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Apprenticeships: Benefits and Drawbacks

People who criticize the mass education system often point to the apprenticeship model as an ideal. In many ways, it’s in fact a lot better. In some ways, it’s worse.

Historically, apprenticeships have been a way for young people to gain skills from a master craftsman, by working under them for five to ten years. The modern day apprenticeship, however, may span different jobs and internships. We see apprenticeships gaining popularity with programs like Enstitute and the University of Waterloo’s co-op education.

An apprenticeship offers a number of desirable things, depending on what you value and prefer:

1. One-to-one mentorship.

Benefit: One-to-one mentorship allows you to form an emotional bond with your teacher, who will then give you emotional support and encouragement. This will likely motivate you to try harder in your work.

Drawback: This is only effective if you like and are liked by your teacher. If this is not the case, you will have a highly uncomfortable experience, and the apprenticeship will probably be ineffective.

2. An individualized curriculum.

Benefit: An apprenticeship allows you to learn at a pace and progression that makes sense for you.

Drawback: The quality of the curriculum depends heavily on your mentor. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for you to evaluate the merits of someone older and wiser than you.

3. A curriculum that is highly relevant to your future work.

Benefit: By gaining knowledge that you know is useful, you will be more motivated to learn, and spend less time having an existential crisis because you know that you’re wasting your time.

Drawback: You have less time to learn about things just because they interest you, because you’ll be focused on learning about things that relate to your work.

4. A greater chance of mastering a specific skill.

Benefit: By mastering a specific skill, you’re able to add significantly more value to the world. You also gain an advantage over your peers in terms of job security and work experience.

Drawback: Because you are choosing a skill to master earlier on in life, perhaps before you’ve explored the range of all the possible skills, you may not pick the right one for you.

5. The chance to spend time with people in many stages of their life.

Benefit: You’ll become more emotionally mature and more socially flexible. This will become apparent when you spend time with your peers.

Drawback: Dating can be difficult. Making close friends can be difficult. Neither is undoable.

******

What’s clear is this: there are subtle drawbacks to not going to college and choosing an apprenticeship that you have to compensate for (e.g. meeting people your own age, dating, etc.). Fortunately, it’s also clear that if you do the right apprenticeship, it can potentially offer you much more value than going to school.

 

Posted by on April 15, 2015
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Fundamental Tips for Young Entrepreneurs: An Interview with the Fizzle Show’s Barrett Brooks

There’s no shortage of advice on becoming a successful entrepreneur. From in-person seminars to detailed books and blogs, it’s simply everywhere. The real question is how to find sound advice in a sea of mediocrity?

It’s important to discover resources that are unbiased and run by people who have a wealth of personal experience in the field. You need resources that approach problems from different angles and, maybe most importantly, resources that don’t push products that will “help save you time and money” but instead, stick to simple, actionable advice.

That’s what Barrett Brooks and his colleagues at Fizzle.co are all about – providing reliable advice for creative entrepreneurs who want to work on things that they actually find interesting and exciting.

Every week the Fizzle team, which features a hodgepodge group of entrepreneurs, marketing experts and research junkies, releases a free blog post and podcast that address issues raised by their loyal band of hard-working business owners and young, motivated go-getters. They also run an individualized program that helps members of their community tackle issues that confront their businesses. Over the years, they’ve noticed trends and built foundational advice for young entrepreneurs.

I spoke with Barrett last week to ask him a few questions about the challenges young entrepreneurs face today, how to avoid common pitfalls and what people should be doing on a weekly basis to stay ahead of the curve.

UnCollege: First off, can you give us a brief outline of how you ended up where you are, working with entrepreneurs on a daily basis?

R2NLRFqZBarrett:

Before Fizzle I ran a company called Living for Monday about 3 years. The company was a way to help college students develop the career search and soft skills they would need to build an independent career or find a job they would care about. I started it after I left my job as a consultant at Ernst and Young.

