The future belongs to those with the best ideas

Start producing better ones today

The future belongs to those with the best ideas

How to get a mentor like James Altucher and Tim Ferriss

No large amounts of money or begging required.

How to get a mentor like James Altucher and Tim Ferriss

When Weakness Becomes Strength

The Story of Temple Grandin

When Weakness Becomes Strength

Expertise takes imbalance

 

The year was 1938. America was still suffering in the Great Depression. Hitler was gearing up for war. Amidst all that, on November 1, Franklin D. Roosevelt took a break from the stresses of running a nation and tuned into a radio broadcast with 40 million other listeners. War Admiral, a dominant race horse and the previous year’s Triple Crown winner, was lined up next to a small but determined horse named Seabiscuit. It was a match race. A one-on-one duel. Seabiscuit was far and away the underdog. But everyone loves an underdog story. Winning the race by four lengths, Seabiscuit sealed his fate as an American legend.

In the same ink-smeared newspapers that chronicled the races of Seabiscuit, stories of a man who was poised to become an American legend in his own regard peppered the sports pages. In the late thirties, the four minute mile had not yet been achieved. In fact, that barrier wouldn’t be broken until 1954. Up until World War II, Louis Zamperini, an Italian kid from Torrance, California, was among the favorites to break the four-minute barrier. In fact, he ran a 4:08 in college, which stood as a collegiate record for 15 years. But Zamperini would never get the chance to beat that mark. After enlisting in the Army Air Corps, he was in a plane crash, which became the start of a harrowing story of survival at sea and in Japanese POW camps.

Many of us know these amazing stories because of the writing of Laura Hillenbrand in both novels Seabiscuit and Unbroken. However, as the story of Seabiscuit filled us with awe and the story of Zamperini took us on an unfathomable journey, the remarkable story of the woman behind the pen has gone mostly unnoticed.

An Unfortunate Disease

CFS or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as explained by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, is characterized by debilitating fatigue that can be triggered by minimal activity. People with severe CFS find it all but impossible to do even the most basic of everyday tasks. Hillenbrand seemed to have the odds stacked against her. At one time while in the process of writing Unbroken, she suffered a particularly bad spell of the disease. Things digressed to the point that she was unable to leave her home for two years. Some months she never left her bedroom.

Hillenbrand didn’t always suffer from CFS. She was basically blindsided by it at the age of 19. Too weak to continue attending her college classes, she moved in with her mother in Maryland. So little was known about the disease at the time, doctors didn’t believe her when she would explain her symptoms. They tried to convince her it was all in her mind or that it was an eating disorder. Even her own mother was skeptical. Eventually she was well enough to move to Chicago with her then boyfriend, but on a trip back to Maryland to visit her mother, she collapsed. Unable to regain enough physical strength to fly back home, she was forced to make her permanent home in nearby Washington D.C. 

Unparalleled Success

Just how good is Laura Hillenbrand? Well when you stop and think about it, how does anyone write in so much detail about places they have never been? Journalists get their stories by going on location to survey the surroundings and talk to the people involved. Hillenbrand never had that opportunity. Everything she did was via phone or email. She never even met Zamperini in person until after Unbroken was published, which took her almost ten years. Zamperini didn’t even know she was sick for the first seven years she interviewed him. Her focus was on the story.

Hillenbrand is also exceptionally adept at research. When she first reached out to Zamperini about writing Unbroken, he shrugged her off. He was just about finished writing his own memoir. He didn’t think there was anything left to cover. On top of that, there were already three other books written that told Zamperini’s remarkable story. But Hillenbrand was relentless, and Zamperini eventually relented. For the next decade, Hillenbrand dug up a trove of new information. So much so that Zamperini admitted it got to the point where he would call her and ask what happened to him in certain prison camps.

Both Seabiscuit and Unbroken have become enormous successes. Combined the two books have sold more than 10 million copies. Unbroken, her most recent success, was on the New York Time’s best-seller list for 185 weeks straight. To put it in perspective, only three other books have outdone that. In a New York Times article, Sallye Leventhal, who is one of the book buyers for Barnes & Noble, had this to say about Hillenbrand’s success, “There are other phenomenal best sellers, but not this phenomenal. Not with this velocity, year after year after year.”

Focus and Balance

Laura Hillenbrand is a fascinating example of focus. In the depths of painful and incapacitating illness, she somehow mustered the physical strength (some days it was all she could do to pick up a pen) and the mental perseverance to complete two incredible works of art.

As I ponder on Hillenbrand’s story, I can’t help but think about the focus it must have taken to do what she did. CFS was literally keeping her bedridden, yet her focus was on something bigger than herself, something she excelled at that helped her escape the pains of her disease.

