5 Reasons To Find Your Passion and Fuel Your Life & Career

Having a passion in your life for something good and worthwile is always beneficial, even if you wonder sometimes whether what you are doing matters in your life or those of others. You may already know what you are passionate about, or you may need to work on figuring it out some more.

1.  How Passion Helps Profession (Even When They Seem Unrelated)

Having passion for one thing always translates into other things because passion is exciting and contagious. It isn’t necessarily true that developing a passion will lead directly to a passion for your work, but it’s likely, and it will have positive results in some way, if not directly. Many people find that their passion for charity work or the outdoors or fashion or books–whatever it happens to be–translates into their work in several ways.

2.  Passion energizes you. When you have something in your life that you are passionate about, the energy your passion generates within you will come out in other ways, including in your work. After all, you spend more time at a full-time job than at almost any other thing in your life, except maybe sleeping (and often times, even that). Where else is energy generated by passion going to go, but into your work? At least some of it.

3.  Passion enlarges your perceptions. You begin to see more possibilities in different areas because of the passion in one area and how it changes your perspective on life. At work, this may mean being able to solve problems that stumped you before or just having a more positive attitude about work in general.

4.  Passion spreads joy. When you’re passionate about one thing, you tend to be happier and more joyful about everything in your life, including work.

5.  Passion makes you focused. When you have a passion you want to pursue outside of work, you may be more focused during working hours so work doesn’t cut into your outside passion through overtime or taking longer to get things done.

Your passion may even lead to a new career in that area as you desire to make your passion a bigger part of your life–or its main focus. But even if that doesn’t happen, there are plenty of other positive aspects of finding your passion.

One way to discover your passion is to take continuing education courses on topics that interest you. Continuing education isn’t just for career enrichment; CCSU offers many courses targeted to personal enrichment and interests outside your career. Join the mailing list by contacting Christa Sterling at csterling@ccsu.edu for updated information about everything we offer.


Professional Development Plus a Mentor Equals a Winning Combination

A mentor can be an important part of your career development plan and can work together with continuing education courses to help you reach your career goals for advancement and promotion. Having a mentor can help you with aspects of career development that you can’t accomplish on your own and can give you wise counsel that you couldn’t get otherwise.

Where to Find a Mentor

According to Chronus, more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies now have a mentoring program in place, and many smaller yet growing companies are following suit. Having a mentor from your workplace can be ideal in helping you figure out office culture and how to get ahead in your particular area. If there is no formal mentoring program at your company, you can suggest it to human resources as a good program to start, or you can try to find your own mentor informally.

When choosing a mentor, look carefully at people who are already doing the job you aspire to do in the future, and who you admire for their work habits and personal qualities. Look for someone well-respected by others and that has a good reputation both in their workplace and outside it.

If your company doesn’t have a suitable mentor, look elsewhere within your field. Just be sure not to reveal any private company information to a mentor if they work for one of your company’s competitors. While most mentors will treat such revelations ethically, it’s best not to take the chance that you might have misjudged someone or that you just don’t know them as well as you think.

You can also find a mentor at professional conferences or continuing education courses that you take for professional development. Having a mentor and taking courses to further your education is a powerful combination for a few reasons.

How Mentors and Courses Complement Each Other

Professional development courses offer the latest information on the topic they cover and are meant to keep your skills and knowledge up to date. A mentor can be someone to share information with and can be a sounding board for what you’re learning in a course, and can also give you a different perspective at time from their own experiences.

A mentor can also help you set goals and hold you accountable, including goals for continuing your education more formally with an advanced degree, certificate, or courses. Most mentors take a personal interest in your successes and want to see you advance in your career. If they didn’t want this, they wouldn’t bother to be a mentor in the first place.

Both mentors and professional development courses can help you grow in your field, and together their effects are compounded to be even more than each one would be alone.

CCSU offers continuing education courses in a wide variety of career fields, some of which can lead to certifications or be used to satisfy continuing education requirements imposed by employers. Join our mailing list for information on our upcoming courses and available offerings.

Hard Data on ‘Soft’ Skills Learned in Professional Development

It is extremely rare that any employee has sufficient technical or professional skill to excuse them from the need for so-called “soft” skills like a positive communication style. Whatever your profession, you can safely assume that you will have more success if your technical skills are accompanied by excellent soft skills like listening ability, professional courtesy, and emotional intelligence.

Seventy-seven percent of employers in a CareerBuilder study said they valued soft skills as much as technical skills, and 16 percent said they valued soft skills even more. Soft skills are important to 93 percent of employers, according to this study, and should not be ignored in your career development.

Some people seem to be born with soft skills. They naturally relate well to people, communicate effectively, and people just like them. While having soft skills can be a natural thing for some, there is still hope for you, even if you are not the type of person who has natural people skills.

Soft Skills Employers Want

The soft skill most in demand by today’s employers is outstanding communication with colleagues and customers. Poor communication causes many problems in the workplace and is way too common a problem for many employers. Without good communication, misunderstandings occur that may cause mistakes, hurt professional relationships, and in general, get in the way of work being done. Employers know that there is a relationship between communication skills and productivity that can’t be ignored.

