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Graduating Into Networking

May 23, 2015

It’s graduation season.

High school seniors are looking forward to a summer off, before they start worrying whether they chose the ‘right’ college.

College graduates are considering taking on more debt to get an advanced degree, or worrying if they will ever find a job.

And perhaps not surprisingly, older workers are starting to wonder if they should return to the classroom. In an era where many thought leaders are openly questioning the value of a college education, univrsities have seen a dramatic increase in the number of ‘mature’ students returning to campus.Unknown

Just 15 years ago most of these older students were baby-boomers who were suddenly empty nesters, looking for a new challenge. Degrees such as Executive MBA’s were the province of small schools trying to generate some extra money from unused classroom space at night or on the weekend.

But with the recession, and millions of Americans out of work, almost every major university suddenly discovered that money from established workers was just as good as fees from undergraduates. Schools such as the University of California’s Haas School of Business, which had dismissed executive MBA programs in 2000, now have huge, and costly, courses in conjunction with other major universities.

So, as your son or daughter threatens to do a “Steve Jobs”  – rejecting college to work in the garage – is returning to school worth it?

I might be biased, since I received my MBA about 30 years after my bachelor’s degree, but my answer is a decided yes, for a number of reasons.

First and foremost is the knowledge you gain, which is particularly valuable in an economy where you can never have enough skills. Change in the American workforce used to take place over generations. These days, it can occur in much less than a decade.

Just look at the number of jobs that went begging over the last 8 years while unemployment hovered around 10%.

Schools are making it easier to get accepted by removing testing and, in many cases, undergraduate degree requirements. Your work experience now has a completely unexpected real-life benefit.

Secondly, it’s all about networking. I once had a very heated and lengthy discussion about post graduate networking with a dining companion who insisted that “the only value’ to an advanced degree was the people you meet. His argument suggested that the only programs worth attending were from elite schools where you could rub elbows with classmates who were already successful.

The discussion grew so heated, my wife pointed out later, that diners were asking to be reseated away from our table. She admitted that I was not the main culprit, my debate-mate was. His debating style included language that probably should not be used outside a locker room – if at all.

I know I wasn’t convinced that my MBA was worthless because it was not from an Ivy League school, and I doubt he agreed that an education could be just as valuable, but we both should have apologized to the other diners.

You probably didn’t realize you were networking as an undergraduate, but as any college career office will tell you, your classmates can be a huge advantage when you start looking for a job.

In fact, some schools welcome freshman as alumni at their annual convocation near the start of the school year. They don’t exactly start fund-raising to 18-year-olds –  that’s a subtle side benefit that comes later.

School networks can be incredibly valuable on both the graduate and undergraduate level. Particularly with sites such as LinkedIn where you can easily find fellow alumni at companies where you want to work.

Likewise when hiring agents recognize their own college on your profile, it might be the extra leg up you need to at least get an interview.

So whether you are in college now, or contemplating a mid-career  advanced degree, remember the advantages of networking and use it as part of your job search. By the way my undergraduate degree is from Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and my MBA is from Dominican University in San Rafael, CA.

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Thank You, US Postal Service

January 25, 2015

The United States Postal Service gets a lot of grief these days. Derided as the delivery agent for ‘snail mail,’ they are criticized for being too expensive,  too slow,  outdated and time consuming in the era of instant communication.

I am here to defend them.letter

Yes, I have tracked letters sent via ‘Priority Mail’ as they traveled to San Diego before reaching their intended destination 10 days later, two zip codes from my office. I can send a package to Hawaii (from San Francisco) in two days, but the same size box to Boston takes over a week.

And yes, grandma, I remember when a first class stamp was 5 cents. I now buy forever stamps in rolls of 100, so I don’t even know what first class postage is. (Great marketing, if you ask me.)

I can text my friends all over the country and within 10 minutes will have a response…any longer and I get impatient. Email, which we all thought was great a few years ago, is now too slow, since most people still have to check before responding.

I tweet to my followers, and most of my relatives have Facebook pages,so we’ll all know who’s doing what. I write this blog so everyone knows how I feel about what’s going on in the world.

