Episode 107: Why your degree doesn’t determine your career – with Zack Ballinger

Zack Ballinger explains why the subject of your degree doesn’t determine your career path and shares helpful tips on how to get on a great path throughout university and beyond.

Today’s guest

Zack Ballinger

Website: Zack Ballinger

Instagram: @thezackballinger

Youtube: Zack Ballinger

Facebook: The Zack Ballinger

LinkedIn: Zack Ballinger

Zack Ballinger is a motivational speaker, author and career consultant.  He speaks on topics including career development, job interviewing, passion and purpose, overcoming obstacles, leadership and sales.

For fourteen years he’s helped high schools, colleges, non-profit organizations, corporations and companies to find their direction and discover purpose  and passion.  He’s spoken to thousands of students and professionals at conferences, colleges, companies, seminars and training events around the world.

Featured regularly at The University of Tennessee, Zack has also been featured by the Huffington Post, NBC, CBS, Morgan County News, Jane Jackson Careers and several other key outlets.  He is a current contributor to the Morgan County Today newspaper. 

He’s a dynamic speaker that can relate to anyone from students to working professionals needing a boost of energy.  From the stage, Zack brings a passion that is contagious, an energy that’s undeniable, and innovative ideas that work in today’s new complex world.

Zack holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Tennessee.  He has fourteen years of experience in sales, leadership, motivational speaking, training and career development.  He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • [01:45] Zack talks about setting up a career pathway library.
  • [03:14] Zack explains what inspired him to work on the project.
  • [05:09] Examining the importance of your degree in relation to your career path.
  • [07:25] Why societal pressures have an impact on choosing subjects for university.
  • [09:54] The importance of starting work with career counsellors early.
  • [11:24] Why you should spend the time with guidance counsellors and careers coaches.
  • [13:48] Using LinkedIn to work on your brand.
  • [16:36] Figuring out if university or college is for you.
  • [17:12] Looking into vocational courses if they suit you more.
  • [20:04] Looking at the effects of changing your course or major part way through.
  • [22:25] Taking elective classes to learn particular career paths.
  • [25:27] Are any degrees “useless”?
  • [27:10] Looking at what a degree gives you, aside from the education.
  • [28:05] Job requirements being a degree in itself.
  • [30:24] Education might not always fix the problem after losing a job.
  • [33:36] Looking at what value an MBA degree would bring you.
  • [36:22] Making use of free career coaching while at university or college to further your prospects and build connections.
  • [41:29] How selling things in your free time can help you learn business skills.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 107: Why your degree doesn’t determine your career - with Zack Ballinger

Jeremy Cline 0:00
Do you have a useless degree? Are you concerned that either the subjects of your degree won't get you a job; or that it won't get you the sort of job that you'd like to do because it's in a completely different area? Is it worth you going back to college or university to get another degree? Those are the questions that we answer in this episode. I'm Jeremy Cline, and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:37
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the show where we're all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. Today, we're talking about education. There's no question education is important. But what I want to dive into this week is how much your future career is defined by what you studied. If you studied engineering or law or biology or whatever it might be at college or university, how much does that determine your options in the future? And if you've got kids who might go to college, or if you're thinking about going back to college yourself or university, what's the best way to approach a decision about what to study? To help answer these questions, I'm delighted this week to be joined by Zack Ballinger. Zack is a motivational speaker, author, career consultant and host of the Zack Ballinger Show, a podcast and YouTube channel where he interviews professionals from all sorts of fields to help you explore the different career pathways available to you. Zack, welcome to the show.

Zack Ballinger 1:34
Thank you, Jeremy, so much for having me. Pleasure to be here.

Jeremy Cline 1:37
Can you expand on some of the things I mentioned that you've got going on at the moment? What does life for Zack Ballinger look like?

Zack Ballinger 1:44
It's been a whirlwind. So, right now, I'm building out the website. As you mentioned, we've been embarked on this journey almost a year ago to create a career library, what I found is nobody really had this idea of how many careers were out there in North America. And there's different statistics out there, but I've honed it down to about 821. So, my goal is to get about 821 individual interviews with career paths all over North America. And individuals will, let's say they're interested in being a veterinarian or a consultant, whatever it may be, they'll be able to go to a career website link, listen to the interview with me and that person, get an idea, and then here's the most valuable part, about 98% of the people offer a secondary contact. So, they say, 'If anybody's interested in this particular career, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn, here's my social media.' That's where the impact is we're having, because a lot of people come to me and say, 'Zack, how do I get connected with somebody that's a veterinarian. I don't know anybody. I'm only 18 years old. I don't know if it's something I'd like to do.' This career library is starting to change the paradigm of the way we look at career fields, and it's all about education.

