that might not be how the class works. She might have to be able to see all of her classmates.

      1. gsa*

        Yup. My wife works at an International IT type company. The CIO just a message that said no more Zoom, use Teams.

    5. Oxford Comma*

      I find people vaping very distracting in the best of circumstances and these are not the best of circumstances. If it has to be done, people need to turn off their video and mute their mic.

      1. Bluesboy*

        Genuine curiosity – why is it distracting? I feel like I’m missing something. It isn’t loud, you can’t smell it. For many years people would have smoked in meetings, and it wouldn’t have been seen as a distraction, unless for the smell (not an issue on a video call).

        I don’t vape, so I’m not trying to defend it, I see it as akin to eating in a meeting, which isn’t particularly professional. But I don’t quite get why it distracts people.

        1. Aquawoman*

          I have ADHD and my eyes are drawn to pretty much any movement. If it’s in peripheral vision, that’s worse. So it could easily be distracting for me for someone to be making the repeated motion of lifting the device to his mouth. When people knit in gatherings, I am distracted by that also.

        2. Myrin*

          I can’t speak for others but personally, I would’ve found smoking on video distracting as well. I find smoking in person distracting (the movements, I mean; I abhor the smell but it’s not just that) so I’m unlikely to find it not-distracting on video where I see the person in question in a much more condensed environment.

        3. KayDeeAye*

          Repeated movements are distracting, that’s for sure. While I think something like drinking coffee is OK to do in a meeting (video or in person), even there, if someone raised their cup really often, it might be distracting too. If taking the occasional sip of coffee is fine, and eating is bad, vaping is somewhere in the middle, but I’d say it’s closer to the “bad” end of the range.

          But honestly, I think the main problem with vaping is that people who don’t do it (which is most of us) really dislike it at some fundamental level. I’m not saying that’s fair, but it’s the truth. And when someone does something you dislike, it’s distracting.

          1. Pilcrow*

            Jumping off the repeated movement thing; for me the difference between a in-person meeting and a video call is that on video the person is always front and center whereas in-person I can focus somewhere else and tune it out more easily. It’s counter-intuitive, I know. I think it’s that I’ve trained myself to pay attention to small cues on screen over the years that makes it harder for me to ignore.

        4. Oxford Comma*

          For me, it’s the sound and the movement. I’m more used to seeing/hearing this on Twitch streams. I don’t like it there either, but since I’m using Twitch for entertainment and because the stream is under the streamer’s control, I have to put up with it and/or mute till they’re done.

          While I 100% understand that we are not living in ordinary times and the unexpected is probably going to occur, I think if you’re going to be vaping, eating, etc., it’s good etiquette to mute/stop your video on a conference call.

          1. Cube Ninja*

            Longtime vaper here – if you’ve never heard someone vape at close range through a microphone while using a garbage laptop speaker or headphones… well, consider yourself lucky. :)

            In my book, if you’re not on video and remember to mute your mic, go nuts. Otherwise, avoid.

            1. A*

              Exactly. I vape, and I’ve been enjoying being able to throughout the day for a change – but I wouldn’t dream of doing it on video. Not only because my employer is tobacco free, but it’s just so… unprofessional. Know your audience / read the room kind of thing. I leave it in another room when video conferencing so I don’t accidentally reach for it on impulse.

              On calls when on mute? Sure!

              That being said, I have zero sympathy for the whole ‘repeated hand motion’ thing. People drink coffee, eat, knit etc on conference calls. It might be distracting, but isn’t specific to vaping so I don’t think that is valid. Unless they are also honestly thinking those actions should be banned as well. There are far better reasons to avoid vaping on a conference call than ‘motion’.

          2. Tidewater 4-1009*

            Seconding the need to mute! The Zoom calls I’ve been on automatically focus on the speaker – or the loudest noise. For some reason hardly anyone mutes so when they move their water bottle or phone or set their cup down, the focus switches to them. This is how I know the loud squeaking and rubbing sounds that sound like a machine shop were the guy with big headphones adjusting his phones. Please mute!!!

            1. Mhoops*

              You can change that viewing option if you want. That’s speaker view where it changes to the speaker constantly. In the the top right corner it should say Gallery View. Click on that and it will change to everyone being an equal size on your screen. I hate speaker view. It’s good for very large meetings where many ppl might be contributing at length but I almost always use gallery view.

              1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                We are having large meetings where many people contribute, so it works for me. Sounds like Gallery View would be distracting for me!
                I had never used Zoom before the quarantine and only done video on my computer once in history.

        5. KR*

          It does have a distinctive sound. My husband would vape so loudly I’d pause the TV sometimes when he used to vape. Kind of like sucking air through a semi clogged straw.

        6. Person from the Resume*

          I am in the mid-40s. At no point in my career did people smoke in meetings. It would be very distracting because it’s “not professional” because people can’t do it in person meetings.

          I would not be continuously distracted, but I would notice anyone showing up on a business call in pajamas. OTOH someone wore a cat onesie to tell a cat related story at a virtual storytelling show and it was funny and charming because she was performing and silly costume was appropriate.

        7. Elitist Semicolon*

          I would find it distracting because of how close (just under normal working setups) people’s webcams are to their faces. What I see on my screen is what I’d see if I were standing with my face 12″ from theirs – or if I were standing closer, if I’ve got them on the big monitor and suddenly their normal-sized human head is taking up all of a 19″ flatscreen. Any kind of close-up face-action going on while I’m trying to talk or listen would feel waaaaay too personal to me for that reason – having my face 12″ from theirs in person would be uncomfortable, and the obvious fact that they’re on my monitor isn’t enough to overcome the illusion that I’m all up in someone’s grill while they’re doing a mouth-thing.

    6. Tidewater 4-1009*

      I read about the audio only to save bandwidth here and used it on a zoom call for volunteering. It was OK, but then later when I was in an audio only call with my coordinator she was clearly uncomfortable – raising her voice and not letting me get a word in. After that I switched back to using video. It seems to help with communication because we can see each other‘s faces and body language.

    7. OP*

      You can use just audio, but especially in smaller classes (10-15 people) the professors prefer them to be on. You can also only control your own audio/video, and my colleague seems to have no desire to turn hers off.

      1. Mhoops*

        The professors should have ppl muted. The meeting host can control all of that. For a large class or call I’d have ppl muted on entry.

  2. Four lights*

    #2 Don’t do it! At one point in my life I ended up living back home with my parents, with no job and a master’s degree. I realized that I would have been better off if I had never gone to college and stayed working at McDonald’s. Things turned around, but the point is don’t go into the red if you don’t have to. Even a minimum wage job would be financially better than that.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      That is such epically awful advice. Terrible, bad. I can barely fathom it.

      Going to grad school is not a terrible idea if you actually want to and know what you want to study and it’s a good economic investment for your future (ie you will be able to pay off any debt you incur.)

      Going to grad school and racking up debt just to avoid job hunting is so dumb I can’t believe the people offering advice went to a college, much less work at one.

      1. Artemesia*

        Agreed. Almost never go to grad school unless you have a burning intellectual interest in the field and see a career in it. If you always wanted to be a lawyer, then go to law school. But for garden variety masters programs — nothing makes you less employable than an advanced degree with no experience. And debt too. After you have worked a few years, you may want to get an advanced degree that furthers your goals — but never go because you can’t think of anything better to do and don’t want to join the army.

        Get whatever job you can until you can find something in your career track. One of my kids graduated into the 2008 mess — She has a great career today — there were a couple of miserable years.

        1. PollyQ*

          Working in the field a while is also a good way to make really sure that it’s something you want to do so much that it’s worth the time & money you’d put into an advanced degree.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            And also, working in field for a bit will let you know how much utility and if it’s really necessary to go get a masters. This was the case with my hubby – thought while he was in college that he would need to get a masters, but he wanted to work for a bit to pay down some of his loans before going back to school. Once he got out in the field he discovered that for his field a masters was necessary if you wanted to focus on the more academic side of the field; but it was just about useless for the fieldwork side.

            Oh, and the advisors were somewhat mixed at his university about getting that masters degree. Some were saying everybody needs one, some advised getting some experience and then coming back for the masters. I only remember him mentioning one advisor saying not everybody needs an advanced degree.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          I’m someone who went to grad school. I was going into an academic field that requires a PhD for most jobs, I got full funding for the degree (through a combination of TA work and departmental grants) at a good university, and it was in a field that has better job prospects with a PhD if you leave academia than if you stay.

          Going into debt to get a random Master’s degree in the hopes that it will somehow turn into career success is a very different prospect, and pretty terrible advice. My impression of a lot of fields is that a Master’s degree by itself (compared to getting one on the way to a PhD) is often more useful after you have work experience, and are at a point where the Master’s degree gets you access to promotions. In my hard science field, a Master’s by itself doesn’t actually do much good – either you can do the work with a BSc, or you need a PhD. The MSc is mostly a stepping stone for the PhD, or for people who want to teach at the pre-university level.

          1. serenity*

            Going into debt to get a random Master’s degree in the hopes that it will somehow turn into career success is a very different prospect, and pretty terrible advice.

            As someone who works in higher ed, I think this is 100% spot on. Getting a graduate degree for the sake of it, especially in a field you will not be working in, is not advisable during the best of times let alone during a global pandemic that is shortly going to turn into a global recession (or depression).

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          OR want to switch careers. My MBA got me out of the ‘light tech’ fields I’d been in (tech support, HTML web page designer) before I had to dig into a Serious Programming Language to get a job / advancement.

          1. JobHunter*

            I second Jules. My professional experience was transferable to the career I wanted and my graduate work, so the higher degree made sense for me. It also was hard to get a job because the trend in hiring had switched to requiring a MS by the time I graduated. It also didn’t help that one of the major players in my new field had merged with another company and had let 50 experienced people go in the reorg. The advanced degree gave me the book knowledge I needed, but it was the combination of work experience and education that made people look at my resume.

        4. Overeducated*

          Another anecdote: I also graduated into the 2008 recession. I wanted an MA to enter a low paid nonprofit field, and went into an MA/PhD program instead to avoid debt. It took my struggling friends who didn’t go to grad school a few years to get their feet under them, so by the time I could have left with the free MA in 2011 I looked around and said “noooope,” but just a year later they were mostly doing better and it took me about a year post-PhD to catch up. However, my friends who went to the standalone MA program for the nonprofit field mostly have awesome jobs and are *still* struggling with debt loads.

          Takeaways: Debt is bad, especially if your degree isnt going to net you a big salary, avoid if you can. Hitting a recession in your early 20s is also really tough. PhD programs are long (and I finished in record time – a little under 6 years).

        5. Sam.*

          And *definitely* don’t go to graduate school if you’re so uncertain you don’t even know which degree you’d be pursuing. I used to advise undergraduates and even in perfectly fine economic circumstances, many who weren’t super confident about what they wanted to do with their lives defaulted to “I should go to grad school,” and I was sure I’d develop a reputation with students for trying to talk them out of this plan, ha.

          But seriously, don’t go to grad school unless you have a burning desire to do so or a burning desire for a career in a field that requires a specific graduate degree. It’s a lot to pay (literally – if not in debt, at least in lost wages in the short term – and mentally/emotionally) if you’re not sure you want or need to be there.

        6. Anon Anon*

          I’d go further don’t go to grad school unless they are paying you. Never take out extra student loans for grad school. The only exception is professional degree programs like med school, where there is pretty much a guaranteed job at the end of the thing.

        7. DataGirl*

          I agree. And make sure you research the heck out of job prospects before committing to grad school (or even undergrad programs). I enjoyed grad school, but I still owe the same amount on my student loans as I did when I graduated 12 years ago because making minimum payments only pays towards interest, not principal, and I picked a field that is a) Totally over-saturated and b) Pays terrible (library science).

        8. nerfherder*

          “nothing makes you less employable than an advanced degree with no experience”

          I wish I could paint this message in neon on everyone’s forehead.

          I went for an M.S. in an attempt to get a better job, but without having a real, concrete plan about how it would get me there. It was an “in demand” field, and everyone had me convinced I’d be fighting off employers with a stick just by getting the degree. Ha! If anything, my fancy M.S. dealt my career a blow it will never completely recover from.

          I had several years of work experience when I went into the degree, but that experience was in administrative roles. Once I graduated, employers looked at my resume and saw someone with lots of secretarial experience who clearly wouldn’t be happy with secretarial jobs, but hadn’t actually done anything outside of school to qualify her for non-secretarial jobs. I was a bad candidate for EVERYTHING.

          Eventually, finally, I found someone who would hire me as an admin again. I had to straight up lie in the interview and pretend I’d gotten my M.S. to improve my admin skills. Which obviously I didn’t, but someone was desperate enough to give it credence and give me a job. Then I was an admin with an M.S., and that’s not a great look: employers wonder what’s wrong with you that you have an M.S. in a field you couldn’t break into. It signals very clearly that you were flailing, that you were not strategic. Which…yeah.

          I’ve moved into project management since then, largely using my admin skills to sell myself into the role, and it’s like my M.S. never happened. The only saving grace is that I didn’t have to go into debt for it.

          Whenever I see people considering grad school because they want to improve but don’t know EXACTLY how that one particular degree will get them from point A to point B, I want to shake them.

        9. Pennalynn Lott*

          I recently got a Master’s in Accounting (immediately after finally finishing my Bachelor’s) and not because I have a burning intellectual interest in it. But, rather, people with a Master’s automatically get offered $10K/year more than those with just a Bachelor’s (in my area of accounting). That and the two key certifications I obtained (one while in grad school and one a few months after graduating) garnered me a higher title and $25K more per year than my cohorts who stopped at a Bachelor’s.

          Assuming I don’t get furloughed in the upcoming weeks and months, I’ll be able to pay off my grad loans in under two years.

          1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

            Accounting masters are an exception to this, assuming you actually want to be an accountant. They’re essentially Trade School for Business.

            I went back to school (a 2008 college grad) in 2014 for a MS in Accounting because I wanted to actually get a job that wasn’t bartending, and I knew it’d get me one.

            But “just go to grad school while the economy levels out” is NOT “get a master’s in accounting so you can have enough hours to sit for the CPA and be a highly marketable entry level accountant” advice.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Absolutely. And as Polly notes, one of the benefits of work experience is that it helps clarify whether you want/need to go to graduate school to pursue or advance your career. It also helps you figure out if you actually want to stay in the field you think you want to enter.

        I would never encourage someone to go to grad school to essentially kill time and rack up a ton of debt—this is incredibly irresponsible advice. Unless your goal is to enter academia or a profession requiring a graduate degree (e.g., social welfare, urban planning, law, nursing, teaching, medicine, engineering), you will put yourself at a distinct disadvantage when you do join the labor force, and you will make yourself more financially vulnerable/precarious.

        There are certainly career paths for which going straight to grad school may make sense. But it should not be proposed the way OP is describing.

      3. Fikly*

        Yeah, I genuinely do not understand how people go from “the economy is going to be horrible for the next x number of years” to “hey, you know what you should do? Go get tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, with no guarantee that the economy will be any better when you finish, or that the degree will help you pay off that debt!”

        Like…where is the logic in that?

        1. SomebodyElse*

          The cynical me says there’s great logic if the one giving the advice is the one most likely to benefit from it.

          Face it, universities and colleges are notoriously bad at giving career advice. Add to the fact that those same people suggesting this are the ones to profit by the tuition, college seniors are better off getting their advice from tea leaves or magic 8 balls than from universities.

          1. Amy Sly*

            Exactly. Asking people who work for colleges whether more college is a good idea is like asking a Phillip Morris salesman if smoking is a good idea.

            Though I will offer the less cynical explanation that they may recommend more college not just because they’ll profit, but because most of them know so little about the rest of the world they honestly don’t have any better advice.

          2. Fikly*

            But so many of the people giving this advice are not associated with schools, in my experience.

            Unless they are just people blindly repeating what people associated with schools have been saying, which….humanity tends to do, to be fair.

      4. Perpal*

        Sometimes I feel like academics can’t fathom anything other than academia and don’t care to even try. I have many mixed feelings about higher education (interesting? Yes. Expensive and actually aware of how much they cost and what the payoff is? Hmmmm….)

        1. KRM*

          Oh yes. I didn’t even get an interview at GWU because I did not specifically state that I wanted to go into academia after obtaining my degree. Given the academic climate (in 2004 even!), it’s super short sighted to only want your students to stay in academia. There are so many other opportunities out there!

          1. Friendly Comp Manager*

            That’s really interesting! 2004? That is intense. I graduated in 2004 and the environment then seems so different than now, but then again, I was not applying to universities with a lot of prestige, I went to a small private school near home and was very happy there.

            Some people in academia are operating in a echo chamber of repeated ideas, and also not being challenged on those ideas the same way that people operating outside of it, would be challenged, because they don’t have that outside perspective. That is part of why when sociologists or economists who have ONLY worked in academia say “X should be done Y way,” I really question… do they know what challenges would happen in the “real world” that may not make their ideas ideal?

            I highly value ideas and ideologies posed by academics, but I also run them through other filters, and don’t ever think to myself, “Oh they have been studying this for 20 years, so their way must be the best way.” Not necessarily. :)

        2. JustaTech*

          Yeah, I actually had my undergrad professors ask me to come do a talk (never happened) with the students about the options for life after college *other* than going straight to grad school and into academia.

          I think professors tend to suggest it because, in my field, that’s what all of them did. None of them ever worked in industry or even government, so they just don’t know what’s out there other than academia.

      5. Smithy*

        While Four Lights comment about not going to college is extreme – I really can not say that just going to grad school right out of undergrad is a great investment.

        I went to grad school immediately after undergrad to study a topic that *at the time* I really wanted to study. However, as a senior in college, while I knew what I liked to study – I really did not know how that translated to the professional world. I didn’t know how to bridge my academic interests to a professional future.

        Long story short, I ended up going to grad school twice. Once right after undergrad and a second time when I had more insight on what I wanted to do professionally. And for MANY jobs, the grad school debt you incur is not one that many careers easily allow you to pay off.

        I would heavily advocate for not immediately going to grad school as a way of bypassing this situation. Instead, I would explore what options there might be in context of recent graduate “gap year” activities. Living with parents and volunteering intensely for a year, Americorps (if that exists right now), something – anything, with a lower overhead cost than graduate school that still could be resume building.

      6. Free Meerkats*

        And don’t forget that it’s not only an easy escape option to them, it’s also a revenue stream for their employer. So of course they push it.

        You’re graduating with no debt, keep it that way. Which would you rather be, underemployed with a Bachelor’s and no debt now or underemployed with a graduate Master’s and a bunch of debt in 3 or 4 years

      7. theelephantintheroom*

        Exactly. Grad school is too difficult to do it for such stupid reasons. If OP doesn’t WANT it, they’re more likely to fail/quit and then have to deal with the job market and any extra debt they may have racked up.

      8. Llama Face!*

        “Going to grad school and racking up debt just to avoid job hunting is so dumb I can’t believe the people offering advice went to a college, much less work at one.”

        Almost like they have a financial incentive to convince more students to pay for additional unnecessary schooling…

    2. JediSquirrel*

      Yeah, I went back to school for a second bachelor’s, rather than a master’s. It has been useful, but not profitable. Still have loans to pay off. Ugh. Cannot believe they are recommending this.

      This is kind of like McDonald’s telling customers in its dining room “We’re under quarantine now, so you’ll just have to sit here and eat Big Macs until everything is over.” Um, no thanks.

      1. Reality.Bites*

        I’m pretty sure if McDonald’s actually offered quarantine with Big Macs on demand they’d get plenty of takers.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Now THERE is a science fiction business model for luxyry hotels…a quarantine building. Two week waiting period in total isolation in a waiting suite, then come on in.
          Same deal for employees — two weeks to come in, then high pay because they’d be on no-contact. Heck, have a school inside and let the employees kids go as well.
          Have fun getting home after appendicitis…

    3. Grad School LW*

      Thanks for the input! Did your undergrad/master’s degrees ever end up being useful to you once you established yourself? If you’re willing to share, I’d also be interested to know what field you’re in, because I imagine the usefulness of degrees varies between them.

      1. Four lights*

        My bachelor’s was in English, which is very useful in many fields, although not as useful in applying for jobs. My masters was teaching, which I did for a year, but I decided it wasn’t for me. I ended up getting a paralegal certificate and doing that successfully for many years, and the English degree was definitely helpful for that, as it required a lot of writing.

