Eventpalooza and a Book Giveaway

Happy Monday! Rain stinks. If you’re like me and highly affected by the weather, make sure you’ve loaded your IPod Rainy Day playlist with upbeat music. For me, this means a little Stevie Wonder. Check the video at the end to see one of my favorites.

We’ve got three events this week and a book giveaway!

Precise Advisory Group Executives in Transition- Monday, March 21, 2011 at 7PM, $30

107 E. 34th Street

I’ll be one of the featured speakers. You don’t have to be an executive, or in transition, but just want to hear some great career, business, and financial advice.

Building Your Soft Skills Workshop, Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 7PM, $20

McAnn’s Upstairs Lounge, 3 W. 46th Street

I am doing my popular interview and story-telling workshop on Tuesday and am also giving away a book from The Opportunities Project’s Recommended Book List in our Barnes & Noble Store to one lucky participant!

Fresh Air Fund 2011 Career Awareness Fair, Saturday March 26, 2011

From executives to middle schoolers, we certainly have a diverse schedule this week. Since 2009, I have been a big supporter of the Fresh Air Fund’s career awareness activities and am honored to be one of the speakers. I am looking for a volunteer to help me run consecutive workshops between 9:30 to 12:30. Please contact me if you’re free.

And here’s that promised Stevie song to get you through the day. See you at one of our events.

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Would I Recommend Teaching as a Career?

Almost two weeks ago, Monica Ross Williams interviewed me on Reach Out Job Search Radio as a career expert. Monica was an excellent host and I really thank her for giving me the opportunity to speak with her on her show. One of the questions she asked was “Would you recommend that young people become teachers in today’s economy?” I was surprisingly floored. Strangely, no one ever asks me that question. Since I spent almost ten years recruiting teachers and principals in New York City, people generally assume that my answer to this question would be yes.

But when Monica asked me the question, I realized I couldn’t unequivocally say yes.  I wanted to give a fair and actionable answer as someone people can count on to give trustworthy advice on career options, especially if they are giving me money to do so. So I thought about it and here’s my answer: Yes, but with caveats and two pieces of pragmatic advice.

Create a back-up plan in case teaching doesn’t work out.

Would I recommend teaching as a career?When deciding on a career, everyone should think about their potential return on investment (ROI) for it. Your ROI doesn’t just include what you’ll earn as a salary against your initial education costs, but the value you put on your time. If you’re going into teaching, it should be because you believe your personal satisfaction, or your return, will be worth your investment, including all the financial, time, and emotional costs you’ll experience in preparing for and doing it.

What many people don’t understand is that the cost to become a teacher in our country is extremely high for an entry-level profession that pays little. The barrier is high because certification is expensive. In many states, certification requires at least one semester of unpaid labor in the student teaching experience and a master’s degree after a few years of teaching. It also takes more time to become a good teacher compared to other entry-level professions where the learning curve is shorter. If you go through all that …and then can’t get a teaching job or decide it’s not for you, your options may be limited as an education degree doesn’t have the same market value of a liberal arts degree. If you read the I TEACH NYC Facebook page, you’ll see that many of the recent graduates who did not find teaching jobs were forced into retail positions because they couldn’t convince other employers of the transferable value of their experience and education. Did you really spend all that money on your BA to now only be qualified to work at Forever 21 as a clerk or as your neighborhood barista? (I’m asking Justin to do some research and find more information on what education majors do besides teaching for a future blog post.)

Though our country’s private sector has recovered, it takes a while for that recovery to trickle down to the public sector in the form of taxes to support education. Consumers also don’t trust that the recovery is real so they’re not spending, affecting incoming sales tax. The fact is that no matter how you wish it to be different, districts are not hiring teachers in great numbers and I am not sure the perpetual “teacher shortage” is ever coming back. The National Association of Colleges and Employers issued a survey that found that for the class of 2010, journalism graduates were more likely to find jobs than teachers. I never expected to see data like that in my lifetime, but it’s reality.

So if you’re thinking about teaching, double major in something else you like in addition to education. That doesn’t mean that you have to pick something like accounting if you hate numbers, but something that could get you a job that pays a market-rate college graduate salary. Spend at least one of your college summers interning in that field or take a virtual internship during the school year with flexible hours. When graduation approaches, doggedly pursue teaching, but if you’re not finding anything after a reasonable amount of time, start pursuing that back-up plan. You can always pursue teaching when the economy changes.

