graduate school

The Graduation Crisis

We tend to give in to averages. For example, if the "average" married couple divorces, then we accept it as natural. However, we rarely think of ourselves as average. In fact, a US survey showed that about 75% of think we are above average. We know that is mathematically impossible, but we tend to think that our lives are better, that we are better than most. Call it over confidence, call it lunacy--you would be right!

Many of us will attend graduations during this part of the year. We expect college degrees from our children, our peers and our co-workers. And when I say "college" I mean 4 year, 2 year and even post-secondary certificates! But college graduation is increasingly becoming a rarity. While there are more college students and college grads than ever in history, the percentage completing their degrees is shrinking. College drop out now exceeds high school drop out. Somehow we accept this as part of the "weeding" process. The law of averages. Or a function of the state of our schools and budget cuts. Part of all of these things is true, but most colleges are not held to any standard of graduation. 

The percentage of college dropouts from college will exceed divorce too. So more than half of college students quit and never come back. They acquire debt instead of a diploma. 

But for those of us who are "above average" we will not accept drop outs--not for our kids. So "other people's" kids drop out. 

But if we ignore this graduation crisis, we do so at our own peril. We need more college grads to make our economy work, to make the USA competitive in the global market. CompletionCrisis

So helping others graduate IS our business---all students need our support to graduate. 

A few random facts about college education:

  • Estimated that the state of California will have 2.3 million shortage of degree holders for jobs created in the state by 2025. 
  • 65% of all US jobs will require a college degree by 2025. Less than 39% of all US adults are college educated today.
  • This gap will require about 23 million net new college grads above and beyond what we produce today!
  • 88% of all 9th graders who start high school in LA county do NOT get any college degrees. This is lower for higher for low income students.
  • Low income students who qualify for college have few choices. Private schools don't take many qualified and competitive low income students so the burden falls on public institutions. Consider that UC San Diego has more low income students than Georgetown, Duke, MIT, University of Chicago, Penn, NYU and Stanford combined! 

There are silly debates about "the value of a college education." Look everyone needs more education. Everyone has to continue to learn and to grow educationally. Anyone who stops a formal learning process is DOA. I am not an education snob. Well maybe I am. :) But I am not saying that all people should go to a university, but it is very tough for anyone to get and keep a good job without the sheepskin and the socialization of an education. Not going to regale you with the long standing stats on lifetime comp, the ROI of an education, or the lower unemployment rates for the educated. These are truths. 

Every individual. Every student. Every human being has the desire and need to grow. To grow their ideas, their ambitions, their sense of significance.  They want more for themselves and their families. The only way to achieve these things is to adopt a lifelong love of learning. To engage in continuous education. To adopt an education mindset. This can start before and during college. 

How do we help people adopt this mindset, graduate and then start their next educational program? It is not easy.

Because you are never done learning. Not talking about how to use Office 2010 or your new iPhone. I am talking about the process of opening your brain to new stuff that reveal more about what you don't know. 

Great mentors do not let others get away with laziness, or giving up on graduation. Great mentors don't accept excuses or allow exceptions to education for those they care about. Great mentors hold others accountable. They push and pull their mentees so that graduation is the only option. 

 So what else can we do:

  1. Help low income students around us seek all of the financial assistance available to them to make their college education more affordable. It is estimated that LA County students left over $100 million of financial aid grants on the table last year. 
  2. Help all students find a college option that meets their needs. An educational institution that matches their interests, not their parents interests. A college that has a track record of supporting students to graduate. 
  3. Hold our alma maters, our local schools, our school boards accountable to graduation rates for all students, especially low income students.
  4. Help students we know get in but THROUGH college. Provide them with moral and financial support that lasts well beyond the freshman year but all the way to commencement. Giving small one time scholarships to start college is only a start. Multi-year scholarships make a huge difference.

College access is just the beginning, we need graduates! What are you going to do to help people graduate?!

