Getting Into the Groove of School

Edmonds Community College’s Spring Term began on April 7, 2014. I was as ready as I would ever be. The commute from Seattle on my first day took all of about 15 minutes once I merged onto I-5 North. It has remained constant each day in the past four weeks and has not been an issue. Again you should plan your class schedule according to your commute and personal needs. Unless something changes this will likely be the last mention of this pleasant and wonderful reverse commute.

I am currently enrolled in four classes. Most of my classmates I’ve spoken to seem to be taking one, two or three classes. I felt I could handle four classes as I had done so in the past. Plus I have a set time frame to complete my chosen program and I want to stay on target. Also it is confidence in myself that really makes this a non issue. I recommend taking as many courses as you can handle, or to finish within your set timeframe for the career path you have chosen.

The first day in each class was seemingly typical. Roll call, syllabi review, expectations, and course introductions. I knew that all my courses would have assignments the first week so that wasn’t a surprise and something that I was actually prepared for. I was eager to get started with the chapter readings for each of my courses. I would get my wish. Although one of my goals for getting my books ahead of time was so that I could start reading the first chapters, it just didn’t happen.

It didn’t take long for each class to get going pretty quickly. I soon found myself inundated the second week with multiple assignments that were due back to back to back. Also the Easter Holiday weekend was looming and I wouldn’t have that weekend for much studying. It was completely overwhelming at first but then I simply became determined to better prioritized my time. I forced myself to set priorities as to what I needed to work on first. I made a clear list of due dates that were coming for Week 2 and 3. I then began to methodically knock out each assignment or chapter that I needed to complete. Since I was taking classes Monday through Thursday only, I already knew I would have at least an entire day each Friday to work on school assignments. For me this has been the crucible of staying on top of and ahead of my work load. If you can plan your schedule accordingly and not have to use that day for other commitments, then it will be a great way to perhaps free up other time that you can spend elsewhere. I ensured also that I would not be bothered by outside influences by making it clear that I would need to be studying. This may be difficult especially with family, but it was necessary. I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but all of my classes currently end before Noon with one flexible exception. So I also use the afternoons after my daily classes to work on and complete my class assignment as they become assigned. I put in a lot of hours to ensure I met all deadlines. Fortunately a number of assignments were related to one specific class and once those were completed I have found that the my workload evened out some and my schedule for study time is now working quite well. By Week 3 it was definitely clear that managing my time for studying was well worth the effort and making it a priority reflects in my current grades.

Everyone will have a different experience and from speaking with classmates I seem to be extremely lucky to be able to focus solely on school. My organization skills have definitely been noticed by my classmates and I have shared with them the things I do to stay on top of my work load. Some of course have other obligations but any help I am able to offer is gladly given. I know some of my classmates have adopted use of the ‘calendar’ style day planner which I learned many years ago at a previous job. I seemingly have also become the ‘go to guy’ for due dates and class assignments. As I go forward I will talk more about studying and some of the interactions I have made while at school. After all, we cant study all the time!

Advertisements

Waiting to Start – Getting Prepared

As I mentioned in the previous post, after I was enrolled (thanks to Worker Retraining and CAT) I had a few weeks to prepare myself for school. Although I didn’t sit down and make a list, I had few agenda items in my head that I had already planned on addressing. These included, getting my books, planning my routes to campus from Seattle and amongst other thing getting school supplies.

This was a nervous and exciting time for me. I knew I was committed but still questioned myself as to whether or not I would like it, or for that matter be able to succeed. I tried to imagine what Community College was like these days but could only base my speculations on what I had experienced.

Twice in my early educational career did I experience Community College when I attended Hartnell Community College in Salinas, California and Sacramento City College in Sacramento, California. Hartnell was great, many of my high school friends were attending there and I was able to connect with many old and new associates who had gone to other local schools. Having just came from two years at the University of California at Santa Barbara, I didn’t find it particularly challenging. I did excel in several courses and actually enjoyed them. Most transfer schools didn’t require much in those days, so I only had to take two semesters of courses. I was still young at this time so I also take that into account. Also while attending CSU Sacramento, where I would earn my BA. I took some graduation requirement classes at Sacramento City College. I was a little older, there was more access to classes on TV, and I went to Summer Session, so the experience was better but similar to Hartnell.

I figured that there was more technology associated to todays Community College environment and also assumed the internet would have some sort of influence. I had it in my head that my classes would be all recent high school graduates like it was when I first attended. At the very least I knew there would be a lot of young people there. It would be fun to find out what Edmonds would be like. I’ll talk more about that in a future post.

