Could it be that the recession could force you to realize your dreams? We’ve heard this situation countless times—you went to school and then took the first job that offered a decent salary, in or nearby your desired area. Perhaps you stayed with your original company or maybe you made a few adjustments; in all, you most likely kept on track and reaped the benefits of your education. Then years later, after hard work and a fair display of loyalty, the country enters a recession and you get pink-slipped. Boy oh boy, it’s a story that’s unfolded countless times across the nation over the course of the past few months, and all signs point to even more layoffs. So what happens now? Perhaps it’s time for a total life reevaluation. Compare what you’ve been doing with what you’d most like to be doing and see how things align. If there’s a serious mismatch between wanting and doing, it may very well be time to make some life changes.

Countless times people end up doing work that isn’t exactly their calling in life and there are many reasons for this—everything from needing to pay off school to a wide variety of family issues. Such individuals learn to settle with their employment. Sometimes it takes something absolutely jarring to knock them off their throne of complacency. So you’ve tried life the traditional way, now perhaps you should try to realize your own American Dream. Is there something you wanted to study in school that you didn’t have the time or resources to study the first time around? It’s amazing the financial aid that is available to nontraditional students to finish or further your college education. So, what’s your dream?

The news stations are peppering scary stories about the economy with lighthearted tales about folks who were forced out of the office and their comfort zone only to go back to school to do what they’ve always dreamed of doing. A woman forced to work in a waffle restaurant realizes her calling as a pastry chef and enrolls in cooking school—things like that. The fired advertising exec who finally has time to put pen to paper and write that book. We love stories like this—so what’s your story?

There is nothing more disheartening than hearing a young college student mutter something like, “I don’t care what I do as long as it makes money.” Because in truth, you do care. Realizing and following your passion is imperative to happiness and even has positive health benefits (–hey never underestimate the power of fantastic mental health’s affect on your physical health) as well as improved interpersonal relationships and just a better sense of self satisfaction. So, how do you get the ball rolling?

If you’re reading this, you’ve obviously got access to a computer and that’s a fantastic place to start. Think of all the facets of what you most enjoy doing and Google the heck out of it until you can establish your path. For example if you love to play video games, how would you be at designing them? Or testing them? Or promoting them? Hey—how do you think those things turn out so amazing? Then you’ll want to see what resources are available around you for a related education so that you can set your dream in motion. A Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

We get comfortable spinning around in our normal circles. A shakeup like a layoff may be just what it takes for you to break out and finally live your dream. Give your life a performance review and figure out where you want to go. Whether it’s a different career or a career upgrade, perhaps in the end you’ll discover that the recession could be responsible for helping you to realize your dreams.

If you already have a college degree and you have years of work experience under your belt, why should you consider going back to school? Why not go back for the best reason of all—personal fulfillment.

 

The first time out, you attacked school with vim and vigor, followed your coursework outline for your intended career to the T. Then, due to either impatience or more likely expense, you took the minimum amount of classes possible in order to obtain your degree. After graduation, you probably went to work, maybe fast-tracked your way through, possibly even taking occasional classes along the way to simply benefit your workplace. When you’ve had a good run of things after a dozen plus years at work, did you suddenly realize that you cheated yourself of the education you really desired to get? Sans the frat-house experiences, did you miss something in school the first time out that you thought you’d catch later?

 

I cannot tell you the number of friends I speak with on a regular basis who have college regrets. Some obviously only desire to have a degree—how many times have you heard about someone being just “15 credits shy” of having their bachelor’s degree? But almost equally as tragic is that individual who planned their college map and followed it precisely and avoided taking any meandering side routes or hitting any rest stops along to way. In other words, they took the trip but forgot to enjoy the scenery.

 

Story time: A friend was just telling me the other day that since her parents had paid for her education she felt obligated to stay on course and never got to take the things that really interested her. She wanted to pursue women’s studies and take an art class but never took the opportunity while she was enrolled in college. A guy friend said that he’d wanted to take military history because it interested him, but wasn’t at all necessary for his accounting degree, so he didn’t.

