How To Create Your Dream Job

There are a plethora of books on finding your passion, but how does this advice apply to your career? Being stuck in a job that’s wrong for you can be dull at best and a prison at worst. Finding your dream career can be one of the most freeing and empowering things in the world, but what if your dream job doesn’t exist? Follow these tips to create your dream career when no one job ticks all the boxes.

Make A Wish List

What do you truly love doing? If you don’t already know what your dream job is, start by listing the things you’re passionate about and look for places where those ideas intersect. Identifying what kind of work you enjoy, what skills you have or want to develop further, and what kind of work environment you want are key steps to creating your dream job. Tools such as O*Net – a U.S. Department of Labor site with resources to match users to occupations based on career clusters, skills, and work style – can be very helpful in starting your wish list.

Explore Options

Think you know what your dream job might be but don’t know where to start? If you haven’t already worked in the job or industry you want to enter, take the first step by looking for job shadowing or volunteer opportunities in the field. Trying out new jobs or even new projects at your current job can help you refine your wish list and it’s often enough to determine whether you want to learn more or realize this actually isn’t the job for you. By trying out things that have the right base elements, you can learn more about your strengths and working style and figure out exactly what works for you. This also helps you learn who you most like working with and helps you get comfortable seeing yourself in a new role.

Expand Your Network

Breaking into a new industry can be hard. Networking with people who already work in the field you hope to enter will help you learn to talk the talk and also help you find mentors who will help you develop. Joining professional development organizations, enrolling in professional education programs, or joining industry meetup groups are all great ways to expand your network.

Make A Transition Plan

Look at your resume. Do you have the skills and experience to launch a new career, or do you need additional experience or education? Career One Stop – another excellent U.S. Department of Labor site – has 900+ occupation profiles where you can find out what skills and training are necessary to enter a particular field, and also has resources to help you find and pay for additional training.

Once you have identified any skills gaps, make a transition plan for your dream job. If at all possible, get started before quitting your current job. Today, most postsecondary students are working and going to school at the same time. There are many flexible programs out there – such as CCPE’s professional certificate programs – that are designed to provide students with real-world skills they can apply in the workplace and which offer classes on evenings or weekends to reduce time away from work. You may even be able to convince your employer to help you finance your education or training if you can prove that it’ll help you in your current role. For more ideas on funding your education, check out our funding resources page.

Take The Plunge

Ready to take the leap into a new role? Asking for the support of your network can help you look for new opportunities. But you may not have look far. Pay attention to what your company or organization is trying to achieve and what it isn’t doing well. Can you help your organization solve a problem with your new skills? You may be able to create a new position for yourself that is both challenging and interesting.  Making a case for yourself with powerful data on what you can do (or have already been doing) to contribute to the organization’s success can help you convince your organization to let you create your dream job.

Remember: Don’t wait for someone to hand you your dream job. Go create it for yourself.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” — Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author and personal development expert

Rethinking HR – 2016 SHRM Conference

Human resources, one of the most important functions in organizations today, is critical to a company’s success. Unlike the days where it was simply called “personnel,” HR is more than just compensation, benefits, selection, recruiting, and staffing. Competition, advancement, and challenges in the workplace can be severely impacted by good and bad human resources policies. Corporate Social Responsibility, Diversity and Inclusion, Engagement, Talent Acquisition, Metrics, Human Resource Information Systems, Outsourcing, Effective Management, Prioritizing, Communication, Leadership, Accountability, Branding and so much more are all essential areas in human resources and critical to organizational success.

Many of the certificate programs that we offer at The Center for Continuing and Professional Education are based in human resources practices and principles. We currently offer a Leadership Coaching certificate, Organizational Consulting and Change Leadership certificate as well as a Certificate in Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Management, and many others. We know that understanding human resources best practices and trends helps our students learn to be better managers, to be better collaborators, and gives them the practical tools to understand where an organization is going and how well it’s reaching goals. Our School of Continuing Studies also offers Master of Professional Studies degrees in Global Strategic Communications, Systems Engineering Management, Technology Management, Human Resources Management, Hospitality Management and Program and Portfolio Management and a variety of others where human resources plays a major role. All of these industries contain core elements of HR emphasizing globalization, technology, coaching, leadership and customer service.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) is one of the premier resources for the HR profession. Students, C-Suite officers, practitioners, generalists and employees flock to their website to obtain information on trends, policies and news. SHRM offers case studies, articles, newsletters, and industry updates, and also offers certifications for HR professionals as well as training materials. The 2016 SHRM conference will take place in D.C. this summer on June 19-20, 2016. For more information regarding SHRM D.C. 2016 annual conference and exposition please click here.