Leadership ability is another soft skill highly sought by employers, who want to promote from within when they can. Knowing how to lead a team, even when you aren’t the official leader, is a valuable soft skill that helps get the job done.

Other soft skills employers look for when hiring include time management, flexibility, professionalism, and motivation. Organizational skills are highly sought-after as well. These skills make a big difference in how work is accomplished and can mean the difference between know what you’re doing in a job and actually getting the job done.

Soft Skills Can Be Learned

Fortunately, many continuing education and professional development courses address these critical soft skills, which are just as important to maintain as technical skills. If soft skills don’t come naturally to you, there are ways to develop them so your lack of soft skills doesn’t hold you back in your career and make it harder for you to succeed.

Courses in soft skills may involve not only the presentation of information, but also modeling, role playing, and other techniques that allow you to see these skills in action and develop them yourself. As you learn more about these skills and their importance, you will want to add them to your growing skill set in order to make yourself a more valuable employee.

Soft skills courses are offered at CCSU for personal and professional development. To join the mailing list contact Christa Sterling at csterling@ccsu.edu.



Why You Need Continuing Education When Your Career Is Going Well

When you have a career and it is going well, it can be tempting to ignore continuing education. It doesn’t seem very important to gain new skills when the skills you already have seem sufficient for the job that it seems like you will have for the foreseeable future.

There are several reasons why continuing education is equally important for those in a satisfying career and those who are in need of new skills to get a new job. Becoming a lifelong learner comes with benefits both for your career and for your personal development, no matter your level of satisfaction or job security in your present career.

Reasons to Invest in Continuing Education

One reason to take continuing education courses is to excel in your current job. Even if you have good performance reviews, there is always more to learn and ways to improve, and continuing education can help you find out how to continue advancing your skills beyond their current levels. The highest achievers never stop learning and take every opportunity to learn more so they can do more.

When you take continuing education courses, you will likely learn skills and knowledge that will make you stand out from your competition–both in your current job and across other jobs or companies. Continuing education can help you develop a reputation for excellence in your field that others will begin to recognize, admire, and want to emulate.

You may have a goal to advance in your career or get promoted, even if you are happy in your current career field or position. Whether promotion is a specific goal you have right now or not, you may find that advancement opportunites come your way because you have continued your education beyond its current level.

Keeping Your Skills Updated

The fact is that you never know when you will need to have the most up-to-date skills possible in your current position or career. Many fields are now undergoing a period of rapid change due to new automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that could impact up to half of the world economy, much of which is concentrated in the United States.

All this means that there is a 50-50 chance your current job will eventually be automated or replaced by AI techology. Even if your job is not replaced, it is bound to change in significant ways, and continuing education can prepare you for those changes so you can adapt to them instead of being left behind. Many of these changes may be sudden or unexpected, so having continuing education skills can quickly become a necessity rather than just a way to achieve more than might be expected.

CCSU Continuing Education offers courses that can extend and update skills for many careers and fields, keeping you prepared for all the changes that may be just around the bend. Join our mailing list to see the many courses we offer and find the ones that can help you keep your skills current.

Continuing Education and Professional Development Between Jobs

Whether you have been subject to corporate downsizing, have taken time off to tend to family, or are voluntarily taking time between jobs, continuing education may be just what you need to learn new skills that will be valuable to your next employer. Even if you seem to be well-qualified for another job in your field, many professions are rapidly changing and your skills may not be as current as they could be even after a few months of unemployment.

Benefits of Continuing Education and Professional Development When You Don’t Have a Job

One of the hardest parts of being unemployed can be figuring out how to fill your days. Once the routine of a full-time job is gone, you may find it easy to spend your days pursuing other interests, taking care of children, or binging on Netflix, or you may find that you miss the sense of fulfillment that came from working with a team or completing important business tasks.

In the middle of the often-discouraging experience of job-searching, continuing education courses can be a positive part of your day that keeps you going and balances out the rejection and waiting to hear back about an application. No matter what else happens, continuing education courses give you one positive step to move forward in your career by learning something new.

There are few things more beneficial to your career than continuing education. You can never learn too much, and you never know when skills learned in continuing education may be exactly what you need for your next job or may make you stand out from other candidates. You can also take continuing education courses that focus on soft skills like leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills, which will be helpful for any future job you have.

One thing that often happens when you are in between jobs is that you begin to forget or lose the skills that you were used to using on a daily basis. Your mindset changes to focus on your current reality and make it harder to re-enter the workforce when you get another job or want to resume your career. Continuing education will keep you connected to the mindset you had when you were employed and make re-adjustment easier when the time comes.

Networking is another way that continuing education courses are valuable. Whether you are actively looking for a new job or just keeping up your skills until you are ready to look again, continuing education courses can be a place to meet people in your field who may be able to point you toward jobs as well as being professional colleagues that you can learn from and talk with.

