I love making to-do lists and checking things off as I complete each task. My meeting notes need a key and a cypher to be decoded by anyone else. The doodles, arrows and boxes map out a trail of random thoughts that eventually lead to cohesive ideas and directions. I have notes for almost every sermon and bible study I’ve ever heard in person and I have boxes of notebooks as proof. That’s right - I’m a list making, note-taking, get stuff done rock star living in the digital age. And let me tell you, it ain’t easy!
All over the country student of all ages are preparing to go back to school for the fall. Here in Arizona most kids have already started the new school year. With most of the attention on kids’ cat-themed backpacks and school supplies it’s easy to forget that many adults are heading back to school too. Many of these adults are also holding down jobs, managing families and serving in their communities, so deciding to go back to school is a big commitment and sacrifice. It can be done with the right mindset and support, but here are four questions to ask yourself before you jump back into the books.
1. Is it part of an overall career plan?
Some careers require specific degrees to open doors and promotion. But some don’t. It’s worth the time and money to research whether your career plan requires formal degrees or if professional certifications, self-guided courses or curated programs will do the trick.
2. What’s the return on investment?
“According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2016–2017 school year was $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.”
Degrees aren’t cheap, which is why it’s a good idea to make sure you get the right return on investment. Comparing what you’ll pay for tuition and fees with your potential income will give you an idea of whether your investment is worth it in dollars and cents.
Calculating College ROI: How to Tell if You're Getting the Best Bang for Your College Buck
\How necessary is it to have a college degree? I have often heard that a bachelor’s degree is the equivalent to a high school diploma. Meaning if you don’t have an advanced degree, i.e. Masters or PHD, those who have earned their high school diploma with some experience and others who have also earned their bachelor's degree will be considered for the same jobs. According to the College Board.org, the average private four-year college cost about $33,480 for it’s annual tuition and fees. A public institution cost about $9650 annually. If you are qualified for the same job as someone without the degree, is picking up a potential final tab of $132 thousand really worth it? This obviously doesn’t apply to the fortunate students that have prepaid college funds. For those that don’t, here is where you would have to consider:
Your earning potential vs. cost of investment.
Assuming one does not want to continue their education by earning a degree, another alternative would be to earn certification or licenses in a trade or vocation. Knowing what you want to do in life and what you enjoy is as vital as being passionate about something and remaining diligent with it. If you can pursue a career without starting your life with a mountain of debt, that would be ideal. I can’t begin to tell you how much I admire hairdressers. Having the ability to bring joy to someone by giving him/ her a new or polished look while earning a lucrative salary is so amazing to me.
There are many people who have earned advanced degrees and still find it very difficult to find work. Not only a career, but any work! My suggestion to those students considering the possibility of college, weigh your options and know what path you want to take. There are a great deal of resources available to help offset the cost of school to make it more affordable if that is the best route to your career. Fastweb and Scholarships.com provides many scholarship opportunities. In addition, some great programs exist that are cost efficient and will give you the experience you need in your field and the certification, an example is JobCorps. The best part about programs such as Job Corps is, you get to start your life, but not so much in debt.
Have you ever worked a job you hated, through conditions that were less than ideal? Or have you been a member of a team and the work environment was tense? If you haven’t, a round of applause, you are a part of the fortunate few, and If you have, it’s called adulting. Only a small percent of adults feel professionally fulfilled in their current job or have a job they enjoy performing. The other larger majority is perceived as simply going through the motions as a means to an end. The means is providing a service and the end is earning a wage however strong the desire is to be elsewhere while doing something totally different.
One of my favorite authors and poets, Maya Angelou, gave life to what I consider the most logical quote. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” I can count a couple of positions I’ve held in retail management when I’ve literally cried (yes, real tears!) because I was dreading a 12 hour grueling holiday shift. At the time, I considered myself a rational thinker and thought I can’t just quit, I have bills, I’ve amassed a certain life style. For that reason, I went to work miserable for a few years, too rational to plan an exit strategy.
In this day in age, it is important to realize that even your dream position may have elements that you don’t enjoy, nothing in life is perfect, there may be convenient and ideal scenarios, but what’s perfect is what you perceive as perfect. Many situations in life are affected including a less than stellar job, by your attitude towards it. You can’t go quitting every job you hate, or every time the boss or your coworker does something to offend you. You can however, change your mindset and attitude towards a process or people, which to some of you may be harder than going on an interview or finding a new job.
