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Thursday, January 31, 2019
Volunteer work can provide a wealth of opportunities for learning new skills, strengthening skills, making meaningful connections through networking, gaining new perspectives, sharing talents, and making a difference in the lives of others.
I've been volunteering my time and expertise for a number of organizations and causes over the years, and I find great satisfaction in doing so. Whether through community service clubs like Lions, Rotary, and Kiwanis; as a board member of two chambers of commerce; as a member of two local government boards; or as a member of a committee that runs a large weekend-long festival every summer in my hometown, Muskego Fest, I've met so many talented and wonderful people, and I've learned so much, and continue to learn and meet great people.
I've also found that my volunteer work really goes hand-in-hand with the work I do for pay. I look at it like a continuous cycle, where everything comes back around full-circle - my volunteer work enhances my abilities for other volunteer work; my volunteer work enhances my abilities for my paid work; and my paid work enhances my abilities for my volunteer work. See, all too often, to get a little philosophical here for a moment, we tend to distinguish between volunteer work and paid work, or between personal development and professional development, as if they're all separate and disconnected from one another. In the end, however, we each possess just one mind, and it's a single, fully-unified unit. It's very vast and complex, but it's all connected through countless bridges, roads, and tunnels. In terms of the mind, work is work. Experience is experience. Learning is learning. Skills and talents are skills and talents. You get the point. There's definitely an interdependence between volunteer and paid work, where all of this learning and skill development is easily transferable to other jobs and situations. End of philosophical moment.
Areas where I've developed and reinforced skills over the years through a plethora of volunteer work and projects include leadership, negotiation, marketing, event planning and management, fundraising, customer service, strategic planning, basic accounting and bookkeeping, idea generation, presentations, and public relations and communications.
So, we know that volunteer work is great for your resume, for preparing for the workforce, and for continuing to build and strengthen your talents throughout your life while meeting awesome people and making a difference in your community and beyond. Many scholarship and college admission applications are looking for meaningful volunteering experiences, as well. But you're asking, "Where do I start?"
Well, for starters, ask yourself what you'd like to get out of it. And really give this some thought. Put it on paper so that you have something concrete to look at, reflect on, and refine as needed. And then, go out and seek those opportunities.
Ideally, when it comes to paid work, we all want to do something that's meaningful and engaging to us, right? Something that's enjoyable for us and gives us a feeling that we're making a difference. Now sure, we all take or have taken paid jobs not living up to that ideal out of necessity at times, let's be realistic. But you get the picture. Well, the same goes with volunteer work. We want it to be meaningful for us. Something that's of interest to us and enjoyable. Something that can complement and enhance our professional and career goals. We know the work won't always be easy, but in the end, we know we're learning and growing while sharing our gifts with others and making key contacts.
So start by asking yourself what you'd like to get out of it. Here are some example scenarios to get you thinking about your own goals:
Let's say you'd like to eventually become a veterinarian. You're taking as many science courses as you can right now at the high school level. You're exploring college programs for veterinarian science. Are there any animal shelters or kennels in your area that you can volunteer for? How about a local veterinarian clinic? Or, let's say you're wanting to become a nurse or doctor. You're taking those science classes and exploring your college options. Any clinics or hospitals you can volunteer at?
You love sports. Can't get enough. You're thinking about sports management or sports marketing as a career. You're loading up on any relevant business courses you can fit into your schedule. Maybe you're taking a few English electives to augment the business classes because creative messaging, writing, and the overall ability to communicate effectively to an audience will be key. Are there any volunteer opportunities with your school's teams or athletic department? How about any local professional or minor league teams? Your community's parks and recreation department?
The trades are your thing. Maybe you're still figuring out which trade you'd really like to pursue. You're taking a variety of shop classes. Learning math. Any volunteer opportunities with Habitat for Humanity? How about your local National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) chapter? Any contractors in your area looking for help? Maybe they can help open the door to paid apprenticeships and give you some additional guidance on courses to take at your local technical college?
You're thinking about a career in law enforcement. Joining your local police explorers program is a great way to get involved in community service, network, learn about the profession, and figure out if this is a career you'd really like to pursue. In my hometown of Muskego, our Explorers regularly assist other community service clubs with projects and events around town, and we're grateful for their help! Call your local police department to see if there's an explorers program in your community and how you can get involved.
Business is your passion. You're stocking up on as many business courses as you can. Maybe you have one or more entrepreneurial ventures going for you, like your own lawn mowing or car detailing business. Perhaps you're involved in DECA, FBLA, or a similar club at your school. You're exploring business and management programs at the college level. How about calling your local chamber of commerce to see if they're in need of any volunteers? If the chamber is not in need of any volunteers itself, perhaps it can put you in touch with any of its member businesses and organizations that are looking for help?