In talking about focus, I think I also need to bring up balance. I’m not entirely sold on the notion of having balance in life. At least not all the time. When things are balanced, you’re not giving your all to anything. Everything gets an equal amount of attention, but nothing gets your full attention. In many circumstances, I think there is nothing wrong with that. However, there are instances where balance could be synonymous with complacent. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you want to become an expert at something, you’re going to have to throw your life off balance. You’re going to have to focus on the thing that you want to be great at. You can’t give less than your full attention to something and expect to excel.

For instance, I would very much love to become a master woodworker or gain expertise in wilderness survival. But at this point in my life, I’m focused on excelling in writing. That means that the shelves and desk that I want to build sit undone as I spend my nights writing and researching.

I’ll be the first to admit that focusing on one thing when you enjoy many things—whether you choose to, or like Laura Hillenbrand are forced to—is not easy. But no one ever said becoming an expert would be easy.

 

Tweet me at @bradensthompson, and follow me on Degreed here. Click the button below to get credit for reading this article.

is an MBA worth it?

As I am finishing my MBA I am constantly asked one question: Is my MBA worth the investment? This is an answer that will change for every individual. Since I have a background in Psychology I have found myself looking at this question in the perspective of others I have encountered that are pursuing an MBA or have attained their MBA.

A Check-Mark vs. Actual Skills

When I started my MBA I was working for an investment firm that was helping pay for an MBA. Most of the people that were pursuing an MBA at my company were doing so to take advantage of “free” money. The downfall is that the guy that was sitting next to me had his MBA for over five years and was still making the same amount of money as myself and wasn’t looking to go anywhere. These employees just went through the motions of higher education and finished their MBA. A lot of my colleagues would check it off their list and act like nothing happened. To me, this is a waste of money and time just so the company will pay me a little extra money that goes directly to a school and not me. I wanted my time and money to be used to better myself and my future.

In my first few classes I started to look at the experience and background of others in my class. One of my professors asked the students to introduce themselves and why they were in the program. The majority stated they wanted an MBA to get a raise or to get a better job. There were only a few of us that wanted to improve our knowledge and skill. Now I am not saying that the first group didn’t want to improve their skills as well, but motivations can determine the quality of the outcome.

Over the past two years I have found myself working with many different individuals in group projects. I am astounded at how little effort some people put into a master’s degree and expect others to carry them to the end. The thought of competing against these people after I got my degree scared me. A potential employer will not see how much work was put into an MBA and frankly they may not even care. We both will have a degree to show we accomplished the program, so what would set me apart? I wanted to be different. I wanted to show that I learned a behavior of learning that will help me find solutions to the business’ problems. The problem is that I couldn’t find a way to show that I have a newfound desire for lifelong learning. This was until I found Degreed. Degreed gave me a way to track all of my learning, not just my Degree. It allows me to show my continual learning to colleagues and will help direct me in valuable content to keep up with relevant changes and learning.

Degreed-Branded-blog-02

The Habit of Learning

Why does it matter to be a lifelong learner and make learning a habit? For my previous colleagues that had their MBA for 5 years and are sitting in the same role they were when they finished, your knowledge is stale. Business has changed over the last 5 years. Do you want outdated information in your business decisions? For those that get an MBA to get a pay raise or a better job, you are not going to have longing success as you missed out on a learning opportunity since you had others carry you to the end. What skills or knowledge did you gain? For those that went to learn and grow, you may not have a better job right away or an immediate pay raise, but you will be an asset to the business as you learned how to learn and how to analyze things differently.

Your Answer

So to answer the question “Is my MBA worth the investment?” I would say YES. I went into the program investing in my future through skills and knowledge. If I went into the degree for a check off my list or for a piece of paper, I would say no. The true value comes from your motivation and attitude in the beginning. Just remember, learning doesn’t end once you have the paper. You will find the most value in the MBA as you continue to learn and use what you learn like an MBA is structured to teach you.

You can tweet Branden @brandengbaldwin and follow him on Degreed here. Branden’s MBA is from Westminster College in Salt Lake City, UT. Branden enjoys spending time with his wife and children and volunteering in his community.

Career Advice From Self Made Billionaires

The first time I truly grasped the magnitude of a billion was while reading Tony Robbins’ book, Money: Master the Game. He explains a billion relative to time. One million seconds is roughly 12 days. And how about one billion seconds? That’s 32 YEARS. The difference between a millionaire and a billionaire is massive. So I think it’s safe to say that becoming a self-made billionaire is quite an impressive feat. The following career advice comes from six individuals who rose up out of less-than-stellar conditions and into incredible wealth.

