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Night School

If an employee at your company announces their intention to go to night school, what does that mean for the organization?

Caveat: I have never gone to night school. I barely finished college. Also, I am talking about technology professionals that already have an undergraduate degree and are getting an MBA or something.

Generally I would say that people that decide to go to night school fall into a few buckets:

  • People looking to make a career shift.
  • People that believe that upward mobility in their chosen profession is restricted by their lack of degrees.
  • People are bored.

Frankly, to me, when an employee tells me that they have decided to go to night school, that is a red flag. Are they not challenged enough? Do they think that their upward mobility at our company is limited? My objective as an employer is to capture as much of my employees mindshare as possible. I recognize that people have personal lives and I want employees to have a healthy work-life balance, but to me, this is “work” and I want “work” to be focused on work. Why are you spending your nights thinking about problems that other people assigned to you besides your colleagues?

Incidentally, if I was interviewing someone and they were doing night school, that would not be a huge negative. That just means they aren’t challenged at work today. Good for them to not settle.

2 Responses to “Night School”

  1. Mike Rodbell Says:

    Brent,

    Interesting thoughts, however I think perhaps a bit cynical.

    Having gone the night school route for a Masters (many, many years ago), my reasons were a combination of building a stronger baseline for career growth and learning something new. I decided to study engineering as it was different from my undergrad studies (comp sci + psych).

    I think the reasons you’ve cited are valid. However, I think you also might want to extend them to include that some people are naturally curious and are interested in learning things beyond what they experience in their day job. It is very possible to have an interesting job, but find that one has interests beyond the tasks at hand. Someone’s day job may require one to focus on a constrained set of disciplines & I think useful to have additional interests.

    Mike

  2. brent Says:

    Mike, you should have just started building a start-up on the side! I am sure when Chris hears how he did not make your day job interesting enough for you, he will be very disappointed.

    But seriously, you make a fair point. It is certainly true that my worldview is skewed by the fact that I have rarely, if ever, had a job where I felt like the scope was extremely constrained.

    This is probably where the up or out concept comes from. To the extent that your day job is constrained to a narrow set of disciplines, is your employer doing a disservice by not figuring out how to give you a broader area of focus to more completely engage you? Could they get you to work 15 more hours a week by giving you something more interesting in that way? It seems somewhat implied.

    When we talk about naturally curious people, my attempt to extend that metaphor would crash and fail if we were talking about “I am getting an MFA in photography”. Hard to engage that in an IT setting. And certainly I know many people taking guitar lessons at night and that is not macroscopic-ly different. And I am a fan of hobbies. People should have hobbies. If your hobby is night school, I guess that is something, but that is a big hobby.

    Maybe the point is that I should not complain because we need more people whose vocation is their avocation.