Monday, October 5, 2015

Military Transition: Your Next Assignment

What you don’t do in the military: write resumes, interview for a job (normally), and you never negotiate salary and compensation. What you will do during your transition is write resumes, interview for a job and negotiate salary and compensation.

Can you imagine negotiating compensation for your next tour of duty? “Ma’am I am really interested in your offer but can you arrange for me to telecommute on Fridays and get me a free membership at the country club?” And that is not the only hurdle you may have to overcome…some employers have a few ill-perceived notions about you and the military:
  • You are rigid
  • You don’t understand profit and loss
  •  You have had unlimited resources
  •  Leading is easy because you just give orders
These misled perceptions can create barriers, but a well prepared and focused resume will dispel all of these notions and set you up for success.

In the latest installment of the eMajor College to Career Webinar Series Randy Blackmon, retired U.S. Navy Captain and eCore/eMajor Senior Enrollment Manager, discusses this and other tips to help military members transition to the civilian workforce.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Non-Traditional is the New Traditional

Cathy is a 56 year old grandmother of 8
and is completing her degree online through
USG eCore at Dalton State College.

Asked to picture a college student who makes up the majority population attending classes and most would describe that person as being "fresh-out-of-high-school" or in the 18-22 year old range. Perhaps up until the year 2000, that picture was (mostly) accurate. But these days, college students are older and have either not attended college or are returning after an absence. The nontraditional student now makes up 73% of all students enrolled in undergraduate programs.

The broad definition of an adult learner or "non-traditional" student is anyone who is 25 years old or older. But age is just one of the descriptors that captures an ever expanding group (some 8.4 million) of adult students who often have family and work responsibilities as well as other life circumstances that have interfered with their educational goals. 

Those who fall into the nontraditional learner category meet at least one of the following common characteristics: They
  • have delayed enrollment into post-secondary education
  • attend part time
  • are financially independent of parents 
  • work full time while enrolled
  • have dependents other than a spouse
  • are a single parent
  • have a G.E.D. or High School Equivalency certificate  

Why the growth in nontraditional student population? Many professionals realize that career growth, higher earnings and the chance to maximize their potential are either slowed or are non-existent without at college degree. 

Given that so many adults are furthering their education, the importance of the University System of Georgia's efforts to provide quality, flexible opportunities—such as distance learning, accelerated course formats, and prior learning assessment (PLA)—is profound. These programs are increasingly commonplace today, allowing for greater access and completion rates. In fact, the Lumina Foundation found that the number one factor contributing to an adult learner's persistence and achievement in Higher Education is the availability of online courses and resources.

What does this mean for those out there considering starting or returning to college later in life? It means you are not alone - you are actually in the majority right now! So brush off that thinking cap of yours and join the 8.4 million other adults who are advancing taking charge of their futures through higher education. 

Need help getting started? Georgia has a great resource for adults returning to school called Go Back. Move Ahead. Here, you can browse all of the adult-friendly programs in Georgia, and get in contact with a representative that can help you navigate the enrollment process. 


Friday, September 4, 2015

How to Master the 3 Stages of Interviewing

Dress appropriately for the interview. 
Much information is available regarding interviewing and how to be a top notch interview candidate, but one must avail toneself of the most relevant information. Knowing the phases of the interview process and some key strategies will help you better prepare and will ultimately put you on the "short" list with potential employers. Seems simple, but you have to be diligent with all 3 phases of interviewing (before, during and after).

Preparation is twofold. Thoroughly research the organization, specific department, and the job role. This requires significant time and energy. At the same time, you will be doing some self-reflection to determine if this is a proper fit for you. Prepping the resume for EACH  job that you apply to will help you define and determine your skill sets to see where you may be lacking for the industry or job, and can also help you appropriately articulate your strengths. You know your resume is done well if you get called for an interview. You should spend ample time reviewing interview questions so that you are comfortable with how to "sell yourself."

Ask yourself if you "look the part," during the interview. Are you equipped with Skype, conference calling, or other possible mode of connection with the interviewer if that is part of the process?  Have you paid special attention to proper grooming, hygiene, dress and manners for the face to face interview? Are you leaving a positive impression on everyone you have encountered in the process, including the administrative assistant who checked you in?

