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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The ability to write a valuable job skill

Over the weekend, Yahoo Finance published a story written by reporter Julia La Roche, based on a panel discussion held at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. The panel featured Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon and former Legendary Entertainment CEO Thomas Tull. Mr. Tull left Legendary Entertainment to start an investment firm called Tulco. Both are graduates of Hamilton College.

Anyway, Mr. Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, identified the ability to write as a valuable skill that appears to be disappearing in the workforce these days.

Here are two quotes from Mr. Solomon as reported in the article that I found inspiring and fully agree with:
How you communicate with other people, how you interact with other people, how you express yourself will have a huge impact on your success. And, when I try to point to things that have helped me, my ability to communicate, which was rooted in a lot of experience that I got here on the hill.

The other thing I'd point to that's so important is there is a real emphasis when people are interviewing around academics and I.Q. I think it's way overweighted...There should be equal emphasis on E.Q. and how you interact with people, how you relate to people, and how you connect with people.
Click here to read the full article, which has more great advice from Mr. Solomon, as well as from Mr. Tull.

I'm so excited that Mr. Solomon shared his thoughts on this, and I quickly sent the article to the English teacher I work with (I co-teach a junior-level English class). Writing, and communication overall, is a valuable skill to have, and I would agree that it appears to be a skill that is rather difficult to find out there in the workforce and job market these days.

It doesn't matter what you want to pursue for work and career. The ability to communicate effectively and relate to other people is critical for success in any career path.

You're going to need solid writing, verbal communication, and relationship-building skills for anything related to customer service, sales presentations, marketing, persuasion, preparing reports, placing orders with suppliers, closing deals, networking, leading meetings, management, entrepreneurship, event planning, fundraising and working with donors, you name it.

So, if you're not feeling very confident in your writing and overall communication abilities, practice with some fun writing prompts from time to time. Read more for enjoyment and look up the definitions of words you're not familiar with in order to expand your vocabulary and contextual understanding.

If you enjoy writing, or are starting to realize that you may enjoy it, you might be interested in checking out this previous post on career options with writing skills. There are many neat opportunities out there if you have these skills.

Monday, March 18, 2019

David White passes away

This morning, I learned that David White, songwriter and founding member of the 1950s-60s doo-wop group Danny & The Juniors, passed away yesterday, March 17, 2019. He was 79 years old.

I had the opportunity to interview David back in 2013. I really enjoyed our conversation and got a lot out of it. I'm thankful he took a little time out of his busy schedule to chat with me for a while. He was very talented, and he was definitely one of the good guys. Rest in peace, David White, and thank you for your many and lasting contributions to the world of music.

Here is my interview with David White of Danny and the Juniors. There's a lot of neat history and trivia in it about the early days of rock 'n' roll that I think you'll enjoy.

And here are a couple of videos of Danny & The Juniors performing. The first video is "At the Hop," which came out in 1957, and the second is "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay," which was released the following year, in 1958.

In the "At the Hop" video, David is the one all the way to the left. In "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay," he is the second one from the bottom seat.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Manufacturing and the trades in schools

A look at the return of manufacturing and the trades in schools and in conversations.

Recently, I published a post on here entitled, "I was a slacker in high school," in which I discussed the regrets I still have all these years later for not taking high school more seriously. That post generated quite a bit of buzz, fielding over 500 hits in less than a day and a couple of reader comments below the post. I'm really grateful for all the interest and positive feedback surrounding that post, and I truly hope it can serve as a teachable moment.

Today, I want to talk about another important factor that affected my time in high school in, looking back on it, a negative way, as well, and how younger generations of high school students and graduates are now benefiting from a renaissance in programming, resources, and real conversations. I'm talking about the resurgence in manufacturing and the trades in schools.

I graduated high school in 2001. While I was in high school in the late 1990s, manufacturing in the United States was undergoing a serious exodus. Perhaps the hardest hit areas were in the Midwest, where manufacturing was a way of life, providing many families with a stable, comfortable, middle-class lifestyle. Many of the men in my family, along with many of our family friends, were skilled machinists. And many of them lost their jobs in the late 90s, including my father, an uncle, and even my mother, who did assembly work. Many plants during this time closed up shop and moved down to Mexico, where labor and other resources were much cheaper.

At the time, the message to those of us in high school was, "Avoid manufacturing. It's dead in this country. There's no future in it. Go to college." The four-year university was all the talk. That was the path we were all encouraged - even outright steered toward - to pursue. Many students from my generation, including myself, were the first ones in our families to go to university. Pursuing a university education, we were told, would lead to a great, comfortable living, and one that's clean - away from the oily, dirty, dim-lit environment often associated with machining and factory work back then, however real or merely perceived.

