Do You See College/University As More Debt?


A problem familiar to many people has to do with taking on more financial debt in order to return to College or University. Has this got you or someone you know so stressed and anxious that they’ve made the decision to pass on further education and look for work with their existing experience and skills? If so, think again.

There are a number of reasons you might not be willing to take on extra debt. Perhaps you’ve already got a loan hanging over your head and the idea of taking on more is scary. After all, if your existing debt has you this stressed, you don’t even want to think about increasing it now do you? You might even have an existing student loan such as the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) here in Ontario where I live, and is it possible you’ve just been ignoring paying off what you already owe, not because you don’t want to pay it off but because you’ve no income to do so with?

This extra debt you’re closed to increasing is worrying because you didn’t complete the program at school that the first loans were for. There’s that nagging feeling that maybe you’d make the same mistake of taking on debt and not finishing a second time; what a waste of unfinished education and more money to owe hanging like a dark cloud everywhere you go.

I’m no fan of debt myself, so I get it. It’s stressful to think about.

I wonder though if, putting money aside for a paragraph or two, we could just focus on the education you might be wanting. You know, it could be that the reason you didn’t complete that other program is because it just wasn’t right for you in the first place. Maybe you weren’t ready for College or University at that time, needed to mature a bit or it wasn’t school at all but something else going on in your life at the time which made focusing on school and putting in the effort impossible. The consequence? You failed or were failing – maybe academic probation and you dropped everything…except of course the looming repayments.

Back in the present however, now you’ve grown. Maybe those, ‘things’ that kept you from succeeding are taken care of and behind you. Or, perhaps you’ve got a better idea of what it is that you’re passionate about and if you could only have the education needed to get going, you’re sure you’d flourish and succeed. That thought is pretty exciting; to know what turns you on and what you’d love to do!

It’s a shame that earlier failed experience and unpaid debt is keeping you from taking on more debt right?

First things first, let’s shift that viewpoint and stop looking at the education fees as debt. Debt is such a negative word. What you are in fact doing is making an investment in yourself. Consider the money needed to buy a house or a car – relatively big and important purchases. Neither of those two investments maintain their value over time with any guarantee – especially the car. Eventually both get replaced too. Education however, wakes up with you every morning and you carry it with you every day of your life. It shapes the way you think and how you experience the world. That investment is a lifelong investment in yourself.

I sense a second problem that has you reluctant to make such an investment; what if you’re wrong? Again. You know, what if you just think you’d like a certain program but then it turns out to be something you don’t? Hey, come on. Instead of assuming something you haven’t even started is going to be a huge mistake, imagine it turns out to be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself and you do well in school precisely because you took something you really are interested in!

Some people will tell you that even after they finished school they ended up in some minimum wage, entry level job they could have got without having gone to College or University. There will always be these negative views, and they are basing those views on their own experience so you can’t blame them. On the other hand, there are many more people who will tell you that the degree they hold or the diploma they graduated with were needed to get hired doing what they do now and without it, they wouldn’t have been hired. They love their job, they are making use of that education and their income is considerably better than it would have been without it.

Suppose you owe $10,000. You’re thinking, “Yikes!” Okay, so you spend another $8,000. or even double your original amount – you now owe $20,000. Scary right? Of course. But now you have that diploma or degree in your hand and you’re pumped. You’re self-esteem is high, you’re proud of your accomplishment. The resume is stronger, you’re outlook better, and you compete stronger because for the first time, you’re really invested and qualified to get a job you’ll love. So you get a job making $23.00 an hour.

$23.00 p/hr x 7 hours per day x 5 days per week x 4.33 weeks in a month = $3,485.65 x 12 months = $41,827.8 a year. This is the formula you can use yourself to figure out what you’d make a year.

$23 an hour is just a number, but you can see that the $20,000 it total you’d ow can be paid back soon. That’s $41,827.8 a year. Multiply it just over 5 years and you’ll have earned $209,139.00!

Having your current $8,000 debt suddenly seems small when you think of your potential income. Bazinga!!!!!!!

 

Out Of Work, Not Out Of Options!


Imagine yourself sitting down in an interview for a job you actually want. It’s been a while since you’ve had a job, and you’re a little sensitive about that growing gap on your resume. Things get off to a good start and you’re feeling fairly good; better if truth be told than you thought you might. After all, interviews haven’t been coming as frequently as they used to, so you wondered how you’d perform, but like I say, your confidence is rising.

Just as you finish off an answer and notice the raised eyebrow on the interviewers’ face that seems to communicate, “Impressive!”, it happens. They ask you what you’ve been doing since your last job finished; apparently 2-3 years ago. All good interviewers are skilled at both listening to your answer and observing your body language as you process the question and start off your answer. That short sigh you took just now; was it more than just gathering your thoughts? Was that a quick look of exasperation? Was it your facial reaction screaming, “Oh great! Honestly I’ve been sitting around feeling sorry for myself and done absolutely nothing you’d find impressive, but I can hardly say that now can I?”

