Archives for May 2018

May 20, 2018 - No Comments!

A Unique College strategist – Meet Joe Teske

I met Joe Teske, business owner in the financial advising and career strategy arena, at a networking event this past March. I was taken by his passion and purpose around coaching others to be their best. He is a unique guide to those looking for answers and ideas about careers, money, college for kids or grandkids, or looking for insight and action in an unpredictable economy. 

Joe has been providing college planning and financial strategies for families for over 15 years.  Prior to this, he was an executive in aerospace, hiring/managing over 250 people. He has a deep understanding of college planning and job acquisition skills students need to succeed and he is a certified College Planning Relief specialist. His early years and continued expertise in financial planning helps him see the interconnectedness of financial and career in order to help families set direction and minimize costs. 

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Sherry Benjamins: How do you work with students before they are considering college?

Joe Teske: Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” I learned that there are numerous ways to make the college journey more efficient and effective. In our firm, Reliant College Planning Solutions (Reliant CPS), we work with students and their families to educate them on career, cost and college, in that order.

Up to 40% of students entering college undeclared (without knowing their major), will not graduate. I believe student’s and family’s focus should be primarily on the “40-year career” and not necessarily the 4-year college. We have tools to help students identify a best-fit career and major in which they will enjoy their work and be productive.  Isn’t this the hope of every parent – a child in an occupation they love?

The other element of this work is helping families characterize the affordability of college.  Oftentimes families don’t truly consider the total cost of attending college. Graduation rates in 4 years at public colleges averages 34%. Most students can take 5 or more years to graduate. When you consider this for each child in the family, and with the costs of college growing each year, it’s clear that laying out a multi-year budget is critical to understanding how a family will afford a college education.  

SB: What do you learn from students in this process?

JT: Each student has unique wiring. While the education system is structured around a relatively standard set of coursework through the first 14 years of education, each student can find a path that supports their specific interests.  Helping families themselves find the distinctive profession where their child will love the work they do is an extremely rewarding process.  

When you look at the education system outside the U.S., many adolescents are choosing their occupational direction by the 8th or 10th grade. It could be a trade, a technical path or academic. There are very few teachers bringing an assessment process to 10th graders. I believe that is a big loss. Why not introduce the potential careers to students much earlier?  When that is accomplished, there is a real sense of relief and hope as they are able to address their most pressing question, “What am I going to be/do?”  With a career narrowed-down, students choose classes in line with their future profession. I also see that often their GPA improves as they’re taking classes that match their wiring.  Life has just gotten much simpler – and easier for them.

SB: What are the stresses from their vantage point?

JT: The pressures placed on students today far exceed what we’ve seen, even ten years ago.  The competition now for each seat in college is international! And with an admission process that evaluates leadership, volunteering, extra-curricular activities, writing ability, and demonstrated interest, along with their GPA and aptitude test scores, our adolescents are facing more demands than ever before. The mental health of these students is strained to the limit. They are trying to please everyone – parents, teachers, coaches, friends, and even the yet-to-be determined college admissions office. Focusing your student on a direction matters, even if it changes over the process.  Earlier is better. 

SB: What is your perspective on the future of education?

JT: I am a parent of children in this age group and I see first-hand visibility of the demands placed on my children and others. In addition, with my background in financial advising, I understand the economics of the education system. Families are doing whatever they can to get in and get the degree. This has led to a national college debt level at $1.5 trillion- growing at $100 billion each year. This far exceeds credit card debt. College has become the new credit crisis.

I believe that going to college and finding your way – does not work any longer. Knowing your career path first is critical. It is too costly to be left to chance, and not knowing often leads to five or more years to get a degree. Families are exploring alternatives to this heavy cost burden. Many are sending their students to a 2-year college and then transferring to a 4-year university. Some colleges offer co-operative programs where the students alternate academic and work semesters to gain experience and pay during their education process.  Students are taking online coursework as well. One change I anticipate that will grow in the future is companies/industries working collaboratively to customize job structure and learning for their future employees. This has already started in the healthcare and information technology industries with certification programs. Entry- to mid-level position qualifications are met through specified course content without needing a 4-year degree.  The amount of money spent on education will draw more creative solutions like this in the near future.

SB: What is your advice to parents?

JT: Building a network is not just for the experienced working professional or parent. It is the right thing to do as a high schooler as well. Imagine having a LinkedIn profile and networking strategy starting in high school. This is now the new 21st century life skill.   


We will see creative solutions to these education challenges. We are learning from recent generation Z research, those children born into the digital everything, smart phone era, after millennials about how they learn and where they want to learn. They do not remember a time before social media.  Stay tuned for what education will need to look like for this next smart, start-up mentality talent of the future. 

If you have interest in learning more about the college and money challenges and solutions, please reach out to Joe Teske, Reliant College Planning Solutions at www.reliantcps.com. 

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Newsletter

May 19, 2018 - No Comments!

Education 2.0 with David Finegold, PhD

What will learning communities look like in the future?  Will universities transform themselves in light of the advancements in AI or robotics? What will students want to learn and how should their expectations be tailored to this new world of work? I met with a long-time friend, Dr. David Finegold, President of Chatham University, to listen to his perspective on these changes.

