Category Archives: Jobs & Careers

Parents & Teens Beware: like diamonds & tattoos, social media posts are forever

gaming and social mediaSeemed like a good idea at the time…

Two recent Skype incidents remind us of the dangers of social media and the “instant age.”

One, an offensive albeit private joke ignorantly shared online, the other a deliberate spamming via Skype messaging remind us that parents can and should be aware of their teen student’s social media activities. Here are some warnings and suggestions, starting with the idea that with social media, private is never really private.

Likes, Moods, Tweets & Eternal Connectedness

You may have heard about how one Facebook “like” can expose a supposedly private account to a viral world (see CBS article on Five Hidden Dangers of Facebook)

And you have probably seen the news that broke recently about The Bong Hit That Cost an NFL Prospect 8 Million.  It wasn’t the use of the drug that cost him $8mm, it was the picture of it that ended up on Twitter on the biggest day of his life – 7 years after the picture was taken. Oops. Continue reading

Mentoring students is an all-time thing: mentoring is not just an occasional conversation with a guidance counselor or mentor

Student MentoringAt the A+ Club, we make strong claims for the power of mentoring. We believe that consistent, positive feedback from caring, experienced, and non-judgmental educators empowers students by building lifetime skills and habits of reflection, goal setting, and general self-betterment.

A Gallup-Purdue study of the impact of mentoring on college students in post-graduate job success and all-round well-being already proves our theory (see Mentoring Students for a Lifetime of Success). What the Gallup-Purdue study doesn’t say but is implicit to the results is that mentoring is neither casual nor predetermined.

Note that the study did not point to “advisors” or “guidance counselors” for impact on students. In fact, the absence of those terms in the study is significant. Mentoring relationships are not appointed, they are not pre-selected or administered from above. They develop organically through sharing, trust, care, expertise, authenticity, and constancy.

Mentoring is…

  • Sharing: effective mentoring is empathetic.

  • Trust: mentoring without trust is just more random advice.

  • Care: the effective mentor is selfless, non-judgmental, patient, and caring.

  • Expert: the effective mentor delivers something of value.

  • Authentic: effective mentors don’t condescend or merely guide from above; their mentoring comes from the heart.

  • Constant: effective mentoring is regular, not occasional or random.

Why Guidance Counselors Aren’t Mentors

Imagine that a high level executive at a major company mentors up-and-coming professionals. Imagine that some of these protégés ultimately report to that executive, if not directly, then through other chains of command. If so, there is with great difficulty any mentoring, as it’s just another power-relationship, however well-intentioned.

Now, imagine that a high school student receives mentoring from an educator at the school. We call those “Guidance Counselors,” and they have no less administrative weight than does our executive. They are both firmly a part of an institutional power structure and are therefore inherently judgmental and authoritative.

This doesn’t mean an executive or a guidance counselor can ‘t be an effective mentor — it does mean that each has the burden of authority to overcome in order to deliver mentoring that is authentic and trustworthy.

So, yes, we can imagine that executives or guidance counselors can make effective mentors. Absolutely. But it is harder to imagine that they can be effective mentors to more than a few protégés or students with whom they can create authentic relationships.

They not only have to overcome the burden of authority (which severely challenges authenticity), they have to overcome the burden of a strained caseload. Thus the largest reason that guidance counselors don’t make good mentors is that, according to Time,

A public school counselor in the U.S. now has an average caseload of 471 students….

(from The High School Guidance Counselor Shortage,

Try being caring, empathic, authentic — and constant — with 471 students! Not possible. A guidance counselor can mentor some of the students some of the time but none or a very few of them all of the time.

A+ Club Student Mentoring

Our view is that effective mentoring starts with the student, not the mentor.

When we take on a student, it is by student choice. We cannot mentor a student who is not interested in self-improvement, and we don’t. We don’t get past a first conversation with such a student (and I’ve only run into 2 or 3 over my three years in this business).

