What Am I Going To Do When I Grow Up?

Posts Tagged ‘learning

If you have ever uttered this phrase or found yourself whining along those lines, it is deeply understandable.  There are a lot of messages that we give ourselves and pick up around us that invalidate the study of music, poetry, dance, language, history, comparative literature, and the whole spectrum of liberal and fine arts majors.

So, start by reading yet another amazingly helpful and concise posting by Kathy Hansen at QuintCareers.com.  If you aren’t already a fan of QuintCareers, let me introduce you.  I’ve followed them since 1998 when I was on the job market after grad school in English and found the content refreshing, direct, and useful.  Really, truly everything career from “I’m in high school and thinking about….” to “I’m a senior executive” to everything in between and beyond.  Start there and it’ll lead your job search journey along to many great resources, ideas, and practices.

Go now… read what she has to say about the amazing value of owning your degree.   It’s SO important in finding a job and, really in all of life…  If YOU can’t convince yourself of being likable, valuable, hirable… Well, it’s going to be  really tough sell to others.

If it’s helpful, learning to like yourself and value what is special about you IS something you can learn.  Undeniably, it *really*  helps to have great nurturing parents who’ve told you repeatedly how amazing, gifted, talented, and full of potential you are while setting clear supportive boundaries in developmentally appropriate ways.    But…..given that didn’t happen for most of us and even those that it did… well, trust me.  Not even the coolest parents are perfect.   We all have issues.

And that’s where I really want to add something to Kathy’s great list of ways to value–and, realize the value of liberal or fine arts degrees--and, it honestly might be much clearer to the fine arts majors than it is to those of us in the humanities, but PEOPLE are the most central and effective resource on a job search.  Liberal arts includes the humanities after all!

You might have heard people say, often with a snicker… that “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know?”

Well, I’d argue it’s really, equally and crucially, both.

  1. Who you know gives you a chance to develop what you know
  2. Who you know gives you an opportunity to demonstrate what you know (and what you don’t)
  3. Who you know gives you a chance to increase who ELSE you might talk with about resources
  4. What you know can bring positive attention from who you know (and perhaps even introduce you to those you’d like to know!)
  5. What you know can connect you to others who share those interests
  6. What you know can change your perspective on who you know

Who you know is only part of the recipe of success.  If you ONLY know people and you are a complete idiot (and we all could possibly point to someone like this in our history?), you can rise quite far.  That’s true.  But you are still a complete idiot and at some point the emperor has no clothes and falls in disgrace.

What you know is only part of the recipe of success.   If you ONLY know facts and figures, information without social context and human connection is of limited use.  You can be very smart, but you need other humans to be able to put that information to work.

Connecting who and what through learning is optimal networking.   Intentionally setting out to learn from those around you through Informational Interviewing and less formal conversations too about what others are doing, how they got there, where they got started, when they learned some of their biggest lessons, and especially who else they would suggest you speak with in your mission.

Building community is crucial.  I’m not talking about fake networking of the worst most cheesy bad car salesman type.   I’m talking about being human.  Connect with other humans around what you want to learn about the world.   More on this in the future…

Sending fabulous energy as you connect with people around passionate ideas!

Often students who are planning to go to graduate school dismiss internships and even the idea of career planning entirely.  I’ve truly had student-after-high-ability student absolutely refuse to consider the idea of working on career exploration and development activities while in college because “I’m going to graduate school.”

So, if this is something you’ve thought, you aren’t alone.  Lots of students only focus on getting a degree.

Consider this:  Just because you plan to get ANOTHER degree doesn’t mean you are prepared to enter the job market.  Just having a degree (even an advanced one) does NOT automatically get you hired, nor does it guarantee a satisfying meaningful career.  It just means you have cleared the academic hurdles set up by a specific program before they will issue a degree.

I’m not saying that degrees aren’t important and valuable, nor am I dismissing just how hard you might work to earn the degree.  What I am saying that a degree is not the entire recipe for success.

Getting any degree at any level is a huge commitment of time, energy, and money.     Yet, going to school is only part about the classes and subject matter.   Half of why you come to college is to learn technique and information.  The other half is about networking and gaining experiences.

So, here’s some very real talk on the issue of graduate school and internships:

1) First, internships, volunteer work, and other experiences that show involvement, leadership, and dedication make you a better candidate for graduate study.  Engaging experiences make you an more interesting person who can write better letters of application, have more people to ask for letters of recommendation, and brings more meaning to the process.