John Paul DeJoria

First up we have Mr. John Paul DeJoria. This guy didn’t just stop after his first billion-dollar success, he took things a step further and built a second billion-dollar company. As a child DeJoria sold Christmas cards and newspapers to help support his family, but he eventually ended up living in foster care. Later in life he had to live in his car while he went door-to-door selling his shampoo products. Not only did he grow that little business into the billion-dollar Paul Mitchell brand, he also started Patron Tequila—another billion-dollar endeavor.

As a man who began his career doing door-to-door sales, it’s unsurprising that a lot of what DeJoria has to say is about powering through rejection. The following piece of career advice in particular is a solid representation of the determination it took for him to build something great through great adversity.

“You’re going to run across a lot of rejection. Be prepared for the rejection. No matter how bad it is don’t let it overcome you and influence you—keep on going towards what you want to do–no matter what… You need to be as enthusiastic about door number one-hundred as door number one.”

One other piece of advice from DeJoria that I thought was worth sharing has to do with the kind of work that it takes to become successful.

“The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people do all the things the unsuccessful people don’t want to do.”

Career Advice Self-Made-Billionaire-John-DeJoria

 

J.K. Rowling

First things first, I have to admit that I’m not much of a Harry Potter fan. Though I do respect the talent of Rowling. For those of you diehard fans, you probably know everything there is to know about her. But for those who don’t know everything, Rowling had some pretty rough patches on her way to fame and fortune. At one point she was living off welfare as a single mother writing all day in a coffee shop with her baby by her side. I can’t imagine that sitting in that coffee shop she ever imagined she’d become the richest author in the world.

So what career advice does Rowling have for us? The following quotes come from a commencement speech she gave at Harvard in 2008. Like DeJoria, she has some enlightening thoughts on failure, and she also believes in the power of imagination.

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.”

“I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution.”

“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

Career Advice Self-Made-Billionaire-JK-Rowling

 

Howard Schultz

If you enjoy pumpkin spice in any kind of hot beverage, you’ve probably been to a Starbucks recently. The multibillion-dollar company has a storefront on seemingly every street corner in America. But for Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, things weren’t always so good. As a child, Schultz didn’t have a lot of money. Because of his predicament, he felt a strong desire to prove he could become successful in spite of his limited resources. Schultz now has a keen understanding of what a business needs in order to grow. Here are a couple thought-provoking snippets of advice from Schultz on authenticity and conviction.

“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.”

“There are moments in our lives when we summon the courage to make choices that go against reason, against common sense and the wise counsel of people we trust. But we lean forward nonetheless because, despite all risks and rational argument, we believe that the path we are choosing is the right and best thing to do. We refuse to be bystanders, even if we do not know exactly where our actions will lead.”

Self-Made-Billionaire-Career Advice

 

“This is the kind of passionate conviction that sparks romances, wins battles, and drives people to pursue dreams others wouldn’t dare. Belief in ourselves and in what is right catapults us over hurdles, and our lives unfold. ‘Life is a sum of all your choices,’ wrote Albert Camus. Large or small, our actions forge our futures and hopefully inspire others along the way.”

 

Zhou Qunfei

According to a New York Times article Zhou Qunfei is the world’s richest self-made woman. Zhou’s story is quite remarkable. Apparently she isn’t fond of interviews so particular pieces of career advice from her are hard to come by. However, within the details of her rags-to-riches story are beautiful examples from which we can learn about success.

As a young person, Zhou worked long hours in a factory in Shenzhen, China. She made the equivalent of about $1 a day. “I didn’t enjoy it,” she says in the NY Times article. After just three months she had to quit. But Zhou didn’t quit in a way most of us would. She penned her boss a letter of resignation. In the letter she stated her complaints regarding the long hours. But she also wrote about how grateful she was to have had the job, and that she wanted the opportunity to learn more.

When her boss read the letter, he was so impressed that he gave her a promotion and the opportunity to do other work in the factory. That experience gave her the step up she needed to start the leading glass screen production company, Lens Technology. Chances are pretty good that the glass screen you are reading this blog post on was made by Zhou’s company.

When it comes to Zhou’s demeanor, her cousin has this to say about her: “In the Hunan language, we call women like her ‘ba de man,’ which means a person who dares to do what others are afraid to do.”

In addition to being daring, Zhou is meticulous and exact in her work. She often walks the factory floor to make sure everything is in order. She’ll step in and work the most menial jobs just to make sure the process is seamless and optimally effective. This level of detail stems from her childhood. “My father had lost his eyesight, so if we placed something somewhere, it had to be in the right spot, exactly, or something could go wrong. That’s the attention to detail I demand at the workplace.”

 

Lloyd Blankfein

Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, came out of the projects in east Brooklyn. His father was a postal worker and his mother a receptionist. Blankfein sold sodas at Yankees games. It took a ton of work, but Blankfein eventually rose out of poverty to the top of Wall Street.