Every student who pursues post-secondary education is precious. We can't afford this graduation crisis. We need to mentor all students so they don't end up with just debt and regret. We need their dreams and degrees.

The graduation crises is all of our problem. If we accept the average, we will become it. 

Thanks for reading. John


When is your next Graduation?

Tis the season of graduations and the festivities marking the completion of specific educational milestones. Been to a few more "commencements" over the last week. For the young people in our lives, graduation from a specific grade/level in school is important and momentous. We are proud of them and their achievements. We want to inspire them to continue on their path of education and career. So far, I have attended more than 50 graduations and have heard the best and worst of the speeches. Lots of trite and hackneyed phrases are used at these moments. Talk of dreams, potential, challenges, opportunities. "You can be whatever you want to be." Or multiple YOLO (You only live once) references. As  a speaker and an attendee, no one really listens to these well crafted words of inspiration at the end of a course of study. By the way, they don't listen at the beginning during convocations either!

Graduate: To change gradually or by degrees.

I would add "To change gradually and constantly". Degrees

As someone with multiple degrees, changing and adapting matter more than the diplomas. Never one to argue against completing formal education or graduate education. They add value, but frankly are of of no value if you stop learning and educating yourself.

"But John, I am always learning new things!"

Not talking about the latest youtube you saw or the insightful article you read.  Talking about diving into topics and subjects you dream about that are outside of your work, your "major". You have to keep up with your job, that's your job! I am talking about your education as a human being and a citizen of the world. The education that is going to complete the unique you.

Some of us think about graduation as a nostalgic concept of our youth. A nice memory when we turned a tassel marking our "commencement" into a new phase. Graduation is a good memory that resides in our past. It may trigger thoughts of what could have been and even some regrets. But I submit to you, we graduate every year of our lives. If we are 25 or 65, we continue to grow and advance. Our days are no longer marked by bells or class schedules, but by milestones and lessons. The university of life is so much tougher. The finals are really final! And everything is an elective! And for many it is is a DIY endeavor that can be lonely and challenging. To be successful we have to be our own post-college counselor. 

But the beauty of a graduation event is it makes you take stock of the effort, contemplate the future, appreciate the opportunity, and fear the challenges. After our formal "education" we rarely do that, except at funerals. :)

Maybe you will listen now at the mid point of your 2012 "curriculum". How are you doing on your plans and goals for 2012? We are half way through this calendar year. Course corrections? Recalibrate? Reset? How would you grade yourself? Passing? Failing?

Reminds me of the story of the guy who has swum half way across a lake and is too tired to finish so he swims back to the starting point? Huh?  Maybe you have not made enough progress with your goals or maybe you have not started them. Don't fall into the trap of waiting until next year to start again. Start again now. Keep swimming. You may have set a goal of 12 months to finish. Just finish. Keep going. Ignore all of the distractions and excuses to stop trying. By the way, the  forces of resistance will never give up. So you have to be stronger and remind yourself of the benefits of your goal. 

How do we renew our pursuit of knowledge and experience? How do we overcome the feelings of fatigue and even disillusionment about our choices? 

Isolation is your problem not your lousy attitude. Barbara Sher

To renew you have to reconnect. To renew you have to re-enroll. Your ideas need to be shared. Your passions need focus. Your challenges need feedback. Your goals need to be challenged. Your weaknesses need support.

Nip the blossoming of your regrets in the bud. 

We gain energy, inspiration, and clarity by engaging our network of family and friends. Ask for help and advice.

Ask someone to "coach" you by holding you accountable for your new mid-point goal(s). Tell a trusted colleague your goal--why it is important to you and exactly what you want to achieve. Then ask them to check in with you periodically and push you to make progress towards this goal. To support you in achieving this goal. We do not do this enough. We try to do it ourselves.

You never finish your education. You finish steps. You gain perspective. You gain confidence. But it does not stop. And you do not have to do it alone. 