As an aside… I think this high cost to enter the teaching profession is an important point for people who are following all the Wisconsin rhetoric to understand, even if you’re against public sector unions. Since new teachers have to work a long time at a low teacher salary to break even on what they paid to get that certificate, stability and easy entry into the job market become more essential to the livelihood of a teacher than it does for other professions. 
While there may be reasons for private sector employees to be on Scott Walker’s side, the argument that removing tenure rights will make teachers “more like us” does not hold economically. It’s more complicated than the sound bites make you believe.

Understand what teaching is and what it’s not.

Teaching is about setting high goals for your students and doing everything you can to help them meet those goals. That means instruction, as well as helping them find ways to limit the obstacles they face outside the classroom, whether it’s building up their coping and other soft skills, working with their parents, or collaborating with professional partners outside your classroom. It requires significant leadership and analytical skills. Teaching is not working with kids, or imparting your wisdom, or solving problems of social justice and if those are your main motivations, the job is not for you. Those are parts of the jobs, but they serve to support your daily mission to do things in your classroom that will make your real-life students- like my Glendy, Anthony, Kayla and Stephanie- become people in their 20s doing things that satisfy them and help them support themselves.

Before applying to a teacher certification program, go shadow a teacher that you respect for a day. Can you do this every day? Will you be able to filter all the political noise around teaching to concentrate on your students short and long-term needs?

On Monday, President Obama gave an education speech and made references to teachers’ role as nation builders. I agree with him, but inspiration is cheap (with all due respect, Mr. President). So please, be a teacher because we need smart and dedicated people like you, especially in science and special education. Just do all the hard planning work you need to do BEFORE you send in that application to the teacher certification program of your choice. As a career coach, I help people change their career directions all the time so my point is not to make you think that you’re wedded to teaching for the rest of your life because you study it. Just don’t underestimate the costs before making an initial commitment.

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Guest Post: Nutrition Tips for Job Seekers by Natalie Schneider

Today I’m featuring a guest post from fellow woman entrepreneur Natalie Schneider, a health and wellness coach who manages Natalie Wellness. I met Natalie because we shared a weekend in our Fire Island beach house (what do I always say about your next professional connection being where you don’t expect it…). We were both starting our businesses at the same time so we spent some long walks to the Lighthouse talking about them and the transition to entrepreneurship. We’ve stayed in touch and bounced ideas off each other as practitioners and business owners and I am grateful for our relationship. Like me, she also participated in the Kaufman Foundation’s Fast Trac program for entrepreneurship.

Here’s Natalie’s advice for maintaining health while conducting a job search.

Natalie WellnessWhen we are going through transition in our life, be it a career change or searching for our first job, it is extremely important to take care of ourselves.  We want to present our best image when we are interviewing, one that shows energy and vitality. Here are some basic steps to keep your energy level high.

1. Hydration: Many people go through their day not drinking any water. Water is extremely important to the body. Caffeinated beverages do not count as water!

Helpful Hint- Buy a water bottle to keep at home and fill it up first thing in the morning.

2. Vegetables: Green vegetables are the number one thing missing from the American diet. Greens provide vitamins, minerals and fiber, which give us energy. There are hundreds of different vegetables available which change seasonally. Try a vegetable that you have not eaten before. If you hate spinach don’t eat it, eat the ones you like.  Most vegetables can be cooked in just 5-10 minutes by steaming or boiling.

Helpful Hint- If you really don’t want to cook, prepared vegetables can be purchased from delis, and grocery stores.

3. Sugar: Sugar gives us temporary energy and then we come crashing down. Too much sugar adds on the pounds and can lead to diabetes. It’s in a lot of our food and we don’t even realize it. There is tons of sugar in breakfast cereals and muffins, frozen dinners and beverages (sodas, ice teas, alcohol).

Helpful Hint- Eat natural forms of sugar such as fresh fruit, carrots and sweet potatoes. For a healthy alternative to soda try unsweetened coconut water which is super high in potassium.

4. Whole Grains: Refined white flour sends our blood sugar soaring and then we crash. This is because all the vitamins and fiber have been stripped from the grain.

Helpful Hint- Eat whole wheat breads, barley and quinoa.