While I was working at E&Y, I realized that my peers and I had kind of been sold a lie about what the work entailed, what the career path would look like and what the lifestyle would look like. To the outside world our jobs were considered prestigious, but when you really looked at what life was like, it was full of 60-80 hour work weeks, work-related travel and no time to really explore the world. Living for Monday was a fight against that system where I felt college career centers weren’t doing their job. Instead of advocating for students, they were advocating for big companies trying to increase their placement rates, etc.

I raised over $120,000 to support that effort, but in the end found that college students aren’t the best target market. The majority aren’t looking to spend a lot of time and money on career development. Ultimately, we decided to shut the company down. I joined Fizzle shortly after that. It was a great fit because I had personal experience in what a lot of the Fizzle community were going through as entrepreneurs.

U: For a young entrepreneur who decides to delay a college education or bypass it all together, what do you think is the greatest challenge he or she will face?

B: Young entrepreneurs have the massive disadvantage of being naive and lacking the life experience to understand their customers and clients. They haven’t had the time they need to develop all the skills they would need to succeed in business. In many ways, they haven’t had time to develop strong beliefs on how the world works. I think that most successful entrepreneurs have a strong belief about something that was wrong in the world or some opportunity they saw in the world based on interactions they’ve had with people or causes they’ve supported. It’s not that they can’t overcome this, but it’s a challenge.

U: How about the greatest advantage?

B: As a young adult you usually have a lower cost of living and fewer commitments like relationships or children, mortgages and car leases. You are nimble and in many ways, fearless. If you have college debt, however, that affects how you approach things. On the podcast we talk a lot about a minimal viable income and how everyone needs to figure out how much money you need to survive and support your business. Debt and loans can affect this number greatly.

In all cases, we encourage young entrepreneurs to take an intermediate apprenticeship – whether they are transitioning out of a job or a college dropout. They can develop their ideas and belief system while working under someone that they really admire. This gives you a bridge from working and being told what to do to working towards what you want to be some day.

U: What’s the best way to identify if you have a genuinely good idea?

It’s the same for everyone, really. The worst ideas come from thinking they are brilliant. We prefer the lean startup methodology. Fix a problem. Have conversations with real people who would use your product or service. If you talk to as little as 8 or 10 people, you can find trends in the problems they have that you can solve.

U: And how do you know when it’s time to cut bait on a project?

B: As soon as possible, see if people will pay you for your product or service. If you can’t sell, maybe you aren’t targeting the right audience or maybe you aren’t solving the right problem. You can go back and change these things, but even if you have a massive email list or community, if you can’t sell it, you have a problem to solve yourself.

U: If you do not yet have a product, how do you begin to network with influencers in an industry?

B: Start with research. Start with The 10-10-10 strategy (on site). That’s 10 people you would want to work with some day, 10 organizations and 10 dream projects. Start by identifying who your 10 people are and instead of shooting them an email, research their public material. Most influencers have blogs or podcasts or some sort of public facing material out there on the web because they don’t have time to have 1:1 meetings with everyone who emails them. In fact, it’s rude not to read every post they’ve ever done and to try and answer your own questions that way. Once you’ve done the research, if you do reach out, they’ll see the effort you’ve gone through and be more willing to listen to your request for help.

U: What are some essential weekly tasks you encourage entrepreneurs in the Fizzle community to take?

B: It really depends on what stage they are in with their business, but across all stages we recommend the following:

– Start a mastermind group.

– Keep a progress log.

– Work with a mentor and coach (if you can afford a coach).

To find out more about Barrett and the Fizzle team, visit fizzle.co and follow Barrett on Twitter.

 

Posted by on April 10, 2015
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Breaking Through Creative Blocks

Imagine this: you’re working on a creative project that you’ve been excited about all week. You take a quick coffee break and dive back into work and…nothing. Zero production. Despite the caffeine coursing through your veins, the creative juices are at a standstill. You’ve hit a wall; a creative roadblock. Slowly, you begin to feel a mixture of impatience, anger, and discouragement. You’re ready to roll, but your muse is AWOL. And you’re wondering one thing:

Now what?