 Some of you may know David from his time at USC or the Keck Graduate Institute at Claremont before he navigated to the east coast with Rutgers and then onto some fascinating entrepreneurial ventures in the academic world. He has over 30 years of experience in higher education as a researcher, author, professor, academic dean, senior vice president and chief academic officer. He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1985, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, from which he received his DPhil in Politics in 1992. He has dedicated his career to education reform, the design of high-performance organizations, and extensive comparative research on education and skill-creation systems from around the world.  David’s story of his move to Chatham to focus on leadership is a fascinating one.


Sherry Benjamins: Congratulations on your role as President, Chatham University! Tell us about your path to this leadership role.

David Finegold: I have always been involved in advising students and have been open to where my career might lead.  I took assignments that I was passionate about and now it seems everything I have done prior to this has prepared me for the leadership work at Chatham.  I have a blend of working for large, complex Universities, like USC and Rutgers with thousands of students along with being at small, innovative campus environments such as Claremont. There were also entrepreneurial challenges at American Honors when I worked to grow an academic business. What makes Chatham unique is that it blends the big and the small:  I can make a personal impact given our relatively small size – 2,200 students – where I can get to know each faculty member and student. Yet we have a far more exciting work and complexity than most institutions our size: with three campuses, online innovation as well as focused and recognized success in our wellness and sustainability programs. Chatham offers over 40 undergraduate majors and over 20 graduate programs in sustainability, the health & lab sciences, business & communication, and the arts & humanities.

SB:  When you imagine the future of education, where do you see value and affordability?

DF: There is no doubt that access and affordability is critical, especially as we see the costs of a degree going up. As a private college we are addressing the challenges in several ways. First, we are doing more with scholarships and fellowships. Secondly, we are innovating creative ways to serve our students by looking at on and off campus options, such as online, cooperative arrangements with business and study abroad in order to expand our capacity. We have more part-time students, and are also very transfer-friendly, seeing the 2+2 path as a great way for students to lower the overall cost of getting a degree. Roughly 25% of our undergraduates transfer from a mix of community colleges and four-year universities. 

As we look to the future, there is a significant population of those over 50 who remain engaged and want to continue working, though perhaps in an entirely new career.  They are looking to have social impact and continuing to learn throughout their lives; we are in the early stage of exploring how we might best meet their needs.  Also, there is more with dual enrollment as we collaborate with high schools in order to help their students get a leg up on studies and their career goals at the university level.  

SB: Chatham is known as an innovator in areas such as, women in leadership, entrepreneurs launching new business, cooperatives and sustainability – what are your students asking for? 

DF: Students are attracted to our campuses for these innovative programs. Our Center for Women Entrepreneurship’s Women’s Business Center, ranked #1 in the country, offers experienced business owners the opportunity to engage with and enhance the work of women entrepreneurs.  We support internships and diverse work experiences which brings high quality business connections to the “eco-system of talent” in our region.  Students want good careers so that they can join or build companies that are socially responsible. They want a quality of life that supports their values and we have multiple ways to offer this through 60 undergraduate and graduate programs and innovative ways to deliver content and experience.

SB: How is technology influencing your longer term plans?

DF: Technology allows us to deliver strong online degree programs.  Chatham’s College for Continuing Education offers one of the largest and most successful Doctor of Nursing Practice programs in the US, serving working professionals across the country who wish to advance further in leadership roles. Students can also complete a range of other degrees with flexible and low-residency formats.  We also have business, psychology and nursing undergraduate online degrees, masters of creative and professional writing with a focused online production skill building capability and a doctorate of occupational therapy. 

We recognize the next wave of disruptive employment is at the intersection of AI, distributed learning and the internet.  One study suggests we are potentially going to see 2/3 of the US employment automated by 2030.  As one example, our University is already adapting to this new world by introducing a new interdisciplinary degree in “immersive media” or virtual reality.

SB: What is your advice to the new generation of talent? 

DF:  My advice to our students and the new generation of talent is that liberal arts continues to be very important.  Students want to go where they will learn the most and grow personally.  I do see a stressed generation across the system and at all abilities.  They are feeling anxiety, financial pressures and uncertainty.  They do have a social consciousness and want to make things better.   They are open to creative entrepreneurial options and have the platform to create global companies with the technology available.  They are not looking exclusively to larger corporations as a career choice.  It is ironic that the best education is returning to liberal arts for improving problem solving skills, using critical thinking, working in diverse teams, and learning to learn. These are high on the list of new literacies that matter. 


Learn more about Chatham on their website!

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Newsletter

May 19, 2018 - No Comments!

Kelly Hoey and the Future of Learning and Connecting in the New Economy

Where do we learn to network? I think it is a natural curiosity to understand others, however for many of us, it might be pretty scary too. We are seeing that building connections is a new leadership literacy.  Kelly Hoey has a unique take on why and how this works. After reading her book, Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in Hyper-connected World, I reached out to her on Linkedin to thank her and ask if we might connect in order to explore further. She graciously agreed and I am so glad she did!