Natalie Schneider is a health & nutrition coach who works with individuals and groups who want to have more energy, lose weight and learn how to eat healthy. She has given presentations on Sugar Blues and Eating for Energy at health clubs and corporations throughout the New York area.


More information about Natalie can be found at www.nataliewellness.com and on her blog http://blog.nataliewellness.com.

All readers of The Opportunities Project blog/website will receive 10% off on health coaching.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Pay What You Can Coaching (PWYCC) is Back

Happy Monday! I hope everyone has survived the Daylight Savings Time time switch. I am not sure how, but taking away the hour somehow cured my insomnia and I woke up with tons of energy this morning. I hope everyone else has equally amazing adjustments to the change.

The Opportunities Project Blog I am clearing out paper in my office as I am moving all of my vision, goals, and tasks from chart paper and index cards to an online system and in the process came across an old note about a site I wanted to try called Tagxedo that generates creative word clouds based on websites, Twitter feeds, famous speeches, and lots of other things you can find on the web. I played around with it last night and here is the tag cloud for my blog over the last month. I love it! The one for my overall website is really great, too. I’ll use it in an upcoming post, but I am thinking of using it for t-shirts or mugs. It’s really that great.

Now let’s get on to the purpose of the post!

In December, I introduced Pay What You Can Coaching as a holiday special. I really enjoyed the clients I worked with and I’m now bringing it back as a semi-permanent program of The Opportunities Project where every month, I’ll offer six PWYCC coaching sessions. During Pay What You Can Coaching sessions, you can pay me a combination of what you can and what you think the session was worth. The rules are on the official Pay What You Can Coaching page on my website. To participate, you must apply for one of the slots using the application form below. Good luck!

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Q&A with Team Member Justin Mathews

The Opportunities Project Team Member Justin Mathews

The Opportunities Project has been more than just one person the last few months! I am pleased to work with Syracuse University student Justin Mathews who is working on a number of research and marketing projects with me through the beginning of May. Since joining us almost two months ago, Justin has already co-authored our first paper, The Economic Achievement Gap.

Justin and I met because we were in the same major at Syracuse University, even if we’re 14 years apart. Just a reminder to all the students and recent graduates out there that keeping in touch with your professors is an important aspect of career management. Not only can it help you find a new position, but when you’re hiring, it can provide a great pipeline of talent.

Here’s a Q&A with Justin.

What interested you in working with The Opportunities Project?

The thing that interested me most was the prospect of working with a new business and having a fundamental role in its growth. Because of this, I knew I’d be able to apply my experience in market research to the company’s benefit but also gauge my effects and turn it into a learning experience for myself.

What will you miss about college?

For me, college is a 24/7 aggregation of resources. I’ll miss having a question and finding the answer on my doorstep; I’ll miss needing late-night study company and knowing there’d be someone nearby who’d join me; I’ll miss the free student bussing; and I’ll miss the always-delicious subs from Jimmy John’s (open until 3AM every night).

What is your biggest strength that you’ll bring to our work together?

I’d say resourcefulness. I’m a big proponent of maximizing value of the tools made available to you. When I can’t find the information or help I need, I find creative alternatives that use what information I can find.

Give me a fun website or twitter account that you consult to break up your day?

Going to Syracuse University and being a member of the athletic bands has made me a huge fan of the Syracuse Orange. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician (@NunesMagician) is a blog dedicated to Syracuse fans. The author, Sean Keeley, has plenty of hilarious posts and even published a book, “How to Grow an Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Becoming a Syracuse Fan.”

Alright then. Let’s go Orange and win the Big East this weekend!

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog


Introducing My 2011 Spring Scholarship Program!

I’ve launched my 2011 Spring Scholarship program! I am giving away three scholarships and applications are due Friday, April 1.

Here are the three scholarships I’m giving away. You can apply via the Scholarship page on my News and Events channel.

1. The College Student Scholarship- Awarded to someone finishing his/her junior or senior year of college and exploring internships or first full-time job.

2. The Young Professional Scholarship– Awarded to someone with less than three years of full-time professional experience and needs some help finding a new or first job.

3. The Woman Veteran Scholarship– Awarded to a female veteran of our armed services who is pursuing work in the civilian sector.

You can also watch my video telling you about the scholarships and why I am giving them away. Look forward to your application and thank you in advance for sharing!


Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog


Are We Missing the Point in Education Reform?