These are just a few basic examples out of an endless number of possibilities to get you thinking and exploring. You may find this article from U.S. News & World Report, Find Career-Focused Volunteer Opportunities in High School, helpful, as well.
Best of luck!
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Anyway, I'm sharing all of this with you to introduce a new, occasional series on this blog I'm just calling, "Exploring the world of music." Look for the "Exploring the world of music" label under the Labels list located on the right-hand side of the blog to follow along.
We'll explore a variety of music while also learning a bit about the lives and times of the artists and bands. We'll have what you hopefully feel are interesting and engaging conversations involving art, philosophy, history, biography, and reflection.
I hope you enjoy! Stay tuned...
The double-edged sword of technology.
While it is true that technology has come a long way and that it's only going to get better with time, technology can never replace, nor should it ever, the original computer - our own individual minds.
Technology is meant to make certain tasks and aspects of our lives easier, including learning. Without technology, we would still be attempting to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together; getting from place to place by horse and carriage; making our own clothing; and, because I know you go to the library frequently, still looking for books with the card catalog.
But technology can't stand in for our own built-in need and desire to think critically, reason, memorize, reflect, experience, feel, process, synthesize, create, build connections - be human. The moment we begin to allow that to happen, our own existence as both individuals and as a species may as well be deemed worthless because at that point, are we truly living when we have surrendered our very essence?
The mind is so truly beautiful, filled with endless potential, and so very unique to the individual. Having the same mass-produced technology think, calculate, memorize, etc. for all of us will reduce us to being nothing more than zombies.
As a collective species, it's the human mind that gives us superiority over technology and over all other species on this planet. And at the individual level, it's our own unique minds - our very essence, really - that differentiate ourselves from other individuals. And when multiple minds come together, that's where the real magic can happen - collaboration, new or improved ideas and inventions, deeper understandings, shared vision, and so on.
Don't let technology come to slowly replace your mind. Don't let that happen. Don't waste that incredible gift you have. Technology is a valuable tool. Master it. But never let it master you.
Thursday, January 24, 2019
If this is your first visit to this blog, welcome! If you've been returning from time to time, welcome back! I sincerely hope you find this site to be of some value to you.
As traffic has been growing significantly and a lot more content has been added to this blog over the last several years, I thought I'd put this brief guide together to help you get the best learning experience possible from your time here. So, here are some helpful suggestions:
- Use the long search box located above to search within the blog. If any of your search terms match or partially match any of the blog's posts, they will come up for you.
- You can also make use of the "Labels" list on the right-hand side to search for posts by broader categories. The "Labels" list is below the "Fun Links & Learning Resources" list.
- Speaking of the "Fun Links & Learning Resources" section, these links will take you to other Web sites. Check them out - a lot of great content here. A little bit of everything is represented - personal finance, science, math, social studies, art, STEM, music, worksheets and learning games covering various subjects, health, and a lot more!
- Feel free to leave comments and questions under the blog posts! I value your feedback and want to have a dialogue. Share your experiences and insights, offer suggestions for future posts, and challenge what you read here - I'm definitely not an expert at everything. I'm just a guy that's been blessed to receive a great education and to have learned a few things about the world from working, traveling, and exploring for a number of years. I simply have a passion for being of service to others.
Monday, January 21, 2019
First, let's cover some real basics about the ACT test. The test is broken up into five sections: English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing. The test is scored from 1 to 36.
English - 75 questions, 45 minutes
Math - 60 questions, 60 minutes
Reading - 40 questions, 35 minutes
Science - 40 questions, 35 minutes
Writing - Five paragraph essay on a given prompt, 40 minutes
Here's some general advice I've heard from teachers and those who've taken the test in recent years: If you're doing test prep, focus more on the English and Math sections, and you'll do well. For the Reading portion, don't spend too much time on any one question (a good general rule for all sections, actually). You'll need to skim quickly. Reading is arguably the easiest section, but you have to move through it fairly quick due to time constraints. For the Science part, you probably never learned or will remember half this stuff, if not more. But that's certainly okay. We already expect that. Check out this post specifically devoted to preparing for the science test on ACT for some great advice and strategies.
Now, while there are many resources, strategies, and opinions out there on how best to study and prepare for the ACT, I respectfully submit that you should focus more on building your long-term memory retention and learning strategies over an extended period of time, rather than searching for a quick fix to the test, so to speak. Here's what I propose:
For starters, as I point out in a previous post on how to properly prepare for tests and exams, cramming for any test is a useless strategy. Any benefit that may derive from cramming is far too small to be worth the hassle.
