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Guest Post: How to Get Your Employer to Pay for Your MBA

We’re publishing a long overdue guest post today from Erin Palmer, who works for US News University Directory. While we are not always a fan of taking on more debt and obligations to make a career change, if you are considering going back to school, there are some tangible tips in here. Enjoy!

So you’ve worked hard to earn your bachelor’s degree and you’re working your way up the company ladder, but you keep getting passed up for that big promotion. No matter what you do, someone always seems to have the advantage. If this sounds like you, then it may be time for you to consider earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

After some investigation, you know that getting an MBA can be expensive. If you don’t have the funds, you may consider a grant or scholarship to help you pay for your degree. Another option to consider is getting your employer to pay for your MBA. If this doesn’t sound easy to you, having a strategy will help your chances in getting your company to foot the bill and keep you from falling further into debt.

Will they pay?

Firstly, you’ll have to find out if your employer would even consider paying for your education. Many large companies have policies in place, so check your employee handbook. If you can’t find information on your own, check with your HR department, as they usually are the first to know about such programs. For smaller companies, you may have to go directly to your supervisor or the owner of the company. Before you do, make sure you’re ready and have your case clearly thought out ahead of time. If no policy is in place, your preparedness might be enough to set the trend in motion.

They’ll want to know your expectations for tuition. Are you asking for them to pay all of the tuition? Will you split it with them, or do you have outside sources (loans, scholarships, grants, etc.) that will cut down on the costs. If you do decide to split the costs, do the outside sources count toward your half, or are they deducted first with the balance then divided between each party. These details should be worked out prior to any arrangement or enrollment being made.

Know the company

A decision like funding education for an employee often comes down to timing and economic factors. Is now a good time to ask for assistance? If the company seems to be cutting down on expenses and is struggling during a troubled economy, the chances of your request being approved are slim. However, if the company seems to be growing and spending money toward their future, and if others before you have gotten similar requests approved, the scene may be set for a request.

Do your research and expect to answer questions

If you’re looking to work in top management at the executive level, a bachelor’s degree will most likely not be enough to get you there. According to a recent survey of top executives, 80% earned a graduate degree in business, which is important for those seeking top management positions.1 Having statistics like this to support your case will let your employer know you’ve taken the time to consider the value of an MBA.

Also, expect a lot of questions from the company. Have the basic facts down, but also generate some substance behind each fact that will heighten the value of your request.

Case for support

A good MBA program will train its students on basic business principles that will help them become a leader and an sharp business manager in the future. You can expect courses covering accounting, marketing, strategic planning, corporate finance and economics. Many specializations are available within MBA programs that you might want to consider as well. From finance and IT to marketing and management, if you have an interest in one of these areas, then you would probably want to select a specialization.

If a specialization fits within the company you’re working for, and you genuinely want to pursue that major, you’ve just found your angle. Explain how studying a specialization will benefit the company in the future, likening it to enhanced continuing education that will help the business profit down the road. Showing how spending the money now can return profits for the company in the future should always be a point for you to explain to your employer.

What can you expect?

A company isn’t usually going to invest the type of money associated with an MBA without some commitment from you, the employee. Many employers will require that you work for the company a certain period of time following your graduation date. Along with that, you’ll often be asked to sign a contract that outlines your obligations, including grade requirements, tuition terms and work periods. Should you not hold up your end of the contract, you may be required to repay all or part of the money spent by the company. So make sure you are comfortable with any contract you sign, prior to signing it.

Leave them with information

Offering up a printed outline of your case and the MBA program you’re interested in can give them some concrete information to look at when making their decision. Leaving them with some kind of report further shows your commitment and thought process behind the request. Include such items as:

  • Name of the school and the MBA program
  • The program’s curriculum
  • Costs and duration of the MBA program
  • The reasons why you need an MBA
  • Benefits of the MBA to the company
  • The reasons why you think the company should pay for it

By showing your commitment to the company and a willingness to develop yourself professionally for the benefit of the business, you will lay the foundation for a solid request of assistance. Remember that not all companies will agree to pay all or even a portion of tuition, but it shouldn’t keep you from seeking an MBA if you find it necessary. At the very least, your employer will know you have a desire to advance – which could go a long way during your time with the company.