The deadline for discounted registration for the SHRM conference is April 8, 2016. However if you are interested in volunteering for the event you can pick up shifts to earn free conference days. Please visit and click the apply now tab to volunteer.

The Secret Traits of High-Performing Teams

Unless you’re a pure freelancer or super genius, chances are you work in teams. At some point in your career, you will most likely be a team leader. The benefit and value of working in teams is well-documented and researched: teams are more productive, better at problem-solving, more innovative, etc. “There’s no ‘I’ in team!” Right? Translation: the team comes first.

A recent article in the New York Times Magazine documents how Google set out to build the perfect team.  As one of the most data-intensive organizations in the world, they studied practically every performance variable – incentives, compensation, autonomy, etc. – to obtain “employee performance optimization.”  They had their data scientists cull through all their performance data. They looked at various team configurations i.e. grouping high-performers or mixing different personality traits and skill levels. No patterns emerged.

Until, that is, a group of psychologists identified two specific characteristics of high-performing teams:

  1. Conversational turn-taking: everyone on the team gets a chance to talk
  2. Average social sensitivity: everyone on the team can intuit how others felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues

Together, these two team traits fall under the concept of psychological safety, which Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’  In other words, each individual team member feels he or she has a voice and can express it without reservation or fear of being embarrassed, rejected, or punished by the team. Teams depend on trust and mutual respect. Each team member feels ok being vulnerable.

I think this has two implications for organizations:

First, recognize there is an “I” in team. What’s interesting to note is that Google’s experience demonstrates that people have to be comfortable being themselves at work. Many professionals have “work” selves and “home” selves, which means we leave a lot of who we are behind when we arrive at the office each day. Some organizations consciously or unconsciously encourage employees to bring only their “work” selves to the office. Yet, Google has shown that the most effective organizations encourage their employees to bring their full selves to work, all their talents, ambitions, vulnerabilities, and challenges. I call this the Return on Trust.

Second, this says a lot about the growing importance of diversity and inclusion. Many managers think of diversity and inclusion in legal or compliance terms. But that is narrow-minded. As Google has shown, diversity and inclusion is about productivity and profits. It’s about raising the emotional intelligence and sensitivity of an organization, which has a significant return on investment. I call this the Return on Mutual Respect.

In reality, there’s a balance between the needs of the team and the individual. Professionalism, productivity, and accountability go hand-in-hand with trust and mutual respect. We work in teams because that’s the best way to get work done. Yet, to get the best work out of a team, we must understand that psychological safety matters for each individual team member.

So think about the teams you lead.  Listen and observe. Take stock of the who has a voice and who doesn’t. Be mindful of your body language and observe the non-verbal cues of your teammates. If you want to lead a performing team, you have to seek a Return on Trust and a Return on Mutual Respect. Instead of saying, “There’s no ‘I’ in team.”, honor each “I” on the team and create a shared belief that it’s ok to be vulnerable.

Our Strategies for Delivering Quality Programs to Professional Students

I was recently asked to write an article for The EvoLLLution, an online publication where people in higher education share their insights and opinions on what the future holds for the industry. The publication was founded by Destiny Solutions, the software platform CCPE uses for all of the student support services we provide to students like you every day. The full text of this article is available here.

Working adults have a different set of priorities when it comes to their postsecondary experience. Professional students’ diversity of experience can lead to rich dialogues and unique perspectives, and can also lead to challenges in delivering programs that satisfy and serve professional participants at all stages of their careers. Our team at CCPE follows five key strategies to deliver top-quality programs that create a conducive and supportive learning environment for professional students.

1. Align marketable skills with institutional values
To design competitive programs for professionals, we do quantitative and qualitative market research to identify the skills most in demand in the marketplace. Alignment between what’s needed in the market and what participants are learning in the classroom is critical to student success. If the skills the student has mastered at the end of the program are in demand, the student is more likely to get a promotion, a new position, change careers, or tackle a new project.

