Using Science To Choose The Right Career For You

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No matter how hard you may try to pick a job that you think you’ll love, scientific research has shown us over and over again that people go about it all wrong. Research shows that what people think will make them happy is often very different from what actually will make them happy at work. Perhaps that accounts for why the majority of people are unhappy with their jobs.

Keep reading to learn what scientific research has to say about choosing the perfect job for you.


Don’t Dwell on Salary

After analyzing the results from more than 100 job satisfaction studies, the evidence is conclusive that there is only a small relationship between higher salary and higher job satisfaction. Don’t focus on pay.

The jury is still out as to whether money can buy happiness. Rich people are generally happier than their poorer counterparts, but evidence shows that winning the lottery or some other financial windfall doesn’t change a person’s happiness much over the long term.

When you focus on a job’s pay, you miss the opportunity to weigh other factors that might play a bigger role in your satisfaction. So although it’s nice to make some more money every pay check, it doesn’t make you as happy as other factors and doesn’t deserve as much attention as it’s given.


Downplay Your Interests

Now we know this is going to surprise a lot of you but there is no convincing evidence that proves that following your interests leads to fulfilling work. It should be obvious that doing a job that has something to do with what you’re interested in should matter. Shouldn’t someone who is interested in music be happier working as a record producer rather than an accountant? But the scientific research doesn’t show that it has any effect.

But there is a reason that science doesn’t say our interests matter. First off, our interests change over time and faster than we’d expect. Psychological studies have shown that people are terrible at predicting what they’d enjoy in the future. This makes sense because I know that some of my interests when I was 18 would no longer keep my attention today. You?

Other scientific research shows that although our interests are still important, we tend to outweigh them compared to more pertinent choices. So even if you did enjoy music, the late nights and long hours might be less desirable than you’d think.


Seek Significant Work

Throughout the field of positive psychology, professionals agree that a sense of meaning is important for an individual’s overall sense of happiness. Now studies have applied this to the workplace. When you feel like your work is contributing to a worthy cause, you are likely to love your work much more. Being kind to others has been shown to boost your mood. So when you’re able to turn your work into a way of helping others, you’re bound to find more satisfaction.

A meaningful job doesn’t have to be limited to a charity or nonprofit. Making a difference is up to you and can be done in many different ways through industries such as politics, entrepreneurship, and medicine.

If you’re in a job and can’t just change, try volunteering. The research is clear that those who volunteer are consistently happier than those that don’t. You can also donate money to charity as research shows this can make you feel great too.


Avoid Easy Jobs

When we’re not being mentally challenged, we quickly get bored. While you might think that getting an easy job would be less stress and a piece of cake, it can actually lead to more fatigue and feelings of dissatisfaction and even resentment.

In order to love the work you do, you need to feel like you’ve achieved something. Science has developed two tests that can help you determine how important mental challenge is for you on the job. The Growth Needs and Need for Cognition scales. While some people might not need as much challenge and growth opportunities as others, the scientific evidence shows that growth potential and challenge are important factors.


Diversify Your Tasks

The job characteristics model which is supported by more than 200 independent cases says that variety is a key component to finding work that’s satisfying. When we find work that opens up our horizons to more tasks and challenges, we don’t take a good job for granted as quickly. In a study by Sonya Lyubomirsky, she found that participants who tried new activities reported higher levels of happiness than the ones who remained the same.

Many jobs require different tasks including medicine, consulting, and media. When you are working on different projects and with new people, your experience changes frequently. But on the other hand a financial analysis who sits at a computer in a cube working on spreadsheets has a low-variety job.

If you want to get more variety at work, start by asking for it by requesting new projects or a higher level of responsibility. Another way to achieve variety is by switching tasks more often and changing up your schedule. Small changes can go a big way.


Find Autonomy at Work

When you have control over how and when your work gets done, you will experience higher levels of job satisfaction. You’ll be able to structure your work around your needs. Autonomy is a need that lies deep within humans and one that history has shown us some are willing to fight for. When you find work that gives you the freedom to determine your schedule and how you work, you’re likely to experience more job satisfaction.

If you want to know how much autonomy there is at a new job, ask the people that work there how much freedom they feel like they have. If you feel stifled at your current job, you may need to sit down with your supervisor to see if you can get some more independence.