It’s been almost a month since New York Social Media Week, but been thinking lately about the Disrupting Education Panel I attended and how it really was the tipping point for me on this change I am going through in my thoughts about education reform. While I thought we were making big improvements in schools in the last decade, I’m starting to think that we’re completely missing the point. Here are some tweets I posted from when I was at the panel:


– We have to teach our kids how to mine brilliance on social media.
– Oh my. Panelist just mentioned holding teachers accountable for not using tech and social media


In case you don’t take much stock in tweets from the mouths of tech punks, here is an Ashoka Fellow and Brown alum saying the same thing just less direct and more eloquently and not using the term “social media.”



(Thanks to Timothy Johnson III for sharing the video with me via Twitter.)


At one time, I had wanted to do an insightful blog post on the State of the Union and how disappointed I was with Obama’s comments on education, but I got distracted and didn’t know how to express this change I was feeling. But it’s becoming clearer ever day. This Week with Christiane Amanpour intrigued me this weekend, especially a segment on trying to buy American products for your home. A group of ABC journalists went though the products in one typical family’s home and found that except for one vase, everything else was made overseas. When trying to replace the foreign-made products with American versions, the reporters found that there were entire products that aren’t even manufactured in our country anymore. Not a huge surprise, but the point that one of the journalists made that stuck with me was that our country obsesses over the fact that we don’t have workers making plasma televisions in factories here any longer, but we should be collectively focused on how new graduates are doing to design the next best thing after plasma.


And then I saw THIS video and was both depressed and slightly inspired.



(Thanks to my friends at TBEX NYC for posting on their blog.)

I am becoming increasingly despondent about our schools. Some say we know how to fix them, but we just choose not to do so. The current reforms, when they work, give more students access to middle class jobs, but now it looks like those jobs are disappearing faster than working class ones. How long will it take for ed reform to adjust to this new reality? “College for all” does not work. Middle-income jobs in health care and related fields don’t require bachelor degrees so why go into intense debt? Second, our colleges aren’t even teaching people to be creative or innovative (thanks Paul Krugman).

Ed policy is a mess. it’s become so focused on ideology and “who has the power to do what” instead of creating a vision for what habits and skills our K-12 students should be learning EVERY day, and how that ties into what we expect them to do at age 18 or 22 when they’re supposed to be out on their own and changing the world.

The social media thing sticks with me because it just reinforces how behind we are. Instead of trying to lockdown young people’s access to Facebook and Twitter, maybe we could teach students how to use it correctly to communicate and connect with the outside world and learn new things. As crazy it sounds, maybe creating learning standards and making social media an integral tool in K-12 education is where the debate should be.


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Isn’t It Ironic? Don’t You Think

This morning, I was rushing to a conference for the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) where close to 200 New York metro college career center representatives were meeting about helping our college students and recent graduates find jobs. The conference was at the NYU Wasserman Career Center on 13th Street and I was slowed down by a neon pink sign taped to the building next door.




Sarah, I’m not clear if you targeted the conference, but you hooked me. Contact me to get your one hour of free career coaching.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog


Don’t Be This Guy: Bad Social Media Manners

My friends and colleagues know how rabid I am about my undergraduate alma mater and that I take care of my fellow Orange people. Syracuse pride runs in my blood and I love to help students and alumni any way I can.

About five months ago, I met a May 2010 graduate at a networking event and we had a nice conversation. This recent graduate had a lot of bravado, but he told me that his dad is an multi-company entrepreneur and he worked for him, so that attitude made sense to me.

When I got back to my office, I sent this recent grad an email and followed him on Twitter. He never responded and didn’t follow me back. I wasn’t bothered. He wasn’t looking for an entry-level position and didn’t need a career coach, and people are busy. I kept following him on Twitter because some of his articles interested me and he talked about Syracuse basketball. Sometimes I replied or re-tweeted what he wrote. No response, but again, Twitter can be a huge cocktail party and I don’t take it personally when people don’t get back to me. Maybe my replies had no interest to him and that is fair.

But… last week, I saw that I was added to a list called Super Sidekicks. Puzzled, I checked the list to see what this was. This person had added me to this list and the description was “Like loyal sidekicks, these people share my tweets most.”