Simultaneously, the other trades, along with technical colleges and vocational schools, were largely downplayed as post-high school options, as well. These jobs and paths just weren't really talked about much, it seemed, and when they were, they were often cast in the same light as the then-disappearing jobs in the manufacturing realm - grimy, labor-intensive, whatever the opposite of the pristine, well-lit, promising, and even futuristic jobs being churned out by the white-collar world. The university, we were told by our parents, teachers, guidance counselors, the media, and broader society, was the way of the future. Many schools were scaling back or outright eliminating shop and tech ed programs, or they were on their way to doing so in subsequent years.

There's just one problem with this widely-held blind faith in the university system - unless we want to go back to kerosene lamps, outhouses, primitive buildings and living spaces, making our own tools and utensils, and horse and carriage for transportation, we will always need electricians, plumbers, carpenters, painters, drywallers, welders, mechanics, machinists, assembly workers, automotive workers, you name it.

Flash forward to today. In more recent years, especially the present day, the tide has shifted back to fully embracing trades education. We as a society are back again to encouraging technical colleges and vocational schools as viable post-high school options. We're reviving old and establishing new partnerships to funnel students and graduates into skilled labor employment and apprenticeships. And we're simply having real conversations of substance. And, in a somewhat ironic twist, it's these types of jobs and career tracks that are the ones offering the comfortable, promising living these days. Furthermore, manufacturing facilities have come a long ways in cleanliness and lighting levels to match!

See, we've managed to ignore, downplay, or steer away from these lines of work for so long, while simultaneously over-flooding the market with bachelor's degree holders, that there are huge labor shortages - and hence big-time demand for young adults showing an interest and aptitude for them.

Now, I don't regret my university education and subsequent graduate-level studies. Through this education, I've discovered and enjoyed a lot of work meaningful and satisfying to me over the years, including various stints in entrepreneurship. I've also established and have benefited from quite a few professional and networking relationships, many of which have become close, personal friendships. But while I have no regrets on my university education, I also wish that these opportunities were discussed and presented to us in a more positive - literally, a more honest - light back then. Big opportunities that you now have if you're interested.

Want the best of both worlds? I typically advise students these days to take a serious look at a technical college or vocational school education. Learn a provable hard skill or trade first, something that you're really going to enjoy. Enter the workforce with those skills and gain some practical on-the-job experience for a while. And then consider going for the bachelor's and perhaps even beyond, if that's something you'd like to do. Maybe get a bachelor's in a business/management/leadership program. Now, you have two good things going for you - first, you have that concrete, verifiable skill set. And you'll also have that bigger-picture education that can help you set the stage for a promotion into management or even off on your own as a business owner yourself some day.  

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Pros and cons of entrepreneurship

The Rewards and Challenges of Entrepreneurship

There are many reasons why it's worth pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams. Unfortunately, there are also many challenges that can block your path to success when launching yourself as an entrepreneur. So, how do you know if entrepreneurship is the right path for you? By considering both the rewards and challenges faced by entrepreneurs. Once you've considered the rewards and challenges of entrepreneurship, you can determine for yourself whether the rewards will outweigh any challenges you are likely to face.

To help you consider both sides of the issue, here are six rewards of entrepreneurship, followed by three challenges often faced by entrepreneurs.

Rewards of Entrepreneurship:

1. You can do what you enjoy.

When you're an entrepreneur, you have full discretion over what type of career you'd like to pursue. By choosing to do what you love, work can feel less like a grind and more like an adventure.

Are you an expert on a particular subject? Perhaps starting a consulting or tutoring business is right for you. Love to work outdoors? Enjoy working with your hands? Are you learning one or more skilled trades? Maybe starting a business in landscaping, automotive repair, home remodeling, construction, plumbing, electrical, or painting is your thing. Do you play the guitar or piano? Do photography? Plenty of opportunities in your area to provide these types of services to weddings, outdoor parties, festivals, coffee shops, restaurants, corporate events, etc. There are also many different types of franchises out there that may catch your interest, anything from restaurants to insurance and investments, and everything in between.

These are just a few possibilities out of an endless sea of options when it comes to entrepreneurship! You can literally take just about anything that you know and love to do, and turn it into a business - turn it into a way of life for you.

