Thursday, September 25, 2014

Last day to withdraw (with a "W") from a class is 10/23/14.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Finding the Meaning in Your Work

“What is your current work doing to you as a person—to your mind, character and relationships?” This quote is from one of my favorite career books, How to Find Fulfilling Work by Roman Krznaric(The School of Life/PicadorUSA, 2013).  There’s much to recommend here: I like the way he traces the history of career decision-making (including career counseling’s rather shady history and the failure of career testing) and offers insights as to why many of us struggle with career choices.
I also like his philosophy of “act-first, process-later”—too many people think about their ideal career occurring sometime in the future (if at all) without stopping to consider what they could do today to move toward it. And I especially like his emphasis on our “many selves”—a notion similar to the “Possible Lives” map and exercise I devoted a chapter to in my own book, You Majored in What?.
I highly recommend Krznaric’s book for anyone going through or considering a career transition.

I think a particularly compelling element is Krznaric’s discussion of the dimensions of meaning in a career (Chapter 3- pp. 55-93). After considering whether one has the luxury, in this day and age, of even considering meaning in a career (one does, he concludes), he lays out five dimensions of meaning:
  1. Earning money
  2. Achieving status
  3. Making a difference
  4. Following your passions (interests)
  5. Using your talents (skills)
Let's break down these five dimensions and examine them. You might want to start by re-ordering the list based on your priorities. For example, while money might be a key driver for one individual, another might consider the use of his/her talents more important. As you consider these dimensions, consider how much of each dimension you need. How much money is enough? What percentage of time spent with interests or talents is enough?
Try considering each dimension in light of your current (or desired) work situation:

Money. Ever since the recession, money has been the primary driver of articles about “best careers.” Best career choices (not to mention college majors) are reduced to which fields will pay the most—"engineering good, social work bad" goes the common wisdom. This is not an illogical thinking process: one should consider future income when thinking about how much college debt to take on, for instance. But, at the same time, reducing career decisions simply to earning power can cause one to lose the broader perspective. How much income do you want/need? Are you setting your own monetary goals or complying with someone else's? What is a comfortable living, and what careers might fulfill that? What career fields might suit you in other ways from which you could also earn a reasonable (from your perspective) salary? (See my earlier post on should we all become engineers.)

Status. How does status or respect fit into your definition of meaningful work? I like to think of this as a form of pride: do you take pride in what you do each day? Pride is subjective—you can be proud that you simply show up every day and do your job despite obstacles. There is honor in that. There is also honor in teaching children, building a bridge, designing a building, writing a novel, or making a hamburger in a restaurant. Status as defined by others is compelling yet seductive—at what point did you select your current career to please someone else or meet someone else’s definition of status or success? How concerned are you with others’ definitions? As with money, it would be a mistake to rely solely on others’ perspectives: take some time to determine your proudest moments at work and in life. That may give you some perspective of what constitutes “status” to you. Does your current position provide you with the sense of pride and status you desire?

Making a difference is often relegated to the background in those “Top Ten Career” listings. And yet this is a common desire in job-seekers. Treated sometimes as a na├»ve or youthful pipe-dream, making a difference, is in fact, an extremely important component of a job. What is your definition of “making a difference”? Making a difference isn't always about saving the whales or other large humanitarian projects; you can also make a difference when you compile the payroll for your company. Teachers make a difference every day-- but the results aren't always seen immediately. What does “making a difference” mean to you? Are you perhaps underplaying the difference you make in your current job—or would a different job provide more fulfillment for you in this area? Is making a difference important to you—or do other factors trump this desire? Only you can decide.

Following your passions is a long-running and oft-derided theme in career decision-making. The image that comes to mind is that of a musician or artist off "following their passions" but unable to pay for dinner that evening. (See my post on Can You Really Do What You Love These Days?) Like many things, the truth often lies in the middle. How important are your passions and interests? Have you investigated the variety of careers where your interests could be used? How have other people made a reasonable income out of their passions? Must you be a starving artist or are there other, perhaps better, models to follow? Once again, there are no hard and fast answers here.