Sherry Benjamins: Tell me about your career path and how you developed the many professional hats your wear, which have included a lawyer, a social media influencer, a start-up advisor, an investor, and an author?

Kelly Hoey: Networking has enabled me to make some interesting career changes. I went to law school in ’91 and was working in a very suit-oriented world. I had the good fortune of working at prestigious law firms and there was decorum and an expectation around how you treated clients and how you held yourself in the world.  It was the way you interacted with people in your firm and profession. In the legal community, we refer to it as “practicing” law: you never reach the destination of expertise, but instead are a life-long learner.  That enabled me to go from lawyer to law firm management. Back then it was an uncommon change for lawyers to make.

Looking back, everything I’ve done has come from a foundation of successfully jumping into something new and working it out. I jumped into the deep end when I moved into the start-up world, and it goes back to that idea of what do you want to be known for?  What’s the reputation that you hold out to the world?  How do you interact with people?  A couple of women I respected had the idea for a start-up accelerator. They needed a third co-founder and when asking their network for anyone with a particular skillset, my name kept coming up. This is how opportunities happen.  Sometimes it means doing things that don’t make sense on paper.  Did it make sense for a lawyer with expertise in finance who had no experience in start-ups take on this new world?  I believe that it is not about what you know or who you know, but instead who knows what you know. That’s what can move one along their career.   

SB: Was it rare for a woman to be in investing at this time?  

KH: In late 2011, there were few investors committed to women led ventures.  Looking back, it was an overlooked and undervalued opportunity. Our idea was that “if you boys won’t invest in women, we will”.  It was a great thing to start and also a great thing to stop participating in when the time was right.  The realization though, came from the power of an entrepreneurial mindset.  I learned that even if you’re an employee, you should assume that mindset. Give yourself 1, 2 or 3 years to try something and ask yourself if it’s a long term venture and if not walk away.

SB: What did you learn from your start-up experience with Women Innovate, the NY accelerator?

KH: It was the best MBA learning experience I could have. It also affirmed my strengths as a business woman.  We can ask ourselves in our own careers: what am I really good at? What rocks my world?  Where’s the universe sending me a signal? For me, I realized that happens when I get handed big, bold ambitious projects with limited resources and somehow I make it happen. That was also the case in Law Firm management. So rather than thinking “outside of the box”, I like to get in the box and figure out a creative way through the problem. 

SB: In the forward to your book, Tom Peters says you have written about “revolution” not networking. What do you think he meant by that? 

KH: For Tom, its always been about the people. When you read the word “network” in a book title, you go to a certain place. Tom realized the book is about careers and ambitions and the decent human being in a digital age. It has everything and nothing to do with what we traditionally think about networking. It has to do with the importance of putting people first. Even though we are in an economic and industrial revolution with upheaval and uncertainty, the one thing that is more certain than ever is that our human relationships and people skills are more essential and valuable than ever before.

SB: How will building connections change in the future?

KH: We’re at an interesting inflection point because all generations are struggling with how to make meaningful connections. The more comfortable we get in being uncomfortable with how we make relationships is the first step to building strong, viable relationships and vibrant networks. The more we realize that these things can grow via a conference call, in person, or otherwise. It’s not one versus the other, it’s everything. The more we are genuinely, authentically ourselves, regardless of platform, the more we remember that it’s a real human being with a messy complicated life on the other end.  We are not just a user or a follower. To understand this is to become better human beings. 

SB: Talent forecasters say that “on demand” curated networks of people will replace the need to recruit. What’s your perspective on that?

KH: As long as you’ve got diversity, in the fullest sense of the word, the idea that people bring their whole network to their environment may solve some of the challenges in recruiting.  However, this rarely happens.   The notion that we’ll use these curated networks and also be aware of our blind spots in order to ensure diversity, could bring better problem solving, creativity, analytical thinking and more to our organizations. 

SB: What is your advice for the next generation of talent?

KH: I’m pausing for a second because don’t we say that every generation is going to be different and more difficult than the last? I’m thinking about Mr. Zuckerberg and congress. Tech companies were supposed to act differently, but when you think about it, he’s created a company that operates like the rest of them. You think about companies acting in extraordinary ways and they aren’t run by Millennials. It’s Patagonia or Ray Anderson of Interface Inc. When I think of revolutionary business leaders, it’s a bunch of older white guys and it’s kind of tragic. Why put pressure on a younger generation rather than look at it and say, we all have a responsibility to make this a success and strengthen how we interact and how we understand each other.

For the younger generation, I would say: It’s fine to have your way of doing things. We all have our preferences. Understand the environment you’re going into. Understand that you’re going to need to flex. You’re going to alter your choices. Know what your values are and what is most important to you so when you step into a workplace, you know which stuff you have to compromise on and which stuff you don’t. 


In closing, Kelly may be wired to connect the networking dots, but you can be too! I recommend reading her book and consider checking out her Creative Lives Program on June 6th. 

Don’t relegate networking to the bottom of your list.  If you want to pursue your dream career, networking must become a priority. It is about understanding others, how you add value to them and in return for yourself too.

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog, Newsletter