Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Work experience - Lies your high school may not know they told you

Experience is the new black.

College graduates generally earn more than people with only a high school diploma. A 2014 study puts the gap at an average $17,500 per year. High school dropouts have it even worse, making 60% less than college grads. There are a lot of good reasons to get a college degree, and its effect on your earning potential is one of the most important.

But for many industries, the economic value tapers off once you have a bachelor's degree. A recent article in Business Insider listed the 10 most "useless" graduate degrees, where "useless" means that a master's really doesn't improve salaries or unemployment rates. Computer Science and IT graduate degrees made this top 10 list.

I can easily believe those findings. I'm a software professional who has hired (or helped to hire) dozens of software developers and testers in my career. All candidates had undergraduate degrees, and some had graduate. However, not all had work experience. For many hire decisions, relevant work experience can be the main differentiator.

The company that employs me is well-known for being a great place to work. When we open a technical position in Research & Development, hundreds of applications pour in. I do look at a candidate's education, but what I'm truly interested in is their employment history. If the applicant doesn't have one, I'm likely to move that resume to the "Maybe" stack.

Why do I do this? It's because I want new colleagues who know how to tackle business projects, meet deadlines, collaborate with other people, and follow directions. You do not get those skills in college. Unless you have "blow-me-away" education, I'll choose an experienced candidate. Every time.

There are a lot of ways to get experience. Work-study, internships, and volunteer jobs look amazing on resumes. If you can't find any of those opportunities, being self-employed can look good, too.

Start the research now, while you're making the transition from high school to college to career. If you know what you want to major in1, find out if post-graduate education is required. If it's not, discover how much (or little) your education impacts your career and salary goals. And then organize your 5-year plan around that information.

Bottom line: In a competitive job market, work experience might be as critical to your job search as education. So do your research. Know what is expected for your field, and then make a plan that is right for you and your goals.

1 - If you don't know what you want to major in yet, that's fine. You don't have to be in a hurry. Postpone research and plans until you've figured out what you want to do in your first career. 

Other posts in this series:
Online school 


Friday, June 19, 2015

Opinions from readers - what jacket copy should reveal

Readers, I'd love to know your opinions about how much you want revealed in jacket copy (the blurb on the back cover that hopes to interest you in the book).

If something happens in the book that could be a trigger for you (for instance, abuse), would you want the jacket copy to hint at that? Or do most readers check out reviews to see if there are any trigger warnings?
I'll assume that you wouldn't want spoilers for the book. But if it's in a series--and it's not the first book--should the jacket copy stay away from spoilers from previous books? Or do readers expect that spoilers from earlier books might pop up and, therefore, only read the copy if they don't care about spoilers?

Monday, June 15, 2015

GPA - Lies your high school may not know they told you

We didn't have weighted Grade Point Averages (GPAs) when I was in high school. If we had advanced or honor classes, I don't remember them. The percentage of students from my town who planned to go on to college wasn't particularly high. Perhaps my high school didn't think it was economically defensible to fully support the College Prep track.

It was, therefore, a surprise when Daughter #1 went to a magnet high school offering lots of advanced/honors classes--and her weighted GPA became a thing we had to pay attention to.

The school pushed her to take their "harder" courses. You would think that meant a 4.0+ GPA is important for college admission, right? But it really isn't. Most colleges do not consider weighted GPAs in their admission decisions.

Daughter #1 was stunned when she found this out. She was visiting UNC Chapel Hill for a HS junior weekend. And the admissions counselor clearly stated that UNC did not consider weighted GPAs.

She took 3 advanced classes in her sophomore year, and never took another one. Instead, she completed several dual enrollment classes from the local community college. I had the opportunity to question the admissions counselor at a university she was applying to. When I asked about GPAs, the counselor basically said: Your daughter has great SAT scores and 9 college credits. We don't need to look at anything else.

I am not advocating that students take the easy path. They should always strive to challenge themselves, work hard, and think broadly. But we all need to be realistic about the benefits and trade-offs. Educate yourself about the expectations of the universities you are targeting. If they want an excellent weighted GPA, then pursue one. If they like to see advanced/honors courses on your transcript, take them.

However, your dream college might have an equal interest in seeing that you are well-rounded or that you have a passion that engages you. Maybe it's okay to take 3-D art instead of that advanced biology course. It doesn't make sense to stress yourself out over a GPA that the college you want to attend doesn't care about.

Both of my daughters graduated from our homeschool. I was allowed to give them whatever GPA I wanted. I reported an honest, unweighted GPA on their transcripts. They had good GPAs, but not stellar. And they were admitted to every college they applied to. (Granted, not top tier, but then we didn't want them to go to top tier.)

Bottom line: Know what your targeted colleges expect for GPA, so that your efforts are focused on what's important. If advanced classes or 4.0+ GPAs are essential to admission for those colleges, then that is what you should pursue. If not, consider a more balanced, well-rounded, less-stressful course load in high school.

Other posts in this series:
Online school 


Sunday, June 14, 2015

June winners are...

My two winners in the June giveaway of A Whisper In Time live quite far away from me. One is in California, and the other lives in Poland.

Neither lady has read Whisper Falls, so I'm sending them both a copy of the first book as well.

The postage to Poland! I love having international readers, but methinks I will need to brainstorm alternate ways to include them in future giveaways.

air mail stamp by nicolas raymond

I've heard that I can send books to international readers through . Maybe I'll try that, and mail a signed bookplate as well.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

June giveaway on goodreads

I have a giveaway going on goodreads, which ends on June 11. So check it out if you or a friend would like a signed paperback of A Whisper In Time (book 2 of the Whisper Falls series. And...if the winner doesn't have the first book, I'll send it too.)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Whisper in Time by Elizabeth Langston

A Whisper in Time

by Elizabeth Langston

Giveaway ends June 11, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to Win

Wishing For You (book 2 in the I Wish series) releases in 4 months. That's only 4 months away! The closer we get, the more chances you'll have to win ARCs of Wishing For You as well as other books or prizes. So keep an eye out here.

Or better yet, subscribe to my newsletter. It will announce giveaways, and have other news, offers, etc. And sometimes I'll include exclusive excerpts from Wishing For You ('cause that's the reward for subscribing!)