2. You can be your own boss.

Often, subordinate-boss relationships can be strenuous at best. By pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams, you will be your own boss, allowing you to avoid such encounters—that is unless you become the boss of others by expanding your business and hiring staff.

3. You can set your own schedule.

When working for yourself, fixed working hours become a thing of the past. In many cases, you can start late or take off early, without any repercussions. Flexible working hours can be very useful when you have appointments to keep or family obligations to fulfill.

4. You may be able to work from anywhere.

While not every entrepreneur will be able to work from anywhere, many do have the freedom to choose where they work. In some cases, this may mean working from home, while in other cases, this may mean working in a public space like a relaxing park or a lively coffee shop.

5. It fosters independence, responsibility, and creativity.

As an entrepreneur, most or all job-related responsibilities will be up to you—especially when you're just starting out. It will likely take a little creativity and a lot of determination to successfully manage your responsibilities and solve any new challenges that come your way.

6. Success brings a personal sense of pride and satisfaction.

Because workplace achievements will be directly related to your efforts, any successes that occur will likely become great sources of personal pride and satisfaction. It can be very rewarding to see your hard work paying off firsthand.

Challenges of Entrepreneurship:

1. You will likely have long working hours.

Though entrepreneurs don't often have a fixed schedule, they typically need to work long hours in order to succeed. In fact, most entrepreneurs end up working far more hours than their salaried counterparts—especially early on if they have little to no support staff.

2. You may feel financially insecure.

Pay can be inconsistent when working for yourself. This causes most entrepreneurs to feel financially insecure at some point during their career. As an entrepreneur, it's important that you carefully manage your spending, so you can withstand any dry spells that might come your way. It is also important that entrepreneurs begin with enough starting capital to keep their dream alive during the often-rough early stages of entrepreneurship.

3. It can be stressful.

As entrepreneurs must deal with many aspects of the job themselves, including the parts of the business they don't enjoy or fully understand, work can become quite stressful. Beyond your regular duties, you may need to handle additional tasks like sales, customer service, accounting, marketing, and invoice collections—that is unless you hire support staff to handle such tasks for you.

While there are many obstacles along the path of entrepreneurship, for those who can overcome the challenges, the rewards are unlike anything else life can offer. Hopefully, by reading through some of the rewards and challenges faced by entrepreneurs, you now have a better idea about whether you'd like to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

I was a slacker in high school

I barely got out of high school on time, and I was either out of my mind or brilliant (or a little bit of both) for taking both the ACT and the SAT, because it was the SAT in the end that got me into my in-state college. At 36 and a Ph.D. student, I still have some regrets. Here's my story. Learn from me.

To use my own words, I was a total slacker in high school. A Slacker with a capital "S". It's been quite a while since I've seen any of the Back to the Future films, but whenever I do see any of them, I can imagine Principal Strickland speaking to me when he calls Marty McFly a slacker. These scenes, I joke, were made just for me.

I barely graduated high school on time. I had to make some credits up through mail order correspondence courses. How I got into college was a miracle. During spring semester of my senior year, I still did not have any schools lined up, because I slacked on applying to any. That was, until a recruiter from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee came out our way to Muskego High School one day for a presentation. I saw a flier hanging on the wall by the guidance office advertising the session and inviting students interested in attending to stop by guidance for a pass. I don't remember what class I had during that time, but I do recall that, whatever it was, I really wanted to skip it. No kidding. I just wanted to get out of class. So, I went down to guidance for my pass. And the rest, as they say, is history. I was immediately sold on the recruiter's presentation. She did an awesome job, and I quickly arranged for a tour of the campus. But now came the tricky part - getting admitted!

Now, I don't remember if I had already taken the ACT and SAT tests (yep, as much as I was a slacker, I took the SAT test for the heck of it!) by the time I met with the Stritch recruiter, or after. I do recall waiting 'til the last minute and taking them during that spring semester of my senior year, though. But I'm thankful I did happen to take the SAT test, because my ACT score ended up being too low to get into Stritch. The school, which ideally preferred the ACT, had a conversion calculator to determine what I would have received on the ACT by taking the SAT, so they used that score. Many say the ACT is supposed to be the easier of the two tests, but I found the opposite to be true in my case. I kept running out of time for each of the sections, and because of that, I left a lot of questions unanswered. Things seemed a lot smoother and more relaxed with the SAT in my case. Anyway, I did well on the admissions essay, and I was ultimately accepted through the university's conditional acceptance program, which meant my grades would be closely monitored for at least my first semester and my participation in co-curricular activities limited for a while. In effect, I was entering the university on academic probation right off the bat.

"Instead of plotting my own destiny, I allowed myself to just sort of drift around in the wind for a while, landing wherever and whenever the wind stopped for a moment or two."

All these years later, Stritch still can't seem to get rid of me, I joke. I'm in the school's Ph.D. program, and I actually joined the student government again this past school year as a senator - at the age of 35. My recruiter still works for Stritch, and we continue to keep in touch from time to time. Wonderful school with a lot of great people. Many happy memories created over the years.

Anyway, I'm sharing all of this with you, first off, because I enjoy looking back in time and laughing at myself and how it's truly a miracle that I managed to get out of high school in time and into college, but most importantly, I really want this to be a teachable moment.

See, I just didn't care about much of anything when I was in high school. It's not that I didn't want to learn. I loved to learn. But on my own terms, I guess. There were a few classes that I really enjoyed and got a lot out of, but the majority of them were just kind of "blah" to me. I was just there because I had to be. I wasn't involved in any clubs or activities, either. I was up very early in the morning for the bus, and so by the time the school day ended and I got off the bus, a ride which seemed to last forever, I just wanted to watch a little TV, eat dinner, and doze off. Some years later, in college, a few of my professors would explain to me that I probably just wasn't engaged. They told me that I obviously had the smarts to get into college, and that they've seen some impressive work produced by me.

Whatever the reason or reasons for my lack of interest and effort in high school, though, I still have some regrets all these years later. I sometimes wonder what opportunities I missed out on - what paths I may have inadvertently closed - by not taking high school more seriously. Instead of plotting my own destiny, I allowed myself to just sort of drift around in the wind for a while, landing wherever and whenever the wind stopped for a moment or two. I got into college mostly by sheer luck. And as much as I love Stritch and feel that the school has certainly prepared me for success in life and career, I still occasionally ask myself, "What if?" What if I had just one more conversation with someone back then on career paths, and that one conversation was the one life-changer I needed? What if my grades and test scores were higher? What if I took more initiative to learn outside of the classroom back then, and, as a result, really found something to be passionate about?

Don't have those same regrets. Don't put yourself in the position of having to wonder about all of the what-ifs. Take advantage of this time you have during these high school years. Start giving some serious thought early on as to what you may want to pursue for a career. Start thinking about any particular training, experiences, and higher education you may need for those careers you're exploring. Network and talk. Have conversations with family, friends of your family, family of your friends, teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, business owners, tradespeople, etc., etc. about options after high school. Research and dive into any relevant volunteer opportunities that may give you an edge on your resume. Time is on your side at this age, but the time will also go quickly enough, so don't squander it.

I joke that I did so poorly in high school the first time around, that I was sent back. Hopefully, I get it right this time, not for me, but for the students and families I have the pleasure and responsibility of serving. Perhaps I finally found my true calling all these years later.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also find these previous posts, High school students and stress, Building a general foundation first, and Preparing for the ACT test, interesting and helpful.     

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Social and emotional learning

What is Social and Emotional Learning and How Can It Benefit All Students?

Social and emotional learning (SEL) teaches students to become better communicators who understand, manage, and express their emotions in a healthy way. Such learning gives students the means to create and maintain healthy relationships, plus encourages responsible decision making and the setting of positive goals. Below are some examples of how all students benefit when exposed to social and emotional learning.

Understanding, managing, and expressing emotions.

Students who take part in social and emotional learning are better able to understand, manage, and express their emotions. Understanding emotions is necessary in order to feel or show empathy toward others and allows students to form deeper connections with their family and friends. Learning to manage and express one's emotions in a positive manner helps students deal with stress and control negative impulses.

Improving communication skills.

Students can become better listeners and communicators through exposure to social and emotional learning. As better listeners, students gain a deeper understanding of their teachers' lectures and instructions, which often leads to greater academic success. Social and emotional learning also helps students recognize nonverbal cues, so they can avoid simple misunderstandings that may occur during communications both inside and outside of the classroom.

Creating and maintaining healthy relationships.

Social and emotional learning teaches students the necessary skills to create and maintain healthy relationships. Students are also taught constructive ways to resolve social conflicts, so they can work toward correcting any unhealthy relationships that may be holding them back.

Making responsible decisions.

Through social and emotional learning, students gain the skills to think critically when making decisions. This can prevent students from making poor or impulsive decisions that may negatively impact themselves or those around them. Students who make responsible decisions are also more likely to avoid risky behaviors and can more easily overcome certain behavioral issues that may disrupt fellow classmates.