Jeremy Cline 3:11
That's amazing. What was your inspiration for putting this library together?

Zack Ballinger 3:15
The book Don't Be a Zombie: How to Find a Career You Love that I wrote, where I talk about it, first in my TED Talk, my TED Talk inspired my new book that I just wrote, and I talked about, in one section of the book, I talk about the problem in North America is we don't know how many careers are out there. We don't know anything about them. We don't study them in school. So, most of the average Americans that you go to that's in college or high school, I say, 'Hey, name some career pathways.' Teacher, firefighter, engineer, they can only name about 20. If we don't know that those career pathways are out there, and there's another opportunity for us, how do we know we might not love it or be good at it? And so, this is what inspired me, it's just going around talking to people around the, especially college students, when people were choosing their major, and I'm saying, 'Well, what career do you want to do?' 'I have no idea.' 'Well, we might want to put some time behind that.' So, that really inspired the career library.

Jeremy Cline 4:20
I'm going to ask how far into the library are you? How many entrances have you got racked up so far?

Zack Ballinger 4:26
Well, we're just scratching the surface on it. You know, I just started this journey a little under a year, so probably August is my first episode and getting warmed up. But I'll be happy to let you know. We've got about 90 episodes already of different career paths. So, we're humming right along and people seem to be excited to share their journey.

Jeremy Cline 4:48
You mentioned that you talk a lot to kids in high school and those in college. And that's what I really want to focus on in our conversation today. Let's start with a really general question. How important is it, would you say, what you study at college in terms of the impact it has on your career?

Zack Ballinger 5:09
Yeah. And that's kind of cringe worthy. I'm pretty blunt. So, let me get down to the brass tacks of it. So, I've interviewed a lot of people, I've gotten to meet people from all walks of life, from janitors to CEOs. I've gotten to speak to multiple groups, from college students to people at corporations. Jeremy, I would say about 98% of people that are in their particular career are not in the major that they went to school with. So, in other words, we spend a lot of time, and I think it's important for college students to take it serious. In fact, in my book, I talk about how you should explore different majors, how you should work with your career counsellors to make sure that you get a right major, because if you do like the field of study that you study, that's kind of cool to be in college and doing that. But you know, my brother's a great example. He's a lot younger than me. And his junior year, he came to me and he said, 'Zack, I don't like engineering. What should I do?' I said, 'Finish your degree.' 'Well, I don't like it.' And I said, 'You know, you made it this far. What a degree does, it's a piece of paper, and it helps you to get jobs that require degrees. But a lot of times, your life experience, your passions, your strengths change over time.' So, I encouraged my brother to finish his degree, and guess what, he graduated. He finished it. He's applying to veterinarian school right now. His passion is animals. So, that's what he wants to do and he's found it. But it wasn't engineering, but that engineering background, that education, helped prepare him. He completed all of the sciences now, and now he's applying for vet school, and he'll probably go to a very good one. So, you know, along about answer, Jeremy, I don't see it when I talk to people, is it really matters that much.

Jeremy Cline 7:06
So, why do people get so hung up on it, particularly in terms of careers? I mean, I see on jobs forums, people are often asking, 'Which majors should I do? Which one's got the best career outlook?' Why are people getting hung up on that sort of question?

Zack Ballinger 7:23
Yeah, and now, let me back up a few steps. You know, when I say it doesn't matter, you also don't want to, you know, in America, we've got a big problem, because people will go into debt and spend $250,000 for a four-year degree, they'll come out and it'll be a psychology major. And the average psychology social work major pays about $30,000 a year. So, there's immediate pressure, and you have to like your job because of the money situation. So, let's be smart about education. That's a concept that we could really think about in picking your schools that we can afford. And sometimes, kids can't afford school. And I'm sorry, I was one of them. I had to do multiple things. I worked three part-time jobs, I went to a state university, I turned out just fine. So, you know, when I say it doesn't matter, we also don't want to be getting degrees in underwater basket weaving, and you know, something like that. You want to really think about your degree. Now, I think there's so much pressure in our society, like you say, you get on job boards, you see, 'What major do I pick? What do I need to do to do this?' Because there's also automatic pressure, well, you know, I think I want to be an accountant even though I've never researched accounting, even though I've never taken one class, it's automatically something that should I do, so what should I major in? And then, all these people start talking and we just fall onto this path, we just merely meander along, we get our degree, we think accounting's it, and we realise, wait, we should have probably even had a finance degree, that would have helped us more. So, bottom line is, I think there's a lot of societal pressures on what degree we have. I would say, you know, pick a degree that's obviously applicable to you, but you want to think about it, but at the end of the day, does it really matter? And the answer is no.