2) You might not anticipate this, but it’s possible that you might not get into graduate school or not get into programs you want to attend or it’s possible that by the time you are finishing up your seniors year you just can’t bear the idea of MORE school and decide to put grad school off for a year or two.   Internships lay the groundwork for your career, providing experience and networking connections in a field.

2) Graduate school just is not all it’s cracked up to be.  It’s a lot of work.  If it’s meaningful work that fits into your long terms career goals then it’s enjoyable and worth it.  At least most days.  😉   But if graduate school is just because you are good at school and feel that “it’s just a logical choice and really what else would you do?, then you are going to graduate over-educated and completely ill-prepared for a meaningful job search.  Internships, volunteer work, and leadership experiences at any time help prepare you for the job market in ways that more school never will.

3) Internships, volunteer work, and leadership experiences all help you explore who you are in different situations.  These experiences help you develop a sense of what works and what doesn’t when interacting with people in professional settings.  Eventually, school will be over and you will need to confront the question of “what you are going to do when you grow up?”

4) Depending on which graduate program you attend there may be a HUGE range of career development support available to you.  Some graduate programs are absolutely AMAZING in terms of what they provide in terms of leadership development, networking opportunities, internships, practicums, co-ops, residencies, clerking, teaching, researching, or other applied learning experiences.  Yet, sadly some number of graduate program are abysmal, providing even less support for graduate student career development than the inadequate scraps of career services they provide for undergraduates in the same programs.

I could probably write volumes on the subject of the inadequacies of career development at university, but I’ll sum it up this way… depending on what type of graduate program you are looking at and why you are looking at it, they might be selling a dream that isn’t as shiny as you think it is.  So, if you are going to graduate school because you want to be faculty, be prepared to examine the rusty interior of academia before choosing that path.   More on that topic in future posts.

No matter what your educational plans are in relationship to your career plans…wherever you are in your journey, it’s never too early or late for more experience.   So whether it’s a part time internship or a volunteer experience or any other kind of structure that allows you to meet people and connect with specific fields, it’s an invaluable in yourself.   You are totally worth it!

Sending fabulous energy!

Well, check this out in the NY Times.    Keep playing with this powerful demographic tool to see how it breaks down for race, gender, and age.

Take a look at what happens to unemployment rates without a college degree.  Wow!

Even worse off without a high school degree.   Yikes.

If you are wishing this broke out graduate school as well, you aren’t alone.  But in other research graduate school generally increases employability.    Although, as I say that, I am quick to add that over-educated and under-experienced deep in student loan debt without a plan is no where to be either.   Go back to some of my recent posts on graduate school for more context.

One resource that may be helpful in assessing career options is the Occupations Outlook Handbook.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a biennial publication by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. It includes detailed information about the nature of work, working conditions, training and education, earnings, and job outlook for hundreds of different occupations. It is an excellent first stop to learning about a given career – what it entails, entry requirements, job prospects, and earning potential.

And, if you are seriously considering graduate school, start reading The Chronicle.  The Facts and Figures section will provide data on faculty and other administrative salaries, the Advice section will provide context and assistance as you move forward, and of course the Jobs section provides valuable research information for now and later.

Sending fabulous energy!

Not sure if you should stay in school and plan for graduate school or graduate into a weak job market?

It’s admittedly an understandable strategy.  School is what you know.  Sure, you might be tired of it, but often people find that what is known and unpleasant is preferred to that which is unknown and therefore scary.

At the same time, graduate school is a major investment in specializing within a discipline or field and typically provides very specific training and research opportunities.   Grad school is best engaged in consciously, deliberately chosen and part of a genuine career plan…it’s really not a  place to hide out or avoid the question of what you are truly going to do in life.

There are really many paths to graduate school and that’s really important to remember.  It is NOT crucial to go directly to graduate school after college.  In fact, depending on the program, taking time between college and graduate school to work, travel, volunteer, and gain experience in life, ranges from improving acceptance rates to actually being required.