This awkward moment can be avoided with some action on your part now. As long as we’re imagining, why not imagine you’ve got an interview in 4 month’s time. Between now and then you have this window of opportunity to get going on adding some things to your dormant employment record.

First up, you could volunteer. I know, I know, you don’t want to give away your talents for nothing. I don’t see volunteering that way though. No, volunteering gives you an opportunity to hone your fading skills, get a reference or two assuming you perform well and possibly try out a new kind of job or role without the stigma of getting fired or quitting a paid job if it doesn’t work out. Giving of your talents also benefits an organization and those who go there. And make no mistake, giving of yourself in a non-profit organization also looks good to a lot of employer’s. It can show a commitment to your community, a cause that’s near and dear to your heart or simply a way to pay back the help you’ve received in the past.

Another thing you can do is focus on your health, if in fact you have some issue that needs your attention. While you shouldn’t walk into an interview and say you took the time to address a recent heart attack, you can allude to making your health a priority through undergoing some changes in lifestyle; and that the commitment has paid off. You’ve been pronounced healthier, fitter, have the necessary stamina and perseverance requested in order to succeed. Depending on the job, you may or may not actually share the now rectified health concern. If you do, stress that it’s no longer a problem; precisely because you took the steps necessary to overcome the challenge.

Many organizations are big on training and development both on a personal and professional level. So during your unemployment, you could take a course. Hey something like First Aid and CPR training or Health and Safety training are beneficial in a number of professions. These are certainly in the realm or transferable training skills. Of course, something specific to your sector, field or industry is even more advantageous. Get your Food Handler’s or SMARTSERVE Certificate if you work in Hospitality. Update your Forklift training to include a Raymond Reach or Working At Heights certification.

Heading back to the classroom to invest in your future might be an option too. Get that Diploma, Degree or take a general interest course in the evening. Sharpening the mind keeps you in the know, using best practices and will pair nicely with your Life experience in an interview. You might come across as mature and up-to-date on new technologies, practices and procedures.

Invest yourself in getting active on social media; enough at least so you have a presence. It takes some time to build up a following and get some dialogue going that will result in a strong profile, but like I say, you’ve got the time and all that’s needed is the effort.

Doing a self-inventory is an extremely helpful phase to undergo. More than just your strengths and weaknesses, be able to articulate your preferred learning style and know the kind of environment you will excel best in. If you don’t know what you want to do next, talk to people and network to learn what they like, what the struggles are, how much a job pays and where you have to go to find it.

Other things you can do is seize this opportunity of time to get your eyes checked, have a physical, book a dental cleaning and check up. Visit the Nutritionist at your local shopping Centre, make an effort to get out more and go for a walk. Little changes can lead to bigger accomplishments.

The important thing about this time is to fill it consciously and deliberately. It’s going to go by and you’ll find yourself seated in a future interview either glad you took the time to make this productive, or wishing you had done so and kicking yourself for having wasted it.

Looking for work is one thing, not the only thing.

 

About That Gap On Your Resume


When you’ve been out of work for some time, one of your concerns is going to be that large gap on your résumé. And why is that a concern? Primarily because you know it’s going to be a concern for the people who are going to be mulling over hiring you versus those you’re competing with.

You should expect some questions which ask you to share what you’ve done with yourself during the present gap. Now there are many things you could say in reply, but one of the poorest things would be to shrug your shoulders and say, “Not much really.” That kind of response isn’t going to impress anyone, let alone someone considering hiring you. The thing is though, what if that’s the truth?

Well, you certainly can’t change what’s happened in the past; after all it’s called the past for a reason. You can however, do something in the present which will allow you to improve your answer in your future interviews. So rather than feeling bad about having not done much, feel better about choosing to do something now.

What can you do aside from get a job to fill in gaps on your résumé you ask? Excellent question and I’m so glad you asked!

Volunteer your time. Donating your time to support a cause can be immensely beneficial in a number of ways. For starters, yes you get to fill in the gap on your résumé with a new experience. From your first shift wherever it is you give of yourself, you’ll be establishing a relationship with someone in charge of supervising you and that person is your future reference possibly. But there’s more… You’ll feel good. Suddenly you have purpose again; you’ll feel appreciated and valued when you show up. You’ll also be practicing skills that may have otherwise started to rust, such as customer service if you work with the public, communication skills, teamwork skills and you’re going to find you enjoy being productive.