Once I had officially enrolled I was able to set up Edmonds Email address or rather have one assigned to me. The school uses Gmail, so it was relatively simple to consolidate the two accounts for easy access anywhere on my phone or online. Enrollment also allowed me access to Canvas or Edmonds Community College eLearning portal. Everyone enrolling into EdCC will have access to Canvas as part of their course curriculum. Worker Retraining will also provided information to you through this portal. Canvas has been the biggest surprise so far as that is where you will be able to find all of your course syllabi, the course assignments and due dates as well as grades. This site has been immensely helpful so if you have the time to get familiar with it before starting, I highly recommend that you do so.

Another item on my proverbial ‘list’ was getting my books. Although no syllabi were yet available for my classes, the EdCC Website, in conjunction with the EdCC Bookstore does offer an application to help you know exactly what books and materials you will need for your classes. The link can be found here. If you are not aware Barnes & Noble operates the EdCC Bookstore so they do in fact have one stop shopping.  Especially when ordering online as I did. One of the most surprising things about textbooks these days is that they can also be rented and obtained electronically. When I had my list of books, I decided that I would purchase a couple that I felt I wanted to keep for future use and others I would simply rent. This saved me a lot of money. I was able to rent books directly from the EdCC Bookstore as well as Barnes & Noble.  The rental process is entirely easy for both the Bookstore and Barnes & Noble. In addition I made online purchases through B&N for those I wished to keep. You may also check Amazon and the posting boards at the college you plan to attend for further options. I decided to pick up my EdCC order directly from the Bookstore and the rest would be shipped to me from B&N. I had everything I needed as far as books went!

My next chore was school supplies. Although I wanted a Trapper Keeper ($1200 on eBay) I settled for Walmart folders, paper, pens, high lighters, pencils and 3×5 cards. Also picked up a few other items at Bartell’s and EdCC Bookstore. Never under estimate the amount of college ruled paper you will need. I chose to separate my four classes by color.  A different folder for each. This I figured would allow me to easily switch out my subjects for Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday. Start thinking ahead for organization you will need it. A three hole hole punch is also highly useful. Lots of handouts. I had a sturdy back pack so I didn’t have to purchase one. You will need some sort of book bag, be it back pack, shoulder bag or one of those rolling carryon type back backs they make today. Many classes require your books.  The last thing I wanted to do is ensure I knew where I had to go.

I had been to EdCC a couple of times since attending orientation so I knew exactly how to get there. I knew I would be reverse commuting, so it would just be more of a ‘see how it goes when class starts’. Not much more I could do about that. I did plan my schedule according to how much time I felt I would need even in the most extreme of emergencies which may occur on I-5 North. Everyone should plan accordingly as most instructors frown upon being late. Plus most of us are adults and we should be able to get to class on time. One thing I overlooked in all of the times I went to EdCC in the weeks ahead of starting was getting my EdPass and my parking permit. All new students will need these.

Fortunately on my first day I had a couple of hours to kill before class and was easily able to get my EdCC ID card. As a new student you can obtain your first parking permit here. You can find the EdPass office on the second floor, RM 204 of the Library. You will need to find it anyways for your Campus Resource assignment(if you take Job Dev 130) so you may as well get familiar with the campus as you can.

With my books, note taking materials and my EdPass I was ready for my first day. Although I thought I was well prepared I did manage to experience a couple of hiccups during my first week but that was to be expected after 15 years. I don’t think anyone can be truly prepared until you actually start and find your own groove. Going forward in my next post I will describe my first weeks and what I have learned along the way. Without giving to much away I will say that I am having a blast and doing quite well.

The Journey Back

May 30, 2014 will mark the one year anniversary of my layoff. This day ended a nearly five-year run with a Seattle company where I served as the Client Services Manager. I managed all aspects of client support from the most basic inquiries to building a seven-figure business pipeline channel with Enterprise clients. I did analysis for multiple clients, advising them on best practices and clarifying multiple data points on a daily basis in regards to the reports they purchased. I handled all issues regarding payment, invoicing, refunds and charge backs. In Short I wore many, many hats. Each day offered unique challenges within a very niche industry. the company itself offered countless perks, a great salary and benefits package. You definitely went there to work. It was, for the majority of the time extremely rewarding and allowed me to build a very successful and stable lifestyle.

On the day of the layoff it was pretty obvious that something was up when I arrived and parked. There were to many cars in the lot and I’m not stupid. I braced myself as I entered the building and sure enough I was laid off. I was very fortunate to have been provided with a generous severance package. This would make a huge in difference in the months to follow. I also was able to receive unemployment benefits once things had settled down. Needless to say it wasn’t the worst layoff a person could go through. In fact, let’s just call it a blessing in disguise.