Take all of your classes seriously. If you do, you're already naturally learning, expanding your mind, and preparing for the test. You're learning math; you're practicing and sharpening your reading, writing, and vocabulary skills; you're learning science; you're learning how to think critically and connect the dots to a bigger picture; etc. Commit to taking all of your classes seriously, and seek additional help where needed. There is never any shame in asking for help.
Get in the habit of studying and reviewing regularly. If you do that, you can study for shorter amounts of time at a time, and you can avoid the pains and stress that come with trying to cram. Plus, you're naturally building up your long-term memory.
Supplement your learning in the classroom by learning outside of the classroom. This can be very fun and tailored to your own interests and curiosities. Museums and historical sites, documentaries, insightful conversations with others, participation in clubs and activities at school, reading for enjoyment, and lessons through Khan Academy are just a few examples. Read this previous post for more ideas.
Practice and build on your writing and vocabulary skills with writing prompts.
Consider making use of flash cards when studying and reviewing. You can buy them or create your own for a more tailored studying experience. Making your own will also naturally help with the long-term memory retention because you're actively building your own study aids and learning while you create.
Sure, invest in a good ACT prep guide or two. Attend a practice workshop. Take a couple ACT practice tests. But don't buy/read/attend/take them the week or even several weeks before the actual test and think you're going to instantly master it. Buy these materials far, far in advance, and build them into a regular study and review routine that includes the work you're already doing for your classes. Again, if you can get into the habit of studying and reviewing regularly, you can actually study for shorter amounts of time at a time, while simultaneously strengthening your long-term memory and avoiding the unnecessary pains and lack of results that come with cramming.
Finally, remember that you can retake the test, and know that the test does not define you. Take it from me - I was a total slacker in high school, and I'm now a Ph.D. student.
Best of luck!
"ACT test tips" search on YouTube
"ACT test prep 2019-2020" search on Amazon
"ACT Tips and Tricks to Reach Your Target Score" (from PrincetonReview.com)
Letter of the day method for guessing on tests (from GetSmartPrep.com)
Sunday, January 20, 2019
Within my last few posts, I've been talking a lot about writing - like this post on how to pair writing with your own hobbies and interests to build a fun and successful career, or this brief one about Poets & Writers magazine's database of writing contests.
Today, I'd like to offer you a number of writing prompt ideas.
Writing prompts are a tremendous way to exercise your mind while practicing and sharpening your writing skills, which you'll need in order to be successful in just about any career or venture in life.
What's also cool about doing writing prompts is that they may give you ideas for actual papers and other assignments. While you're writing for fun and practice, you may be getting a head start on a future assignment you're not even aware of yet. How cool is that?!
So, following are those writing prompt ideas. Write as much as you'd like, but try to get at least one solid paragraph done for each. And handwrite them in a notebook - practice your writing, not your typing.
Do you have a particular place that you just absolutely love and can't get enough of? It could be a favorite vacation spot, or just a place you like to escape to once in a while to think and get away from the daily hustle and bustle of life. What makes this place so special for you?
Here's how I think [insert your favorite sport or game] teaches us about life...
At this point in your life, what would you like to do for work when you're older? What's your dream job, and why? What skills and talents do you need to have for this type of work?
What's your favorite school subject, and why?
My friends would describe me as...
What are you most thankful for in life, and why?
Write about your favorite TV show.
Talk about your role model in life.
Write about your favorite class/subject. What do you know so far? What do you want to learn? What do you like/dislike, and why?
If I won the lottery, I would...
Here's how I think Boy Scouts or Girls Scouts will help me prepare for my career...
What's your favorite type(s) of music, and why? What causes you to really enjoy it?
If I could meet anyone right now, living or deceased, it would be __________, and here's why...
Write a note to one of your teachers.
Write a note to a friend.
Discuss three goals you have set for yourself. What are you doing to accomplish them? How is the progress coming along, and what more do you need to do?
What's your favorite holiday, and what do you love about it?
My favorite meal is __________, and here's what I absolutely love about it...
Discuss a valuable life lesson you wish you would have learned years earlier.
Describe a challenging time or moment in your life, and the steps or actions you took to overcome it.
Talk about a movie or book that left you really thinking.
Here are some things I'd like to add to my birthday wish list...
Fun activity with a favorite video game
Fun activity with your favorite song
Form A Daily Writing Habit - It Will Improve Your Life (an article on GetPocket.com)
When you own stock in a company, you own a piece of that company. You're an actual owner of the business. Now, in very large, publicly-traded companies that have a national or even a global presence, there may be millions of other stockholders (also known as shareholders) of the company, but you're still an owner.
