How to know when it’s the right time to pursue further education

Have you considered going back to school as part of your career change or promotion strategy?

 

Nearly every person we talk to at HTYC considers this, and a number of them also cringe at the thought of going back 

Why? They’re at a different life stage than  their first time through college.

Now they have a full-time job, maybe even kids.

Going back to school seems a lot more difficult now. Maybe this is true for you, too.

So, is it right for you to go back to school?

Well, it depends (don’t you hate that answer?).

 

I spoke with Anne Converse Willkomm, Department Head of Graduate Studies and Assistant Clinical Professor at Drexel Univiversity’s Goodwin College of Professional Studies.

“Of course, she’s going to say you should go back to school! It’s her job to say that.”

Wait! Let me stop you there…

When I talked with Anne, she actually told me that it wasn’t always right for everyone to go back. But that there were a few times when it might be right for someone to go back to school:

We talk about this in depth on the podcast episode.

If you listen closely, you’ll also learn:

  • Not all Masters degrees are created equal (what are some of the specific differences to look for)
  • How to use what you’re doing at work in the classroom (through the magic of applied studies)
  • What a “failure resume” is (and how to use it when you career change)
  • How to create a “Master Resume” (This is something we do with our clients in Career Change Bootcamp)

Listen to the episode today to learn more about when it’s right to go back to school.

Full Transcript

Scott Anthony Barlow

And when I first got to meet you on a phone call, while back, it struck me how easily you’re able to look at many different sides or both sides of an issue. And I’ve since learned more about you and know that you consider your brain to be perfectly symmetrical. Can you tell me a little bit about what that means for you?

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

Sure. So I found this out many years ago, I was in banking, and we did some, you know, off site professional development thing, and it came back that I was perfectly symmetrical right brain, left brain, and I had no idea what that really meant. Sure, they must have talked to us about it. But in terms of me personally, I didn’t really know what that meant. It took me a long time to figure it out, which looking back explains my career trajectory. So I was in banking, pretty analytical position. I didn’t really feel satisfied because this creative side of me didn’t have an outlet. Any chance I got within banking, I did something that was more creative. And even management noticed it saw it. So they asked me to, you know, run the United Way campaign, things like that. Then I went in to a more creative side of things. But then it was, this is gonna sound really geeky, but it was, “oh, I need a spreadsheet.” You know.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

I love it.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

You know, here it was probably 20 years later, it dawned on me that, that is what this all meant. That I have to be in a position where my analytical side gets satisfied, but so does my creative side, I cannot be in one or the other, or I’m not going to feel fulfilled. And let’s face it, when we choose a career or a career chooses us, we want to do something that’s making us feel fulfilled that’s helping us to go home every day and say, “ah, I enjoyed my job.” So academia for me is, what satisfies that. I get to do the creative side, which is creating curriculum, hosting events. But I have the more analytical side, which is, you know, tracking enrollment, working with students on, you know, what comes next in their plan of study. But even within working with students, what comes next in their plan of study, I jumped over to the creative side and talking to them about their career aspirations, and where they want to go, how do they want to get from point A to point D? And that’s a very creative process, even though it seems like it’s much more of a step by step process. Does that make sense?

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

That makes a ton of sense. And I appreciate you going into depth on that because I think that there’s a lot of people out there that can resonate with that as well. I’m very much the same way. I love some of the analytical and data and for me, even the research side of it, however, I also must have that creativity otherwise I get bored, I get antsy, I don’t find a lot of meaning in it if that creativity isn’t too balanced out there, too. So I so appreciate you going into detail of that. It also, I think leads us into some of the topics at hand here because one of the reasons I was really interested in bringing you on the show in particular is because partially of how you think about higher education, schooling, everything that goes along with it. And one of our tasks today, which I’m really excited to dig into, because we really haven’t dug into it on this show before is to try to evaluate, when are the right times to go back to school? When does that make sense for someone? When does it not make sense for someone? And I’m curious, before we even get into that for everyone else, what have you experienced in your own life?