Although I did take some time off during my tenure at Company X, I rarely vacationed. I did take a couple of weeks post layoff to just let the dust settle and to decompress some. After all I had spent nearly every day of the last five years working. It took some getting used to. I was able to reflect some on what I wanted to do going forward and I knew I still had a strong passion to help people. I decided that I would use the time to get some personal projects done on my home but at the same time actively seek a new position in the ‘online client services/start up’ realm which I had just came from. I applied for my unemployment and began my job search requirement. I applied for good position but they were all sort of what I considered ‘starting over’ jobs. Same industry, just back to the beginning. Some weeks I went on many interviews, others not so much. Although the majority of these jobs would have been acceptable I just wasn’t feeling the same enthusiasm for the industry as I had over the previous fifteen years. I burned through my 26 weeks and even received two weeks of EIU. Although no weekly benefit was paid I still had to log my work searches and interviews should Congress pass legislation to restore emergency unemployment insurance(EUI) benefits. That was another ten weeks after December 22. I was almost glad when my unemployment ran out so that I wouldn’t have to interview anymore. It felt like a racket!

It should probably be noted that the severance, in addition to the unemployment I received helped keep me afloat into January. However with no emergency unemployment extension things did get tight. It was then that I had to make a decision. Continue to interview in the industry I had been working in or start looking into a new career. Let me say that once I began to research what I could qualify for in regards to benefits for training I knew that was the route I would take.

One thing that mention is that as a single individual with no dependents(technically). I did qualify for food assistance while not getting EUI. I wasn’t ashamed about it and it really helped for the two months I needed it. Also, it was really easy. The verification process was painless and I received my EBT card the same day as my appointment. Most applications can be done online through the WA State Department of Social and Health Services or any number of non-profit sights. The applications from these third-party sites are submitted to the WA DSHS. Once my benefits were restored it was pretty easy to cancel them to stay in compliance with DSHS rules.

This is a great segue into how I was able to transition back into school. I was in the last weeks of my job search and I was searching in the Health Care for CSR jobs. I came across the Pharmacy Technician position. With the exception of the required Certification I had all of the qualifications. This fit with my desire to help people but in a more rewarding way. I immediately did a search for Pharmacy Technician schools in the Puget sound and found three of them. North Seattle CC, Edmonds CC and Renton Technical College. When I was on the EdCC website searching for cost information and program requirements, I found a link for retraining. I answered the questions as to whether or not I met the criteria. I then submitted their interest form and received a call the next day. I scheduled an appointment to attend the next orientation and went to see how I could benefit.

At the orientation, each attendee received a packet of information which provided step by step detail on how to apply for and benefit from the program. The presentation was led by one of the extremely helpful staff of the Career Action Center whom I would rely on for getting the answers to my many questions. We also were introduced to the WA ESD representative who spoke about Commissioner Approved Training(CAT). By getting approved through this lengthy process (I can talk more about it in a later post) I was able to get my remaining unemployment benefit restored while attending school.

I left this orientation feeling as though this was doable and spent the next two or three weeks getting my application for retraining and CAT finished and submitted. This included setting up appointments at EdCC for guidance counseling, as well as advising on the approval processes for these programs. I also ordered my transcripts from the previous colleges I attended and began the admission process for Spring Term 2014. I had qualified for the retraining program and would receive assistance with tuition and registration. With great relief I also was approved for CAT and would receive unemployment insurance benefits while attending school. Oh you will also need to complete the financial aid application or FAFSA for worker retraining and EdCC if you plan on Pell grants or loans.

With a little bit of effort and determination to gain a new career I was now enrolled into to school for Spring 2014. I did have a few weeks until school actually started so in my next post I’ll talk about the excitement, nervousness and preparation for going back to school after 15 years.

Back to School

My story is not unique. Like countless others, I’ve held successful and lucrative positions with really good companies around the Seattle area. Suddenly faced with a layoff, I was forced to make some decisions that I wasn’t quite prepared for. Well maybe I was more prepared than I thought.

This is an ongoing chronicle of the story of going back to school, changing careers and the challenges and triumphs I face along the way. My goal is to share my experiences and what I learn along the way. I will also provide examples of the resources that assisted me in transitioning from the corporate world back to college.

I am always open to any questions you may have and if you would like to share your experience, please never hesitate to do so. In getting started with my story I will detail my most recent work history and how I came to be enrolled full time at Edmonds Community College. I hope you find this journey helpful and entertaining.