Upgrade your education. Whether it’s going back to finish your grade 12 or that one course that would complete your College Diploma or University Degree, now might be a great time to invest in yourself and complete what you started years ago. No, it’s not a waste of time, nor is it too expensive to consider doing while you’re out of work. It might just be a spark that changes your future and ignites some passion into your soul where you thought the fire had long been extinguished. You’ll have a reason to get up and get out, charge your little brain cells in ways that have been dormant, and you’ll finish off with a great sense of accomplishment. Day school or night school, full-time or part-time, online or in-class, there’s so many options!

Get healthy. I know! I know! Being out of work you’ve developed some unsavory habits and that lethargy has made you feel overly tired, the muscle tone you had once upon a time has disappeared and perhaps your weight has changed more or less; literally speaking. In short, you might not feel as good about your health or appearance as you used to. Okay, but again, stop beating yourself up about the choices you made in the past and resolve to make some better ones now. Go for walks and turn those walks into walks and short jogs. Turn those short jogs into longer ones or even a run or two. Eat better and healthier; don’t buy at the grocery store what you’ll feel bad about eating if it shows up in the pantry or fridge at home. See the Doctor and Dentist now and address the things which will help you ultimately feel better and present yourself better to others.

Pick up part-time work. Choosing to look for a part-time job and one outside your field doesn’t have to be an admission of failure. In fact, picking up a part-time job can have immense benefits. First of all it does fill the gap on the résumé with something. You can make the case to a future employer that you filled the gap with a job to stabilize your finances but you’re applying for whatever the job is you’re interviewing for because you want to get back into your field of training and experience. That part-time job will get you back into a routine gradually if you’re not up to a full-time job and being accountable every day.

Now the other thing you can do is some self-assessment. There’s free stuff online if you want to search personality assessments, Multiple Intelligences or Career Exploration. You can also enlist an Employment Coach or Counsellor, drop into a College or University Guidance office and get help with your career direction. If your issue is figuring out what to actually do in life, how are you going to do it going about it the way you’ve been going about it? Right! Time for a change in strategy.

Your cover letter when applying for work is a great place to explain the gap in your résumé. When you do get interviews, you already know that they must be understanding of your gap or you wouldn’t be invited in for the interview. This can increase your confidence in addressing what otherwise would be a frustrating and embarrassing question to answer.

Lots of options to consider and with 2019 days away, now is the time to act.

Success? Here’s What It Is


Success to me is being able to seize opportunities now because your past decisions placed you in a position to take advantage of them. Future success is having the decisions you make in your present put you in position to take advantage of opportunities in your future.

Let’s be honest here, we can’t know with absolute certainty, exactly what our futures hold. Furthermore, the further we gaze into the future, the odds continue to get lower and lower that what we imagine, guess, hypothesize, or yes – even plan for – will actually turn into our reality.

So if this is true, some people would take this to mean why plan anything? Indeed, why plan at all if what we do in the future can’t be predicted with absolute certainty? I found myself cooking hamburgers last evening instead of chicken breasts, rice and vegetables. Why? Because just as it was time to start preparing the evening meal, my wife had a change in what she wanted and having both options available, she surprised me and opted for burgers. What I’d planned at 11:30a.m when out shopping wasn’t what I started preparing at 6:00p.m.

Now yes, it is only dinner. But what about the big stuff? You know, choosing courses in high school that lead to College or University? What about planning on graduating and getting a job instead of post secondary education? These choices to be made and more importantly, decisions to be made, have consequences years down the road. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said, “I wish I’d stayed in school”, or, “I wish I had my degree.” Then again, less often but now and then, I also hear, “I wish I’d just got a job after my degree instead of getting my Masters.” Additional schooling isn’t always the right choice.

Yes, we can’t know with any certainty that Life (with a capital, ‘L’) will turn out exactly like we envision it will when we look ahead. That being said, I don’t advocate just throwing up your arms in submission and winging it until you die. We’ll all have regrets in the end; choices we made that we wish in retrospect we could go back and alter. Some of our regrets will be larger than others, and I suppose the best we can hope for is that our regrets tend to be minor and not major ones.

As good as the burgers were, I’d rather have had the chicken. However, as I bought both when out shopping, I still get the chicken tonight; a day later than I had planned, but I can only do so because I had the foresight to buy both. A minor delay in getting what I want most. However, we can’t always have it so. No, some of the choices we make send us down roads that never seem to have a U-turn; and there’s no going back. That person you should have told how you felt but never had the guts to do so moved away, married someone else, and you just wonder ever so often, ‘what if…?’

Education is a great example of this whole concept of putting yourself in a position to succeed further ahead in life. While you’re only in your early teens now perhaps, school officials are on you to choose your courses – the university or college stream. The choices you make either keep both doors open or close the university option. Sure you can always go back and upgrade courses later in life as a mature adult, it just means you take a longer route to get to University.

