I Got Laid Off! Should I Apply to Graduate School?

By - Nov 13, 07:29 AM Comments [0]

If you lost your job because of layoffs in your field or any other reason, it could actually be a great opportunity to take stock of your career. In this post, we discuss three different unemployment scenarios and offer recommendations as to what you could do next.

Three Scenarios for Unemployed Applicants

1. You loved your work.

Lucky you! In this case, you have two strong options:

  • Try to find a similar job with another company. To uncover job leads, network with your friends, alumni from your college, and/or peers at companies that might be hiring. If you don’t know how to contact someone, try using the “advanced” search option on LinkedIn, using company or university names as key words.
  • Strengthen or broaden your skill set by taking online courses and earning certificates, or advance your skills and opportunities by attending graduate school. An advanced degree could help you gain more responsibility and earn a higher salary in a field you love.

2. You’re ready for a completely different challenge and career direction.

A layoff can be an opportune time to pursue a degree in a different field and facilitate your career change by preparing you for that new field. Business school could offer you multiple options for advancement. Or if, for example, you were a software engineer, you might be thinking about further training in machine learning, AI, or data science, for which there are now many specialized degree programs.

3. You don’t know what you want to do, but you know you don’t want to return to what you were doing.

In this case, seek career coaching to gain direction and focus. Career coaches will ask you questions intended to help you reflect on your interests, values, and skills. They can also provide career path suggestions and help you get started doing informational interviews, which will provide insightful information – and sometimes even job leads.

Depending on your clarified career goals, graduate school could prepare you to make the move to your new field and achieve your goals there.

Find a position that allows you to make progress toward your new desired role or field while also testing whether it’s really right for you and providing valuable experience.

Improving Your Chances of Grad School Acceptance When You’re Unemployed

If you are considering graduate school, think about the timing. If you don’t have sufficient time to submit a quality application for the next entering class, delay your application until the following year. Whether you apply during this cycle or the next, there are steps you can take while unemployed to enhance your candidacy and chances of acceptance.

  • Visit with students at schools you are considering and learn more about the program and about their personal experiences there. Make an appointment with the admissions office for a brief conversation about your background and goals. Attend admissions events in person or online. Follow the programs on social media.
  • Search for a position that moves you closer to your post-MBA or post-MS goal and gives you experience that a desired future employer will value.
  • Volunteer with organizations that could use your skills. You will gain valuable experience and have more related content for your resume, essays, and interviews.
  • Network with friends and colleagues and ask to work on a temporary project with their company. If any of your friends own start-ups, you could offer your time and skills at a reduced rate or at no expense to the company.
  • If you would like to start your own company, consider using this time to write a business plan for it.

Graduate schools will appreciate that you used your time out of work wisely. You will want to be honest about your situation — what resulted in the job loss, and what actions have you taken since? Never lie about losing your job or “fudge” your employment dates; that can result in a revocation of your acceptance. If you lost your job as part of a large layoff during a period of increasing layoffs, it will not affect your chances for acceptance, though you want to be able to show that you’ve been productive with your time since.

Dr. Karin Ash

With 30 years of career and admissions experience at four universities, including Cornell’s College of Engineering and Johnson Business School, Dr. Karin Ash facilitated students’ entry into the world’s best companies. As an adcom member, she also evaluated applications and therefore knows what schools and employers seek. Want Karin to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!

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