Today starts a new semester of study. What classes are you taking? And who are your professors? What do you want to learn? Life is an endless series of degree programs and commencements. When is your next graduation? Re-enroll today!

Thanks for reading. John

 


What are we racing to?

Aaaaah to be a student. Yes, I know we are all students of life--that's what old people say. :) But to be an enrolled student in higher education where the postponement of reality and the grappling with, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" is a full time job. Most students think they are the disadvantaged ones. They mistakenly envy those who are finished with their formal education. Students labor under the wrong assumption that they have no real influence over their futures and are mere pawns in the bigger chess game of the worldwide economic landscape.

Those of us who have graduated, know that the lucky ones are those still within the ivy covered walls. That being a student is one of the most powerful, invigorating, and creative times in one's life.

Youth is wasted on the young.  George Bernard Shaw

Perspective is everything.

I had a series of encounters with undergrads and grad students at two of my alma maters, UCLA and USC, where I recently led class discussions. Not sure I could be a full-time professor, but I have always enjoyed and gained from these interactions.

Those of us who have taught know that the future lies in these classrooms. That fertile minds and grand ambitions lurk behind those youthful eyes. Yet for obvious reasons, these students crave something they think those who have graduated have--certainty about their futures--a career. Ha!

The students discount their freedom, their options, their overall power to choose a path. They are often straddling what is prudent and rational (a stable job that provides a good living and what their parents have told them) and the interests and ideas that throb within them (their emerging passions and talents).

Inevitably, I am asked over and over again, in different versions and phrases--"How do you know? How do you know what the right path is?"Race car

One bright eyed and ambitious young man blurted out, "Is your passion within you or do you discover it?" This is a great question. And like all important questions, the answer is a resounding YES! :)

We underestimate what is within us--what is within others. Is is definitely within you, but you have to discover it too. You discover it by the friction you have with the world. The friction of taking chances and taking on challenges that interest you. By meeting people who are doing these things. By intellectually exploring these matters that seem to matter to your heart, mind and soul. By pushing yourself to new realms of understanding about the world and your role in it. By focusing on the growth not the gain. On the process not the promotion. On the wisdom not the wealth.

And how do you do this with a sense of urgency and not stress?

Most of us have discovered that finding THE Career is a fossilized artifact of the previous generation. Today, looking for a career must be replaced with finding oneself, then one's role.

The origin of career is basically a racecourse from the french and a wheeled vehicle from the latin. So it is like a NASCAR race. You go as fast as you can in circles trying to finish first but never getting anywhere.

Those of us who have learned this the hard way, including myself, know that you don't want a career but a vocation. Vocation literally means "calling". To find one's voice and spiritual path.

Back on my student's question. This is never a pursuit done in total solitude. It requires the power of connection and experience. To understand your suffering and the suffering of others. It is about the larger meaning of your life. It demands a network of opportunities and a mentor or three. It requires you to follow your ideas and interests that emerge as your passions. By listening to the voices within you, you will hear the whispers of your calling. You ignore these voices at your peril.

Passion is an itch that needs to be scratched and never goes away. It feels good when scratched but just persists. It is not just the source of joy but the source of great discomfort. That is what surprises people. They are looking for happiness and they find passion and passion is not pure joy, it is the essence of your life. It usually is triggered by the needs of others. And all needs are painful. Passion is discovering who you are and what is your purpose.

Being in front of students, I am reminded of the opportunity that is within all of us to discover who we are. To respond to our inner desire to help others and become the best we can be. I want to keep the student within me alive (the secret formula for eternal youth:).  So I can steer my vocational vehicle along a path paved with passion instead of doing circular laps in a career racecar.

Where are you going?

Thanks for reading. John


What We Can Learn From College Students

The allure of college still beckons. For almost everybody, going to college was the best of times. Every Fall we think of the good ole days of alma mater and some of us are yearning to returning to the learning. Our memories have smoothed over all of the anxiety, stress, financial and academic challenges and replaced them with nostalgia. :) But it is my experience that while many people think they have moved far from the days of the ivy covered halls, most still struggle with some of the same fundamental questions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Questions like: What is the meaning of life?; What is my "major"?; and What do I want to be when I grow up?Animal house

I have three recommendations that come from college students. Recommendations that will hopefully reinvigorate your free thinking collegiate ambitions and your youthful ideals when the possibilities seemed limitless.