About the author

Guest post provided by U.S. News University Directory an education portal designed to help students and working professionals locate hundreds of accredited bachelor degrees, online masters programs and certification courses from top colleges and universities, as well as, a growing collection of articles and career videos.

Guest Post: Creating the Perfect Internship by Justin Mathews

Justin MathewsI am super, super pleased to feature a post today by Justin Mathews who I met over a year ago through my college mentor at Syracuse University, and has worked with The Opportunities Project since January 2011. Justin has helped me take my little idea of changing people’s perspectives on careers and education to a real live profitable organization with national credibility. I can’t thank him enough for sticking by me through all the peaks and valleys of the last nine months and keeping us on track.

While Justin and I make a great team, I also support his career goal to work in the consulting industry and think any organization who convinces him to accept their offer will be a very lucky place. 

Many college students waste too much time looking for that perfect internship. They apply at big shot companies, become discouraged when they don’t get it or, if they do get in, are disappointed to find that most of their work involves answering phones, clipping news article, or shredding paper.

But what if you could construct the perfect internship from scratch? What if the entire experience was sculpted from the beginning to utilize your strengths while broadening your skill set with tools to help you succeed in a career?

It’s a very real possibility. In fact, that is exactly what happened to me during my virtual internship with The Opportunities Project last spring. I began in January when I was brought on as Market Research and Digital Strategy Assistant. Before discussing the details of my position, Tracy and I searched job descriptions for “my perfect job” and identified recurring skills an ideal candidate would possess. When we met to structure the internship, we incorporated learning these into my daily responsibilities.

Even with three and a half years of college under my belt, most of my duties required the use of tools that I had barely (if ever) learned to use. I had never touched Google Analytics or WordPress, I used social media exclusively to communicate with friends I saw on a daily basis, and I had all but forgotten the little HTML and CSS I learned in Intro to Web Design.

But I learned them quickly. I analyzed the site’s website traffic, created a custom landing page on Facebook, co-authored a white paper, managed cost per click advertising campaigns, and more.

That was the true beauty of my internship. At the time, I was one of two team members working for The Opportunities Project, which meant that the company’s potential successes and failures hinged very much on my ability to learn and apply these new skills. My work didn’t just impact a grade – it had a very real effect on the overall health of a small business.

I have since been hired by The Opportunities Project as a paid operations and marketing consultant, as well as a subcontractor on their latest recruitment consulting contract. While other recent grads may be scrambling for their first, income-generating, post-grad opportunity, I am getting paid to use all of the skills I learned through my internship, make a difference, and learn even more skills. I expect these skills to aid me as I continue to search for long-term career opportunities in consulting.

That said, here is my best advice for college students:

Reach out to small businesses:

There are tons of startups out there. In fact, with businesses becoming increasingly web-based, your opportunities for a virtual internship are endless (I’ve done all my work while at least five hours away). Many of these startups haven’t even considered the possibility of having an intern yet. Use this to your advantage. If you’re trustworthy and present a compelling argument as to how you can help, you might just create an internship on the spot. You can work with your supervisor to structure the experience to learn new skills and employ the ones you have.

If you are successful, you’ll be able to broaden your skill set and have the opportunity to make a positive and measurable impact on the business, both of which will make you extremely attractive to future employers.

Q&A with Team Member Lauren Wannermeyer

We’re super excited to have Lauren Wannermeyer helping The Opportunities Project with social media! Until this point, if you were interacting with The Opportunities Project on Facebook or Twitter, you knew you were talking with Tracy 24/7.  Now Lauren will also be manning the accounts and we’re pretty sure rather than get confused, you’ll value having the fresh perspective.