In a video for the Goldman Sachs summer interns in 2013, Blankfein gave some solid career advice on how to rise to the top no matter what cards you’re dealt.

“By the way…there are advantages to growing up in a place with a lot of access to a lot of privileges and there are burdens to that also. And the burdens of that are the insecurity that comes from having had things more easily….Whoever you are, wherever you are stationed, these are the cards you got dealt. You can’t spend your time wringing your hands about it. You play the cards you have. You accept the burdens in the context of which you came from and enjoy the privileges and don’t be guilty and either one of them.”

Here are two more powerful pieces of advice from Blankfein that have to do with accepting failure and building relationships.

“If you’re on a beach and a tsunami hits, you’ll drown whether you’re a small child or an Olympic swimmer. Some things will go bad no matter how good you are.”

“You have to, in your own life, get people to want to work with you and want to help you. The organizational chart, in my opinion, means very little. I need my bosses’ goodwill, but I need the goodwill of my subordinates even more.”

Career Advice-From-Self-Made-Billionaires

 

Oprah Winfrey

When I was first researching people for this article, I had no idea that Oprah came out of poverty. All I really knew about her up to this point was that my mom used to fold laundry while watching her show when I was a kid, and in December the audience got all of her favorite things.

What I didn’t know was that she grew up in rural Mississippi wearing clothes her grandmother made out of potato sacks. On top of that, she had to deal with unimaginable emotional trauma from sexual abuse. Now a billionaire media mogul, Oprah’s work has influenced the lives of millions of people.

The following are just a few of the many pieces of advice she has for success and happiness. From courage to personal responsibility, she touches on some powerful stuff.

“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.

Career Advice from Billionaires

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”

“The reason I’ve been able to be so financially successful is my focus has never, ever for one minute been money.”

“I don’t think of myself as a poor deprived ghetto girl who made good. I think of myself as somebody who, from an early age, knew I was responsible for myself, and I had to make good.”

 

I hope you found at least one piece of advice that you can take to heart and apply in your life. I know I have. Let me know what you liked the most. Tweet me at @bradensthompson, and follow me on Degreed here. Click the button below to get credit for reading this article.

 

Corporate learning professionals have access to more learning content than ever before. In a recent CLO article, Josh Bersin describes the effect of the internet on the e-learning ecosystem:

“Today, we can watch an expert, jump from topic to topic, interact with the teacher, and submit real exercises and exams for evaluation online. Most community colleges and universities offer accredited courses online, and my personal experience shows they work extremely well. What does this all mean to us in corporate training? E-learning is back with a vengeance. Digital learning today is more exciting, dynamic and relevant than ever. Video, social experiences, gaming and online accreditation are all common.”

Not only has the medium of learning content diversified, the sheer amount of learning content has exploded. Degreed has cataloged over 250,000 online learning courses and 3 million informal learning activities from more than 1200 sources. Everything from live, virtual and eLearning courses to videos, MOOCs, bootcamps, articles, books, podcasts, webinars, conferences, online communities, apps and more. This content is coming from new and diverse sources, Crunchbase lists 1400+ edtech startups. In addition to traditional academic institutions bringing learning directly to individuals via the MOOCs, there’s also for-profit education providers, consulting firms, publishers, tech firms and non-profits.

The result? Here’s what the learning content landscape looks like today:

Degreed_2016_Learning_Landscape

Why you should volunteer at conferences

After volunteering for two years at different events, many doors have opened for a broke young entrepreneur like me. Mostly through serendipity.

  • Another volunteer recruited me to run events with her at Influencer Series, an intimate gathering of highly influential leaders. We host the events at different VC firms every month and our guests included Jim McKelvey (Square), Marissa Mayer (Yahoo), and Leah Busque (Task Rabbit). It’s pretty rad.
  • One of the conferences that I volunteered for last year recruited me to work this year’s conference. Because I had built trust during the first event, it was an honor to be apart of the Lean Startup Conference 2015. Being friends with the rest of the staff is also a blessing.
  • I became close with the founder of another conference that I volunteered for last year. I stayed in touch and Sam Parr hired me to intern for him at The Hustle. A media company that he started to compliment the annual flagship conference, HustleCon.
  • On top of career opportunities, I’ve met so many other awesome volunteers along the way. The conference organizers even invite me to get lunch or cool events, which makes me feel pretty special.
  • Last but not least, I also get to attend parts of the actual conference! Connecting with speakers, learning from the talks, and eating all the free food.

By the way, all these events were free (for volunteers) to attend, saving an estimated $15,000+ dollars. In some cases, they actually paid me.

