Congratulations! You have either decided to enroll in a career training school, or you have already begun your career training journey. So now what? We chatted with the director of a career training campus, Zack Lesak, at the Institute of Medical and Business Careers in Pittsburgh, PA. Keep reading to discover Zack’s top ten tips for success with your career training and ensure that you stay on the right path for success.
As a student, you should get to know the staff that works at your campus. Their job is to support you and ensure you have the tools and resources needed to succeed. But, you need to do the work to introduce yourself and get to know them. This includes staff in all departments: financial aid, student support, campus director, career services, and of course, your instructors. Find a few minutes after class to schedule an appointment to meet these individuals and be sure to attend any and all events at the school so you can get to know your fellow students and the staff. By building a professional relationship with them, they will get to know you and your specific needs so that they can provide you with the tools you need to succeed. If they are helping you with anything, be sure to provide quick responses via email or phone, or in-person. Keep them updated on your successes and your challenges. They have supported hundreds, if not thousands, of students before you. So, they know what it takes to succeed and can point you in the right direction when you get stuck. Their advice is priceless. Everyone on the campus wants to see you succeed and will help you do so!
- It’s okay to be nervous
Acknowledge your feelings, emotions, and anxiety. It’s absolutely okay to have strong feelings of trepidation as you set out on this new and unfamiliar journey. Learning a new skill can be challenging. By creating relationships with the staff around you and your fellow classmates, you’ll build a support network that likely feels the same as you – a bit uncertain but optimistic about what the future holds. Lean on your support network when you need to and be there for others when they need your help. You are part of a great community of learning so take full advantage of it while you can. Once you graduate and start your new career, you’ll appreciate all of these resources to which you had access.
- Manage your time efficiently
Time is a resource you cannot purchase more of, trade for, or create. So use it wisely! As a student, there are three important areas of time management on which you should focus:
- School time. You have made the smart investment to further yourself, your skills, and your life. So, it is important to set boundaries with family members, friends, and employers so that you can focus on your education. This means you need to communicate with them and share your schedule so they can respect your schedule and provide you the time you need to commit to your studies.
For example, if your school schedule is from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and you have to work at 5:00 p.m., you should communicate with others and block off some time between when you finish your classes at 12:30 p.m. and when you have to leave for work. Use this time for homework, studying, working on long term projects, and preparing for tomorrow’s classes. By completing your work in “real-time”, you are avoiding procrastination which causes stress, impacts your knowledge retention, and can affect your well-being.
- Work time. As an adult learner enrolled in a career training school, you may also be working a part-time or full-time job to help make ends meet. This job is probably not in your desired career path which is why you are back in school. Nonetheless, you should ensure that your employer is aware of your school commitments. By communicating your obligations with your employer, you are not necessarily going to receive special treatment, scheduling accommodations, or anything else. However, you will have their respect when it comes to your time and commitments, which is equally important.
- Personal and family time. Family is always first! They will support you each step of the way along your journey for personal and financial improvement. So, it is important to carve out some time for your family. They need you too! It may be a lot to allocate time for work, school, and family. But going to school and changing your life for the better, requires a tremendous amount of effort and commitment. Stick with it!
- Expect the unexpected
Whenever you are working toward accomplishing a goal – be it something small, like completing your homework for the day, or a long-term goal of getting an A in your class, be flexible and prepared for unexpected events that might be speed bumps on your journey. These unexpected events, such as a sick child in your family, a schedule change, a car breaking down, or anything else, can be upsetting and distracting. It takes practice and persistence to master endurance along your journey. Don’t let these obstacles get in your way. Go with the flow and simply adjust your strategy and schedule for these unexpected challenges and keep heading toward your goal.
- Set small, achievable goals.
Setting small, achievable goals along your journey toward accomplishing the big one (your degree and new career), helps you memorialize your accomplishments and gives you a great deal of confidence. Building confidence and seeing your successes accumulate is the momentum you need to help you overcome any unexpected challenges along the way. Reward yourself when you achieve these smaller goals and celebrate your success. You deserve it and worked hard. Even if the goals are very small, such as turning in an assignment on time or simply having perfect attendance for the week, take a little reward break.
- Remember the buffalo
Zack recalls a former college professor of his always saying to “remember the buffalo!” Why a buffalo? Buffalos have been on the verge of extinction several times in our country’s history. Yet, this species is highly resilient and never seems to give up surviving and eventually thriving. Buffalos constantly move forward (they roam) to find green pastures and freshwater. So, when things get tough for you, remember the buffalo, and keep trying harder. Your persistence will pay off.
- Have a study buddy (or buddies)
You need a support group to lean on when you encounter challenges with your studies. By having a designated study partner (or small group), you have consistent people in your life that you can rely on for help with your classes and assignments. Two heads are better than one, goes the saying. This is very true when it comes to your studies. If you get stuck on a concept, a study buddy can often help you understand the material. Study buddies and groups can help you prepare for a big exam and you can bounce ideas for projects off of them for immediate feedback. Chances are, your study buddy is someone in your program, who’s also working a job, maintaining a household, and sharing similar goals with you.
- Manage your stress
Stress is a common condition among students of all types. It is natural to feel a bit stressed out when you add the challenges of schoolwork on top of your other commitments such as work and family. Managing stress is not easy either. You need an outlet to release your stress and tools to help you manage and overcome it. This could be exercising which has been medically proven to lower stress levels. Even if making time for exercising stresses you out, it is still worth doing. Eating healthily is another good tool to manage stress. Setting a little time aside for a hobby or leisure activity is important as well. Whether that is spending time with your loved ones, or by yourself, that is up to you. There are also many tools and apps that can help you with managing stress. Apps for mindfulness, meditation, and time management can really help you tackle stress points in your life. Overcoming and managing your stress will help you succeed academically, and eventually in your new career.
- Technology is your friend
Technology can empower you to become more efficient, productive, and stress-free. Whether this is a reliable laptop, a steady internet connection, an app for keeping track of all your tasks, a good scheduling calendar to manage your commitments, or tools to document your goals – apps and gadgets can help you achieve success. Ask your instructors, the campus director, and other students for advice and recommendations. Chances are that they will have some good tools for you to leverage.
- Ask for help
When you need it, ask. In all likelihood, no one is going to randomly come up to you and offer to help at the right moment you need it. So, be proactive, bold, and confident in yourself and ask for help. Whether it is with a homework assignment or preparing for an exam, just ask. Do not be afraid to raise your hand or schedule an appointment to ask for tutoring, extra time, or whatever accommodation you need. The only thing you risk is hearing a “no”. But, if you have good relationships with your instructors and campus staff, they will likely provide you with the assistance you need, or at the very least, point you in the right direction. Everyone at the campus wants to see you succeed.
Bringing it all together
Zack Lesak is the Director of the Pittsburgh Campus of the Institute of Medical and Business Careers. He has been in academics for more than a decade and has worked with students of all types. Follow his advice detailed above and you will get the most out of your educational experience while a student. His top ten tips for success will ensure you achieve your goals and start your new career with confidence.