5 Steps to Lifelong Learning for Leaders!

Learning should never stop with the receipt of a diploma or a degree.  It should be a lifelong process.  This is especially so for leaders who take charge in their industries.  Individuals who aspire to be a leader, advocate, or working professional should take as many steps as they can to be a lifelong learner.

Why is this so important?

Because, the world is consistently changing and growing.  Technology is rapidly shifting, and all of these complex changes affect how various industries operate, and how this can change the career landscape.  To truly stand out and prepare for growth in an industry, individuals should continually educate themselves.  This can provide the competitive edge to take your leadership position, company, or industry to new levels.

Here are 5 steps to lifelong learning!

1.  If growth in your field requires a higher level degree or certification, go for it!  Gaining an education is more accessible than ever as colleges and universities add programs that cater to the busy schedules of professionals.  Utilize this opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge you need to be competitive for growth.

2.  As a leader, one of the best ways to learn is to listen to those you lead.  Ask for your employees opinion, and actually listen to what they have to say.  People will follow those they respect, and they will respect you more if you treat them with respect.  This means valuing them.

3.  Subscribe to periodicals, magazines, or other services in your industry.  This is where you will find hot topics, studies, or cutting edge information that could give you the insight you need.

4.  Regularly evaluate your skills, strengths, and weaknesses.  If you know where your weaknesses are, you can fix them.  For example, if you are looking for a job or for a vertical or lateral move, and you know you have a deficit in specific software, learn how to use it.  There are textbooks, websites, and YouTube videos that can teach you everything you need to know.

5.  Set aside 30-60 minutes each day to read about your industry.  It is amazing the amount of information that can be ascertained from this minimal amount of reading each day.  It can keep you well-informed and ready to handle complications, grow as a leader and professional, and make necessary changes to keep up with technological advances.  It can set you apart from those who are left behind.  Knowledge is power.

Take these steps to be a lifelong learner and an incredible leader!

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10 Paths to Becoming Positively Productive!

Everyone hits a rut in life.  Perhaps a period of stagnation, unemployment, post-graduation job searching, and so much more.  Life is consistently throwing challenges our way, and it can be overwhelming at times.  It is easy to become lost in the shuffle.  It is easy to become glazed over going through endless job postings, altering resumes and applications, and updating information.  It is definitely easy to get stuck in a job with no growth or lateral change.

How can you get through this period and make positive changes?

The answer is productivity.  Yes, going through job postings is productive, but there are alternate forms of productivity you should consider to not only help you become more appealing to prospective employers, but also to enhance your life, skills, and experience.  Here are some of the best things you can do to become more productive.

1.  Find your strengths and skills, and blog about it.  Connect your blog to social networks and job sites.

2.  Connect to like-minded individuals.

3.  Take free courses through Coursera or other online sites to keep your brain active.

4.  Take classes at a local college and perhaps consider a certificate or higher degree.

5.  If you are in a field where your personal work matters, create a stunning portfolio.

6.  Learn any computer programs you are not familiar with, especially ones you see regularly in jobs you apply for.  YouTube has many videos that can help, and you can get books from Amazon.

7.  Stay in touch with your network because you never know who may have a tip for a job.

8.  Remain patient.  It can be difficult, especially if you are unemployed, but everything takes time, and if you lose patience, you lose positivity, and this could come across in an interview.

9.  Reach out to friends, co-workers, fellow graduates, or anyone you know who is in a similar situation.  Support is crucial.

10.  Believe in your skills and develop the ones you need so you can sell yourself in job interviews and applications.

Being productive when it comes to these stationary periods of life will actually help to get the ball rolling.  People notice those who work hard and who are willing to put in extra effort to continue to expand their skills.  Be the person employers can’t live without.

Taking on the World Post-Graduation!

The past six years of my life have been dedicated to academics and growth based on education combined with leadership.  I have found my self-confidence grow as I became more knowledgeable about the world and my place within it.  I have led student organizations, attended conferences, found success with my writing, and discovered my strength in public speaking.  I became passionate about advocacy, and learned ways in which I could use my skills to make a difference.  This is what I gained with my education because it was a strong liberal arts education with a focus on creating women leaders.