Keeping doors open sounds like a reasonably smart thing to do though, especially when you can be influenced by so many things between now and when high school is done. By the time you’ve finished with school and you’re in your late 20’s, you’ll either be happy or disappointed with the choices you’re being asked to make now in your early teens re. those course selections. The jobs you are considering in your 20’s require some level of education. If you opted for the degree, you have more options than the college diploma; the college diploma more options than the high school diploma and the high school diploma more options than dropping out without finishing high school.

Now some make a wonderful life without having finished high school. The jobs they hold and enjoy doing don’t require post secondary education, so let’s acknowledge them. However, many more people are happy they stayed in school, graduated and went on to get a degree or diploma, and a lot of people wish they had. Even the ones who lie on their resumes and say they have their high school when they don’t are demonstrating they know it is an advantage to have it.

Whether we’re talking education, volunteering, working or relationships etc., the principle is exactly the same; the decisions we’ve made in our past either allow us to take advantage of opportunities in the present or they don’t. The thing is, our past decisions can’t be altered.

What we can do is think about the decisions we make today and moving forward. It’s these decisions that will put ourselves in position to seize opportunities in the future; some of which we can’t possibly even imagine now. The good decisions keep the doors open.

Picking A Career: The Pressure To Get It Right


It usually starts when we’re children and asked of us by well-meaning family members. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Then our parents friends and the parents of our own friends are asking us the same question. Soon, the idea that we should place a lot of importance on thinking about our life-long career is reinforced in school when elementary teachers tell us to choose wisely the level of classes we select as we approach high school. Maybe they even have us do career assessments.

In your personal life you’re body is going through some weird physical changes; puberty. Your hormones are changing, you get that first facial hair, the period arrives, the physical attraction to people you used to just see as friends is changing how you hang out together. What you and your friends think is groovy, hip, cool or down with is constantly changing and you don’t want to be left out and fall behind. Things get awkward as you switch back and forth between being a kid and doing your best to look and act 5 years older.

So there you are newly arrived in high school; experimenting with your teenage drive to test some boundaries, making some decisions (a few of which you’ll regret and a few you’ll be happy work out) for the first time. You think you’re mature, all you really want to do is have fun, bond with your besties and have the time of your life, but suddenly you’re doing serious work looking at further career assessments, picking out Universities or Colleges to further your education and positioning yourself along the path to that career goal. People older than you, smarter than you, are laying out your next 5- 8 years of your life; finishing high school and 3 or 4 years of further education.

The irony is that as adults themselves, those teachers know that almost every one of their students will change their careers and some several times over the course of their working adults lives. But if they stressed that message at this early juncture, the students they are instructing would question the importance of getting it laid out now. So there you are unsure really of what you’ll want in the future let alone now, but still you’ve got to start thinking about what College or University offers the courses you’ll need to get whatever diploma or degree you’re after.

There’s a lot of heat to get it right; some of the pressure – most of it really – might even be self-imposed. After all, if all these people we admire and respect are telling us it’s important to choose wisely so we don’t waste our lives, our money and our time, they must be right. The fear that you choose wrong and take  something you really don’t want or change your mind too late can be confusing!

Relax! (Easier said than done right? I know). Here’s a few thoughts for you to mull over from an Employment Counsellor who has worked for a long time with literally thousands of people.

First of all, while this might sound entirely UNhelpful, you need to know that as much as what you want now may seem crystal clear, that could very well change in your future and that’s totally okay. The person you’ll become will be influenced a great deal by people you have yet to meet, places you have yet to go, experiences you have yet to have. You’re going to change as you grow and so this notion of choosing an occupation – and the pressure to get it right – is not only a myth, it’s just plain wrong and the evidence proves it. People change jobs and careers over their lifetime.

This being said, an education is a fine thing. It’s not the only thing; you can skip the post secondary thing altogether and just start working and have a fine, fulfilling life. But suppose for a moment you head off to school and after 2 years in a 3 year program you find you’re just not feeling it. You can switch programs and people do. You can take a year off and go back. You could even graduate and then something in your life makes pursuing that career difficult or seemingly impossible. That career in the Hospitality industry with a lot of evening and weekend work suddenly doesn’t fit with your new-found role of parent. If this happened, would your education be a waste?

The answer is no. Education is never a waste. Education is not a financial burden of debt you pay off with a good paying job, but rather an investment in yourself as a person. That education is going to change and influence how you think moving forward, and it will benefit you throughout your adult life. If you consider returning to school to do something different, taking another 2 or 3 years, you might feel even more pressure to ‘get it right this time.’ My advice? Do it anyhow. Go back. Invest in yourself because your future self will thank you.

You can do this. You literally can’t choose wrong. Life has a funny way of making use of our talents, education and experience down the road in ways we can’t imagine at the present.