Now here’s some Q&A with Lauren!



Q: What’s the best career advice you’ve received as a college student? 


A: The best career advice I’ve received as a college student was to make my experience. College students are constantly foiled in the search for internships with that old fall back recruiters use. They tell you that you don’t have enough experience. Well obviously! I’m a junior in college and I can’t get any opportunities because everything today requires experience. And how are you supposed to get experience when no one will take a chance on someone without any? So my career advisor told me to make my own. Reach out to local businesses and volunteer to help them. That’s how I ended up doing Faegan’s and I had no idea that it would end up being so big!


Q: Tell me about how you used Twitter or LinkedIn to meet someone cool.


A: I follow a lot of people on Twitter and I’m not shy about responding to people, even if I don’t know them! People on Twitter like to be @mentioned, the love to answer questions and read comments. LinkedIn is a little different. I didn’t know how to use it to begin with. I kept getting stopped by a message telling me to buy the “pro” version. Then I realized that if there was only 3 degrees of separation or if I had a shared group I could talk to anyone. I used that knowledge to reach out to SU alums who worked for the Food Network. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten any job opportunities there yet but it’s still good to have those connections.


Q: You’re on Foursquare a lot- what’s your favorite things about that tool?


A: Mayorships! I guess that’s the incentive to using Foursquare. It’s just a kind of nerdy brag rights kind of thing. For example I was the mayor of the Schine Student Center at Syracuse for a while. It took me forever to get it! It’s also fun snatching mayorships from friends.


Q: Twitter has taught me that we have a lot of similar pop culture interests- Glee and The Hunger Games, for example. What’s your favorite summer movie ever and what are you looking forward to this summer (TV or movies)?


A: It’s hard to pick just one favorite summer movie! But this summer I’m excited for the new Harry Potter movie and I’m always huge into So You Think You Can Dance. I also love Pretty Little Liars. It’s not strictly a summer series but it’s so good right now!

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Q&A with Team Member Salena Moore

We were excited to welcome another team member recently, virtual intern Salena Moore. Salena is a student at Syracuse University and is helping us this summer with updating the systems we use to manage our database for clients and partners where we store contact information and communications.This also includes helping to improve the performance of our email marketing systems, which then helps our sales cycle. We grew so fast in 2011, we’ve had a hard time keeping it together and are grateful for another insightful perspective. Here is Salena’s Q&A.


Q: What interests you about working in education?

A: I would have to attribute my initial interest in education to my mother’s involvement within the field.  She has been an educator in the Milwaukee education system for over 25 years.  In fact, she opened up a school when my brother and I were young because she felt that we were not receiving a proper education. Because of this, I grew up understanding the importance of good schools and how there was a lack of a quality education where I lived and in the entire nation.  Education is important and given the fact that the job market is even more competitive, children need to be more prepared for that environment.  Making sure everyone has the proper education for succeeding is what most interests me.

Q: What are the worst and best things about college?

A: That is a good question! I think that best thing about college is that I am able to explore a number of interests through different majors/minors and I am also able to meet people from different places around the world.  It is a good place to “find yourself.” One of the worst things in college is going there and getting lost in the hype of it all. Many kids go to college and forget what they came for.  College is what you make it; you just have to make sure you use it to your advantage.

Q: What do you think is going to be the be the most important education issue in the next decade?

A: I believe the most important issue in education in the next decade will be the financial challenges placed on schools.  As we all have seen, America has experienced big budget cuts and there might even be more threats to cutting funds in the future.

Q: What is the most important thing you hope to learn from interning with The Opportunities Project?

A: I hope to improve my data analysis skills and to improve my understanding of exactly what career path I should pursue!  Being that I am still in college, I believe that working with The Opportunities Project will allow me to explore more of my interests and it will open up a world of opportunities for me in the future.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog


Announcing the Spring 2011 Scholarship Winners

We are SO pleased to announce the winners of the 2011 Spring Scholarship Program!