 

Enrolling in college has never been easier. Financing is also widely available and easy to obtain. With online programs, there has never been a better time to go back to school. Did you know that online college programs allow you to arrange virtual study groups and attend lectures from the comfort of your own home? If this seems a little too hands-off for you, consider that most local colleges are limited resources due to size or budget. Attending online means that you’re drawing from a larger pool of qualified professors, speakers and if you desire, even career counselors. It’s really an amazing opportunity to get a top-notch education.

 

Selecting a college to attend online can be a harried process, especially when you Google and see just what all is out there. Even state universities are branching out and offering classes online that range from very part time to full time. In researching online educational choices, the same ones make the top of our lists each and every time: CTU, University of Phoenix, and Kaplan. These are colleges you can attend in the privacy of your own study, on your own terms, with flexible payment plans—from start to finish. Best of all, these institutions basically pioneered the concept of online education, so you’re dealing with folks who have a tried and true educational plan and an extensive bank of success stories you can reference. Ease, reliability, solid track record—that’s what we judged our picks on. Equally important in our decision making is the fact that these universities have an extensive roster of classes, areas of study and degree programs from which to choose—better than anything else we’ve seen out there to this point.

 

So, if your first time out in college was slightly less than fulfilling, consider returning on your own terms. Of course any number of universities will help you achieve a degree or complete designated continuation education studies, but don’t underestimate the importance of personal fulfillment when it comes to selecting your choice of college or coursework.

 

 

Perhaps you got a degree when you were younger and it even helped you get your job. Perhaps since that time you’ve been sailing along, not making a ton of cash, but making more than you know some folks are. So, why bother furthering your education at this stage in the game? Did you know that studies show that nearly 80% of employers give higher consideration to a job candidate who is furthering their education over an entry level applicant? Here are just a few more reasons why you should reconsider hitting the books.

 

Because you want a raise or promotion. Employers are more likely to give their college educated employees more and better raises and promotions. This is particularly true if you’re attending college at least partially-sponsored by an allowance from the company you work for. When a company offers a benefit like tuition reimbursement, you should know that they value educated employees. Those who show no reluctance to taking classes to learn how to use the new company computer system or program, for example, are obviously expanding their talent base and therefore more employable than their peers. The more skills you have, the more valuable you are, the more money you’ll make, the more staying power you’ll have. What a good cycle, eh? And believe me when I say that keeping a decent job in this recession has become every bit as important as increasing your pay.

 

Because you’re searching for a new job. Remember that figure up top about 80% of employers preferring workers who continue their education? Not only will you improve your skills for a new job by going back to school, but by ultimately obtaining certification or degree, you’re demonstrating that you’ve got the commitment required to see a job through to completion. Employers love this. So, review: switch up your skills, show your dedication, take a little pride in the program. 

 

Because you don’t have a job right now. If you’re taking the recession as hard as thousands of Americans are, batten down the hatches inside a classroom until the economic storm blows over. When it’s all said and done, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running with new skills and a fatter, more meaningful educational resume.

 

Because you want to switch career fields. There’s no better reason to go back to school than to find some semblance of meaningful work. Simply put, happiness leads to productivity, so everyone benefits all the way around when you’re happy with your place in the work world. You don’t have to wake up each morning and throw a party because you’re going to work, but if you’re miserable at your present job, become proactive in your own career and do something about it. Colleges have programs for certification and degrees to train for virtually anything. Your imagination is your only limitation. Go for it.

 

Because if you don’t, someone else will. Insert a bunch of dog-eat-dog, competition, fittest and survival clichés here, please. That’s right, somebody else is always willing to do what you didn’t have time or desire to take care of. And those people will be rewarded when pitted against their non-educated colleagues at raise or promotion time.

