Up 10%

I speak frequently about the ridiculous amount of student loan debt in our country. Not that there aren’t times and situations that they are warranted, but all too often they are a product of irresponsible choices.  Irresponsible meaning that students and families do not invest the time and effort into exploring options before they commit to majors and then change their mind.  In changing majors, you loose at least one semester, so the graduation target gets pushed back and the monetary investment gets extended.  The national average indicates that students will change majors 3-5 times in the course of their four-year degree, but in doing so they end up graduating in six years instead of four.

The newest data shows that loan debt has increased 10% over last year.  Here is a very cool interactive map that shows state-by-state the amount of loan debt and % of students with loan debt. http://money.cnn.com/interactive/pf/college/student-debt-map-2012/?iid=EL

Need help exploring your options and developing a plan NOT to be one of the statistics.  I am not a financial consultant, but I am  a college and career advisement specialist.  Contact me.

The Value of College…or Whatever

The question is frequently asked now that the economy has stumbled, sputtered and inched along, “Is college worth it?”  With student loan debt soaring and the job market still in questionable territory, I frequently hear people asking, “Is it worth it, or should we think about something else?”

My responses are always the same, your decision needs to be made based on a variety of questions and answers that help to guide you to a path that you ultimately will feel great satisfaction and success based on your beliefs and understandings of yourself.  While it is not a quick “golden bullet” method, it is reliable.  That was affirmed when I read an article a few weeks ago and it was like light bulbs flashing all around me!  Yeah! They got it!  In their terms, “Career Well-Being” is the measure by which we should be evaluating the success of colleges and universities.  But I would like to add, it is the measure by which we should also begin the process.  Meaning, you can’t leave it to colleges and universities to help you “find yourself.”  You have to do some of the work up front and on your own.

Please read the article in the attached link, Is College Worth It, from the GALLUP Business Journal.  Whether you are in high school, in college or out in the work force, this is an important read.  After all, we all want Career Well-Being as part of our successful and fulfilling lives.

Like I said, my work is no golden bullet fix, but it is reliable, and this article speaks to that importance.

Making Good College and Career Decisions

Have you ever noticed how much time, focused energy, and money goes in to preparing to take the SAT, ACT or a re-test to get a better score?  So much of it is driven by the desire to have qualifying scores for a specific university or college of choice.  Imagine the hours invested in AP or IB courses for the purpose of positioning one’s self for that perfect college.  In making the selection to take a prep course for these tests, students and parents use their network of other students and parents to get recommendations for individual tutors or organizations.  They go on-line and search options.  So much effort and resource is spent on this one piece of preparing for college and the bigger picture of a career direction becomes a second priority or maybe third or fourth.

With the national average being six years to get a four year degree, the indicators point to students not being prepared to make a decision about their career direction and therefore the result is greater use of personal resources or student loans and lost earning potential.  That’s not to say that students can’t change their mind about a career major, once they are in college, but they can make informed decisions that use both their time and their resources wisely and reduce the potential of increased time to get a bachelors degree and increase the likelihood that they will be happy with their career choice.

Making informed decisions means collecting the best possible information in multiple directions.  In order to do that with a career decision, the information needs to include personal interests, an assessment of values, an inventory of skills and a quantified measure of natural abilities.  If there are influencing factors like family legacies or expectations, those need to be addressed as well.

Don’t be paralyzed by indecision.  Collect the information, assess your situation and goals, and if you need assistance, contact me.  I can help you determine your best direction!

Excellent Perspective

The Wall Street Journal ran an article about a year ago and they addressed the issue of financing college.  They have run many articles since, but this one was so impressive because they included professionals outside the realm of education or higher education who addressed areas of concern beyond their own “known career” of investment services. In five perspectives of advice to parents from five financial advisors, the first recommendation was, “Encourage your child to select a career first, and then a school.”  One of the advisors interviewed, Greg Gilbert, a financial advisor based in Atlanta, went on to make a statement so similar to what I have blogged about several times over the last couple of years when I encouraged students to seek out internships and volunteer opportunities.  He said, “The key is not just saying ‘Oh, I want to do this,’ but instead, really actively vetting out the [career] idea to see if it’s the right choice.”

Funding a college degree is an enormous commitment.  It can become bigger than expected if it is not managed effectively.  Investing in a career professional may mean spending a little up-front, but it will be a fraction compared to the extended tuition payments made when a four year bachelor degree becomes a 6 year bachelor degree  as a result of a student trying to “find himself” in the process.  Even students who believe they know the direction they want to take can be blindsided when the courses or internships turn out to be vastly different than they expected.