Using your talents is closely related to following passions. Presumably many passions are also talents. But here’s where you look behind the passion to find the talents/skills that lie behind it. For instance, you might be passionate about raising orchids, but careers directly related to that passion might be limited. So what talents are behind that passion? Could it be your patience? Or attention to detail? Or the researching skills needed to learn how best to care for the orchids? Or your appreciation of beauty/aesthetics? Consider your top 5 skills or talents. When you are at your all-time best, what are you doing? And how can you find a job that lets you do more of that? That’s the key to successful career transitioning: you take a job, figure out what you like best, and then look for a job that lets you do more of that. Now that you've examined these dimensions, which is most important? Which is least? How much of each is “enough” in your work?

Let’s go back to Krznaric’s original question: “What is your current work doing to you as a person—to your mind, character and relationships?” Would making changes in these five dimensions change your life for the better? Is one area neglected at the expense of another? How can you fix that?
I am reminded of a quote from the wonderful movie, The Peaceful Warrior: “A warrior does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does.” Would examining these five dimensions of career meaning help you find the love in what you do?

©2014 Katharine S. Brooks. All rights reserved

Did you know that Madison Advising Peers are on campus to help with advising questions?

JMU is using Madison Advising Peers to assist students with additional advising questions.  Check them out in Roop 201.   Lauren Crain, the MAP who works frequently with College of Business students in the ASC will be in the Zane Showker lobby on 9/24 from 10:30-12:30 to any questions with Graduation Applications (due on October 15).  Visit your Madison Advising Peers for help! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Are You in the Middle of a "Major" Decision? Having a Difficult Time Selecting a Major?

Like most students entering their first year of college, I was a bright-eyed, eager-to-learn freshman with only but two questions to define my existence: where are you from and what is your major?  This academic calendar year, students at Arizona State University have 362 majors to choose from. Yes — three hundred and sixty two. With an extensive list of options and majors offered both as a bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degree, how do students know which major best suits them? As an undergraduate, I sought advice from advisors and professors hoping someone had the golden degree ticket bearing my name on it. There are a few things I learned while earning my degree and many, many things after.

Below are three pieces of advice I wish I would have known before declaring a major:

1. Don’t be quick to pick or dismiss a major

So you took a physics course in classical mechanics and were fascinated with the movement of astronomical objects. Great! Should you now abandon all future endeavors unrelated to the field? Probably not.  I’ve come to hear quantum field theory is not for the faint of heart. Have you ever felt betrayed by political theorists such as Immanuel Kant or John Rawls because no matter how many times you’ve read the paragraph, it simply makes no sense? Does this mean the mighty realm of political science is not for you? Again, probably not.  One class is not representative of the entire discipline. I would caution from picking or dismissing a major based on a brief three to four-month experience. A course you may have genuinely enjoyed can easily be credited to an outstanding lecturer or lively class discussion. A course leaving you feeling unchallenged or confused may be for reasons other than the material.  Carefully analyze your time in the course to better understand what made you feel detached or uninterested. Was it the professor? Was it the course requirements? Really make sure it isn’t the course material that is turning you away from the subject. My advice? Take at least two electives in a major before making that step closer to declaring it ‘yours.’

2. Your major is not your job title

In an economy where receiving an undergraduate degree at a public institution will cost an estimated $14,300 per academic calendar year, some wonder whether the investment is worthwhile. Students are being advised to reconsider spending thousands of dollars on a degree that does not guarantee immediate or gradual financial stability.  Although tuition currently stands at a less than ideal price, it is important to remember your major is not your job title. Students graduating with degrees in the liberal arts are not subject to careers solely in teaching. A liberal education arms a student with critical thinking skills, writing capacities and the ability to communicate ideas clearly that would be well suited for almost any kind of job. One the same note, students graduating with a degree in STEM are not forced into a life behind a research facility. Rather, students have the opportunity to enter fields in which an understanding of technology is vital.  Choose what you would like to major in, not what you’d like your job title to be. If that were so, my journey to becoming president of a university would be much, much simpler.  It is also worthy to note select professional schools, such as law, medicine, education and journalism do not require an undergraduate degree in any particular field.