We’ve all been here before. Creatives face these challenges routinely. We dread them and develop super-complicated schemes to overcome them.

Luckily, we have a few simple tips that can help you win the wrestling match and  breakthrough creative blocks.

Show Up

Sometimes it’s easy to get so discouraged that you stop working on that project, stop setting time aside for it and decide that you’ll only work on it when inspiration strikes. Anything else seems like a waste of time. This is actually the biggest mistake you could make. You’re surrendering to your block if you do this. Don’t surrender. Keep showing up.

But what do you do if you run into a block while you’re working?

Take a Break

Sometimes, blocks are your brain telling you it needs to stop to recharge. Set a timer, take a break, and come back to your work. Instead of sitting there being stuck, see if moving around, getting a snack or surfing the web for a while helps you take on your work. We don’t always realize it when we push ourselves beyond our capacity until it begins to affect our work. Incorporating breaks into your scheduled work time might help you avoid running into (as many) blocks.

Don’t knock exercising during your break. Your brain and your body both need stimulation. If you’re needing some inspiration, trying moving your body. Get your heart rate up and forget about your creative block for a while. Not only will this give your brain a break from this puzzle and a chance to come back later, but it will get the blood flowing to your brain as well.

Remember that regular exercise is important not only for you body, but also for your mind.

Change Your Scenery

Your surroundings have a huge impact on your mind. If you’re having trouble being creative in your current spot, move. Go to a coffee shop, a park or somewhere that inspires you. Once you’re in a new place, your brain might feel refreshed and get through the block easily.

Find Inspiration

Read a book or watch a movie if you’re struggling with your script or poetry. Look on pinterest if you can’t think of your next jewelry or photography project.Get together with other creatives to get your creativity flowing again. Look for inspiration wherever you normally find it, whether that’s on your laptop, a museum, or out in nature. Go looking, and you’ll find it.

If you show up daily and put in work – even if it’s terrible, even if you hate the final product – it’s better than letting it sit. Even if you delete every word you struggled for or rip out every page of your sketchbook you fill that day, it’s still worth it. You’re still combatting the resistance in you and making good habits. Not only that, but the more work you put in, the more likely it is to be good work. If you stop putting in work every day, the likelihood of the work being something you’re satisfied drops dramatically. This is because you aren’t honing your craft on a regular basis, you’re not constantly improving by giving yourself feedback and learning from your failures.
If you sit down and it goes nowhere, search for your inspiration, take a break or do something else. But be sure to show up again the next day, ready for your muse to give you great ideas.

Posted by on April 9, 2015
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Motorcycling Out of the “Four Year Comfort Zone”

From a very early age, Alex knew he didn’t want to go to college. “I think from an early age I just never liked the classroom,” he recalls, “You’re on this track. It’s very comfortable. At school, I had to do things just because someone was saying that I had to do them. I wasn’t engaged. I don’t do well when I’m comfortable or bored; I have to have some skin in the game, I need things to be unpredictable. College just seemed like a four year comfort zone.”

At the same time, Alex didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to spend time with other interesting young people. If universities offered one thing, it was the chance to socialize with smart, engaging peers.2013 Summit Photos on the Roof

“I didn’t want to stay in DC,” Alex says of his motivation to join the fellowship. “When I found out that I could get up and move across the country and work and be inside the startup world where they’re building these companies and live with 18 people from around the world, with the freedom to do what I want… that’s why I decided to do UnCollege.”

Freedom is exactly what Alex found. After completing UnCollege’s three month launch phase, it was time for his voyage phase: the period where fellows travel abroad for three months to do independent work. Most of Alex’s colleagues took on work abroad — “tech incubators overseas, internships in Paris, au pairs in Spain,” and the like. [For upcoming fellows, the voyage phase will be slightly more structured, with options to choose from around the world.] Meanwhile, Alex and his roommate (who, he’s quick to say, is now one of his “absolute best friends”) bought two round trip tickets to Bangkok with no plans and just a backpack each. Neither had ever been out of the United States before.