        Before I became a paralegal I had gotten a job doing data entry during tax season as a temporary worker, and then ended up being promoted to a supervisor. So that goes to show that sometimes you really don’t know where your job journey is going to take you, and it’ll take you in strange but not necessarily bad places.

        One piece of job search device I have is get the book What color is your parachute?

        1. Blaise*

          In my state it’s more or less required to get a master’s as a teacher. You can get around having one, but you need to basically do the same amount of work so you may as well have a degree to go with that. So I have a master’s degree, and it was worth it. I’m on a higher track on the pay scale because of it too.

          Of course, I’ll never be able to pay off my student loans, but that’s just part of the job unfortunately…

          1. Charlotte*

            Yeah, I’ve actually decided not to go to grad school because of the current situation. I’m pretty bummed about it because I had a specific plan in mind with good employment prospects, but I don’t feel comfortable leaving my stable job when we’re on the brink of a recession. Shifting to looking into moving up at my current employer even though that’s not what I’d wanted.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I’m considering grad school with my employer paying for a few classes at a time. However, I’m going to wait to see if work from home continuous after initial round of quarantine because I can’t do it if I am on a long commute.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                Forgot to add … my employer only pays job-related class work, so it would only be if we can reach middle ground between MBA and a profession specific degree that I would consider.

        2. Quoth the Raven*

          My bachelor’s was in English, too. Since I live in Mexico (where the main language is Spanish), my degree also focused very heavily on translation, which is what I do for a living now. I love it! Since going for English in my country requires a very high command of both languages, my bachelor’s makes me a very strong candidate for this field, so it ended up being useful.

          I’m not entirely sure I’ll pursue a Master’s, even with public education being tuition-free and (for the majority of degrees) supported by scholarships for other expenses as long as you’re not actively working (so you are trading years of professional experience for the degree if you go that route). Speaking with other people down here who studied the same I did, if I were to go for anything related to my Bachelor’s, my professional options would be mostly found in teaching or academia, which I am not really interested in (been there, done that, wasn’t my thing). I could go for a Master’s in Translation Studies, but I might as well save myself the grief and take specialisation courses instead, or go for a second Bachelor’s in something that would directly benefit me professionally.

          1. Zona the Great*

            Public policy or public administration would get you into the running for State department jobs here. That would be cool. You could be a spy!

            1. Marcel the monkey*

              Even this advice is flawed. The State department puts a premium on diversity of experience and specifically designed its application process to be open to people of all backgrounds. You absolutely do not need a public policy degree to get a job. A degree in ANYTHING qualifies you to apply, and having a degree in public policy/administration/international affairs doesn’t make you any more qualified than an applicant with a degree in art history/engineering/beekeeping.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            People needing translations DGAF for degrees in translation studies. They are much more likely to appreciate a background in their own field. So if you want to specialise in legal translation, for example, you’re better off with a degree in law. For business translation, you’re better off with a degree in economics. I’m a translator too, but I got my degree at the University of Life, and I’m specialised in textiles. My background for that was quite simply that my mother taught me dressmaking as a child, so I knew the names of parts of garments. Most of what I have learned, has been the result of doing very thorough research in order to produce the best possible translations.

        3. Bostonian*

          YES. Seconding What Color is Your Parachute. I usually don’t go in for any type of self help book, but the exercises in this book gave me a really clear picture of my experiences, strengths, weaknesses, and ideal working environment. And it forced me to think about all of these things with concrete examples in mind, so I was very well prepared in interviews once I started job searching.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m a lawyer, so I needed to go to law school to pursue my career path. However, I worked between college and law school, and I don’t think my undergraduate major qua major has ever made a difference for landing a job. My first post-college jobs were the result of (1) working/interning like crazy during college, and (2) transferable skills.

        I love my undergraduate major program because it helped me develop critical thinking skills, trained me in particular methods of analysis, and exposed me to really smart and interesting classmates. It was incredibly academically satisfying for me. But it didn’t seem to affect my applications to entry-level jobs.

        Aside: I entered the post-college workforce a year before the Great Recession and certainly felt its effects. Most of my friends faced long job searches and were underemployed across all sectors/fields.

        1. Amy Sly*

          Yeah, my advice for people going to law school is to ask yourself these questions:

          1. Can I do this without borrowing money?
          2. Can I get into Harvard or Yale?
          3. Do I know someone who will hire me afterwards?
          4. Can I afford to work for free for some time after graduation to get experience pro bono?

          If you can’t answer yes to one of those questions, then my advice is DON’T DO IT! Law school is not a guaranteed ticket to an upper middle class life. It may be my only purpose in life is to serve as an example to others — in which case, please listen.

      3. Asenath*

        I was in teaching, was unsuited to it, and took a masters that I hoped would help me switch to a related field. It didn’t. I never even got an interview or a job in that area. I did like one of my short-term contract jobs that I took to help with the bills. I stayed 17 years, and it changed to permanent full time. I got decent pay and benefits too, but didn’t need a master’s degree to get it. I would NEVER advise some to take a university or college program without knowing it improves job prospects or, if they can afford to do it as a hobby, a very strong interest in the field. I’ve known too many people who started a program basically because they didn’t know what else to do . Mostly they ended up with lost time and big debt. In my case, I at least had a reason for taking the degree, and even so the gamble didn’t work out.

      4. Master Librarian*

        I graduated into the 2008 recession and went to graduate school to escape my student loan payments; I have a Master’s in library and information science. It has worked out for me, as I’m now 8 years into this career and it really suits me well. But in hindsight, I picked that program out of total desperation, without much forethought, and could very easily have ended up simply pigeonholed (because a graduate degree does, in many cases, have a narrower focus and indicates to future employers that that is your field) and in a lot of debt. I am still both of those things, but at least I am employed and enjoy what I do :-)

        1. atgo*

          That’s awesome that it worked out for you!

          I came here to share an anecdote for the LW. I faced a similar choice when I graduated in 2009. I was looking into continuing my education at my university mostly just to avoid the job search in such a bad time. I am glad I realized that was my motivation before I went through with it, because the debt would have been a real challenge.

          I was lucky that my undergraduate degree was in a subject that could be easily used in software companies, which wasn’t as effected by the recession as hardware and some other fields. It took me time and lots of applications to find a job, and the one I found was pretty terrible and poorly paid. But, while it wasn’t my hope to go into software, I’ve built a good career out of it from that first experience and have been able to pivot towards work that’s more meaningful/aligned with my interests by having that initial experience.

          We don’t know how long this crisis and recession will go on… I’d avoid taking on debt if it’s not leading to a clear path towards a stable career.

      5. Just J.*

        I’m an engineer in the construction industry. A master’s is not needed. Most firms are happy to hire with a bachelors. But if you really want to skip entering the job market now, an MBA would be worth considering.

        1. Not in US*

          NO Don’t do an MBA without some work experience – even if you have an engineering degree. Sorry I feel really strongly about this. I did an MBA at a good regional school with middle of the road tuition. I did it after about 6 years of work experience and used it to help switch careers. The difference between the students who had even a few years of job experience and those who had basically non was huge. Real life experience is important, especially in a degree program like an MBA.

          1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

            This. You’ll get a lot more out of an MBA degree and be a much more marketable candidate with higher paying opportunities if you have at least a few years of work experience under your belt.

        2. MissGirl*

          Completely agree with Not in US. An MBA is meant to supplement work experience and should be done a few years into your career. I used mine to pivot industries. I have a much better paying job now, but it took a lot of sacrifice and debt.

        3. Risha*

          I was told specifically by my undergraduate professors that you do not go for a MBA without at least several years work experience first. (My degree is in business administration.) Unlike your typical liberal arts Masters, law, medicine, etc., those programs aren’t even designed for fresh graduates and you can’t typically be admitted as one.

        4. Susie Q*

          Also MBAs are a dime a dozen nowadays. You need to go to a Top 25 to be worth the 100K you’ll drop on a program.

      6. Fikly*

        There has been a graduate degree I’ve been considering for a few years, and I consider it an exception to my general stance of don’t go into debt for graduate education/graduate degrees are generally not a great idea.

        1. If I want to work in this field, it’s 100% required.
        2. It’s only a MS, and it’s the terminal degree.
        3. The end job has a massive undersupply of qualified people versus need for them, and this is not going to change soon (demand is only going up, this is not going to change, and it takes time for schools to develop/expand programs to pump out more graduates) so starting salaries are so high you can honestly pay off that debt in 3-4 years while still paying your living expenses. As an example, a few years ago, the number of graduates in the spring was roughly half the number of open positions nation-wide.
        4. Employment rates within 6 months of graduation are over 95%.
        5. Currently, the degree is not so specialized that it locks you into one subspecialty within the field.
        6. There’s a huge amount of flexibility in terms of work environment/type of job. You can end up working with patients in a clinic, you can end up in research or teaching (see the critical need to expand number of programs in MS), you can end up working for a company, you can end up working remote for either group, etc.

        1. MedLibrarian*

          I’m really curious about what degree you’re describing if you’re willing to share.

      7. Perpal*

        My masters was in biochemistry; I do oncology. It’s useful in understanding what I am doing, but I can’t say it’s got any particular direct benefit in terms of salary etc so far. My MD did that.

        1. Perpal*

          It’s quite possible it helped me secure an oncology fellowship, and my masters was part of a joint degree program with the MD, so would I have gotten in to med school without it? It’s really hard to measure those things. I wasn’t originally premed / medical gunner so my app might have been lacluster without the research component/enthusiasm. Who knows if I would have gotten in. I interview some med students and onc fellows these days and I am so humbled sometimes.

          1. Perpal*

            Last comment to myself; for reference, the joint degree program was also supported/paid for. I dropped out of the phd and took a masters in biochemistry, and paid for the remaining portion of med school (2 years) with loans etc. If that gives you a sense of how miserable grad school can be; don’t do it unless it’s actually the path you want. For me the economics were at least 2 more years of (grad school, which was by that point actively horrible) at the cost of (Eventual MD salary; which would be over 5x as much). It turned me off bench research pretty much forever. Now I much prefer clinic and translational research and clinical trials.

            1. Nesprin*

              Yeah, bench research is really not for everyone, and there’s absolutely no way to tell whether you’ll like it without trying it. (I found liked it and hated dealing with sick people, so I’m pretty happy in my PhD track)

      8. Smithy*

        I’m here as a dual Masters Degree holder, and hope this is helpful.

        When I graduated undergrad (in 2002), I was really into the social sciences, didn’t want to move home and didn’t know what to do next. So I went immediately to graduate school (Ethnic and Racial Studies). I went to an amazing program, learned loads, and graduated with honors. My plan for that program was to study hard and make the most of the degree. I graduated completely aimless professionally and had no clue how that degree would connect to a job.

        It was really only after working for a few years as a research assistant on a medical study, that I realized I enjoyed grants management and then sought out my second graduate degree in Nonprofit Management. That degree was not as sophisticated academically and I didn’t bother seeking high grades – but it helped me develop connections and networks so I was able to get a job less than a month after graduating. Basically – I had the understanding that I wanted grad school to do the following a) help me relocate to a specific city b) build networks professional and social networks that city and c) get hired. Academically it wasn’t useless, but I had a plan where the academics were a small part of why I was there.

        This journey ultimately worked for me – but it was an expensive path. Being mindful of that cost, even paying for a year to volunteer, teaching English abroad – something would have been cheaper and likely benefited my resume in the same way.

      9. C*

        I got a Masters in Public Policy after graduating into the 2008 recession and ended up doing digital communications and organizing for advocacy groups after. My first post-masters job wasn’t entry level, but my peers were the same age as me and had spent the time I was in grad school in entry level jobs, not making much money, but also not going into debt like I did. I would have personally been far better served if I had taken that path. I don’t really use my graduate degree now, and I don’t think it has served me in the job market since. It was mostly useful as a hard reset on my job search — a good reason to be interesting on the market right after I graduated.

        Also, I was two years out of college when I went to grad school, and I’ve noticed that a lot of the people in my program who were directly out of college have gotten additional grad degrees, because they didn’t know what they actually wanted when they graduated!

        Basically, if you can avoid it, I wouldn’t do it.

      10. Rainey*

        I’m maybe a bit of an odd person out here, but I graduated undergrad (BA, English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing) with no debt, floundered for a few years (teaching, managing retail, receptionist/admin work), and then got an MFA in Creative Writing from a well-regarded university (not Ivy, but Ivy-adjacent). This was right before the recession – I graduated in Jan 2008. I took out government loans, which I’m still paying off, but my payments are manageable.

        I did not get an MFA with any sort of career strategy in mind; I got it because I love writing, wanted to study the craft, and wanted the opportunity to work with the impressive faculty at the university. But my employers have all seen value in it, which was not what I was expecting because we all know what they say about MFAs and getting a degree in a creative field in general.

        I’ve worked in finance now for about 10 years and currently earn a 6-figure salary as an Executive Assistant. I’ve never had a problem landing a job, and the companies I’ve worked for since earning my MFA have all seen it as a credit, even if I ultimately didn’t end up using my writing skills much. In my current role, I do a lot of writing projects for my boss and our company at large.

        I’m more than happy to admit that I’m probably the exception to the rule. But going to grad school to follow your passion doesn’t always end badly, even if you don’t ultimately end up working in the field you studied.

    4. Shhhh*

      I’m going to echo you: DON’T. DO. IT.

      I went to grad school right out of college. I don’t regret it. I work in a field that requires a graduate degree and I knew for sure (or as for sure as it can ever be) that it was the field I wanted to be in.

      I have a lot of student loan debt, but at least I know it was necessary to get to where I am. It makes the payments a little less painful. I have friends from grad school and friends from high school and college who went through different graduate programs who have the same debt I do and aren’t working in the field they studied, whether by choice or because they couldn’t find a position.

      I don’t regret going, but I know way too many people who do. So when people ask me if they should go to grad school (mostly my sister, who is 5 years younger than me, and her friends), I tell them to only go if and when they need the degree to advance in a career that they’re reasonably sure about. I consider myself lucky that my decision didn’t turn out to be a mistake because realistically, it could have gone the other way.

      Ugh, it makes me SO MAD that there are advisers telling students to go to grad school because the job market is bad. No. No. Nooooo.

      1. Quickbeam*

        When I graduated in 1978 ( different recession) I was told “ just go to grad school”. I went into an MBA program which I hated. Ended up dropping out, cutting my losses and taking a nursing assistant job. 10 years later I got a second bachelor’s degree in nursing.

        I can’t believe they are still giving that awful advice.

    5. (Former) HR Expat*

      I went to grad school in 2009, but I wasn’t coming directly from undergrad. I had a degree in French and German and had been working in call center tech support for about 5-10 years. I was laid off 3 times in 2 years, so I wanted to change my career path. I went to get an MBA with an HR focus. It happened to work out really well for me.

      But I know a lot of people that struggled because they didn’t have as much work experience as me, especially if they were getting different master’s degrees. I think it helps if you know what you want to do and the degree will directly relate to that.

    6. Just a PM*

      I would also recommend caution about grad school. If you’re not really into and it’s not critical to your immediate career, don’t do it. I went to grad school after college but my program ended up turning into the opposite of what I expected (yay, paradigm shift!) and about halfway through, I realized this wasn’t what I needed or wanted. Stuck it out anyway and graduated, but my degree is just a piece of paper and I don’t use any of the knowledge from my master’s program. I don’t regret doing my master’s program, but if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t do it again. (B.A. in English, Master’s in Library and Information Science, currently a govvie in program management/IT. I was a college sophomore when the Great Recession came.)

      If you’re on the fence, I’d wait it out. You always have the option of going back to school if it turns out you really need the degree to go where you want. Plus if you wait, you can always work and save up for it so you don’t have as many (or as high) loans to take out.

    7. KimmyBear*

      My hubby graduated from college when the economy was bad and was given the same advice. After grad school, he was seen as over-educated for many jobs and under-experienced for others and took a lot of random jobs before giving up on the career track.

    8. Golden*

      One of my professional mentors (who has been extremely successful in multiple fields) gave me the advice of “Don’t do a graduate program unless you can get someone else to pay for it”.

      I don’t regret my graduate studies per se, but there are a very small, probably one digit, percentage of people I would ever encourage to go the same route.

      1. Entry-level Marcus*

        This advice is true for PhD programs, but not so much for masters programs. It’s very unlikely you’ll get someone else to pay for law school or an MBA, for instance, but those degrees can be worth it to people who know what they want to do.

        Of course, if you don’t know what you want to do, don’t go to grad school regardless.

        1. James*

          In geology, at least, Master’s programs are generally covered by grants. I think many science programs work that way. But if you go into a science grad school program you know that’s what you want to do; no one goes into geology or physics or chemistry at that level as a way to avoid the job market. Not for long, anyway.

    9. BPT*

      Just my experience:
      I went to grad school from 2008-2010 (right after undergrad) for a Master’s in Political Science. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so continuing with grad school seemed like the next logical step at the time.

      Pros: It helped me figure out what I wanted to do. I used the summer of 2009 to intern in DC on the Hill and knew I wanted to come back and get into policy/politics. A Master’s degree did not qualify me for higher level or higher paying jobs, but I do think it did make me more competitive for the entry level jobs everyone was applying for in DC. I applied for about a month after grad school, and started a job in July of 2010. Now, 10 years into my career, a lot of the jobs I’m applying for in the government affairs space specify that they prefer the candidate have some sort of degree beyond a Bachelor’s, which is helpful to me.

      Cons: Like OP, I didn’t have any debt from undergrad, and I had to fund grad school through student loans. It has been limiting to my financial situation, and the higher degree didn’t help me get a higher salary. Plenty of people also started in DC right after undergrad and got the same types of entry level jobs, so they got a two year head start on me (though as I said for the higher level jobs I do think a Master’s made me more competitive).

      My suggestion would be for OP to take a hard look at what they want to do. Try to get a job in your field the first year after you graduate, and/or intern. If you can’t find a job within a year, maybe look at going to grad school. But also look at jobs you think you’ll want once you get a decade of experience – what types of qualifications do they want? What makes a candidate more competitive? I would suggest getting work experience first if you can to make sure you know what you want to do, but look at all options.

    10. MatKnifeNinja*

      My two relatives graduated with a degree in elementary school education in 2008. Did the MAT to avoid the terrible job market.

      What happened is public school district hire the cheapest teachers they can find. A master’s degree automatically bumps you up to the next pay scale. They can’t pay you at a BA/BS level no matter how much you want them too.

      Neither cousin ever did more than substitute teaching at public/private school. Not only did they have to do minimum wage jobs unrelated to their field (couldn’t even get hired in for day care/preschool), they had all that ungodly debt of the master’s degree.

      New grads be very very careful about that advanced degree, and really know your field. My cousins would have been better off taking any job with a BA/BS and worming their way into a permanent position, then pricing themselves out of the market.

      They both went back for an unrelated degree, and are working now. Still trying to pay down three different students loans. I wouldn’t wish that stress on anyone.

    11. Rachel in NYC*

      So many kinds of agreement. I don’t regret my graduate degree and still hope to actively use it- even if I don’t have a clue how. (Plus it did help me get my current job.)

      But the number of people I know who have never used and never will use their degrees or have debt from unfinished masters degrees is…concerning.

    12. Nesprin*

      Entering PhD class of 2009 here (STEM discipline, everyone’s stipend (20k/yr) and fees were covered for the PhD, but not MS). My classmates who got their masters are largely not employed within the discipline, and this is a high demand stem field.

      My class was an average of 2 years older than the year before us, since lots of folks (myself included) had been laid off or had their careers stall in the financial kerflooey. There was a huge gaping difference between the people who’d worked before and people fresh out of ugrad- the former knew why they wanted to be there and what they needed to do, the latter largely did not.

    13. Cascadia*

      Yup – I graduated from undergrad in 2009 and went straight to grad school. I had no debt from undergrad, but incurred $40k in debt from my 2 year master’s program that I’m still paying off today. Because, of course, it took me years to get a decent paying job and I struggled to even pay the bare minimum on my loans in the beginning. While I don’t regret it now, because I wouldn’t have gotten my current (great) job without a masters degree, it was a long road to get here and I wish I had worked for at least a few years before going to grad school. I also knew this was something I wanted to do – there were a large number of people in my program that did it because they couldn’t find a job, or wanted to give it a try. Many of those people found that they didn’t like our field, and they racked up a ton of debt for a degree they can’t use. One of them is doing the exact same job she was doing before grad school, for the same salary. A lot of them really struggled to find work. Going to grad school is sooo not worth it if you don’t even know what you would study. It’s an easy choice that puts off the real world, but it’s not a smart choice. As someone who lived it, don’t do it!