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

I’m kind of one of these people you’re talking about in some way. So you know, I was very traditional, you know, out of High School, I went to College, I graduated at age 22, I got a job. But then you know, as I say, if you look at my career trajectory, it’s a little bit especially in the early years all over the place because of this right brain left brain thing. And then I did something that a lot of women my age did, you know, I got married, I had children, I stopped working, and yet here I was raising children and girls and telling them they needed to go to college and I missing sort of the career piece in my life. And so I did a lot of volunteering, nonprofits, that kind of thing. And then when my kids were a little bit older, I thought, I think I’m going to go back to school. I got my master’s degree, graduated at age 45. And it was one of the best decisions that I made even though it was a creative master’s degree. I got my master’s degree, an MFA in creative writing. It opened the door to what I would really say was my second career, which was post children. And I had students in my classes that were very traditional. They were 23, 24 years old. And I had students in my classes that were 65. And it was a great mix. And as a teacher, I love it when my classes have students from multiple age groups, because the younger students bring a vitality and an excitement. But the older students bring a perspective, particularly a life perspective, but both feed off one another. The vitality and excitement that the young students bring this life into the older students that they had didn’t realize maybe they had not suggesting that older students are lifeless. Just put that out there.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

Let’s not go down that path.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

Right. No. But then they in return, help the younger students see this life through a different lens, through someone who has had different experiences in their lives and it makes for more magic in the classroom, it really, really does.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

I can completely appreciate that when I got my first degree, I was actually really fortunate, in hindsight really fortunate to go to a school that had such a mixture of perspectives. And it was just the logistical positioning of the University and that caused a lot of that, and then how they structured many of their programs and you know, who they were really catering to. However, it really did make for so much better discussion, especially in the classes where that discussion was, you know, intended to be a part of the class experience. So I can completely appreciate that. Without that, I don’t think it would have been as fun honestly.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

I’m sure it wouldn’t have. Just from my own experience, both as a student and as a professor.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

So here’s my question for you then. For you, you know, I heard you say this was really the right time, right situation, and it paved the way into much of what you get to do now in one way or another. However, I’m curious, what else made it right for you at that time in your life?

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

Well, I think, and this is a conversation I have with prospective students all the time, and when is the right time and there is no universal right time, it is a very individual thing, because going back to school is a huge commitment. It’s something that has to be discussed with, you know, family, potentially with colleagues or a boss. If you’re going to make the commitment to go back to school, that means you’re making the commitment to do the work on a weekly basis, which means, oh, maybe I can’t go to Johnny’s baseball game, or maybe I can’t go every first family dinner every Sunday night at mom’s house, you know, whatever it means or I can’t go out for drinks after work on Fridays with my colleagues and, and there were 1000 other reasons that people have to consider in terms of, you know, what sacrifices they’re going to make. If they’re going to choose to go back to school, so to try and make it more universal, and boil it down, I think that the right time is when someone is looking to make a career change could be different industry, something along those lines, or they’re kind of stuck there wanting to seek a promotion. But that promotion says, oh, sorry, only those people with this degree can apply. Those are two really great reasons. And I think a third one is maybe you don’t need the degree for the promotion per se, but you are feeling stuck. And so going back to school can give you that confidence. It can help build your network and so forth, which I think is so incredibly valuable. I have students in the three programs that I oversee particularly in the MS and Professional Studies program who meet all three of those criteria. They are looking to change industries, they’re seeking a promotion that they can’t get without the master’s degree, or they’ve just been haven’t gotten promotions. They’ve been passed over for promotions. And they’ve done that deep dive and looked at themselves and realized that they need to learn more, they need to enhance their skills, but they also need to build their competence. So those are three great reasons to return back to school. The other element of that is timing. You know, you can’t say I’ve had students who have little teeny kids to students whose kids have graduated high school or out of college. That’s an individual decision. But the key question you have to look at is, is my family, my colleagues, my boss, am I in a place where they’re going to be able to be supportive so I can say, I can’t do this on Saturday. I can’t whatever because I need to do my studies, I need to work on this report. Is your boss going to be willing to have you work on, you know, in our programs, I like to think of our programs is all being very applied work. So we encourage students, if you have a project at work, use it in class. So is your boss going to be receptive to that or not? So those are some of the things that I think are really important for people to start to think about if they’re considering whether or not it’s the right time to go back to school.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