The business of running colleges and universities is big business.  Part of that business is your tuition dollars.  You can choose to make it a four year plan or an extended plan.  So, before you choose that college, make sure you have a career plan and that the college you choose will provide the biggest bang for your buck!  Your action “up front” can reduce extended costs and perhaps your own student loan debt.

Click here to read full article.

Click here to contact me for more information on career paths, colleges or college majors.


Pro-Active vs. Pro-long Debt

Once again, the issue of student loan debt is in the news.  The angle this time, universities suing students over unpaid loan debt.  But what continually goes unaddressed is the fact that nationally, students change their majors 3-5 times and each “change of the mind” results in approximately one semester of extended time for degree completion.  Multiply that times 3-5 and you have gone from a 4 year graduation plan to 6 years spent on a 4 year degree.

Determining a career path and choosing a “good fit” college require tremendous effort and diligence.  I am continually baffled by human nature.  We spend hours searching for the perfect car or house, but typically far less time picking a career or college.  Often we are simply influenced by where our friends go, what our parents do for a living, or the latest craze on TV and in the media.  So it is no surprise that 60-85% of Americans dislike their chosen field of work.

But there is a far better method.

  1. Read the linked article – click here
  2. Determine if you will be proactive or risk being a National statistic
  3. Contact me for a proactive approach for a great college fit and career direction

Part of the problem with student loan debt is the fact that university costs are rising.  But you don’t have to fall into the trap of the 6 year graduation group and go broke in the doing.  And you don’t have to fall into the 60-85 % of disillusioned American workers.  Love what you do!

  1. Go with a purpose
  2. Get a great experience in college
  3. Make a career out of something you love and are Naturally inclined to be successful

What action will you take today?

Your Natural Abilities – Part II

“In this increasingly talent-driven society, we need to know and develop our strengths to figure out where we fit in.” – Tom Rath, author, Strength Finder 2.0

The more we understand about our natural abilities, the better we can make effective choices that lead us toward satisfying and rewarding careers and lives in general.  Since abilities can be measured, it only makes sense that once we know what those numbers look like, that we are able to apply them to our daily lives both on the job and in our personal time.   As a life-long educator, I have been trained in the use of many instruments, but I don’t think any of them have impressed me or shown such clear benefit for individuals as does the Highlands Ability Battery.  When natural abilities are measured using the Highlands Ability Battery, a series of 19 tasks yields results that measure 21 separate areas and address Personal Style, Driving Abilities, and Specialized Abilities.

These key elements; Personal Style, Driving Abilities, and Specialized Abilities are so important in identifying how we best learn, work with others and use our problem solving abilities that they have been used extensively by large corporations and organizations.  They are also a critical factor in helping to identify major areas of study or compare programs of study at institutions so that a 4 year degree doesn’t turn in to a six-year graduation date.  Knowing your “best fit” helps to provide a vehicle for success.

Want to learn more about yourself, Natural Abilities and your career path?    Contact me.

Your Natural Abilities – Part I

“Most people think they know what they are good at.  They are usually wrong…And yet, a person can perform only from strength.” – Peter Drucker (1909-2005) Business guru

Through a well-documented process and years of research, it is possible to measure Natural Abilities like measuring intelligence.  However, unlike an IQ score that defines a level of intelligence, measures of Natural Abilities can assist in defining career paths that would lend themselves to an individual’s most satisfying outcome based on strengths and compatibilities of varied abilities.  Understanding your abilities can mean the difference between loving what you do in your chosen career path, and wondering why you ever chose that path.  It can also mean the difference between a 4 year degree that takes 6 years or an “on-time” graduation.

When abilities are measured we can learn more about the environment that would be most satisfying for work, the type of problem solver an individual is and the occupations that lend themselves well in that capacity.  We also uncover the type of learning channels that allow us to take in information most effectively and how to capitalize on that knowledge.  Finally, we learn our most effective communication style and the career paths that fit most comfortably and provide for maximum productivity and performance.

While no single assessment should ever be used to definitively tell you what to do in your life’s endeavors, there are key indicators that can make the journey a lot more fun, effective and satisfying.  Trying to decide on a college major or define what direction to take next? Want to have your abilities measured?  Contact me.

