Thursday, November 20, 2014

College Students: Make sure You Do This, or You're Putting Your Career at Risk

The good news: By attending a Toronto College, you've already taken a smart step towards building your career. More than any other post-secondary institution, college is about connecting you to the workplace through practical training that sees a student earning their job skills in an active environment. The bad news: It's a two-way exchange, and as a student, you'll have to ensure that you're taking the right actions in that setting, so that you'll have a career when your schooling is over. Fear not, though. Here's a few things you need to make sure you're doing during your education.

Don't limit your education to the classroom
As stated above, College already tries to avoid this pitfall by putting students in labs and facilities and out in the field whenever possible. Perhaps a more apt description of what you should be aiming for it "don't limit your education to the syllabus." Join some clubs, participate in the social experience, and don't let the assignments and tests turn you into a hermit. Social skills and life experiences are just as important to your intellectual development, and important to developing a network as well.

Build a professional network
In the working world, who you know will be just as important as what you know. That's the purpose of a professional network. It's a group of friends and colleagues in your career field you know and communicate with, who can provide you with opportunities and tips. Getting one started in college is simple: Get to know your classmates and professors well enough that you can communicate with them post-graduation, and you'll have a running start.

Build a portfolio
You will one day need to prove your skills to a prospective employer, and simply having your degree to show may not be enough. Instead, you need tangible evidence of the things you've created, and fresh out of school, that will be your assignments and projects. So whatever you accomplish that you're proud of, document it. Keep the papers, keep the photos and video, keep some evidence. If you can build a personal website, even a Wordpress to stash it all on, then do so. In the long run, you'll want to eventually cease using schoolwork in your portfolio, but for now, it's a good foundation.

Do at least one internship
A lot of college programs have some sort of internship, field placement, or co-op built in, and they're well worth doing. On the off chance your program of choice doesn't have one, it's worth seeking it out independently. While you might balk at the idea of free or underpaid work (though that is rapidly changing thanks to new legislation,) it does provide you with valuable real-world work experience of a type the best college class can never simulate, as well as a link to more portfolio and networking opportunities. Obviously, you'll also have to make sure you're doing more than getting coffee for your boss, and after that first internship, you should only accept paid work, but doing at least one can enhance all of the above actions.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How a University Background can Enhance the College Experience

Too often, university is referred to as the ivory tower, a place where you pick up a liberal arts degree that leads to nowhere. This is why students worried about job prospects go to college, since it's about practical job skills, with the goal of putting students to work as much as possible prior to graduation. College programs place less of an emphasis on lectures, and more on getting participants on their feet, both in campus labs and facilities, and in the outside world through co-op and placement opportunities. The other side of the coin, the university experience, instead offers the theory behind the practical. A university education can allow students practicing their craft in college settings know why they're doing what they're doing, through knowledge of rules and best practices

If you're worried about your future, and want a path to employment while still getting that university education, a joint program may be the solution. Now offered by several Ontario colleges and universities, these programs start you off at a university for a bachelor degree program, then have you head to college for a practical diploma. Getting a university education along with your college program comes with a number of benefits.

An educational foundation breeds confidence
Some people enjoy living life by the seat of their pants, making it up as they go along. Unfortunately, you can't do that as a working professional. Before you get up and move, you need to make sure you have a solid grasp of what it is you're doing. University is about theory, so taking a university program followed by college practicals reframes that university education as an extended introduction to college, letting you understand the rules, regulations, and ideas behind your vocation. It eliminates uncertainty by teaching you the right way to do things, ensuring confidence and security, that every move you make is an informed one.

Creativity requires theory
Media and journalism are among the courses offered in Centennial College's joint programs, and creative fields such as those require creative minds. That's where university education comes in handy, with its emphasis on analysis, and the philosophies and cultural rules behind media creation. It doesn't have to simply apply to media, either. Many careers will require one level of creativity or another, and a university education naturally leads to informed, thoughtful creators.