    14. boop the first*

      Life is weird that way. I paid out of pocket for a little bit of college here and there, nothing useful. Worked for minimum wage, now pretty much unemployable even by fast food standards, but we also have zero debt and a paid-off apartment in an expensive city, so… pretty much every decision we make is just straight up gambling.

    15. Zanele Ngwenya*

      In my experience graduating at the height of the great recession with a liberal arts degree, grad school made sense because I got a tuition waiver and tiny stipend when no one was hiring. I think that’s the only time it makes sense (when it’s free), because earnings potential and the ability to pay off debt were never going to be great in public service. That being said, I’m a little salty seeing Gen Z come into my field with bachelor’s degrees at the same pay rate no problem without any of the years of experience and qualifications we had to patch together through Peace Corps/Americorps/Fulbrights/grad school, etc… Every millennial I know in my field has at least a master’s and so many lost years of earnings and advancement opportunities from all the volunteer experience we had to do while all job openings required “5 years experience”. I feel like the master’s was just there to keep me afloat until there was a job market again, so it makes sense to me to go this route when you need to.

    16. HoHumDrum*

      God, it sucks so bad that the American education system is set up in such a way that it’s a *bad* idea to get more education unless you have a specific career that needs it. In no fair world would that make sense. Every educational experience that I’ve had, directly applicable to my career or not, has taught me valuable skills and knowledge that I do believe helps me in life. And yet, it is bad advice to soak up as much schooling as possible. I just…*sigh*

      – someone who loves school and dreams of a world where I could spend my life earning countless degrees

      (to be clear, I don’t disagree with you or Allison on this, I’m just complaining about the system we live in)

    17. Tidewater 4-1009*

      Working minimum wage with no debt *is* financially better than having debt and not being able to get a job.

  3. Grad School LW*

    Hi all! I didn’t want to overload my question with details, but for additional context, I’m looking to work in politics. I was hoping to move to DC after graduation and find work at a politically-oriented non-profit or (ideally) on the Hill. These are hard to break into at the best of times and I’m unsure of how the impending recession is likely to affect these areas specifically – if anyone has any thoughts on that, I’d really appreciate it!

    (Also, I don’t see grad school as a firm requirement for this type of work, but please correct me if I’m wrong!)

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      You don’t need to jump right in at the DC level. You can start smaller on more local jurisdictions/races and work your way up.

      1. Intermittent Introvert*

        I suggest you consider learning specific skills as you look for jobs. Can you take a class or complete a certificate at a local community college? My husband, an engineer, was laid off several years ago. While actively looking for a new job he took some open entry electrical classes at the local technical college. He found a job that wanted his area of expertise AND some electrical. What kinds of skills would be useful in your field? Technical writing or social media? Take advantage of a low stakes way to beef up your resume.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          DC, and law and politics, in particular, are not going to be impressed by a community college class. I would not spend the money on one for a Hill job. Unfortunately, the Hill is more of a who you know once you meet the basics of what you know. The recommendation above to get involved at a local level is a good one – I know several people who started out in a legislator’s local office and transitioned to DC.

    2. Ranon*

      It’s an election year- is working for a campaign or something along those lines in the cards? This recession could be really really weird compared to past ones given the cause is so different from the past few we’ve been through, if you can land something for a year or so you’ll be in a much better place to evaluate the whole grad school thing.

      I’m not remotely in politics but I graduated undergrad in 2008 and managed to through luck and who knows what else find a job in a recession hammered industry and went to grad school in 2010 with a little real world experience under my belt and a much better idea of what I actually wanted to get out of grad school. That work experience put me in a better spot for working during and after grad school, too. And gave me a touchstone for evaluating when academia was being ridiculous, which is pretty valuable too.

      1. Grad School LW*

        Re campaign work – maybe! My concern is that a lot of entry level jobs involve voter contact (like going door-to-door) and I’m guessing that’s out of the question in the current environment. Doing slightly higher level work again requires the kind of experience I’m not sure I have as a freshly minted grad.

        (And so glad to hear of someone who graduated in a recession turning out okay, because all I’ve been getting are horror stories).

        1. JediSquirrel*

          Not always! A lot of campaigns are reaching out via phone calls (ugh!)/social media/video calls/etc. This work still needs to be done!

        2. Dan*

          I graduated right after the ’01 tech bubble burst, and then from grad school in ’08. So I guess I have two “graduated into a bad job market” badges under my belt. Life turned out fine. I’ve never spent more than few months jobless. Worst for me was actually sequestration in 2013, when I got laid off. The joys of being in a “government adjacent” job is that things are generally ok when the economy at large is humming along, but the flip side is the Hill likes to play games with budgets. That stuff is a far bigger threat then a recession for us/me.

          I’ll say, however, that this market is going to be worse than many in recent memory. My company is fiscally very healthy at the moment, but even our management has said we aren’t going to hire as aggressively as we were originally planning this year, for one reason or another.

        3. Willow*

          My brother is a campaign staffer and there’s still tons of work to do remotely. Recruiting, training, managing volunteers to phone and text bank for one.

        4. Ele4phant*

          I work in a political consulting – campaigns are still happening. Fundraising and trying to reach voters is still on.

          Also – what about lobbying? Once the recovery starts, a lot of organizations are going to be asking the government for lots of different things. Why not be one of those people?

          I don’t know that I really have advice, but try networking the best you can, for now. Set up as many zoom coffees as you can and chat people up. Start laying groundwork now and cultivating connections.

        5. lost academic*

          Actually I can think of something you might want to do in terms of further education that will only be more sought after with every passing year – data analytics! There’s a greater and greater push to collect and analyze data on the electorate. There are firms that handle that as contractors, but I see a lot of value to being able to have your own in-house expert or at least reasonably capable staffer to work on that part. If nothing else, more statistics is never a problem. But what you might do is consider doing that part time (post-bac work) so you’re not tied to a degree program (probably pretty late to try and find one for the fall anyway) and then you can find some paid work, relevant or otherwise, part time or full time. I know finding anything in the short term will be hard. But take a hard look at what political offices, consultants and campaigns need (i.e. what are they spending money on) and see if you can develop a baseline of skill there.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Data analytics is a good suggestion. Hell, I’m even thinking about taking some post-bac classes in it since many companies across industries need people to interpret the data they collect to make better business decisions.

        6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          One option that should be hopping in an election year is voter registration, protection, and advocacy. If you get into it on a local level, these organizations often work with other groups (e.g. disability rights, various ethnic/racial groups, youth) which will give you some connections.

        7. Lisa*

          What did you study in undergrad / what other internships have you done? Entry level campaign jobs can also include anything to do with social media, phone calls, internal organization, and depending on your background, research or writing. I don’t think grad school is worth it for this, and campaign / politics jobs are definitely hiring. Email me at if you want to talk about this more.

          1. Grad School LW*

            I studied political science and economic (predictable). I’ve interned in D.C. every summer of college, and in election years I’ve worked for a Senate and a House campaign. (I have other work experience too, but less directly related). So I felt okay about my chances before all this hit!

        8. C*

          Campaign digital staff here! ABSOLUTELY do not go to grad school. You can do entry level organizing online, and grad school is not valued in this industry (I have an MPP — it’s worthless). The people my age who did NOT go to grad school and instead used that time to work low-level jobs were not making much money, but unlike me they weren’t actively going into debt, and we all ended up in the same place.

          There are still tons of jobs in this field, and it’s a field where experience is exponentially more important than degrees.

        9. Another worker bee*

          I graduated in a recession (2008). It was terrible. The only people I knew who got real jobs were rich boys who went to work for daddy’s company. Recent college grad unemployment in the area of the country I was in was something like 60%.

          Anecdotally, a lot of my friends and I ultimately went to graduate school after a few YEARS suffering on the job market, and largely, it worked out for us. Granted, I went into a PhD program, so I was on scholarship and many of my friends did the same. The ones who paid went to very name brand MBA programs.

          In our case, by the time hiring was picking up in 2010/2011, we were now competing with the fresh grads who had the resources of their school behind them, fresher skills, less jaded, etc, so getting that grad degree was a nice reset – we came out into a strong economy in 2014-2016 while also being more marketable candidates.

          That being said – all of the people in this story went to grad school at 25ish after a few long, hard years – we had a lot of time to do the math and think about what we were getting into, plus grad school admissions were more competitive in those later years of the recession. So it was not a knee jerk reaction and we are all (mostly) doing what we went to school for.

          1. ele4phant*

            “That being said – all of the people in this story went to grad school at 25ish after a few long, hard years – we had a lot of time to do the math and think about what we were getting into, plus grad school admissions were more competitive in those later years of the recession. So it was not a knee jerk reaction and we are all (mostly) doing what we went to school for.”

            Yes, not to downplay the seriousness of what we’re facing, it’s pretty clear that it’s going to be pretty dire economic straihts for awhile….buuuuuttttt it’s been a month. We’re not even close to being out of lockdowns yet. Let’s get our arms around what the fallout is, and look for the opportunities.

            I’d say in the short term, try to connect virtually with anyone you can, maybe volunteer to do digital for a campaign, and be open to opportunities/what the world seems to need as we settle into our new normal.

            I wouldn’t make life altering plans like up and going to grad school just yet. Maybe apply, I guess, if you have time on your hands, but at best, will you even be able to go on campus this fall anywhere? Who knows?

      2. BeeBoo*

        I also graduated in ‘08. Took a few months, but I found a full-time job (receptionist style a non-profit). I went back to grad school in 2011, and of all my classmates, had the easiest time finding a job (and at a higher level than the rest my classmates), because I had work experience on top of my masters degrees. Only go to grad school now if that’s what you really want.

      3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        Campaign volunteering is a good idea. And it doesn’t need to be for a specific candidate for a first experience, there are organizations that run educational (aimed to first time voters or less favoured communities) or fact checking programs.

    3. Dan*


      Please be aware that “These are hard to break into at the best of times” is slang for long hours and little money. I went to school in DC, but studied engineering. When I was an undergrad, my friends where getting up at like 4am for their unpaid internships on the Hill. Me? I was sleeping in and heading to my co-op paying $17/hour. (This was 20 years ago, and the point is that I was getting paid and they weren’t.)

      My advice to you is find a real niche and build/work your way into it. That’s what I did, although my daily working life looks more like that of an engineer as opposed to a policy wonk.

      For the sake of conversation… a few months ago, I was shooting the breeze with my waiter at one of a “happening” restaurant in DC. The waiter told me that he was working on ag policy for some senator, but it didn’t pay much so waiting tables it was for extra cash. I asked him how he got into ag policy and he said, “I studied ag in college, and when I applied for the opening with my senator, he said I was the only ag major. Everybody else was poli sci.”

      I’m not saying it’s easy to find your groove. It can take some false starts and what not, but if you take the path that “everybody” takes, you’ll be a dime a dozen and pretty much get paid like it if you’re lucky enough to land a paying gig.

      All that said, I don’t think you can “just go to grad school” and find a job on the Hill later. If you go, you’re really going to have to get into your major/specialty and do some stuff to stick out. You want people to hire *you*, not just some old warm body.

      1. Grad School LW*

        Hi Dan – thank you! To clarify, do you work in politics? All your points make a lot of sense, although it is unfortunately a bit late for me to switch up my very typical undergrad majors of economics and political science.

        1. Dan*

          Yes and no, and I suppose it depends on what you mean by “in politics.” Everything my org does is for the federal government, we’re a *huge* non-profit that supports like 8 different federal agencies. When you do work like that, by definition, it’s more or less “in politics.” That said, I never go down to the Hill (senior management will from time to time) and my work looks more like that of an engineer than that of a hill staffer.

          So here’s the deal… I think you have a very good foundation to get into the things you might want. Grad school may or may not be a waste of time depending on how you play it. If I were looking at grad school, I’d look at advanced studies in public policy or further study in economics. Either way, pick a program that is more technically focused — that is, emphasizes working with lots of data modeling. Those are skills that you should be able to pick up in school and are very in-demand, Hill or no Hill.

          The reason grad school may not be a waste for you is for the technical skills and the ability to synthesize more complex data models. As an undergrad, the things I learned were rather cookie-cutter. You learned how to follow “the recipe”, e.g., get the answer in the back of the book. In grad school, I learned how to work with more abstract and open ended problems… put it this way, in grad school, you work on stuff where the answers aren’t in the back of the book.

          1. Grad School LW*

            That’s actually almost exactly what I was considering (in addition to data science-y programs) so it’s good to hear that echoed here. Do you have any thoughts on going to school now vs. later? (As in, is it more of a risk to go into debt for the degree or to end up sitting around unemployed in my parents basement until this crisis resolves itself? I realize this calculus is individual, but I’m eager to hear other opinions).

            1. Dan*

              You’re going into debt either way, right? It would be one thing if you were expecting funding but were too late to make the cut this year, so you have to wait until next. But if you’re paying no matter what year you go, then it doesn’t matter as much.

              Trying to time an economic cycle is pointless. If you’re truly going to sit on your duff in your parents’ basement, you may as well go now.

              I’m not as anti-debt as most people are. You’ll notice from my other post that I came out of school with quite a bit of it, but my part of the political landscape is reasonably well paid. Do I *wish* I didn’t have the debt? Yeah. But when I went to grad school, I worked out all kinds of scenarios with opportunity cost and what not, and all of my calculations told me to suck it up and go. It was probably a good thing too, because I started grad school in the fall of ’07. If I would have waited a year to “save money” working at my then “just above minimum wage” job, I may very well have been out on the unemployment line when the cycle peaked.

              BTW, data science is a good bet too, especially if you have a decent economics degree (I don’ t know anything about what they teach at the undergraduate level these days.) I built some economics models in grad school as well as my first post-grad school job. While I certainly knew how to build a decent data science model, the one thing I learned at the end of all of that is that I didn’t have the first clue about economics.

              FWIW, things may (or may not) be changing, but data-sciencey jobs tend to be a “masters degree preferred” sort of thing. A majority of the technical staff in my org have a masters or PhD. Those that have “just” a BS tend to be computer programmers, where graduate education isn’t as necessary. The real-world nuances and ambiguities of good data science modeling tend to require skills beyond what one picks up at the typical undergraduate level.

              As I’m sure you’re figuring out from these exchanges, going to grad school to kill time is a big waste. But if you’re going with the intent of getting something out of it, there are many things that you could benefit from.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                I agree: trying to time an economic cycle is pointless. Especially in this field, which has such strong and predictable cycles.

                Find a campaign to work for this year, while the campaign market is relatively hot, and decide about applying to grad school for fall 2021. If you end up with time / no job in January, look at data science classes.

                And yes, the data science field is changing fast – BA + certifications is becoming widely accepted. It seems like it’s becoming an extension of Comp Sci, in employer’s minds. (I’m an MBA with Econ/ Poli Sci undergrad, Supply Chain / Procurement for the last decade, looking at moving to data science, so watching job posts for the last year or so; the post requirements have changed noticeably in that time…)

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              Before you apply to a data science program, look at the program and see what skills are required and what the subject matter is. It’s very math/statistics and database-heavy. You may also be able to test out some data analytics basics if your local public library gives you access to or another e-learning platform that would let you take a look at Power BI or Tableau or something to get a flavor for it.

              I would honestly not dive right into grad school if you don’t know what you want to do or you don’t know that it’d help you on the way to a career that you actually want to do. You also may not need to go into debt to earn one, if you can find an employer that reimburses fully or partially for job-related classes. (Full disclosure: I have a “for fun” master’s degree, but I knew it was for fun when I started and that I’d have to pay for it. I went part-time to a public university and paid as I went. No regrets, but I wouldn’t do debt for something that I didn’t know would pay off in my career.)

              Politics in DC is hard to break into. Honestly, Hill work is very low-paying (if at all), and it’s a lot about who you know. You’ll be competing with the children of VIPs, many of whom have Ivy League degrees and/or JDs and can afford to do unpaid internships until they develop the relationships to do higher-level work. If you don’t have connections, I’d look at an entry-level position at your local level first, and then look at entry-level jobs at policy shops or even law firms with a policy bent. Larger firms often have one- to two-year entry-level positions that break you into the field/work. It’s not glamorous – summarizing committee hearings, doing research and writing on weedy policy issues, being a go-fer between offices/the Hill – but you’ll gain skills that look good on a resume and meet people in congressional offices.

      2. Alice's Rabbit*

        Agreed. I lived in DC for years, and studying PoliSci is pretty much the worst thing you can do if you actually want to work on the hill. They have thousands of PoliSci majors with no life experience who are willing to work for free, just for the clout of having worked for Senator so-and-so or lobbying for thus-and-such.
        The only thing worse is having a Masters in PoliSci. That just means you spent even more of your life buried in academia with nothing but a piece of paper to show for it. Oh, and a heaping pile of debt that no entry-level job in DC can pay off.
        Seriously, take a few years to work, whatever job you can get. I mean that quite literally. Someone who spent a year pumping septic tanks will bring more to the table when applying for those highly coveted jobs on the Hill than any Masters degree. Because you’ll have hands-on knowledge of infrastructure and regulations that the other applicants won’t. That’s just one example, of course, but literally any job will teach you things you can apply on the Hill, and most will pay better, too, so you won’t be in debt until it’s time to start paying for your own kids college educations.

        1. Dan*

          It’s funny you mention pumping septic tanks. I took a few years off between undergrad and grad school, and part of my job responsibility was cleaning toilets. I have a desk job now that pays pretty well, and I’m often sought for expertise when real-world knowledge is required for certain projects.

          Some of that knowledge people need *me* for, I acquired while cleaning toilets.

          1. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

            Also, getting a blue collar job means you spend time hanging out with and working with blue collar people on an equal basis. If you don’t already have that, it can be a valuable experience, especially if you are going into an intellectually arrogant field. Especially especially if you hope to be making decisions that affect blue collar people sometime down the road.

    4. Ked*

      I am in politics (though at the state level) and I’d say a grad degree is what you make of it. I wouldn’t recommend going straight there unless you think you’ll make connections in the area you want to work in. There are people with a bachelor’s doing huge important things and people with a Masters answering phones. Caveat that state politics are easier to break into than DC.

      Re campaigns, face to face voter contact is pretty curtailed right now, but folks are still working (phone banking, virtual fundraisers, remote debates). I’ve heard that some hiring is delayed but don’t know how long that will last–I’d imagine it will depend on your area, when your primary is, etc. If you’re interested I would reach out to any contacts you have or your local party and see who they can put you in touch with.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I wouldn’t go to grad school in order to enter politics. In my experience (which is admittedly skewed), the number one factor in landing a political job and advancing in it is relevant work experience.

      There are a few ways to enter the field before you try to jump to DC. If you’re interested in nonprofits with advocacy arms, work for your local affiliate. If you’re interested in legislative positions, consider working for your local elected official (e.g., local government or your state government reps) or in your state capitol. Some states have “honors” programs where you essentially do a fellowship working for your state senator or rep. Additionally, working on a campaign can be useful if your candidate wins (and a lot of those jobs do not require voter engagement or canvassing)—although many of these campaigns do not necessarily pay their campaign volunteers until they decide to bring someone on as staff.

      Finally, PoliSci and Econ are not necessarily helpful for landing a Hill job. With the exception of STEM careers, your undergraduate major has very little effect on how employers perceive you or your candidacy. They care more about your skill sets or your subject matter expertise, but the latter (expertise) is often the product of prior work experience.

    6. Hex Code*

      Graduate degree is absolutely not a firm requirement for the type of work you’re talking about. I work in DC and know many successful mid-career professionals who just have a bachelor’s. The main thing is that *any* entry-level political campaign, Hill job, or even for a private firm or nonprofit, will be very low-paying. So the key thing is to keep your expenses as low as possible so you can afford to do that. And to do it while you’re young! You don’t want to be driving your boss home at midnight after a floor vote when you’re forty. Twenty-three, it’s a little easier to do. I echo the suggestions to get state or local work to get your foot in the door, I’ve seen many people do that. The upside of this lower-paying experience is being able to cash in on it later with a higher paying lobbying gig or being able to write your ticket for the kind of nonprofit work you want to do.

