Is a Master’s Degree Worth the Effort?

StrategyDriven Professional Development Article |Master's Degree|Is a Master’s Degree Worth the Effort?Whether you have just graduated from uni or have had your degree for some time, you might be wondering, is a master’s degree worth the effort? Many of the results that you can get from some master’s courses, like additional job opportunities or better career prospects, can also be gained from alternative means like graduate schemes or industry qualifications. And at around ten thousand pounds for a year of study, getting a master’s degree doesn’t always come cheap either.

If you’ve been pondering going back to uni and getting a postgraduate qualification, it’s always worth taking the time to determine whether or not it will be worth the effort for you. The answer will depend on your personal situation and your career goals.

What Do You Want to Do?

First of all, consider what you want to do with your career. Will a master’s degree be essential? If you want to work in a field or a position where a master’s degree is required as a minimum, your choice has been made for you. However, bear in mind that the jobs where a master’s degree is the minimum requirement are few and far between, and most of the time there will be alternative pathways to getting there. Do as much research as you can on your chosen career path, to determine whether getting a master’s is right for you.

Studying for the Right Reasons

Even if alternative options are available, studying for a master’s degree can be fun and it will make a great addition to your CV. However, it’s important to make sure that you want to get a master’s degree for the right reasons. Don’t apply for a master’s simply because you miss uni life or aren’t sure what you want to do after graduating; there’s a risk that you’ll end up in more student debt and still not sure about your next steps at the end of it. If you’re unsure of what to do next, why not try a graduate scheme, go travelling, or work in various jobs for a year or two to help you get some more experiences that you can use to choose your pathway?

Masters Vs. Industry Qualifications

In some industries, there are other qualifications that you can do online or at local colleges that will help you get your foot into better career options. For example, if you studied psychology and want to become a counsellor, you might not need to get a master’s degree; there are industry-recognised qualifications that you can study for in less time that will enable you to start working in your chosen profession. And, they will often cost a lot less than getting a master’s degree. Weigh up the costs and benefits of each option available to you, and determine whether you actually need a master’s degree or if there’s a cheaper, faster way of getting to where you need to be.

Choosing the Right Degree

If you’ve decided that a master’s degree is the right way forward for you, it’s time to consider which degree course you are going to apply for. Again, this might be an easy decision based on your career, if a master’s in a certain subject is required for you to get there. But more often than not, you will have a range of options to choose from. Take a look at this guide at unicompare.com designed to help you choose the right master’s course for you. University Compare allows you to shortlist suitable master’s courses and compare them to each other in terms of course content, facilities, teaching styles, employment prospects and more to help you make the right decision for your career.

Choosing Your University

You don’t have to stay at the same university to study for your master’s, although this is a popular choice for many students, with many universities offering tuition discounts for students who decide to return. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t study at the same university if you enjoyed your time there as an undergraduate and they offer a suitable course and facilities for your needs.

However, you might decide to go elsewhere, which is when you will need to do a little more research. Perhaps you want to attend a higher ranking university than the one who studied at first, in order to improve your CV, or maybe you want to attend a university that is highly specialised in the master’s degree course that you have chosen, with state-of-the-art facilities to take advantage of.

Start your university search early and attend open days to get a feel for the campus, teaching staff and facilities before you make a final decision. And, apply to more than one university so that you have more options.

A master’s degree can be worth the effort if you’re doing it for the right reasons. It’s a great way to advance your career, boost your CV and get in front of more opportunities.

Five Ways To Get Creative While Working From Home: From someone who does it all the time

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals Article |Working from Home|Five Ways To Get Creative While Working From HomeWhen I am not teaching a class at the university or speaking, I am working from home.

Here are five things that work for me as a solitary, creative home worker:

  1. Finding my creative space
  2. Finding my creative time
  3. Take breaks and naps
  4. Letting incubation work for me
  5. Force connections

A bit more about each, and how you might put them to work for you.