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Now, I am a graduate.  I was proud to be the 2015 commencement student speaker at Cedar Crest College, and when I walked across the stage, I knew it was symbolic for walking into a new phase in my life.  Graduation is exhilarating, but also an emotional time.  One journey is ending, and this is bittersweet because while endings lead to beginnings, life will never be the same.  A few days later, the realization of that loss is prevalent, and fellow graduates begin new phases of their life, or post panicked comments on Facebook because they do not know where they are going.

I am in the job search mode as many of my friends are, but I know my college provided me with the skills I need to be successful.  That, combined with my confidence and determination, will lead me to a rewarding life.  I know I may start in a position that is not what I hoped, but I also know I may very well find the position that will be rewarding and lead to a career I will be happy with.  This is the roller coaster of post-graduation.  It is the next phase, which requires just as much work and dedication as the previous educational phase, if not more.  It is the time for graduates to prove themselves.

While this can be a time of anxiety and fear, it can also be an exciting adventure and another learning experience in life.  For those fellow graduates out there, those who are searching for their place in the career world, do not forget your worth.  Remember that you worked hard for your degree/s and you should embrace this new challenge just as you embraced the challenges of college.  Be proud of your accomplishments, and bravely put yourself out there.  Be confident and explore what this new path has to offer!

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Why I Chose a Women’s College!

The Lehigh Valley, where I live, is full of colleges and universities.  Each school has its unique culture, great programs, clubs and activities.  In the heart of Allentown is Cedar Crest College, a women’s college founded in 1867.  Its campus spans many acres and is listed as an arboretum.  Its historic buildings mix with the contemporary, just as the traditions of the college have remained steadfast while welcoming change.  Every day, I walk to work and classes, to meetings and activities, and I feel truly at home and welcome.  This leads me to why I chose a women’s college.

Cedar Crest welcomed me as a continuing education student, and I found the environment to encourage growth, leadership, and success.  There are opportunities around each corner, and I have taken as many as I could over the years.  The faculty and staff want students to not only pass, but to excel, and they support creativity, initiative, and innovation.  I have found my education to be hands-on and it has focused on how to apply information gained to real world experiences.  In addition, I have found my voice at Cedar Crest.  I am now more empowered than ever, and I am ready to make changes in the world.  Not only am I ready, but I also believe that I can because Cedar crest has inspired me and instilled within me a higher level of confidence.  I believe in myself and my abilities, and I believe in each student who graduates from Cedar Crest because they have been given the tools to succeed if they choose to use them.

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Cedar Crest College creates leaders.  This is a fact.  I am an example of what a women’s college can do in a modern world.  While Cedar Crest has a strong tradition, and so much history that is worthwhile to explore, it is the future that is so exciting.  Here I am about to graduate, and all I can think about is how much love I have for this incredible institution, and how can I be there as it evolves into the 21st century.  With exciting new programs in health care, a new MBA, and a strong new writing major, I am enamored with this dynamic path Carmen Twillie Ambar, Cedar Crest College’s esteemed president, is crafting.  She is continually meeting and exceeding challenges put forth by the needs of the college and community. This passion is catching, and I want to remain involved.  I can see myself becoming just as active as an alum as I am now, and working to help the college meet strategic goals.  I am more passionate about this unique world of higher education than I ever imagined I could be, and I hope to to use my skills in this way after graduation.

I look forward to walking across that stage in may and entering into a new chapter of my life as an alum of Cedar Crest College.  I also plan to give back because so many wonderful  donors to the college have helped to support my education. My last month of college is coming to a close, and I feel like this part of my life is one of the hardest to let go.  I have been truly affected by my experiences at Cedar Crest, and I am so incredibly thankful.  I know the new chapter will be exciting, and Cedar Crest will still be a major part of my life.  Perhaps I will even pursue my master’s degree there soon.  However, the undergraduate experience is a unique one, and it will be over for me in 5 short weeks.  The lifestyle I have known, the friendships created, and the overall experience will be gone physically, and only remain as memory.  I chose a women’s college because it was right for me.  It gave me more than I could have expected.  In fact, it changed my life forever.  I would choose Cedar Crest again, in a heartbeat.