We also recognize our institutional identity. As the nation’s oldest Jesuit university, at Georgetown our belief in cura personalis—care of the whole person—calls for us to offer individualized attention to the needs of each student, with appreciation for their unique circumstances and concerns. By keeping our portfolio of offerings relevant and timely we serve community needs while fulfilling the university’s mission. Creating an inviting and diverse educational community is central to The Spirit of Georgetown.

2. Focus on applied learning
A certain amount of theory, history and introduction is necessary to build a foundational knowledge, but applying that information makes programs stand out. Our programs are always focused on applying learning to real-life problems. Case studies and simulations provide examples and give context, and assessments mirror products that professionals would be expected to produce at work. At the end of each class, success can be measured by what students learned that could be applied to their professional work.

3. Design instruction and curriculum based on competencies and skills
Designing with the end in mind is an approach that confirms students will master competencies and skills at the completion of their educational experience. This is possible by taking pieces of many successful models and creating the best experience for the specific group. When designing programs, we also speak with hiring managers in the industry. We ask questions like, “If you are hiring someone, what do you want them to be able to do if they have this credential?” That’s our end goal.

4. Meet students where they are … not where the institution is.
We know it’s critical to adapt programs, adjust curriculum, and develop new modalities that will be meaningful to the professional student population while maintaining the quality of the educational experience. When designing courses, our faculty are agile in responding to the evolving needs of professional students.

5. Give students flexibility to customize programs to individual needs
Providing flexible options where possible helps both our students and our programs succeed. This includes flexibility both within program requirements, such as elective course choices, and within modalities, such as letting students seamlessly moves between online and on-ground courses. We are attentive to variations in student experience level, knowing that entry-level professionals need to be challenged in different ways in their learning than senior executives. Providing flexible options allows students to customize the educational experience to what is most valuable to their individual goals.

Adapt, or Else!

AT&T has been a fixture of the U.S. corporate landscape for the last 100 years. It has been broken up, merged, bought, re-engineered, and re-organized over the course of its history. In many ways, AT&T is a survivor. Yet CEO Randall Stephenson believes the company is facing its biggest threat ever from competitors such as Google, Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook. So he has given AT&T’s 280,000 employees a choice: adapt or become obsolete.

As Stephenson explains in a recent New York Times article, organizations like AT&T must adapt to the era of cloud computing, which has fundamentally changed our relationship with data. The way we work, live, and communicate is shifting. Yet, a majority of AT&T’s employees support hardware or legacy systems facing obsolescence. And the competition is moving fast. Google is getting into high-speed internet with their Google fiber pilot program. Amazon is experimenting with cloud-based phone systems. Netflix is changing content distribution.

So, Stephenson has given his employees a mandate to prepare for the new competitive landscape, which will reward those individuals and organizations that are data confident, data focused, and data savvy. “Everybody is going to go face to face with a Google, an Amazon, a Netflix,” he said. “You compete based on data, and based on customer insights you get with their permission.”

The new competitive landscape will reward individuals and organizations that are data confident, data focused, and data savvy.

To back up his mandate, AT&T has launched a campaign to get the word out, provided funding of up to $8000 to enroll in training programs, and established partnerships with Udacity and the Georgia Institute of Technology.  Generous? Yes. But he wants employees to do all of this on their own time. Naturally, many employees are wary or dismissive while others have embraced the opportunity. AT&T seems content allowing employees to choose themselves. They’re prepared to shrink their headcount by 30%. That’s bold.

I wouldn’t be surprised if more organizations follow AT&T’s lead. As the old adage goes: the only constant is change. The difference now is the rate of change has increased dramatically. The future belongs to those who nimbly adapt to shifting demands and by understanding data and using it to transform their careers and organizations. These are skills that a computer science or business degree alone does not provide. So, what can I do to adapt to an increasingly data-driven world? I can seek additional training and education, as AT&T has smartly offered to its employees. More importantly, I can select programs and courses that give me context on the forces shaping my industry’s continued evolution. Above all, I can understand that the most complex data is meaningless without effective communication, and I can focus on developing the communications skills to tell stories with data that will impact my organization. Bringing these skills together can help future-proof my career.

Learn more about the Data Science program at Georgetown >>