I received over 250 tweets about the program, 1,000 page views, and 31 eligible applicants (and another 70ish who started the application, but did not finish- not sure what was up with those people!). I was grateful that so many people wanted our help and think what we do is valuable. I cannot stress enough that there were many applicants who submitted amazing applications- it was a very difficult decision for me and the team.

I had wanted to announce the winners by video, but I had my fill of adventures with video this week (see our Facebook page), but as I said in my original pitch… enough about me, let’s talk about the scholarships! Here are the three winners who I am SO excited to start working with this week.*

Jessie Morgenstern, NYC- A fashion professional potentially considering a new profession



Zach Laplante, Massachusetts- An aspiring politician looking to change the world



Abby Cajudo, University of California, Berkeley- A graduating senior with a strong science background who is considering all career options

Wish them luck as we start our five session journey together.

*Unfortunately, we didn’t have any eligible applicants for the Woman Veteran’s Scholarship so I am giving two Young Professional Scholarships instead. My marketing plan for that scholarship tanked, but I am committed to that cause and will take it up again during the fall. If you have ideas, please share in the comments or by contacting us.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

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


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.


Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Teach for America #TFA20 Recap and Reflections: Part II

Based on length, I am now separating my TFA posts into three parts. As a result of a conversation I’m having on another blog, I’ve decided to address something in the interest of transparency. Class and ideological assumptions about who participates in TFA and why is a prickly thing for me. Once people hear that I’m a TFA alumna, many will start talking to me as if they know what type of family I grew up in, what schools I went to or what I think politically. So you don’t have to make any assumptions, here is what you need to know: I grew up in a working class family in a Massachusetts fishing town and graduated from a high school that lost its accreditation because our building didn’t have a proper gym or library, among other reasons. Both the valedictorian and I (3rd in my class) were lucky enough to go to Syracuse University based on generous scholarships. I’ll never be a graduate of an Ivy League school and after interviewing several of them for jobs over the years, I’ve become okay with that. Politically, I am all over the map, depending on the issue.

These next reflections on the Summit focus on what I’ve called Sticky Concerns because I think if they’re not addressed, they’re going to “stick” to Teach for America’s work to meet its goal that all children will have an excellent education. Ruben Brosbe on Gotham Schools also blogged about this yesterday. Everything that follows is based on my observations, and not any conversations I’ve had with people at TFA, official or unofficial.

So my Sticky Concerns…

Our Egypt Moment, Ed Reform Assumptions, and Unions

At the Summit, there was a theme that education should become our country’s “Egypt moment.” At first, I was taken aback by the connotations of that statement, but as I’ve reflected on it, I think it’s appropriate. Schools in all types of communities are struggling and something significant and urgent needs to happen. Like most taxpayers and Americans, I have become increasingly impatient.

I think that Teach for America has the right to assume that if you chose to attend the Summit, (1) you have bought into their vision that all students deserve and MUST have the opportunity to achieve academically (and economically as adults), and (2) that collectively, we can make a difference. However, I think it’s a big leap to believe we are all in agreement on what that path looks like and this is not an insignificant assumption to make. For that reason, I had issues with the morning panel on education reform. There were people on the panel that I respect individually, but I think that featuring them together collectively was a mistake for Teach for America, especially with no alternative perspectives in the group. The fact that 80% of the panel either lead non-unionized charter schools or recently led the only two major districts that didn’t participate in the US DOE’s federal conference on Advancing Student Achievement through Labor Management Collaboration sends a message about what you need to believe if you want to participate in this Egypt moment. Having Randi Weingarten on a panel by herself at the same time that Malcolm Gladwell and Gloria Steinem are speaking doesn’t cut it as portraying that your organization is open to multiple opinions.