“There’s something about going to Southeast Asia with no responsibilities and no plan. You’ve never had so much freedom in your life. If you weren’t having a good time, there was no excuse. You couldn’t stress about little things like waiting ten hours for the bus or sleeping on a bus with no AC. My takeaway was that if you’re going to stress about something, change it. If you care enough, you’ll change it. If you don’t change it, you don’t care enough, so stop stressing.”

Learning to let go of the little things is one revelation amongst many that UnCollege brought up for Alex. “UnCollege is about being very goal-oriented and very self-aware and self-reflective. I think I was somewhat self-aware and self-reflective before UnCollege, but the program showed me how you can break everything down. Now, I write down all my goals, every day. I write down the things I want to accomplish each month and each day.”

Back in Thailand, Alex traveled around the country and on the islands south of the mainland, staying in hostels and going where the wind blew. After about a month, Alex and his roommate decided to visit another UnCollege fellow who was in Malaysia before the three guys flew to Hanoi. “All this was on a whim. We wanted to ride motorcycles across the country, even though we’d never ridden motorcycles before. We arrived in Hanoi at 8 a.m., met three guys at the hostel who had just ridden from Ho Chi Minh city with their motorcycles. We bought them for $200 each, learned how to ride them that day, went to bed, and first thing in the morning we set out. We were still struggling, but we rode for three weeks on the Ho Chi Minh trail all the way across Vietnam, stopping in these little villages. Nobody spoke English. It was just an adventure. Our bikes would break down every other day. We had to tie ropes around our bikes and pull each other through the mountainside.”

That’s how, at the age of 18, while most of his high school friends were sitting in university lectures texting under their desks, Alex Tatem was motorcycling across Asia.

After his voyage phase, Alex knew what he wanted to do and headed back to DC, where he packed up his things and drove across the country back to San Francisco to begin work at an education technology company, where he now does sales operations and account executive work.

“It’s not as though I wouldn’t be doing this work if I hadn’t been in UnCollege. But I wouldn’t have traveled. And I wouldn’t have met these awesome, awesome people that I’m now friends with. That voyage was the best thing I’d done.”

To learn more about UnCollege and how you can become a fellow, check out UnCollege.org/program.

Posted by on April 8, 2015
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5 Signs You Should Drop Out Of College

Have you thought about dropping out of college?

Maybe you’ve daydreamed about traveling the world, writing a book, or starting a business. Or maybe you don’t know what you want to do… you just know you aren’t happy where you are.

But you can’t just leave.

How will I support myself?

What will my parents think?

How will I get a job?

These are real concerns, but people have done it and gone on to thrive both personally and professionally – People just like you. 

I talk to them every day. They have taken their education, career, and life into their own hands.

But what finally pushed them over the edge? How did they know it was time to drop out? Below are the top five signs from successful dropout that you should consider dropping out of college.

1)    You are depressed (with no history of depression)

“That was my breaking point – I wasn’t prepared to live my life unhappily just to fulfill this ‘American Dream’ or to climb whatever social/career ladder that everyone believes is the way to a successful life.” –Dropout To Flight Attendant (Read her story)

2)   You have no motivation

“The classes and programs offered by my college did not match with my interests so I naturally became unmotivated in school.” –Dropout To Data Scientist (Read her story)

3)   You feel powerless

“I felt I needed to make decisions for myself instead of being a subordinate to people who thought they knew what was best for me.” –Dropout To Author/Yoga Instructor (Read her story)

4)   You have something better going

“Why was I doing it? I’d just helped sign my first multi-platinum rock act and I wasn’t about to go back to the dorms.” –Dropout To Digital Marketer (Read his story)

5)   You hate it

“I lived in a dorm, bought the overpriced books, and went from class to class with an optimistic attitude. The optimism faded when I realized something: I f#*$ing hated it.” –Dropout To Fashion Designer/Author (Read her story)

This definitely isn’t an exhaustive list; there are a ton of reasons to opt out, stop out, or drop out of college. However, for me, it was a combination of the reasons listed above.

I don’t know anyone who regrets taking time away from school. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, definitely take some time off.