Find a Source of Reliable Feedback

When you get feedback on a job, you’re likely to experience more motivation and higher levels of work satisfaction, multiple studies report. On the other hand if feedback is infrequent or poor, you may lose motivation.

If you want to increase the amount of feedback you get, start by asking for it. You can also start looking at the work itself for some feedback. Are you getting the results you need?


Like Your Coworkers

When you’re around people you like, your mood is enhanced. When you have doubts about the coworkers at a new job, remember that you are going to be spending a lot of time with them. Don’t discount your colleagues when selecting a new job. It’s not silly to want to work with people who you like.

When we have fulfilling close relationships, our feeling of wellbeing goes up. And if we have social support at work, our stress levels can go down. Studies also show that when people get along with their colleagues, they find their work more meaningful.


Follow Your Strengths

When we achieve, we feel better about ourselves. Most people are continuously working toward an achievement and when it comes, they usually feel good. Like when you finally finished that large project or mastered a difficult new skill.

In order to get this sense of achievement on a regular basis you must find work that utilizes your strengths and skills. Research shows that if your skills and the job are mismatches, you’ll be unhappy with it. If you tap into your signature strengths as developed by Seligman, you’re likely to find fulfilling work. When you apply your inherent strengths at work, you’re going to see increased levels of satisfactions.


Finding the Perfect Job Won’t Necessarily Be Easy

Even with years of scientific research to guide you, finding a career you love won’t happen overnight. But never give up. As research shows, we often misjudge how happy something will make us in the future. So although the sign on bonus might be tantalizing, don’t overlook the long hours you’ll need to put in which you might later regret.

As you begin to understand the science behind job satisfaction, you’re going to be able to make wiser choices and work toward finding a career you love. You won’t necessarily know that you’ll love something or not until you try it. So keep expanding your horizons, learning, and progressing your life. Don’t settle and keep trying things until you find what works for you.

Sources and references: Vox

How Your Personality And Career Path Can Influence Each Other

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If you want to be in more control of your professional destiny, then it is essential to focus on various elements that influence your career path. One such element is your personality, which can have quite an influence in your professional life.

Throughout your career, you will find that your personality shapes your career path and that the jobs you take on can also shape your personality. This is a dynamic relationship that you can balance. It’s good to be aware of how your personal traits, reactions and tendencies will affect the people around you and your opportunities for the future.


How Does Your Personality Shape Your Career Path?


Your personality determines how you respond to pressure situations, the types of relationships you have with co-workers and managers, your work ethic and other extremely important attributes of your professional career. If you are an introvert who limits contact with co-workers, then that significantly reduces your exposure to people who can help you to develop your career. Your co-workers represent a great opportunity to establish a strong professional network within your industry and by ignoring your co-workers, you are limiting your growth.

If you establish a trend of flying off the handle each time a pressure situation occurs, then you can develop a reputation for not being management material. In this way, your personality could cripple your ability to ever move forward in your career and prevent you from achieving many of your career goals.


How Does Your Career Shape Your Personality?


Entry level employees react differently to situations than experienced professionals. Through the years, your contact with management level employees and other elements of your industry can affect how you react to different situations.

For example, if you were laid off from a job even though you had seniority over employees who got to stay with the company, then you would develop a distrust of management. That distrust can carry over into other aspects of your career and become either a problem, or it can shield you from making bad decisions.


Why Is It Important To Take Your Personality Into Account When Plotting Your Career Path?


When you discuss your career ambitions with co-workers, friends and family members, you probably talk about money and prestige. The goals you discuss revolve around advancing up the corporate ladder, getting raises and taking on more responsibility. But if you do not take your personality into account, then you could be plotting a career path that will never truly satisfy you.

Creating a career path requires consideration of factors such as job prospects and money, however, internal factors such as your personality should not be ignored. If, in reality, the idea of being responsible for a large staff of people makes you uncomfortable, then your pursuit of a management career is a bad idea. What if you really want to get involved in research and stay out of the management limelight? By following your personality, you can develop a career path that satisfies your need for material success and also allows you to feel personally satisfied with your accomplishments.