So I really want to dig into a few of those for just a minute here, because I think that they’re a fantastic place to start. You know, one of the things that I’ve heard you say is when people are considering a career change, when people are considering a promotion, okay, so chances are high that most people who listened to this most of our HTYC-ers are considering some element of that. Also, I know that almost everyone when they get to that stalled out point or when they’re considering some type of change like that. Almost everyone, it crosses their mind of “Do I need to go back to school?” Right? Not everybody, but pretty darn close to some degree. And I think that that’s how it’s been been done for a very long period of time school has been the solution and the path to move forward. So some of the times, though, we found that that’s not necessarily the best path to move forward. And I’d really like to push you to understand what are the circumstances that could really make it the right path versus not as much the right path? And I’ll give you an example or a preface. So, if I’m in the place where I have no idea what I want to do, whatsoever versus I’m in the place where I know I actively am seeking a promotion in a particular industry, maybe that is an industry change. How does this type of decision play out in those two scenarios? Help me understand a little bit about how you think about.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

Actually dealing with someone, a colleague, asked me to help a friend who is in the situation, she’s in a job, it’s not the right fit. But she’s not sure where to go from there. She’s got a lot of interests, but doesn’t know how to focus or narrow those interests into, okay, I’m going to apply for this job or I’m going to seek a career down this path. So in that instance, and you know, I think people have to be very, very careful. I’m an educator, I believe in lifelong learning. I’m going to support lifelong learning, but I am sometimes an odd duck, because I am going to tell you if I don’t think it’s the right time, because it doesn’t make any sense for me to get a seat in the chair, if it’s not the right chair for the right person. But people do need to be wary of asking people who have skin in the game, so to speak.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

This is one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on the show because you’re one of the few people who I’ve had many conversations with people that work with and around Universities and maybe this is your both sides of the brain coming out and being able to look at some different types of opposing issues. I so appreciate that. In those circumstances, what do you think might make it right versus not right?

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

Wait, let me go back to this particular individual, because it would not be right for her to go back to school. She’s got multiple different interests. So she could choose one path and get four courses into it six courses into it and go, “oops, nope, this is not right.” That doesn’t mean that she still can’t pursue education. Education comes in many different forms. You can get education by going to a conference, you can become educated by reading, you can become educated through informational interviews, there are all sorts of ways to become educated. Let me phrase it a different way, you should go to school because you have a pretty good idea of the path you want to take. Now, that doesn’t mean that you still might end up on the wrong path. We could talk about that later. But if you have no idea, take time, do some research. Educate yourself about different paths, spend lots of time talking to different people in different industries to get an idea of what it’s really like. So what I told this individual is, “go read a bunch of different job descriptions and see which things interest you, and then come back and talk to me and we’ll figure out the right path for you.” But again, and it, she could come back with a very clear, oh, I really know I want to be an HR. Great, there are plenty of opportunities. Some could involve going back and getting a master’s degree. But there’s also, you know, SHRM, she could get SHRM certified and get knowledge that way. So there are a lot of different paths. Do I really answer your question?

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

I think so. And I think this is a great way to continue exploring this too. So those stories and examples are wonderful, because there first of all, it acknowledges that there are, there’s not one right path for everybody. There’s just not like, however, that said, one of the themes that I’m hearing from you or I think I’m hearing from you, is not only it depends obviously that’s there, but it depends on whether or not it’s going to serve you well and be the best path. So like that HR example. I think that’s such a great one, partially because, you know, my backgrounds in HR, so I’m a little biased, but if you have an idea of what it is that you want out of it, or at least the rough destination to where you’re trying to head, then it becomes easier to evaluate, hey, does it make sense for me to pursue something like a SHRM certification? Or does it make more sense for me to go get a master’s degree in human resources? Or does it make sense to you know, create something that is more of a combination for, lack of a better phrase, maybe just taking a few classes to expose myself to a higher level HR and and then being able to treat that as an experiment. So, yeah.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

It could be that the person, you know, gets a lower you know, more entry level position in HR loves it, wants to still pursue a master’s degree, or it could be the entry level job, doesn’t fulfill the needs and it was like “whoa, I’m really glad I did go get a Masters degree.” But in the case where the student does pursue or the person does pursue a master’s degree, I think another thing that is really important to mention is that not all master’s degrees are created equally.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

