Start your New Year with Some Great Reads

Start your New Year with Some Great Reads

New Year’s is always a time when we set new goals, clean out old thinking and start new. It’s also a time when some new reading can help to shift thinking to the future. There’s lots to choose from!  To help, we have a couple of fascinating books to recommend that are sure to present some new perspectives. Our first recommendation is Why We Sleep – Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, by Matthew Walker, PhD. Despite the title, this book is not about dream interpretation; it represents the latest learning about sleep and its importance to humans and our general health. The author explores the latest understanding of the mechanics of sleep while also explaining the importance that each phase of sleep plays in developing our short- and long-term memory, making sense of the experiences we have during our waking hours, especially traumatic stress. Walker also explains how we are not meeting our daily sleep requirements (at least eight hours per night for adults), and how our need for this amount of sleep has evolved over the millennia as a means to optimal wellbeing. He presents compelling evidence, arguing that not recognizing our need for sleep, or sleep preferences, can lead to serious personal health problems and loss of productivity in society. As educators we’re already aware that sleep deprivation is a real challenge for adolescents, who require more sleep than adults—ideally nine to 10 hours—to promote brain development and wellbeing. In fact, the author found the research around the negative impact of sleep deprivation in adolescents so compelling that he advocates moving start times for K-12... read more
Integrity – It Matters

Integrity – It Matters

I was inspired to reflect on this very timely subject when I saw it displayed on the marquee at the high school close to my home. Given our world’s current events, it could not have come at a better time and prompted me to do some deep reflection. Formal education is all about teaching you to think critically and evaluate information, facts and situations with an objective point of view, then sifting through your subjective perspective to find what you understand as truth. Your views and behavior on ethical values influence your personal integrity and the legacy you are building! If you want more details, examine this list from Texas Tech University where they teach applied ethics. I think of it as an expanded version of the “Golden Rule”: http://www.depts.ttu.edu/murdoughcenter/products/resources/recommended-core-ethical-values.php Every day we are bombarded with examples of human behavior through media and other sources. An awareness of the degrees of variance in personal, corporate and political integrity is critical, so sharpen your skills of discernment and be prepared. Let this awareness be an opportunity—a catalyst—to create or review your personal framework. When asked, it is imperative that you communicate your beliefs and how they guide your behavior. Using real-life examples that illustrate your motives, as well as a personal mission statement that clearly articulates your views, can have quite an impact. If you want to develop a personal mission statement, select your top three values from the Texas Tech list mentioned above. Use those to design a brief statement (that could be expanded when necessary) about why you believe they are essential. For further guidance, check out this... read more
Intensify Your Productivity Zone

Intensify Your Productivity Zone

If you have ever gotten into a “zone” when studying or performing a task, you probably felt like the stars had aligned, the ideas and energy were flowing and you were working at a highly productive pace. You might even have lost track of time, because you were so into what you were doing. At times like these, it feels like you are at the top of your game and you are on a roll! When I accomplish a lot in a condensed timeframe, I feel satisfied, like my mind is working as well as it can. Like a finely oiled machine! I can’t wait until I can replicate that feeling and experience another high-performance output again. Knowing and maximizing your learning style can help you achieve this. I know it’s true. I’ve observed the results personally and have also seen it work for clients and professionals. Let me start by sharing a simple example from my life experience. I have always been drawn to areas that have a lot of natural light, like windows, as well as interior areas with bright artificial light, as opposed to dimly lit areas. When I don’t have bright light I feel like my brain is not running on all cylinders, so I intuitively search out areas where those options are provided. I’d never seen that reported in black and white until I reviewed my AchieveWORKS Learning and Productivity report. A second example that may seem rather trivial is that I gravitate toward a traditional desk and chair when I want to concentrate, study, read or write. I’ve learned over the years that... read more
Internships Can Be Your Secret Weapon