I started volunteering as a broke 18-year old with no knowledge or network in the entrepreneurship space. When I interviewed for my first startup, they asked me “What dream startup would I work for if I could?” I told them I’d do digital media for the Golden State Warriors.

In case you don’t watch basketball, GSW has been around longer than our parents have been alive. They’re definitely not a startup.

So here I was, a total newbie to entrepreneurship looking to meet new people and learn more.

When I asked my professors and other adults for career advice, they kept telling me to “go network.” And that “it’s who you know, not what you know.”

Okay, that’s nice to know. How do I even get started?

I was listening to something on YouTube and I came across Tim Ferriss’ name. I discovered that volunteering for conferences was actually how Tim Ferriss got his start when he moved to the Silicon Valley. I literally followed his footsteps and received similar results two years later.

Before we get deep into volunteering, let’s start with why we go to conferences. If you think it’s for the talks, save yourself some money. The talks are usually available after the event.

The number one reason we go is to meet people.

Potential business partners, co-founders, investors, friends, soulmate? Who knows!?

When you’re a young with no experience and no money to buy a conference ticket, the best thing you can do is volunteer.

Even though you might be doing “dirty” work like taking out the trash, handling registration, or giving directions, it’s an experience. One that’s shared with other volunteers whom you’ll get to also meet!

I remember the day before HustleCon, I drove up to SF to organize name badges with the rest of the HustleCon volunteers. In two hours, we were in a small room together doing this mindless task but we were having fun! Talking about anything and everything.

When I met Felicia Chanco, the person that hired me to run the Influencer Series events, we were both doing registration together for the Lean Startup Conference 2014. We got along instantly and started talking about the most random topics, from traveling to girls to music.

Felicia also got a chance to see how “professional” I was as a volunteer. I was well mannered (thanks Mom!), organized, and genuinely cared about the success of the conference.

That one person changed the course of my career and life. Since that day, my goal at any event is to make one solid connection rather than ten weak ones.

I think you should volunteer if:

  • You’re broke but still want to be in the conference environment
  • You want to connect with other volunteers & conference organizers
  • You’re okay with doing “dirty work”
  • You’re comfortable with not getting any ROI with your time. Opportunities come with serendipity, and not every event experience is going to be a grand slam.
  • You believe in the conference itself and the values it has
  • Your main focus is to help the success of the event. Everything else is secondary.

How do you volunteer?

Most conferences are dying to have high quality volunteers. The only problem is that most volunteers suck and are always asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?”

Also, the volunteer turnover rate is high at conferences which frustrates conference organizers. Not showing up when you promise them that you’ll be there will always leave a bad impression in their mind.

If you’re convinced after reading this post that you want to volunteer for a conference, there are three simple steps to get there.

  1. Find events that you want to volunteer at
  2. Find the conference organizers’ email and ask
  3. Show up at the conference and do an awesome job

Finding Events

I’m fortunate to receive Startup Digest emails, a curated list of upcoming events in the Bay Area. It is my go-to place to look for conferences that I resonate with.

For you, find out where all the people you want to meet are hanging out and explore how you can attend those events. Are they into conferences? Small meetups? Medium sized events?

There are the obvious answers like Meetup or Eventbrite, but I would challenge you to find those curated lists in your space. If there isn’t one, this is the perfect opportunity for you to step up and be a community leader.

Email Them

There are so many tools to find someone’s email.

Shoot them a quick message that you want to volunteer. Convey that you’re trustworthy & reliable.

Keep it simple, stupid (KISS).

Here’s the exact email I sent to Sam Parr, the co-founder of HustleCon.

Notice how I wrote my email copy to mirror how HustleCon wrote their website copy. It establishes a connection and shows that I did my homework, before Sam ever met me.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 10.35.11 AM

If they don’t answer in a week, follow up to float the email to the top of their busy inbox.

After you volunteer for a few conferences, you can use that in your email copy as “social proof.” It’s all about leverage.

Showing Up

You found an event, the organizer agreed for you to volunteer. Now what? Here are a few last volunteering tips to making a memorable impression as a volunteer:

  • Take on as much responsibility as you can.

The more stuff they give you, the better. Go above and beyond your call of duty to build trust.

My friend Shawn, who volunteered with me at the Lean Startup Conference, told our volunteer captain ahead of time that he has stage production experience. So in case anything went wrong he would be able to step in and help out.

It turns out, the stage production guy had food poisoning and couldn’t run the show. Ragen, our volunteer captain, ran to find Shawn and found him in an all black outfit with a dress shirt and tie (the perfect outfit to run backstage). Like a badass, Shawn was already prepared.

He hurried backstage, put on a headset, and completely saved the conference from having more technical issues. The staff and I have a running joke that he was the hero of the conference.