    7. purple otter*

      I graduated from college in 2010 so a couple years after the pits of the great recession but the job market was still pretty meh, and honestly, my friends who went to grad school right after college did worse or the same as friends who worked for a couple years before going back to the school. The only exception are the friends who went into medicine.

      The worst part of graduating into a recession and a terrible job market is that they will want “experience” for entry level jobs. Like 5-10 years of experience for things like filling envelopes. I interned at USDA HQ in DC the summer I graduated, so I don’t have experience in politics, but having that office experience landed me my real private-sector job the following summer. (What was I doing in between those summers? Working a terrible low paying data entry job to barely make rent.) Having that intern experience was more valuable than having a master’s degree, and I work in a science/technology field.

    8. EPLawyer*

      Do not do it. I went to school to get my MA at a time when the non-profits were hiring advanced degrees. Graduated into the downturn in the late 90s — and all non-profits pivoted to needing a law degree in the field I wanted to be in. So I went to law school. Graduated in 2008. Yeah, I have great luck.

      You do NOT need an advanced degree to get into politics or work for the non-profits related to those. The absolute best way to get in is to volunteer (yeah, privilege), or work on a campaign. Extra schooling does not help you.

      If you go to grad school THEN want to work at those non-profts, you can’t. They don’t pay enough to pay your student loans and let you live. The forgiveness program related to non-profits is a hot mess. 99% don’t qualify even after working for a non-profit for 10 years because the rules keep changing. It is not worth the risk.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Oh I forgot my MA was in international relations. A degree in IR or Public Administration, etc. will not get you in the door. Get those AFTER you start getting establishedin the field in order to advance.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        When I got out of college in the 90s, I moved to DC thinking I would work on the Hill… but I didn’t know that all of the entry level jobs would require a law degree AND be unpaid. (Possibly I could have learned this in advance?? We were dumb back then.) Anyway, I finally got a receptionist job at an advocacy nonprofit and stayed in the nonprofit world.

    9. Elizabeth Proctor*

      Two suggestions

      1) Volunteer on a campaign to get some experience. You may not be making money, but you also won’t be going into grad-school level debt. Maybe you’ll even get a job out of it (but don’t count on that, since that’s probably what most volunteers are aiming for).
      2) If you do decide to go to grad school, figure out an issue area you would want to focus on policy-wise and go to school for that as opposed to something more general like public policy or political science.

    10. Leslie Knope*

      Hi there, DC-area policy analyst here! I graduated college during the global financial crisis and went right to grad school for a Masters in Public Policy. I ended up with a very fulfilling career with the federal government. In my experience a recession can affect the job market in this field differently than other fields. When I was job searching in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the federal government was doing a lot of hiring, particularly related to the Recovery Act and other stimulus programs. Conversely, many nonprofits faced financial challenges and were not hiring. However, people who graduated grad school just a year or two after me faced a much more dire job situation when the federal government’s attention turned to fiscal consolidation and hiring slowed. In a volatile time like this I would recommend focusing on what skills you want to build and what kind of work you want to do (data analysis? analyzing legislation? fundraising?) and be flexible about what kind of organization you want to work for. Thinking about what skills you would like to have will also help determine if grad school is right for you. As others have said, you can get a job in this field with a bachelors, but the kinds of jobs you’re able to get will be different.

    11. ynotlot*

      Living in DC is really expensive – think like $2400, your portion, to live in a small apartment with roommates. So I would recommend living in Baltimore and commuting ($750 to live by yourself or like $400-$500 with roommates, and the MARC is like $5 or something), or start in a cheaper area and start at the ground level in local politics. A nonprofit is a good idea and probably doesn’t even need to be politically oriented – anything where you’re recruiting/building community/advocating will be good experience. Remember each city and state have their own governments and they need people too!
      If you do work on a campaign, especially a major campaign, it’s really long hours and somewhat seasonal. If you work on a presidential primary campaign and your candidate drops out, you may be hired on by whoever your candidate endorses, or you could just be laid off. It pays pretty well though.
      Anything you can do in analytics/data/database management is going to be useful and relevant and will increase your job security.

      1. BPT*

        Ok this is a quite a bit off – I live in a nice one bedroom by myself in Adams Morgan, DC, for $2400. You can absolutely find group houses or roommate situations for rent of $1000-$1500 per person.

        1. Annie*

          Agreed. If you’re paying $2400 to live with roommates in DC, you’re doing something wrong. $1000-$1500 is much more realistic.

        2. revueller*

          I second this. Also, do not underestimate how much energy a commute will take out of you. If you need to commute from Baltimore in order to survive on your wages, absolutely do that, but if you can afford to stay close to DC, it makes a difference in your energy levels and how easily you can network (DO NOT underestimate the power of the DC happy hour).

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Nope. DC is expensive, but it’s you can houseshare for way less than $2400/month in perfectly nice places to live. $2400 is more studio/living by yourself money.

        I also cannot recommend commuting from Baltimore (!) at all. DC commuting is soul-sucking. I live 15 miles from the District, and my commute in is an hour long on a good day. I cannot imagine coming in from B’more, particularly on a day that MARC, which shares tracks with Amtrak and CSX, is backed up or canned or having to live by the train schedule in a job like politics where the hours are long and unpredictable. Metro is bad enough, why add MARC to it?

    12. Think tank anon*

      Hi LW! I work at a big DC think tank, which is a little different from the Hill but still might be something you’re interested in, it sounds like. I echo others on here—getting a grad degree with no work experience will do very little to help your job prospects. The most effective ways I’ve seen to get your foot in the door have been to do internships (I hate the post-college internship on principle, but it definitely helps those who’ve never worked in DC find that elusive entry-level job). Fortunately, there’s a growing movement in politics for those to be paid (and minimum wage is $15/hr so that’s just about survivable if you live frugally and don’t already have much debt). You could also look into political-related temping (check out Politemps) though that may well be harder now. And beyond that, just apply to every entry-level job you’re interested using Alison’s tips on here, and try not to get too discouraged. It’s a rough numbers game but everyone recent college grad I know who’s moved to DC has gotten a job in the first year, though many have had to grind for a while. Good luck!!

    13. BPT*

      OP, I wish I had seen this post before I commented on the one above, but see that for my experience of going to grad school right after undergrad, and then coming to DC to work. I’m a lobbyist, working in public health advocacy. If you don’t have intern experience, get that first, especially on the Hill. On the Hill you won’t be paid for it, but it’ll be cheaper than two years of grad school, if you can swing it. While you’re interning (assuming you’ve graduated at that point), apply for every job you can in DC. Entry level at nonprofits, associations, lobbying firms, think tanks, the Hill, anything. You just need to get a foot in the door somewhere, and it might open up areas you hadn’t thought of. But experience and adding things to your resume will be the most important thing.

      You can also work on campaigns as other people have mentioned this year if you can’t find anything actually in DC. However, I don’t actually agree with what others are saying about working for state government or nonprofits, if you really want to be in DC. It’s so much harder to break into DC from outside it. And state politics is different than federal. (The only exception would be if you want to be the state policy person at a nonprofit or association). But it’s much easier to step out of DC and go back to a state if you decide you don’t like it, than to start in a state or local setting and then move to DC.

      1. Grad School LW*

        Hi! Thank you! Can you speak to the utility of an internship on the Hill vs. more general internship experience? I’ve worked for a House campaign, a Senate campaign, for one of my Senators, and in various think tanks and non-profits in D.C. that worked closely with the Hill, but not on the Hill itself. Do you think it’s still valuable to intern post-grad for that foot in the door?

        1. Former DC-er*

          I’m not BPT but can comment on your question. I graduated from college in 2009 and moved to DC to work along with a number of college friends. I had a job when I got there, working for a Senate campaign for which I’d interned a few times already (school breaks, etc). My friends, by and large (maybe to a one–I can’t remember any exceptions) all started out after graduation as post-grad interns. They had all had a variety of internship experiences during college, both in DC and outside of it, and had been heavily involved in politics in our college state. The main three of whom I am thinking all eventually got full-time jobs in DC, more or less as a result of their internships. Specifically, two people who worked for private companies that performed campaigns support functions (one doing various phone contact stuff–telephone town halls, voter contact stuff, etc, and one relatively prominent polling/consulting firm) were ultimately hired by the companies for which they interned. My sense is that those companies used their internship programs (at least one of which was paid) as sort of screening mechanisms for hiring.

          The third person had a Hill internship and was eventually hired by a different Hill office; the internship experience was a positive in their ultimate hiring. I’ll also say that, while I don’t advise Gumption or similar tactics, being local and being able to sort of stay on peoples’ radar screens is valuable. That was the case for the Hill hiree I referred to above–he knew someone personally, though not super well, in the office that hired him, and was able to have beers with that guy, check in with him periodically about entry-level openings, etc. It’s not an automatic job offer or anything close, but it kept him top of mind, meant he was easy to hire from a logistics perspective (no need to relocate), and I think gave him a little bit of a leg up in what I suspect was a pretty large pool of highly-qualified-but-not-particularly differentiated applicants.

    14. Prairie*

      I graduated in 2011 and it was still a very tough job market. I did an AmeriCorps program and it was definitely the right thing for me. You wouldn’t be able to do advocacy or campaigning but you can get a great introduction to nonprofit work, especially in VISTA programs where AmeriCorps members do admin work. I did NCCC which is a series of direct service projects (e.g trailbuilding, camp counselor-ing, building houses). It wasn’t work I was going to do professionally but because I worked for a few different organizations I got to learn about how a bunch of different nonprofits operate.

    15. Ann Perkins*

      I graduated in ’09 with an undergrad in political science so I know where you’re coming from. I strongly considered an MPA and using it to be a career bureaucrat, not because of a burning desire for that career, but I didn’t know what else to do. Looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t go the masters route just because there were no jobs at that time.

      A great option to consider, if you haven’t already, is doing a year or two of volunteer work through an AmeriCorps affiliated group. You obviously won’t make a ton of money, but you’ll have expenses covered and it’ll get you some great experience that will make you more employable when the economy recovers. At least in my experience, when 2012 rolled around after the last recession, there was an oversaturation of young lawyers and recent graduates from grad programs who had little to no work experience. If you do go the volunteer route, do a lot of research on the organization and try to connect with some alumni, as programs can vary widely in experience.

      (My BG on this: undergrad in political science, then volunteer program in social work, then paralegal for a few years, now in financial regulation)

    16. These Old Wings*

      I spent several years working as a political media buyer in DC. I would absolutely recommend you do something more like this rather than grad school if you want to break into politics. Ironically, quite a few of my coworkers had advanced degrees in public policy and political science, but as others have said, it’s extremely difficult to break into politics with degrees alone, so many people end up in other areas. I both loved and hated working in politics, and after 2016 I had to take a break and now do retail media buying. It can really burn you out quickly depending on what you’re doing. But I would definitely try to work in something political-adjacent before going on and getting a graduate degree that will leave you with little experience and competing with thousands of others in the same boat. Good luck!

    17. SpiderLadyCEO*

      Oh my gosh, I know some people have said this, but this is a great year to get into politics. And honestly, it’s an easy field to get into. I’ve been working in politics for 6 years now, and it was really easy for me once I started making connections. And I can tell you that my firm is hiring now.

      The one thing I would advise you to reconsider is going straight to DC. I live here now, but I moved all over the country before I ended up here, and I’ve had some great jobs. You can also work on local campaigns, they tend to be great places to network and meet people, and that will take you above and beyond in politics.

      You’re right in that a lot of entry level jobs involve door to door, and that’s not happening right now. Others have mentioned that has gone to phones, and they are absolutely correct.

      But direct campaigns for candidates aren’t your only option – you could do opposition research, or policy, or mission oriented non-profits. I would check out your local government and see if they have anything, and all your local races and elections. You can also check out Idealist, there are tons of jobs on there right now.

      1. SpiderLadyCEO*

        I realize I said “easy” which isn’t exactly accurate. I had a lot of trouble finding work when I first started, but it’s true that I tripped and fell into my career, and my connections early on got me a bunch of increasing jobs. I did have an 8 month period of searching before I got my current role, but I had no clue what I was looking for. So your mileage may very.

    18. Anonymous just for this*

      I’m a political science professor in a department that has a middling-quality MA program, and we see lots of people in your position (not just when the economy is tanking – people have all sorts of reasons for finding the job market tough). Here’s my perspective, in case it’s of use.

      My university and department leadership would advise you to do the MA and tout its value to you. I disagree and think you should listen to the commenters above. My colleagues and I would rather have you in our program only if you’re interested in the work, not just killing time or looking for a credential. And not because of some sort of ivory tower purism – of course credentials matter in many contexts and people have to be practical. But people who are killing time in grad programs tend not to see much intrinsic benefit and often don’t make great members of their cohort (they might be less motivated, less interested in the work, etc.). Go to grad school when you’re there for substantive reasons, whether that’s now or later, and you’ll probably get more out of it. Ideally, go only when you get funding at a program that’s a decent fit for you, but definitely don’t go when you’re not sure of its value to you.

      Best of luck on the job market – I hope you find something you really love!

    19. Zanele Ngwenya*

      Grad school is not a firm requirement for what you are interested in. More helpful perhaps later on would be a law degree, although also not required and many don’t have it who work as legislative assistants on the Hill. Make sure you intern at your legislator’s office asap, either locally, but preferably in DC. Network like crazy (called “getting coffees”) in DC while you’re there- hit up your Uni’s alumni network in DC, etc… And you will find a job, even in these times if you are competent and apply to everything.

  4. Please Don't*

    #2 My son graduated in 2008 and kidded that he failed to get the memo that he was supposed to go to graduate school or the service. He did neither and found a job 13 hrs from home (9 hours from school). He has since moved back to where he went to school and is doing very well. You may need to spread a wider net.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I think a lot of people can use this advice. Don’t be afraid to move… possibly very far away. You really have to go where the jobs are.

      1. SpiderLadyCEO*

        This!!!!! I moved cross country for a job very early in my career. I was really fortunate in that my organization paid some of my moving expenses, but I moved in my car and drove 3,000 miles to do it.

        Since then, I’ve moved all over the country, met some amazing friends, seen some amazing things, and did a good enough job that I now work at HQ – much closer to my home then the role I originally accepted. I am so happy I was willing to move.

    2. Chinook*

      I agree with the advice to cast a wider net and want to add not to discount more remote locations. If I wanted to go back to teaching, I could more easily find a job in a place in the middle of nowhere than near any city, but I prefer to live with my husband, whose job location is chosen by his employer.

      The motto best to embrace is “You can choose where to live or how to earn a living, but rarely both.” If you can do both, then you are very lucky.

  5. dealing with dragons*

    #4, my salary just got cut 10% after a huge furlough, so now I’m doing twice the work for less pay and I don’t get a three day weekend out of it (I get a no day weekend). I’m not sure why they’re having you burn PTO instead of doing salary cuts, but right now I’m very willing to do this as my company is still providing insurance for furloughed workers and we’re trying to not furlough or lay off anyone else. I would push back on PTO (we’re all going to need vacations once/if this is over) but be prepared for salary cuts.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Coming to say this. I’m not sure how it saves the company money if you’re still using PTO. PTO is time for which you get paid. If you use PTO for one day, your paycheck should still be the same. If you’re working four days a week and getting 80% of your pay, the fifth day is unpaid AND without taking leave.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        They’re getting a liability off their books. And if they’re in a state that requires vacation be paid out when people leave, they’re lowering that obligation (which ideally they would explicitly acknowledge).

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Ah, that helps. Still deeply frustrating for employees, but I see how it can help the company.

        2. Courtney*

          In a lot of companies in Australia (where I live) the PTO is a separate line of ‘wages’ in the budget, meaning the money is there and set aside, and asking people to use it saves the company money from the ‘true wages’. And as Alison pointed out, it lowers the payout obligation if the person has their position terminated, which would lower a potential burden on a struggling company. Of course, the laws are very different in Australia – for example we have federally mandated sick and personal leave, which starts accruing from the minute you start work (e.g. I work 26 hours a week, and at the end of my first week I already had 2 hours personal time and 2 hours sick leave, accrued) so I might be off the mark with this :)

        3. Amaranth*

          It seems a bit disingenuous of Company to claim using PTO now is in order to ‘avoid layoffs’ however – should OP look at it as a warning sign that mass layoffs are coming, or just that the company plans ahead for worst case scenarios?

          1. Bagpuss*

            It may also be that they don’t want everyone saving their time off and then all wanting to take it as holiday once things are back to normal, which could be something they are thinking of as well as the implications if they have to make layoffs.

        4. AvonLady Barksdale*

          We’re doing that, and yes, the reason was given. We have a bunch of people who have a ton of PTO and are now being required to use it. It doesn’t mean there won’t be cuts, but I think it’s a good move at the moment.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yup, my company requested that we do this too. (They can’t legally force us to take vacation, but they can ask real hard.)
            I don’t mind doing it at all, but I’m full up on vacation and even without all this I wouldn’t be going anywhere until October anyway, so why not get some rest and be helpful at the same time?

        5. WantonSeedStitch*

          Thanks for explaining that, Alison. I was confused too! So doesn’t that mean that the OP will actually be getting paid for all five days, but that one of them will be paid as PTO rather than work time?

        6. BPT*

          Yes this was what was confusing to me – the OP mentioned taking PTO for the fifth day, but also talked about their paychecks being 80% of what they were. Was that just the OP’s fear, or is the company actually making them take a pay cut and take PTO? Because the two shouldn’t be done together, right?

          1. Risha*

            I think it was that they’d switch that day to unpaid once her PTO runs out or make her take an equivalent pay cut.

        7. dealing with dragons*

          That makes more sense. I’ve never run a business with employees nor really taken any business courses but I figured there was a reason! I am trying to save up my PTO for maternity leave so I’d be pretty upset :(

        8. Lauren*

          In regard to the pay cut though, its not a clear cut thing for partial unemployment. I’m still working FT hours, but at a 20% pay cut. I’m in Mass and I can’t find any info on pay cuts (only if hours were cut) or if there is an income ceiling on whether I’d qualify for partial unemployment. Any resources out there by state?

    2. Cas*

      My company is doing this too. 10% pay cut and all employees required to take minimum 10 days annual leave by June 30. Some people will go into negative balances but it gets the leave liability off the company’s books. Considering we had 100 redundancies before Christmas most of us think it’s a good move on the company’s part – at least no jobs were lost. I’m in Australia.

    3. It’s me*

      My salary was cut 15% temporarily but we are expected to work our normal hours. Executives and owners took a larger paycut. We had lots of furloughs and layoffs (that I’ve heard of). I’m honestly happy to just keep working. Unemployment isn’t nearly as much as 85% of my salary and I have made contingency plans for if my husband gets laid off. Unfortunately this is just part of the pandemic. If you can’t pay your bills on 80% of your salary try looking into any deferment programs offered. I know mortgages backed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have deferment options and so do federal student loans, etc. start making your contingency plan now.

      1. Maddy*

        Yes I’m happy to be working too. I really like my company and they treat us really well there so I’m ok with doing what I can to keep them going.

      2. Caroline Bowman*

        I think the key thing there is that management and seniors also took a cut, more in terms of percentage than you were expected to take. It feels bad when ”oh you’re taking 15% cut but I have no plans to suffer along with the rest of the little people”. If the entire company is doing it, it tastes fairer and more equitable.

        Sorry it’s happened to you though, it sucks and I hope it’s over soon!

        1. Maddy*

          At my company everyone who is still working is doing the 4 days. Even upper management.

      3. dealing with dragons*

        yeah, several of our c-levels are taking 100% paycuts (allegedly, not like I can verify) and the board is taking 50% pay cut through at least q2. for me keeping insurance would be huge if I had been furloughed as I’m 18 weeks pregnant and already got the hospital bill for the whole thing. So I’m more than happy to go down 10% with a concrete date of re-evaluation (July 10!) if it means my coworkers can keep that benefit.

        and this is super not helpful now (which is why it’s not in my OP) but my husband and I, even when just cohabitating, always kept bills at 50% of our earnings in case one of us lost a job. Neither of us expected a global pandemic led recession, so we’re not as level set as we could be, but if it was 2008 again I think we’d be fine. I did just buy a new car that I don’t get to drive though, so that sucks.