As a shareholder, the company may reward you from time to time in the form of a dividend. The company isn't obligated to make these payments to stockholders, and if it is currently making such payments, it can decide to lower, raise, delay, or eliminate them at any time. Dividends to shareholders are usually, though not always, tied to the financial performance of the business. If the company is performing poorly, chances are likely it's not going to be paying dividends. In times of poor financial performance, the value, or price, per share of the actual stock itself may fall, as well, so you may lose money on your investment that way, too.
On the other hand, when you own a company's bond (keep in mind that bonds can be issued by governments, as well), you do not own a piece of the company. You're not a shareholder. Rather, you are giving a loan to the business (or government entity). In exchange for the loan, the company is agreeing to not only pay back the amount of money you loaned to it - the principal - but it is also agreeing to pay you interest, as well.
The advantage to owning bonds is that they may typically be more financially stable compared to stocks - you're getting consistently stable interest payments from your loan to the company. As a lender to the company, you also usually have more rights in bankruptcy court than stockholders do, if the company runs into that situation. You're more likely to be compensated in a bankruptcy proceeding before shareholders.
A downside to owning bonds over stocks is that, even though stocks are usually far more prone to volatility, the possible financial rewards when stocks are performing well can potentially be far greater than bonds can ever hope to achieve.
Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Happy writing, and good luck!
Read my previous post about the many career opportunities that writing skills open up
Monday, January 7, 2019
In this post, I want to talk about exciting opportunities in the world of trades. Examples of professions in the trades include that of plumber, electrician, machinist, painter, carpenter, welder, and mechanic, to name a few.
Skilled tradespeople are in extremely high demand these days, and that's great news for young men and women like yourselves interested in exploring these fields.
High demand means the labor supplies in these fields are low, and that means you and your skills are rare, or scarce. And that translates into high pay, solid benefits, and plenty of opportunities for advancement if you stick around and take your work seriously.
Why is that? Why is the demand so high for these valuable skills and talents? What are the reasons behind such low labor supplies?
For starters, so the story goes, the trades were often overlooked, downplayed, and just ignored outright for many years by high school guidance offices, teachers, parents, the media, and society in general. The trades took a backseat to the traditional four-year university, which became the popular talk of the town, so to speak. Everyone wanted their children to attend university, and if they were given other suggestions, they took offense to that, as if they were being told their children weren't good enough for university. Of course, I'm speaking in pretty broad, general terms, but you get the picture. The long and short of it is that students were steered away from the trades as an option post-high school. Because of this, not enough young people were going into these lines of work. Meanwhile, the tradespeople already doing this work are getting older and retiring or starting to think about retirement. There weren't enough younger workers to replace them, and there still aren't enough.
Now, we're at a critical point with the labor supply. Companies can't find enough skilled workers, or young people interested in learning. Case in point: Before arriving in my current line of work as an instructional aide at a public high school, I had always worked in business, and my last position before this one was as an office manager for a remodeling contractor in Muskego. We attempted to find a young apprentice, someone who would be interested in earning on the job while learning the trade of carpentry from our highly-skilled carpenters, who are aging and in need of additional help. I put out this job ad looking for an apprentice, and we advertised it heavily in our area. No one responded.
If you're interested in exploring careers in the skilled trades, here are some great Web resources and ideas to get you thinking further:
Do you have any shop classes at your school that you can try out?
Anyone in your family or family friends in the trades that you can talk with?
5 Booming Trade Careers That Don’t Require Student Loans
Skilled Trade Jobs in Demand
Careers in building and fixing things - Khan Academy
Sunday, January 6, 2019
Training and employment funds available for IT careers!
The TechHire IT Program:
The TechHire IT program offers qualifying young people 17-29 years old (with some exceptions) with a high school degree or equivalent an opportunity to begin their career in Informational Technology (IT). Training and Job Placement will focus on IT-related jobs such as Network Security, Computer Systems Analysts, Software Developers, and Computer User Support Specialists. The TechHire program is Free.
The TechHire program has two options:
1) If you already have some work experience or education in IT, you can work one-on-one with a career coach to identify needed IT certifications or college courses to complete your degree and to find a job in IT. This program begins as soon as you are ready and registered!
2) You can attend an intensive, 4-month “boot camp” style training for certification in IT Service Center Help Desk Technician, including CompTia A+, work with a Career Coach and receive job placement services to start your new career. The next boot camp begins on Monday, February 11, 2019.
For more information:
- For further information contact (414) 921-0711 or complete an online inquiry form at https://employmke.wufoo.com/forms/kefz7qh127ysaz/.
