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 Lynda.com



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, Lynda.com determined the soft skills companies need most. Next, they provided courses that teach those skills, which are available on Lynda.com.

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 Lynda.com

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 Lynda.com 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!  

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Selecting a Graduate Degree Program as a K-12 Teacher

If you are currently a K-12 teacher and have begun thinking about your future in education, this blog might be of interest to you! There are many reasons for teachers to consider obtaining a graduate degree, but the question we most often hear is “Which one should I choose?” Only YOU can answer that question, but hopefully the guidelines below will assist you in isolating your choice.

1. Ask yourself “Where do I want to be in five years?” Do you see yourself in the classroom, the principal’s office or in the district office? Acknowledging if you want to work with students, work in leadership or work in specialized curriculum will help you begin to narrow down your options.

2. Consider the question “What interests me?” Your Master’s degree is a chance to specialize in something that is of interest to you. Think about what aspect of education you enjoy and take time to objectively identify your values, personality, interest and abilities through self-assessment. Focus your Master’s program in a direction that aligns with who you are and the aspect of education you enjoy most.

To get started in identifying your interests, look around your school campus and think about the various education positions. Whose job do you wish you had? Whose position appeals to you the most? Do you prefer to work with students or with adults? Do you like mentoring new teachers? Do you want to lead others as an administrator? Do you enjoy working with students with disabilities? Are you a master curriculum writer? Do you thrive with technology specialization? These questions are incredibly important as you begin to finalize your choice.

3. Be realistic about your motivators. If you are a new teacher who just wants to advance on the district pay scale, a specialized Master’s program is not for you. You should select a generic Master’s degree with the least specialization and the least required courses. Understand however, if immediate salary advancement is your only motivation, you are excluding yourself from specializing in a specific field that might bring career advancement later down the road.

4. Be honest about your work environment. If you have a strong passion for technology, but your district has severely cut their technology budget, a Master’s degree in this field might not be the best choice for you. If you are willing to transfer to a different school, this opens up new possibilities.

5. If you are beginning to feel burned out in Education, don’t select a Master’s degree in Education. Why continue to do something you are no longer enjoying? Consider moving into other industries that combine an education background with another specialization, such as business.

Hopefully answering the above questions will help bring you to a fairly conclusive decision about which program to choose. If you would like to explore more information on the various Teachers College Master’s programs offered at WGU, we encourage you to view the various degree guides that offer salary information, industry growth statistics, job market forecasting and job searching resources.

If you have additional career related questions, please feel free to contact the WGU Career & Professional Development office at careers@wgu.edu or call 1-877-214-7008.

Friday, January 12, 2018

How to Hack Your Day for a More Productive Year!


We are well within the New Year. The fireworks have faded; it is time to get down to business. This is an opportunity to assess and fine-tune your work day for a more productive year. Start by evaluating your annual goals and desired accomplishments and then look ahead to explore how you can plan to achieve benchmarks, objectives, and aspirations. Sometimes the daily grind can get you off your game. There are distractions, delays, and procrastination that can derail your productive efforts for a winning year. 

An organized, strategic approach with small adjustments in your day can be the answer to accomplishing your New Year’s career successes. Here are four tips to help you hack your daily routines and meet your career goals for the year:
  1. Build Your Day Around Your Toughest Tasks -Start your day by identifying your top one or two most pressing tasks. Tackling these earlier in the day can both free up time and ease stress. Some days may have more than two “priority tasks” to attack. When you have competing priorities, use the Eisenhower Matrix to help choose which task to focus on. The Eisenhower Matrix was developed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower while he served as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II. This principal was developed for him to make tough decisions on a daily basis. Today, this principal can help you prioritize projects by urgency and importance.
  2. Schedule Appointments with Yourself -You schedule specific time for meetings, projects, and assignments but what about scheduling “me time”? Blocking off time on your calendar to focus on work that calls for concentration can result in a more efficient use of your day. Some people will block off the last hour or two of the day so that they can have distraction-free time to answer those emails that pile up in the in-box or to do mundane admin work that keeps getting pushed to the back burner. Scheduling “deep work” at the end of the day can also de-clutter your morning, the next day, making it a more pleasurable return to the office.
  3. Take a Break -Throughout the day, tasks, meetings, and just hard work can weigh on your mind zapping your brain-power causing general malaise. When your brain needs a break, take one. If you are feeling tired, stuck or even irritable, listen to your body and your mind. You are being sent a message: chill out! If it is possible, take a walk outside, take a pause by going to your break room for some coffee or tea, or spend 5 minutes networking with a colleague. You can build rapport, share ideas or just talk about weekend plans (but only if they can also take a break). Whatever you choose, get out of your office and enjoy a different scene. This kind of downtime can make you more productive and can give you some perspective on problems and workday challenges. Creating a balance in your day can also help time fly faster. Don’t worry, the work will still be there when you return.
  4. Follow the "Five Minute Rule" -If your day consists of small, “micro-projects” that might take about 5 minutes or less to do, then just do it now and get them out of the way. Answer a few emails, de-clutter your desk, or take a few minutes to organize your paper piles. These smaller actions can help free up time for larger projects throughout the day and week.
These few tips and hacks can result in small wins that can help provide a sense of accomplishment and give you greater momentum toward larger tasks that lay ahead.

Share with us in the comments below your tips for a more productive day. In addition, do not hesitate to request an appointment with a WGU Career & Professional Development Specialist for strategic guidance toward a more dynamic work life.