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How to Know if you are on the Right Path!

Sometimes, we hit a point in our lives where we wonder if we are on the right path.  Perhaps you have been let go from your job, maybe you are stuck in a position that does not make you feel valued or challenged, or maybe you are just feeling like you are not happy.  If any of this is true for you, you are probably ready to make a change.  In fact, if you are not happy or working on something that makes you feel like you are being true to yourself, you should consider making a change.

Now, this does not mean that you should impulsively leave a job that you have found security in because it makes you unhappy.  This means you may need to re-evaluate where you are in your life and where you want to be.  Once you know who you are and what your goal is, you need to make decisions on how to get there.  With the challenges in the economy and job market, security is important, but you can keep your job while making changes, gaining education, negotiating with an employer, or seeking opportunities.

The main thing is that you find what you are passionate about and pursue it.  It may take more work on your part if you have to start a book, build a business, or go to school while still working, but the people who find success are those who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and put in a hard day of work.  You will know when you are on the right path because you will feel proud, confident, and happy!

Pursuing Your Potential!

Many people live in the past, spending a great deal of their time regretting decisions, and considering where they went wrong in life.  Others spend time in the present, working to achieve short-term goals and to pay the bills.  Then, there are those who live in the present without truly living.  They barely get by, and they do not work towards anything.  Finally, there are the few who see the long-term goals, the potential they have to achieve something great.  These people are the ones who have big ideas, who dream big, who think big, and have success written all over them.  This is a great place to be, but without the motivation and drive to actually pursue your potential, you will never get to those beautiful long-term goals that shine like stars on a lonely night.

Depending on the goals you have, you may have a great deal of work to do, and if you plan to be successful, you should plan to have a lot to do.  It takes hard work and dedication to reach a goal, and it must be something you believe in or have passion for or else you are more likely to give up.  Here are the three steps you should take to begin when pursuing your potential.

1.  Determine what potential you truly have.  In fact, go beyond determining and decide if this potential lends itself to a specific goal you have, and if you are truly passionate about this goal.

2.  Make a plan!  Figure out what your goal is, and make a plan to help you reach it.  This includes timelines.  You need to know when you will start, what steps you need to take, and what your goal date of completion is.  You should think of the challenges that may be faced, and how you can best deal with them.  You need to determine if you need contacts, if you need money, and any other important elements that will get you there.  Sometimes, this may mean education, or work experience.

3.  Push yourself to take the first step.  Make the calls, enroll in a degree or certificate program, determine the loan you may need, seek investors, network with other individuals who could be helpful, and be ready to sell yourself.  Sometimes, you will need to boost your social media presence to reach a goal, and this can be time consuming.  Prepare for the amount of time you will need to invest and stick with it.

It can be difficult, and only a small percentage of people truly pursue their potential.  However, the work put into it can be incredibly rewarding in the end!

Why Failure is Fundamental to Success!

Failure!

This is not a word that brings happy thoughts.  In fact, it is something we avoid so much that we often miss opportunities because we see the risk of failure that is attached.  Failure is something we all must face at some point in our lives.  From grades, to relationships, to careers.  We will climb, and we will fall, eventually.

The ugly truth is we can fear failure so much that we spend more time focusing on it than dreaming and creating.  We may not take a high powered job because we are afraid we cannot handle it, and we will fail.  We may trade one major in college for a safer one because we are afraid we will fail if we are challenged too much.  We may not stick with relationships long enough to let them flourish because if it fails, we will be heartbroken.  In fact, we have given the fear of failure a great deal of power over our lives.

If there is anything I have learned, it is that I would not be the strong, confident, and intelligent woman I am right now if I did not take risks.  I used to hide in fear, not believing I could do the things I wanted to do.  It all boiled down to my fear of failing myself and the ones I respect and love.  It took some major failures for me to find out that I was stronger than I thought.  Then, it took a great deal of risk to get to where I am now.  I am not even close to done as I know I will continue to risk failure because each time I do, I grow, learn, and discover even more about myself.  I now know I must fail many times before I will succeed a few.  I also know, the success is worth it because I will have earned it.

