Tag Archives: motivation

CollegeQandA asks: How do I pick a major?

The big question rated number 1 for many

For high school students and even first year students, “How do I pick a major?” is the question.  A major is the area of focus, within academia, that you spend the majority of your 4 years of study exploring and learning about.  In many cases, we associate a major with what you are becoming in terms of your future career.

So, in some ways “how do I pick a major?” is the same question as “what do you want to be when you grow up?” that adults ask children throughout time.

My book takes a look at some of these ideas in more detail, but let’s define a few things here:

  • A job is trading your time (and skills) for compensation
  • A career is a path in a set of related jobs of with some goal of getting to a job where you do (mostly) what you want to do on a daily basis
  • A degree is awarded for completing the set requirements usually including a concentration in a major
  • A professional degree is a degree that is a credential step towards a career in a focused concentration
  • Vocational training is a process to teach you a set of skills customized for a specific job(s)

So how does that help you pick a major?

Universities don’t train you for a job

The first thing to truly grasp is you major is not necessarily your future job.  For example, a computer engineer major will start their career in a vast number of jobs that can include engineering work, sales, training, etc.  In other words, I couldn’t list all the jobs that someone who did a major in computer engineering does.  Even in one of my narrow research fields: Field Programmable Gate Arrays, the list of jobs which you need this major for easily goes over 100!

Therefore, we can not train you in a major for a job.  You will have to prepare for your career while pursuing your degree in your major, and yes, the university will provide great opportunities to do that (career center, career fairs, company visits, etc.), but that is not the universities primary goal.  It is up to you to shape your career.

A major is your opportunity to explore an area of interest (caveat economics)

Most of us have to worry about our future career, income, and financial stability.  The tricky part is how can you pursue what you are truly interested in while balancing the realities of your future career and your family situation.  There seems to be evidence that your major choice correlates to your family’s current financial status.

If I was allowed to choose what I was interested in when I was 18, then it would have been video games and basketball.  My parents, however, were not going to pay for my education if it did not include science, engineering, or math.  I was fortunate to find a compromise in computer engineering.  Was that a compromise?

As I’ve matured, I have come to believe that engineering can be applied to almost any other interest.  For example, if you like sports, then the mathematics, analytics, and modeling applies to understanding sports better in – see Moneyball or The Wages of Wins.   I’m biased towards my experiences in engineering and so is our economically driven world, but do we only need technologists?  I think any major can be applied to any interest, and you should leverage these connections in your pick, and take time to consider how you will mold your major into your career.  There are a common set of what we would call high-level skills needed in all industry – thinking, communicating, and doing.

I, also, think the key to picking a major is to find something that has a spark of inspiration and motivation for you, and you should have some aptitude in that field or be willing to work really hard to develop needed skills.  You need that drive to help get you excited to explore that something more deeply.

Finally, it’s not that big a deal

How do I pick a major?  The question scares all of us.  This decision will define your future.  Your parents hope you pick something that means you won’t live with them forever.  The country needs you to contribute to our bottom line.  Yikes.

Book : You majored in what

In many cases, however, it doesn’t matter that much.  If you have some motivation, curiosity, and interest in learning, then you will find a topic, professor, class, or hobby that starts you on your future path.  You Majored in What?: Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career is a great book that will help you understand what seems to happen for at least half of us.  If anything keep your mind open to opportunities and learn what you can.

Share

CollegeQandA asks: What are the first few things I should do to prepare for my classes?

What should I do to prepare for my classes?

I’ll answer this question by, first, telling you what I do prepare to teach a class in, roughly, sequential order:

  1. [months before] I think about what I want to do with this course, what previously went bad, what was good, and what ideas I want to try.
  2. [months before] I come up with what are the learning objectives of this course.
  3. [weeks to months before] I layout the calendar for the course deciding when things will happen and what order we will try to progress at to achieve the objectives.
  4. [weeks to months before] I create the syllabus with these dates and objectives in mind including how to assess students on satisfying the objectives.
  5. [weeks to months before] I create the online presence that we will use to communicate in electronic form.
  6. [weeks to months before] I prepare lectures, quizzes, exams, projects, labs into some depth of the course, though this can vary depending on a number of factors.
  7. [weeks before] I check into the lab and classroom and log into the computer to check out the technology for the classroom.  Where are the lights?  What type of writing board do I have?
  8. [weeks before] I start practicing names for everyone in the class who has a photo.
  9. [week before] I run though the materials I have prepared to check if things look good.
  10. [day before] I review my class plan.
  11. [hour before] I review the plan and check all documents.
  12. [15 minutes before] I warmup my voice, head to the classroom, and prepare the room.
  13. [10 minutes before] In the classroom, I play or show some unrelated/related articles/videos/etc. to start a discussion as people walk into the classroom.
  14. Showtime !!!

In summary, I’m the so called expert and I’ve already spent a number of hours preparing for a class before you the learner walk into the classroom.

Based on that what should I do?

Here’s a few suggestions that you can do to prepare for my classes and others:

  1. Have your notebook (separate one per class), recording devices, and supplies organized and ready.
  2. Print out the syllabus and have it pasted/attached to your notebook.
  3. Read that syllabus ahead of time and scan through any online materials that are available.
  4. Learn a little bit about the topic of the class.  A quick search on Wikipedia should give you some basic ideas related to the course.
  5. Decide what you find interesting or curious about this topic to help motivate yourself.  Even if the topic doesn’t relate to what you really like, frame some questions back to your passions such as, “How will topic X relate back and help me with my interest Y”.
  6. Find the classroom the day before classes start so you aren’t one of the many who come in late because they can’t find their classroom.
  7. See if there is anything online about the lecture that you can read ahead of time to provide you with a framework of what will be done in that class.
  8. Arrive early to class, if you can.
  9. Pick a seat in the front or in the center to sit (the closer to the front the better).  Oddly enough, you may sit in this spot for the rest of the semester.
  10. Introduce yourself to people around your seat and ask for contact information before the class starts.
  11. Prepare yourself to be an active listener as opposed to a passive listener.  This might require thinking about your earlier questions or new ones about the topic that you might be interested in.
  12. Take a deep breath and relax…this is about learning and should be fun.
Share

CollegeQandA asks: What is one way to help motivate me to success in College and beyond?

5613635142_772c98b311_n

A little bit about motivation

Our motivation is what drives us to do things.  For example, you might be motivated right now to watch an episode of Rick and Morty, while my motivation is driving me to write a post.  Is motivation that simple?

Motivation is not that simple, but having read a few books on this topic (Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action) and from thinking about student and my own motivations here’s what I think you need to know to help you to success in college and university.

Peers are important, not pears

Continue reading CollegeQandA asks: What is one way to help motivate me to success in College and beyond?

Share

Question – Why am I going or should I go to University/College?

This is my part 1 answer of an unknown number of parts.  First off, universities are not the only path towards a career and a good life.  For example, if you are predicting the robot/automation job takeover of the future, then you might choose a very different path that focuses on becoming a modern day artisan.  On the other hand, our world seems to have an ever increasing need for credentials to get basic jobs (credentialism debates: 1, 2, and 3).

My first answer to this question is from my experiential perspective.  Why would I tell my younger self to go to college?  The problem with my younger self is I was 18 years old, my brain wasn’t a complete adult brain yet, and I was more interested in music, video games,, parties, and basketball than a field of study. My slight interest in programming and parental insight was enough that I would survive the first two years of engineering.

My answer to that person with this inside knowledge would be, “don’t go to university since you’ll not get the real benefit of those early years”.

And that’s what happened (forward-sight advantage).  But on the other hand, those two years of getting through early university courses allowed me to mature, live on my own, and see more of the “real-world”  to solidify my desire to learn about computer engineering and take a fulfilling path.  Still, I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t have that slight interest to push me forward through the directionless times.  Unfortunately, because my passion was not sparked early, I missed out on some ideas and lessons that still hurt me today.

So the answer to the first why is an undergraduate degree is an opportunity for some people to mature and find their path.  This happens to many of us.  What scares me is that those of us who enter college, pay large sums of money, but then leave because of other factors (no passion, no commitment, financial problems, and life problems) can horribly suffer from this personal experiment.

Share