Jeremy Cline 9:25
So, if we take someone who accepts that, accepts that whatever they study isn't necessarily going to make a huge amount of difference to their career. And they're also at a stage in life where they don't really know what career they want to do. They know that they want to go to university, they think that it's a good thing for them to do. How does that person go about choosing what subjects to study and what to major in?

Zack Ballinger 9:51
Great question. Three ways, real quick. Number one best advice, if you're going to go to a state school, you need to get plugged in with your Career Service Centre immediately. And I preach this so much, anybody that's ever listened to my interviews, they probably are like, 'Zack, this is such a broken record.' But it is so true. When you're a freshman, when you're 18 years old, start working with your career counsellor. They've got tools and information and things that help you identify majors based on strength. So, they'll have you take an inventory of your strengths, they can match it up with actual majors, and then give you some assignments to read those actual majors, to see what that translates into the marketplace. So, number one, get in your Career Service Centres early and often, let them know exactly what you asked me, Jeremy. Look, I don't know what to major in. I don't know what I want to do. I don't know my strengths. Help me out here. They'll know exactly where to begin, because that's most college students' dilemmas.

Jeremy Cline 10:53
That's really interesting. Sorry, just to say, that's really interesting, because you described it as a career service, but this isn't about careers, this is about picking on majors. So, I think there's a branding issue here, isn't there? They need to position themselves, I mean, maybe they do, and it's not something I'm familiar with here in the UK, but if someone said to me Career Service, I'd think, 'Okay, they can help me work out what job I want to do, not necessarily what major I want to do.'

Zack Ballinger 11:18
You know, you bring up such a good point. And I can talk for about an hour on that. We don't have that long. So, basically, I've spoken to these career service centres, the leaders of it. I've went around the United States and actually presented at a lot of their major conferences. And one of the things we talk about is branding. They're actually trying to rebrand themselves, because students and parents often get, if you see Career Service Centre, you automatically think job placement. So, students are going to think, 'Oh, my gosh, I don't have to do anything, I can show up the last day, and these people will automatically just give me a job'. Not how it works. Now, they're trying to rebrand themselves as the Centre of Excellence and Careers, or something like that. Each university has now started this new rebranding system, College Career Centre, they're taking out that word service. I say service, just because that's the old school way, but now in the States, they've really started to rebrand them, because like you said, you automatically think these people are going to find us jobs. So, that's what students were thinking, that's what parents were thinking, Well, that's where I try to get the word out, if you see something career-oriented, ask, even ask when you get to school, 'Where's the career building?' Just a simple career building, they'll know exactly what you're talking about. You want to talk to a guidance counsellor, you want to talk to a career coach. These people are certified to be able to help you. And so, that's a quick way to do it.

Zack Ballinger 12:51
Another way, if you're a student, there's several personality profile tests that are out there. There's job banks for free, my book mentions a few of them. DISC is a great way, it finds out your personality, what kind of concepts you work with. There's actually certain DISC programmes or offshoots of that, where you take that personality, and then it shows you kind of what career it may be aligned to, based on your personality. Do you like to sit behind a desk? Are you active? Do you like to work in teams? Do you like to talk to people? And then it shows you different career pathways. So, those are two tools as a student you can do right now to begin trying to form what your major will eventually be.

Jeremy Cline 13:39
And I think that you mentioned three things that students can do.

Zack Ballinger 13:43
Yeah, I was kind of long winded. So, I wanted to make sure that we had plenty of time. But another way to really figure out your major, let's say you've got it narrowed down, and I found this so true, is that high school students are nowadays getting on LinkedIn. And it's because they've had a teacher inspire them to do it. It's such a smart idea. Even a 17-18-year-old, start to build your own brand, because that's what LinkedIn, it's a brand, it represents your brand. And so, I'm starting to see some creative students or seniors and college students or freshmen build their whole LinkedIn page and start adding connections with alumni, with their friends and with their neighbours, with parents' friends and neighbours. You kind of start with your own network, you start adding those up. And then, you begin asking, you begin seeing things in your LinkedIn profile that people do, their careers, you join the Alumni Association that you're going to go to school at. And guess what, you reach out to some of those alumni and you say, 'Hey, here's what, I'm Zack, I'm just starting college. I'm kind of getting my feet wet in this whole thing. I'm actually looking for what major I should major in. Any advice?' And when you start to reach out, things start to happen, and you start to meet connections. And then, you might pop into somebody in your network that you're like, "Wow! You do what!? Tell me more about that career.' And a lot of times these alumni networks, guess what they want to do, Jeremy, they love helping alumni. I'm a part of one. So, anybody that says University of Tennessee, that person automatically pops up on the top of my list to help. And so, if they're interested in different careers and they want help, and they say, 'Hey, I'm Zack, I'm reaching out, I'm a freshman at UT, I would love to pick your brain about some careers. I see that you do this, I'm interested in that.' That's a great way. And you know, selfishly, another great way now that more colleges are getting interested into is going to be my career library, people that have never seen these careers before, they might all of a sudden start picking different majors that work for them. So, there's kind of four ways, if you will.