Whether a specific trade or a general Bachelor of Arts, it’s all good! This education you’re considering isn’t the final destination, it’s just one step on a lifelong journey.

Stuck On Picking A Career


Sometimes we get stuck right? I mean, we have a vague idea of what it is we think we’d like, but as I say, it’s a vague or general idea. This is when we say things such as,, “Well I’d like to work with animals,” “I want to help people”, or “I’m good with my hands.” While these kind of statements are good starting places and represent an early first step in career decision-making, some people will get stuck moving beyond one of these broad sweeping statements.

While it might seem pretty common for people in their late teens and early 20’s to be typically thinking about what to do career-wise and getting stuck, it can happen to anyone at any time. Take you . Uh huh, you.

Have you got one of those LinkedIn titles that says, “Open to new opportunities”? No? Maybe yours says, “Looking to make a difference!” or “Seeking new challenges.” Ah, so you do have one of these or something close to one.  Even after having read any of these three, the reader is still no closer to knowing what it is you want. This is because you don’t either. Maybe you’ve even convinced yourself you’re being deliberately vague so you keep your options open. Sure. I’ve seen a lot of resumes over the years that start with the same kind of statements; “Looking for an opportunity to use my skills and grow with the company”. Even after having read that opening objective statement, the goal is still completely unknown. What a waste of 13 words on the résumé!

The problem however, is defining not just to the world, but to ourselves, what it is we want to do. If we could do that, then we could figure out the steps we need to take to move closer to our goal. We could for example figure out that we need a certain Diploma, Course or Degree and then happily invest the time and money to go pursue it; confidently knowing that we’re on the right track and with every day getting closer to our ultimate employment goal.

However, isn’t the real issue here that we don’t often know – that is – YOU don’t know what the end goal is? I mean, that’s what makes the idea of school and its associated cost so intimidating right? I mean, sure going to school to get more knowledge is great but with no goal, what if we choose wrong? What if we end up spending thousands of dollars and 2 or 3 years of our life in school only to find that we don’t really want to do whatever it is we’re in school for by the time we graduate? That would definitely be a waste of time and money and we’d be no further ahead. Or so we’ve told ourselves over and over.

So you’re paralyzed; stuck. Every day seems like spinning the same record around and around, trying to decide what to do? What to be? Look up the song, “Big Time Operator” by Keith Hampshire. Figure out this one thing and you’re good to go.

Okay so let’s see if we can’t help out here. Start with giving yourself both the permission to get going and forgiveness if you get it wrong. Who told you that you have to get it right this time or your entire life is a failure? That’s just not true. Work, for all its worth, is only one part of who you are; one part of what defines you.

To find a career, let me simplify things. First you need to be exposed to some possibilities and then you investigate them. You can gain exposure to careers a number of ways. Talk to people and ask them what they do, ask your local employment centre what careers are in demand, use the internet and search careers in your vague, generalized areas of choice. “Helping people careers”, “Jobs with animals” or “Physical jobs”, “Manual labour careers”.  You can also search what are called, “NOC CODES.” National Occupation Classification codes. You can search by skills, or even an alphabetical listing and see what jobs exist; many you might be entirely unaware of. So these ideas give you exposure.

Now, having exposed yourself to more possibilities that might interest you, choose a few and start investigating. Before looking to see how much the job is in demand or how much it pays, you’ll want to know if this is something that only sounds good or if it sounds good and in fact it interests you once you’ve done some research.

Find people in the roles you’re considering and talk to them. Set up meetings, email them some questions, have some conversations. Learn what’s good and bad, what skills and education are needed, how they got started and how they’d get started today if they were just beginning as things may have changed. Then ask them for the names of others you might talk to.

The more you learn, the more you’ll feel the job is right for you or not. When you start getting enthusiastic about a job, look into education requirements, the labour market, where the opportunities are. Still interested? Feeling on the right track? That’s because you are! But to get to this point, you have to get moving.

Remember how long you’ve been stuck where you are and know that continuing to do nothing won’t move you forward.

Thinking Of Returning To School?


If you are one of the many people who are finding that landing a job is difficult at present, one of the things you might be thinking of is returning to school to further your education. This could be just the remedy you need or a colossal waste of your time and money, resulting in kick-starting your career or leaving you saddled with debt and still with no job. Yikes! Isn’t that your biggest fear!?

Debt; four simple letters which together could find you with a poor credit rating, affecting your future ability to buy a car, a house, even land a job with some organizations. Just the thought of going to school and investing a year or more of your precious time only to have the possibility you could emerge still in the same situation with no job prospects? Why it’s enough to drive a person crazy!

Hang on a minute. Let’s look at this rationally and objectively. Take a breath; a deep one that fills your lungs and then exhale. Do it again. Better? Okay, let’s begin. Oh and I should add that I have no vested interests in any educational institution.