The only way we can start with a student is if that student sincerely wants academic improvement. And we never define it for our students: it’s up to them what that means. Once we have established goals, then we can work on deliberate, realistic steps towards them with confidence, trust, and care.

Our authenticity comes of the concern we show and the expertise we bring. Our teachers — whom we call “Student Supporters” — are experienced, active educators, and they only do this work because they care, because they enjoy establishing a relationship with a student whom they do not grade, whom they do not judge. Freed authority, they are free to care without judgment.

Once our teachers have established that trust, once they have established their care and expertise, then they have an authentic relationship. Then the only missing ingredient for effective, powerful mentoring is constancy, which they bring through scheduled, weekly or more reflection, goal setting and problem-solving conversations .

Our teachers love this work. And they also know how emotionally taxing it is, for they care so much for each child. They only take on a few, some choosing to work with only one student, and the rest taking on no more than a few to work with, guide, counsel, and help along towards a brighter future  each and every week.

We know it works, and not just because our kids do better in school. We know it works because our students are ready and eager to take that mentoring call every week.

– Michael

What’s a hat worth? Why customer service has no price

With customer service , it’s the little things.

Left my hat at the restaurant the other. I left it because I broke routine (not good): I usually hang my hat on my chair in a restaurant, but this time too many people kept bumping and knocking it on the floor, so my wife grabbed it and set it by her against the wall. Of course we both forgot it. Back home, of course, “Where’s my hat!”

So I called the restaurant. “Can’t hear you, too much noise,” the guy said. So, I repeated, louder, “I left my hat. In the back right room, against the wall. Ask our waiter. He knows. “Two seconds later, “Sorry, no hat here.” Click.

So I called back. Same guy. “I need my hat. Please ask the waiter where our table was, and it’ll be right there.”  Nope, he’s done with me: “Call back after two O’clock, and maybe the cleaning crew will find it.”  Click.

Ten minutes later, I walk into the restaurant straight to our table, and the guy sitting by the wall kindly reaches down and finds my hat.

Mr. Restaurant Manager, you just lost a client.

My thoughts for the manager include:

  • If you don’t care about my hat, do you care about the quality of my food? Or the accuracy of the check?
  • You have no idea why that hat is important to me. You didn’t need to ask, but you ought to have assumed it since I took the time to call you.
  • Since you asked, here’s why: rushing and discombobulated (and breaking habits) I left my favorite hat in a cab at the airport. (Won’t use that cab service again: they just kept my hat). My wife knows I love that hat. Without asking me about it, she bought me another one and carefully packed and brought it back to me onboard another flight. That hat is her expression of love.
  • I want my hat back.

The Little Things Matter

So, Mr. Restaurant Manager, that hat is more important to me than that okay meal I had at your place. Nice place, enjoyed it. Very busy, must be popular. Hope you stay that way, but you’ll have to stay that way without me.

If you think I’m petty over my hat, perhaps, but here’s a thought about “a little thing” from a member of an organization that truly needs the little things done right or lives will be lost:

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Viet Nam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task–mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs–but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

From commencement address to graduates at his alma mater, University of Texas at Austin by former SEAL, Admiral William H. McRaven.

Our Students, Our Service

I hope that at The A+ Club, we are getting the little things, as well as the big things, done right. I hope so, and if we’re not I should hope to hear from our clients. We can’t nor do we want to do everything, as our service has a specific scope, purpose, and price. But…

We sure want to do the things we do– right. Especially the little things, because I know that they can matter the most.

I hope our students take this to heart, as well. Think over Admiral McRaven’s advice: big success starts small.

Did you make your bed today?

– Michael

PS Here for my hat from National Geographic store. I love my hat! (And my wife.)

Dr. Procrastination: Tim Pychyl featured on Ottawa TV

Great interview on CTV Ottawa news! In this interview Dr. P talks about the destructive and limiting effects of procrastination on lifestyle choices. When procrastination controls you, you are not in control of the things you want to do and be. Dr. Pychyl shows viewers the priorities and responsibilities for his own life, as he discusses the truly “existential” damage of procrastination and the limits it puts on the lives of sufferers. Continue reading

Procrastination destroys

Help us fight this disease.

