July 2013

Blog Topic:  Look Before You Leap: Is Going Back to School the Right Option?

Employment Options has been given the distinct honor of being a regular guest blogger on the Disability.gov website.

In our most recent blog, Employment Options’ CEO, Paula Vieillet shared her expert knowledge about a common question many job seekers face: deciding if going back to school is the best option to advance their career Options.  Paula uses tips based on her 20+ years as a Certified Vocational Evaluator (CVE).  The blog also gives helpful information about what specific factors to consider first before making such a major decision!


Do you often feel you lack the necessary skills or education needed to get the job of your dreams? Do you think going back to school might be the solution to earning more money or getting a better job?

Before you jump into a new training program or go back to school, you should first consider these important factors:

#1:  Going back to school is not a guarantee of employment. 

You may have a friend who went back to school to become a computer programmer and was able to quickly get hired and demand a high salary. You want to do the same thing.

Use caution. What was a hot labor market a year ago may now be a career field where there are a lot of qualified candidates, and it is nearly impossible to get a job. Do your “homework” before deciding what path to take!

#2:  Realistically assess job prospects. Call employers who would typically hire a program graduate. You should get at leastfive positive responses before starting any retraining or educational program.

Note: Many people talk to guidance or career counselors who recommend entering a particular program or field. While this is helpful for people making career choices based on their interests, backgrounds and standardized test results, they may not always have the latest, most up-to-date labor market information. 

Here is an example of how this process works in action. Let’s say you want to go to school for Web design and work close to where you currently live.

    • Look up Web design in your city’s Yellow Pages, or do a local search online.
    • Call five to 10 of these companies for whom you would like to work.
    • Ask to talk directly with the manager of the department you would like to work for, or the Human Resources department.

Hint:  When in doubt, you can always ask the program director, placement coordinator or classroom instructor about which employers in the community typically hire new graduates of the program.

#3:  Ask potential employers the right questions:

Call a potential employer and ask for the manager of the IT department. When you get the manager, introduce yourself and say, “I am considering going to school at _____ for Web design training. Have you ever hired anyone from this program?” Also ask:

    • “Would you consider hiring someone from this program?”
    • “Have you hired any new employees in this field in the last six months, or do you intend to hire this year?”
    • “What is the typical salary range for a new graduate?”
    • “If you have hired graduates from this program, did you feel that the students were well-trained?”

Take the opportunity to address any vocational obstacles or concerns that you have:

    • “Is this a job where you typically sit or do you usually stand?”
    • “Is there a great deal of physical labor involved in this job?”
    • “Would you consider hiring someone with an prior felony charge if it was from many years ago?”

Here is another example. You want to go to school to be an electronics technician. Ask a potential employer these questions:

  • “I am considering going to school for electronics tech. The program instructor, (use name of instructor), told me that you have hired his students in the past. Is that accurate?”
  • “Were you happy with the students you hired?”
  • “Are you planning on doing any future hiring in this field?”

If you do not get the positive answers you expected, consider yourself very lucky. You found out before you invested a lot of time and money!

#4:  Other Considerations……

Instead of retraining or returning to school, what about:

    • Another position with your current employer?
    • Other jobs related to your background and work experience?
    • Going back to work for a former employer?

If you have trouble getting information from potential employers, consider hiring a professional vocational evaluator who is well-trained in labor market surveys. Go to www.rehabpro.org to find a vocational evaluator in your area.

If you are currently receiving SSDI or SSI disability benefits, there is actually a free program called “Ticket to Work” that offers this information, as well as free job placement assistance. To find an Employment Network or Vocational Rehabilitation Agency near you, visit the Ticket to Work website.

Going back to school and retraining is certainly worth considering, just be sure and do your research first. You will be glad you did! 

Paula Reuben Vieillet is the president and founder of Employment Options, Inc., a certified Social Security Administration (SSA) Employment Networkin the Ticket to Work Program. She is a frequent consultant to SSA on the Ticket to Work Program and is on the Board of Directors of the National Employment Network Association. Her company assists Ticket to Work Program participants in 48 states and has a loyal following of employers, who consistently put aside job openings for her clients because they have been well screened for each job description. This article contains excerpts from Employment Options: The Ultimate Resource for Job Seekers with Disabilities and Other Challenges, which is a culmination of her 20 years of experience as a licensed rehabilitation counselor.
If you have questions about the company or their resources, visit the Employment Options Facebook page or email Lori Adler at ladler@myemploymentoptions.com or 800-441-3114 ext 763.


If you are receiving SSDI and/or SSI benefits and want to see if Employment Options can assist you with our free job services, Visit our Job Seekers Page to apply! 


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Read the Blog Article and read other helpful blog topics by visiting Disability.gov’s Blog Section

Disability.gov  is the federal government website for comprehensive information on disability programs and services in communities nationwide. The site links to more than 14,000 resources from federal, state and local government agencies; academic institutions; and nonprofit organizations.