Jeremy Cline 14:47
You mentioned the cost of going to college, and here in the UK, it's not as expensive as it is in the U.S., but it's still quite an investment of time and money. How do you figure out whether going to college or university is even the right thing to do? Because there is, I think, a certain given that kind of going to university, that's what you do, that's what everyone should do. But I can't believe that it's necessarily the right thing for everybody to do. And I'd be interested to hear your view on that.

Zack Ballinger 16:37
Yeah, parents are going to have to cover their ears. And so, here we go. It's not for everybody. And that's hard to say that, you know, as parents don't like me to say that, but it's true. Not all of us need to go to college. It's just that simple. Now, do I encourage secondary education? Absolutely. I encourage it, I think you should, if you don't know what you want to do, you should absolutely go four-year degree route, I encourage you and like you said, on a budget if you have one. But here's the problem. We've got so many bright, young students out there. And I told you this story. I met someone I was giving a talk to at my old high school, and they said, 'My mom wants me to go to college, but I love working on cars.' And I said, 'Well, so have you been in vocational school? And he's like, 'I've been in vocational school, here in high school, I really love working on cars, I think it's my passion. My parents don't want me to do that.' It's pretty tough conversation to have with somebody that's 18. And so, I say, at the end of the day, you have to pick your own career. It's not your parents' decision, you have to eventually do that. And that may be, with a little bit of backlash at first, but guess what, they're most worried about you. So, if you prove to them that you can make a living, and then you prove them you're going to be okay, then the worries go away, and it's not a big deal. Well, guess what? This guy now owns a very large automotive mechanic repair shop in his town. He's like the go-to guy to get your car worked on. He makes a lot more money than most people that have went to college. And he loves what he does. He loves to work and fix on cars. Welders, I met all peoples from different walks of life, these blue-collar fields that love to work with their hands, contractors, bricklayers, believe it or not, people actually, you know, for me, it's a different concept, because I've never been god with my hands. I've always wanted to be. But I've seen people do miraculous things with their hands by simply going to vocational school. Another friend of mine, a diesel mechanic, two-year technical college, no degree, loves fixing diesel engines. And that's his area of expertise. I couldn't tell you where a screw was on one. And so, that's his gift in life. That's his passion. And I really think, in America, we do really a disservice of selling these jobs short. There are certain people that are going to be better working with their hands than they are doing textbook work. And we've got to embrace that and encourage our children to go that route, especially if their passion leads them there.

Jeremy Cline 19:39
Another question I've seen come up quite often, and you touched on it in the context of your brother, if you start a major and you get partway through, you know, maybe you're a year in and you're not like two and a half years in, but you're a year in, and you discover you hate it, you just really don't like the subject, you dread going to lectures, you dreaded picking up the textbooks. How bad is it to change major partway through?

Zack Ballinger 20:05
It's fine to change it. Let's say a student came to me, and I've had students come to me after their first year and say, 'Zack, no way. Absolutely not. I hate this.' That's fine with me. Where I give advice is where people say 'Well, I'm not really sure, it just seems, you know, I'm not, you know, I may change it for this.' In other words, they don't really know. But when you get a student that's fired up and saying, like me, if you stick me in accounting, Jeremy, I'm going to say, 'No way, I cannot do this, I will not take another class.' And I would switch. Absolutely. Because I tried that path. And in the first class, I knew that this is not going to be for me. So, I would actually encourage those students, especially if that's year one, year two, you're in it, it happens all the time. It's easy to change. In other words, I've met a lot of students who thought they wanted to go into pre-med, and they take their first science and they're like, 'Okay, I made a big mistake here. Got to backtrack. And so, science is not my forte, I'm not good at this.' That's an easy switch. No problem. I have no problem with that. I think the differences where I challenged students is that if they're in their junior, senior year, especially senior year, and they're right in it, and they're like, 'Well, I really don't like it, you know, I didn't like this class, but I got a 3.5 GPA.' Like finish! Finish, finish, finish! You're almost to the finish line, finish it. Does that kind of make sense for the differences for those different individuals?