3. Remember to choose a major, not settle for one

Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is that you are not settling for a major. You do not hand over your entire undergraduate career and education to the likes of a major you just happen to come across in the undergraduate catalog. You actively decide on and pursue a major. You can’t imagine a semester without a design class? Go for it. Major in architecture. I commend you.
As the semesters carry on, membership to certain clubs, organizations, residence halls, teams or local drinking establishments may provide you with another characteristic to cling tight to, but ultimately, the “major” decision is yours.  Vanessa Miller is currently a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University pursuing a master’s degree in philosophy and education. She received her undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Florida and spends too much time wondering whether Socrates actually knew nothing.

This article comes from The USA TODAY College Contributor network.

The Fall Career & Internship Fair is coming up on 9/29 & 9/30 so get your resume reviewed in advance! On-campus interviewing has already started so upload your resume onto Recruit-a-Duke and start viewing the opportunities!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Top 10 Things You Can Learn in College Outside of The Classroom

While the education gained in the classroom is without a doubt beneficial, using what was learned and applying it to real world learning opportunities will lead to a more robust and well-rounded education.  Student loans have become more accessible than ever before, the amount of recent graduates with degrees in hand has increased, and the amount of available jobs has declined. A degree will always be an asset, but a degree backed by extracurricular, real-world, and hands on experience will take a recent graduate much further.  Employers can no longer gamble like before; the stakes are high and competition is always around the corner.  Employers want graduates backed by real world experience that are ready to hit the ground running.  There are many skills and abilities best learned through extracurricular involvement.  These skill-sets can be bolstered, but not replaced, by a classroom education.

We have compiled a list of the top 10 skills students learn outside of the classroom in detail below.
Participating in internships and having key roles in student organizations will help students gain project management skills that can only be learned through experience.
“Learning to use and apply Project Management is a valuable and essential life skill. Students need these skills because they’ll use them life-long, on the job and off. Everyone who works deals with projects, but projects extend beyond the job to include personal projects, family projects, volunteer projects and so forth….Project Management skills help you achieve better results. Mastering the art of Project Management can help you become a better parent, neighbor, and citizen as well as a stellar performer at work.”- Terry, Author of Strategic Project Management Made Simple: Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams
1) Improving Project Management Skills

How It’s Learned:
Project management can be learned through internships, participation in student organizations, leading new initiatives on campus, combining efforts with others on campus, and hosting events.
Why It’s Important:
Organizing your team, setting goals, and managing task lists are skills essential to any leader, young or old.
Key Project Management Skills Include:
    • Budget Management
    • Organizational Skills
    • Team Building
    • Proactive Leadership
    • Conflict Resolution
    • Task Management
    • Strategic Planning
    • Volunteer Management

2) Personal Development

Personal development does not stop after graduation, but the years spent in college are critical for individual growth. Networking and participating in community events are great opportunities for personal growth and development.

How It’s Learned:

Personal development can be learned through trying new things, trial and error, failure, reflection and awareness of oneself. Critical to personal development is the understanding that failure is essential for growth. How you bounce back from setbacks determines your commitment to growth and development.

Why It’s Important:

Personal development is important in helping to learn, reflect, and realize your own potential. Learning how to learn is a major obstacle to overcome. Everyone has a unique way of learning that works for them, and identifying methods that work best for you is a major growth opportunity.

Key Personal Development Skills Include:
    • Communication Skills
    • Interpersonal Communication
    • Listening & Speaking
    • Multitasking
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Social & Professional Etiquette
    • Confidence Building
    • Introspection
    • Healthy Habit Cultivation
    • Self Determination & Motivation
    • Value Identification
    • Accountability
    • Integrity
    • Self Actualization & Personal Identification
    • Identifying Personal Strengths & Weaknesses
3) Working in a Team Environment

Working in a team environment is a life skill in and of itself. Learning to adapt to different personalities and accommodate diverse perspectives is a skill that requires discipline, maturity, and patience. The art of collaboration comes naturally to some, but must be honed and developed in others.

