Fear always accompanies a transition out of and into academia, but when you are considering putting your startup on hold to seek an advanced degree, the distress and trepidation can feel especially acute. In fact, many professionals perpetually put off returning to school because their anxiety tells them to.
However, a graduate degree might be just what you need to kick your professional development and business into high gear. Advanced degrees in business can provide you with the leadership skills you desire, which allow you build your business bigger, stronger and faster. If you want to overcome your graduate school fears, consider these common concerns–and why they are utterly unfounded.
What if I can’t compete with my grad school peers?
Graduate school is much more competitive than academic programs you’ve completed in the past. Students in advanced programs vie for every opportunity to demonstrate superiority, including positions on university journals, internships and even enviable seating arrangements at events.
This is because in graduate school, especially in business school, appearances can seem as important as grades. You want your peers, professors and other professionals to see you as exceedingly competent, so you can form rewarding relationships that could enhance your entrepreneurial goals.
Thus, the fear that you might not be worthy of the competition is one of the more realistic ones–except for aspiring entrepreneurs. Most markets boast at least as much competition as graduate school, so competing in this environment will only prepare you for the competition to come. You should view graduate school as another opportunity to hone your business skills and improve your abilities.
What if I’m not smart or talented enough?
Advanced degree programs typically demand more advanced study, which means you need to be prepared with foundational knowledge and skill. Knowing this, you are likely plagued by self-doubt, wondering if you have what it takes to survive even a semester of graduate school, let alone an entire program.
This fear often breeds others; for example, you might worry about what happens when you fail a class or if you want to withdraw from a course prematurely. If your intelligence or talent aren’t up to snuff, you might seriously impede your future.
Fortunately, as an entrepreneur, you likely already have what you need to excel. Because you have spent some time in the real world building your business know-how, you might even be more advanced than your peers. Plus, the fear that you aren’t good enough to enter graduate school should be assuaged by the knowledge that programs won’t accept your application unless they believe you to be worthy.
What if I can’t grow my network and make connections?
The fear of not fitting in is perhaps more acute for new students in undergrad, who often lose their established social circles by traveling to new places to study. However, graduate students need to make connections with their peers, as well; one of your primary goals of business should be to grow your network, so you have trustworthy and reputable contacts to help you launch and expand your startup.
Not all entrepreneurs are born with social skills, but successful entrepreneurs must be able to find some level of comfort and ease interacting with new people. As a business owner, you are your business’s most important salesperson, so you need to hone your ability to talk to and befriend strangers. You should view graduate school as an opportunity to practice new methods of networking, so when it comes time to be social for your business, you will have a well-honed technique.
What if an advanced degree isn’t worth it?
Graduate school requires commitment and time–at least two years full-time for the most basic programs as well as money. You can save some free time and expense by choosing an online program. This permits you to attend classes and complete coursework around your schedule and eliminates relocation and commuting costs.
However, you will still devote a substantial amount of effort to your education, alongside building your business. If your degree doesn’t directly improve your ability to function as a business leader, then you may perceive the endeavor as a waste of your resources and a delay to personal and professional success.
Yet enhanced knowledge and skill is never a waste, and a great way to improve yourself is through formal education. As long as you do your research and choose a degree program known to positively impact entrepreneurs like you, you should see your efforts reflected in the success of your startup.