Personally, my opinion on labor unions has always been complicated. Here is why:

•    All four of my grandparents were union members. The three that worked for the federal and state government made important contributions to society, experienced great working conditions and retired with good pensions. My other grandmother worked her butt off for 40 years in sweatshop conditions as a member of the Ladies Garment Workers union (I speak about her on a video on my Facebook page) and died almost penniless because of a worthless pension.

•    My dad has been a union member his entire life, mostly as shop steward, and is still active as a leader. I walked my first picket line at eight years old and helped mimeograph (yes, mimeograph) materials at the union hall for my dad’s meetings. I saw first hand how my dad helped countless people who were really screwed over due to no fault of their own.

•    When I was a member of the UFT, my chapter leaders (I had three in two years) were so far up the principal or central UFT’s ass, they couldn’t be bothered with any new teacher concerns. I spent two years calling and writing letters about per-session work for which I was never compensated. I only got paid when after telling him I was giving up, my dad (unbeknownst to me) found the phone number of a high-ranking official at the UFT online and left a message for him using an AFSCME Executive Board title (a volunteer position). His message was returned in 24 hours and I had my check within ten days.

•    As a manager for over ten years, I saw the UFT defend people who they knew didn’t deserve to be teaching. I saw them ignore the concerns of a new teacher (with high student test scores) who was run out out of her school by an incompetent principal. I’ve also seen them help good teachers who were really concerned about kids, but were terrorized by poor managers.

I bring all of those experiences with me and I can’t just let them go based on a fiery speech.

One of the speakers on the morning panel spoke about how policies like LIFO (laying off teachers in seniority order) treat teachers as if they were widgets. I agree, but that’s identifying a problem, and I want to hear a good solution. There is a vague proposal that principals should make layoff decisions because they know teachers better. I’ve worked with principals in NYC for years and have seen MANY of them do wacky things when it comes to hiring and working with teachers- not here and there, but as a matter of practice. Waiting for Superman didn’t talk about how principals impact our educational problems and it was a major omission.

I don’t support LIFO. But not being in favor of an existing law is not a policy solution. If we get rid of something, what are we substituting it with? For me, accepting that there will be some collateral damage for teachers and kids if principals don’t get layoffs right is a struggle I’m having a hard time overcoming. I know too many good new teachers who I personally recruited and think it would be a travesty if their students lost them, and I can’t stop thinking of a friend and good veteran teacher who had an extremely hard time transferring because countless principals balked at her salary. I am begging for someone to show me a real plan that will be fair to teachers and provide the best results for students. My concern is that we have too many people with opinions on both sides who turn passive-aggressive when it’s time to hammer out the details of how we’re really going to help kids and the people closest to them. This is not easy at all.

Finally, I am also worried about how this rhetoric plays with our current college students. The last few years, I ran a successful intern program at the NYCDOE. It was my great pride that almost every intern was inspired by his/her experience in public education and applied to Teach for America (most were accepted). This year, not one applied. When I asked them why, they said that they don’t want to join a profession that’s so “unstable.” I felt utterly startled by that statement because all we hear is how teachers have the most secure job in the world. But it’s not only my former interns. The National Association of College and Employers interviewed some of the best and brightest college students across majors about what they’re looking for in their first job and their priority is security. If the rhetoric about education continues this way, I’m afraid it’s going to be a distraction and prevent the smartest young people we graduate from considering teaching. That will have a very real impact on students.

Is there a middle road here or am I being delusional? What do you think we should do in the name of change that works?

As a PS, one of the best classes I ever took was The History of the Teaching Profession at New York University under Lynn Gordon. If you want to know more about why our teaching corps looks like it does and how unions have been innovative and improved educational outcomes, not just working conditions, I have a great reading list. I was annoyed by Waiting for Superman’s underwhelming summary of how teachers’ unions were started because the history is so rich. If you’re interested in this, email me.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Teach for America #TFA20 Recap and Reflections: Part 1

If you’ve been been following me on Twitter recently, you know that I attended the Teach for America 20 Year Anniversary Summit. With 11,000 people at a highly programmed conference, I knew connecting with people via Twitter throughout the day would be my best bet to meet people. During the conference, close to 1,000 people tweeted the conference using the #TFA20 hashtag and every 50 tweets were exposed to about 26,000 other people on Twitter.  It’s a great testament to the power of social media to reach people with a message. Below is the tweet cloud of the most common words tweeted as part of the conference. (As a FYI, the most re-tweeted message was a quote from Joel Klein, but the tweeter spelled his name “Kline.”)