Procrastination destroys grades, it destroys relationships, it destroys futures.

It may not seem like such a big deal. Just make another promise to yourself to get better grades next time, study more, and move on. Besides, cramming it in and busting it out at the last minute always works for me!

Here to learn more:   Procrastination Specialists


As procrastination expert, Dr. Timothy Pychyl says,

If you work best under pressure, you only work under pressure.

Continue reading

Finally, a buyers market for college

coins_MH900305770Oh, my, colleges are suffering from low enrollment. At $40K a year, ya think?

The Wall Street Journal ran this article today,

From 2010 through 2012, freshman enrollment at more than a quarter of U.S. private four-year schools declined 10% or more, according to federal data The Wall Street Journal analyzed. From 2006 through 2009, fewer than one in five experienced a similar decline.

The trajectory reflects demographic and technological changes, along with questions about a college degree’s value that are challenging centuries-old business models. The impact is uneven: Some wealthy, selective private colleges are flourishing, while many others suffer.

Schools on the losing end are responding with closures, layoffs, cutbacks, mergers and new recruitment strategies. Many see these as the first signs of a shakeout that will reorder the industry.

Please read this with glee.  I do, especially after paying $45,000 a year for my daughter’s school in Boston. My son started at the very expensive music school, Berkley College in Boston, and decided not to return, telling me “it’s a waste of money.”. You don’t hear that line from your kids very often, but according to him it was. My daughter’s school, Simmons College, also in Boston, she and I both agree is worth every cent. But that’s a lot of cents.

Here’s the ugly truth about college expenses

  1. College costs have risen significantly faster than other cost-of-living increases in the last twenty years.
    1. Why?
      1. administrative bloat
      2. Federal rules and regulations
      3. People have been willing to pay these ludicrous costs, myself included
  2. College costs are subsidized by the wealthy and high school under-achievers who don’t qualify for scholarships or need-based discounts
    1. My uneducated guess is that 20% of students pay full tuition, 40% pay mostly full tuition, and those 60% subsidize the other 40% who are on scholarships or are heavily subsidized.
  3. Undergraduate college degrees do not guarantee a good job
  4. College graduation does not guarantee learning
    1. Our society has yet to decide whether or not college is a “life experience” or an education.
    2. High school education has been so dumber-down that much college education is remedial
  5. Post-graduate success is predicted more accurately by college admission than by college graduation.

Sorry to be cynical here, but let’s speak the truth here. But let’s also be glad that what goes around comes around, and the “college bubble” has hit a top. Enjoy the crash, and make sure you’re taking advantage, finally, of the new buyers market in education.

– Michael

The A+ Club from LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.

Jobs galore! (… if you got edumacation)

help-wanted_MH900254495bJoblessness related to education?  And work ethic. And skills. And…

A single temp agency reports 20,000 unfilled jobs. One would think that temp jobs up would mean full time openings are down. Not so here: these jobs go unfilled not because everyone is happily employed but because they require 20,000 qualifications that job seekers don’t have. And we’re talking part time jobs.

The sad fact about unemployment today is its disproportionate impact on the unskilled and uneducated, but even for qualified job seekers many opportunities are temporary or part time.

Yep, part time work is the new job market. A look at the raw unemployment numbers to see that temp jobs are driving employment. The reasons for this trend are debatable, and we won’t go there. Still, that in 2010, one quarter of all new jobs created by the private sector were temporary ought to scare us all.

There are today 3.69 million jobs open to be filled, according to the Labor Department, which leaves us with about 3 workers for every job opening. Now, if you’re ignorant like me and you wonder why with 3 people available for every job there are still almost 4 million jobs left open, let’s think this through together:

Firstly, not all of those who are unemployed want a job. The vast majority of those on unemployment insurance find jobs the final month of payments or just after the benefits expire. That’s logical, especially if available jobs don’t pay much more than insurance. Next, individual skills and experience, of course, set the conditions for jobs for which one qualifies. And that’s the problem.