Worst case scenario:

  • At the end of the year you decide you want to go back to school and call it a gap year.
  • You’ve saved some money and gained some work/volunteer experience.
  • You’re confident school is the right place for you to be.

Best case scenario:

  • Your depression disappears
  • You discover what motivates you
  • You feel empowered
  • You build a career
  • You love your life

Good luck.

“What finally convinced me to go ahead was simply that I was so unhappy not going ahead.” – Steven Pressfield

About the writer: Casey is the creator of Killing College. On his blog, he chronicles his journey as a college dropout and argues that college is no longer the best option for young, motivated, and intelligent people.

Posted by on April 6, 2015
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The Hidden Benefits of Learning Lots of Different Skills

For the past year, I’ve dedicated myself to learning many skills across different fields. I’ve learned to rock climb, design iOS apps, DJ, write sales copy, and hip-hop dance.

Along the way, I discovered several unexpected benefits of learning lots of different skills.

Whether you are just getting started in self education or want to eventually become a specialist, there is a lot of value in spending a few months to a year to learn many different skills.

You have a better idea of what you want to do with your life.

There’s an expectation built into the education system that we should know what we want to do with our lives by 18 or 19. But really, there are many 45 year olds with no idea what they want.

For those of us who haven’t stumbled across our life’s mission, the way to figure it out is by trying many different things — except most 18 and 19 year olds haven’t had the time to gain that many experiences.

This is a goal that college ostensibly fills, but fails at. The problem is, learning about a job is not the same as actually doing it. Only by trying a new skill or job can we really know if we will enjoy it or now. Because as Dan Gilbert showed in his book, Stumbling on Happiness we are terrible predictors of what will make us happy.

By trying many different things, you find out a lot about yourself. This gives you confidence once you begin to focus on one thing.

You can relate to more people.

Relationships form the bedrock of all success. To build relationships, you need to be able to relate to people — that is, have something in common with them.

The more fields you understand, the greater your chances of being able to relate to someone. Often, you’ll connect with someone over something unrelated to how you end up getting value out of that relationship. For instance, I connected with a friend of mine over DJing and a love for travel, and now we do business together.

Not only will being able to relate to more people make you more friends and connections, but it will also help you become more persuasive. Empathy is the core of copywriting and successful marketing. And whether you are in business or not, we’re all selling something, whether it’s convincing your parents that dropping out of college is a good idea, diffusing a fight with a friend, or getting a date.

You become a connector.

Upon arriving in Saigon, I met a fellow entrepreneur named Jeremy who also happened to be a local musician. He made a few valuable introductions and now I have some DJing opportunities lined up.

What just happened there? By having a foot in two different communities, Jeremy was able to make several valuable introductions for me.

The more communities you are tapped into, the more often you can provide this type of value to people. Learning new skills lets you relate to more people, which lets you have friendships in more communities.

So not only do you get to learn a cool new skill and meet other interesting people involved in that skill, you also have the chance to connect these interesting people to each other.

You become a fascinating person.

Here’s a secret about spending time with successful people: you don’t have to be successful yourself. You just have to be interesting.

After spending a few months learning in different areas, you’ll be fascinating. Not many people can switch from talking about trading Bitcoin to surfing in Indonesia to the science of smart drugs to what makes a good sales page. Your skills will be different, but that’s how you’ll be unique.

It’s a cliche for a reason: you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Being interesting helps ensure those five people are successful.

You become better at learning.

Learning quickly and effectively is a skill. And like any other skill, you get better at it the more you do it.

You probably already know that constant learning is key to success. But what if you could learn just 50% faster? How much of an impact would that make on your life?

There are principles about learning that you pick up when learning each skill that can be applied to other topics in the future.

For instance, I learned to row by watching hundreds of Olympic races and internalizing the technique of world-class rowers. I learned to design by diving in and through trial and error, comparing what I had designed to websites I knew were good.

When I learned to DJ,  I combined these techniques, spending plenty of time ‘figuring it out’ through trial and error, but also time imitating the sets and techniques that were successful before.