1. Write Your College Essay Over Again--Helping my son and his friends finish their college apps and their essays. Writing these essays are harder than calculus. If you use it to grow and discover oneself, it can be a painful and seminal experience. The essays either tell nothing about the applicant or reveal something special. The "prompts"/questions remain relatively unchanged. Here are the ones my son is addressing:

a. Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.

b. Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?

1000 words for both. Try it. It is still very tough and if done well, very insightful. Nothing like writing down your thoughts, especially if you know someone will read it to decide your fate!What is your concise and compelling story? I meet "professionals" everday who don't have one! Your story matters and you need to craft it in writing to tell it!

2. One of the Worst Mistakes By New College Grad Job Seekers---A few months ago a survey of graduating seniors revealed what they regretted after confronting the challenges of this brutal job market. After all, they are just 21 or 22 years old, so of course they are under-prepared for the career/job search. There is a triad of culprits to blame. First, the parents are pushing their kids to pursue WHAT THEY THINK are "good careers" and have not let their kids develop their own paths. Second, undergrad colleges are woefully bad at career prep, it's embarrassing how new alumni are not "polished and finished" before they graduate. Lastly, the students themselves, take little initiative to get experiences, internships, develop a network, and start to define their own career trajectories while they are in school. So plenty of blame to go around.

Should have networked. The survey revealed this was one of the most regretted mistakes. "Students who spend their time trolling job boards should instead spend that time making solid connections with people who are respected and involved in the workforce, industry experts and alumni, and spend only 30% of their time looking at job listings." More than 70% of jobs are discovered through networking, so why don't students and all job seekers employ a networking strategy? Network as a life strategy, not just to find jobs.

3. Treat Every Job and Opportunity as a College Degree Program---Think about your career in four year chunks, just like your undergrad program (okay maybe 5 years;) The point is approach your work like college. Re-enroll every year. Think about what general ed and major requirements you have to complete. What professors will you take? What goals will you set? What weaknesses will you strengthen? What talents will you further? And maybe as important, what electives will you take?

Life goes fast and it blurs and runs together. College stands out as a distinct chapter in our lives. While we are grateful that we are not 21 today, we can use the regimen of college to focus our future chapters and to make them worthwhile and memorable. Otherwise jobs and time marches on and our present life continues to pale in comparison to our college days.

Re-live your college experience by renewing your urgency about the value of your time and the need to complete your next "degree". It is never too late to start.

College students today are smarter and more worldly than we were. They can teach us many things. Most important, how to be young and daring. How to reinvent ourselves. Yes there are many generational differences. But we are older and wiser, aren't we?

Thanks for reading. John


The Habit of Commencements and Graduations

Tis the season where perfectly reasonable people put on gowns, funny hats with tassels and sit through processionals and listen to great attempts at inspiration. Yes, it's graduation season! You know that special time when we congratulate loved ones and friends for enduring blood, sweat, tears and financial debt to complete a degree. We witness the "commencement"-- the beginning of a new chapter where greater opportunity awaits. All of us know someone who is graduating from some school at some level. They may the first in their families to.......There are so many great stories of triumph, overcoming obstacles, and sheer determination that reinforce the value of education. Its a wonderful moment! The value of education, especially higher education or post secondary education comes to light. The research is conclusive that education can be the great equalizer and the ticket to the American Dream.Grad2

The ritual of graduations give meaning and importance to a specific milestone in our lives--the completion of a formal portion of our education. Celebration and congratulatory words and gifts are exchanged. The future seems brighter and yet daunting. Armed with a new sheepskin, some great courses, and experiences, the new grads have more confidence and a renewed sense of purpose. There is pomp, circumstance, and reason for celebration. (although I am not a fan of this "gap" year to "find oneself" or to "rest" after their educational "hardship" and tribulations. The whole idea of education is the opportunity to think--something few of us get to do in the "real world"!!)

