Make Career Experience Count in College

Lori Johnston | May 24, 2011

When weighing the decision to go back to college and finish your degree, adult workers often wonder if life experience will count.

Taking some of the classes in a subject area you’ve already spent years working in will meet the degree requirements, but will it shed any new light onto the subject and just prolong your college years?

Well, on-the-job experience and life knowledge you have gained actually could serve you well in college.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that two services are seeking to establish national norms to give credit for “experiential learning” – skills you have gained outside of the classroom – and possibly could help hundreds of thousands of individuals earn degrees. The programs also recognize that it’s a time-consuming and labor-intensive process when faculty members at individual colleges evaluate portfolios of students seeking to receive college credit for career experience.

More than 80 public colleges and universities, community colleges and technical schools, Christian colleges, and for-profit online schools are participating in the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning’s new program, Learning Counts.

On a smaller level for now, there is KNEXT, which is affiliated with for-profit Kaplan University and also has agreements with New England College of Business and Finance and Grantham University.

There is a cost for students to participate. The Chronicle reports that the portfolio-creating course from Learning Counts costs $500, plus an extra $250 for each portfolio that a student wants evaluated. KNEXT has an all-inclusive price for $999.

Students get credit from participating colleges for completing the course where they learn to create a portfolio about their workplace learning. The portfolios are reviewed a national panel of subject-matter experts, which determines whether the student should earn credit, the Chronicle reported.

So while considering heading back to school, think about your career experience could boost your college experience. Depending on the degree you’re pursuing, it may allow you to bypass some courses and even finally grasp that diploma a little faster.

Students Give Thumbs Up to Social Media

Lori Johnston | April 26, 2011

If you’re headed back to the classroom and haven’t had the time for Facebook and Twitter or only use it to check up on your child or connect occasionally with old high school friends, now’s the time to learn how social networking can help you in school.

Social media can help college students make vital education and career connections, a recent Associated Press-Viacom poll found.

Seven out of 10 students reported that the social media sites are good for creating study groups, working with peers on assignments, and getting information about school activities or assignments.

We see it all the time. On Facebook, students discuss upcoming tests, what they missed if absent, and schedule times to meet up to quick study sessions or all-nighters. That way, you don’t have to try to call classmates to arrange a study group while your kids are wanting a snack or needing you to help them with their homework. Virtual connections are essential during a fast-paced semester!

Students also are using Twitter to keep connected with each other and their professors, some of whom use Twitter to fuel class discussions, too.

If you are unfamiliar with how to use those social media sites, you’ll want to brush up on using social media wisely. If you’re on Facebook, you may want to create a secure group that only your classmates can see to discuss a project or test. If you want to keep your schedule private, message a classmate to plan a study group instead of posting it on their wall. Also, realize that what you’re writing about a certain class could be seen by others (including possible employers), so watch what you’re sharing with all of your Facebook friends.

At the same time, 74 percent of students who responded to the poll say social media is a “good way to distract themselves,” the AP reported.

Keep watch of how much time you spend time on those sites. Jumping onto Facebook or Twitter could be a brief reward you earn after writing a paper or studying a couple of hours. But if you can’t resist checking out the sites every few minutes, you’ll need to come up with a plan for keeping in touch with classmates via social media without harming your GPA.

How Re-Careering Is Like Holiday Shopping

Robyn Tellefsen | November 9, 2010

Some people love the holidays. For others, it’s just a tough time of year. Add to that the stress of feeling stuck in a bad job, and the pressure is magnified. But anxiety is not inevitable – it’s possible to make it through the holidays intact and to find a career that doesn’t make you want to drown yourself in eggnog.

Try commencing your career do-over the way you might approach holiday shopping:

Step 1: Devise a plan of attack.
Before I brave the throngs, I try to write a list of all the people I have to buy for, what I might like to get them, and how much I want to spend. That way, I’m not wasting time and energy wandering aimlessly through the mall, and I’m less likely to get sucked into buying something I don’t need. I’m on a mission.

If you’re thinking about getting a new career, start by outlining the work you want, the education it will take to get there, and how much you’re willing and able to invest in this career change. That way, you have a clear career direction and a strong sense of your intended outcomes. You’re on a mission.

Step 2: Comparison shop.
Once I have an idea of what I need to buy, I find out where I can snag the best deals. This typically entails surfing the Web, figuring out who’s selling what, and how I can get what I want in the least amount of time. My goal is to shop smart, not hard – why take a trip to the toy store when I can get the same doll for my niece for the same price online?

You shouldn’t cut corners when it comes to making your way in a new career, but you don’t want to waste precious time and money, either. Why spend $40,000 on a degree that only costs $10,000 someplace else? (Unless the higher-priced program offers exponentially higher quality, of course.) And why spend time in traffic if you can get the same education online as in-person?

Step 3: Shop till you (almost) drop.
Now that you’ve done your homework, it’s time to make your purchases. Figure out the best times to do your shopping, whether online or in-store. Then fork over the cash, pack up the trunk (or click and ship), and bring it on home.

And now that you’ve done your due diligence, it’s time to turn your career reboot into reality. Sign up for the courses you need to meet your career requirements; fork over the tuition; and dive into class. Thanks to your meticulous planning – see steps 1 and 2 – you know exactly what it takes to get what you want, so take action.

Step 4: Wrap it up.
If you can get away with handing your family and friends their presents in a plastic bag, more power to you. The rest of us need to buy some pretty wrapping paper, maybe even ribbons and bows if we’re feeling fancy, and create the packaging our fabulous gifts deserve.

Once you’ve met all the pre-reqs for your new career, you’re ready to market your talents. I’m not suggesting you wrap ribbons and bows around your resume, but you do need to put your assets out there (LinkedIn, anyone?) so employers have a chance to take a look and decide you’re a keeper.

Follow the steps and choose not to stress. With the proper planning, you can get the goods you need and wow the ones you aim to please. Happy (career) shopping!

–Robyn Tellefsen

While checking out at the grocery store the other day, I couldn’t resist eavesdropping on the conversation happening in the line next to me. You know how those grocery shopping conversations typically go – the cashier remarks on something you’re buying or informing you about a charitable cause that is accepting donations while you try to keep the kids away from the candy rack.

But this time, the mom checking out was so enthusiastic about her decision to go to college. She was explaining to the cashier that it meant so much for her to show her elementary school-age daughter that college was an important step in life.

She asked the cashier if she was in college (I live in an university town, so that question often is asked), and the cashier responded yes. The mom said that was so great and explained that her plan was to go back to school now so that when her daughter gets a little older, she can be prepared to re-enter the workforce.

This mom’s mindset could be helpful if you or any your friends express frustration with not finding a job. As children have entered kindergarten or other grades and they have more time during the day, some of my stay-at-home mom friends are looking for employment but are getting discouraged.

Like them, do you feel as if all of a sudden you’re expected to work – or realize you have the time to bring in money for the family and don’t want to waste it – but don’t know what to do? They’re finding that often the industry they previously worked in has changed so much that their old positions are outdated or they can’t find jobs match their qualifications.

Being prepared now by taking college courses while your children are still young may seem like an impossible feat because of the time involved, but that step could help you avoid from frustration that my mom friends are experiencing. And don’t forgot that pursuing a degree online can provide the flexibility you need to be the best mom you can be and a college student.

Maybe you dropped out to have a family and are trying to figure out how to go back to school. A career school could be one route if you’re interested in fields such as health care.

If you make the choice to go back to school, be proud of it. Your excitement – whether at the grocery store or on a playdate or at your child’s next school function – could encourage other parents to take a step toward being a student again, too.

-Lori Johnston