After-the-interview practices can carry you over the top as a candidate and can, in some cases, salvage a poor or botched interview experience.  The same day that you have a phone or face to face interview - sit down and pen a hand-written thank you. Purchasing a box of 10 generic thank you cards at the Dollar Store to have on hand for all professional encounters will demonstrate proper etiquette and gratitude for time each person spent with you. The thank you should be sincere and mention specific talking points discussed during your call or face to face meeting. With a quick website search - you can locate the correct spelling of the persons' names with whom you spoke, their titles, and a mailing address.  An email can also be sent and is absolutely better than no acknowledgement at all.

For more detail on these and other interviewing tips click here to view the 15 minute archived webinar. The internet is full of great material that covers all aspects of the phases of the interview process. Plus, be sure to check in with your home institution's Career Services Department for direct assistance with resume assistance, interviewing practice, employer networking opportunities and career fair information.

Success can be yours! "Success is where preparation and opportunity meet." Bobby Unser

Monday, August 10, 2015

Relax! It's Back to School Time.

Stressed about school? Relax!
As the time to begin classes draws nearer, many people find that their stress and anxiety levels ramp up in tandem. Let's look at some relaxation techniques to help you use less energy combating stress, thereby directing it onto tasks like school, work and family life.

Deep Breathing
As stress increases, we clench our jaws, and our shoulders ride up toward our ears — forcing our breathing to become shallow. Shallow breathing, or chest breathing, affects our productivity significantly because it prevents the brain from getting the amount of freshly oxygenated blood it needs to function optimally. Breathing fully from the diaphragm, or deep breathing, allows more oxygen in and more carbon dioxide to exit. Deep breathing counteracts the fight or flight, or stress, response so that we are no longer reacting defensively to perceived threats to our well being, eliciting the "Relaxation Response." Coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, the Relaxation Response is the body being in a state of deep relaxation which lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and relaxes muscles.

The technique for deep breathing is relatively simple:
  1. Place your hand lightly on your belly, whether lying down or sitting.
  2. Breathe in to the count of five, ensuring that your hand rises and falls with the inhalation/exhalation.
  3. Exhale to the count of five; most people need to deep breathe for twenty to thirty minutes for the full Relaxation Response to occur, but after even a few minutes of deep breathing, you will more than likely feel your shoulders start to relax — a positive step forward.
Muscle Relaxation
The best way to get your muscles to relax is to tense them. Sounds counter intuitive, but by focusing on tensing one muscle at a time and then focusing on relaxing it, you become more aware of where you are holding stress. For instance, if you raise and tighten your shoulders and then focus on relaxing them away from your ears, you become more aware that your shoulders were tense and tight. Doing a "body check" periodically through the day, you'll begin to see where you typically hold stress and you can be mindful of relaxing that area.

Body Check:
  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
  2. Starting at the feet, work your way up the body tensing and then relaxing feet, calves, thighs, stomach, arms, hands, and shoulders. Breathe deeply using the technique described above and as you exhale, relax each muscle group; spend 3-5 breaths on each area.
We all have different ways of coping with stress; from talking with friends to eating, and from sleeping too much to grinding our teeth — coping strategies are as varied as the stressors with which we each deal. And while you may feel tired and depleted and think you couldn't bear to do cardio or lift weights, exercise is one of the best ways to deal with stress. Stress increases our sensitivity to pain through pro-inflammatory cytokines; and our brains process emotional "injuries" in the same way they process physical injuries. Exercise has been shown to reverse the production of systemic inflammation through an increase in endorphins — our bodies' own pain relievers that act much like morphine in reducing our perception of pain.

New research has also shown that exercise is linked to an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which promotes brain nerve-cell health. Better nerve cells equate to increases in learning and memory and helps push the mood reset button. Exercise encourages better sleep, more energy and the release of sex hormones in the brain. Finally, exercise increases blood flow to the brain which encourages mental alertness and concentration. So get up off that couch!

These three methods are by no means the only ways to prevent or reduce stress, but used together provide a powerful recipe to enhance your relaxation efforts. Try any or all of them as you prepare for this semester and let us know how they worked for you!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Enjoying the Journey - Codee Burton

The journey to a college degree is not always an easy one, but Codee Burton is enjoying it every step of the way. He is fortunate...He has a strong support system, which can make you or break you during your college career. He also makes the most of his free time, which creates a good work-life balance. Too much work can be hard on the soul. 

What is your occupation?  
I work at the Drury Inn and Suites in Valdosta, GA.

What is your college major?  
My major is Organizational Leadership, emphasis on Public Relations.