Internships Can Be Your Secret Weapon

Internships are the best-kept secret to bridging the world of work. Once you get on campus, check out the internship program so you can start planning. Every college should have a well-oiled program offering appealing internship opportunities related to your major and career field of interest, but you can always bring one you develop for consideration. Imagine how cool it is that as a student, you can intern in an organization that could someday sign your paycheck! Keep in mind the impact of being immersed in the industry of your interest: the marketplace exposure offers you a tremendous edge over others who do not have this learning opportunity. You’ll gain real-world experience: it’s priceless, whether or not the internship offers monetary compensation. The bottom line is, internships provide built-in, top-notch knowledge and networking that you would never have access to any other way! While some internships offer compensation and others don’t, even those that do not provide payment feature other benefits that make them invaluable. If you desire employment at a competitive agency or firm, the networking and experience alone often lead to an inside track for job offers.  Informal methods, such as personal recommendations and word-of-mouth referrals are easily tapped when you have solid experience as an intern. Remember, interns are typically privy to inside information, including internal openings, as well as upcoming plans for expansion and hiring. So, what if your school does not offer internships, or at least not any in the organizations you like?  Forge a relationship with a professional contact and take it back to the college. Most colleges are happy to formalize the... read more
Helping students own their own future

Helping students own their own future

It’s common knowledge that the growth jobs of the future will require, at minimum, constant learning and skill upgrading, plus at least an associate’s degree or higher.  As a result, the push is on to increase postsecondary graduation rates. But the issue runs deeper than obtaining a postsecondary degree. In the New York Times, columnist and author Thomas Friedman describes the life challenge for today’s students as  “owning their own future”.  He notes that technology has disrupted the traditional workplace and the nature of work, such that “the notion that we can go to college for four years and then spend that knowledge over the next 30 years is over.”    So, “owning their own future” will require graduates to change the expectations they bring to the workplace.  Success in the future will be more about personal initiative than ever before, including: Taking personal responsibility for developing the skills and attitudes to support lifelong learning. Understanding how an individual’s unique blend of personality, skills, talents, preferences and knowledge can be constantly adapted to take advantage of new opportunities. Taking the initiative to update knowledge and skills through training or further education throughout life. Simply put, learning — and the self-motivation to keep learning — will be the most important life skill. It is our fundamental belief that the foundation of lifelong learning is built through giving students deep insight into their personality and an understanding of their emotional intelligence and other intelligences, along with their learning and productivity preferences. We all know that putting your innate skills and talents to work in areas where you are more comfortable and... read more
Why Use Career Assessments?

Why Use Career Assessments?

It would be wonderful if career development professionals could just gaze into a crystal ball and discern the best path for each person. While most professionals bring with them a wealth of personal and professional knowledge and education, career planning is a complex thing to navigate even under the best of circumstances. Numerous career assessments abound on the Internet. If you’re a young adult, you may not realize that career development is still a fairly new field in the realm of human development. One pillar in the field, John Holland, first introduced his theory, known as the Holland Codes, in 1959. Through timely revisions, the Holland Codes are still helpful today as a piece of validating information. While career counseling was initially used in the military for vocational counseling, it was quickly embraced in education and then marketed to the general public when the rise of self-help books became widely acceptable. One of the best-known of these books, What Color Is Your Parachute?, was introduced in the 1970s by Richard Bolles and has since became a staple in the career development field. Sold as a self-help tool for career seekers, it is still being updated and published today. In the early 2000s, Do What You Are arrived on the scene. Representing a new kind of self-help book, it used personality type theory to help readers identify strengths and talents unique to the 16 types described by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Since its release, the book has become a time-honored tool in assisting those seeking career planning clarification. Shortly to follow was the Do What You Are® online career assessment... read more
Becoming Your Own Best Advocate

Becoming Your Own Best Advocate

The word “advocate” in Latin means “to call to one’s aid”. Generally we don’t think of needing to provide aid to ourselves, but that’s exactly what you do when advocating for yourself while working to reach your desired life goals.  As a career counselor, my focus is always on empowering clients to recognize, understand and embrace their unique innate gifts and talents. After all, how can you advocate for yourself when you don’t clearly know and embrace what you have to offer? The ability to advocate effectively for oneself in high value situations (those that mean the most to you and which typically occur within a competitive environment, such as when applying for a job, scholarship or educational program) is powerful and gratifying. It builds self-esteem and confidence, an essential foundation for success. The first step in the process is to embrace a proactive attitude. Secondly, success in any potentially competitive situation involves preparation and confidence. Analysis of your “selling points” and how to present yourself and provide solid relatable evidence of your talents and strengths is essential. The best way to do that is by using convincing behavioral examples. Any life situation, when polished and presented for the appropriate topic, can become a convincing confirmation of your candidacy. Taking the initiative in analyzing your unique examples, and understanding the impact of your personal and professional growth in the results, whether good or bad, can be difficult on your own. Professional assistance can expedite and impact the finished product. It serves one well to become comfortable and competent at self-promotion when it is needed. Promoting oneself on the ability to succeed involves demonstrating that ability... read more
Our Community Colleges.  Still at the center of the American Dream

Our Community Colleges. Still at the center of the American Dream

In case you weren’t aware, April is National Community College Awareness Month. And never have community colleges played such an important part in helping individuals of diverse ages and backgrounds realize their American Dream. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, its member institutions serve 45% of all college students and 41% of all first-time freshmen. However, that’s only part of the story. Over half of all African American college students attend a community college. Representation among Hispanic and Native American college students is even higher. And over one-third of students are the first generation in their family to attend college. Not surprisingly, community college students represent a wide range of ages, the average student being 29 years old. Community college students are also a hardworking bunch. Well over half of all full-time community college students are employed at least part time, and nearly 75% of all part-time students hold down some form of employment. In short, America’s community colleges serve students who are committed to a better life for themselves and their families, and are willing to work hard to achieve it. Perhaps most importantly, this group of students are at the vanguard of a drive to upgrade their skills and remain competitive in a globalized workforce. We also know that these students face greater challenges to graduation than most other college students. Nearly half fail to return for their second year of education. The reasons are many. In addition to attending to their studies, these students all have jobs to hold down. Seventeen percent are single parents. So, for these students, life has a way of... read more
Helping Counselors Succeed All Year Long

Helping Counselors Succeed All Year Long

Another National School Counseling Week passed by in early February and, with it, our salute to the great work being done by counselors in schools across North America in helping students succeed. But we all know that a one-week celebration isn’t enough. We need to keep at the important work of helping students gain personal insight, set goals, and make plans to reach them, all year long. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is hard at work on these issues every single day. It is at the vanguard of this effort, working with the public sector agencies responsible for educating students and advocating for increased emphasis on counseling services to help students reach their goals. ASCA is also hard at work developing tools for its members, most notably the ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success: K-12 College- and Career-Readiness Standards for Every Student. ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors is a bottom-up approach to helping counselors and their students better understand how changing mindset and behavior leads to improved student success. The Mindsets and Behaviors model goes much deeper than standardized testing to address the real factors that affect students’ performance—in school and throughout their lives. We have mapped our tools to ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors to help counselors more accurately identify each student’s likely mindset or behavior to leverage their strengths and, more importantly, help them help the student address unrecognized barriers to their scholastic and life success. You can download a copy of our map here. This year, we celebrate our 20th year of partnering with school counselors in helping students chart their educational and career courses. Along... read more
Why Find a Mentor?

Why Find a Mentor?

I was in college before I ever heard the term “career counseling” — not unusual as a first-generation college student. I remember the announcement during orientation that free career counseling was available. I thought, why not check it out, especially since I was curious to see what it entailed and there was no cost involved. I already knew I wanted to be an elementary education teacher; I thought it would be interesting to see what the experts would say. As I suspected, the career assessment I took confirmed teaching. Although the assessment itself was enlightening, the most dramatic impact wasn’t the assessment result but the career counselor delivering it! As a new college student, I found him to be supportive, helpful and encouraging. It was a new experience for me and quite gratifying. Little did I know it on that first day, but we would establish a rapport that has grown into a lifelong friendship. That counselor became my mentor before I even knew what a mentoring relationship was! Our relationship grew as I would see him on campus and he would ask how things were going. Because I also worked at the campus after transferring to a university, I could keep him up to date on where things were. Bottom line: during career or educational transitions, whenever I was at a crossroads, our paths would converge and we would meet, informally or intentionally, to discuss the options and talk out a plan of action. Over the years we shared life events and built a professional relationship that was mutually beneficial and positive. The input and support were not only helpful but empowering,... read more