It is just so weird how we stop our process of marking and celebrating our educational milestones once we have stopped our formal education. Some of you are still contemplating a run at graduate school. Well if you are in your 30s, chances are slim to none that you will. However, after we graduate from school and have our degrees, we abandon "graduations" and "commencements" for ourselves. Education becomes something we chase in the corridors of our busy lives--it's called keeping up! We might take an occasional class or read a book. We see a youtube or a Tedtalk and feel invigorated. If we are fortunate, these are moments of enlightenment and/or inspiration but usually not education.

Our thirst for learning is unquenchable. Yet, our forays to the pool of knowledge are intermittent and brief. We become complacent. We learn everyday how much we don't know and the obsolescence of our education becomes more apparent.

I may have been to 50 commencement ceremonies so far. Most of them I have been sitting on the stage in my silly mortar board listening to the speaker and watching the audience. A couple of times I have had the opportunity to address the graduates. Once I was asked to discuss "The relevance of a PhD" to 800 new doctoral grads, but that is a different story. A friend of mine is preparing a commencement address and asked my advice. I told her that the message is "You are not done". May sound trite, but education is a process that never ends.

I truly believe you have to treat every chapter of your life as a graduate degree. I often say as an MBA, because of the popularity of the degree. Every job, promotion, new opportunity is a chance to choose "courses", "professors", and "majors". Take 2,3,4 years to earn your next "degree". Use your time at work and while you are awake to focus your post-college educational journey. Its a mindset. Otherwise time marches on, and while we feel like we are learning everyday, we have nothing to show for it. We stay at a company for 6 years, the equivalent of 2-3 graduate degrees, and our resume looks hauntingly the same! The question is always, "What will you learn from whom and by when?"

I know I have stumped more than a few of you, so let me give you five ways to do this.

  1. Your employer as teacher--Fully utilize your employer's support for professional development, tuition reimbursement, conferences, and classes. Even if they do not have a policy, ask your boss about specific relevant opportunities and get her support.
  2. Volunteer work--Most of you give your time to important charities and causes. Be more focused on how to intertwine your educational goals with your generosity. If you want to learn more about say marketing, then volunteer to be on the marketing committee. People don't volunteer for the committees and if you show up twice you will be the vice-chair! Then you are vice chair learning about marketing for your favorite charity and your resume just evolved!
  3. Start-up something--One of the great advantages of being part of a start-up organization is you can do everything and anything. Job titles are irrelevant. There are enormous opportunities to take on functions and areas of responsibility. You have to learn and educate yourself because the team is limited and small. By the way, same goes for most non-profits as well.
  4. Josh Kaufman's Personal MBA--I really like what Josh is doing. His idea is you don't have to enroll in a formal program, take out huge loans, and make the sacrifice of trying to justify the cost benefit of interrupting your career to retool. Check out his blog and his bestselling book. There are many alternatives to a degree.
  5. Find mentors in specific subjects--You want to advance your understanding of an area of interest, a function or methodology. Find experts who will spend time in their "office hours" to coach you and answer your questions.

More than a couple of times in my career I realized I was stagnating. That I was shielded from learning new things by my routines and habits. That I could just go through the motions and be successful. These were the signs that I had to take action to alter and augment my experience. I usually ended up pursuing a new "degree".

Little will happen without purpose and intention. What do you want? Where are you going? What "degree" will you earn in the next 3-4 years? Set commencement and graduation dates.

Once you do, your network and mentors have to be evaluated for their ability to help you. You reconnect with people with a new perspective. You help people around you continue their educations, because the best way to learn is to teach!

 Happy graduation!