 

Because it gives your brain a workout. It’s true. Keep your brain in top shape and thinking outside the box will be second nature. Ultimately, you’ll become a become a better problem solver in the workplace and in your general life.

 

My high school teacher used to have a sign on his blackboard that read, “Time will pass. Will you?” These days I take that to have a little different meaning. Most college programs last anywhere from 8 months to four years, depending upon your selected course of study. That time will pass anyway–will you pass the test of endurance on your way to making your work life more productive and even enjoyable? I bet you can.  

(Continued from here)

So what happens when you land your dream job only to find that it’s not at all what you want? For my friend, she hit depression. She finished the school year, unwillingly, but knew she couldn’t go back. She knew she couldn’t continue the rest of her life teaching ungrateful, badly behaved, sixteen year olds (who, as it turns out, couldn’t read). So, she did the one thing she was trained to do—she went back to school.

Statistics by the Bureau of Labor Studies show the average person has around 10.5 different jobs by the age of 40. With no study showing how many of those are complete career changes, one must wonder why the constant change. Some say it’s a loss of interest, while others say that they conquered their field and want something new. Whether you decide to switch careers at the age of 23 or 43, people are doing it now more than ever. The stigma of having the same job your entire life, only to receive a gold watch and sturdy handshake after retirement, is in the past.

So how do you change? The first step is deciding what you want to do next in life. At seventeen, going into college, you were determined to be the best filmmaker out there. Twenty years later, with only a few independent shorts under your belt, you realize you need something different. Books like, “What Color Is Your Parachute,” by Richard Nelson Bolles help you assess different fields, offering assistance in choosing the area you may want to attempt next—which field may be just right for you. And that’s the first step of a healthy and happy career change—discovering what you want to do next. What will make you feel content and satisfied after a long day of work. But after discovering that you want to be a fireman rather than a lawyer, or a therapist rather than an accountant, what next? Although maybe not the most economical, going back to school is the surefire way to start your new career. Getting the proper education will bring you closer to that dream field. A person can’t merely say, “I want to be a dentist!” with no suitable schooling, just as they can’t say “I want to be a soccer player!” without training.

College classes are filled with people of all ages nowadays. From those going for their first degree at age 40, to those getting their third at age 30, everyone benefits from a solid education. And although it may seem costly, it’s definitely worth it in the end. What’s the alternative? Staying at a job you hate for another twenty years? Why not go back, take some classes, land a beneficial internship, and start living a new life. What’s the worse that could happen? If you hate it, there’s always graduate school.

A friend of mine was determined to become a teacher. Growing up watching The Sound of Music, she wanted to help kids, teach them the ways of the world and maybe get a few songs in along the way. Excelling at English while in high school, she decided to choose her path. She would become an English teacher.

After majoring in Literature in college, she decided to pursue her Master’s degree in English Education. Two years went by of strenuous classes teaching her about lesson plans, standardized testing, discipline and reading. Apparently kids didn’t know how to read nowadays, a thought she scoffed at. She later learned how wrong she truly was to scoff.

Her first day of teaching didn’t go exactly as planned. As she set down her freshly sharpened pencils and brand new ballpoint pens on her neatly arranged desk, she took in a deep breath. She was in her very own classroom. With walls decorated with posters and pictures, she sat at her desk waiting for her eager young high school students to arrive. She imagined talking to them at length about Shakespeare and Faulkner. She already planned out her after school book club, first book choice, Pride and Prejudice. And then, promptly yet lazily, her students entered the room.

It took her exactly one week to realize she hated teaching.

This is a common scenario. A person sets in motion a plan to achieve his or her ultimate professional goal. Getting schooling or experience along the way are stepping-stones. But what happens when you reach the top, the epitome of your climb, and realize that it’s not necessarily where you want to be?

Come back tomorrow to find out what my friend did and what you can do if you encounter this scenario.

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