Why did you choose to take courses through eMajor?  
I like eMajor because it makes college, with all of it's challenges both in and out of the classroom, just a little bit more convenient. More importantly the professors and advisors on campuses are what make it so easy and accessible to use. I haven't had one professor that hasn't been more than willing to do what it takes to see us succeed throughout the course.

Who is the biggest inspiration for your education?  
The biggest inspiration for my education is my family. Most of my family did not have the opportunity to attend a college or university; many of them that did, didn't finish. This pushes me to keep going and get that degree! My grandfather, Pappy, has told me thousands of times how he didn't finish school and how he wishes he could have. I don't like regret, and his advice has always been an inspiration for everything I have done in my life. My other main source of inspiration is my Mom; she never let me quit anything. At a very young age I did not appreciate that or a lot of the things my mother did for me. Now, I cannot imagine what, or more importantly WHO, I would be without her. She is the fuel that drives me to be better than I was yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

What is something cool you've learned this semester in your eMajor class?  
One cool thing I learned this semester was how to build a "blog website." I had a class where the entire semester was to make a website, specifically a blog, and we were to "make it our own." It was overwhelming at first but then as it started to fall together I was actually kind of surprised at the end product.

What three words would you use to describe your online instructor?  
Dedicated, Sincere, Caring. eMajor instructors are how all college professors should be. They care about the well-being and education of each and every student they have. 

Where is your favorite place to visit in the USA?  
My favorite places to visit in the US of A is by far Atlanta, GA and Bristol, TN. This is where my ever so inspiring and supportive family live. My brother, mom, and stepfather are in Atlanta. I love seeing them when I get to come home. The rest of my family is in Bristol - my dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. I get up there once a year around Christmas and love every second I get to spend with them!  

What kind of mood are you in right now, and why?  
Right now my mood is wonderful. Haha! I am watching Christmas movies, I have the day off, just finished school, planned a hunting trip next week, fishing trip at the end of the month, and in a couple weeks it will be Christmas! Hard to be in a bad mood at this point.

What is your favorite study spot?  
I don't have a favorite study spot, but I do the majority of studying at either my or my girlfriend's house.  

What is something your online classmates don't know about you?  
Something my online classmate's don't know about me would be that I was President of the Delta Chi Fraternity, Valdosta State Chapter from 2011-2012. 

What are your career plans beyond eMajor?  
My career plans are loose at this point, but I do have a few options. I want to stay in the business/sales department. Ever since I can remember I have been told, "you were a natural-born salesman." I rejected it at first, I think because it was the "beaten path" taken by many friends and family of mine. But as I have realized, sales is a great way to go!

Is there anything interesting you would like to share about yourself?  
I am an avid sports fan, athlete, and live to play my favorite sports; football, basketball, baseball/softball, and tennis. I have collected over 20 championships at VSU over the past years and have even traveled around the state of Georgia and Florida for annual tournaments that we WON! Recently I picked up the game of Disc Golf and won a tournament earlier this year as well as placed in my first sanctioned tournament.   

All of this has been a remarkable journey that I could not have completed without my friends and family. Buddy, my step dad, has never let me think any less of myself than he does, and although he won't admit it,  I hung the moon to him. He and my brother, Maks, are so much alike, without them it would be hard to keep on going and finish this wild ride that we call college. Of course, Pappy and Bobba are always there for an inspiring, feel-good sentiment whenever I call. My mom, like mentioned before, has never let me quit and always pushed me to do better and be better even when I thought I was at my best or my worst. It would be impossible to say that I would be the man I am today without them. 

Thank you for all of your support!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Military Transition: Resume Concepts

Military Transition: Resume Concepts

What you don’t do in the military: write resumes, interview for a job (normally), and you never negotiate salary and compensation. What you will do during your transition is write resumes, interview for a job and negotiate salary and compensation.

Can you imagine negotiating compensation for your next tour of duty? “Ma’am I am really interested in your offer but can you arrange for me to telecommute on Fridays and get me a free membership at the country club?” And that is not the only hurdle you may have to overcome…some employers have a few ill-perceived notions about you and the military:
  • You are rigid
  • You don’t understand profit and loss
  •  You have had unlimited resources
  •  Leading is easy because you just give orders
These misled perceptions can create barriers, but a well prepared and focused resume will dispel all of these notions and set you up for success.

