Academic & Career Success Tips

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The content provided here on this page comes from two retired college professors. Between them they have worked in all levels of education from elementary through teaching at a Big Ten university. They have taught at both public and private institutions, state institutions and Chrisitan institutions. We also offer tips from a growing group of people in business and academia who have freely shared "My One Big Tip for Academic and/or Career Success" with a Mysteries Plus staff writer. Our hope in offering these ideas is that students, staff, and employees in school settings from all levels and people in all realms of human endeavor will find something here that will make their lives at home, at work, and in academic settings a bit easier.

 

{Editor's note: We begin with something on the heavy side}.

1. Sometimes you just have to quit.

Institutions, like people, can become sick, very sick. Lord willing, you are not at such a place. If you are, consider the situation carefully. Talk to your parents, your spouse if you have one, and to your pastor if you have one. Get the best advice you can from wise experienced counselors if there are any about. They may have already fled if you are in a truly toxic situation. If the institution is driving you insane, get out! Don't wait to get another job, just get out. Your sanity and the health of your family are more important than maintaining a position which could cost you your life.  Such a place almost did that to one of us.

2. Just like high school, take a six pack to the janitors and flowers to the secretaries. Then get everything in writing.

{Editor's note: Not everything you read here will be from a single perspective. You will have to use your own wisdom to decide which tips, if any, you will follow and how you will interpret each tip. If you do choose to distribute a six pack, I recommend that it be a six pack of good Wisconsin milk. If you know that the janitor in question doesn't like milk, go with the big guns, 6 Diet Cokes.}

Getting everything in writing can save you a lot of grief. One of us gathered a group of faculty colleagues to get their approval for a proposal he planned to advance at the next department meeting. They all knew that the department chairman might well oppose the move. When the proposal was put forth in front of the department chairman, all of the others folded like the proverbial house of cards. It might have been different had their names already been on a petition.

Getting it in writing appliles to students as well as to faculty. When he was a high school student, one of us asked about changing courses at the end of one quarter instead of at the usual time, the end of two quarters. When the principal said it could be done, he did it. He was then required to meet every night after school with either a counselor or teacher who told him what a bad move he had made and how it would ruin his chances at any university he might go to.  (Today such a student would probably and justifiably get a lawyer to file a lawsuit charging the high school principal and those acting under his orders with psychological abuse.)

At the end of the high school year, someone, apparently the principal, penalized him in calculating his final course grade. This was seemingly done because he had made the early course change. No explanation was given for averaging three quarters of high A grades with one quarter of a solid B and calling the yearly grade a B. Since he was being graduated from that high school, he just took it and ran from a good high school gone bad (at least in his case) to the university of his choice. He was graduated from that university with honors and went on to a long and successful career of teaching at colleges and universities. Get it in writing.

3. Look to Jesus for leading in your academic career and in all that follows.

One of us was teaching at a Christian university in the south. This happened after one class near the end of his first year there. As he was putting his papers away at the front of a classroom, he overheard two graduating students talking near the rear of the room. One asked the other if he had a job yet. "No," came the calm reply. "I'm just waiting to see where Jesus will lead me." That leading from Jesus evidently came. The waiting student got a position with Youth for Christ in Detroit.

If you don't know how or even why anyone would follow such a plan, investigate the site you can get to via the top listed link on the MysteriesPlus home page. It could save you an immense amount of grief in your career and in all other parts of your life. 

4. A Tip From a Successful Woman Managing a St. Croix Valley Bank

When you start a new job, do your best to appear both confident and open to new learning. The confidence will help you get the job and keep the job if it is balanced with openness. There will be much to learn in any new job. Don't go in thinking that you are superior to everyone there just because you are you or because you may have a new college degree. They are them and they probably have degrees too. Obviously they are smart or they would't have hired you. You can learn from them whether or not you are favorably impressed by them or not. They have been there on the job. They do know things about the workplace that can help you. Part of your job is to learn what they know about the organization. They probably know a lot about that. You need to know the unwritten parts of the organizational culture. Who has the influence and who doesn't? How do things really get done here? When can you relax a bit and when do you have to really push? All of that and more differs from organization to organization. It probably won't be written down. Listen and watch and learn the culture. Then, slowly, slowly, begin to make your unique contribution.

5. Keep a Healthy Balance Between Family and Work and/or School

This is tough. Your spouse, if you have one is your best ally here. Talk to and listen to your spouse every day. When you get home and find your spouse waiting, ask about the spouse's day first and LISTEN. You do not have to solve the spouse's problems in most cases. Just LISTEN. When you have heard all about the other's day, then you can tell about yours. Your marriage is far more important than any career or any schooling. Repeat, your marriage is far more important than any career or any schooling. Your children and parents, if you have either or both, are more important than your boss, your colleagues, your clients or just about anyone else. You can eventually get a new job, if necessary. Yes, some people do get a new family through the marriage-divorce-marriage plan. That hurts way too many people way too much and pays lawyers and counselors way too much. Don't even think about it. If you need marriage counseling, start with your clergy person, if you have one. If there is no good help there, you need a new clergy person--maybe a new church to boot. Join with your spouse in the search for the counseling you need. That, too, is more important than a career. Don't waste time making excuses about why you don't need counseling if you do, just get it. Men fail most here. Be the exception if you are a man. Women fail here too. Don't fail.

Don't fall into the trap of, "This is only temporary." If the "This" is going to last more than a week or two, "This" is your life and your family's life. Work with your spouse to figure out a plan to cope together with "This." Do not try to rush "This." If anything, slow it down if you can. Take smaller bites of the big project. If it takes longer and costs more money to do it that way, remember that it is your life and your family's life. Do what is needed to make it livable for all of you. Rushing "This" will probably just make things worse. You will be consumed by "This" and alienate your family. No "This" is worth a divorce, a separation, or an alienated child or parent. Live first, work second or third.