How It’s Learned:

Working in a team environment can be learned through collaborating on group projects, participation in student government, holding an executive board position for a student organization, hosting and planning larger events, participating in sports clubs/intramural’s, and implementing plans with other peers.

Why It’s Important:

Working in a team environment can foster more productivity, while allowing everyone to focus on what they’re good at. People collaborate to tackle tasks too large to be completed by individuals. In order for any goal or project of scale to be accomplished, teamwork is critical. Along with this, most careers require team collaboration.

Key Team Environment Skills:
    • Team Building
    • Teaching & Training Other People
    • Creating Value for Others
    • Collaboration
    • Inclusive Leadership
    • Consensus Building
    • Conflict Resolution
    • Inspiring & Empowering Others
    • Constructive Criticism
    • Being A Leader Not A Manager
    • Delegating
“There are plenty of teams in every sport that have great players and never win titles. Most of the time, those players aren’t willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the team. The funny thing is, in the end, their unwillingness to sacrifice only makes individual goals more difficult to achieve. One thing I believe to the fullest is that if you think and achieve as a team, the individual accolades will take care of themselves. Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”- Michael Jordan, in his book “I Can’t Accept Not Trying”
4) Creativity

Creativity is one of the most in demand leadership skills of todays generation. It is a valuable skill to have with how quickly times are changing.

How It’s Learned:

Creativity can be learned by implementing the Creative Problem Solving Process (CPS). Learning creativity is supported by genuine curiosity, brainstorming activities, asking questions, and solving real world problems.

Why It’s Important:

Many traditional ways of doing things are outdated. Creativity allows fresh insight and perspective on old methods and traditional approaches.

Key Creativity Skills:
    • Creative Problem Solving
    • Creative Facilitation
    • Effective Ideation & Brainstorming
    • Concerns as Questions
    • Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
    • Critical Thinking Skills
“For CEOs, creativity is now the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing even integrity and global thinking, according to a new study by IBM. The study is the largest known sample of one-on-one CEO interviews, with over 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries polled on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world.”- Austin Carr, Fast Company
5) Productivity

When technology brought convenience, it also brought distraction. Staying productive in a connected world is a challenge and an asset. When you take on a position where you are held accountable, productivity is key to making sure projects and tasks are done timely and efficiently.

How It’s Learned:

Productivity can be learned through practice, trial and error, self-managing projects/initiatives/goals, experimenting with productivity tools, implementing skills learned, applying goal setting techniques and achieving those goals.

Why It’s Important:

We have computers, tablets, smart phones and other devices that are becoming more intertwined and necessary in everyday life. Learning how to use this technology as a tool and not a distraction is an acquired skill. As you get more involved, meet more people, and commit to more things, making sure you stay productive is key to being successful.

Key Productivity Skills:
    • Time Management
    • Focus & Minimizing Distractions
    • Healthy Habits
    • Multitasking
    • Prioritization
    • Goal Setting
    • Productivity Tool Utilization
    • Focus on Purpose Not Procedure

6) Civic Involvement

Involvement in the community is one of the best ways to give back and become engaged with people in your area. Civic involvement helps build character, establishes a professional reputation, and cultivates a sense of citizenship.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”- Margaret Mead
How It’s Learned:

The first step to being engaged in your community is simple. Show up. You can start by showing up to a community meeting, organizing with a local campaign, or taking the lead on a neighborhood clean up. Identify a cause or issue that you are passionate about and search for relevant service opportunities in that area.

Why It’s Important:

Every community depends on a group of concerned and committed citizens who recognize the value and importance of taking collective action toward a common goal. Not only can civic involvement build stronger, more resilient communities, the process of getting involved will help you develop vital skill sets like networking, communication, and project management.