    4. Maddy*

      I’m down to 4 days a week too. They did temporarily lay off a bunch of people as well. I started at 4 days a week before my job got busier and they moved me to 5 days a week and my expenses haven’t changed much. Also, my salary increased significantly from when I started so I’m okay for a bit.

    5. Merci Dee*

      Starting next week, my job is being cut down to 3 days a week, with the corresponding 40% cut in pay. I have the option to use vacation to make up the two days of pay, or to take leave without pay for those days.

    6. These Old Wings*

      I just received a 35% paycut but no reduction in hours, although our work has slowed tremendously so I’m definitely not working the same amount of hours as I was previously. I have a vacation scheduled in June and I’m currently unsure if it will still be happening, so while I wouldn’t hate using PTO, I will need it for things like that and a few other days throughout the rest of the year, and I only get 15 days to begin with. It’s a terrible time right now with tough decisions all around.

    7. Sundae*

      I’m in NYC. I got a 30% paycut and a 30% hours cut (but since I never worked just 9-5 to begin with, the hours cut hasn’t really been taking place) which means I’m also working for way less pay when I was already underpaid. They did this so they could keep us on health insurance. We are using unpaid leave for the other time. I wish I could use my PTO to bridge the gap since I’ll never come close to using it all. But we are barred from using PTO except for the 3.5 days a week we are being paid.

      It’s only going to get worse from here, and I am under significant pressure to prove that I can still accomplish a massive amount of work in half the time, remotely, during a crisis. Alison is right – brace yourself for worse.

  6. HR Jedi*

    #2 – I would urge skepticism since the advise is coming from your school. They kind of have a vested interest in promoting that people stay in school.

    Unless your field requires it, or it it come from a very prestigious institution (like Harvard or Yale), experience is worth far more than a graduate degree. Most people I know who got the graduate degree immediately after undergrad, too, several years to catch-up with others who went right to work and already had 2 – 3 years of experience.

    Even better, most employers have tuition reimbursement and/or assistance programs that will help you financially towards earning the degree. Plus, having done the job will let you know if it’s worth investing the time getting the graduate degree.

    1. Dan*

      “They kind of have a vested interest in promoting that people stay in school.”

      It’s not just that… it’s also the “when you’re a hammer, everything’s a nail” effect. Unless professors are well connected in private industry, the academic train is all they know. Some people have written that when they thought about going “alt-ac” (non-academic job), the cultural pull to remain in academia was *strong.* Never mind that academia for most is a matter of cobbling together a bunch of adjunct positions.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        This is so true! I can’t tell you how many people I know who became academics (at one level of education or another) simply because that’s all they knew. Academics, retail, or office jobs. Of those 3, they were most comfortable with academics, and the majority of people with influence in their lives were academics as well.
        There are thousands of other types of jobs out there that most people don’t think about, and many don’t even realize exist. We need to encourage students to cast a wider net in their job searches.

      2. Sara without an H*

        This is true. People who are attracted to academic careers usually were very good at schoolwork growing up and like ideas for their own sake. Unfortunately, the higher education industry (and yes…it’s an industry) is changing in ways that make it harder to find a position that will pay you a middle-class salary to think and teach.

        I’ve spent my entire adult life in higher education and am rapidly losing patience with it. One of the reasons I enjoy reading AAM is that it keeps me in touch with the real world.

    2. Kiitemso*

      I’m from a country where a lot of people get a graduate degree but even my school gets grants from the gov’t depending on how many post-grads they have, so they love post-grads. They really encouraged me to do a PhD, regardless of the fact I know there is no career path there besides going deeper into academia, which I didn’t want to do because just the two degrees were hard enough on my mental health. I interviewed my thesis mentor on the benefits of PhD and even he agreed they were slim – you get paid but it’s pretty much minimum wage and you are expected to teach while you try to work on your thesis AND you get roped into all kinds of extra work at the department. I loved learning and writing academic texts but I wasn’t prepared to jump into that life, for that little pay.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      I have to agree with this. And frankly (now that we’re in our thirties) even some of my friends who attended very prestigious schools have been dismayed to find that their earning potential isn’t as bolstered by their Ivy league graduate degrees as they expected.

      When you’re in academia, it’s VERY easy to see the whole world through an academic lens. But there are lots of industries (most?) that don’t particularly care where you went to school after a few years and don’t require graduate degress. And many of the skills necessary for doing well in an academic setting don’t translate as closely to work as schools would have you believe.

      In the very unscientific circle that is my social circle, I can tell you that the people doing the best in their careers are not the ones who went immediately into grad school. In fact, of my three friends who are the most “conventionally” successful in terms of their careers, two worked restaurants for over a year after graduating college before they found office jobs. And none of them are in roles they originally envisioned for themselves, but all of them love their jobs and made into well-paid positions.

      Without work experience, it can be really difficult to know if graduate school is the sort of thing that is going to pay off. And a year or two in an unrelated field is not likely to close any doors – plus it won’t leave you with debt.

    4. Chili*

      Yes! I also wanted to say that the school has a vested interest in keeping students in school. Certain types of graduate programs are very lucrative for schools without being terribly beneficial to students or their careers. I, personally, would almost always recommend taking a year or two off of school and working before going to graduate school because:

      1) Academia can be a bit insular and is very different than a lot of the rest of the working world. Once immersed in that culture, I’ve found it can be hard to keep in mind that there are other metrics of success than those that are prized in academia. The commenter Dan said that “when you’re a hammer everything’s a nail”– when you’re an academic institution, everything is a degree program.

      2) Going straight from undergrad to grad school, you are kind of just trusting what people are telling you is important in a grad program. If you’re able to work in the field first, you have a better idea of how that program is actually perceived in the field and how helpful that degree with actually be to your career. I know a lot of people who got their MBA straight out of undergrad only to realize they were hired into the exact same kind of roles they would have gotten with just their bachelors. Or people who paid big bucks for a prestigious big name school, only to realize nobody in the industry really cares and they could have fared just as well by going to a state school for less money.

      3) It’s generally healthy to take a break to think about things.

  7. Dan*


    I was in grad school between 2007-2008, and I paid out of pocket without financial assistance. For me, though, grad school was an extremely calculated decision that actually did pan out the way I intended. It launched me into a great career and I have absolutely no regrets. That said, I came out of school owing about $90k between my BS and MS. I’ve been out of grad school about ten years, and still owe half the debt. I don’t have any trouble making payments, but I’ll be 45 when it’s all said and done. My current debt payments are $850/mo. Make no mistake, while I can afford it, $850 is still $850 that could be going to other things, like, um, a house down payment.

    Point being, go to grad school if it’s part of a well thought out plan, you understand the costs, and how you will manage them.

    As far as professors advising grad school, I’d say this… unless your professors are well networked in the private sector, academics know academia. The downside of going to grad school in a weak economy is that *everybody* wants to do that. Funding is going to be tougher, and the top programs will be more competitive. If you end up paying for a second tier program, that can really screw you. I’m not a “name school” snob, but I’m a realist. There are some programs where it’s either top tier or bust (law school and MBA come to mind) but there are others where school is what you make of it.

    1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

      “There are some programs where it’s either top tier or bust (law school and MBA come to mind) but there are others where school is what you make of it.”

      MBA top tier is best for specific careers. If your burning desire in life is to work on Wall Street, high end tech, or very high end consulting, MBA top tier is your best bet.

      If you have no desire to have those career paths, you can leverage a tier 2 school degree at much lower cost. Some companies (including my Fortune 100 one) strategically targets their recruiting to tier 2 schools because they want those types of graduates. Within tier 2, focusing on the placement records of the schools you’re looking at helps – what companies recruit there, what positions their graduates get, median/average salary, level of individual career support (my experience was that smaller programs really cared about individual students’ successes since 1 student can skew their salary/placement statistics), etc. I graduated from a tier 2 MBA program in December 2008, it was more stressful than most of my class had planned but it worked out really well for the majority of the class.

  8. Engineer Woman*

    #5 – I just read an article that two insurance companies are giving back some $$ due to the decreased driving. It’s not much, but at least something. I hope I can post which ones: Allstate and American Family Insurance. Another is given in the article said to change coverage from work to personal use, which should lower the premium. But remember to change it back once actual work driving restarts.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      That’s correct—I just negotiated a 30% decrease in my insurance (State Farm) since my mileage has plummeted. OP’s employer should be negotiating those discounts.

      But under no circumstances should OP volunteer or attempt to cover that expense out of pocket. The insurance is a known business expense that the organization ought to pay. Thousands of Americans are in an economically precarious situation right now, and speaking personally, it is more important to preserve financial security than to garnish your wages to subsidize your employer.

    2. Mel_05*

      Yup, we’re getting a 15% reduction. Which is almost nothing for us, our rates are super low, but it’s going to he a nice savings for people with higher rates.

    3. MechanicalPencil*

      You can also look at changing your coverages. If you have comp/coll, see about switching to liability only. Talk with your insurance agent to see what’s the best option for what you need.

      I just sounded like an advertisement. Good grief.

  9. JediSquirrel*

    I may be prejudiced (because I’m older?-idk), but I think any display of personal habits beyond the bare minimum on what is supposed to be a professional call is just unprofessional. If you wouldn’t vape in class, why would you vape on Zoom?

    Yes, scratch your ear if it itches, and take the time to sneeze, but my god, put on a decent shirt, don’t eat or drink (although if this is 30 or 60 minutes, yeah, you’ll need a drink, but please be discreet), don’t drink wine or smoke a joint, don’t smoke, and don’t vape. I know you’re stuck at home, but try to preserve a bit of professional mental distance here. You may need this instructor for a job reference. Be the professional your grandmother thinks you are.

    On the other hand, if it’s just you and a few other students, then vape away. But a large number of students where an instructor is also present? Nope.

    WWCPD? (What Would Captain Picard Do?) applies here.

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      I’m kind of curious if the “take a drink but be discreet” is a thing that varies by field. At least half the people in any given meeting at my workplace had travel mugs with them when we were in the office, and now I get to see everyone’s at-home funny coffee cups.

      1. Workerbee*

        I agree. People would always carry mugs/bottles and often snacks into our in person meetings, so I’m not sure why you can’t do the same in a virtual meeting, especially as you’re still an actual person behind the screen. I do appreciate the mute button on.

      2. SweetestCin*

        I’m in construction, so coffee is a fact of life. Things other than coffee raise eyebrows though. I drink water out of my coffee cup during meetings because coffee mug = expected. Water glass = “what do you have in there?” curiosity.

        Granted, I’m grossed out/disgusted by/amused by vaping, so I put that in the same category of “would you smoke a cigarette during this meeting in person? No? Then don’t do it.”

      3. Jedi Squirrel*

        Yeah, a coffee cup or travel mug is what I meant by discreet. Not pick up a gallon jug of water (or whatever) and start chugging it down like you just got ran a marathon in the desert.

        1. Anon for this comment*

          I worked in the same office building as a company that did some public-facing/client-facing work. (they were one company, I was in a different one in the same building) Several years ago they had an intern who used to carry around a giant water jug like you describe here. It was sort of personalized with stickers and whatnot (sports teams he liked, etc.). People used to call him “jugs” because he used to carry around this dumb jug. Finally someone outside their company – maybe a client – said to him one day, “hey, what’s with the jug?” his answer was “I get thirsty.” I saw this whole interaction and thought it could have been so much more professionally handled if the person had said, “just a pointer, Intern, but that doesn’t make you or your company look very good. Get a smaller, non-industrial water bottle.” I have no idea what came of this guy and honestly, but for the jug he didn’t make much of an impression so I don’t even remember his name to look him up.

    2. Delta Delta*

      I think a mug with a beverage in it is fine. Most people drink water or coffee or tea or whatever throughout the day, and it’s not at all uncommon for people to drink water in in-person meetings.

    3. HannahS*

      Don’t…eat? In person, in lecture halls and seminars, I’ve never encountered an environment where you couldn’t eat. If you’re in, like, a tiny six-person seminar, it’s polite to ask if it’ll bother anyone, or if anyone has a serious allergy, but I can’t get behind not allowing eating and drinking.

      1. Colette*

        I don’t remember ever being in a work meeting where someone was eating. School may be different.

        1. HannahS*

          Yeah, and the LW is a student. I’d guess that it’s because workplaces tend to have set lunch hours, but student schedules are bizarre and you eat when you can.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            I recently had to eat on a call because I hadn’t gotten lunch, but I muted myself and tried to be quick and not gross.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          At my job, if the meeting is between noon and 2 (or later), there is a decent chance that someone is eating their lunch.

        3. Tableau Wizard*

          Daily, i’m in work meetings where people are eating. Snacks, lunch, breakfast. anything is fair game.

      2. TurtleIScream*

        I’m thinking, don’t eat a full blown meal, unless it’s an all-day video event. Most reasonable people wouldn’t balk at someone eating a handful of nuts or even a granola bar. But, a bowl of slurpy soup? Fried chicken? A messy burger? Wait until you have a break.

    4. TimeTravlR*

      I may be wearing pajamas or sweats while working but no one would ever know because I keep a really big scarf handy. When it comes time for video calls, I wrap the scarf around my shoulders and voila! I am dressed for work! Just don’t stand up!

    5. Rachel in NYC*

      I saw a post online yesterday discussing someone breastfeeding during a Zoom conference. The issue obviously wasn’t that she was breastfeeding- she’s home with the baby. Needs must but that she had video and mic on the entire time- and supposedly when someone privately reached out out to her and said,- hey you know you don’t need video for this call so when you’re breastfeeding can you turn it off- she didn’t take it well.

    6. Katrinka*

      I’m GenX, and am work friends with a GenZ coworker (not that it’s really a factor here) We were in one call where he was definitely lying on the couch eating snacks, and in our private bitch session later I gently suggested that maybe he should sit up and lay off the pretzels, since he’s complained in the past about not being taken seriously. He jokingly called me a “Karen” and said that workplace norms are a thing of the past. There are no rules anymore.

  10. Heidi*

    Re: LW3. This must have been a really bad manager if the LW thinks that sabotage is likely. This is not to say that the urge to sabotage someone doesn’t exist. I’m reminded of a recent post where the letter writer saw a former employee at a training session and wanted to tell the manager about how the guy had abruptly quit his former job. This was supposed to be somehow useful to the manager, but it really came across as retaliatory. That being said, it’s far less likely to occur at a completely different company where the former manager doesn’t know anyone. That would require an investment in effort, and that kind of thing tends to lose momentum quickly if they don’t see you on a regular basis.

    1. Felix*

      To add on to Allison’s advice – Don’t only block your former manager. You also need to adjust your privacy settings so that people can’t see your full profile when they’re not logged in. Otherwise your old boss will be able to see it when she is logged out.

    2. Observer*

      That’s the thing – That LW didn’t go out of their way to find the person and contact a manager who was a stranger to them. The situation just kind of fell into their lap. And if you tilt your head just so and squint exactly right, you can kind of sort of see the justification that the OP was using. And ever so, everyone jumped down that LW’s throat because that’s just such a ridiculous thing to do.

      I’m not going to say that it’s not possible, because there are some genuinely vindictive and off the wall managers out there. But I’m going to say that it’s really not likely that a manager is likely to do that.

      And who is going to even listen to them? I mean, if you got a call from some random person who claims to have managed an employee and that stranger wants to tell you about all of the terrible things they know about the employee, are you even going to give them the time of day? I hope that you are going to an employer that is sane enough that they would get the caller off the phone is 10 seconds or less.

    3. Sara without an H*

      LW#3, if your new manager doesn’t know your old manager, and assuming yours isn’t one of those claustrophobically-tight fields where everybody knows everybody else at least by reputation, I think your risk here is slight. There’s no iron-clad rule about when you have to update LinkedIn. Tinker with your settings to make sure your old manager can’t find you, lie low for a few months, but otherwise don’t lose any sleep over it.

      Instead, concentrate on building a good relationship with your current manager and doing a stellar job in your new position. The longer your record of good performance in your new job, the less effect any nasty gossip from your old job will have on you.

      And frankly, if someone I didn’t know called me out of the blue and tried to dish dirt on someone I’d just hired, I would probably say, “How very interesting!” And then hang up, realizing that I now knew why my new employee had been job searching in the first place.

  11. Beth*

    #2: I’m in grad school now and would only advise doing it if you see it as a concrete necessity for your career goals. For me it is, and I’m excited to be here–but I returned to school after a few years working, when I was sure of what I wanted to do and had a good sense of what kind of degree I’d need to get there. If you’re not at that point yet, I’d strongly suggest finding an entry-level job and letting yourself take the time to figure it out! Yes, it’s not the best time for hiring, but if you cast a wide enough net (both geographically and in terms of the exact job you want) you’ll have options. Remember that what you choose to do right now really does only have to be for right now; if you realize in a year that you do really want to be in grad school, or in a different geographic area, or on a different career path entirely, you can make those changes then.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes, OP. I see you’ve engaged with commenters above, but noticed you’ve still put it as grad school or unemployment. There’s a third option even if it’s not what you planned. I realize hiring is off in many cases, but honestly, get a job cashiering at the grocery store if you that’s all there is.

      1. Grad School LW*

        Yeah, I worded that poorly – I’m more concerned about underemployment. And normally I’d have no problem cashiering/waitressing/etc. but since being kicked off campus, I’m living with my parents, who are a high-risk group for the virus, so I’m a little iffy on working in the service sector at the moment.

        1. Beth*

          I’m betting you’ll find options that aren’t front-line service jobs (which it absolutely makes sense to avoid in the current climate). It might take a lot of looking, and it might mean going outside your goal field or ideal geographic area…but a lot of office job type fields are able to work from home, and at least some of them are going to be hiring.

          My first job out of undergrad was testing software (which was wildly unrelated to what I consider my ‘real’ field, aka what I did my undergrad degree in and what I’m doing again now; the closest I’d gotten to computers before that was some basic HTML formatting), and in an area that wouldn’t have been my 3rd choice if I got to pick, much less my 1st–but it was a job, it paid money, and it let me build up some savings while I decided what I wanted to do and worked on making that happen. I guess what I’m saying is, your first ‘real’ job doesn’t have to be a big giant career step or The Beginning Of Your Adult Life or anything high-pressure like that. It can just be a job. The rest can be built over time.

  12. Mollyg*

    #2 I went to grad school to escape a bad market. I got out with a PhD in engineering and still no job. Post doc jobs are rare, can’t get a permanent job without one, and I can’t even get a phone call about jobs that I am “over qualified” for. Got to grad school because you need to get the job you want, or get a PhD for ego, but don’t do it to escape a bad market.

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I didn’t plan it that way but I happened to finish my PhD in 2011, when my field was still decimated by the financial crash (it has never really recovered, to be truthful). I have not had a permanent job since. Part of that is the nature of the field but I do think that if I had stayed where I was after finishing my MA I would have had a much better chance of a stable career.

      If I could go back and do it again I would also have focused much more on technical topics. I didn’t in order to try and finish faster but that was a major mistake. There were good reasons why I did it that way but it did not work out for me.

    2. Delta Delta*

      I was a part of the hiring team for an assistant at a law firm where I worked in 2009. I was shocked by the number of PhD holders applying for our $15/hour assistant job. We actually interviewed one person with an MBA from Wharton because although she was really over-qualified she made a good case in her cover letter. Ultimately we knew she would jet as soon as she could get a job more in line with her qualifications, so we went with another candidate. I did feel badly for the Wharton grad, though, because she was clearly trying really hard to get whatever work she could, and she couldn’t get anything.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Ultimately we knew she would jet as soon as she could get a job more in line with her qualifications, so we went with another candidate.

        As someone who was there with my law degree for the longest time, allow me to say what she can’t: “If I could get a more appropriate job, I would! I’ve been lowering my sights until I’ve finally gotten down to you. At this point, I don’t give a damn about appropriateness; I just need to eat and keep a roof over my head!”

        Logic like yours is why I had to take my law degree off my resume in order to get an office job paying $13/hr.

        1. Amy Sly*

          Oh, and I should add … when I left that job three years later, my new job wasn’t one that used my law degree either.

  13. Ele4phant*

    After I got laid off in 2008, I went to grad school.