Huh. A loyal sidekick who you don’t follow and know nothing about. A loyal sidekick who is 13 years your senior, has built a really successful career without the privilege you’ve had and once taught sixth graders who are now older than you. Really now? I can deal with bravado, but  can’t handle obnoxious narcissism. I unfollowed him and sent a reply to take me off the list, but no response. No Orange love for him.

Really, this isn’t that a big deal to me, but I am bringing it up to make a point. It’s probably not a big leap to assume that Mr. Bravado’s issues transcend social media- most online issues are also things people deal with offline. Maybe he should think about this quote from Buddy Cianci, two-time mayor of Providence, RI, when managing his relationships:  “The toe you stepped on yesterday may be connected to the ass you have to kiss today.”

Don’t be this guy.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog


Download Our White Paper: The Economic Achievement Gap

Clients, friends and fans (who ever thought I’d have fans when I grew up?) know that I am not your typical career coach for many reasons. One of those reasons is that I was driven to this business because of my disappointment with our K-16 education system and my sincere belief that I can do something about it through The Opportunities Project.

In December, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was interviewed on 60 Minutes. He used part of the interview to express his concern about the relationship between education and the current unemployment rate. In his words…

“It’s based very much, I think, on educational differences… If you’re a college graduate, unemployment is five percent. If you’re a high school graduate, it’s 10 percent or more. It’s a very big difference. It leads to an unequal society and a society which doesn’t have the cohesion that we’d like to see.”

(Articles: College, Jobs and Inequality- NY Times and Fed Chair Says 4 to 5 Years for “Normal” Unemployment- ERE.net)


First, I think that the unemployment problem is worse than what Bernanke states. The unemployment rate for college graduates only includes people who are eligible for unemployment insurance, which requires working full-time for at least a year in most states. Most college students who attended school full-time have not met that requirement, making them ineligible for unemployment when they graduate. This means that most of the class of 2010 are excluded from the government’s official statistics. Second, as a New York Times editorial pointed out, “college for all” is not going to solve our economic problems because these unemployment statistics don’t reveal that a high percentage of college graduates are working in jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

The “unequal society” is the real issue. We have people who confidently and happily produce great work and people who don’t. We have discounted the impact of education’s failure to prepare young people for the careers that are available in today’s economy. We don’t teach our students how to be strategic, resilient, or creative and we push aspirations that don’t fit their abilities and interests. Sometimes that includes college. I am now seeing first hand how this mindset stays with people, even when they hit their thirties and beyond.

In January, I started thinking more about education and the economy as I was getting ready for the Teach for America 20 Year Summit. As someone starting out in career coaching, I’ve focused on gaining individual clients versus the social entrepreneurship and advocacy part of my business model. The Summit’s challenge to ask yourself what role you play in eliminating educational inequity as an alum made me reflect if I should be stepping that advocacy role up now. I also started reading press coverage about a book called Academically Adrift by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. Arun and Roksa found that students are learning very little in college and even worse, the “achievement gap” between poor and upper class students becomes exacerbated while they are in college. I read the book and what really stood out to me was the alignment between what the Collegiate Learning Assessment (the assessment the researchers based their findings on) measured and what employers desire in new hires (per the National Association of Colleges and Employers). It’s clear as day that we know what we should be doing in education and we’re not doing it, for various reasons.


Four Skills Measured on the Collegiate Learning Assessment

Top Four Skills Most Desired by Employers

Communicate Clearly Verbal Communication Skills
Solve Problems Strong Work Ethic
Think Critically Teamwork Skills
Reason Analytically Analytical Skills


My colleague Keith Petri, Founder and CEO of eBranding Me, and I had contemplated writing white papers on what role higher education, and particularly the college career center, plays in the scope of employment problems recent graduates face. As more people started talking about Academically Adrift, and we became more aware that we could make a difference, we knew it was time. With our co-author Justin Mathews, we just issued our first white paper, The Economic Achievement Gap: No End in Sight, our first paper in our three paper series called Solutions for Change in Education. In this first paper, we outline the problems through a summary of economic data and then offer starter solutions that could be implemented immediately to improve the likelihood that today’s college students and graduates find jobs. Our second and third papers will go into more detail on college career services and student responsibility, respectively.

The Opportunities Project and eBranding Me

You can download The Economic Achievement Gap here. A press release can also be accessed from my Press page. Keith, Justin and I encourage your feedback and have left the comments open on the page where you can download the paper. Change will only happen through discussion and collaboration and we want to have that with you!

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog