Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Career Benefits of Online Education

Any time the topic of education comes up among my staff it quickly moves to the fact that I, the owner of the company and their employer, went to an online university. Most of my team went to traditional four-year schools and naturally have questions related to the comparable value of an online education. I, as the one holding the degree they like to question, find myself engaging in conversations regarding the frequently overlooked benefits of an online degree.

Here is what I often share:

1.   I believe that education is information imparted which remains with an individual long after a lesson ends and can occur independently of time and space. Confining education to a traditional classroom is short-sighted and restricts access for millions of people who have the desire, skills, and commitment to earn a degree.  

2.   Most major universities in America today offer an online educational experience. They do so because research suggests that online education is just as effective at communicating valuable information as traditional classes. In addition, offering online education increases enrollment for universities by providing increased accessibility and flexibility for students.

3.   Most importantly, my online education gave me an advantage over my employees - an online voice. More than the course content, it was the requirement of finding and refining my online voice that has proven the most valuable to me since graduation. And, when I say voice, I mean more than my writing style. I learned how to effectively communicate my ideas to a diverse group of people with the proper tone and etiquette. I found the right way to steer conversations to accomplish positive and productive outcomes. I learned how to negotiate and compromise without ever laying eyes on a person. Honing my online voice has been more invaluable to me than any skill I would have gained attending lectures during a semester at a traditional college.

As a digital marketer, I apply what I learned at WGU daily as I interact with people within a virtual space. For every conversation I have where both parties are in the same physical space, I have at least ten where the other person is hundreds if not thousands of miles away. So, WGU did more than teach me about a topic, it gave me the tools to succeed, providing a good living for myself and my employees, for which they should be thankful to WGU!

For personalized assistance in communicating the value of your WGU degree to a current or prospective employer, contact WGU Career & Professional Development.

About the Author

A believer in progressive thinking with a focus on the many ways technology drives business and profit, Spencer Wade is the Chief Executive Officer and Principal Strategist at Lift Conversions, a Google Partner and Bing Accredited digital marketing agency, with locations in Chicago, Illinois, and Westminster, Colorado. With years of experience as a broker and manager in the financial world before graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from Western Governors University, Spencer brings a unique perspective and expertise to his leadership roles at Lift Conversions and the wider digital marketing community. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Influence: It’s Not Just for Managers!

Ever identify a need for improvement but think, “That’s above my pay grade,” or “I’m not the boss, who will listen to me”? Org Chart Paralysis often prevents us from stepping in and stepping up. We may not think we have the authority to make change happen. Influence is not just about job title, though, and managers do not have a monopoly on great solutions. With a little creativity and persistence, you can showcase your leadership skills while bringing solutions to the table. That’s a win-win career-building opportunity!

I had barely figured out where the coffee pot was at my new job when an opportunity to significantly improve my group’s work processes landed in my lap. I was a newly-hired Project Management Assistant, and in every meeting, my new colleagues were grumbling about
  •       Lack of organization
  •      Version control nightmares
  •       Lost documents
  •     Missed deadlines
  •       General lack of trust

My teams were working inefficiently and ineffectively every time they had to collaborate on a task. Reports, presentations, white papers and a host of other documents routinely became victims of confusing and unproductive email loops. Meanwhile, we had intranet collaboration sites languishing unused because they were not user-friendly. I was still grinding my way through my undergrad at the time. What could I offer these experienced Ph.D.’s that they had not already considered, and why should they listen to me?

That fresh perspective (and the willingness to step up) was the secret! Because I was new, I could ask questions like “Describe your perfect experience”, and build on those common needs. Because I was working with multiple groups, I was able to see the overlapping commonalities.  Because I was bold (at least on the outside) and friendly, I was able to engage allies, including those who were eager for change but did not have the bandwidth to take on the challenge. I could not tell them how to change, but I could show them the benefits.

It took a lot of hard work, persistence, and creativity, but over the next three months we completely revamped the way our teams interacted, and in the process created a best practice for our organization. Along the way, I became a Subject Matter Expert and now other teams from diverse groups frequently reach out for help improving user experiences and work processes in their areas.  (Note: I still do not have a Ph.D.!)

Ken Blanchard said, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” There are many ways to grow your influencing skills. As a WGU student or alumni, you have access to an entire suite of free Professional Development Resources, including courses to enhance your soft skills. Read books like “Influencer”, a VitalSmarts product, or “The Silent Language of Leaders” by Dr. Carol Goman. Does your employer offer educational reimbursement? Take some classes! Invest in your Influence skills.  Finally, contact Career & Professional Development for personalized assistance in creating your own professional development plan today!

About the Author

Sarah Ratekin earned her Master of Science in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University (WGU) and is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration from WGU as well. Veteran, professional, and working mother, Sarah is passionate about process improvement and employee engagement, along with a host of social causes to which she lends her energy. She lives outside of Indianapolis, IN with her family.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Skills Companies Need Most in 2018 – And the Courses to Get Them with

Whenever there is change, there is opportunity. With report after report showing the world of work changing faster than ever today, it is fair to assume there is more opportunity than ever.

To capitalize on the opportunities available, using a combination of LinkedIn data and survey results, determined the soft skills companies need most. Next, they provided courses that teach those skills, which are available on

57 percent of leaders say soft skills are more important than hard skills. Learning these skills will help you stay ahead of change and make the most of all that opportunity in 2018.

The soft skills companies need most – and how to learn them on

1. Leadership
Recommended Courses: Body Language for Leaders, Strategic Thinking, Leading Without Formal Authority
2. Communication
Recommended Courses: Communicating with Confidence, Influencing Others, Giving and Receiving Feedback
3. Collaboration
Recommended Courses: Effective Listening, Building Business Relationships, Finding Your Introvert/Extrovert Balance in the Workplace
4. Time Management
Recommended Courses: Managing Your Time, Creating Great Workplace Habits, Getting Things Done

If you are a student or alum of WGU you have free access to all of the courses mentioned above. To access visit the Professional Development page of the WGU Career & Professional Development website.

For personalized career assistance to help with your career goals and next steps, please contact us!