Supposing that as our premise, you are finding it difficult to get job interviews and when you do, you’re not getting job offers. It could be that there are too many people with the same qualifications as you, and in addition, some of your competition have added education. The decision to head on back to school and may be exactly the right decision if employers in your field place a high value on extra education, or you learn they view your education as out-of-date.

Could be that your degree from 1981 is now of questionable value, or in a field like technology where advances come often and quickly, you’re losing out to new grads. If you have been able to narrow down what course or training you’re lacking that is holding you back, then returning to the classroom to get it is wisdom my friend. Don’t even read the rest of this article; get up and go register now!

Another solid reason for more education is if you have come to a point in your life where a completely different career is in order. You’ve grown and with aging you’ve found you have new interests; interests which you’d like to pursue as a career and your current education doesn’t qualify you to compete. Same advice, quit reading and contact the College or University and get yourself registered.

There is another kind of situation you might be in which could also have you considering the classroom as an option. You might not be at all sure what kind of work you’d like to do. Returning to school would cocoon you from the world of work for 2-3 years while you pursued a degree or diploma.  Couldn’t hurt at any rate to add some letters to the end of your name, and hopefully you’d figure it out in that time.

Well it’s not up to me to say one way or the other but generally I’d say all education is worthwhile. It will add to your resume and maybe some time in a placement applying those skills could indeed spark a real interest you then pursue and life all works out beautifully. That money you owe when you graduate isn’t debt at all but rather an investment you’ve made in your mind and your future. Well done!

However, that time you spend in a classroom could actually prove harmful. If you graduate and then don’t feel inspired to look for work doing what you went back to school to learn, that money you spent might actually just be plain old debt; with you no closer to knowing what to do with your working life.

A good idea perhaps is before investing your time and money in school, interview some people doing the work you might be doing upon graduation. Pick their brain, find out what they really do and ask yourself if you’d be happy in a similar position? Ask the employers you’d be asking to hire you when you graduate if they prefer graduates from certain schools or programs. Not much point happily going to school somewhere only to graduate and then find employers don’t value what you received or the institution you got it from isn’t recognized.

One thing is for sure; don’t return to school just to hide from work. If you’re not sure what to do, spend some time working in several jobs. Invest a year – maybe two or three actually – doing a number of jobs finding out what you like and what you don’t.  You choose what goes on a future resume anyhow, so don’t fret about job hopping; you’re on a mission of discovery.

Going back to school is a wise decision which will improve the way you think, make you more competitively employable and give you an edge. However, upgrading your education and then finding out you’re eventually working in a job you could have got three years ago without your new degree might be a waste of time or just part of your education in the game of Life. Depends on your attitude and how you view things.

Best advice if you’re on the fence? Make a decision either way, and make it NOW; the stress of not deciding isn’t helpful. You’re on the clock.

Experience Alone Won’t Get The Job


Are you looking for work and counting on your extensive experience to tip the scales in your favour over other applicants who have formal education but less experience? Do you think it’s unfair that you’re being rejected time and time again because you haven’t got a Certificate, Diploma or Degree? There are good reasons behind those decisions organizations are making to go with other candidates and best you should not only understand them but accept them. Better still though is turn your frustration, resentment or bitterness into action and go get the training to complement your experience.

How long has it been anyhow? You know, since you’ve been applying unsuccessfully for jobs and getting passed over because you don’t have the required academic requirements. What’s kept you from heading back to a classroom and coming out the other end with that document? Pride? Financial investment? Fear? Stubbornness? A lack of appreciation for the training or the process? Whatever the reason, it says much about your attitude and apparently you’re spinning your wheels and going nowhere without it. How does it possibly make sense to keep trying to get a job you really want when you don’t meet the key educational requirement and are doing nothing to change the situation?

If experience alone was enough to qualify people to excel in their professions of choice then consider this: every Addictions Counsellor would be a former addict, all Divorce Lawyers would have failed marriages, every person Prison Guard would be a former inmate. Does this seem logical or even preferable? Certainly not to me.

Experience is a tremendous asset and I acknowledge that unreservedly. However experience alone I’m happy to say doesn’t qualify you and that’s a good thing. Many people with experience are poor communicators for example, and so just because they’ve  got extensive first-hand experience, (such as a victim of abuse), there’s no guarantee that’s going to translate into making them a brilliant personal Counsellor or Speaker.

In fact, in many cases a person having experienced trauma first-hand is a poor choice as an employee. Without any training in place, they themselves could be incapacitated and unable to help others if in the course of their work they find working with other victims triggers their own memories. They could also think it helpful to share their own stories instead of validating the individual experience of the person there for the help who wants and needs to be heard telling their own.