Finding your creative space

Have you ever walked into a place, rubbed your hands together and said to yourself, “I could really do some great work here?” Artists and musicians have studios, crafts people have workshops, professors and pastors have studies, and scientists have laboratories.

Where is your creative space? Where do you do your best work? One of my artist friends describes her studio as her sanctuary. It is her “safe place.” In her studio, she is able to create, try new concepts, and leave her work in progress. Her studio is filled with light, it’s clean and well organized, and is just the right temperature for her. It is the place where no one disturbs her. It is her retreat from the hectic, outside world, where she can immerse herself in a private world of concepts and colors.

I really love my home office.

I work at an old library table that was built in 1952. I bought it from a used furniture store in the 1980s, and it is my favorite piece of furniture. I wrote my dissertation and all of my books at that table! When I sit at my desk I have a beautiful view of my yard and the pine trees that surround it. I keep meaningful items and decor in my office – like my Iron Man action figure and desktop tractors that remind me of my farm heritage. My office is my favorite room in the house – and it’s a good thing because I spend so much time here.

How to create your own place for productivity? Make your creative space a place that you want to be in. That you look forward to spending time in. Ask yourself, where do I do my best work?

Finding your creative time

My best creative time is morning. When I was writing my second book, Leading on the Creative Edge , I would write from 6:30 to 9:00 a.m. At 9:00 my staff would start to arrive for work and the day-to-day business would begin. I was also mentally “done” with the book for the day. I needed a break.

When I worked with my colleague, Dr. Mary Murdock, her most creative time was from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. Needless to say Mary didn’t schedule morning meetings or classes.

Working from home is providing many folks a brand-new opportunity to find a creative time that works best for them. If you’re able, lean into the schedule that works best for you and your creative output.

Take breaks and naps

The philosopher Immanuel Kant worked in bed at certain times of the day with blankets arranged around him in a particular fashion. Mozart composed after exercise. For me, it is sleep that rejuvenates my creative capacity.

After a 20 or 30-minute nap in the afternoon, I am ready to do more creative work. My nap creates a separation in my day. It feels to me that I actually have two days in one.

When I was writing my master’s thesis and later my doctoral dissertation I would lie down on the floor for 20 minutes after dinner and listen to meditative guitar music. I usually fell asleep during that time, but that little nap allowed me to work productively for another three hours.

Letting incubation work for you

A classic tenet of creative problem solving is that breakthrough ideas often come to us when we step away from the problem and “incubate.” You’ve likely experienced it yourself. You’ve been working on a problem for a long time, haven’t made progress, and you back off to do something else. After your period of incubation — eureka!

The idea hits you.

Several times in my life I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with a breakthrough idea for a project I am working on. As a matter of fact, my first book, Why didn’t I think of that?, came to me at 3 a.m. in Washington D.C. in 1986.

I was finishing up my doctoral dissertation and took the weekend off to visit friends.

In the middle of the night, I woke up with the characters and the plot line for the book. I grabbed my pocket tape recorder and dictated almost the entire book.

Now, here is the kicker. I went to D.C. to get away from my work. I almost did not take the recorder with me because I thought I was mentally exhausted. However, if I had left the recorder behind, I am sure that book would not exist today.

So, if you become stymied on a project, step away from it. And it’s OK to work on several projects at the same time. (Just don’t multitask!) Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison worked on several projects at the same time. When they got tired of one, they would switch and work on another. In that way, when they were working on the other project they were “incubating” on the first project. Try it. If it worked for Franklin and Edison it might work for you.

Force connections when you get stuck

One sure-fire way to get new ideas is by using Forced Connections. Forced Connections is the essence of creativity; a practice of combining ideas that don’t appear to be related in a new way. This method helps you get those ideas flowing when you are stuck.

How it works:

  • Consider the problem you are trying to solve.
  • Pick an object or situation from a completely unrelated area.
  • Find or “force” a connection between the problem you are working on and the seemingly unrelated object.

The result of this new connection is a new idea.

In my creativity programs, we always do a warm-up exercise before we take on the main challenge. One of my favorite warm-ups is to generate ideas for the perfect bathtub.