There are basically 2 schools of thought on this issue:

  1. Many people argue that taking time off of school puts you are risk of never going back to graduate school and you should go while you have the school momentum going for you.  Additionally, some career fields cannot be entered unless you’ve earned a graduate degree.    Of course, if the ONLY reason you are going forward to graduate school is inertia, it’s unlikely to be a successful and rewarding experience.   Weigh out the costs/benefits carefully.  Graduate school is very expensive and a huge professional investment.  Of course, there are also inarguable benefits to graduate degrees and the career fields they open access to.
  2. Others argue that taking time off between degrees allows people to grow, gain experience, and avoid school burnout or fatigue.  Additionally, some graduate programs actually require that people gain work experience or  do post-baccalaureate travels or internships in order to be competitive for their programs.   Many people who choose to apply to graduate programs later in life make more conscious choices about programs, research them more completely, and find the program to be a more rewarding experience, personally and professionally.  This is not always the case.

So what might you do?  Well, start with thinking about the following:

  • Why are you thinking about graduate school?   If you are going because you don’t know what else to do in life, don’t go until you are really clear on why you are going and how it will translate into a career.  Just a vague feeling that graduate school might be helpful for you is not enough.  If you are on a mission and this graduate program fulfills a particular goal in a larger career plan that has been realistically and fully researched, then graduate school is likely part of a good path for you.
  • How motivated do you feel about school right now?  On a scale of 1-10, where do you fall?
    • If going to school, leaves you moaning and groaning and wishing for something else, than put grad school planning on hold right now.  Choose career planning instead.  If at a later time graduate school is something that is part of a well-thought career plan, you will be motivated to go back.
    • If the opportunity to study, discuss, write, research, and work-harder-longer- hours-than-you-ever-have-imagined-working-in-your-life on a life quest makes your eyes shine bright, then graduate school might be heaven for you.

So, if you aren’t sure about whether or not you want to go to graduate school, that’s wonderful.  It’s good to ask questions.  To not question your decisions at all isn’t good planning.  It’s bullheaded and likely to lead to ill-conceived plans of all sorts.  Questioning leads to better answers.  Better answers leads to better decisions.

If it’s helpful, I question my career decisions all the time.  It’s when I can’t find answers that I know I need to do more research.  The issue isn’t questioning, it’s not questioning when it comes to great research.  And great research is really what graduate programs are about.   So, start asking great questions of yourself and those that can help illuminate the way.  Enjoy the process…

Sending fabulous energy!

Perhaps you’ve already applied to graduate school and are nervously awaiting the response?  Or perhaps you’re a recent graduate frustrated in the job search and find your thoughts keep turning to graduate school?  Or perhaps you’re stuck in a job and think that perhaps a graduate degree would help you move to the next level of your career?  Or perhaps you are an undergraduate student consider graduate school as the next step?

No matter what your situation, here are a few things to consider as part of the process:

1. This is the most important aspect and it might seem really basic, but know specifically WHY you are going.

  • What are your motivations for going to graduate school?
  • What do you hope a degree in a specific field will accomplish?
  • How is it tied to a specific career plan?  how realistic is that plan?
  • Who do you know who has a career in that field?  What do they suggest regarding your plan?
  • How very specifically do you think the schools you’re applying to will partner with you to meet this plan?

Put this all in writing.   This is the basis of each of the different letters of application you will send to the schools.

2.  Know your audience.  Each application to each school must be crafted with the specific school in mind.

  • Read absolutely everything you can about each school and this is mandatory:  Read the entire website of the specific department to which you are applying.  i.e.  if you are applying to the English program, read the entire English departments’ website.  if you are applying to law school, read the entire school of law’s website.   It is not enough to read the information admissions provides to you.    Know who the faculty are that teach in the program.  Know what the program requirements are.  Know what the structure of the program is.  Know everything the program put out there for you to read.
  • Speak to a specific audience in the letter.  Do not use the same letter of application to each school.   You might have an initial template you start with, but identify specific people in the department from whom you want to learn, name resources such as libraries in your field or research facilities in that program that are attractive, and  list experiences that the program provides such as teaching, research, interning, surveying, clerking, or whatever actually attracted you to them about their program.   Make the pitch to them as to why you selected their program out of the many that exist and what you hope to contribute to the program.
  • Best fit is key.  Part of the letter should address why you as a candidate are a good fit for their program.  Do it from their perspective:  How are you a team player?  What in your background qualifies you for their program?   What experiences led you to feel that going to graduate school in their program was part of your career or mission in life?  What’s your planned contribution to the program or field?   Use specific examples.