Oh yes, there’s tremendous value in getting back into a classroom and learning techniques, theories, best practices, communication styles, giving value to differing perspectives and emerging with an altered and improved appreciation for higher learning. I can think of quite a few people over the years I’ve personally known who adamantly refused to see any real value in returning to a classroom until they actually did. Those same people only later admitted that they were glad they did because once there, they understood what I and others had been saying. In short, they came to value the EXPERIENCE of formal education in their field. How’s that for irony?

Still there are many who place their own experience high and above anything they could ever learn by graduating with a Certificate, Diploma or Degree. They don’t have a full appreciation for time spent there; certainly not at any rate when weighed against life experience. Here’s something though; your experience as real and valid as it is, without education could cost a company a lot of money, their reputation and possibly destroy them utterly.

Suppose for example a childcare centre hired all their front-line providers who had babysitting experience alone; no Early Childhood Education Diploma’s, no membership in organizations that ensure standardized practices and adherence to legislation and pertinent acts. Now let’s further suppose that this centre was YOUR centre, where YOUR child attends and something tragic goes wrong because their extensive babysitting experience didn’t prepare them. Are you likely to sue the organization for hiring incompetent staff? Are you going to hold the Board responsible as well as the Director who hired that employee? You sure are. Yes, you’re suddenly going to want to ensure that every employee there has both experience AND formal training with something as precious as the care for your child in the discussion.

Same thing goes with the people who build the houses or apartments and condo’s we live in. We hope and trust that not only do they have experience but, we also trust they’ve been taught a thing or two, that they have safety certificates, that the tradespeople have their tickets qualifying them to do the work. We don’t want to find out later on that the Gas Fitter has zero education but has been, ‘doing it’ for years.  Oh well then, that’s okay then when you come home to find an explosion has leveled your abode because they didn’t do the work properly.

Look, if you have extensive experience I think that should be recognized, and it is by employers. However, you’d be well-advised to admit – even if grudgingly – that there is also value in formal education. One isn’t better than the other but together they improve your chances of being a successful job applicant. You will gain an understanding and appreciation for your field of choice and most importantly learn more than you’d expect.

Education; something perhaps to reconsider.

 

 

Reflecting On Choices


Looking back on your work history, are you surprised in any way with the jobs you’ve held and the direction your choices have taken you in? Or conversely, if your 20-year-old self could look into the future and see the work you would be doing throughout your life, would that glimpse hold a promise of all the things you expect?

Of the two, we can only look back with 100% certainty at what we’ve done. The best we can do when it comes to our future is to make some decisions that we hope in the here and now will prove to be ones that make us happy in the years ahead. Only the passing of time confirms we’ve made choices and decisions that we regret or we come to appreciate.

At some point in your own life, you may pause and take stock of what you’ve done and evaluate if the direction you are moving in is still one you’re happy with. To be more accurate, you will probably have many of these times; some of them lasting longer than others. A moment such as this could come 2 years into a university course that you come to realize isn’t for you and so you drop pursuing that degree and change your major. It could also come after years in a job when the thrill is gone and you wake up one day wanting a different work life.

Pausing to reflect on your own direction in life and how happy or not you are with it is a healthy practice. Having said that, there are some who feel very unhealthy and become emotionally conflicted with what they see as second guessing themselves. Envision the person who has someone else paying for their education and suddenly realizes they don’t really want to continue chasing that diploma or degree. Complicating a decision to change the education path is the sharing of their thinking with the person or people paying for tuition. “What will my parents think? How do I tell them? Will they think I’ve wasted their money?” These are some of the questions that one might ask themselves.

The alternative however is to go on giving the appearance to those around you that you are happy working towards your diploma or degree, or happiest in your line of work when you’re not. Questions such as, “So how is work or school going? Enjoying it?” seem harder to answer truthfully for some people who are wondering the exact same questions and weighing their options.

Uncertainty can be paralyzing. Should I continue doing what I’m doing? Is this just a phase everybody works through? Should I be paying attention to the signs and what exactly are all these feelings trying to tell me? Something must be wrong? What’s wrong with me?

Maybe nothing is wrong with you. These feelings are really just self-reflections; taking stock of what you have, what you’re working towards and evaluating your personal happiness with things. The apparent conflict comes not when we continue to move in the direction we were headed but only when that direction is debatable or deemed to be not aligned with where we now want to head.

So what does it take to change direction; do something different? Courage for sure, conviction would be nice and a willingness to take that first big step whatever that means to you. For some it means saying, “I’m not happy in my work anymore” to their partner. For others it could come out as saying, “I’ve made an appointment with the school Guidance Counsellor to talk.” For you personally, it could mean any number of other things said to whomever you’re speaking with.