But none of those methods can generate the emotions of a stamped letter. Neuroscientists now know that memories are more than just events. Our brains recall all five senses and any of them can spark a memory.

I was reminded of that this week, when a good friend, David Allen, sent me a batch of letters, found while cleaning out his mother-in-law’s attic.

They were written over 47 years ago when I was a freshman at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA. In fact, they were written in the first few months of college, when I was really still attached to my high school experience and scared to death about the future.

I remember the onion paper, the smell of the inked ribbon , and the old green and white Smith Corona that I used, to peck out letters to my parents, friends and former high school classmates. I still have the typewriter in fact – even had it reconditioned after I found it while going through my old homestead when my Dad died. I’m told it’s a collector’s item.

The letters were written to David’s wife, Betty, my best friend, and while we were never involved romantically, are filled with good natured banter that would pass for flirtation.

The actual content is really irrelevant: my observations about  classes, social life, campus events, and gossip. It was 1967, and I know every campus was awash in protest and politics, but there’s none of that, so I doubt Oliver Stone will need them for some new 1960’s expose.

But for me, they are more important than any email, tweet or text I will ever send.   When I re-read the words, and hold the letters, the memories of those years come flooding back. More importantly, I’m talking to my friend, Betty, again, even though she was struck down by cancer 12 years ago.

So, while I can find endless versions of various web pages, and can see the trail of my texts to friends and colleagues, none of them will ever hold the power of the printed word that I can pick up, hold in my hand, and still smell the memories from so many years ago.

For that I thank the US Postal Service and David, who was thoughtful enough to mail them back to me..

 

 

 

 

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So, Why Does the World Exist?

May 10, 2013

I admit that I started reading Jim Holt’s “Why Does the World Exist?” as penance. Many years ago, Douglas Sturm, my political theory seminar leader at Bucknell University, tried to introduce me to Plato.

Seems I never had time for the deep thinking required and I almost flunked.

So when I saw Mr. Holt’s book on several 10-best lists last year, I decided to get it another try, for Professor Sturm.

I guess it took 43 years before my brain could wrap itself around the concepts but I’m glad Mr. Holt succeeded.

I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to spend some time contemplating our world’s oldest question, but particularly journalists who get caught up in the daily routine of facts, figures and political hyperbole.

Holt’s writing is erudite, easy to read and understand but filled with concepts that most of us never consider, or try to avoid.

At the same time, like any good journalist, he examines the question posed in his title from every conceivable angle. No just as a personal essay, but by interviewing leaders in the field and then explaining what they seem to be saying.

Others have called his book a “detective story” but, like his readers, who want concrete answers, he accepts or rejects various arguments along the way. He reaches his own conclusions, which we are free to accept, or not, and manages to humanize the whole effort with references to his own life and his experience with death.

The journey is interesting, entertaining and, if Professor Sturm is reading this, enlightening. I’m finally starting to understand some of what Plato was telling us. Thanks for whetting my appetite.

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A Good Read

February 19, 2012

Filed under: Book Review,Bucknell,Journalism — Tags: , , , — admin @ 10:31 pm

There are all kinds of book reviews. Those that wax poetic about sentence structure and pacing and the finer points of writing, without giving you any indication what a book is about.

Then there are those who  tell you the whole story and never tell you if the book is worth buying.

For me, book reviews should be short and to the point.

If you are looking for a good read,  pick up a copy of the “The Lost Saints of Tennessee” by Amy Franklin-Willis. –  a debut novel in the best Southern literature tradition.

The genre is really beside the point. I don’t really read a lot of fiction and I’m not from the South, but I can honestly say, when I got to the last page, I didn’t want the story to end. To me that’s the mark of fine writing.

It’s good to know Ms Franklin-Willis is already working on the sequel.

 

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Bucknell Report

September 30, 2011

Filed under: Bucknell,Uncategorized — Tags: , — admin @ 9:56 am

To download the Report:

The Campus Climate for Bucknell University Students: A Multifaceted Analysis

BucknellCampusClimate2011

The president’s letter:

OpenLetteronCampus ClimateTaskForceReport

Comments are welcome.

 

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