An effective way to create the building blocks of your resume is to produce a core or mega resume with 75 to 100 accomplishments. These accomplishments should include results, i.e., percentages, dollars, time and opportunity capitalized on. If possible, you will want to include how you achieved the accomplishment through leadership, restructuring, collaboration, etc. Your completed mega resume can be used as a source to draft each new resume for each specific objective or job interest.

So, how important is it to determine an objective, industry or specific job interest? Yogi Berra said “If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.”  You will need to focus on an objective or a limited number of objectives. Consider what you want to do which should be some combination of your skill sets, what you like to do and what someone will pay you to do.  Before moving on with your resume draft there are two important aspects of job hunting that go hand in hand with your resume development, Networking and Research.

Network, network, network…we have all heard the buzz that networking contributes to job hunting success, but how important is it? According to Gevry Grispin and Mark Mehler, CareerXRoads, You are 54 times more likely to get hired if an employee of your target company refers you than if you posted your resume on every large job board at the same time! Networking also adds resources you can leverage during your resume draft and interview process. And along with networking you will want to build your industry knowledge-base through research.

Researching your objective industry for local, national and international trends and building an historical prospective will add to your depth and breadth of knowledge and allow you to capitalize on opportunity. As you build a more comprehensive picture of your objective landscape you will be better prepared to put down on paper or relate verbally how you uniquely solve your future employer’s problems.

With your completed mega resume you can pick and choose from the list of your accomplishments that best support your objective. Each job you apply for should be supported with a unique and focused resume resulting from your research, job description, and duties.

One common resume challenge for military members is writing in the proper language, i.e., non-Department of Defense terms. Avoid acronyms and ensure that you translate your accomplishments and duties into business related terms according to your objective.

Resumes have one purpose…to get you an interview! According to the McLean Group, your resume should SHOUT from the mountain tops: I know what you need, I can do it, I can prove I did it, I can tell you how I did it, and I can do it again. It is not just about your responsibilities. It may sound impressive to state that you were responsible for $100,000 in operating capital but the reader does not know if you squandered it or improved your organization with it.  Remember it is more about your accomplishments; what did you do that resulted in improvements or how did you save money or time? You restructured, changed processes, empowered teams, motivated, collaborated, etc.

There are several resume formats: chronological, functional and combination. Your choice may depend on your particular objective and target industry. The combination resume works well most of the time because the first page states your accomplishments that support your skills sets and objective while the second page details chronological or professional history, and describes your work history and experience. It is recommended by several job hunting agencies to keep your resume down to no more than two pages in length. If you wish to make it any longer…don’t.

There are many resources available that offer resume templates and formats. You may even hire someone to write it for you, but be advised there is valuable learning in the process of developing your own resume. An objective is needed to give you a goal or direction, strong networking and research builds a solid industry knowledge base, and creating a mega resume can assist in drafting multiple resumes, not to mention giving you an interview resource. Never lose sight of the purpose of your get you an interview!

Randy Blackmon is Senior Enrollment Manager for USG eCore and eMajor, and is a retired U.S. Navy Captain.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Meet Tara Brown: Working Mother and eMajor Student

Tara Brown with her husband and two children.

Tara Brown, 39
School: Dalton State College
Major:  Organizational Leadership
Expected Graduation: May 2016

Why is completing your college degree important to you?
I feel that having a degree makes you more competitive in a job search. It’s also a sense of accomplishment to finish my degree because no one else in my family has a degree.

What are your career goals?
I am lucky that I already have a great job. My degree will allow me more opportunities in my field.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A secretary in a doctor’s office. I actually took my dream a step further and am now in leadership with physician practices.

Why did you choose to take online classes through eMajor?
To have the flexibility to do my schoolwork when it’s convenient for me. It also allows me to take more credit hours at a time and still work a full time job and have a family.

What eMajor class has been your favorite?
I like all of my eMajor classes because they are relevant to my day to day work.

How would you describe the instructors you’ve had in your eMajor classes?
They have all been extremely helpful.

Besides being a college student, what do you spend your time doing?
I work full time, am a mom to two kids and I’m a wife. I love to travel, shop, and read.

How and when do you make time to spend on your school work?
I have designated hours each day to do work. Most of the time it is evenings and weekends.

Who inspires you and why?
My husband inspires me. He finished his 4-year degree and has a great job. He is a hard worker and has an excellent work ethic.

What would you say to someone who is considering taking their first online class?
Be diligent about spending time on the assignments. It’s so easy to fall behind if you allow personal stuff to get in the way.