Teach for America Tweet Cloud

I can’t deny that I’ve been struggling with writing about the Summit. Teach for America always riles up emotions in me and writing about them is hard. If I wrote every thought that came to me over the last few days, it would be the length of a book so there’s been much thought on how to structure this post. Finally, I am tentative about fully discussing my views on some education issues as I have consulting clients who are school districts and charter schools and I don’t want to jeopardize those relationships. My consulting focuses on helping institutions find great teachers who are dedicated to helping students achieve at high levels, something I believe in deeply and am very good at doing. What I ultimately feel about other education issues shouldn’t matter, but it will to some.

I’ve decided to split my thoughts into two posts. The first is on Pleasant Surprises and the second will be on Sticky Concerns. If you want a summary of the Summit, you can view the official videos of the conference sessions or read a play-by-play on Norm Scott’s Ed Notes Online blog.

My pleasant surprises…

Focus on Staying in Teaching and Schools

I found there was an emphasis on staying in teaching in the messages I heard and saw at the Summit. I also took a bus from New York City with mostly younger corps and I heard about how they wanted to stay in teaching. I know Teach for America has a rap for being a resume builder for young graduates and that’s why many leave after two years, but that’s a simplistic take on a complex situation. As a career coach, I work with people who change jobs and careers every few years because it’s in their DNA and they shouldn’t be judged, whether they are a TFA alum or not.

I admire people who found teaching and have stuck with it as a long-term career because they found their passion. I only taught for two years and I have no apologies. I came to teaching with the best of intentions, and I loved working with kids, but I realized it was not my calling. I am sure it didn’t help that I did TFA back in 1997 where you were thrown in a classroom and told “See you in two years!” But ultimately the isolation, routines and structure of teaching did not make me a happy person and I knew that my strengths and talents (working with large-scale projects, for example) could be put to better use. I stayed in public education for over ten years and am confident about the good work I did, as well as the work I do today as a career coach working with college students and young professionals. I keep in touch with the kids I did teach and have helped them over the years because they were what mattered to me in the experience, not my career. That being said, I am glad more corps members want to stay teaching and feel prepared to be effective. I like that TFA is actively encouraging this, even though it’s up to each individual to decide what’s right for them.

A New Appreciation for Dave Levin, Mike Feinberg, and Deborah Bial

The Opportunities Project is about maximizing human capital and creating long-term economic success for people, especially those who face disadvantages. I founded my company because I was sick of encountering college graduates who had few tangible skills to make themselves successfully economically, but possessed unconscionable levels of student debt.

I think it’s naïve to think that college admission should be the goal of education reform when we have so much data on student debt and unemployment for recent graduates. So I was pleased to hear this message from Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg of KIPP. Both spoke about long-term student success and where our collective responsibility as educators lies. Like Dave Levin said, we have toaim higher than creating groups of smart eighth graders- no one’s going to give an 8th grader a job. We’ve broken the American promise that schools can change a young person’s life and we have to fix that. I couldn’t agree more.

I know there are people who have issues with KIPP. I am not going to take those on here. Whatever you might feel, I think that they should be celebrated for their focus on economic success as an important education outcome and not just test scores.

Deborah Bial is the President of The Posse Foundation, an organization I was only vaguely familiar with before the Summit. I heard her speak on the Ensuring Success in College and Beyond panel. She spoke about how our higher education system, especially its staggering costs, is creating a perpetual class system. I found her conviction inspiring in all her comments. My one gripe about this panel is that the moderator didn’t ask any questions about the “beyond” part of the panel’s title.

