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

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Student-Loans-Is-It-Worth-It

Here’s a statement I can nearly guarantee you’ve seen again and again: Americans have a lot of student loans. Here are the facts:

Tuition has been rising at nearly 3x the rate of inflation in recent years, and the total amount of outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. has grown to over $1.2 trillion.

About 40 million americans are carrying some student loans, and almost 70% of the class of 2015 graduates with a bachelor’s degree have student loan debt, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Market Watch reports the current student debt amount is rising at a rate of $3055.19 per second.

You can often find personal blogs from people like James Altucher and Mark Cuban penning their thoughts on the costs of college and the problem of student loan debt. If you Google “is college worth it?” you’ll find articles from every major news site you can think of filling the first 3 pages of search results.

That leads us to ask the golden question that the people behind these statistics, the Americans who carry student loan debt, have been asking themselves for years: Was it worth it?

The new 2015 Gallup-Purdue Index study on Education aimed to answer just that. The results are in.

Survey Says

Here’s what Gallup found

“Recent graduates who received their degrees between 2006 and 2015 are significantly less likely than all graduates overall to think their education was worth the cost.”

Let’s break that down with the numbers. For recent grads (those who have graduated from 2006-2015) merely 38% strongly agree their education was worth the cost, and among those who had student loans (of any amount) only 33% strongly agree it was worth it.

The Effects

And it’s not just our bank accounts that are affected as a result of student loan debt. Our life choices and the economy take a hit too. As grads adjust to life after school, and (hopefully) dive into the workforce, those payment deadlines creep closer until monthly minimums become due. As for the effects of student loans on those individuals life decisions? Gallup examined that too.

48% of recent grads have delayed post grad education because of student loans. 36% delay buying homes, 33% postponed buying a car, and 19% delayed starting businesses.

It seems that we should just create a new life stage category that states: “currently delaying life goals and purchases until I pay off my student loan debt”.

I’m still wondering, what will the cost of college look like in 10, 20, 50 years?

We want to know: What do you think? Was your education worth the cost? Tweet us at @degreed to tell us, and check out the full Gallup-Purdue Index Report here.

You just learned about student debt and higher education. Get credit for this article on Degreed.

 

You may be familiar with American Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, who developed the theory of self-actualization. In Maslow’s studies, he identified the hierarchy of needs which include five fundamental elements needed in order to reach the stage of self-actualization. These five elements are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. Maslow argues that an individual cannot be fulfilled in life unless all five elements are met, working from the bottom to the top.

Throughout life, we work towards acquiring these elements so that we can live a comfortable life. We immerse ourselves in various every day activities. One of the activities that plays a large role in our lives is work. Similarly, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be directly translated into our needs within our careers. Although we all have varying work schedules, we dedicate a great deal of time towards our jobs and the responsibilities they require. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”@degreed”]This is how the hierarchy of needs applies to our growth and happiness within the workplace.[/inlinetweet]

 

Maslows_HierachyofNeeds

 

 

  1. Physiological Needs –Air, food, drink, shelter, sleep

At work, your physiological needs include the factors that make up the work environment such as a clean working space, work supplies, technology, etc. In order to carry out tasks efficiently, you first need to have the essential tools and assets readily available. A lack of physical comfort at work can result in distraction or failure to produce work that meets the expected standards.

 

  1. Safety Needs –Protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear

Making sure you feel safe from any harm, whether it is mental or physical, is a significant aspect in the quality of life at work. There are various factors that play part in ensuring safety in the workforce. These factors include a reasonable income, medical/dental insurance, accommodating benefits, and proper rules and regulations implemented by Human Resources. A lack of safety or a culture of fear can lead to work-related stress which can impose major consequences both inside and outside of work.

 

  1. Love and Belonging Needs –Friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships

One of the needs that could make or break your path to self-actualization at work is feeling support and a sense of belonging with people you work with. Teamwork, mentorship, and a sense of acceptance from co-workers largely affect how employees feel about the company. It is important for you to feel like you are a valuable asset to the team, and to feel that you are making a contribution towards end goals. Without the support from fellow co-workers, one can feel insignificant, isolated, and alone.

 

  1. Esteem Needs –Achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others

Esteem needs go hand in hand with love and belongingness needs. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”@degreed”]Feeling that your work matters and is recognized by others plays a large role in how you feel about yourself.[/inlinetweet] Mastering concepts and becoming an expert at what you do builds esteem. In addition,[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”@degreed”] the way you present yourself at work is imperative in gaining the trust and respect from your surrounding peers.[/inlinetweet] It is also essential towards your own personal growth within a company.