Knowledge compounds. If you’ve ever tried to learn a new language, you might find yourself saying, “oh, this is just like ____ in English!”. The more your branches of knowledge you have to build off of, the more frequently you make these sorts of connections.

You can see the Matrix.

This is the biggest reason that specialists should spend time branching out.

The greatest breakthroughs of the last century have primarily happened at the cross section of several fields, where knowledge and ideas from one field were used to make a breakthrough in another. Much of Apple’s success could be attributed to their focus on design. But had Jobs not become interested in calligraphy, he may have never push design as a core value of the company.

Ken Wilber took this to the extreme, taking wisdom from dozens of fields, from Taoism to Physics to Politics, to create his Theory of Everything.

Seeing the big pictures makes you aware of the changes and shifts. This is where the opportunities are.

By Connor Grooms

Connor Grooms writes about how to learn any skill in one month at his blog, One Month Master.

Read more about Connor here.

 

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Second Chance to Save – $1,000 Off Summer 2015

If you missed our free airfare offer last month, it’s not too late to save! Submit your initial program deposit for the Summer 2015 cohort by April 30 and save $1,000 off the program fee. Here’s what you need to do:

– Apply to the UnCollege Summer 2015 cohort here.

Schedule an admissions interview by phone, Skype, or Google Hangouts.

– Submit an initial program deposit of $250 to hold your spot in the Summer 2015 cohort!

The Summer cohort begins July 10.

Don’t miss out on your chance to explore the world! 

 

Posted by on April 5, 2015
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Should I Take Time Off Before College?

Applying to college comes with a lot of difficult choices. From choosing the right schools to deciding your course of study, the list of daunting decisions can be long. Once you get your final list of acceptance letters, the job doesn’t get any easier. So what should you do once you get accepted to college? Should you jump right in? If not, what should you do?

Stop, Think, Review

The last thing you want to do is rush your decision. Make sure you understand all of your options before choosing to act. Since there are so many facts and figures to understand, you have to ask yourself where you will be “happy, healthy, and able to grow.” Gather your list of schools, scholarships, and financial aid, and compare them against what you’re looking for.

Should I Defer?

If you feel that college isn’t quite right yet, that’s more than okay. Taking time off doesn’t have to be idle. Programs such as gap years might imply that “students are taking a gap in their education, when really the gap is to fill in what they haven’t learned in school.” Gap years offer the opportunity to travel, do community service, and generally understand your true interests in a way that high school and college might not be able. In fact, many people find that taking a gap year can help ease the financial burden that college presents, allowing you to work and save more money.

Though there are plenty of success stories about students choosing the right school for them, there are also a growing number of similar stories about students who took gap years. In a 2012 Time Magazine article, Amy Huynh decided to defer her admission to Colby College for a year so she could mentor and teach students in Los Angeles. For her, the decision was two-fold: on one hand, she wanted to better understand herself and her passions, while on the other, she wanted to work and save money for her subsequent expenses at Colby. She knew college was still an opportunity available to her, so taking a gap year would be a better experience.

Make a Choice

This might be the hardest step of all. Whether you choose to take a gap year or immediately enroll in college, making the choice can be tough. In some cases, students know right away which college is right for them. But for most, making the final choice about the next step after high school requires a lot of thinking, talking, and understanding. Financial aid might be a deciding factor, just as academics, social life, athletics, or location will play an important role in the decision.

Don’t Forget About High School

Though you’ve gotten to the final stretch of making your college decision, that doesn’t stand as an opportunity to forget about high school. This affliction, commonly known as “Senioritis”, infects many students after the college decision deadline passes. Your academics and extra-curriculars might not feel as important anymore, but colleges can rescind acceptances if you let things slip.

Be Happy

Once you do make your decision to defer or go to college, be proud of your accomplishments. It’s not an easy process to complete, and the next step is bound to be a great one. Get ready to grow and experience new things, regardless of which decision you make.