After a few minutes, the group starts to slow down. They have generated the typical ideas for improving a bathtub. But, now they are stuck. It is time to introduce Forced Connections by showing the group some pictures or items unrelated to the topic.

First picture. “What ideas do you get for improving a bathtub from a bunch of bananas?” I get ideas like: make it non-slip, make it yellow, shape the tub to fit your body, and my favorite—have a bunch of my friends over.

Another picture: an airplane cockpit. This picture generates ideas like: temperature controls for the tub, lots of windows around the tub, seats in the tub and, of course, make the tub fly.

You don’t need pictures to have this technique work for you. All you need to do is look around. I am sitting at my desk while I am writing this. So, if I were working on a challenge and got stuck, I would ask myself—what ideas do I get from my telephone or books on my bookcase or the fan on my desk or trees in my backyard?

With Forced Connections, the ideas you get may not be the breakthrough answers you are looking for, but you will have more ideas to choose from.

There you have it! My time-tested recipe for at-home creativity work. See what works for you – I’d love to see photos of your creative spaces, learn about your breakthrough ideas, and hear about whether these practices help your creative output. Send your experiences, and good luck!


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor |Roger L. Firestien, PhDDr. Roger Firestien has taught more people to lead the creative process than anyone else in the world. He is senior faculty and an associate professor at the Center for Creativity and Change Leadership at SUNY Buffalo, author of Create in A Flash: A Leader’s Recipe For Breakthrough Innovation and President of Innovation Resources, Inc.

For more information please visit: https://rogerfirestien.com/

Think like an athlete – self-motivate with goal-setting

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals Article |Self-motivate|Think like an athlete – self-motivate with goal-settingSteve Redgrave, CBE, DL is arguably the greatest British Olympian. As a rower, Redgrave won gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games. When asked to explain his success, Redgrave explained: “Self-belief is probably the most crucial factor in sporting success. The bodies are roughly equal, the training is similar, the techniques can be copied. What separates the achievers is… the iron in the mind.”

This principle is incredibly pertinent for sales. Those salespeople who continuously win and close are those who have learnt to stay motivated and connected to their goals. However, maintaining effective and consistent motivation at all times is hard. Many salespeople are stuck in a comfort zone or in a pattern of behaviour they find difficult to break. Equally, some people have goals and clearly defined actions, but procrastinate when the time comes to take action.

Change is critical to developing, growing, and attaining goals. Change means moving through one’s comfort zones. While comfort zones might have their own drawbacks and people might be bored and frustrated by them, when push comes to shove and action is required to move out of them, most people choose the easy option to remain – not changing at all.

Goals should be SMART, defined as specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time driven. They should also be written down. To set goals effectively, we always advise following a set process. The exercise can be done alone, but often it is productive to do it with other people—family, friends, or anyone who plays a supportive role in your life.

  • One: Gather eight pieces of paper and label each page with one of the eight life goal areas (social, physical, financial, mental, professional, family, personal, spiritual). On each page write a brief summary of where you currently are in relation to this life goal.
  • Two: Place a circle in the middle of each page and draw lines that point outwards from the circle. Then allow yourself to feel what you would like to accomplish in the future. Write these goals on the lines.
  • Three: For each piece of paper with a different life goal area, prioritise and pick the three most important goals.
  • Four: On a new piece of paper, create a master list of the top three goals in all of the eight areas.
  • Five: Check for any conflicts. If you can, try to make sure the goals are not too heavily weighted in one or two areas. The more holistic your goals are, the more likely you are to achieve them.
  • Six: Write a detailed description of how you are going to achieve these goals. This is your action plan. It’s important to decide what you are going to do now and what you are going to do in the future. Take care not to overload yourself with too many actions in the present. However, it is good to stretch yourself by having bold and audacious goals.
  • Seven: Breaking down the goals and actions into short-term goals and actions can be a very powerful way of building the goal-setting and attainment “muscle.” Three months (12 weeks) can be a very effective time frame for establishing a life-long pattern of generating and sustaining the fire of internal motivation.
  • Eight: Share your goals with others, especially those who will be impacted by the goals: friends, family, colleagues, or people you like and respect and who like and respect you. This creates a powerful statement of intent from yourself that you are deeply committed and connected to your goals.
  • Nine: Review your goals and try to fine-tune them on a weekly basis. Obtaining valued accountability from others provides support and encouragement, as well as objective sanity checks.
  • Ten: Be courageous, tenacious, and persistent. Goal setting can be challenging since it pushes you through your comfort zones. Remember that it is important to keep going, even when the going gets tough. The ROI of goal setting will reward the effort and courage of sticking to the process.