At Sandbox Advisors, we know how important it is to align your career path with your personality. We also understand how years of corporate experience can alter your perception of the corporate world and change your personality. Sign up for a free consultation and we will show you how to utilize your personality as a strong career tool and develop a career path that will bring you satisfaction as well a success.

Reasons Why People Miss Their Calling in Life

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You can have a job, or you can have a career. Or you can go one step further and find your “calling in life.”

The word “calling” is difficult to define, and some do dismiss it as an esoteric concept with no practical value.  But for those who do believe in the concept (as I do), a calling is a sense of higher purpose, a sincere belief that you’re placed in this world for a reason. Some believe a calling is an invitation by a higher power, others believe it’s simply an invitation to be authentic to self. My favourite description of a life calling is that of Ignatius de Loyola: calling is “when your heart’s deepest desires meet the world’s greatest need.”

Whichever way you look at it, the belief that there’s more to life than daily grind creates happiness, reduces stress, and inspires greater productivity. Daniel Pink, the author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us,” lists purpose as one of the main reason people wake up eager to face the day. Thus, if you want personal fulfillment and job satisfaction, aim for a little transcendence.

If you’ve yet to identify what your calling in life is, that’s okay. It’s a process that takes time. In the meantime, consider the following reasons why you may be giving off a busy dial tone.

You’re living someone else’s dream.

Did your parents push you to take engineering because you’re from a family of engineers? Did you say “I want to be a programmer” because many self-made millionaires are computer geniuses? Or maybe you feel guilty saying no to the uncle who paid for your education, hence you’re slaving away in his company.

A calling is something deeply personal. True, others can give input about what might inspire you, but at the end of the day it’s a choice you must freely make. Pleasing others is the easiest way to burn-out. Similarly, copying other people’s formula means you’ll never get to discover your own formula, the one that will make success all the more worth it.

You don’t take time to meditate and reflect.

Cultivation of an internal life is a pre-requisite to finding purpose. The abilities to push pause, get silent, and listen to what your thoughts and feelings are telling you are necessary to spot the difference between what’s working and what’s draining you dry.

Workaholics who don’t go for alone time lose sight of what’s driving them in the first place. Similarly, the restless young professionals who don’t take time to reflect why they job hop will never discover what they need to be happy. Men and women who go through midlife and quarterlife crisis, assuming they can carry on just as they always have, can miss the message of what older age is asking of them.

You don’t expose yourself to situations where help may be needed.

Personal callings are often solidified by the realization that you’re making a real difference. When you know that there’s more to work than monthly paycheck, each little task has meaning. This is especially so when the cause you’re working for is something that resonates with you, either because you’ve experienced a similar need or the people you serve have touched your heart.

Being a medical representative, for example, may seem like lackluster work, as all you may be is a glorified salesperson. But if you interact with the very patients who benefit from getting matched with the right drugs, you may re-appreciate the value of what you do. Your extra effort to educate one more doctor about the latest in pharmacy may mean the difference between living in pain and experiencing relief for a child somewhere. Unless you expose yourself to the significance of what you do, you may miss the bigger picture.

You don’t believe in serendipity.

Okay, so you’re a realist. You don’t believe in something unless there’s concrete evidence. But there’s also nothing wrong in indulging the belief that the universe is constantly speaking to you. (At the very least, consider the idea that seemingly random experiences can be strung together to make one coherent whole.)

While most think that a sense of purpose comes in an instant, for most people calling is found through the culmination of a series of events. For instance, you may have had enjoyed being a women’s shelter volunteer as a teenager, but thought nothing of it other than a summer job. Then you met the person who would be your best friend in your late teens, a person who survived domestic abuse. You took up Psychology in college thinking you want to be an HR practitioner. But in your 30s you suddenly had the realization that your college course is actually a good pre-law, and that your calling is to become a lawyer advocating women’s rights.

So try to read the signs. Sometimes when the idea for a possible calling comes along, you’ll see little things coming together to make it happen.

You don’t go beyond the present.

Lastly, consider these questions: How would you like to be remembered? What would you like written in your epitaph? What legacy is most appealing to you?

A calling transcends time, its impact long-lasting even to but a handful of people. Going beyond the present can help you identify whether you’re moving towards a vision or simply surviving the day.