Agreed, but tell me what you mean.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

I’m not going to put down any master’s degrees. I think they all have their strengths. But let’s face it, they all, I don’t want to use the word weakness, but they all aim to do certain things and help students achieve certain goals. And even those that may align with your goals may still not be the right program for you. I think someone needs to be really really careful in looking at what a program really looks like. So that means look at the classes that are offered. Look at the plan of study that is suggested. Understand if a program is flexible, I’m going to say right off the bat if someone is going to be working, while they’re gonna try and get a master’s degree or an undergraduate degree, you need to make sure that there’s some flexibility. So for example, in the graduate programs that I run, all of our students are working professionals and students will life interrupts, students will reach out and say, “oh my goodness, my papers due on Sunday, my boss just handed me this really, incredibly long project, can I? I’m not gonna be…   have to finish it by Monday. Can I get an extension on my paper?” Absolutely. We understand that our students are working professionals, and this is going to happen. So it’s about communication. But these are important questions that a prospective student needs to ask what is the kind of flexibility. The other piece that I think is really important is how they look at the coursework. So I mentioned this a little bit before in developing the programs that I have developed our course work is all applied. So what I mean by that is students are going to immediately be ablse to apply what they learned in their place of work regardless, particularly I’m thinking of the MS and Professional Studies program, regardless of the industry, similar with Project Management, for example, one of the classes I teach is communications for professionals. One of the things we do in that class is the students learn how to write their own performance review. You would not believe how many people have really no idea well, your HR you probably do, but-

 

Scott Anthony Barlow 

I believe you. I believe you.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

Concept. They view it as just a an exercise they have to go through, they’ll copy what they wrote last year. And that is it versus taking that deep dive and really looking at their own strengths and their weaknesses. I cannot tell you the number of students who have come back to me and said, “Oh my gosh, my performance evaluation was three weeks later. I actually use most of the content that I used in class. And it was an incredibly enlightening and rewarding experience.” So, again, they’re applying what they learned immediately. I think, of course, I’m a little biased because this is how I run my graduate programs. But I think it’s really valuable for people to apply what they learn because they’re much more likely to remember it and be able to do it again, which is really what we’re trying to help students do is attain those skills and that knowledge and be able to reproduce it or adapt it accordingly.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

I think this is so important. I just want to dig into that for a moment because what you said about being able to apply it immediately, I’ll preface and say that I don’t think you should ever evaluate any kind of learning or educational program on just one facet alone. However, if I had to place priority, more so than just about anything else, being able to learn and apply it immediately would be very, very near the top of that list. Absolutely. And, you know, speaking from experience, the first business I ever ran was at the same time as I was going through my business program at the University when I was 21, 22 years old, whatever it was. Actually a second business, the first one failed. But the second business, I was able to go in and learn about something from one of my marketing classes, and then apply it the next day or go in and learn something from my HR classes and go in and apply it the next day. And then I walk into another class with another professor, and I wasn’t able to apply something and it helped me really understand, you know, what creates valuable versus less valuable education. Well, here’s how I would say, I think that that ability to be able to apply immediately, like you’re talking about and I think that’s really what allows people to get the maximum value out of any way that they’re spending their educational time, I’m gonna call it.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

Well, I’ve got two great examples to support that. One is, in any of the courses in any of the programs under me, students, as I sort of mentioned before are encouraged, if there’s a project that you can use from work to use in your class, you should do it. Why? Because class is the safe place to fail. It’s an opportunity for a student to work on a project from work where the faculty member can come back and say, “I don’t really understand where you’re going with this.” Or “this is great, but I feel like you’ve kind of glossed over the main issue” or “I think you need a deeper dive here” or “I think you totally missed the point altogether” or “this is great, but keep going.” Whatever the comments may be, they get this feedback from the faculty member. They can make the adjustments in the project, then deliver the project at work, and know that they’ve gotten this support on the back end in the classroom. It gives them an opportunity to truly shine, which is huge because, what does that mean? The more they shine, the more likely they are to get promoted. The second example that I want to give you, one of the courses that I teach is a personal leadership trajectory course. The students spend the entire term working on their own personal leadership plan, it ends up being about 25 pages in length, and they have to do everything from identify their core values to identify leaders they admire to choosing a mentor to really taking a deep dive in their failures, like creating a failure resume, but also they have to identify their goals. And I had a student last year when I taught the course who really was ready. She was one of these students who was kind of had been stuck and that’s why she is came into the MS  in Professional Studies Program. So she’s nearing the end of the two year program. And her whole goal was to get a director role position. So she used this opportunity with our personal leadership plan to make that happen to plot out the path to get that directorship role. And before she graduated, she had that role. So we’re talking within three months, she applied and got that role.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