- Information sessions are scheduled for January 10 and 11 if you call or inquire. You're welcome to share this with others as well.
Tech/Hire IT Service Center Technician Certificate Program brought to you by Employee Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, and Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC).
Please be sure to check out the Job Center of Wisconsin Facebook page.
JCW is a product of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Wisconsin Job Center system.
Job Center of Wisconsin
Following are a number of Web sites, resources, and ideas pertaining to scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid for college. I feature both Milwaukee-area and broader national information. Check back from time to time, as this page may be updated and expanded.
A Google search on "scholarships for high school seniors milwaukee"
South Side Scholarship Foundation
Cream City Foundation
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI)
Wisconsin Technical Colleges
Check with your local chamber of commerce and community service clubs and foundations like Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, Moose, women's club, etc.
Check with your high school's guidance office.
Check with the colleges and universities you're interested in attending.
Check with any particular industry or trade organizations whose fields you're interested in working in.
STEM scholarships from the Department of Defense (DoD)
Finding college scholarships (from this blog, April 2019)
By now, you know I possess decent writing skills, and you can probably tell that I enjoy writing. In fact, I genuinely love it.
In this post, I attempt to offer several concrete examples of ways you can pair writing with your own hobbies and interests - things you really love and can't get enough of - to land jobs, develop your career, meet new and interesting people, and even go into business for yourself. If you can develop your writing skills - the ability to tell a story, make a case, connect with and relate to others - an endless sea of possibilities awaits you.
An even more endless sea of possibilities awaits you, if there is such a thing, if you don't mind speaking in front of others or going in front of a video camera, and you can verbally speak as articulately and polished as you can speak in written form.
Come, let's explore further...
To begin, let's get your thinking going by asking, "What are your hobbies and interests?" Do you:
- Enjoy playing and/or watching sports?
- Collect anything, like coins, sports cards and memorabilia, dolls, antiques, stamps, comic books, etc., etc.?
- Love a particular subject - it could be anything from biology or math to a particular period in history or a specific industry?
- Enjoy traveling?
- Like cooking?
- Get excited about anything to do with cars - it could be design, or working on them, or a particular brand or model, or a certain type of engine family?
- Like photography or any other form of art?
- Love certain types of music or follow certain bands?
Now that you're thinking about your passions, let's start coming up with those practical examples.
If you love the game of baseball and its history, you can become a baseball writer and historian. You can write and talk about all your favorite aspects of the game - the lives and careers of your favorite players, the history of teams, playoff predictions, records and record holders, the rules of the game and how they've changed over time, etc.
If you love your city's or state's NBA or NFL team, you can write all about the team on a blog you create that's solely dedicated to that team. Start building a decent-sized following, and who knows - maybe one day you're following your team around the country as a sports reporter or game broadcaster. Maybe you can even work for the team some day in marketing or public relations! Sound exciting?
If you enjoy anything to do with cars, or you collect anything, or you're passionate about a certain subject or time period in history, or you're really into a certain genre of music - again, a blog might be an awesome start, and from there, who knows - you start getting your work in magazines, newspapers, books, catalogs, and/or on other Web sites. As an expert on something, you could be approached for interviews to share your knowledge and insights.
The same goes with your love for cooking and cuisine, works of art, and traveling - plenty of opportunities to position yourself as an expert within certain subcategories of these broad topics. Cookbooks, magazine and newspaper articles, interviews, blogs, etc., could certainly be in your future.
Here's a fact - there are experts on organized crime - essentially, the mafia - who have been writing, speaking, interviewing, and advising for decades. Writers like Selwyn Raab, Jerry Capeci, and George Anastasia, to name a few. Obviously, this must be a subject they were really passionate about, and they took that interest and turned it into long and successful careers.
Finally, and you may find this one especially fun at this point in your lives - social media. If you can connect with customers and potential customers in meaningful ways about products, services, experiences, recommendations, and through interesting stories and engaging reflections, there are plenty of small businesses around your area that can use your help with marketing on their social media pages. That's right - you can get paid to post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. I have a strong marketing background myself, and have certainly performed this type of work for different clients and employers over the years.
In closing, writing opens up virtually endless opportunities to make a comfortable living being an expert on something that you truly love and find interesting.
In this post, I mentioned a few times the idea of starting a blog. Here's a great article entitled, Why You Should Start a Blog in High School (And How You Can Do It). Here's another great article with a few pointers on how to make money with a blog. There are all kinds of ways you can sell advertising on, and generate other types of revenue through, your blog.
If you really enjoy writing, or you're starting to discover an interest in it, check out the Poets & Writers magazine's database of writing contests. Build your writing skills and your overall creativity with these writing prompts for fun and practice.