Yes, he was even invited to have dinner with the whole Lean Startup staff to show their appreciation! And yes, he got hired to work this year’s conference where I had a chance to reunite with him.

Good things happen when you go above and beyond your call of duty.

  • Represent the brand with respect.

As a volunteer for a conference, you are indirectly part of their extended staff. What you do reflects what people think of the event. I always pretend as if it was my conference, how would I want my own volunteers to act? And then do that.

Look, this method might sounds too good to be true. “Volunteer for free, network your way with the staff, speakers, and other attendees, and get a bunch of opportunities.”

Those are the unguaranteed benefits that might come with volunteering. But actually take pride in  what you’re there to do. You’re there to help the brand. Help the conference run smoothly. Help the attendees have the best experience they can possibly have.

Don’t forget why you’re there and don’t forget your responsibilities. Like I mentioned earlier,

“Your main focus is to help the success of the conference. Everything else is secondary.”

That’s it! If you see me volunteering at a conference in the Bay Area, make sure you come up to me and say hi, or tweet me here. Good luck on your future events!

Degreed

Today we are proud to announce a $21 million Series B investment to fuel further expansion. The new investment will fuel continued growth of lifelong learning and skills measurement for companies and professionals. Jump Capital led the round, along with Signal Peak, Rethink Education, Deborah Quazzo and other existing investors.

Degreed is free for individuals to use and our learner-first approach led to rapid corporate success following the launch of our consumer-friendly, enterprise learning solution in fall 2014. Our award-winning platform enables people to discover, curate, share, track and value all kinds of learning–from internal portals, external training vendors and over 1,200 providers of free and low-cost informal learning resources–all in a single, unified system.

“We believe there are many pathways to expertise,” says David Blake, Co-Founder & CEO “The future doesn’t care how you became an expert. We have built the only universal way for everyone to measure all learning and pursue skills and knowledge from all avenues. It’s changing the way companies think about learning and development.”

This investment comes on the heels of a Series A funding, announced in April 2015. The capital enabled a more aggressive sales strategy, robust product innovations, and an expansion of marketing activities. As a result, we accelerated from three to nearly 100 clients this last year, including Fortune 10, 20 and 50 clients from the financial services and technology industries.

“There are many companies innovating in the edtech space, but Degreed stands unique in its approach to the future of skills and recognition of learning,” said Michael McMahon, Managing Partner of Jump Capital. “We’re excited to partner with Degreed to accelerate their incredible growth, and to change the way learning is done and how it is recognized.”

Learn more at degreed.com

After experiencing an array of job titles within the past four years, I have come to a sudden halt as I was recently let go from a job for the first time in my professional career. At first, I felt like a complete failure. I had absolutely no clue as to what my next move would be and in fact, I’m still figuring it out. But in this past month, I have truly gained insight towards the importance of staying productive and making sure that I don’t fall too far from where I was or lose track of where I want to be. So, here are 7 ways to learn and stay productive when you’re in-between jobs.

Ways to Learn in Between Jobs

1. Stay on top of the latest news.

Read books. Read trending articles. Watch TedTalks. Get updates via social media. Whatever you do, make sure that you don’t fall behind on what is going on within your field. Today’s news is extremely fast-paced and constantly evolving due to the convenient access of information online. It’s important to stay in the know so that you can be ready for whatever opportunity comes your way.

2. Go to industry events.

A great way to get in the live action of what is going on within your field is by physically attending industry events. It’s one thing to just stay active online, but showing up in person is a whole other experience. Not only is it a great way to meet new people, but it’s also inspiring and motivating to directly learn from professionals within your industry.

3. Consult with others.

Just because you no longer work at your past companies doesn’t mean you should lose touch with your former colleagues. Check in with them and catch up with the people in your network every once in a while. Your network is one of your strongest resources for potential jobs or making new connections to other opportunities.

4. Online learning.

The beauty of technology is that we are able to access knowledge in a way that we never have been able to in the past. Online learning opens doors to information on whichever concentrated skill you desire to learn. If you’re in between jobs or just considering a career change, online learning gives you the ability to pursue further education, like learning a new skill, from the comfort of your own computer.

5. Write your ideas down.

Try to keep a journal in order to log any ideas that may pop into your head. Writing is an excellent form of expression and can help you organize your thoughts when you are feeling lost and confused. Creating lists of your strengths and weakness or likes and dislikes in a job can help you get a better sense of direction before making your next move.

6. Freelance.

One thing that I have personally learned from freelancing is that it offers a variety of great opportunities including a source of additional income, flexible work hours, and exposure amongst potential employers or other work opportunities. Once you have mastered your craft, whether it be UX design, coding, or writing, freelancing is a great way to practice and refine your skill set which will ultimately benefit you in the long run as a professional.