That’s fantastic. Love that story and example. I also heard you say a couple of things that I think are really interesting. One was, school being a safe place to fail. And unfortunately, in my experience, that’s not the standard way that universities and colleges are looking at themselves or even if they are looking at themselves that way, that’s not the standard way that operations happens. And-

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

With all the bell curve.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

Yes, yes. So tell me in your opinion, why do you think we’re still holding on to what I would consider to be some of those old practices that we’ve got great data at this point, great research to support that looking at creating that safe place to fail would serve people better? Why do you think we hold on to that in many education environments?

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

I think some of its accreditation. So if you look at various accrediting, not like the general accreditation, like a Middle States, you know, your most basic accreditation, but, your more industry accreditation, such as the American Bar Association, for example, I believe it’s that they require in all law school classes that 10% of the students fail, which just doesn’t make sense to me.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

Agreed. I didn’t realized that that’s interesting.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

The ABA will sure will correct me if I’m wrong, but that is my understanding. And I think the idea is, in order to get a credit, you want to have a rigorous program, so most people view rigor by saying, “Oh, well, only 20% of the students got A’s, the rest, you know, got B’s, C’s or S.” I argue that, that has nothing to do with rigor. But it has everything to do with potentially inflexibility or an unwillingness to take an extra step. So my philosophy and I expect this in my faculty who teach for me as well, is that I don’t really care about a grade. But I understand students do and they may care about a grade because their employer is paying for a class only thing gonna be your better, or they can’t get federal student loans if they fail too many classes. I mean, the list goes on. So I understand that. So my philosophy is I’m going to give you the grade that you deserve on your paper or your project, but I’m also going to give you the opportunity to fix it because what do I really care about if I don’t care about the grade, I care about  the learning, I want my students to learn. And one of the best ways to learn is to fail. Because you’ve taken a risk, it’s risky to put something down that’s wrong or to say, Oh, this really may be a great idea. And for it to be a crappy idea, pardon my language. But when the student gets the feedback, and has the opportunity to rework, edit, revise, that’s where the real learning takes place. Now, some students do that on their own. Some faculty and I do this in some of my courses, help students do that, before they actually turn something in. But if we don’t encourage that, then all we’re doing, all we’re really doing is requiring that students regurgitate information and as I say, my goal is really on the learning and if you, I’m going to tell you, students who fail at something and they go back and they fix it, they will not fail at that again, because they really learned it.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

Tell me about a failure resume. I heard you mentioned that offhand earlier. And I’m fascinated by what that even means. I don’t even know what it is exactly. And I love it so much already. So tell me what you mean when you say a failure resume?