Working Too Hard, Is One Of The Biggest Regrets Of People On Their Deathbed

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Bronnie Ware is an Australian Nurse who worked in palliative care, which is a holistic approach to caring for patients going through the last stages of their lives.

She often asked her patients about their biggest regrets in life. These were the top 5 responses, which she heard over and over:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard. 

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

On the regret of working to hard, here are some things to think about:

  • Life is filled with choices we make.
  • If you are working too hard and not spending enough time with your family, is that a choice you have made, or is there something you can do about it?
  • Often we work hard/long hours – 1) to ensure we keep climbing the corporate ladder 2) to  earn more and 3) for the prestige that comes with the first two points.
  • Are there any choices/changes you can make, which might lower your career trajectory, earnings and status but let you spend more time with your family? Are you willing to make those changes? Why or why not?

Think hard about this. You might die to regret it.

Could You Be a Candidate for a Portfolio Career?

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Experts have been predicting changes in working patterns for some years now and of course the huge increase in the number of people who now work from home is testament to just one of these.  With so many employers being forced to cut back their workforces in order to just survive the current recession though, another of the anticipated changes which is very much in evidence at the moment is the growth in portfolio careers.

The term “portfolio careers” refers to careers which involve working in two or more roles at the same time.  This might mean working full or part-time in two similar or quite distinct roles for two different employers in two related or separate industries, or it could entail combining full or part-time work as a paid employee with running a business or doing freelance or contract work.  It could even involve a mixture of paid or self-employed work with regular voluntary work – or in fact just about any combination of any of these things.

Of course, for many people who are struggling to make ends meet in today’s economically troubled times, taking up a portfolio career hasn’t so much been an active choice, but rather the result of not being able to find a single full-time job in their field of expertise.  Huge numbers of workers have had to accept part-time roles just to bring some money into the household, and many of these are working several part-time jobs simultaneously.  For others, the threat of lay-offs and the ongoing sense of dissatisfaction caused by job insecurity have led to them holding down their full-time positions at the same time as building up businesses which they hope will sustain them in the future.

Of those who have deliberately chosen a portfolio career, some have done so to inject variety into their working lives.  Not content with spending all day, every day working in the same role and field and for the same employer, some have chosen to diversify their activities so that they gain increased satisfaction from each.  Others, meanwhile, have used a portfolio career to enable them to combine their true work passions with something that pays the bills, or to provide financial security while they switch to a completely different occupation.

As you can see, therefore, portfolio careers can be used to serve a variety of ends and they have a number of benefits, including the opportunities for workers to:

  • Work for a variety of different bosses or clients.
  • Develop a wider range of skills and experience.
  • Use a different mix of skills.
  • Introduce greater flexibility into their working lives.
  • Experience a greater variety of working environments.
  • Increase their earning capacities – often it is possible to earn more by doing two part-time jobs than one full-time job.
  • Try out different fields and industries.
  • Move gradually into different areas of work or build businesses gradually with less financial risk.

Of course, like everything, portfolio careers do have their downsides too, and these are well worth considering before embarking on this type of work pattern.  The main disadvantages include:

  • Poorer compensation packages.  Although it is possible to get paid more in terms of cold, hard cash by working two part-time jobs, part-time workers typically don’t receive the same levels of benefits such as pension contributions, private medical insurance, sick pay and so on.
  • Exhaustion.  Working two or more different jobs which require you to be at different locations and to use different skills and. abilities can be both physically and mentally exhausting, especially if it’s done over any great length of time
  • Overcommitment.  The phrase “jack of all trades and master of none” comes to mind here, because of course if you have too many different things going on at once it can become impossible to give enough of your time and attention to any one in particular.  Not only can this prevent you from earning more by becoming an expert in any one field, but it can also lead to poor levels of performance across the board.

Steve Jobs Lived The Life He Wanted. When Will You Start Living Yours?

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We have seen many great CEOs and leaders – Henry Ford (Ford Motor Company), Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com), Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway), Ted Turner (CNN), Meg Whitman (eBay), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jack Welch (GE) and the list goes on and on and on.

However, none of these leaders evoked the type of respect, love, reactions and admiration, that Steve Jobs did. Why?

Everyone will have their own answer to this question. I think that we are not reacting to Steve Job’s management or leadership capabilities but the way he lived his life.