The next time you consider turning down an opportunity, or cast aside a dream, think about the reason behind it.  Do you not want the opportunity, or are you afraid you will fail?  Take more chances, aim for more dreams, and when you fail, try again.

Creative Expression and Innovation!

As business and education become more technologically based, and there is a high level of emphasis on statistics and analysis, it seems as though the room for creative expression has diminished.  School programs for music, theater, and the arts are harder to come by, especially in financially challenged school districts, and the youngest generation comprises of individuals that will suffer because of this.

I have always reveled in the arts.  With a profound love of reading and writing, I see joy in the act of creation.  As I am free to explore more of my creative side, I find my ideas and my ability to be innovative increases.  I can’t wave a magic want and change the direction society is moving in.  Perhaps, there will be great things born of this generation.  However, I think it is important to make people aware of this problem because we can all have an influence on the outcome.

Many of us are educators, parents, aunts, or uncles.  We all have, or will have, contact with the future generations, and we can instill a love for the arts in them.  We can introduce them to the limitless expression available with a canvas and paint on the lawn on a bright spring morning, and a run through the sprinklers afterward to wash off the paint.  We can show them the beauty of architecture by explaining some of the greatest works and the feats it took to create them.  We can take them to a symphony, let them hear rock, jazz, and every other genre of music.  We can fill their hearts with a passion that can only come from exposure to beautiful creations.  From museums to art studios, we can give children the exposure they need.

We can give them a love for books because there is nothing like holding a favorite book in your hands with pages worn from lovingly turning them many times.  Children need this creative expression, but so do we.  We need to be reminded of the feelings that come from awe inspiring work.  We can now appreciate them with an experienced eye, as well as through the wonder in the eyes of our children.  Our society will always need technology and analytics to grow, but true innovation is born from creative expression.  And creativity is fed by an open door of discovery into the world of arts.  The less limited we are, the more we can grow and formulate ideas that can grow into the next greatest thing.

So, when you see your child hovering over technology, serious and dedicated to the gaming, discussions, or social media, provide them with an experience you can both benefit from.  Open the door for them and show them the magic on the other side!

Looking to the New Year Ahead!

The day has arrived.  A shiny new year has begun and people awoke with a buzz of excitement, nursing hangovers, and dreaming of accomplishing newly crafted resolutions.  I started my day like any other, but ideas, plans, goals, and dreams have been carried with me in my thoughts through the day.  I know I have an exciting year ahead, and a challenging one.

I will be graduating this May with my two bachelor’s degrees, and I will begin my journey into a career.  It is hard to describe the feelings that come to a soon-to-be-graduate because there are too many.  I have an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, knowing I have worked hard to achieve this goal.  In fact, it has been a six year process.  I also feel as though I have been provided invaluable skills and knowledge that will lead to an ability to move into a career.  I know the first half of the year will be full of classes, craziness, and sadly, the last semester of my undergraduate career.  I will maintain my expectations of myself, and I will graduate summa cum laude.  I will walk across the stage at graduation with a mix of pride and sadness.  A lump will fill my throat as I realize I am leaving behind the sights, sounds, and familiarity that has become a second home to me.

I will embark on a journey into the the world of job searching, learning the lingo, prepping resumes, and preparing for interviews.  I will carry the confidence I have gained with me into the workforce, knowing I am smart, strong, and capable.  I will perhaps consider graduate school, and finish my novel.  I have so many things that will fill my year with joy and achievement.  My educational and career goals will be a main focus for me this year, but there is something that must be considered in all things.  My family.

I love my family, and my son has had a challenging year with school and his behavior.  His mental illnesses have spun out of control, and it has been very difficult to work with him.  I will continue to get him the help he needs, but I will also work to help him to see his worth and potential because that will hopefully give him the strength he needs to change the path he is on.  The challenges I have faced as a mother with special needs children has been overwhelming at times, and I plan to continue to write and blog about advocacy issues because there are so many people who struggle with this problem.

I am truly excited to make this an incredible year, and I would love to hear the plans of others.  Please post any goals you may have or what you are most excited about in the coming year!