Setting and achieving positive goals.

Students who engage in social and emotional learning are better prepared to set and achieve positive goals. Actively setting goals helps students complete class projects and assignments on time, leading to greater academic success. Those who set positive goals also tend to achieve more of what they want in life because defining one's goals is often the first step in making one's dreams a reality.

The skills gained during social and emotional learning are as important to a student's development as the knowledge gained through the study of academic subjects like reading, writing, and arithmetic. Not only does social and emotional learning benefit the student during their school years, but the skills gained during such learning can also have a positive impact throughout a person's adult life. By ensuring students are exposed to social and emotional learning, they will graduate with a more well-rounded skillset, allowing them to gain a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Building a general foundation first

A general foundation must be laid down before specialization can occur

Lately, I've been browsing a book when I have a little time entitled, Engaging 'Tweens and Teens: A Brain-Compatible Approach to Reaching Middle and High School Students, written by noted educator Raleigh Philp. It's a good read. In it, he raises an interesting point that I'd like to spend some time here discussing and reflecting on. Here's a passage from pages 67-68:
Forced to Be a Generalist

Believe it or not, the real world is actually kinder to the adolescent than the world of school. The real world allows for specialization. It's very unlikely that you would ask your mechanic questions about biology or your supermarket-checker how to treat a serious illness. In high school, we expect children to become generalists and learn everything equally well. For many youth, adolescence is the worst time of their lives because it is the one time that you are expected to excel at everything, from algebra to art.

The need to be good at everything becomes a significant issue during adolescence. It's not surprising that some teenagers drop out of school or have a great deal of difficulty meeting expectations. Noted child psychiatrist Mel Levine says, "I really believe that some mentally challenged teenagers who drop out of school may not have true learning disorders but may have something called 'highly specialized minds' that are going to thrive when allowed to practice their specialties."
First off, I fully agree with Mr. Philp's statement, and with Mr. Levine, too, for that matter. This is, in fact, perhaps the only time in your life when you're expected to be a generalist - learning everything and doing decent at everything. College will be like this, as well, but to a lesser extent - while you're specializing in a particular area through your chosen major or technical or vocational program, you'll still need to take a number of core (also known as "gen ed") courses, like math, English, and science. Of course, we can't forget that there's a little freedom and flexibility for further exploration and specialization to be found in the form of elective courses, at both the high school and college levels. But you get the point being made here. So in this regard, Mr. Philp is right when he says that the "real world" is easier and more friendly. When you get into a career track, there's a lot more specialization - things that you'll be doing because you really want to be doing them.

However, despite Mr. Philp and Mr. Levine being correct in their observations, we must also realize that we each need to build a general foundation first, before we can go off into the world and master our chosen specialties. No matter what field(s) we choose to get into, we're going to need some basic and universal skills, capabilities, and understandings. And that's why we're in school for all these years. We can't get to the specific until we have the general foundation laid down.

Whatever our chosen paths, we're going to need to know how to work in groups and teams to accomplish goals. We're going to need to know how to communicate effectively with others. We're going to have to comprehend what we read. We won't have to be experts at research, but we better know where and how to search when conducting research, and have a firm understanding of what qualifies as credible sources. We'll need to know how to think critically. We'll need to know at least a basic level of math to help us in everyday life and work. We'll want to know the basics of our system of government and politics, since the law touches every business and industry, and just about every aspect of our lives. You get the point. We can go on and on. Again, that's why we're in school for all these years. We can't get to the specific until we have the general foundation laid down.

I never went far in math in either high school or college. It's definitely not my strong suit, and I don't have much of an interest in it. But I'll tell you what - I remember my multiplication tables. I can easily add, subtract, and divide in my head, and if something gets too big or complicated, I know how to do the math on paper. I can usually figure out percentages in my mind pretty easily, as well. I rely on these skills every day in a variety of life and work situations. Every day, I also rely on what I've learned in my English/writing/communications courses in high school and college for my work in marketing and for my abilities to give effective presentations and easily build relationships through networking. I've always loved social studies and civics subjects, and having that understanding of government and politics, economics, history, sociology, and philosophy, and of my rights and responsibilities as a citizen, has certainly carried over to my work in business and entrepreneurship.

We need that general foundation. That's why we're in school for all these years. And let's be totally honest with ourselves and with each other here - we're not going to love every course and subject, and there may be some things we'll never need to know or want to think about again. On the other hand, though, we also never know what we're going to need or want to revisit many years down the road, either. But that's the beauty of learning, and that's why we're building that foundation.