Thanks for reading. John

 


Alumni Networks----Familiar and Influential Resources

Part of my procrastination of life's goals was to go through a bunch of academic programs--4 universities, 3 degrees and a fellowship. One of the unintended consequences of my scholarly digressions was to get connected to different groups of former students called alumni. Btw, alumni, Latin for "pupils nourished" is a distinctly American concept. International universities rarely kept track of their former students and certainly did not solicit them for financial support until recently. For example, Oxford, founded in about 1200, formalized its alumni society in 2006. Harvard established its Alumn Club in 1840. The word alumni is plural. Singular is alumnus, (unisex or male) or alumna (female, the unpopular plural alumnae), we say slangishly alums, or some say grads. Just do not use alumni when referring to yourself--"I am an alumni of XXX college."--unless you are schizo. :)  In Texas, they are always different aren't they, they say "ex-students". The definition of an alum is wide and varied. Mere attendance gives the individual, certainly the alumni association and that institution the ability to take credit for their achievements. Like all great ideas have many parents, all famous, successful, and certainly wealthy former students are claimed as "alumni". Alumni

I have been blessed to have a number of alumni networks that engage and fulfill me. Without them, I am not sure I would be as successful today.

In one of my former careers, I ran the alumni association at UCLA and served on national and international alumni governing organizations. With more than 2500 colleges and universities in the US, there are a lot of alumni! But I am notrecommending you attend more uncomfortable reunions!

This concept of alumni is not just restricted to post-secondary education.  You have been recruited into and have shared life experiences with many groups. Nearly 300 larger corporations have formed alumni associations for their former employees to stay connected.   Search corporate alumni groups Deloitte has a particularly strong one for example. Why you ask? Branding, recruitment, business referral, all through a trusted network. Does your former employer have an alumni group? Does your future employer have one, and do you know people in it?

PastLives Most of us stay in touch with a select crew from a former world of work or other experiences. These are informal and very effective alumni networks. You belong but may not be connected to, many alumni groups. Again, because of my career changes, I have 7 former employee such groups. The advantage of career changes! Like always, the questions is: Why aren't you connected to them? I know you are busy, I know you have less time and more choices and obligations. But these are people you know and share a common experience. Be careful.Trying to reconnect with these alumni groups only when you are desperate is tantamount to reconnecting with former dates from a previous era when you are lonely. Bad form, always smells of self-serving motives, and in the end not a long term solution.

If you have been following along, the strongest network opportunities are always among people you know or knew. Common experiences are powerful platforms for connecting and sharing.

Make a list of your alumni groups:

  1. Colleges and universities
  2. Employers
  3. Fraternities, sororities, honor societies
  4. Kids' play groups, PTAs, club athletic teams
  5. Internships, fellowships
  6. Volunteer and community service groups
  7. Faith based affiliations

Join as a member or reach out and reconnect. Do these groups have Facebook pages, Linked-in groups? Who do you know or remember? E-mail them, call them and connect.

Try not to be so focused on your current need and let the serendipity of connecting with a trusted group take you new places and opportunities.

The great thing is you have a base from which you can start a conversation. You immediately have questions or experiences that you can share to drive the connection.

Alumni networks can be powerful and meaningful sources of identity and community. Yes, and also provide some new leads on jobs or sales prospects, but that is always secondary.

Want to broaden and deepen your network and your opportunities? Think alumni.

It is amazing who you know, who you have lost touch with.

Reconnect with your past and advance your future.

Thanks for reading. John


One degree that will advance your career and your life

In the frenzy of admission and graduation season, I am reminded how often I am engaged in what seems like America's second favorite pastime, "The Graduate School Game." There seems to be an obsession with getting another degree. Have you seen this 212Movie?


What's the difference between 211 Fahrenheit and 212? That one degree is the difference between hot water and BOILING water! That's how a lot of people regard the next degree they want. They think it will take their luke warm careers and make them hot!. It could. It might. Might not.