Double the campuses equals double the network
It goes without saying that a program placing you at two different schools will bring you to two different campuses. Post-secondary education is a time of new experiences and personal expansion, and attending two separate campuses is an easy way to effectively double that life experience. After all, you're looking at two campuses worth of people, clubs, student life and opportunities, with two different demographics of attendee. They say these years are important for formulating your adult, working self, so getting a broader experience in can only benefit your personal growth.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pre-College Preparations: How to Make the Right Choice

There's a number of factors to consider as you look into entering the post-secondary world of college programs in Toronto. You need to chose a career, choose your college courses, get your tuition and finances in order, and prepare your life for a big change, all on top of figuring out where you're actually going to go. A lot of it comes down to yourself and your personal attitudes about education and life. Here's a few ideas to consider when it comes to making an informed decision about your education:

Know why you're going to college
This is really a pair of questions. Firstly, are you going to college because you want to get a career, or because it's just what you do after high school? If it's the latter, maybe you should stop that mad scramble to prepare, and analyze your life priorities. If you can answer that, you're probably in a position to answer the next query: Is the subject you're going to school for something you enjoy, are good at, and can net you a reasonably profitable career in the future? Take some time on that, and seriously consider it before you take the college plunge.

There's another important angle to this: If you're not sure of the answers, it's better to hold off on attending a school until you do know. Making mistakes is an important part of life, but when it comes to your education, it's better to wait and get it right the first time then spend years and dollars having a do-over. And to answer these questions, you'll need to…

Do the research
Firstly, you'll need to research your chosen career path. Check how the job market is on it. When school's done, are you going to be employed? And if so, how much money are you going to make? Search for work-life balance, too. How busy, happy, healthy, and fulfilled are the people who've chosen this career? After all, you're going to be one of them, so that's an important question.

Secondly, research your colleges of choice. This includes, but isn't limited to: Reputation, campus life, variety of programs, tuition, services, and financial compensation. Don't go in blind: Make a choice backed by knowledge. The final step to this research, though, should always be in the flesh.

Visit the campus
Never going in blind can apply to the physical space of a campus, too. For all the academic accolades you might find, you'll still need to be spending a few years on that college campus, and your education will be a lot harder if you don't care for the setting. You need to make sure it suits you. Go to the campus, go on a tour, learn what amenities the campus has, and absorb the culture and the people around you. And speaking of those people…

Be ready to make friends
You're there to develop your career, and an important part of a career will be the people around you. They'll be your support during your academic career, and a professional network when your post-grad career gets going. It's a new set of peers to interact with, and you need to make sure you're ready. If you're an introvert, or don't consider yourself particularly sociable, take the time to practice meeting new people and networking. It will put you ahead of the game right out of the gate.

In the scramble to get ready for the post-secondary world, there's a lot of important things you should consider that can get left by the wayside if you're not careful. There's questions that are essential to answer in order to ensure you enter college and the next chapter of your life ready for success.

College Degree Boot Camp:

If you're looking to enroll in a college degree program, then you've taken the first step down a productive, career-oriented path. But it won't be easy, and making the most of that education requires some tough rules with some serious lifestyle changes. I learned these rules as I went, and now I'm going to pass them along so future students can enter school smartly. While this is framed around my honest experience working my way through a Toronto degree program at Centennial College, this is really universal advice for anyone heading down the post-secondary path.

1) You need to be in a program that you're actually good at.
If you're not sure of your skills and talents by the time you enter college, that's alright. But you have to be sure to discover them while you're there. It can be a hard lesson to realize that you're not as talented of a writer or computer scientist or mathematician as you initially thought, but if you accept it, you'll be a lot stronger for it, and you'll discover what you actually are good at. To that end, don't be afraid to take electives that don't align with your chosen career, and don't grumble if your program requirements mean you have to. If you're having trouble discovering your talent, those electives can be a valuable tool.

Here's the other, more difficult part of this tip: If you discover you're not in the ideal program, or your career path isn't for you, switch out. Allowing momentum and passivity to guide you will only cost you time and money in the long run. Better to change plans and find your passion than to sleepwalk through a program with no career prospects at the end.