7. Get back into the hobbies you love.

Time off doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. When I was let go, I was initially in a state of panic, but it eventually turned into relief. I learned that a break is like a rest period after completing a marathon. It takes time to decompress and recover. I also learned that during this time, it’s important to stay on top of your game both within the playing field as well as off of the playing field. Take the time to rediscover your hobbies and interests because you never know what it could lead to. The things you are passionate about can turn into a fulfilling career, leading you in a direction that you never expected. Embrace the journey and tweet me to tell me your great ideas for ways to learn and staying productive in-between jobs.

7 ways to learn in between jobs

Keep learning! Degreed is free forever, you can get credit for what you know, all the learning you’re currently doing, and find more ways to learn with over 1200 content providers. Click the “add to degreed” button below to get credit for this article and Check it out Degreed here. You can catch Lindsey on Twitter and Degreed.

1984 wasn’t just a dystopian novel by George Orwell, it was also the year Richar Saul Wurma materialized his idea for bringing technology, education and design together into a unique learning experience called TED. Now TED talks touch on almost every topic imaginable. One of my favorite additions to the TED family is TED-Ed. These are short, animated videos that dissect a thought-provoking topic in an easy-to-digest lesson. Writing this particular article took me longer than I anticipated, mostly because TED-Ed videos are addicting. But eventually your mind becomes numb and unable to be hold anymore, and that’s when you watch one more and call it a day.

The following six videos are some of my favorites from TED-Ed. But just a word of warning: you may want to make sure you have some time to kill before you start because it will be hard to stop with just one or two videos.

First up is one that was just recently uploaded to the TED-Ed channel. It dives into the science of snowflakes, which is pretty fascinating. If you have ever wondered why snowflakes are different than ice even though they are both just frozen water, or if the rumor that no two snowflakes are the same is true, this is a worthwhile watch.

1. The science of snowflakes

 

It’s hard to drive anywhere in this world we live in without seeing a car tagged with a 26.2 sticker or one of the many other humble-bragging variants. There are also more varieties of 5k races than there are jelly beans (that may or may not actually be true.) Either way, running is popular. And that means treadmills are out there being put to good use. But did you know the treadmill has a rather dark past? And have you ever wondered why it’s called a treadmill? The early days of the treadmill was nothing like today’s cardio cinema, and this TED-Ed video will show you exactly why.

2. The treadmill’s dark and twisted past

 

If you’ve ever listened to the smash-hit podcast, Serial, you’re well aware of the inherent problems with the human memory. It’s almost impossible to remember specific details of things that happened even two weeks ago. Do you remember what you ate for lunch two Tuesdays ago? If you do, do you know why you remember? This video explains the science behind how memories are stored as well as how they are lost in our minds.

3. How memories form and how we lose them

 

Have you ever wondered why left-handed people are far less common than right-handed people? What’s interesting about handedness is that left-handed people have been far less common than right-handed people for the last 500,000 years. You would think that over time lefties would begin to catch up to righties, right? Well the reason lefties still only make up about 10% of the population is a little more involved than you might think.

4. Why are some people left handed?

 

These last two videos are a bit different than the previous four. These are lessons in philosophy.

This first video is deep, but will still leave enough of your mind unblown so that it can be sufficiently blown with the next video.

5. How do you know you exist?

 

How do we know that what we are experiencing is reality? Do we discount the knowledge of others because we are ignorant, or are other people ignorant to the truth that we know? This one will really get your head spinning.

6. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Hopefully at least one of these videos served as a springboard for you to explore more from TED or TED-Ed. It’s pretty remarkable that we live in a time where so much knowledge is readily presented and available at our fingertips. You should definitely be taking advantage of that. Don’t forget to record what you learned by clicking the “add to Degreed” button below, and check out the newly redesigned Degreed.com!

It’s been a busy year at Degreed. In 2015 we attended, sponsored, and exhibited at a total of 30 events, ran 20 webinars, and had countless discussions on the future of learning- and we’re only getting started.  We’re looking forward to another year of pushing the conversation around the evolution of learning and development (L&D) and the opportunity leaders have to create true learning cultures within organizations. So, with our eyes forward on 2016, here’s a look back at all the love we received in 2015 (thanks, y’all):

 

Degreed_Awards-06 (1)

 

 

Head over to get.degreed.com to learn more about what we’re up to.

Whether by choice or by circumstance, millions of people call the endless concrete jungle of New York City home. For some, the streets of New York are brutal and unforgiving, for others, they’re a place where you feel brand new—according to a Mr. Jay-Z. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2010 that the world slowly began to see how deeply inspiring the people who walk those streets really are.