Sales success is often more about perspiration than inspiration. The gold medal salesperson understands that a high level of motivation is required to sustain consistently high performance. This person understands that optimum motivation is maintained by having a strong emotional connection to their goals.


About the Author

Anneli Thomson is a Managing Director of Sandler Training UK as well as a world champion triathlete. For more information, please visit https://www.sandler.com/resources/sandler-books/gold-medal-selling/

Maximum Returns for Minimal Effort: 4 Great Time Management Tips

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals | Maximum Returns for Minimal Effort: 4 Great Time Management TipsWhether you work in an office building or from home, staying on task can be difficult. The distractions may vary – a barking dog versus a chatty coworker – but they’re still there.

If you’re your own boss, it can be even more difficult to manage your time because no one is there to keep you in check. What can you do to get your work done in a timely manner, so you’re not working 24 hours a day?

Online business blogs, such as bullpreneur, provide resources for new and veteran business owners alike.

Wasting Time is Wasting Money

If you’re the owner of a company with employees, their wasted time is your wasted money. Not only is the work not getting done, you’re paying them for their time regardless.

If, on the other hand, you’re the be-all of a company, you’re cheating yourself. If you’re not working, you’re not making valuable connections, keeping up on your industry, or bringing in money.

With the ease of social media at your fingertips, it can be difficult not to fall into an internet rabbit hole instead of working. What can you do to get your employees – and yourself – to stay focused during work hours?

4 Ways to Manage Your Time Better

The internet isn’t the only time suck. Watercooler chats, personal phone calls, television… The list is endless. If you don’t find a way to break the habit, your work to-do list will also be endless.

Here are 4 great time management tips to follow:

1. Eliminate your distractions. No cellphones in the work area is the first step to removing distractions. Of course, that’s not so easy if you’re the boss and disregard your own rule. Making your workspace clutter-free and electronic-free can boost your productivity.

2. Plan out your workday. If you start your workday without some semblance of a plan, you’ll end up wasting time figuring out what to do. Before you leave for the day, make a list of things that need to be done the next day. It will cut back on the time you spend trying to get started each day.

3. Complete the most pressing projects first. That list you wrote at the end of the day will also come in handy when it’s time to figure out what to do first. Focusing on one task at a time helps prevent you from getting overwhelmed. There’s also a sense of satisfaction in crossing an item off the list once it’s completed.

4. Track your productivity. If you or your employees need more strict guidance, a time tracking tool installed on the work devices can help accountability. Of course, there are tons of time management apps, making it difficult to sort out the best. Forbes lists eight of the most helpful time tracking apps.

Taking Frequent Breaks Can Increase Productivity

It may seem counterproductive to take breaks to get your work done. But taking a short break can help you mentally recharge and sharpen your focus once you return to your tasks.

5 Easy Ways to Make Meetings More Impactful

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals Article |Impactful Meetings|5 Easy Ways to Make Meetings More ImpactfulOn average, work meetings last anywhere from 31-60 minutes. Theoretically, that means you could either host or attend several of them each day. Unfortunately, all too often, meetings for work end up falling flat. Whether you’re talking about improving your brand strategy, covering data and figures, or trying to come up with safer IT solutions, putting together an effective and motivating meeting can be a big challenge for business owners and managers.