When first year college students are surveyed every year, nearly 100% say they will earn a graduate school degree. Yet fewer than 30% ever enroll and much fewer earn a post-graduate degree. That aspiration does not die easily. And as time marches on that goal can grow into a tumor size thought that festers and evolves into a nasty regret. Worse case scenario is that elusive degree becomes the reason and crutch for a stalled career.

Po Bronson in his seminal book, What Should I Do With My Life?, concluded that another degree was NOT a factor for people who found fulfillment and success in their careers and lives.

Many people keep talking about this mystical magical degree even when the likelihood for them to start one is almost nil.

If you are serious about another degree, stop talking and thinking about getting one and take some steps to apply!Mortar board

As someone who endured and completed three post-graduate programs, mostly because I was constructively procrastinating my life. :) Let me add quickly, that having grad school degrees on your resume can help you get interviewed, but it can never replace real experience and achievements. And after you have a graduate degree or two, then what? PhD?

When I was in the cable tv industry, I met people with Masters in Cable TV. When I was running an online ed company, I met people with Masters in Educational Technology with a specialization in online education. Recently I met people with Masters in Philanthropy. First of all I give great credit to the universities that have diversified their product lines and are meeting customer demands. But the reality is a degree in fill in the blank, gets you some credibility and a limited view of the real world.

Life is my college, may I graduate well and earn some honors!    ~~Louisa May Alcott 

Basically, to keep up in this world you have to be in graduate school all the time. Face it, if it is in a textbook and a course it probably is obsolete. So let's talk about continuous education. Learning to adapt, evolving one's toolbox of experiences focused on expanding one's skills, knowledge and abilities. Formal or informal, you have to adopt this mindset if you want to evolve, grow and succeed. Enrolling in a formal degree program can help if you know what you want and NEED. But I think you should be earning a degree every 2-3 years at work! No, I am not specifically talking about a tuition reimbursement program or going to school at night. I am talking about your intentional educational advancement at your job and in your life.

I just completed my 2nd year in my newest career and I have definitely earned a reality based Masters degree in Philanthropy. I am far from done. As usual, I have learned enough to be intimidated by what I don't know. My goal is to re-enroll myself into a new degree program every 2-3 years and earn a new diploma outside of the classroom.School_of_hard_knocks_2

This mindset of continuous education can be powerful if you are purposeful. Here's how you can make your next 2-3 years on the job a degree program. Imagine you were enrolling in a grad school and choosing your area of concentration and now perusing your schedule of classes, investigating the qualifications of the professors, talking to others about their views, and ultimately making decisions. It would be daunting and fun. All of this would be driven by your strengths and weaknesses, your gaps, your needs, and your interests.

You have those same choices at work and in your life right now. Design your on the job degree program. The great news is you have already been admitted! Take all of the reflection you have done about your next university degree and what you wanted to gain from that experience and apply it to your life and work. What are your gaps and desired areas of concentration that you want to address? What core required courses are you missing and what electives have you dreamed of taking? What does your faculty at work look like? What departments/divisions have courses you need, have the best faculty? And what is your class schedule--how long will it take you to complete this degree?

In the next 2-3 years at work you will spend more time than at any equivalent grad school program. How do you carve a path through the next 24-36 months that make it transformational for your career and your life? Do you want to move into finance or out of finance? Do you want to gain management experience? Are you preparing to run your own business or organization? You have a lot to learn.

So your work world is limited or is not where you want to end up. Consider the full spectrum of options in your life. Again, based on your game plan of needs and desires, you volunteer, you moonlight, you educate yourself by seeking classes and professors who can guide you outside of work. All driven by your degree requirements.

Once you have a basic plan for yourself that is an honest reflection of what you want and heavily influenced by what you need, then you can begin to assemble your degree program.

Put both of your hands on your career's steering wheel and start to drive down the road that will give your more traction toward your goals.

If you believe that small changes can make big differences, then get that extra degree that will heat up your enthusiasm for where you are and where you going.

Thanks for reading. John