Do all the stuff the M.D.s are always telling us: Stop smoking and stop or drastically cut down on drinking, exercise regularly, and eat the stuff you see old people eating. Why did they get to be old? They figured out someplace that vegetables are good. Sugar, salt and fried foods are bad. Now the terrible part: pizza is bad. It clogs your arteries. Take it from a five bypass survivor. You have to do this stuff and start doing it early. Don't wait until after your second heart attack like I did.

Get a good church and go there regularly. A good church teaches the whole Bible, not just part. People who do lhis live longer, happier lives. You want proof? Join me in my very large, adult Sunday School class. I'm still one of the young ones at sixty-five. These people know how to live. Learn from them.

6. Go The Extra Mile

This tip comes from the father of the owner of one of the best hardware stores you will ever visit. It is in Osceola, Wisconsin. Since it is the only one there, you shouldn't have any trouble finding it if you just ask a local person for directions. You don't need to be a donor to this website to get a recommendation here and this store isn't a donor,but this store deserves a recommendation. This is it.The personnel at this store really do work out this tip every day. Go there and see for yourself.

This father also has worked in the store for a long time. He is a great asset to the store because of his knowledge of just about anything anyone can ask for in a hardware store. (Extra tip: Listen to the old folks, they know stuff. His wife works there too and is equally knowledgeable.)The tip of "Go the Extra Mile" means do more than you have to for your employing organization to make it successful. If you are in retailing, do more than the customer asks for. This helps insure the success of the business. You need that business to keep going so you can keep having a job. Your employer will notice what you do without your blowing your own horn. It is his or her job to notice what employees do. If that employer sees you are helping to grow the business and provide excellent customer service, you will get your reward. In tough economic times, another town in the St. Croix Valley just saw its hardware store close. Everybody in the community loses when that happens. You help not only yourself and your customers when you provide excellent service, you help both your company and your community. Everybody wins.

Editor's note:

If you want to see where "Go the extra mile" came from, go to www.blueletterbible.org. In the search box, enter "Mat 5:41."

The idea came from the wisest teacher ever, and He was only in His early 30's when He taught it. Sometimes young guys have great ideas too.

7. Maintain Your Relationships.

This tip comes from the Red Shoe Dean. She is a real dean at one of Wisconsin's technical colleges. She has supervised the most macho faculty men on her campus and people at a number of other campuses as well. Her faculty say that she is the best dean they have ever had.

"Maintain Your Relationships" is similar to "Don't burn your bridges behind you" and "Grow your personal network." As you move from school to work or from job to job, maintain contact with the people you come to know in those places. You might want to go back to one of those organizations later, hopefully at a higher level that the one from which you left. In a tough economy, we all need all the options we can get to keep a career going.  If you are a college student, former high school teachers and former student peers can help you succeed in college. They just might have the answer to the question you need answered but can't get answered anywhere else.

Editor's note:

Special tip for critics: Wisconsin does not have community colleges. Almost anything that community colleges do in other states is done by technical colleges in Wisconsin. Technical college credits transfer to the University of Wisconsin system. Thus, a student can take the first two years of education leading to a university degree at a technical college. A newspaper critic from a neighboring  state didn't know that, so she rejected out of hand a book written by a Wisconsin technical college author. She wrote back to author something like this, "Nobody goes to technical colleges any more." That may be true in her state. She then didn't bother to read what was written in the book at all. Another Tip for Critics: Do your homework before offering your opinion. In Wisconsin the technical college system has many more students than the University of Wisconsin system, something in excess of 400,000 at the last count we saw. (No, that tech. college writer does not contribute to MysteriesPlus. We got the story from another source.)

7. Fearless Self-Analysis: A Key to Real Success

1. If you were a business or an organization called You, Inc., what would you say are the top two or three best features of this organization?

2. What would you say are the two or three most obvious problems or things which should concern this organization?

3. What would you recommend as solutions or improvements to an organization with these problems or concerns?

4. Did you pray about these at any point to get God’s ideas? If not, do you really think that you are smarter than He is? If so, do you think that that might be a problem?

5. If you think that there is no God, then there is no point in bothering with number 4 on this list. However, if you are truly open-minded and really interested in your own success, you can at least consider the possibility that God exists. Are you willing to dare to ask him to show himself to you in some way that would not scare you to death? If he really does not exist, you certainly couldn’t be risking anything to ask a "him who isn’t there" to manifest himself. I tried it and I did not die. I’m quite glad that I did try it. Listen to your inner Clint Eastwood urging you to try it, "Go ahead; make your day!"

Picking a College

Many pieces of advice could be give here. I will confine myself to a few.

1. If you are a Christian, pray to see where God wants you.

2. If you are a Christian well-trained in personal evangelism, secular colleges need you even more than Christian institutions. Look for a college with a working Cru or Intervarsity Christian Fellowship group. Get attached to one. You will need the fellowship and they will need you.

3. If you are not a Christian, follow step 2 anyway. The benefits are enormous.

4. In Wisconsin the most sensible start in college comes at a technical college. The teaching is generally as good as or better than what you will have at a university.The cost is much lower. Class sizes tend to be smaller. Your credits can transfer to a university if you plan this out in advance. Check with the guidance counselors at the school in question and clear it with the university you plan to go to after technical college. Very good wages can be had with the right technical degree without university training. These skills can be very much in demand in industry and much prized in Christian missionary service.

5. The Lord might lead you to a campus with no Christian students' group. Start one. Cru has help for you to do this. Intervarsity probably does also.