This is a non-sequiter, but right after Deborah’s opening remarks during the College and Beyond panel, I had an epiphany that I want a career that is part Wendy Kopp, part Deborah Bial and part Penelope Trunk (without all the weird personal revelations). Need to journal on that one.

The Sheer Force of 11,000 People Committed to Kids

I have a pro-union education blogger friend who I speak to quite often. He says that we probably agree on about 80% of the issues- I think it’s about 75%. However, the one thing we agree on 100% is that we want a better education system for kids in NYC, even if we don’t always agree on the same strategies we need to get there. Our agreement matters, not just the ideas. If you don’t agree with how TFA is helping to increase educational equity, you still should be impressed with their passion and energy.  I think Pedro Noguera’s tweet sums it up well.

I’ll post my Sticky Concerns tomorrow. Interestingly, I am also finally seeing Waiting for Superman tonight on a college campus. When the movie played here in the NYC area, I was in the midst of an intense entrepreneurship fellowship program and I couldn’t get to a theater before it closed. Since the movie focuses on employee performance (at least in part) I am really interested in viewing it from a wide human resources perspective so I can talk about some of the issues with the corporate human resources and recruitment professionals I work with these days. You’d be surprised what happens (or doesn’t) in corporate HR, even when they don’t work with unions.

Interested in knowing more about how the achievement gap is perpetuated after college graduation? Download our white paper on this topic and understand the facts.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

Quick Updates and Intern Superstar Daniel Hernandez

Happy new year! You may have noticed that after a big push for the #Reverb10 writing campaign, blog posts were very light (yes, an understatement) last week. I am working on some updates to my website (both content and design) and am committing to giving this project all my focus. In fact, if you send me an email, you’ll read that in my autoresponder!

In a few of my #Reverb10 posts, I wrote that I am working with a time management coach. While I actually coach other people on time management systems, I needed help getting clarity on scaffolding my work to better impact the bottom line of my business. One immediate win that came from working with my coach was identifying four projects (one being my website) with tasks that are stuck because they were dependent upon each other. I realized if I cleared these tasks out in a certain order, so much other good stuff would begin to flow. Sometimes even if you feel you have the expertise, the time comes to hire a professional thought partner when you’re not moving forward on your own. It’s the same role I play with my clients who are working on career and job-search concerns or figuring out how to carry out exactly what they want in their lives.

Before I go dark, I wanted to comment on Daniel Hernandez, the 20-year old intern who likely saved Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s life on his fifth day on the job during the shooting attack on Saturday. The tragedy in Arizona has been heavy on my mind the last few days as I am sure it has been for you. It seems cheap to find career lessons for interns in this horrific event, though there are many. I immediately thought of when I was recruiting teachers and how the high-achieving and dynamic Latino man who worked his way through school, wanted to dedicate himself to public service, and didn’t mind working weekends was our dream candidate and our purple squirrel. Wow, has this young man set the standard! And I’d be lying if hearing Daniel’s story didn’t make me reflect on all the interviews I had in 2010 with young professionals for my own internship or commission-based positions who told me about all their constraints and what they couldn’t do. I don’t expect an intern to save my life, but I’d love to meet my version of Daniel Hernandez the student leader to work for The Opportunities Project!

Intern lessons aside, whether we’re young or old or in-between, or seeking a new career or satisfied with the jobs we have, I do think all of us can take a lesson from Daniel Hernandez’s story. This is a young man who lives openly and with conviction in a tumultuous state dealing with issues of ethnicity and sexuality in public ways. All the evidence points to someone who lives his life with courage every day, so it was not a surprise that he made the decisions and took the actions he did in a crisis. How often are we faced with situations where we could take a courageous course but choose the easy one? How is that impacting our long-term path to achievement and satisfaction? It’s food for thought for all of us, no?

Be back soon…

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog