How to prosper in class

We are just starting the Fall, 2014 semester (this is only the third day). I thought this might be an appropriate time to share some insights with students who are reading this weblog. There are a number of things that make me go hmmm… Consider this a slightly different take. I want you to understand how to prosper in class (and later in business). Keep in mind that most of the reasons I respond in certain manners is because I am trying to help you define traits and behaviors which will help you succeed in business.

Item 1 – Never, ever, ask me the following question – “Is this what you are looking for on this assignment?” Here is my translation of what the majority are asking (after many years of responding) – “Is this the absolute bare minimum that I need to do to receive a satisfactory grade on this assignment?” From this point forward, I will refuse to answer such a question (and may well direct you to this weblog post). In a business environment, this is a sure way to let your boss know you are uncertain and only trying to do the minimum (think of Wally on Dilbert). It is not a good way to impress anyone. From a business best practice, here is how you should phrase such a question – “How would you suggest I improve on this work/ assignment?” This tells me that you recognize one can always improve and you want to do so.

Item 2 – when you send me an email message, make it a point to include your class in the subject line. Make certain to also use your full name. Yes, I have done earlier posts on how to email your professor. Given that I am mentioning this again should let you know that my message doesn’t seem to have resonated with everyone. At a minimum include the above (class in the subject line). It also helps to know if there is a problem which requires immediate action of a more general question (which likely should be posted in the discussion forum). If you leave the subject line blank and do not include your full name in your email message, it is likely I will may not respond to the message (in a timely manner if at all). From a business perspective, many individuals are very busy. If you don’t grab their attention in the subject line, they may never open the message (much less respond). Be as clear as possible what you seek.

Item 3 – I plan on awarding badges this semester based on how much an assignment “wows” me. Do your absolute best on every assignment. Don’t just get by. Think that each item you submit should be something you want to include in a portfolio of your work to a potential employer. That is why you are taking classes, right? By the end of the semester in at least one class, you should have received a WOW badge. If not, ask yourself if you are really doing your best work. If you need help, you can always ask me. Refer to item 1 and I will point you in the right direction. From a business perspective, the idea of working for a company for 40 years and retiring are long gone. You are an independent contractor and consultant (regardless of where you work). Do your absolute best all the time. This will help you prosper in these challenging times.

Item 4 – Are you regularly participating in our Adobe User Group and Web Professionals meetings? If not, why not? The pace of change with current technologies is incredibly fast. We simply can’t cover all the enhancements in the framework of classes. This is a great opportunity to learn and to network. Many former students (now practicing web professionals) participate in these meetings and give talks/ demonstrations. Establish a network of people you can ask to mentor you and to help you in your job search efforts. At some point, you are going to apply for a job. Someone may well ask you what you have done to differentiate yourself? Doing coursework is assumed. Getting good grades in relevant courses is assumed. Actively participating in meetings (like the Adobe User Group and Web Professionals) is a good start. Participating in the annual SkillsUSA web design contest is another good start).

Remember that as we start this semester, all classes are new; all opportunities are new. You have a chance to prosper in class and to hone behaviors which will help you succeed in business. You have a unique opportunity to learn and grow this semester. Take advantages of these opportunities presented to you. Someone once said – “if opportunity isn’t knocking, build a door.” I encourage you to put forth the extra effort and shine. Your professors provide a number of doors for opportunity (and may well help you build other doors if needed). Build and refine those skills and behaviors which will help differentiate you from others (so you prosper in class and later in business).

As always, I look forward to your comments.

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