Lifelong Learning Makes Change Easier

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Academic & Career Success, Blog

Learning 420x380Everyone knows change is hard for most people.  Even when faced with ultimatums from their doctor, most people fail to make lasting changes. Life coach Jack Bennett  says engaging in lifelong learning can help make change easier for us.  When we’re accustomed to learning new things, our brains are used to creating new neural networks and pathways, thus making it more ready to accept the positive changes we need to initiate.  Our parents and teachers were right – “never stop learning” is great advice.

New Employee Culture Shock

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Academic & Career Success, Blog

Last week I talked about the four stages of culture shock that anyone can go through, especially new college students, employees changing fields or industries, and people relocating.  Years ago I accepted an HR position at a unionized pharmaceutical plant where I had my own bout of culture shock.  Little did I know at the time how well my experience fit the four-stage model:

Excitement – I was very pleased to be hired. My new boss was happy to have me and welcomed me in a big way on my first day.  My co-workers were quite nice and my office space was lovely.

Difficulty – Soon after I started, my boss was in meetings all day long. He left me with policy manuals to read – all day, for several days.  I discovered the employees were such creatures of habit that they essentially had assigned seats in the cafeteria!  I would sit down to eat lunch somewhere only to be told I’d better move before “so and so” got there.  I laugh now, but it was crazy!  I also discovered that I didn’t know the “language” spoken there.  Unions have terminology all their own, and there were a lot of unspoken rules that I would unintentionally break.  For instance, I remember being chastised for rearranging the chairs in a conference room where I was to hold a training session.  (Moving chairs was unionized work, and I could have been accused of trying to put a union employee out of work by doing his job.)  It was like working in a mine field!  I remember feeling discouraged and like an outsider.  The history they all shared was unknown to me.

Recovery – The HR staff and my boss were wonderful people, and once they remembered what it was like to be new (it had been such a long time since anyone there was hired), they stepped in to help me.  They loved to tell me the stories of plant and the people, and I was eager to get “in the know.”  I was given a union contract to review and people guided me along the way.  I also started to understand the mentality of it all.

Stability – After a few months, I felt very much at home.  I got more comfortable with not knowing what everyone who’d been there 18 years knew, and they realized my intentions were honorable.  I stayed there three years until the plant was closed and the work relocated to a plant out of state.

Adapted by Crossroads of Learning from:

UW Board of Regents International Engineering Studies & Programs (n.d.). International Engineering Studies & Programs – UW-Madison. Retrieved March 15, 2012, from http://international.engr.wisc.edu/preparing/cultureshock.php

Have You Experienced Culture Shock?

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Academic & Career Success, Blog

Feeling Alone?

Feeling Alone?

Years ago I was hired as an HR Administrator working at a unionized plant, an environment I had never experienced before.  To make matters worse, I was the first person to be hired in three years; there was virtually no turnover or growth at that location.  It took me several months to acclimate, and I did not realize until many years later that I went through culture shock.  Did you know that culture shock is a common occurrence among new employees and new students?

“Culture shock” is used to describe the temporary confusion or loss of stability felt when one lives in a culturally and socially unfamiliar environment.  Signs include mild uneasiness or homesickness, or strong unhappiness and even panic.  Thankfully with time most people overcome the discomfort and restore their sense of balance and well-being. Look at the four stages of culture shock that the University of Wisconsin-Madison identifies in foreign exchange students and see if you can relate them to any of your experiences:

  1. Honeymoon phase – the adventure is exciting, as everything is new and ready to be discovered. The energy is high.
  2. Cultural stress – as the excitement wears off, the unfamiliarity and differences begin to be overwhelming.  Students express irritability, hostility, and feelings of alienation.
  3. Adjustment – once students make friends and learn new how to do things, they begin to acclimate and the stress lessens.  Their sense of humor returns.
  4. Adaptation and biculturalism – Students accept and adapt to the new culture, while retaining their own cultural identity. A sense of confidence and well-being returns.

A colleague of mine that I highly respect recently changed employers after 15 years to accept a well-deserved promotion.  It was clear from the discomfort she expressed that she has progressed to the second stage of culture shock.  I have no doubt that she will navigate successfully through the entire process, although it may take longer than she would like.  I’ve noticed that longevity has its downside, making change, when it does come, a bit more challenging.  Next time I’ll give you the details of my union experience, as it fits the four-stage model to a t.

Adapted by Crossroads of Learning from:

UW Board of Regents International Engineering Studies & Programs (n.d.). International Engineering Studies & Programs – UW-Madison. Retrieved March 15, 2012, from http://international.engr.wisc.edu/preparing/cultureshock.php

The Value of an Education

Written by Joanne Deck. Posted in Academic & Career Success, Blog

I’ve been teaching college for over ten years, and for the most part it’s been a great experience.  I’ve learned a lot from my students and the course material, and it’s especially rewarding when I come upon a student excited about learning. Unfortunately, they’re not that common.

Most students seem to be taking courses to earn a degree.  I applaud and understand this.  As I’ve pointed out to my daughters, a job can be taken away from you, but a degree cannot.  A degree helps build career security, a much more valuable commodity than job security.  A degree is of great value to the individual.

SUNY at Albany, My College

SUNY at Albany, My College!

But it seems to me that just as important, if not more so, is the value of an education.  The dictionary defines “educated” as well taught, cultured, and knowledgeable.  Someone can possess a degree and it may or may not be apparent; when one is educated, it shows.  An education is of value to the world, not just the individual. An educated person has learned something, and learning means changing behaviors.  It’s about what you do just as much as it is about what you know.

Thankfully, there are many ways we can and do become educated, and ideally the process never ends.  Increase your value to yourself, your employer, and the world by doing just one thing today to become more educated.