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

Sure. So we all know what a conventional resume looks like. One of the other elements that I think most people don’t do, and I highly advocate and I’ve written like blog posts on this is everyone should have something called a master resume. This is not something you would ever send out to anybody. It does not need to look nice. It doesn’t have to have, you don’t have to have all the buzzwords or anything like that. It is literally, I worked at McDonald’s, I grilled hamburgers, I made coffee, I ran the cash register. You just literally the things that you did. So that’s number one. Everyone should have a master resume, because for every job you apply for, you should tailor your resume to that job. So if you have a master resume, then you don’t forget things. Because you go back to that master resume and go, Oh, yeah, I forgot I did that in this job, that kind of thing. So master resume, regular resume now failure resume. As I said, you really learn from your failures. That’s where we… we don’t learn when someone says, “oh, Scott, you did a great job on X.” You learn when I say, “you know, Scott, you could have done a better job asking me these questions.” So then you would go back and say, “How did I not ask them? Was I not clear?” And you think about it, and then you go back to the next person, you asked your questions differently, you know, whatever. So a failure resume, and every place you work, because everyone has failed at something, no one’s perfect. Every place you’ve worked, I don’t mean back to like, you know, high school necessarily, but you write down the things that didn’t go so well. That would be considered failures. And I think it’s really important then to categorize those failures, I have sort of three categories that I have students look at, with a total screw up, you know, like the simple mistakes that you make, that you wouldn’t normally make. But there are few lessons to be learned. Like, maybe you need to be a little bit, you know, better at meeting deadlines, or you need to be a better editor, that kind of thing, or was this a weakness, something that you’ve been repeatedly doing? And you really need to look at that, for example, like not responding to emails in a timely manner or continually over promising or and then under delivering, or is it a growth opportunity, and we all have that as well, you submit a budget that you didn’t really prove, and the mistake caused the company to lose revenue. This was really should have been part of due diligence and let’s say like a merger or something like that you leave the company vulnerable. You know, maybe you need to go back and learn how to use Excel or maybe you need to go back and look at you know how you work with numbers, and that kind of thing. So I asked my students, when they have to create their failure resume, to list the failures and then decide whether it was a screw up a weakness or a growth opportunity, and then provide insight. What did they learn from that failure? So let me give you a great example of a personal failure of mine. It was my first job out of college. It was a let’s say, I won’t give the company name, it was a natural toothpaste company, we’ll leave it that. I was hired to set up an HR department and do some accounts receivable and it very quickly became evident that it was all accounts receivable and no HR, which is why I then end up going into banking. But any rate I lasted for about six months, it was the working conditions were terrible. My boss was not easy to get along with, there were a lot of things. And being my first job out of college, I took my first vacation, went back and then I thought I can’t do this. This is awful, they’re terrible, they’re this. So I went home for lunch and I wrote a scathing resignation letter. Oh, I was so proud of myself. I thought, Oh, this is so forwarded, oh, they’re gonna really feel it when I hand this in. And so I handed it in, I hand it to my boss. I said, I’m resigning, he shuts his door and nothing happens. And I’m feeling really deflated for a second. And I’m not sure what to do. So I’m like, Well, I gave my two weeks. So I start doing my work comes out about 10 minutes later, and he says, “you can just pack your things, you’re done. We’ll pay your your two weeks that notice that you gave us but the chairman would like to speak to you before you leave.” I was like, “Oh, okay. Here we go” my letter really caused something here. And so I go into his office, and he says to me, “I don’t know what you really thought you were going to accomplish. And there could very well be some truth in the letter that you’ve written here. But the way that you have done this, no one’s going to read it.” He said, “If I can give you one piece of advice, never burn your bridges, you will never work for this company ever. And you will likely never work for any company that any of us are ever involved in.” And I walked out of his office and I thought, “Oh my, he thought, What a jerk” you know, but I still remember that because he was right. And I was wrong. So the insight and all of that is he was right, never burn those bridges. You never know when you might end up back at that place. There were so many other ways that I could have handled my frustration, but I also needed to think about was my frustration, my frustration was there anything that I was going to be able to do to make changes at that company or not? And if I thought there was something I could do, then I should have handled it in a different way.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

I love that story for many different reasons. And I can it’s very close to home for because I’ve made some of those way too similar type of mistakes, but I also say too that those, to your point earlier, are some of the most impactful learnings throughout my life as well. So I’m really loving this idea of a failure resume and I can absolutely see how this is something that could really continue to act as a catalyst for growth and continue to help people realize like what has got them to where they are today. And I think more importantly, for me personally, it’s been I mean I now realize that my most impactful learnings are through failure again and again and again to the point now where I try and fail many times a day over and over again so that I can speed up the speed up the learning speed up the things that go successful because of those failures later, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it quite that way before so really appreciate you sharing.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

How many times did the inventor from Dyson, he doesn’t say failure just said or you know, he said, 5000 different prototypes or something.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

Oh, yeah, absolutely. And you hear similar stories over and over and over again, when you dig into anyone who has become successful by their own standards, not by society’s standards, but by their own standards of how they’re evaluating. There’s always, I have yet to find a case where there’s not a huge amount of failures that led up to those successes.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