Key Civic Involvement Skills:
    • Taking Action in Your Community
    • Valuing Others
    • Fulfilling Civic Duty
    • Building Relationships
    • Service Learning Praxis
    • Putting Theory Into Action
    • Having an Impact
    • Helping Others & Improving Others Lives
    • Empowering Others
    • Exposing Yourself To Diversity & Adversity
    • Experiencing Real World
7) Learning From Mistakes

Tested through time and still holding true, learning through experience and mistakes remains the best way to learn.

How It’s Learned:

Learning from mistakes can simply be learning by failure. Failing forward is one of the most effective means of learning.

Why It’s Important:

Lessons you learn from failing are lessons you will never forget.

Key Learning From Mistakes Skills:
    • Failing Forward
    • Importance of Adaptability
    • Mistakes are Part of The Learning Process
    • Every Mistake Gets You a Step Closer To Success
    • Success Comes From The Work Done Not The Result
8) Communication Skills

If there is anything that comes close to being as important as education, it is communication. A strong communicator knows how to adapt to audiences, portray an idea, inspire action, and lead others successfully.
How It’s Learned:

Communication skills can be learned through leadership roles, group collaboration, heading a new project, and immersing yourself into community events.

Why It’s Important:

Communication is the most, if not, one of the most important life skills you can acquire. It is communication that not only helps you effectively portray your ideas, but empowers you to influence and lead others.

Key Communication Skills:
    • Trust
    • Listening
    • Present
    • Undertaking Others
    • Effective Public Speaking
    • Effective Writing Skills
    • Inspiring Others
    • Simplifying
9) Networking

Networking can take you places you never thought you could go. It only takes one person to change your life forever. Networking is essentially relationship building, and should happen every day.
“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone.”- Margaret Wheatley
How It’s Learned:

Networking can be learned by lobbying for new additions to your campus, joining clubs that take you to professional conferences, attending events with community leaders, and even study abroad or work programs that allow you to meet people in other countries.

Why It’s Important:

Networking is a priceless skill that not only opens windows of opportunity, but could give you access to that one person that could change your life forever. Having a strong network of friends and supporters provides for a more stable foundation for you and your future.

Key Networking Skills:
    • Interaction with Others
    • Interpersonal Skills
    • Creating Relationships
    • Creating Value For Others Not Just Yourself
    • Making Friends
    • Building Rapport
    • Establishing Professional Identity
    • Building Reputation
    • Helping Others First
    • Quality Over Quantity
    • Being Personable
10) Leadership

The world is always in need of strong leaders. Leadership roles on campus and in the community help you build character and gain experience that cannot be developed in the classroom.

How It’s Learned:

Leadership is an inside-out process. The best leaders focus on personal and character development before they begin leading others. Leadership qualities are best learned through action. You can begin by taking key roles in student organizations, student government, or in your community.

Why It’s Important:

Effective leadership is essential to progress. Without it, organizations flounder, individuals lose interest, projects go unfinished, and goals remain unfulfilled. Whether it be leadership on an international level or on a college campus, the process of engaging people to connect with each other
and work toward a common purpose is critical to human development.

Key Leadership Skills:
    • Empowerment of Others
    • Selflessness
    • Utilizing Opportunity To Make a Difference
    • Taking Action
    • Cultivation of Genuine Relationships
    • Inspiring Action
    • Purpose Driven
    • Value Oriented Principal Decision Making
    • Positive Attitude
    • Solution Driven
    • Confidence
    • Sense of Direction
    • Adapting To Change
    • Integrity
    • Vision
In many situations it takes more than just a college education to have an edge in todays job market.
It takes real world experience combined with classroom education. There are major learning opportunities that are becoming available by participating in extracurricular activities and internships. This is something that every student should be taking advantage of and the classroom should be encouraging.  Extracurricular activities offer students the chance to apply academic learning to real world opportunities. They allow students to implement and put theory into action while solidifying concepts they’ve learned in the process.

Written by Dustin Pankow, Check I'm Here blog