Most unfilled jobs tend to require skills, education, and lifestyle choices that are found only at a premium and by a few. In 2012, CNN reported that there were 200,000 job openings for long-haul truckers. That’s not an easy job, and given drug tests, driving records, and other requirements, one that’s not available to all comers. With my driving record, this is not a career choice for me. What about you? Do you make your daily choices as if a top security clearance depended upon it? You should.

I used to take students to visit the White House Garage, an Army unit that is charged with moving the White House whenever and wherever the President goes. (A few years ago, I did some historical work for them.) The Garage is staffed by NCOs led by a Sargeant Major and a hotshot CO — big league stuff. Whenever the NCOs speak to the students, they always stress the difficulty of appointment to this elite unit. They will not take you if you have a scar, blemish or otherwise unsightly shadow across your record — and that includes your social media history. Sorry, you shouldn’t have said that on Facebook. And the little marijuana bust, ain’t gonna pass. You can get a job from the President with all that, but you cannot get a job protecting the President with it.

And so the same for those other some 4 million unfilled jobs: the applicants don’t meet the job criteria, and vice versa.

A Wall Street Journal interview on Sept 20 with Bob Funk: Where the Jobs Are—and How to Get One highlights the dilemma. Funk owns the staffing firm, Express Employment Services, that has those 20,000 jobs to fill. As in right now. But he can’t fill them. And his jobs pay between $13 – $40 per hour.  Why?

Let’s start with that one quarter of applicants fail a drug test.

Think about it: one out of four people looking for a job with this company can’t pass a drug test. Let’s take it further: those one of every four applicants were the brave ones, as the rest of the drug-taking unemployed didn’t apply. God bless those that tried.

Next, Funk says, applicants don’t have the skills. “If you’ve got a college degree in psych, poly-sci or sociology, sorry, I can’t help you find a job.” Degrees or training in engineering, IT, robotics, accounting, welding will get you a job, he says, and it could be one of the 20,000 openings his company is looking to fill with qualified applicants. They’re not out there. Or they’re taking unemployment or disability.

Now we get to Funk’s larger complaint, that today’s society doesn’t value success in the workplace:

“In my 40-some years in this business, the biggest change I’ve witnessed is the erosion of the American work ethic. It just isn’t there today like it used to be,” Mr. Funk says. Asked to define “work ethic,” he replies that it’s fairly simple but vital on-the-job behavior, such as showing up on time, being conscientious and productive in every task, showing a willingness to get your hands dirty and at times working extra hours. These attributes are essential, he says, because if low-level employees show a willingness to work hard, “most employers will gladly train them with the skills to fill higher-paying jobs.”

In addition to the “erosion of the American work ethic,” Funk points to fundamental problems in our educational system. He suggests that we reward good teachers instead of paying them all the same (been reading my stuff, Mr. Funk?), and that schools should offer vocational alternatives to students who are not academically focused.

I’d add to that last thought that, yes, vocational education should be available for high school and recent high school graduates, absolutely, but any single student can engage the standard high school curriculum so long as that student finds purpose in it. And that’s the rub.

A thousand reforms can’t change that our society is producing high school students ill-prepared for college and college students ill-prepared for the workplace. What can change is individual student choice.

One student at a time can choosing to make his or her academic life more meaningful means one more qualified job applicant — one at a time. Students, let the academic dysfunctions and social pressure to choose wrongly be someone else’s problem. Own your outcomes, students, but you have to choose it.

We help kids do this every day. One student at a time.

– Michael

The A+ Club from LLC, based in Arlington, VA, is dedicated to helping students across the U.S.A. meet their goals and find the academic success the want and deserve. Contact us here or call now  to (703) 271-5334 to see how we can help.