Posted by on April 3, 2015
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How to Stand Out from the Sea of Recent Graduates

The economy is on the rebound, but at the end of the day, finding a job is still no cake walk for our generation. Where a good college degree once offered graduates an array of opportunities, many recent grads are now left picking at the dregs of an economy blighted by unemployment, job insecurity, and that dreaded phrase: “unpaid internships.” Getting into a great school is no longer the career boost it once was; you have to know how to stand out from the sea of qualified graduates, just like you. Here are my tried and true tricks for grabbing employers’ attention and getting those offers on the table.

Be kind

Seriously. Be a nice, genuine person. You’ll be surprised how far it gets you. This doesn’t mean being unambitious in your goals, or a pushover in interviews. It just means being a person who isn’t hard to get along with, who makes others’ lives easier and workloads lighter. Find a job listing that sounds great, but isn’t right for your qualifications? Pass it onto a friend. Have a strong connection with your interviewer? Keep in touch, even if the job doesn’t come through. And when you finally do land a job, be the new employee who is known for being great to work with.

Work ridiculously hard on passion projects

Employers will never have a deficit of top-notch graduates to choose from. Never. To stand out, you need to be someone who has a distinct passion and who works distinctly hard to realize it. Sure, it’s great if your passion is saving the world’s oceans and you launch an NGO. But your passion can just as well be social media: the sad truth is, a humorous Twitter account that goes viral is far more likely to get you a high-paying job offer than any of the courses you took in college. Whether it’s through volunteer work, social media, musical practice, or any other number of myriad ways you can let your passion shine, pour yourself into the things that get you up in the morning and watch the job offers roll in.

Have a sense of humor

No one likes a bitter, sad grad! It can be hard to keep a good outlook with student loans and rent to pay, but remember: it won’t always be like this. Perseverance goes even further when you’re able to laugh at yourself and keep your chin up in the face of let downs.

Expand your search to different arenas

When I pursued my own job search, I made sure to expand my hunt not only to media companies but to publishing houses, tech start-ups, and thinktanks. Cast a wide, wide net. You’re young! You never know where you’ll be most in-demand; even if you think you have a strong idea about what you’d like to do, be open to the possibility of being surprised by an unexpected opportunity.

Strive to learn new skills:

Employers want to know that your ability to learn didn’t stop once you left the classroom. Starting new projects and using self-directed learning methods to pick up new skills will not only show potential employers that you are motivated, but curious and capable of working well on your own. (To find out the 10 essential skills you need that you might not learn in school, check out this post).

Don’t be afraid to put out a call

There’s nothing wrong about an earnest call for help. A quick post on Facebook (“Hey! I’m looking for a job in product design or marketing. Anyone know someone who’s hiring?”) can go a long way, and look: we’re all in the same boat! There’s no shame in leveraging your network to get a foot in the door. It’s how future CEOs have been getting hired for decades.

Make that resume shine

Imagine the life of an HR person: staring at boring Times New Roman over, and over, and over again. I’m not telling you to punch up your resume with Wingdings, but aiming for a sleeker design will help your piece of digital paper stand out in the tall digital stack of resumes. Keep it professional, but let your personality shine through a bit. Always highlight your most unconventional aspects first: did you volunteer in Nepal for six months? Put that right up top. Speak Finnish? Highlight that! Cum Laude won’t get you as far as an unusual experience project leading. For some great examples and templates, check out these from The Muse.

Cover letters matter, but your work matters more

Don’t slack on those cover letters. The older generations already think that we don’t know how to communicate or talk on the phone — don’t prove them right with a stilted, awkward, tone-deaf cover letter, or worse: a generic one! (Engineers: there’s no shame in paying an English major to polish yours up, seriously. Know your strengths.) But at the end of the day, your cover letter is only going to work if you can hyperlink it to a portfolio of your work. HR does their research these days, and if you talk a big talk but don’t walk a big walk, you’re not going to hear that phone ring. Future marketing guru? You need pithy writing samples. Designer? Get your portfolio online. Engineer? Here’s where those long hours finishing off university projects can finally pay off.