Here’s the thing. It is often better to pay attention here and now to how your feeling than it is to ignore those feelings and continue down a path you no longer know is right out of some perceived duty to do the right thing. Thinking, “But this is what’s expected of me”, instead of doing what is right for you could take years to undo and might even close doors that are open to you at this moment in time.

Now be assured that many very happy people who are extremely satisfied with their careers did think at one point, “Am I cut out to be a ________. Did I make the right choice?” They might even share at some celebration of their work such a statement as, “There was a time I questioned whether I was in the right line of work or not. I’m glad I stuck with it.” So just because you come to question your current direction don’t take that self-reflection as a positive sign that change is needed.

It’s all very confusing isn’t it? The thing is that you and I, our needs change because we change. We change in response to our age, our environment, our awareness of other occupations, our financial needs, our willingness to jump and take a chance or our conservative nature.

There are no absolute blue prints that come with life and it isn’t neat and ordered and laid out for us at birth. We – you and me – we’ve got to find our way in this world, make our choices and hopefully they work out. However, embrace those moments when something stirs within and give them the benefit of your attention.

 

Embrace Moments Of Learning


I’d hope that you agree with me that a school classroom is only one environment in which learning takes place. Isn’t it true that we can learn from looking around us on a bus, sitting in a theatre or on a park bench and just about any other setting in which you find yourself.

And I also assert that learning isn’t limited to those who make up the audience in any formal teaching situation; for those who stand in front and impart knowledge themselves learn a great deal. When we learn, we grow; when we stop learning, we stagnate.

It’s indeed fortunate that our brains are capable of taking in, processing and retaining vast amounts of information. Everything we accumulate helps us to perform better in future situations, avoid what we experience as negative experiences and to increase what we perceive as positive moments. We tend to remember and then be guided by our past actions and if we wish, we can make adjustments to our behaviour based on how well or poorly things have gone before.

The classroom we were in as children and then later as teenagers tend to impart knowledge in a standard method requiring us to sit and receive information, then have our ability to internalize and use that information in the form of tests. These tests check our abilities to internalize, remember and apply that learning when called upon. For some however, this environment and the way in which the information is presented to them is less than effective in imparting that knowledge.

Not everyone learns the same volume of information, but more importantly, not everyone grasps information in the same way. There are those who learn by reading best, for some it’s listening while for others still it’s having opportunities to be shown and then try things themselves.

Teachers in classrooms of 25 – 30 children for example are in trying positions. They have to impart a large amount of educational information that is dictated by the Boards of Education for whom they work, and they have to do so within fixed timetables. The bigger issue however is that among all those children, there are bound to be a mixture of children who learn best in different ways. Auditory, visual and experiential learners make up just about any audience.

It’s for this reason that many of the best facilitators, lecturers and teachers use a variety of learning methods to reach most if not all of the people in the group. Hence you’ll find video’s, Prezi’s and PowerPoint presentations, role-playing, reading, music, reading, individual and group work in most formal learning environments.

But what of you? Do you know how you learn best? Are you aware of the exact opposite; what is for you the least effective way for you to receive, process and retain information? Knowing what works and doesn’t work for you personally is extremely useful well beyond the classroom and into work environments.

For example, you can minimize your learning curve and acquire information faster, making you more productive to an employer in the process if you relay to your supervisor the method you have found that works best for you when it comes to learning. Telling your boss that you learn best when you’re shown first how to do something and then be given a chance to do it yourself under guidance before being left alone to do it may help you in the workplace. This could contrast with how the boss has typically instructed employees in the past when he or she has just told them what to do and expected them to do it.

Good instructors – great instructors – know this to be true and will check with those they are mentoring or teaching and make adjustments to their teaching methods in order to best respond to their audience. On the job it can be problematic if those teaching and instructing fail to understand this. Can you recall a situation in your past for example where the boss told 10 people the same instructions but only 8 of the 10 employees received the message the way the boss intended it? The other 2 may have heard the exact information but not been able to do the work as told not because they are less intelligent but simply because they don’t process the information received in the same way; they learn differently.

The easy thing for us to do sometimes is put the blame on those who don’t perform as we expect and reprimand them or question their intelligence or ability to follow directions. Most often it’s not that the people are rebellious, incapable of performing as they are expected to, or just belligerent; they just didn’t receive the information the way it was intended because they learn differently.

Knowing your own learning preferences can be something you choose to share in a job interview too. Any question about a time you make a mistake could be an opportunity for you to demonstrate how you corrected a problem by requesting your training be presented in the way you learn best. This information could help the new employer understand how best to train you and show them that you know yourself well.

If you are currently working, this may also help you reassess how your personal learning style fits or doesn’t with how training is presented in your workplace; and small adjustments could make a huge impact in training sessions and those teachable moments.