It’s far too easy for employees to ‘tune out’ or contribute their own ideas during a traditional meeting setting. When that happens and those meetings are productive, your company loses money. In fact, it’s estimated that pointless meetings end up costing businesses billions of dollars each year. But, there are things you can do to make your meetings more effective.

By putting more effort into creating motivating meetings, you can see results from your employees and co-workers, rather than a lack of motivation and inspiration. You don’t have to be a great public speaker or try to force any ideas upon anyone. Instead, use some of these strategies in your next meeting to engage your employees, and you’re likely to see the results you’re hoping for.

1. Make Sure the Meeting is Necessary

If you really want to get your employees on board with meetings, make sure they’re absolutely necessary. Far too often, managers and employers hold meetings for things that could be dealt with in more efficient ways. The reality is, more employees would rather get an email about something, or even have a one-on-one conversation rather than attend a long meeting if it doesn’t accomplish anything.

Additionally, meaningless meetings waste your own time. Think about all of the other things you could be accomplishing in your day without so many wasteful meetings. How can you tell if holding a meeting is necessary? Ask yourself the following questions:

Do you need input from a specific team in order to move forward?
Is a meeting the best way to reach everyone at once?
Is it a valuable use of everyone’s time?
Does it have to be done face-to-face?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to all of those questions, then it’s likely the meeting is necessary. If not, try to find ways to work around it, including emails or quick conversations with a few key people. Not only will you save time, but you can get straight to the source of whatever issue is at hand, rather than having to talk about a variety of other things for 30 minutes in order to get to the point.

2. Send a Schedule Ahead of Time

Being organized for your meeting, even before it starts, will help to keep yourself and your employees on track. By sending out an agenda to those involved in the meeting ahead of time, everyone will know what to expect. They’ll be able to prepare themselves for discussion, think about any points they want to bring up, and they’ll know that the meeting itself has a purpose and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Utilizing powerpoint services can help you to even send out slides or images you plan to share in the meeting, as well. This will help to get everyone thinking ahead, so they can bring their ideas into the meeting. As a result, more creative thinking can flow in a shorter amount of time and you may be able to get through your meetings faster and more efficiently.

3. Make Sure Everyone is Involved

Effective meetings shouldn’t just consist of one person talking or explaining everything. While you can start with a presentation and talk about what you’re trying to accomplish, meetings are meant to be collaborative. After all, if you want to be the one doing all the talking and explaining, you could just as easily send out an email.

So, make sure you get everyone involved as a participant in the meeting. This can be especially helpful for people who don’t often speak up or bring up their own ideas. They might have something great simmering under the surface. When you make it known that everyone has to participate and contribute something, they’re more likely to finally come forward with those ideas.

Plus, when everyone gets a chance to participate in a meeting, they’re more likely to feel as though it was productive and not a waste of time. People appreciate having their voices heard, and it can certainly change their perspective on whether something was worth it.

4. Give Specific Tasks

Meetings should end with an action plan in place. Workload delegation is extremely important, not only to help prevent burnout but to make sure the people with the right skills and strengths are handling the right tasks.

By the time the meeting is over, your plan of action should include a specific task for everyone who attended. Decide who is in charge of each task, how long that task will take, and what it will consist of. When people are able to leave a meeting feeling as though they have something to accomplish because of it, they’re less likely to feel as though it was a waste of time.

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals Article |Impactful Meetings|5 Easy Ways to Make Meetings More Impactful5. Follow Up

Don’t let a meeting on one specific subject just fall away. Follow-up with the people in attendance. Have deadlines in place for the tasks they were assigned, and check-in with them regularly to make sure everything is on track. Again, this will help them to know that the things you talked about within the meeting were worthwhile, and the work they’re putting in on their assigned job is actually important.

Meetings can be useful when they are held for the right reasons and you go through them the right way. If you truly want your work meetings to be more effective, keep some of these tips in mind. When meetings are held the right way, you can motivate your employees and make them understand that meetings can be important, rather than just a waste of time and money for everyone involved.