Steve Jobs lived life in a way that many of us dream of but aren’t able to turn into reality. The vast majority of us are tied-down by the restrictions and norms, imposed on us by society and the people around us. We take the easy way out and stay close to what is expected and familiar. We continuously avoid the risk of following our heart, doing what we really want and expressing our thoughts/ideas to the fullest extent.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the area of work. Instead of being excited to go to work each morning and spend the day doing things we enjoy, most of us would prefer to be anywhere other than the office. Quite a sad state of affairs I think, given the amount of time we spend at the workplace.

But not Steve Jobs. Oh no. He dropped out of college, experimented with LSD, bounced back from huge career setbacks (and how!), loved whatever work he did, battled cancer and gave the world some amazing technological gadgets and animated films.

Steve Jobs gave us hope. He made us believe it’s possible to live the life you want and be successful, in the traditional sense of having  fame and riches, at the same time. We felt a little closer to our own dreams and ideal life, by watching  and talking about Steve’s life, decisions, values, successes and failures.

Great reward only comes with some amount of risk and by doing things differently. Jobs took these risks, without worrying too much about the rewards. He just wanted to enjoy the ride. Very hard to do but I think that’s what we all need to strive for.

In 2005 Steve Jobs gave a great speech at Stanford University. Here are some of the highlights:

—- I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

—- I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. And then I got fired. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and devastating.

I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over. I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife.

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

—- Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

—- Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

—- Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

RIP Mr. Jobs – You were and will continue to be a great inspiration. We can’t live our dreams through you any more but  hopefully many of us will have the courage to start living our own lives now. I’m sure you would like that.

 

No Holds Barred Truth About Online vs. Traditional Education, From Someone Who’s Been There!

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Ten years ago, I would have bet good money that I would never earn a bachelor’s degree. For more years than I can remember, I wanted to go back to school, and oftentimes even said if I were rich and never needed to work, I would be a student for the rest of my life. The reasons I hadn’t pursued higher education were:

  • I was convinced I wasn’t smart enough to earn a degree. Since I did poorly in high school, it was a “given” that I was too stupid to do anything.
  • I could never afford to pay for a college education, and didn’t know the first thing about student financial aid.
  • I was under the impression my prior credits were only good for 20 years, and had no intention of repeating the “Introduction to Everything” classes, I took after high school.
  • I had no idea what I would major in. I had no goals or objectives in mind; I simply like learning about different subjects and new things.

In short, my wish came close to being true. From June 2005, through March 2010, I was a student, pursuing a degree, online. Had it not been for the innovation of “virtual education,” I could never have made one of my dreams come true.

How it all came about isn’t important. What’s important is the fact that I did it, and did it very well! Of the 32 total classes I completed, I received 27 grades of “A,” and 5 grades of “B.” Pretty good for a gal who barely graduated high school. Besides giving me the credibility I lacked, I gained something much more valuable than just education alone. I finally had confidence in my abilities, and the unconditional sense of self-worth it gave me knowing once and for all, I was NOT stupid!

Whether  Online vs. Traditional Education Is Better, Depends On Your Specific Situation

While it is evident that online education has become extremely popular, especially in the last five years, there is still much deliberation over which is better — online programs, or programs from the more traditional brick and mortar schools.

This is not a situation where the answer is black or white. Furthermore, it’s almost like comparing oranges to apples, because which choice is better depends on the particular person, his or her situation, and the specific type of program. I don’t think I’d want my surgeon or dentist to have received their entire education online! Clearly, there are certain disciplines not at all appropriate to do online. Any program where a considerable amount of laboratory work or “hands on” training is required, is best pursued on a campus, not in front of the computer.  On the other side of the coin, a program such as writing couldn’t be better suited to do online.

Online Education Is More Flexible And Accessible

One of the greatest advantages of online education is it can be done from anywhere, at any time. People who otherwise would never be able to attend school, for numerous reasons, now are as close as the keyboard of their computer. What’s more, even if a suitable brick and mortar university is within your vicinity, going online enables you to apply to any school, anywhere, as you are not limited by location. I am the perfect example. The University of Wisconsin has its main campus within a 10-minute drive from my home. We also have a wonderful private college, in town, and one of the finest technical colleges in the Midwest. Yet, I chose to study online.