2) You need to schedule your time wisely.
Flying by the seat of your pants won't work anymore, and you'll need to approach each week, and even each day, with a solid plan of what you're going to get done and when.More than in high school, managing your time will become increasingly important. If you're pulling an all-nighter, you're doing it wrong. Instead, arrange things so you have enough time to catch a few hours of sleep. Get a calendar, be it digital or physical, write down when all your assignments are due, and put a red “x” through every day as it goes by. You'll need it to keep track of those due dates. And if you think you're in the clear because you don't have to worry about an assignment for a month, just remember that life will throw you curveballs. It's better to get your work done early, and be ready for whatever life throws at you, than to suddenly find you're busy every day of that same week. Be prepared, be scheduled and anticipate problems.

3) You need to mark time to make friends.
Don't let that sense of time management turn you into a hermit. You're going to need friends to succeed in life. When you're in trouble, when you need to study, when you need to work on a group assignment, they'll be who you turn to. And when school's over, they'll mark the start of a professional network of industry contacts. So be sure to block some time out of that schedule to have lunch, or dinner or a game of pool with your classmates. Treat is as mandatory, because on some level, it's an investment in success.

4) Don't quit your job, or if you don't have one, get one.
If anyone's advising you to quit your current job, ignore it. It will take a chunk of your time, but the benefits are numerous. First of all, finding a place for that job in your schedule can do a lot for your finances. College isn't cheap, and having some spending money can be a boon for the days you forgot your lunch, or need a new USB drive, or need a mid-afternoon caffeine boost. Finally, even the most talented graduate could see a gap between graduation and employment, and having a cash flow during that time can keep you floating while you job hunt. So don't cash out of the working world. Even if you're only taking a single weekend shift, it's always a plus.

Four Things College has that University does not, and why you can have both

Entering the world of post-secondary education? Students exiting high school have a distressing tendency to assume that by default, this means a university education, with college being the second choice for those that can't "make it." By default, you may assume that means university. However, don't be too hasty to assume college is somehow the lesser of the two educational paths. In reality college and university offer separate, yet equally valuable experiences. College is about directly pointing the way to the workforce, by learning practical skills over theory, and getting your hands busy actually working on the things you want your career to involve.

Luckily, you can have it both ways, and don't have to choose which path you prefer. Several Ontario colleges now have joint programs, where they pair with an Ontario university to give you the practical vocational training of a college program, and the intellectual foundation of a university's bachelor degree program. If you opt for this unique combined path, you can receive several college-only benefits, including…

A mission to get you out of the classroom
University is about learning the intellectual foundations of a vocation, and college is about actually doing it, getting up and practicing your craft. Centennial College, for example, accomplishes this by having a broad variety of labs and facilities across its campuses to simulate working environments, including a restaurant for culinary arts, television and radio studios for media and journalism, and a simulated hospital for health studies. Essentially, the school lets students have a dry run at their future job in a safe environment before exiting to the real world.

Direct pathways to the workforce
Along the same lines, a college education will involve you spending as much time as possible logging work experience hours before graduating. This can be in the form of a placement, an internship, or a co-op program. As a part of your education, these placements will give you a kind of real-world experience school can't match. While internships have recently been given a bad rap by the media, Ontario colleges such as Centennial work with students to ensure that their placements are worthwhile, educational, and even paid. Aside from the experience, these work opportunities can give you industry contacts, networking opportunities, and a way to satisfy the need for job applications to have years of experience.

Industry professional instructors
Instead of professors, college instructors are frequently individuals who have logged real hours inside of the career they're teaching, and so offer wisdom from a place of true experience. If you're studying public relations, you'll be taught by PR professionals. Culinary schools are run by chefs. Media is taught by professional media makers. It adds an extra layer of relevance to the proceedings.

Double the credit
Finally, for taking a joint program, you'll receive double the credit, earning both a degree and a diploma in the program you've chosen. Aside from proving that you walked a unique educational path, you'll get a leg up on the competition when it comes to career hunting through the impressive credits on your resume.