NewYorkCity-HumansofNewYork

Brandon Stanton started Humans of New York because he wanted to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers. After only a few months he realized that he was just scratching the surface of a more meaningful project. He began interviewing the people he photographed and transcribing the stories they told. The stories he would gather got deeper and deeper as people shared their greatest fears, struggles and successes. What is fascinating about his project is how relevant and powerful a single first-hand story can become.

Two years prior to the launch of HONY, on the 5th floor of the BBC building in London, Aamer Ahmed Khan and his crew were working on a way to tell a relevant and powerful story- the story of the Taliban’s malicious presence in Pakistan. They wanted to find out exactly what it was like for schoolgirls in the Swat Valley. Khan and his team eventually landed on the risky idea of finding a young girl in the area and publishing her personal experiences. Like Stanton, Khan and company wanted to illustrate the situation in Swat in the most powerful way they knew how–using a firsthand account.

The Swat Valley is located on the northwestern end of Pakistan. The natural landscape of that area would make any wanderlusting, authentic-living, #optoutsiding adventurer swoon.

Swat Valley, Image via I Am Malala

Swat Valley, Image via I Am Malala

Though relatively peaceful now, Swat was once a place where decapitated bodies were left in the streets as a macabre message meant to incite fear. Beginning in 2007, the Taliban took control of the valley. During their control, the Taliban bombed hundreds of schools, and girls were not allowed to pursue any kind of education. One Swat Valley local who was particularly devastated by the education restriction was a young girl named Malala Yousafzai.


Education is Human

Named after Malalai, a Pashtun heroine, Malala seemed destined for greatness from day one. Her father ran a school in Swat and was a notable advocate for education. He would raise his daughter with a strong love of learning that would eventually become her life.

In 2009, the Taliban’s ban on girls going to school was enforced on Malala’s school. In her book, I Am Malala, she explains why the Taliban was against education.

“The Taliban is against education because they think that when a child reads a book or learns English or studies science he or she will become Westernized.” Malala’s rebuttal to that reasoning is quite profound. “Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”

L&D-Malala

 

If you haven’t already, stop and think about what Malala is saying. If education is human, then to learn is to be alive. If our freedom to learn is taken away, then we are no better off than if we were dead. With that logic, the right to education is worth losing your life over because the alternative is no better than death.


I Am Afraid

At about this same time, Khan and his team from the BBC were in contact with their local correspondent, Abdul Hai Kakar. Kakar knew Malala’s father and enlisted his help in the search for a schoolgirl to share her experiences. Eventually Malala caught wind of Kakar’s search and expressed her interest in helping to her father.

Though it was risky, Malala’s father agreed to let her write about her experiences. For safety reasons, she penned her entries under the pseudonym, Gul Makai, which is the name of another Pashtun heroine. On January 3, 2009, at the age of 11, Gul Makai published her first entry titled, I AM AFRAID. It wasn’t long before her posts started drawing a lot of attention.

Malala only blogged for the BBC for a little over a month, but the popularity of her posts led her to drop her anonymity and speak out in opposition of the Taliban’s rules on local TV and radio shows. Despite death threats, she continued speaking out and was even featured in a New York Times documentary.

After three years of verbal attacks on the Taliban, Malala found herself face to face with her enemy. On October 9, 2012, as Malala was on her way home from school, a masked gunman got on her bus and shot her in the head. Incredibly, after months of recovery, Malala survived the attack. Since then, her voice has only become louder. She won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 and continues to advocate for girls’ rights to education in all parts of the world.

The cover of Malala's book, "I Am Malala"

The cover of Malala’s book, “I Am Malala”


Never Stop Learning

Most of us will never have to stand up for our own education to the extent Malala did. And on some level, I think that’s a tragedy. Hear me out.

I don’t think we’d all be better off if we were threatened with our lives every time we went to school or looked up a how-to video on YouTube. But I do think that it’s easy to take something for granted if we never have to evaluate just how important it is in comparison to our life. Malala mentions something to this effect in her book:

“When someone takes away your pens you realize quite how important education is.”

As humans, we understand the idea of this principle—that we appreciate things more when they are gone—but experience is the only way to truly grasp the whole of it. So without anyone threatening to take away our freedom to learn, it’s almost too easy to become lackadaisical and take our access to education for granted.

So how do we train ourselves to seek knowledge like our lives depend on it? I’m not sure. I think that’s something we each have to learn on our own. Like Malala so boldly showed us, we have to be diligent in taking responsibility for our own learning. We have to constantly remind ourselves how important education is even when no one is taking away our pens. Because without education, life is wasted.

Page 1 of 101234510...Last »
Menu