The Average Age of Participants Is Higher, For Online Degree Programs

An advantage not found in any of my research, and something I hadn’t considered when I first enrolled; it was more common to find younger, right out of high school students attending campuses, while I was surprised to find the average age group of my fellow online classmates, across the board, to be in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. The majority of online students are “older,” working professionals, people in the military, or mothers with small children, all wanting a higher education, but due to other commitments had put it off, just like I did.

You Can Tailor The Pace Of Online Education To Meet Your Requirements

Most online degree programs can be accelerated, so doesn’t have to take four years to earn a degree. Of course, if you prefer a slower pace, then you do have the option of spreading the courses over a few years.

I went for the faster option. My studies focused on the skill set needed for my profession, in the real world. What is more, both online schools I attended did not follow a typical semester schedule. Instead, each class was six weeks long, which meant I had to take a class each session. After every two sessions, a weeklong break was built in, and twice a year, I had two weeks off.

While the faster pace isn’t for everyone, since they cram a lot of work in that six-week session, I could complete eight courses in a year, giving me 24 credits, instead of four or five classes, on a campus, giving me only 12 or 15 credits. Since it was very difficult for me to focus this intensely on more than one course at a time, taking one every six weeks suited me just fine.

No Exams

Another great advantage, typical of schools providing the accelerated schedule, is they don’t have tests or exams. You heard me. All assignments were project based. I wrote essays, reports, reviews, letters, memos, etc., participated in discussion board conversations, [same as any group forum] incorporated graphic elements into text, and did power point presentations. I never read so much, so fast, in my life. This was probably the most demanding task, since every week was a new unit. With every unit came a new unit’s worth of reading, and one to three written assignments. Often times, it became tremendously difficult to keep up with the work, and because there was hardly a minute of additional time, when I fell behind [and I did quite often] it was almost impossible to catch up.

Many online programs do have exams though. They will typically have a few examination locations around the world and you would need to travel to the location closet to you, to take the exams.

Beware of Online Degree Mills

When looking into online schools you must be careful not to be scammed by “degree/diploma mills.” These are fraudulent institutions (?) that sell unaccredited degrees, for a “small” fee. You answer several questions, and they tell you which level degree you are qualified to earn. I could have a PhD, for $500! They are phony as a three-dollar-bill. Thankfully, they are not as prevalent now as when online education first started.

So make sure the online school you want to attend is fully accredited. There are several different types of accreditation, which I don’t understand, but all you need to do is check their accreditation status and reputation on the Internet. A major clue that a school is not accredited is if they do not have federal student financial aid available. That is a dead giveaway.

Money, Money, Money

Cost is the biggest difference between online and traditional education. While the tuition at some online schools is as much as brick and mortar institutions, you don’t have to pay for housing, travel, time, etc. When I was looking into graduate programs, at various schools, I paid close attention to the cost per credit hour. I found huge variations in charges. Two schools I was particularly interested in had almost identical programs for technical and professional communications. However, one had tuition of $900+ per credit hour, while the other was around the $350 figure. Since most courses are three credits, I would be paying almost $3,000 to take one class, while it was only about $1000 at the other school. The school charging the outrageous costs couldn’t really justify why it was so high.

Pay strict attention to how much tuition is, per credit, as some institutions like to give a cost per program. Break it down, because you may find out you are being ripped off! In all my experiences with online universities, an average cost is somewhere between $350 and $500 per credit. Any more or any less than that, I’d be very suspicious.

The first online school I “attended” included all materials. I didn’t have to purchase textbooks for each class. At first I thought this was great; however, don’t be fooled; those costs are built into the price of tuition. The school where I earned my BS degree, did not include textbooks, and other than specific journal articles, etc. Almost every course required a hard copy book; often several. Another lesson to be learned, never purchase materials through the school’s bookstore. I found every single text I needed on eBay or Amazon, for pennies on the dollar — and I’m not talking about used books, in terrible condition, but new or as good as new books.

I never paid more than $30 for a textbook, which would have cost $150 through the school. You can also resell them; however, I love books; still have every single textbook, and used many of them as reference materials for articles and such.