So What Can You Do To Positively Affect Your Work Environment?
Summer heat and humidity can throw a snag in your professional clothing options. Here in Arizona, temperatures regularly exceed 110 degrees in the summer. And although West Coast professional dress code is typically more casual than East Coast dress code, it’s safe to say that there are still do’s and don’ts that span both coasts.
I recently heard blogger Alison Green discuss dress code on NPR’s Marketplace. In her segment, Ask a Manager, Green discussed which clothing appropriate summer work wear, specifically shorts and flip flops which, according to Green are NEVER acceptable for most professional work environments.
Green shares a few approaches for taking the stress and uncertainty out of what to wear to work, which I've highlighted here - along with some advice of my own.
Sometimes it can feel like your career is on auto-pilot. Like it’s just happening to you, rather than being guided intentionally by you.
I know the feeling. Many years ago I had a job that I hated. I was only there for six months and during that time my department had three different Directors, my direct manager was a insecure, power-hungry crazy person who regularly be-raided and degraded me in front of others, and I was ostracized by the co-workers in my department.Not to mention the work (basically updating spreadsheets) was bor-ing.
The day they laid me off was one of the better memories I have of that place. I left out of there like a puppy leaving the pound. I felt relieved! I was released from a work-prison! Accounting just wasn’t my thing and that day I promised myself I would never have a job like that again.
I spent the next few months working for a temp-agency while I looked for permanent work. My temporary assignment was at a church in their worship arts department; and it was just the respite I needed. At the same time, my decision to not take another accounting job was being challenged; my savings was running out, the holidays were approaching and I needed a permanent job…quick.
Honestly there were times when I considered taking an accounting clerk or payables job; I had experience, good references, and I knew I could do the work. But something in me would say “Don’t do it. Don’t settle. Be the architect of your own career agenda.” Eventually I found an entry level marketing position that has since opened doors of greater opportunity. 10+ years later and I’m so glad I listened to that “still, small voice.”
There’s a Youtube video that I love of a little girl struggling to undo her car seat seat belt. Her dad repeatedly asks what he can do to help, to which she replies “worry about yourself.”
Doesn’t the Bible say something about the “out of the mouths of babes?”
Often times at work we’re so worried about what everyone else if doing that we forget to follow baby-girl’s advice and focus on ourselves. I’m not talking about conceit, arrogance or self-absorption. I’m talking about creating and projecting a professional brand.
Branding is very powerful. Don’t believe me?
If your brain quickly recalled UPS, McDonalds, Lady Gaga and Louboutin stilettos, you've proved my point.
What’s your workplace brand? Are you dependable or flakey? Do you contribute meaningful input or chatter aimlessly? Are you trustworthy or do people question your integrity? Are you irreplaceable or dispensable? Are you moody or pretty even keeled?
I think you get the point.
Here are three ways to create and project a professional brand.
With money being the root of all evil, does that mean that we indulge too much in entertaining? Could it be a reason why we have such a large disparity between incomes of athletes and entertainers and blue collar workers? Who decided that professional athletes should be paid more than the teachers that instruct our students reading, writing, and arithmetic? I think there is a fine line between what merits higher wage. The core of salary base has been the same for quite some time, with the exception of the cost of living adjustments. Excluding healthcare practitioners, the argument could be presented that all other blue collar/ white collar careers are in need of a salary make over. Academic Professionals, Police officers, Service Industry workers, all earn a modest salary. Entertainers, Athletes, and Actors have earning potential of millions.
The two categories are very different, one can be classified as the world saviors, they go out every day and protect, serve, and educate. The latter, can be classified as the indulgent of the world. Plain and simple, the people that make the big bucks, we in essences pay them to do so. We in indulge in their talents. So does that mean that our values are backward?
Should we be paying educators and servicemen more than the people that entertain us, and should we believe that this means our entertainment takes precedence over all else. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, right? Don’t get me wrong, I do think in most cases entertainers are deserving of their big bucks, they work very hard perfecting their craft and people love to see the competition of sports, a good plot, and a song that sings to their soul. However, what’s a world without education. I do think that we would have better officers and more equipped teachers if they were properly compensated for laying their lives on the line and preparing a generation of future scholars. Like Jerry Maguire, I say, show them the money!
If you had a choice, who would you give the big bucks to, teachers or athletes?