3.  Go Visit.

Perhaps you’ve already turned in the letters and didn’t do the above things?   It is what it is.   This is still a great move.  Or perhaps you are still exploring going in the future?  No matter where you are in the process of considering graduate programs, there is no substitute for a scheduled on-site visit.

  • Reading about a program online is great.  It’s mandatory before applying to a place you will be studying for a minimum of at least a year and typically 2 to 6 years.  Knowing the program’s culture is something that you will only truly understand by meeting the people in the program.  So, an on-site visit really helps you make sure this is a solid professional choice.
  • Visiting will increase your chance of acceptance.   It shows you are serious about your application and helps you fill in the gaps any application might leave.   Visits are very impactful any time of year, but timing is a factor.
  • Make sure you make appointments in advance.   People are not just waiting around in their offices on the off-chance you might pop by and if you don’t have an appointment they might not have time for you.  Scheduling appointments far enough in advance will ensure a great experience for everyone.
  • Request the experiences you want.   Ask to meet with faculty who do research in the areas of study and would potentially be teachers of graduate classes and/or your faculty adviser .  Ask to sit in on a class that is required in your area of study.  Ask to meet with graduate students in the program.    Ask to tour the facilities.    Ask for information on housing, student organizations or clubs, career services, programming, and time to meet with people who can answer these questions.
  • Be prepared to make quite a number of phone calls to set this all up.  It is likely that people keep their own calendars and there is not a central person to make this magically happen for you.   This is your job.

4.  Remember that you are interviewing them (the school) as much as they are interviewing you.

Take this as seriously as a job interview.   So, be prepared.  Ask questions.  Do research.  Set expectations and conduct yourself professionally.  Going to graduate school is an enormous professional investment in time, energy, and resources.  If you aren’t willing to commit to a serious search process, ask yourself if you are ready to commit to what graduate school demands of you.   Make sure that going to graduate school is a meaningful conscious choice on a path to a career you have chosen, researched, and are entering aware of what the graduate degree will do for you.

At the same time, just like a job interview, this is not a one-sided process of trying to squeeze into someone else’s expectations of what kind of candidate should do, be, or act like.  This is a process of you knowing what you want and asking questions…seeking to find the program that will be the best fit for you and one in which you can make a meaningful contribution to a field.

Graduate school can be a great investment in yourself personally and professionally… and like any investment, if you to do the research and groundwork to ensure the investment is a good fit for the goals you have, it is more likely to pay off.   And, if all of this seems a bit daunting, that’s understandable.    Most people find it pretty overwhelming to do this all on their own and so it’s wise to have a mentor or coach helping walk you through the process, pointing you towards resources, and providing accountability so you stay on track.

So, start where you are, take inventory of your resources, and if you need assistence, ask for help.  You aren’t alone.

Sending fabulous energy!

What if education happens every time we learn?

Consider for a moment: what is the difference between a degree and education?

So, how could it be helpful to shift the focus from  degree completion to learning?

How could this shift in perspective make the practice of learning far more purposeful and passionate?

What does it mean to have purpose?  to be ON PURPOSE?

A lot of people will start naming goals, like graduate from college or get a job.   Those are goals.  So, what is the relationship between goals and purpose?  Well, goals are defined, tangible accomplishments.   Purpose is the reason why.  Purpose is the reason for the goal.

So, why did you choose these goals?  perhaps the honest answer is that you didn’t choose the goals.  perhaps the goals were given to you, expected of you, and you thought you had no other choice but to pick up the goals and slug through, racing to the finish line, hoping that it will provide happiness.

Consider the following questions:

  • What do you want most out of life?
  • What would you like to see happen in the world?
  • What makes you special?
  • What would you like to accomplish right now?

Make a list of at least 3-5 items in each area and circle the elment that is most important to you or provides the others.  Take those 4 elements and make it a sentence.

I will (Take the circled item from List 4) , using my (Take the circled item from List 3), to accomplish (Take the circled item from List 2 , and in doing so, also achieve (Take the circled item from List 1) .

Read this out loud to yourself and let it settle in.

How does it feel to know your purpose?  How does it feel to know it is YOUR purpose?

Keep in mind this a draft and you can continue to polish it up.  So, what if you can choose to put it somewhere you can see it on a daily basis?  What if you could put it on your screen saver?  put it in your journal?  put it on your mirror?  make it a creative collage?