Student Placement And Services Offered, Is More Comprehensive For Traditional Education

Online schools offer a long list of services to students, however, it can’t be as comprehensive as traditional education. Each student is assigned to a student advisor, who is the “go to” person with any problems, issues, questions, etc. My advisors were indispensible sources of advice and answers for me. I also had access to some of the finest online libraries and sources for research. Most online schools have career centers that help with things like writing a resume, interviewing, and so on, but none had genuine job placement services. So you’re left to yourself for the job search.

No Community, Campus & Extra-Curricular Activities For Online Students 

When people describe their traditional education experience, more than the actual education, they cherish and value all the other activities, people and experiences they were exposed to. It is a very rich experience and one which is missing in online education.

Educational Quality Of Online And Traditional Education Is Similar

The quality of online education vs. traditional education is like anything else. There will always be some that are excellent and others not so good. Even though virtual education is a fairly recent manifestation, the quantity of programs has increased by leaps and bounds (and is as good as traditional schools).  Students who take classes online do just as well, if not better than students who are on campus.

Furthermore, online instructors are highly qualified. They are required to have at least a Master’s degree, but most even have PhDs. What’s more, they don’t need to have teaching degrees, per se, but rather significant practical experience working in the field they teach. I can’t recall one professor I had that wasn’t thoroughly qualified to teach the class.

My feeling is online degree programs students must be more focused, more determined, more motivated, and have a significant amount of self-management and time-management skills. The quality of your education and grades you get are totally up to how committed and serious you are about your education. There is no one kicking you in the butt, making you do anything!

Online Education Has Made Great Strides In Popularity And Recognition

A report about online degree programs stated that during 2008, over 4.6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course, an increase of 17% from the previous year, far beyond the 1.2% advancement of the general higher education enrolments.

Not too long ago there was much controversy over whether online degree programs were as worthy as traditional degrees, from an employers point of view. A 2008 survey showed that 83% of employers and hiring managers said they would hire someone who earned a degree online. Many corporations even have agreements with certain online institutions to provide online courses for their employees, at a discounted rate.

There’s been extensive research into the quality of online education, and now it’s finally been proven that there is no major difference between the results of online verses face-to-face education. The studies determined that quality of the education and what the students learned were much more dependent on the merits of teaching and how much effort the student puts into the work. It had little to do with where or how the education takes place.

That being said, all things being equal, I think deep down people will always view traditional education more favourably. If there were two candidates looking for a job and everything about them was similar, except that one person had an online degree and the other a traditional degree –  I think a company would hire the person with a traditional degree.  What do you think?

Passion Is Not Only For The Bedroom

Unless you happen to have been living in a cave during the past 10 or so years, you can’t fail to have noticed the start of a revolution in terms of people’s attitudes to work.  While some blame it on Generation Y, a generation which is less prepared than any other before it to accept the status quo without question, others accredit it to the growing need for the human race to rediscover its sense of spirituality and find meaning in all aspects of life.

Whichever is the case though, the belief that work is something to be endured but not enjoyed is one which is gaining less and less acceptance in countries around the world.

Since the days of slavery when the only two choices were work or perish, men and women have worked tirelessly to put bread on the table, to improve their quality of life and to “make something of themselves.”  In the vast, vast majority of cases, however, they have tried to achieve these aims through jobs which have bored and frustrated them, for which they have felt no sense of passion and to which they have seldom been particularly well suited.  Society has dictated that to have any expectation of gaining personal satisfaction or fulfillment from their work is not only unrealistic, but downright irresponsible.  The result?  Millions and millions of miserable workers who struggle even to find the motivation to get out of bed each morning, let alone find it within themselves to put in their best performances and truly be able to excel at what they do.

During the course of a 40-year working life which entails putting in an eight-hour day, five days a week and allows four weeks of annual leave per year, each of us will work an incredible 76,800 hours.  That figure represents a full third of our waking hours during what is typically the period of our lives when we are at our fittest and most energetic, and yet in most cases that time is squandered.  If each working day is filled with drudgery or boredom or feels like an uphill battle, we have no hope of reaching our full capabilities or our full earning capacities.  We simply can’t maintain sufficient motivation to make ourselves stand out from the crowd and so merely end up languishing amongst the ranks of the mediocre.