4 Considerations to Evaluate Summer Needs

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.  The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.”  – Mark Twain

Whether you are a high school student or a college student, you are on a path that can provide enormous opportunity and create background experiences that set you up for success.  So, as part of the plan, begin by evaluating your needs.

As a student, there are 4 Needs to consider when planning your summer.  Keep in mind, your plan may include parallel paths to meet these Needs.

1 – Financial Need – Do you need to make money for spending cash or are you in need of making money to be able to make expenses when you return to school?  Do you need to make money to pay for college?  If “financial need” is a primary concern for your summer, then getting started on your pursuit of summer employment is an immediate need given the competition that will be out there.

2 – Experience Need – Experience presents itself in many forms.  It can be an internship, externship, or participation with an organization.  Internships may be with or without pay, but the big payoff is experience with a company that can build toward future employment with them or at least the benefit of learning what you do or don’t want to do in your future.  Participation with an organization may be in the form of an athletic team and building skills and stats toward college or professional opportunities.  Either way, the experience is your primary need.

3 – Volunteer Need – This one is of particular importance to high school students but should not be dismissed by the college student.  Volunteering speaks to your character.  Many high schools require community service as part of their graduation requirements.  Universities look at volunteerism as one element of consideration when admitting students.  Companies look at your community involvement as commitment, community outreach and opportunities to be seen as a positive extension of their own business.  Assess your schedule and your need to increase volunteer capacity.

4 – Education Need – Do you need to take summer courses?  Does your graduation date indicate that you are on track with completing your diploma or degree on-time?  Do you want to get ahead on your timeline?  Assessing your summer needs for education is important for maintaining an “on-time” graduation date.

Evaluate your needs and take action now!  Break it down and break away from the pack!


Time Management – Putting You Ahead of the Game

Time management is one of the most critical issues facing college students, so you can’t wait to get there to get it under control.  It is also an imperative for being an effective employee.  If time management is a challenge for you, get a planner/day timer and start using it.  Begin with the end in mind!

College students who are seniors and facing graduation and the workforce in the next 2-3 months, you should be in “full pursuit” of that 1st full time job.  Attending college job fairs on campus or in your local area are good options and are all well underway.  Don’t forget those career-finder websites, but remember that if you use a headhunter service, ask about the fees!

College juniors, you may not be ready to secure that first post-graduation job, but attending job fairs is quite beneficial from the experience perspective.  Get out there and see who is hiring, who might have internships for senior year, and the projections for hiring next year.  Get business cards from those whom you are interested in maintaining contact.  It’s a great way to build a relationship!

High school juniors, do you need to register for the SAT or ACT?  The opportunities are diminishing for this year, so manage your time effectively.  Seniors, many of you are in wait mode and anxious for acceptance letters.  But that doesn’t mean you are on cruise control.  Grades need to stay strong, and if you are undecided about those colleges, be sure to do your homework evaluating the programs at each and making note of potential scholarships once accepted.  Need to connect your natural abilities to a major area of study?  Contact me.

Managing your time can put you ahead of the game, not just in the game.  The competition is steep out there, so begin with the end in mind!  Eye on the prize!

5 Tips for Locating Internships, Externships and Career Shadowing

Internships, externships and career shadowing are great experiences for learning, vetting out what career possibilities make sense to you, and establishing links for future employment.  But I get asked, “What is the difference between internship, externship, and job shadow?”  Typically, externships are much shorter and unpaid.  They can be a couple of days to a few weeks in length and are primarily job shadowing experiences.  The extern is an observer.   A job shadow is typically a one day event and again, the individual is an observer.  However, an internship is usually at least a semester in length and may or may not be a paid position.  The intern is assigned duties that mirror what an employee in the position would be expected to do on a regular basis.

So how do you go about finding these great opportunities?  Here are 5 Tips for locating or creating an internship, externship or career shadow experience:

#1 – Employers of your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or any extended family member.  Activate your network!  Remember, it may mean you create the experience on paper and present the proposal.

#2 – Family friends and their businesses

#3 – Businesses you frequent and like their product or service

#4 – City or County government offices

#5 – Quintcareers is a great website with links to tons of opportunities, job skill and interview recommendations as well as a zip code activated link for locating internship opportunities in your desired hometown or college town.  Internmatch is another as is Summerinternships.com

Got a great internship story?  Comment here and generate ideas for others.  Or, if your company hires Interns or promotes shadowing experiences, please share those as well.  It’s all about networking!