CCSU offers continuing education courses that cover many topics, career fields, and soft skills. Courses are affordable and some even lead to certifications that employers want employees to have. View our open courses to see which courses interest or benefit you as you look to continue your education while between jobs.

The Surprising Connection Between Boredom and Innovation

It’s great that we have entertainment and things to do at our fingertips 24/7, but should we always fight boredom? The answer appears to be “no,” according to studies that show that boredom can have a surprising effect on creativity and innovation.

Boredom is more than just not doing anything–it is an annoying feeling that you want to be doing something satisfying, but you have nothing satisfying to do at the moment. This annoying feeling means that your brain is working, and it doesn’t have anything pressing and immediate to work on, leaving it free to think about things like new ways to do things or to solve problems that haven’t been considered before.

Studies on Boredom and Innovation

A 1970s study asked participants to do problem-solving and word association exercises and gave them way too much time to do so. To fill up the time and avoid boredom, they first gave all the obvious answers but then gave more and more creative, outside the box ones.

Another study asked participants to come up with creative new uses for an ordinary household object and found that those who did a boring task first came up with more creative answers than those who didn’t. There is something about boredom that clears the mind so that you can think more clearly and creatively about things.

Professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine Gloria Mark has studied the way people’s attention shifts from online to offline activities while they are working, and Mark has found that the time frame has gone from every three minutes a few years ago to every 45 seconds in the most recent study.

She also found that even when people are not interrupted by their boss or coworkers, they begin to self-interrupt in order to maintain the level of stimulation, even though it causes them more stress to do so. This is why intentional downtime is necessary to clear the mind.

How to Induce Boredom in a 24/7-Connected World

In today’s world of constant stimulation from email, texts, and social media apps, boredom has to be an intentional thing that people put into their lives, much like exercise or therapy. If you don’t decide to be bored, you may never put your phone down long enough to get the mind-clearing benefits boredom can give you–or the innovation that often follows.

In a crowdsourced 2015 study, podcaster Manoush Zomorodi asked 20,000 of her listeners to engage in certain digital behaviors each day for a week and found that putting down devices while waiting for and riding the subway or walking from place to place gave people enough downtime to clear their brains and led to creative ideas later.

Participants also found downtime by deleting their favorite app for one day a week and making themselves unavailable at work for brief periods so they could clear their minds. Zomorodi’s book “Bored and Brilliant” details the efforts of her unofficial study participants and how getting away from technology just for a little while led to new ideas and ways of solving problems.

“The beauty of boredom is not knowing where your mind is going to take you,” Zomorodi says in the book.

CCSU offers continuing education courses that can help your mind think in new ways by exposing them to new ideas, both in their career fields and outside them for personal enrichment. To join the mailing list and learn more about them, contact Christa Sterling at csterling@ccsu.edu.

Top 5 Ways to Be Innovative in Work and Life

Being innovative means having new ideas and doing new things that you haven’t done before as well as doing familiar things in different ways. Chances are, your work and your life are interconnected in many ways, which means that innovations in one will often carry over to the other.

Here are some ways that you can be more innovative in work and life.

1. Listen to podcasts.

Podcasts bring new thoughts and new ideas into your life (including your work). Rather than watching reruns of the same shows or watching movies over and over again, you can spend some of that time listening to a variety of podcasts on topics you find interesting, and identifying some ideas for innovative activities you can introduce into your work and life to keep things fresh and new.

2. Tackle old, routine tasks in new ways.

Some ways to approach routine tasks in new ways including driving to and from work by a different route, grocery shopping at a different store, or (for women) letting the lady at the department store do your makeup and see if you like how it comes out. It could be cooking several meals for the week at once instead of cooking every day. The possibilities are endless but will keep you thinking about your day in new ways.

3. Imagine how an admired person might do things.

Most people have others they admire. Imagining how someone you admire might do things differently may give you new ways of accomplishing tasks and lead to innovations you wouldn’t have thought about otherwise. This can be repeated as many times as there are people you admire, and may lead you to adopt new behaviors and methods permanently if they work well.

4. Flesh out some of those seemingly “crazy” ideas.

So-called crazy ideas have been responsible for most life-changing innovations like space travel, medical advances and electric cars. Following your crazy ideas to their logical conclusion can sometimes make you believe in them enough to take the next step toward making them a reality. Try to learn how to shut off the voice that always says things are impossible and spend a little more time dreaming about what just might be possible one day.

5. Take a class to expand your personal and professional horizons.

Taking a continuing education class can expose you to the newest and best ideas on a particular subject in a stimulating environment of your peers. In most cases, your instructor will be an expert in the subject with many years of experience that you will have access to, which will give you many new ideas and thoughts that you can use in your own work and/or life to improve it.

CCSU offers hundreds of continuing education courses that can bring innovative thoughts and actions into your work and life. For updates on upcoming courses and schedules, join the mailing list by contacting Christa Sterling at csterling@ccsu.edu.