Just imagine how much could be achieved during those 76,800 hours if we were to put our efforts into something that we truly believed in with all our hearts; something that made us want to bounce out of bed in the mornings, that aligned with our personal values and that felt more like a hobby than a job; something that made us want to work for the sake of working and to learn for the sake of learning.  With such a sense of passion we would literally be unstoppable.  There would be nothing that we couldn’t achieve.

Whenever we are fuelled by passion in life, we have the drive, enthusiasm and energy to make things happen.  In the work arena, that passion drives away fear, lets us take risks which would otherwise be inconceivable, allows us to become experts in our fields and to earn salaries far beyond our wildest dreams.  All of these things though, come almost effortlessly.  Simply by doing what we love and what we are naturally attuned to, we become so engrossed in our daily activities that we scarcely notice the passing of the hours and how success is building on success.

Whatever stage you are at in your working life, take a moment to stop and imagine a career filled with inspiration and excitement.  It’s no less than any of us deserves.

What Job Suits Me? – Reality Testing Is The Answer

So you are not happy in your current job/career and have finally reached a point where you decided to make a career change. You also have a few alternative job/career options in mind but are not sure whether they will be right for you and if they will meet your expectations. What next?

What job suits me?  – Reducing uncertainty is the key

It is natural and very common for people to feel uncertain at this stage, which causes them to get stuck and not move forward with their career change plans. Even if they have a good idea of what they want from a job and have shortlisted a few matching/ideal options, it is hard to make the leap because they have no way of relating to the career options they selected. Without having done the actual job, it is hard to really know what it will be like and no matter how much you research on the internet or in the library, it is all too theoretical.

The best way to know what what job suits you, is by doing the actual work involved. However, this is not a very feasible and practical option, since you cannot be employed in and try-out all the jobs you have shortlisted. Therefore the solution is to go for the next best option, in order to get a first-hand feel of what a job is really like. This can be done by ‘reality testing’, which involves conducting small/low risk experiments to get a better idea of potential career options. Reality testing takes you beyond introspection and theoretical research, into an action mode, which is very beneficial. It moves you from saying ‘I think I might like this job’ closer to ‘I know I will like this job’. Some ways in which you can reality test are:

  • Internships: Work in the job for a few months
  • Job shadowing: Tag along with someone who does the job you want, for a day/week
  • Volunteering: Offer your services for free for a short period of time (part-time especially)
  • Projects: Take on projects (in your current job or outside) which have aspects/elements of the type of work you want
  • Joining relevant clubs, associations: To meet people and take part in activities which are closely related to your job target
  • Participating in workshops, courses and seminars: Again, in order to learn more about your job target and meet people who know more about it
  • Just meeting people for a chat: It is also very useful to meet people who are actually doing (or have done) the job you are interested in. You can ask them questions to confirm if the job is really what you expect it to be

By going a step further and ‘reality testing’ your career options, you will get rid of a lot of uncertainly/ambiguity, be more certain of your choices and finally know the answer to that nagging question – What job suits me?

Protean and Boundaryless careers

Two trends have changed the world of work in many ways. The first is the shift towards a knowledge based economy that many countries are seeing and the second is global connectivity, interdependence and integration. The new career context that is emerging as a result of these trends has given rise to the terms – Protean and Boundaryless careers.

Protean careers

Companies are operating in a more complex (knowledge-based/global) environment, which is constantly changing. They need to be flexible and nimble in order to stay in business and hence many companies have given-up the idea of keeping employees for a lifetime. By doing, so they have transferred the responsibility and risk of managing careers to the individual. So in order to survive this change, individuals need to become more self-reliant in managing their careers. This means knowing what they want from their careers, developing the skills/knowledge/network that is necessary to achieve their goals and being able to ‘change with change’.

Hence the term Protean career, the origin of of which comes from Proteus, a Greek sea-god who could change in form as the situation demanded. A more formal definition is provided below:

“The protean career is driven by the person, not the organization, based on individually defined goals, encompassing the whole life space, and being driven by psychological success (rather than) objective measures of success such as pay, rank or power. It is a career in which the person is (1) values driven in the sense that the individual’s personal values provide the guidance and measure of success for the individual’s career, and (2) self-directed in personal career management—having the ability to be adaptive in performance and learning demands.”

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