Well, it’s one thing that I find, you know, in watching my students, it’s usually the last piece of this leadership plan that they work on. I talk about failure in other classes that I teach. And it’s typically not something students want to talk about. And I think part of it is because in education, we view an A as achievement and success. And, you know, at the graduate school level, anything below a B is considered an F. And we have this mindset, I think, and that’s one of the reasons as I’ve said, it’s really been important to me in the curriculum that I have created, in the courses that I teach, to ensure that we do give students space to fail, and I think it’s a really, you know, to sort of go back to that earlier question about making decisions about going back to school. I think anyone who’s going to go back to school should embrace the fact that failure is an important element, and it’s something that they need to explore.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

How can someone tell that about a particular program that they’re considering or school or university? I mean, it’s clear how strongly you feel about this for the college and university where you work. However, how can somebody be able to really figure that out from the outside looking in?

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

I think they have to ask questions. So one of the biggest pieces of advice that I can give anyone who’s considering going back to school, whether it’s a undergraduate, graduate, PhD, doesn’t matter, whatever it is, is what you read on a website is hopefully all true, it should be. But it is meant to entice you. It’s meant to showcase the, you know, what the program does and the goals of the program and the success of the program and how the program is going to make you successful. And that is all really important. But as a prospective student cannot stop there, I am somewhat amazed at how few students reach out to talk to me before they apply to any of my programs.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

Give me some numbers here. Help me understand. It sounds like this is a semi rare thing.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

Minimal amount, I should be getting calls from at least 90% of the students who are considering applying to one of the programs that I’m overseeing, and they should ask me questions such as, is your program flexible, how does your program deal with working professionals? What if I fail a paper or an assignment? Is there assistance out there for me? Not just, you know, is the professor going to work with me to help me learn? But what if my writing skills aren’t as good as they used to be like, I was maybe an okay writer in college, but I haven’t done the writing for 20 years now. I’m not so sure. Well, there should be a writing center available. Is there? Is it available if you’re going to an online program? Is it available for online students only face to face students? So I think it’s really really important of course, each question that someone might ask really, you know, they can be very individual, but it starts out with flexibility. And if you are applying to a face to face program that is predominantly designed for full time face to face students, meaning classes are offered during the day, but they have some classes at night so you can work and still take it but if that program is predominantly designed, then you’re going to miss out on things because they’ll have some speakers who come during the day while you’re at work, they’ll have events that are during the day while you’re at work. So prospective students need to think about how that program is delivered, when that program is delivered. If it’s going to be face to face or online, how it was designed and constructed, was it designed and constructed with a full time working professional in mind? Or was it designed for someone who 90% of the students are 23 right out of their undergrad?

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

I so appreciate that advice. And I really want to dig into answering some of those questions and how people can dig even further into, you know, what is the right program for them. And I think that that is really, really useful. And I think that if you’re willing to hang around, we can discuss that in another conversation where we can make that next episode. How does that sound?

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

Absolutely.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

Where can people, if they’re interested in finding out more about you or more about the school and university that you work with, where can people find out more?

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

I’m work at Drexel University. I am with the Goodman College of Professional Studies. Ah, use anyone who is interested in finding out more can go to our website, which would just be drexel.edu/goodwin. I have a blog series that I write that’s for deals on all sorts of different issues on professional development and career trips, career tips, leadership and management skills, interpersonal communication and innovation in the workplace. And that’s, you can find it right on our top banner. But you can also find out about, we have a variety of programs, I oversee the graduate programs and you can just click under academics and find the graduate programs that I work with which include, as I said, the MS in Professional Studies, the MS in Project Management and the MS in Nonprofit Management, and then you can see my lovely picture.

 

Scott Anthony Barlow

Fantastic. I would encourage people to take the advice that you have given. And if what you… what you’re describing sounds good, then, you know maybe people reach out to you directly or go to some of those other resources.

 

Anne Converse Willkomm

Under my picture, there’s my email address, which is acw334@drexel.edu and people can reach out to me, happy to answer questions, you know, as best I can. And I’m always willing, if I don’t have the answer to try and figure out who might have the answer, that kind of thing.

 

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