I received a question from a former student. He has a great idea for a non-profit that will make an important contribution to the field of women’s health and security. He wanted to pick my brain about some of his next steps. One of those was the decision to go back to school.
You may think that an educator is complicit with the “back to school” mantra. But, I’m a coach. I counsel clients to assess their position, respect their goals, and make the decision that is most sustainable.
The choice to go back to school is a big one. You have a Master’s degree already. Your goal is to start this non-profit.
Keep in mind that your degree does not make your non-profit successful. If it is credibility you want from a degree, your Master’s degree is enough. But, credibility comes from production, not degrees. I can name 5 bachelor degreed billionaires off the top of my head. With a little more time, I can name 5 high school-age kids who are impacting global change. No degrees at all.
If you are going back to school, focus on the PhD. Do NOT get a non-profit certificate or another Master’s degree. You will have the same amount of course work either way. Might as well have a terminal degree at the end of it.
Remember that school is 20% what they construct. It’s 80% what you use that external motivation to accomplish. That’s what you pay for, the external motivation of someone else setting your assignments an deadlines. It is up to you to make that investment count.
The passion, network, and communication skills you have are the keys to your progress in any business, maybe more in the bin-profit arena. You should only go back to school if you are certain to develop all three:
Passion supported by face-to-face knowledge of the challenges. Schools with intensive experiences with your population are best. Your knowledge and interest will be increased as you spend time with your population in their environment. The best experience will include interaction with agencies and personalities who are on the front lines of yours or similar endeavors. Classroom is nice, but you can get that just by reading a book on your own time.
Network is important for fundraising, awareness, sponsorship, and mobilization. Attend schools that connect you in close relationship with individuals who themselves have vast networks. School is about both professors, students, and involve alumni who are successfully doing the work you want to do. The best schools will have connections to incubators, angel investors, and private benefactors eager to invest in your start-up.
Communication is an ability to articulate your vision in 2 minutes elevator pitches and 45-minute presentations in front of 500 people. A school that provides you with the safe opportunity to perfect your public speaking is of great value. The best will have connections or even a chapter of a national or international movement like Toastmasters, SXSW, or TEDTalk.
The decision is yours. That means you have to know YOU. Education is a significant investment. Some $20- $40,000 or more could be spent in just two years. Decide whether that money should go to an institution or seed your non-profit.