    I studied what I was interested in, and thankfully I stumbled into a job I really enjoy. But, that had more to do with my networking than what I studied. And it came with a price tag I’m still paying off. Hopefully I don’t get laid off again still with that debt.

    I would say, if you think grad school is on your horizon eventually, than okay, maybe consider making it sooner rather than later. But don’t go to kill time.

    Also, we’re a month into this pandemic here in the US, things change everyday. Maybe wait and see where things are at this summer, once we start coming out of lockdowns?

    1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      I went to grad school to kill time, but with tuition completely covered and a small living stipend. So it was like a very low-paid internship. I think it’s OK if you can afford it and it won’t hurt your job prospects and might help.

      In my case, it helped with networking and led to a job too. I didn’t learn much useful stuff at all.

      But do not go into debt for it Don’t do that.

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah, it’s really the debt issue. If you go to a PhD program that pays a small (but livable) stipend? Fine, so long as you are prepared to leave with a terminal masters rather than sticking it out for the entire time (a “Why not” masters might look a bit odd, but a “why not” PhD can make it really hard to get employment afterwards.

        I’ve got like 3 friends (2009 graduates) who went to law school because they sort of thought why not, and 11 years on, it’s still a financially devastating decision.

        Do not take on extra debt during a recession if you can avoid it.

      2. Sara without an H*

        +1000. Do not, do not, do not take on debt for graduate education unless the degree is absolutely required for the field you want to work in AND you have reasonable prospects of getting a job in your field right after graduation, at a salary that will let you retire the debt reasonably quickly.

        If COVID-19 dissipates fairly quickly (and so far there’s no scientific consensus about this), I think the economy will recover fairly quickly. But now is definitely not the time to be taking on major debt for any reason.

      3. AnotherLibrarian*

        I couldn’t find a job after my first graduate degree, had to kill some time, and had amazing boss with the political clout to make sure I could keep my funding, so I got a second degree. I was killing time, but I didn’t go into debt and I got a job in my field after that year of looking. Do not go into debt for a graduate degree if you’re killing time.

  14. Alice's Rabbit*

    OP 5, cars need to be driven occasionally, at least far enough to warm up the engine and move oil through the system. Otherwise, gaskets dry out, among other problems. So you’re saving your company several hundred dollars of maintenance and repairs by taking that car to the store for your weekly shop. Don’t worry.

    1. Pilcrow*

      The battery needs charging, the brakes develop rust, the gas in the tank attracts moisture, the tires can get flat spots, etc… About the worst thing you can for a vehicle is park it for 3+ months.

      This last Sunday I took my faithful steed out for a meandering drive because I hadn’t driven it in a week. And gas is way cheap now!

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      It also keeps the battery from going flat. We’re currently rotating which car gets used for our grocery run specifically to make sure they’re all in driveable condition when we’re no longer stuck at home.

      1. Anax*

        The battery terminals can also corrode when disused, which can prevent it from charging appropriately when it IS driven. Nothing like getting jumped, driving half an hour to get the battery charged, and then … getting stuck because the battery died again.

        I drive very little in my daily life (health issues), and I concur, cars really do need to be driven to stay running.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I asked about this before but wasn’t quite clear about the answer so I am asking again with a more explicit question this time in the hope that someone can help! – we have 2 cars, one currently being used for essential trips only and one not being used (before coronovirus my partner and I drove independently to work at different places).

      To avoid these maintenance issues is it enough to start the car and leave it running in place for 15-20 minutes or should I physically drive it on the road?

      1. Wheezy Weasel*

        I’d advise you to drive it: the fluids within the vehicle need to circulate, tires need to move, the alternator needs to have a higher revving engine to charge the battery, power steering fluid needs to be pumped when you turn the steering wheel, brake rotors need to be squeezed by the pads to knock the rust off, the air conditioner should run to move the freon and oil mixture through the compressor.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        If you were only concerned about the battery, running it in place would cover that. But to make sure the rest of it is fine, including things like the tires not wearing unevenly and the shocks and struts not leaking (which will happen if it doesn’t move for months), drive it, ideally for at least 10 minutes of the drive being over 50 mph.

  15. Avasarala*

    If you want to delay your entry into the job market without going into crazy debt, and you’re not sure what you would study in grad school or what field you’d go into, why not teach English abroad?

    You can make great money teaching English as a native speaker, and many countries for example in Asia don’t require any teaching experience. You get to adventure in a new country and ~find yourself~ but you’re saving money rather than getting into debt. A year or two later, you can rejoin the market with about as useless an experience as a random grad degree but at least you’ll have more money and be more interesting at parties.

    (These systems definitely have their pros and cons and I have no idea what it would be like to embark on one right now)

    1. Violet Fox*

      Travel right now is rather difficult, and it might be a while before places open their boarders.

      That being said, someone I knew from high school did the teach English abroad thing, and the type of places that don’t require teaching experience or teaching education aren’t really the type of places you necessicarly want to work. She also ended up being pigeonholed into basically only being able to teach in the country she ended up in. The money was *bad* and she thought she would be able to use the English teaching skills elsewhere only to find out that a great deal of places actually require education in teaching, and at least where I am teaching, linguistics in general, and the language in specific.

      Even before the current global situation a number of countries were cracking down on hiring teachers in this way.

      1. Avasarala*

        Of course it’s not an option to go right now. I assumed the idea was opting out of the market for a few years though, if grad school is an option.

        That’s actually great that places are cracking down on hiring random non-teachers. It’s so sad that students and their parents pay top (local) dollar for some random 22 year old to teach them. Places willing to hire anyone won’t treat you as well for sure, you’re basically unskilled labor. And yeah, you’re only going to make good money if the local standard of living is lower.

        The moral of the story is to think about what your goals are and what will help you achieve them, and don’t think of anything as a magic bullet. And if you’re not sure, don’t do something that will put you into more debt; might as well make some money while you think about it.

    2. WS*

      15-20 years ago, it was any native English speaker (preferably white) with a Bachelor’s, before that any native English speaker (preferably white) at all. These days most places are looking for actual teaching qualifications/experience or to be part of a program via your university. There are a lot of very dodgy schemes that require no experience at all, then land you in a remote area with low rates of pay, no support, and poor conditions. Not all! But many.

      1. Quill*

        I had a few classmates look into these when I graduated (2014) but these days I’m suspicious of the whole arrangement given how much spam I’ve gotten on job boards for “teach Chinese in china” and other incorrectly programmed automated mail.

        (My second language is Spanish. Not Chinese. These things just scrape resumes for words like language and fluent – a friend took his minor in Japanese off his resume and they kept emailing because CSS is a “language.”)

    3. Delta Delta*

      My brother did this back in 2000 when he graduated college with no real plan or idea about what to do. 20 years later he still lives in the country he went to, has a family, and has a great life that he loves. The current downside: his country has been under covid stay-home orders for a very long time, and his job was one that was cut/laid off. Luckily his wife is still working so they have some income.

    4. logicbutton*

      I can’t recommend this path, to be honest, even in better times. I have a friend who, in the last couple years, went through one of those that didn’t require teaching experience. She ended up with a tyrannical boss who fired her for a discriminatory reason, which left her scrambling to find a job to avoid getting deported, which was hard since she hadn’t been there long enough to get comfortable with the language. She scraped by in the end, but it was a period of incredible stress for her made harder by being away from home. The money she made was enough for her to live on but not enough to save.

      When I was in college 15 years ago, a friend of a friend did a program through her university. She was assaulted by another American student and both the program and the local authorities were useless.

    5. Beth*

      This is really not the time to be planning international travel if you have any other options. There are so many things that could go wrong. You’d be risking getting sick (or getting other people sick, if you’re an asymptomatic carrier) in the travel process; you’d likely be unable to get home and through quarantine in a reasonable amount of time if a loved one got very sick or died; you’d have a lot of trouble making local friends or finding support in a time when social distancing is happening on a global scale; you’d have to navigate an entirely new medical system if you got sick, in a language you probably don’t speak well (which actually might be better than the US, depending on where you are and what your insurance situation is like, but is still an added stressor); you might get there and then be fired or have your hours cut because schools are closed and most people aren’t taking extracurricular language classes right now either. Even if nothing else goes wrong, there’s not a lot of adventuring to be done when everything is closed.

      This is a fine option to consider in a time when there isn’t a global pandemic on. I know a lot of people who did this kind of thing for a couple years; some loved it, some didn’t, but it can definitely be a great experience. But this seems like the worst possible time to suggest it.

  16. Mara*

    LW2, as a (hopefully soon to be finished) PhD Candidate, DO NOT go to grad school to avoid the job market if you don’t know why you’re going, and if you don’t know what kind of job you want.

    I was slated to finish undergrad in 2009 and in addition to the bad job market due to the recession, I had no idea what kind of job I wanted. So I went straight to grad school. And then once I finished my Master’s, I figured I might as well go straight into a PhD. By year 2 of the PhD, I was burnt out, over academia, and no closer to figuring out what kind of career I wanted. If I could do it all over again, I would have gone straight to looking for work after my undergrad.

    1) Once you’re in academia at the master’s level, there is a lot of weird pressure to stay and to go into a PhD, and if you’re avoiding the job market or avoiding decision-making about a job you’re more susceptible to this pressure.

    2) Academia can be very (very very) toxic. So can workplaces and the job market, but having now worked full-time for a few years, it’s certainly easier for me to consider walking away from a toxic job than it was toxic academic life,

    3) You can (and do) learn many skills in academia, but they don’t necessarily translate easily into employment. Employers don’t necessarily see your time or experiences in grad school as valuable or transferable. I learned far more about what I like and dislike in workplaces and jobs from the jobs I did to make money once my funding ran out in grad school as opposed to from grad school itself.

    4) You will spend lots of time scrambling to find money, with additional weird pressure about taking side gigs outside of academia to keep the lights on. Many profs (my supervisor included) turn up their noses at non-academic work, which can limit your options.

    All of this is obviously based on my own experience and won’t necessarily be the case for you. But I think it’s really important to go to grad school knowing what you want and why you’re going, and if you don’t know those things, you’re better off looking for jobs and hopefully learning about yourself while making a bit of money than floundering in grad school.

    I did a number of non-academic jobs between when I started my master’s and now, and one of them led me into a career (been working full time for 2.5 years while trying to finish the dissertation). It has worked out for me, in the end (a decade later) but it’s certainly not the path I would recommend to a new graduate.

    1. Sara without an H*

      I’ve worked for 35 years in higher education, and I can vouch for absolutely everything that Mara says. Working conditions for graduate students have deteriorated shockingly during the course of my career. But universities keep recruiting them because they need them for the academic equivalent of stoop labor.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Having worked at universities for over a decade, this all sounds about right, sadly. This is so true (and what I tell so many students who say they want grad school): “it’s really important to go to grad school knowing what you want and why you’re going.”

  17. Lady Heather*

    LW 5, this reminds me of the ‘coworkers won’t cut expenses’ situation where the LW wanted everyone to stop eating pizza to prevent the company from going bankrupt. (Although that situation was a lot more ridiculous, of course.)
    At the end of the day, that 100 dollar a month is likely to make very little difference to your employer, and it will probably be a bigger relative loss to you than it will be a relative gain to them. (E.g. your household expenses will go from 2000 a month to 2100, being a 5 per cent increase; their expenses will go from 20 000 a month to 19 900 a month, being a 0.5 per cent decrease.)

    There are a lot of good ways to spend money. Donating to a nonprofit. Buying groceries for a neighbour. Paying medical bills when COVID hits you or your family. Putting it in a savings account in case you lose your job. (Even if you only lose it once the grant runs out – unemployment is high, you won’t be the only one applying for a new job.)

    Even if you want to donate to the nonprofit you work for, I think that’s fine – but I’m principally opposed to employees offering to do things like things, because it might give the employer the impression that these are reasonable/acceptable things to ask for.. and we’ve all read examples of where that can lead.

  18. Left Turn at Albuquerque*

    LW #2, I was in grad school in 2008, working on a long-planned-for Master’s. When I graduated in 2009, I found myself competing with Ph.D. holders for jobs that previously went to candidates without any graduate degree. I spent 4 years on the job market and never got a job in the field I went to grad school with the hope of working in.

    Don’t do it.

  19. Christy*

    I’m based in DC and while I work for the federal government, I don’t work in politics. But of all my friends who work in politics, they uniformly worked for a few years, then got a MPP or MPA (master of communication (digital/political) for one), then could afford to intern for free, then got good jobs on the Hill. One of them has graduated to her post-Hill job (she works for Facebook in political something-or-other and makes bank).

    Going right to grad school right now won’t get you what you want. I’d set my sights on my pre-politics career for the next three years or so. What’s going to set you apart from other applicants? Spend the next three years answering that question.

  20. blackcat*

    #2, FWIW, as a member of a class of 2009, my social media feed is full of DEAR GOD GOING TO GRAD SCHOOL IN A RECESSION WAS THE WORST PLAN EVAR I HOPE THE GEN Z BABIES DO NOT DO IT, TOO.

    Basically apropos of nothing, folks by age are reminiscing about what a terrible choice that was.

    Though the ones who put off grad school for a while and happen to ALSO be graduating with a graduate degree now feel a special kind of being kicked when down.

  21. Harper the Other One*

    #5 – as people have pointed out, keeping the vehicle moving occasionally is avoiding some big repairs. Why don’t you suggest to your coworker that they make a donation to the org rather than take on the business’ expense? If he’s determined to “offset” his personal use of the vehicle, that’s a way to do it that doesn’t involve adopting expenses that belong to the business.

  22. On a pale mouse*

    Truly it has been said that graduate school is the snooze button on the alarm clock of life. Which could be fine, except it’s a super expensive snooze button. If your future plans need grad school, sure. If you’re just doing it for something to do, then don’t hit that snooze button – just wake up from academia and start life. Sitting around in your parents’ basement is a lot cheaper than grad school, so do that and find something inexpensive to do that will increase your future employability – volunteer, take a low paying job, anything – while you look for the kind of job you really want.

    Signed, person who burned out on IT and went to law school and, in hindsight, should have just taken a year off to travel the world or write a novel or something.

  23. Roscoe*

    #1 Maybe I’m just more relaxed than others, but I honestly wouldn’t have a problem with someone vaping on a work conference call. I don’t do it, but I have enough friends who do where I don’t find it distracting at all. I mean, most of the time, my zoom is set to speaker setting anyway, so the main picture is just the person talking. But, lets be real, I’ve had zoom calls with babies crying, cats, dogs, and birds making noise or getting in the picture, and sirens going off. Seeing someone smoke is pretty low on my distraction meter.

    #4 while I understand this isn’t great, I’m not sure why you find this skeevy. Many companies revenues are WAY down right now. They are doing what they can to keep people employed. I’m not sure how big your company is, but assuming its not a major company, I’m betting its not like they have ridiculous reserves to keep paying people and their benefits with this level of decreased revenue. I’m lucky, but just last week I had 2 more friends furloughed outside of the people I know that have lost their jobs. You are still getting most of you money, just using PTO for some of it. I’m not trying to go for the “it could always be worse” thing, but is true here

    1. introverted af*

      TBH, I always find companies forcing people to use PTO for situations where it’s the company’s decision skeevy. American PTO is terrible, and I don’t think it’s right for companies to dictate your use of it when you already have so little. (I’m still against it in cases were people have abundant PTO, but that’s the foundation of my dislike for it.)

      I get that there are a lot of economic issues in the world right now, but when this is all over, it’s not unreasonable to assume that these people could be drastically shorter on PTO for the rest of the calendar year. Also I still don’t understand how this saves the company money – aren’t the employees still paid full rate for the PTO time they bill? So they’re cutting productivity but continuing to pay? What?

      At the same time, I do get that it’s probably better to lose some PTO and keep a job. But I’m still against the principle of the thing.

      1. Roscoe*

        I kind of understand your point, and in many other instances I’d agree. As to your question, the company may not be saving money NOW, but it is saving money long term by making them take PTO right now. On top of that, you have to look at the alternative. Right now, by making people take PTO, employees are still, in the short term, making their whole salary as long as they have PTO. The alternative is the company just cuts salary or hours, or lays people off. I guess for some people they’d rather keep their PTO and take a 20% reduction in salary, but many people wouldn’t. Yes, it will suck if you are already out of PTO, and your salary is effectively being cut because of it, but again, companies are facing a “bad” choice and a “worse” choice. My friends who have lost their jobs or been furloughed would have loved that option, even if it means they can’t take a vacation in December, they can still afford to live now.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          Ideally the company should give people the option (take the 20% day unpaid as a reduction in salary, or take it from their PTO). Or some combination (like half a day unpaid and half as PTO).

          My worry is that the company is kicking a problem down the line in to the future, where people don’t have PTO to take (as it was already consumed by this) so in the ‘medium term’ there may be impacts about burnout and so on.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      I think I’d definitely have reservations if I knew that the vaper was vaping while using a computer provided temporarily by the workplace. I would not want to be the next user of the now permanently banana-smelling computer- and in fact, I personally would probably have an allergic reaction to it!

      And while it’s not as distracting as a baby, unlike a baby, you can control when you vape. The person who creates a device that can control when babies cry will probably go down in history.

      1. Roscoe*

        I mean, I don’t really think computers trap smells like that. But, even if they do, if they are smoking in the home while working, it doesn’t really matter if its on a zoom call or not.

  24. Miss May*

    LW2, Here’s my two cents as someone who got a masters (post recession, so I’m slightly less jaded than others), and debated about going forward to get a PhD. I had a professor straight up ask me–“Why? What is it that you ultimately want to do, and will this help you achieve it?” It smarted at the time because I thought they didn’t think I was good enough to get a PhD, but they saved me many years and a lot of money. I didn’t NEED a PhD to do what I wanted, I just thought it was the “next step.” So, if it ultimately helps you out, go for it. If not, save your time a money and work on networking and building your life.

  25. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – I don’t know if the laws are the same as smoking cigarettes indoors, but let pretend vaping is allowed. Would it be appropriate to vape in the classroom? I’m going to go with no, so they shouldn’t be doing it during an online class.
    #2 – that is probably the worst advice from your school. The economy is taking a hit right now so their advice is to go into more debt because finding a job will be more difficult? Unless you were planning on going to grad school, don’t just do it because you can’t find a job.
    #3 – is your old manager really that vindictive? It seems like a lot of work to keep them from knowing where you’re working now. Just do your best at the new place and let your work speak for itself. Any reasonable manager isn’t going to take a stranger’s word over your achievements in the new job.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      WRT #1, the laws are the same in some places, but they haven’t caught up yet. I can personally attest that I am at least as and potentially more allergic to vape steam than I am to cigarette smoke. When someone blows smoke in my face, I’m on the nebulizer for a few days. When someone blows vape steam in my face, I’m on the nebulizer and I get these hideous blood blister rashes on my face.

  26. Amy*

    My company cut all company cars last year. They’d been providing them for 50 years. You now get a stipend plus a variable rate based on monthly miles driven. Almost everyone I know with company cars has gone through similar changes.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Covid-19 pushes the company car model over the edge and moves most into a BYOC (is that a term?) model.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I’ve never really understood why companies provide a “company car” (when they do). USA and Europe perspective. I can understand when you have to drive to customer sites and so on, but just as a “status” thing or part of the contract when your only work-related travel is to and from your main place of work… and yet I’ve been through redundancy/layoff situations where strangely enough all the management team got to keep their company provided cars (that they just used for commuting) when I would have identified that as one of the first costs to cut!

  27. CupcakeCounter*

    I graduated during the 2008 recession. About half my class continued on to grad school because of the job market, although our field had a very specific grad program for it so that part was a bit different. Alison is right…they had a harder time getting a job after because they had no work experience in the field and needed a higher salary than what entry level provided in order to pay their loans. Unless you have a solid plan and a field that requires it for entry level work, I would skip grad school and just deal with the job market. Un/under employed with no debt is a way better scenario than un/under employed with a mountain of student loans.

  28. Canadian Yankee*

    LW2: Offering the perspective of a hiring manager in an industry where graduate degrees are not required (and yet I have one myself), I’d say that when I see an applicant with a Master’s degree, that puts me on the lookout for two different profiles, one positive, one negative:
    1. The positive: a person who has acquired the very valuable skill of digesting a large quantity of new information from diverse sources and/or personal experimentation and distilling it down into a comprehensive report.
    2. The negative: a person who is afraid of the “Real World” and who can’t function there.