 

  1. Self-Actualization Needs –Realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”@degreed”]Realizing your full potential by seeing your path and where it can lead you is the ultimate goal in any work experience.[/inlinetweet] Learning how and where you can apply your skills and knowledge greatly impacts the future you see yourself having. Self-Actualization within your career can result in peak experiences that make you a better employee and member of society.

 

All work experiences are a significant learning experience towards the person that you want to become and where you want to succeed. Once we achieve the fifth level of Self-Actualization, our needs are met to enable us to pursue the career of your dreams. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”@degreed”]Where are you now? How can you push yourself to reach the next level?[/inlinetweet]

 

Tweet us your thoughts on how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies to your career at @degreed. You just learned about psychology and personal development, track what you learned on your Degreed profile.

 

You can find Lindsey on Twitter and LinkedIn

In the 1980’s Michael Santos started trafficking cocaine, which eventually resulted in a 45 year prison sentence. Michael experienced an intense change in mentality and earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, wrote 2 books longhand, married his wife, and earned six figures on the stock market- all behind bars.  Click here to read Part I of this 2 Part Series “No Excuses:  How Michael Santos Created Success in Prison”.

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Michael Santos was released from prison in 2012 after serving 26 years. He has an extraordinary outlook on life and an insatiable desire to make himself and others better. I had the opportunity to do an interview with him, one of the first things he said was “Be the change you want to see in the world!” Michael’s enthusiasm for life is infectious. There is much to value in his advice.

Can you describe your transition from the criminal mentality to using your prison sentence to learn and grow? Was it an instant change of thought or more of a slow transition?

When I was 21 years old I saw Scarface and it really influenced me. I wanted to get into that. I eventually got arrested [for dealing cocaine] when I was 23. I knew I was facing a very long sentence—possibly life without parole. My case didn’t involve any violence, but because of the war on drugs people were getting long sentences. After I was convicted, but before I was sentenced, I read the story of Socrates. Socrates was in jail, and he had an opportunity to escape. But he didn’t take it. He chose death. That story had a profound effect on me. It made me think about what I could do to make the most of my time in prison. It was an instantaneous change after I read that story. I began to think about what steps I could take to reconcile with society.

What was it that led you to pick up that book?

In jail I started to pray and ask for guidance. I didn’t pray to get out of jail, but to get me through the journey. Those prayers led me to the book, A Treasury of Philosophy—specifically the story of Socrates.

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I was a terrible student in school and never read books growing up. But my prayers led me to read that book. I began to think, “What would law-abiding citizens expect from me?”

That’s when I came up with a three-part plan. I was going to educate myself, contribute to society, and build a support network. If I could execute that plan, I could emerge from prison with dignity.

While you were in prison you were met with setback after setback, yet you came out victorious. What advice would you give to someone who is discouraged because of setbacks in his/her life?

I would encourage them to visualize success. Figure out the best possible outcome to their life. I started to think in the cell, not about getting through the day or the week, but about success. I would think, “What is the best possible outcome for this?” The visualization was to become a law-abiding citizen. I wanted people to see me as a good person—not just someone who made bad decisions as a youth. The more clarity I got on that, the more empowered I became.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”@degreed”]Don’t look at today’s struggle because then you are just focused on those struggles. Make a three-year, five-year, or ten-year plan.[/inlinetweet] Visualize what the best possible outcome is in three, five, or ten years. Then reverse engineer where you need to be and create a plan. Create a plan for what you can accomplish in a year, a month, a week, and a day and work on that. You become empowered as an individual as you move toward what you define as a victory.

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How have you adjusted your personal growth patterns now that you have more freedom?

I’m still very disciplined. I’ve been free from the Bureau of Prisons for almost two years now. I’ve found there are so many more tools to use. I got a nice Mac Pro: no more spinning ball! I’m trying to learn social media better. When I was in prison I never even sent an email. I read about it, but I never experienced it. I have a lot to learn, and I still need to master the tools that are available.

What’s next for you?

My big project right now is a new podcast that I have developed. It’s called Earning Freedom. I produce a new episode every day. On the episodes I interview formerly incarcerated people or business leaders. I’m trying to connect with more employers and formerly incarcerated people to learn from them and tell their stories.

I have also written a few simple eBooks to help individuals who have been indicted—so they can really understand the process they will be going through. I want to help them begin a deliberate path and position themselves so they can emerge successfully without letting the prison experience be a failure.

Will you be writing another book?

Yes. I will be writing a follow up to my book Earning Freedom that will have the details of my time after I was released from prison

If you haven’t read Michael’s book, Earning Freedom, I highly recommend it. You can also read more about Michael’s story or listen to his podcast here

Click here to read Part I: No Excuses: How Michael Santos Created Success In Prison

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