Don’t rest on your brand name college

Nobody likes the Harvard kid who never shuts up about how he went to Harvard. Same goes for Stanford, or Duke, or the University of Michigan. If you went to a school with clout, rest assured that that will be acknowledged by HR, and move on. You’ll go much farther with humility. Say it once, then let it go. Show that you’re working to establish yourself as much, much more than your university’s name, that you’re not someone who rests on her laurels. College should never be the best or the most impressive years of your life. Even if you went to Yale.

Know your stuff

Never, ever walk into an interview without having done the requisite research. Know the company. Know its strengths, sure, but far more importantly: know its weaknesses, and know exactly why you’re the person to bolster their vision where it needs bolstering. Be ready to cite recent press coverage of the company; watch interviews with the founders; get a sense for the culture before you walk through the door. The only way to be a “natural” fit is to be an informed fit. Consider it market research: how are you supposed to sell yourself as an employee if you don’t know your audience?

Don’t rush

Believe me. I understand how eager you are to land a job, announce it on Facebook, and harvest those paychecks. But sometimes, holding out for the right offer is worth the wait. Re-frame your search as a mutual one: companies are looking for you, but you’re also looking for the right company. An extra month living at home or on a friend’s couch can be worth it if it means ending up in the right place at the end of your hunt. Think of the job search like dating. Patience is a virtue; it’s important to know your worth; and remember: no one likes desperation.

Posted by on April 2, 2015
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Why You Should Learn a New Language

Why is is that so many people say they want to learn a new language, but never actually follow through? It’s a process that people abandon at an alarming rate, especially Americans who have little need to speak another language outside of a yearly 2-week vacation from the daily grind. But having an understanding of another language, even if you are not fluent, can help you become a better overall communicator and even make more money professionally.

If those reasons aren’t enough to get you to head to the bookstore and buy a new foreign dictionary, here are of a few more reasons you need to get serious about learning a new language.

Increased Confidence

When you’re learning a language, it tests your patience and grit. You learn to fail spectacularly. You embarrass yourself and learn to laugh it all off.In this sense, practicing a new language is similar to participating in an improv comedy group – you do whatever you can to communicate your point in the best way possible. As a result of these experiences, you escape your comfort zone, learn quickly and gain confidence.

Improved Decision-Making Skills

Advanced foreign language skills help people make better decisions. When operating in a second language, less of our emotions are involved in the conversation because our brain is working extra. This keeps us from making decisions out of emotional excitement.

Learning a Second Language Alters Your Grey Matter

Learning a language changes and builds your brain to make it stronger. This seems like common sense, but it is much deeper than that.The structure of your brain is physically changing, adapting, and becoming smarter while learning a new language.

Improves Your Job Prospects

There are many jobs in which foreign language fluency is a requirement. Examples of this are international commerce, government positions, journalism, telecommunications and many hospitality positions. Not only would these job options be open to you, but you will be set apart from the crowd in competition for other positions by your bilingualism. There are many benefits to knowing a second language in a business setting, including higher pay.

Stave off Dementia

At this point in your life, you’re probably not too worried about dementia, but it’s worth mentioning. While health checkups and saving for retirement prepare you for old age in a proactive way, you can prevent your mental decay now in a proactive way that also involves a lot of other benefits. Studies show that bilingual people have a slower onset of dementia.

Be a Better Community Member

In many places in the USA – especially big cities – there are whole families that speak languages other than English. These families make up communities within a larger community. For example, 24% of households in San Jose speak Spanish. That said, someone living in San Jose who doesn’t speak Spanish would be put at a disadvantage when trying to communicate with people in their community. And it’s not just limited to Spanish; in San Francisco, 11% of the population speaks Mandarin. In order to contribute to your local community, you have to be able to communicate with them members of that community.

So, what are you waiting for? In order to reap the rewards of speaking a second language, you have to put your efforts into learning it. The only way to get there is through habitual practice. There are plenty of hacks to language learning, and some of them work, but in the end it’s up to you to put in the effort.

Posted by on April 1, 2015
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