    Unfortunately, I’ve found that for every Type 1, you encounter nine Type 2s (or perhaps, most Type 1s are so good that they get job offers naturally through their personal network and I never see them), so I’m on high alert trying to screen out those Type 2s. And, I’m sorry to say, someone who blindly follows the advice, “The job market is tough, so get a degree!” sounds like someone who’s being tempted into turning into a Type 2.

    If you do have a graduate degree, you want to demonstrate that you fit the Type 1 profile as much as possible. That means, for example, that your cover letter should be perfect. It is, after all, a comprehensive report of information gathered from diverse sources. Normally, I have a very high tolerance for mediocre cover letters (we do hire a lot of people with English as their second language or who are better with numbers than with words), but that tolerance is much lower when I see a graduate degree.

  29. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Don’t go to grad school unless you need to or you want to. It seems like a very good way to rack up a lot of debt for a degree you may not need or want. And it would be torture to put yourself through a rigorous education program just as a placeholder of sorts. I don’t know what the hiring economy is going to be like in OP’s field. If hiring really isn’t good, what about a year (or so) in a service organization like Americorps (if in the US) or the Peace Corps (unclear if this is happening due to travel restrictions). Yes, neither of these pay a lot of money, but they can offer great experience.

  30. ynotlot*

    #2 Don’t do it!! I can’t believe they’re recommending this to students.
    I am one of the 2008 recession babies. I graduated out of one of the most selective schools in the country and worked $12/hour medical assistant jobs for years (english major). Like many of my friends, it took me a LONG time to get unstuck – now I’m in a field I love with a professional certification and a good-paying job, and even if I get laid off, I feel confident that I’ll be able to figure out another job or a way to make a living. I don’t live in fear anymore.
    But, my friends who went to grad school during their “stuck” period are still stuck. Some have stayed in school so long that the only career that would make sense now is professor, which is poorly-paid as an adjunct, high-competition, and you often don’t get to choose where you live. Others are working in the field their grad degree supported, but will never be able to pay back their loans in their lifetime. They are depending on Public Service Loan Forgiveness to forgive their astronomical loans in 10 years, but that program has been incredibly poorly managed, hardly anyone has gotten their 10 years approved, and the program might not even exist anymore in a decade.
    Not that grad school is bad! I have other friends who have gone to grad school either because it’s needed for their desired career path, or because they truly love and enjoy learning and find school fulfilling.
    But don’t let circumstances float you into grad school like flotsam. Apply to jobs that seem cool in your major, take advantage of free opportunities, budget like crazy, stay calm, continue learning and reading, and you will do great. I sold myself short when I graduated and only looked at low-paying entry-level jobs that didn’t even require a high school degree, because I assumed nobody else was hiring. Others are hiring! So don’t sell yourself short and please, don’t take on loans to get a grad degree in library science or art history.

    1. ynotlot*

      Also, this might be an unpopular opinion, but unless you are at rock bottom and have literally no other choice, don’t move back in with your parents. Just don’t even think of it as an option. Find a small studio in a cheap city (college neighborhoods usually have these) or live with roommates and just accept that no matter what, you have to figure out how to make rent each month.
      Living with parents can be a smart financial choice, but often that’s just the problem. You feel like you have a time/money buffer and it kills your momentum; if you think of finding a job as do-or-die and give yourself no backup option, you will do it faster, because you have to. (If it helps, remember that some people don’t even have parent/s to move in with and don’t have the option to turn down.)

      1. Nina*

        I don’t know if this makes sense. I completely get what you’re saying about it making you too complacent, and your parents may not live in the best area to get a job in your field. But if the stars do align it may make sense to save the little money you have and stay with your parents. My parents also wouldn’t let me lie around at home if I wasn’t either studying or had a job or was actively looking for a job.

        1. Grad School LW*

          Yeah, I’m not sure if I agree with this advice either. I’m not at all prone to complacency and my parents live just outside a major city with a lot of opportunities. Also, I’m not necessarily looking for ANY job, so much as one that leads me vaguely in the right direction, you know? I’d rather live at home and work at McDonalds and also volunteer in my field than have to work so many shifts at McDonalds to make rent that I don’t have time for networking/volunteering/whatever else. But I’d be interested to hear your response to that!

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I disagree with this advice. It makes no sense to dig yourself into a giant debt hole when you’re just starting out on your own if you have the option to live with your parents. Sure if your parents are enablers, it probably won’t help your situation, but I’d rather depend on mom and dad for longer than I should than live on the street because I can’t afford to pay my own rent.

      3. Amy Sly*

        I agree with your reasons not to move in with parents. I’d say that if you go into it as more of a tenant situation (e.g. laying out both side’s expectations of the arrangement, like utilities subsidies or house maintenance in lieu of rent, duration, etc) it can work out. But it does need to be a conscious arrangement.

  31. Bookmom*

    I totally blocked a “deranged, vindictive” former manager (and his cronies) on LinkedIn when I knew I was leaving the organization. Funny thing is, I know he did come looking for my profile, because he viewed my husband’s LinkedIn. He would have had no other reason to do so, except to try to find a connection to me.

  32. MsChanandlerBong*

    Re: #4

    I am exhausted, so I may be missing something, but how would making people use their PTO save the company any money? If it’s paid time off, they’re going to be paying people for those hours as they use them.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      Depending on the PTO system, those dollars come from an liability accrual account as opposed to a cash account. By requiring people to take PTO, they reduce that liability. Its a big reason why many companies have a use it or lose it system.

  33. CupcakeCounter*

    My company just enacted a similar measure except that it is 10% for every other Friday unpaid (and you are not allowed to take PTO). The next step is 80% for every Friday. In addition, the CEO is also deferring 50% of her salary and the other execs are deferring 25%. She made it clear that no work is to be done on the unpaid days and my coworkers who dealt with this back in 2008 said that they are really good about managing expectations and not pressuring people to work those days. I also have to say that they planned it really nicely for me – the off days coincide with Memorial Day Friday and my son’s birthday.
    No layoffs have been done so far other than voluntary but we are currently in limbo as our shelter in place order is set to expire early next week but our Covid-19 cases are still quite high (new cases leveling off instead of rising but unfortunately our survival rate is going the wrong direction) so the CEO is waiting to hear how long the extension will be to determine if employees will have to be furloughed, laid off, or permanent HC reductions will happen.

  34. always in email jail*

    #5 If the insurance is paid out of grant funds, assuming it’s a government grant, you’d be breaking rules to pay it out of your own pocket. That’s supplanting a grant, and they can’t ever pay for it out of the grant again if it is moved off of grant funds.

    1. Anon for this one*

      Are you sure this is “supplanting” a grant as I thought that was only when it’s replaced by federal funds? Not from someone’s personal pocket.

  35. Me*

    #4 I’m clearly missing something. If it’s PTO you are getting paid. Companies have to have money (good ones anyway) budgeted to cover leave. So you would still be getting 100% of your salary.

    Now if they are making you take leave no pay, that’s another story entirely.

    1. Amber Rose*

      They get 100% of their salary until the PTO is used up. Afterwards, probably it’s just a pay cut.

      1. Me*

        That I get but the OP was talking about a 20% pay cut right off the bat. That’s why I think something was missing from the letter like maybe they don’t have any PTO or something.

  36. Beth Jacobs*

    # 2 In addition to what has already been said, I think it’s important to recognize that everything is going to be up in the air for the upcoming year. And although it’s very clear we cannot hold out this lock down indefinitely, it’s highly likely there will still be some restrictions in the fall, the degree of these restrictions will vary at different institutions and that these restrictions are hard to predict. We can also expect repeated easing of measures and then their reenactment when things get out of hand.
    A huge part of a grad degree is the in-person student experience – sports, friendships, networking, large talks… That’s why on-line degrees are generally cheaper than brick and mortar ones. My concern is that you might end up paying for a brick and mortar grad degree, but not get all of its benefits.

  37. ZSD - Grad School Admissions Advisor*

    #2 – I recruit students for a master’s program.
    tl;dr – Wait and apply this fall for fall 2021 entry.

    The school advising students to apply now to graduate programs is missing the fact that most graduate programs’ deadlines are long past! To my knowledge, most programs’ deadlines are in December or January. Some programs, including mine, have late application deadlines for those who don’t want funding, but a) even those deadlines are already past, and b) do you really want to go to grad school with no funding? How much debt are you really willing to take on?!

    Also, if you start reaching out to grad programs now, it will be obvious to admissions counselors that you’re not really interested in their programs, you’re just looking to ride out the economic downturn. We received an inquiry from a college senior on April 1, and I *know* he’s only interested in our program because he sees that his plans to get a job after graduation are likely to fall through. Late requests for permission to apply at this point will be transparent, and you don’t want admissions advisors to read your application already with the thought in mind that you’re not dedicated to the program.

    If you really want to go to grad school, apply this fall to enter in fall 2021. That gives you time to decide what programs truly interest you, assemble a strong application, and present yourself as a serious applicant to the admissions committee.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Also, definitely see how the schools have responded to COVID-19! While I didn’t originally end up at my first choice, my first choice has responded so inhumanely to COVID-19 (booting students out of the dorms with minimal warning, telling students that they could come back and then a few weeks later saying that the dorms needed to be completely cleaned out or the items within would be destroyed/confiscated, etc. etc.) that I am truly grateful that I didn’t end up there. Also, my second choice is actually a whole lot better anyways and just didn’t have as much PR- you want to hear about what the school is like from the students, not from the college.

  38. MissGirl*

    OP4, my company had us go to four days a week to get us around layoffs. It worked and we were eventually restored full time. To get through it, however, I got a couple of side hustles going. I now work in a completely different industry at double pay and still have my side hustles. Go figure.

  39. MCMonkeyBean*

    I know someone whose company jumped straight to the 4-day work week at 80% salary.

    Making you use your PTO isn’t going to help their cash flow at all… but if they make you use it all up before they lay people off then they don’t have to pay it out. I hope that’s not the reason they are doing it because that would be a really shady way to go about it.

    1. 867-5309*

      What I’ve seen is that company’s are doing that in order to keep people at 100% pay. Also, they are still “paying it out” except not in a lump sum.

    2. Amber Rose*

      That’s what my company has done in the past.

      Also that’s almost certainly the reasoning behind the enforced use of PTO. It gets the liability off the books. I don’t know if it’s shady exactly. It would be better to just honestly admit that, but even if they don’t it’s a normal thing to do.

  40. 867-5309*

    I’ll second AAM’s advice on grad school… Not only did people find themselves having a more difficult time finding work, but the flux of people who opted to return to grad school also lead to the student loan crisis we’re seeing today. Additionally, we’re seeing MBAs rendered meaningless, unless from a top school or you’re going into one of the big consulting firms, because so many people have them and even the earning potential for people with law degrees isn’t what it used to be.

  41. James*

    I continue to be baffled by the fact that so many companies want to waste resources looking at each other’s faces. I’ve never been on a conference call where someone’s face was the most important thing to see; if there’s anything on the screen it’s been a map, chart, diagram, report, or something related to the job. No one would care if I vaped (I don’t) because no one would see it anyway.

    The few times my wife has had to be on Zoom for school (most of their work is remote) it’s been the same: here’s the worksheet, let’s discuss it. She teaches high school seniors, though, so they are a bit more self-directed than younger children.

    1. Arctic*

      Faces let you know who is speaking, which is tough on a large conference call (people always forget to announce themselves first every single time they speak.) They cut down on people speaking over each other as there are facial clues that someone is about to speak. They let you pick up on non-verbal clues and “read the room”

      There are definitely benefits to video chat.

      1. James*

        The company I work for has standard protocols to deal with not knowing who’s speaking–on large calls you say “This is James. As you can see by this graph….” or the like, and on small calls we all generally knwo each other.

        The not speaking over each other is a good point. It’s a real problem for us.

        I didn’t mean my comment to come off as harsh as it does, now that I re-read it. I intended to comment on my personal views; different companies do things differently, and that’s a good thing. I don’t understand why companies do things one way, but many people don’t understand why I do things my way. That’s how life works.

    2. ashie*

      We’ve started using Zoom for internal meetings at my company and I never want to go back to regular phone calls. It really makes a difference in following the conversation and making you feel connected with other people, which at the moment is pretty important.

    3. Lisa*

      I find it very difficult to follow large phone calls. I may have mild hearing issues, and it’s difficult to tell who is always speaking and to understand and follow every word on phone calls. So I definitely prefer in person or video calls. I think we also all have to relax and realize that a video call now means people won’t be dressed up, they wont be wearing make up, and their roommates/spouses/kids/pets will be in the background and may make noise.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      We don’t use video on conference calls for work, but I feel like we need to sometimes. The amount of multi-tasking that happens on meetings is infuriating because it makes the meetings go on longer than necessary. If people are on video, it forces them to pay attention, or at least know when someone is focused on another task.

      With online classes, I can see why they would want to use video – it helps with interactions and to make it as close to being in the classroom as possible.

      1. James*

        How long do these calls need to be, though? At least the folks I work with hold the view that less time spent in meetings is better–if you can do it in a 5-minute phone call, don’t hold a meeting. And if people are routinely doing something else during your meetings, it’s a pretty good sign that they don’t consider the meeting worth their time. I’m not saying they’re right; maybe they need to be paying attention, and they need to be reminded of that! But it’s feedback.

        I will admit to being sympathetic to multitasking during meetings. I tend to do so, as my position requires me to coordinate between about a dozen entities, all of which affect one another and none of whom speak to one another directly. I swear I’m the only person who has the full picture of what’s going on at my job site, which means I’m routinely harassing folks very senior to me about things like not scheduling two or three major field efforts in the same place at the same time. Often “multitasking” for me means letting others know what you’re planning to do, because your plans are going to affect their plans and I’m going to be the one that has to straighten the mess out, whether it’s currently my responsibility or not!

        Okay, I’m done ranting for now. :D

  42. Prof Space Cadet*

    I’m a college professor, and I agree with other commenters that going to grad school just to ride out the recession is TERRIBLE advice. Reputable grad programs want students who are genuinely interested in the subject matter. Saying “come to our program to avoid a bad job market” sounds to me like a program that is desperate to fill seats and giving potential students the hard sell.

    The one exception to the above advice would be if you’re in a field that requires a master’s degree as an entry-level credential (for example, you need a master’s degree to be a licensed mental health counselor). But even then, not all grad programs are of equal quality and you should investigate options carefully.

    Also be aware that “I’ll just be a college professor” is not a viable career path. There are far more people with PhDs than jobs available and there’s no guarantee you’ll find a teaching job afterward and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Even if you’re one of the lucky few who does find a teaching job afterward, you’ll have almost no control over the geographic parameters of your job search (I’ve moved cross-country 3 times in the last 12 years), and few options outside of higher ed (private sector employers are deeply suspicious of the PhD).

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I agree with all of this.

      Someone once told me that the only reason you should go to grad school if you are so passionate about it that you can’t imagine doing anything else, or you’d be miserable doing anything else. It is not a backup plan, a place to figure out what you really want to do, or a scenic detour.

      And if you are going because you’re over-the-moon passionate about it, you should be trying to get into one of the highest ranked programs in the country. Most jobs that actually require a grad degree really, really care about the quality of the program you attended.

  43. College Career Counselor*

    I’m sure others have said what I’m gonna say, but I jumped down here to add my $.02. An advisor recommending graduate school as a blanket policy is facile and stupid at best and malpractice at worse. If I have a bias as a counselor, it’s this: don’t go to grad school unless you have an idea of what you want to do with that grad program. This applies double if you’re using it primarily as a means of deferring your decisions about what to do after college.

    In no particular order:
    1) grad school is expensive–unless they’re paying for it all, Alison is right that you may not be able to service that debt when you graduate.
    2) grad school is not necessarily an automatic ticket into the career you hope for–many employers see “two degrees and no experience” and take a pass.
    3) Take the time to figure out what you want to do and which program(s) are the best fit. Grad school will be there when you decide.
    4) If these are advisors in your discipline, it’s possible that this was a strategy that they employed at some point in the past–their individual success (under different circumstances) doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a winning strategy for YOU (for more on this google “Survivor bias”)
    5) It’s possible that these advisors are concerned about potential gaps on your resume and so are recommending graduate school. Unfortunately, any, many college seniors are going to be affected by the state of the economy during COVID-19 and a great deal of them are going to have gaps. I am hopeful that future employers will recognize that a gap in 2020-21 is likely indicative of the state of the economy during the pandemic and not the quality of the candidate before them.

    TL; DR: Taking on up to six figures of debt in a graduate program you’re not sure about in order to avoid a potential gap in your resume is not a good cost-benefit decision.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Not to mention having a gap on your resume doesn’t equate to a problem, especially with what’s happening in the world right now. I’ve been laid off twice in my career, and when asked in an interview about those gaps, I’ve explained that I was laid off due to restructuring and it was never a big deal.

  44. Headset needs to charge*

    LW3 , In LinkedIn, you can hide or remove all of the companies you worked with …. if your current coworkers ask, tell them you are not looking for a job so suspended those. (I bet no one would even ask) .
    Also, you can set it up such that your contacts don’t know who other contacts you have.

    Both will prevent your old manager looking you up to find info about u.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Can you elaborate on if there’s a way to “hide […] companies you worked with”?

      My motive is that I am estranged from a particular family member who unfortunately tries to look me up periodically and/or asks other family members for ‘clues’ about my whereabouts etc.

      So far my solution has been to put a very generic location and a general description of the employer’s industry (e.g. Beverage Dispensing Industry vs “Joe’s Teapots Inc”) but I am wondering if that’s.. it.

      I want to be able to promote myself to potential recruiters with my skills etc whilst being ‘anon’.

  45. Ellie May*

    2. The better business schools do not accept applicants that come straight from an undergraduate program – Actual work experience is a necessary benefit to MBA programs. This suggests that for some, going straight into a graduate program will hurt them (as well as potentially drive up debt).

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      In many MBA programs in the UK there’s an age requirement of 25+ and some real world ‘XP’ for presumably this reason.

      Although I think it’s a bit of a poor proxy, because it’s easy to wait out the requirement to be 25 (or already be) and real world experience can be gamed quite easily.

  46. cleo*

    LW #2 – just want to add my story to all of the others in this thread to give you some hope.

    TL;DR – don’t go to grad school until / unless you have a need for it. Do look for a job, any job, in a location or a field that you’re interested in or that’s adjacent to something you’re interested in. And see where it takes you. Post undergrad is a good time to have an adventure while you pursue and develop your interests (without racking up debt).

    Longer version:

    I graduated with a BA (in history) in a recession in 1991 and even though my first few years post-college were not at all what I expected, it worked out for me.

    My dad was pretty freaked out about the job market (he’d graduated into a much different market in the 60s) and wanted me to go to grad school right away but I didn’t see the point of going to grad school when I didn’t have a clear plan or reason.

    Instead my college roommate and I moved to a fun sounding big city where I had some family – we found a cheap apartment and retail jobs (living independently on a retail wage was MUCH easier in the 90s than it is now, unfortunately). I got a job at a high end fabric store because I knew how to sew. I was SO embarrassed – I’d graduated with honors and I was selling buttons.

    But it worked out. It worked out really well for me. I needed a few years to mature and I frankly needed the exposure to a wider variety of people and experiences than I’d encountered in my relatively homogenous and sheltered childhood. And I accidentally stumbled into my calling, which is design. After 3 years of waiting on customers who were fashion designers or theater designers or other types of designers and thinking “Wait. I could do that. You get PAID to do that?!” I decided to go back to school to study design.

    I did a year of undergrad courses and then did a Masters in design. I did go into debt but I was also able to get assistantships and tuition waivers and it was worth it. Grad school is where I discovered web design and where I discovered that I liked to teach. So I found two careers for the price of one masters degree. And to echo what other people in the thread have said, I don’t see my years in retail as a loss at all – I use my retail skills all the time. And I use my ability to

  47. Steveo*

    LW #4 – To clarify what “brace yourself” means — cut your spending now. Do not wait for this shoe to drop. Examine everything and make some tough choices. The sooner you do it the longer your money will last. Do not wait until the next announcement.

  48. Tidewater 4-1009*

    #2, my experience with college is that they are like other businesses – they want money and they will manipulate customers (students) to get it. It’s possible your college is telling you this in the hope they’ll get lots of people enrolled in grad school and for no other reason.
    I’m glad Alison pointed out the downsides, because many colleges don’t.

  49. Teddyduchampssleepingbag*

    I think forcing people to use vacation and other PTO due to a global pandemic is gross and says a lot about those companies. “there is a global emergency that is in no way anyone’s fault here but we will have to fire you unless you use all of your benefits to save us, the company, money!” Gross gross gross. Then once the pandemic is under control most people will have no leave for the rest of the year so planned vacations, trips to see family, even funerals that had to be postponed for safety will be ruined. Funny how its mainly The U.S. having issues like this. And so many businesses the U.S. considers essential every other shut down country is living without. Yay America? Show the world how bad we treat people and how selfish we are? Ugh.

  50. SpringIsForPlanting!*

    I developed a life rule after my own academia-to-work sojourn: Don’t Pay for Your Own Grad School. May not apply to professional degrees (law, medicine, etc. But for many fields, if it’s academic work, a _strong_ school will pay for a _strong_ candidate. If you’re not on a fellowship, either they’re not a very strong program or they don’t think you’re a very strong student. Either one bodes poorly for the value of the degree. For a more “practical” field, most reasonable employees will have tuition-reimbursement benefits for degrees they see as of value to your work–and again, if it’s not eligible for reimbursement, that doesn’t bode well. YMMV.

  51. So sleepy*

    I know it sucks, LW4, but if they are actually in the position of choosing between this and layoffs, it’s actually a pretty decent thing to do – presumably with PTO you’re still getting paid, and you might struggle to pay bills on 80% salary, but you’d struggle more with none at all. And if this is enough to stretch them out until they can afford to keep operating, it’s kinda perfect (and keeps everyone on benefits, if applicable). I agree you should prepare for the worst (since this is almost certainly a last ditch effort), but at this point it’s not a terrible thing to do. That said, my biggest worry at the moment is getting put on unpaid leave, because I’ll get 6 months severance if I get let go but nothing if they put us on job-protected leave (which would certainly be good for many, but in my case, I would have a good chance of being rehired by the end of the year and would rather have my severance to live off of than a guaranteed job).

    1. Tidewater 4-1009*

      The thing is, I’ve seen rich companies whose C-suite is paid millions, cry poor and say they can’t pay people.
      OP and others in this situation will have to use what they know of their employers to determine if they really can’t afford it, or are being evil.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        As a discussion point do you think the C-suite ought to volunteer some of their pay to the “normal workers” Why or why not?

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Of course. If they’re making a few million and their workers are 50k or less, it’s already gross and even more gross if they lay people off during a crisis when they could afford to keep them on by giving up a million or two each. It’s the right thing to do. They won’t starve, they’ll still have 2 or 3 million each…

        2. fhqwhgads*

          Yes because C-suite who make millions also sometimes have guaranteed compensation that is not salary, such as bonuses or stock options. But in terms of cashflow in the now – which is what matters more in terms of paycuts or furloughs for lower-level employees – cutting CEO salary is the more helpful thing to do. Someone making 2 million a year in salary – but might have several other millions coming to them – should be able to afford that first 2 million being split up to save a ton of other people’s jobs. There has already been press about a number of CEOs taking paycuts, some 50% some 100% and these are feel-good PR articles because in several cases the “salary” of the people in question was actually a fairly small proportion of their annual pay.

        3. James*

          Normally? No. I’m not anywhere near C-suite, but I manage staff and get perks they don’t, like an office with a door. I’ve had folks complain about it–right up until they learn what goes with that office with a door. Once they do, they decide it’s not worth it. I feel the same way about C-suites. They don’t pay the VPs I know enough to make me want to live that lifestyle or make those choices.

          This is not normal, however. Yesterday someone said that you’re not paying workers for current output, you’re paying to keep them. Eventually this will blow over, and workers are going to take a long, hard look at how they were treated. And those who weren’t treated well will walk away–especially the top performers.

          Another thing I’ve learned about managing teams: I can’t do squat. I can facilitate and plan and adjust and schedule like nobody’s business–but I can’t do the work the teams do. Not both at the same time, anyway. To be an effective manager I need staff to manage. Same applies to the C-suite staff. To do their jobs effectively they need to have people working for them. If they don’t help the workers now, they won’t have staff when this is over.

  52. Eric*

    Regarding #5–I’m a P&C insurance agent and I know my company will not do it. We will ask if it’s titled to the insured and if no we’ll ask who…as soon as they say “my company,” we tell them it must be on a Commercial Auto or Business Auto policy–different exposure. Not all companies are like this, but if somehow it’s added to the policy and there is an accident, the claim could be legitimately denied due to misrepresentation.

    Of course, if the idea was to simply PAY the portion, that’s different, and I’d say Allison is right on that one.

  53. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Listen to someone who has friends who went back for more school because the job market sucked [recession millennials right here].

    Do. Not. Do. That. Unless you have a college fund with more money in it to use up, then by all means if it’s a free ride, jump on in. But don’t rack up more debt! A graduate degree will not always get you more money, it won’t make you more likely to be hired unless you’re going somewhere that really requires that level. It will only be more money you’re spending prematurely. Do not mortgage your future further if you’re on loans right now. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.

    I had friends who went back to school for totally separate things because they were told “those” jobs were always hiring. WRONG. They’re working in retail, paying off those degrees in jobs they were told were handed out like ice cream cones in the summer heat.

    Your college is paid to get you to continue to get money from you. Either by you continuing your education or giving them money donations as an alum. Think about that when you’re debating their advice.

    1. nerfherder*

      Yup! I explained in detail above, but as someone who did that exact thing your friends did – “get this degree because those jobs are always hiring!” – it was the dumbest move ever. Those jobs do not care about your degree! It doesn’t matter how many open positions they have, how desperate the recruiters seem, or how many articles you’ve read about shortages in the particular field. If you don’t have the relevant experience first, they will not hire you. Full stop. In fact, if anything you will rank below people who have less education but the same experience level, because they’ll assume your graduate degree makes you uppity/difficult to manage/anxious to leave the moment a better job comes along.

      Nobody believes it, though. Everyone, EVERYONE, said I’d be plastered with job offers the minute I graduated, because employers were so desperate for the skills I was learning in school. Not desperate enough to hire someone without a certain experience set, as it turns out! And they don’t consider doing it in school to count as experience AT ALL!

      I didn’t go into debt for it, though, thankfully. It’s the one thing that keeps me from collapsing in on myself with self-loathing and regret.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That’s the thing too to keep in mind.

        You’re graduating into a market with limited jobs everywhere. That sucks! But when it blows over, there’s going to be people fighting for jobs with all that experience plus probably some relative education as well. Those are just about always going to beat you out in the end unless it’s some kind of intern program you’re going into to.

        So even if you keep going to school for the next 2-3 years whatever it takes to get your graduate degree. By the time you graduate, you still have no experience and hundreds of thousands to compete with. It doesn’t matter if it’s now or not.

        I’m so relieved you don’t have debt. All my friends are now getting laid off for the most part. While again, I’ve made a career in an essential industry. Now I’m watching them scramble and live in fear yet again, over ten years later :( So that hits so close to home it makes me fee physically ill.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        I couldn’t get a job — ANY job — after I left grad school with my MA for over a year because the jobs I theoretically had the skills for wouldn’t hire me due to a lack of experience and the jobs I could get without experience thought I was going to be bored/unsatisfied/resentful about low pay and quit the moment I got a whiff of anything better. I couldn’t even get work as a temp except at this one place that was such a shithole no one who had ever temped there would ever agree to go back, and I worked there twice (apparently a record) and then refused to go back because poverty was preferable to that craphole.

        It was hard and it sucked and I wish I could hop in my time machine and make different choices when I was 22.

  54. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP5: Your coworker’s people-pleasing is out of control. Don’t listen to them. Companies, even nonprofits, are selfish enough as is without their employees giving them new ideas!

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I think it sounds like OP5s co-worker feels like she wants to do something actively that she can contribute to, and has guilt about… I think “people-pleasing out of control” sounds quite harsh and doesn’t really capture the intent.

      Most of us as individuals can’t contribute much individually to our company as they are so much bigger than any individual and so it pales in comparison to organizational budgets and so on… and yet… in some sense the ‘company’ is just the aggregate of everything everyone in the company does, it isn’t really an entity in its own right.

  55. No real name here*

    For LW4… I would be super-happy if my spouse’s employer had this option! My spouse has so much leave saved up! But they just cut their salary by 20%, no option to use paid leave. I don’t think we have to worry about further cuts, but I don’t really know. The world just kinda sucks right now. I’m sorry. I feel you on the cut, I am nervous about getting by or, honestly even worse, having to ask my parents for money.

  56. AnotherSarah*

    Ooh, I’d like to weigh in on #1 and #2 as a professor (who started grad school in 2008):

    #1: Please don’t vape on the video call. I’ve been teaching by video recently, and while sure, standards are relaxed (I’m teaching in a hoodie with my dog nearby), your professors are really putting in quite a lot of extra effort to show up for you and for the subject. We’re facing a lot of fear about our jobs and a lot of grief about not getting to do what we love, and while students can share their worries with us, we can’t really share ours with them. It’s disheartening to feel like students aren’t doing the same work to show up and be engaged. Of course, do what you need to come to class, and if that means holding a baby, or calling in from your bed, that’s fine, but vaping seems at this moment completely unnecessary and might feel like a slight to your professor.

    #2: I began grad school in 2008–the market for professors only recently, and only in some places, reached pre-2008 levels (and is now back to nothing). If you really want the degree, and would enjoy the course of study, and won’t ruin yourself financially, go for it. But don’t count on the market being better in 2-ish years. If you were thinking, “I’ll just get any type of job for now and then apply for grad school next year,” then yes, now might be a good time to do that. But otherwise, it seems foolish.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I can’t relate to the professor/student relationship as such but I can totally speak to the one-way nature of a situation where people can express their worries to ‘you’ (generic you) and then from their perspective they’re happier, they’ve offloaded… but it isn’t reciprocal.

      I was a manager in the past but I’m not now (due to moves initiated by me, I realized I wasn’t very good at managing people!)… I was constantly in the firing line of this or that unexpected situation: family members are sick, report just found out her sister was a victim of domestic violence again after 2 years of peace so she is liekly to be a bit subdued, etc.

      I just don’t really know how to be empathetic to people and balance things in their own lives with things at work… because ultimately I have the viewpoint that your current job is funding your life so it ought to be your main priority most of the time.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        I mean on the day my ex husband left for good after 17 years (to move back to a country 4000 miles away) I said goodbye civilly in the morning, had a brief chat about “no regrets”, left for work, and then that was that. Was I tracking the flight? – a bit, but I mostly was just working on stuff!

        1. James*

          The day my grandfather died I gave myself five minutes, washed my face, then put in my fully day plus a little overtime. Partly this was to keep my mind off of what had happened; partly it was the best tribute I could give him.

  57. HeyIamnewhere*

    Long time reader first time commenter!!!! Came here to say this to question 2:
    I graduated college in 08. A LOT of my friends went straight to grad school to stave off job searching during the Great Recession.
    I gotta tell ya, 10+ years later, I am doing as well or better than most of those friends who went to grad school. First off, I don’t have any grad school debt. That’s been amazing. Grad school isn’t very long, and once you graduate, you will have a lot of debt but maybe not a guaranteed income. So that is worth thinking about as you weigh this decision.
    Second off, I was able to find work (embarrassingly low paid work but still in my field) and gain experience and knowledge that helped set me apart from other job seekers.
    Third, I work in higher ed. People are FREAKING about enrollment right now. The blanket recommendation to enter grad school strikes me as potentially self-serving for the recommenders. It’s guaranteed profit for the school, but maybe not for you.

  58. It's mce*

    OP 3: LinkedIn has a blocking feature where you can block other members from seeing your profile. You can also establish privacy settings that will show only certain things to those who aren’t connected to you. I understand where you’re coming from. I had a horrible experience with a nasty ex-colleague who was hell bent on destroying my reputation. She was laid off from our company, and I was looking to leave, where we both applied for the same job. I got it, she didn’t it. She found out because I stupidly told the wrong person where I was going to. When I started at new job, my new coworkers felt awkward around me; my manager hinted at what was up and mentioned the woman’s name. I was still processing the whole thing, but focused on being a good worker and nice person. Eventually, my new employer saw that I was a good hire. I now have blocked any online association (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) with nasty ex-colleague and any person I know who still keeps in touch with her for piece of mind.

  59. M*

    Don’t go to grad school if you have to take out loans. Don’t do it! There are tons of date out there and articles saying the debt from grad school is worse than undergrad. Google it.

    It’s better to get experience even at a low paying job. Then in a couple years if you want to and can get grants or free tuition (some programs cover tuition for all students look for those programs) but go work for a bit. The debt from grad school is awful! Don’t do it if you need to take out loans or spend savings.

  60. CouldntPickAUsername*

    “2. Should college seniors go to grad school to avoid the bad job market?”

    I’m in this picture and I don’t like it…..

    I did a college diploma for programming (Canadian system) and graduated in 2009. There was nothing, absolutely nothing unless you had a computer science degree. So I went and got that, it was only another 2 years and then one of my professors asked me if I wanted to be a grad student…. it made sense at the time so I did it. 8 years later after problems with my dad’s health, my supervisor’s health and my own health I’m almost done.

    look, base the decision on whether or not you actually want to do it and if it’ll be useful. You need to be motivated for grad school and if your heart is not in it it will be harder.

  61. Drtheliz*

    LW1, making steam on a video call is going to cause issues because if stuffs up the compression.

  62. Galahad*

    LW#5 — you may end up paying extra for your company car anyway. Call your company’s payroll tax accounting department. There are taxable benefits allocated to people with company cars who also use them for personal reasons. If your car use suddenly shifts to a larger percentage of personal miles, you could get hit with “standby charges” as taxable benefits.

    e.g. you don’t pay for it directly, but owes taxes on it.

    Don’t offer to pay anything, and do your research. Possibly offer to use up your PTO now so that everyone is fully working without vacations when the company is back to full steam in future.

    1. Galahad*

      Found it. Publication 15-B Employer’s tax guide to fringe benefits.

      To Calculate
      Total annual lease value x % of personal use miles e.g., $10,000 x 20% personal use miles= $2000
      Add in 5.5cents/mile for fuel if all the fuel is paid by the company. e.g. 12,000 total miles x 20% personal use x 5.5 cents =$132
      Total Taxable Fringe Benefit: $2132
      If your marginal tax rate is 30%, then you will pay extra taxes of $705 on your 2020 tax return.

      — Talk to your accounting dept.
      – Start a log of your personal use trip mileage.
      – Don’t offer to pay to offset this now.

  63. Nom de plume*

    LW#5: I think it also matters that the car is grant funded. Even if you offered to pay for it, that money wouldn’t go back to your company but rather back to the grantor (if they even agreed to it – my donors certainly wouldn’t agree to stop paying for the insurance for a few months!). Assuming your grantors are similar to mine, this means that your company would actually be losing money, presuming that you get a certain percentage of indirect funding from your grant.

  64. Wendy Darling*


    I did it in the mid-2000s. If I had it to do over, I WOULD NOT DO IT. It was a bad plan. It did not help. My job search after grad school was ridiculously difficult and it took over a year for me to find a job. Every time I’ve job searched post grad school it’s taken 6-12 months minimum to find a job. If I could have left my graduate degree off my resume without leaving a weird gaping hole in my work experience I WOULD HAVE. I spend most of my time in job interviews convincing people I am not going to abandon them to return to academia even though I left academia eight years ago because I hated it.

    Don’t do it. It’s a bad idea. Anyone telling you it’s a good idea is wrong and silly.

  65. joss*

    For the person who asked about paying insurance for the NP he works for: Some insurance companies are starting to lower insurance premiums during the COVID-19 crisis because people able drive less. While it is probable that it is more difficult for companies to get a similar discount, your non-profit organization should look into this possibility (making sure to mention the NP status of the organization. And if at first the answer is no, just keep trying as this pandemic drags on things do change very often and fast in the reality we live in right now.

  66. JSPA*


    For the foreseeable future, a training program as a plumber, electrician or other skilled tradesperson (besides being a much better job guarantee than grad school, in general) will likely also expose you to a smaller number of people and involve less travel (assuming it’d be a graduate program where some in-person learning is required).

    Or do DIY online study for a contractor’s license (or other license).

    Worst-case scenario, you’ve spent a year or two learning the right way to do work that’s expen$ive to have done right, and dangerous to do wrong. You’ll have demonstrable skills, demonstrable ability to commit to a job, demonstrable willingness to work hard. You’ll also learn the basics of either running a small business or dealing with industry or dealing with local government contracts (depending what path you take). These are all transferrable and valuable.

    You want to be creative? Look into new materials options; new branches of the field; green certifications; learning how to incorporate crafted or 3-D printed or otherwise novel parts without violating code.

    After so much time at home to think about mortality, home safety (the, “do not stand on a chair now” clause also applies to other household risk areas), and the usefulness of bidets, a lot of people are going to rethink what they want in a house. Better task lighting, better sound-insulated home office space, and a faucet that doesn’t drip are all going to be higher on the list than they were three months ago.

    1. Jenny*

      I’m curious why so many people on this site seem to jump to recommend the trades. I can’t speak for OP, but I went to college with the goal of ultimately landing an office job – I wouldn’t have gone if I had any inclination towards being, say, an electrician. In a desperate situtation I would have taken any work I could get, but it would have been an interim meansure and I wouldn’t have invested time/money/energy into a training program. I think this is true of many college grads, so I’m just curious as to why this is such a common recommendation, especially here, where OP almost has his/her degree.

      1. Jenny*

        To be clear, I’m referring to comments on other threads as well, not just this one specifically.

  67. Frankie*

    #2, this is also unlike the other recession because grant funding for many disciplines is evaporating overnight.

    Your advisors are giving you advice that does not apply to this situation.

    I graduated from graduate school into the recession and my first job, an admin assistant, temp-to-hire job, happened somewhat quickly. I do think I was lucky because my later experience with temp agencies was pretty dismal. I later moved to a city and it took months and months to find gainful employment, even after the valuable skills gained from the previous job, and it was a pretty crappy job, honestly, for a good year or so, with very little pay.

    My degree absolutely made it harder. Everyone assumed, I think, not just that I wouldn’t want to stick around, but probably that I wouldn’t be a very valuable employee. I was always able to prove myself once on the job, but getting your foot in the door is the big struggle.

    I would not see it as an escape. Many schools are experiencing huge deficits now with the pandemic. Grad school has been getting more and more competitive and less and less financially feasible. These advisors may not really understand how cutthroat so many programs already are. This pandemic won’t make things better.

  68. char*

    #2 Don’t go to grad school.

    I’m eternally grateful to my college advisor for advising me not to go to grad school. He told me that unless I had a well-thought-out reason why I needed a specific graduate degree, it wouldn’t be worth it. And he was right!

    And I feel that way even though I didn’t get a job right away out of college – in fact, it took me several years before I got a full-time, permanent position. So I wasn’t making much money during those years… but at least I wasn’t putting myself even MORE into debt getting a degree that I would have had no idea what to do with.

    1. char*

      Oh right, I also want to add: at the time, my advisor’s advice felt harsh. At first I thought he was saying I wasn’t cut out for grad school. But the more I thought it over, the more I realized that he was right, and that I didn’t even really WANT to keep pushing myself through school without any concrete goal in mind. I realized that the only reason I’d even been considering grad school was because going to school was all I’d ever done, so just continuing to do that felt safer than having to face the unknown of post-school life.

    1. OP*

      Pretty sure Hydro Flasks don’t make a cloud of vapor! That’s the most distracting thing – not the vaping itself, but when the vapor obscures her face and takes over the screen.

  69. SittingDuck*

    #2 – This was me in 2008. I went to Grad school in 2009, hoping for more hiring prowress, I had no undergrad debt but took on a LOT of debt for 2 years of Grad school. While I enjoyed my Grad school experience, I have yet to find a job that pays enough to make a dent in my loans, and its 9 years past when I graduated. Grad school is not a solution, particularly if you have to take out debt to do it.

  70. LondonLady*

    OP5: you could perhaps make an equivalent donation to your non-profit (discretionary) rather than directly pay for the insurance (bad precedent).

Comments are closed.