Jeremy Cline 21:43
Yeah, I'm just wondering what someone can do to kind of better their odds of choosing something that they enjoy. And I'm not going to highlight that in the UK, we have a bit of a different system in that you choose the subject of your undergraduate degree from the start. So, you would do a law degree or a psychology degree or a business studies degree, you don't kind of go for your first year and try out a few things, and then eventually settle on what you major in. But assuming that you've got options, I mean, what's the best thing you can do kind of when you get there? Apart from using the Career Service that you mentioned, I mean, can you try out lots of different things and see what sticks?

Zack Ballinger 22:26
That's the beauty of the U.S., the great thing is, you're right, it is different, because the first two years are basically your required courses. You don't even get into your major until year three. So, a lot of times what I see students doing is they put their time and their focus again on what major makes sense to them, what they like to do. What are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, they take personal inventory. And then they decide, they take classes that they think might be of interest, even in their general studies. So, you have to have your English, you have to have your math, you have to have your history. But what they're also doing is, people that do the research, they're taking elective courses. And elective courses in the United States are basically, you have to have a certain amount of electives, but they can be any class you can think of. Anything you want. And so, what I did in college, I took electives because they were easy. I took weightlifting, I took health 101, I took all these easy electives just because I wanted to get the easy A, and I wanted to boost my GPA. But electives can actually serve as a great way for students to learn particular career paths. So, let's say, you know, marketing might be, you have an interest in marketing, I think the best way is first to network with somebody, and then, if you want to enrol into a course, a 101 course, why not use that elective as an opportunity when you're a freshman or a sophomore. So, during those first two years, you really can focus in on it. Now, we don't spend a lot of time doing it. But that's certainly something different in our educational system, you're exactly right, and those first two years, we just do the required courses at first. So, it gives a student some opportunity to kind of poke around and see. You just got to make sure the students aren't out there playing beer pong and poker, the first two years, the whole time, that we're actually focused in on what we want to major in.

Jeremy Cline 24:45
This is definitely something I think the British system could learn from the U.S. system. I think the idea of doing a whole section of a whole load of 101 courses, just saying, 'Yeah, that sounds interesting. Give that a go.' And just seeing what sticks. I think that's a great idea. I want to pick up on something else that you said earlier. I think your example was underwater basket weaving. Sometimes people will say, 'Oh, I've got this useless degree in blah, blah, blah. And maybe I'll be working for a year. And I don't know what to do.' Are there really any degrees or subjects which you can say are completely useless?

Zack Ballinger 25:28
You know, that's such a great question. I think there's degrees out there that can make it tougher on the individual. And so, let's say you're a college student, and you majored in, and it's been a long time since I've been in school, but I try to keep up with the majors, but let's say you've majored in, you know, basketball or whatever it is, and you know, you have a 2.0 GPA. And you're out there, and you're trying to compete for a sales job against 200 other college applicants that have marketing, sales, management, 3.0, 3.5 GPA degrees, it can make your search difficult. Now, is it impossible? Absolutely not. I meet a lot of people, as you know, that have finished their degree. And they're like, 'Hey, I picked communication because it was the easiest. Communications. Or I picked geology, you know, rocks for jocks. So, I finished my degree in that.' And they get out, and they may have a little bit of a tougher time, like I said, because they weren't focusing on school. But does that hinder you your whole life? Absolutely not. Now, that's a mindset thing. And that has to start with you. You know, I hear that a lot, too. 'Well, I've majored in this useless degree.' So, social studies seems to be big here in the U.S. where people are complaining about. 'I went and got my social science degree or social studies degree, and it's useless, and there's nothing I can do now.' That's just not true. I met a lot of people with social science degrees, or general studies degrees, that have went on and been successful. The degree part is a four-year degree, it shows that you were disciplined to study, you have the education, you've met other people, you've lived in an environment, it is simply a certificate where you take it out into the marketplace. Again, some places, because of your degree, let's say you wanted to work at a big corporate accounting firm in the United States, well, obviously, those are people from that area that are hiring entry level students who do look and see if you have an accounting degree. Look and see what your GPA was. So, it may limit you from some things, but it's not an excuse to eliminate you completely. And so, I would encourage your audience, the most important thing when you're going out is to have this degree. I'll give an example about side sales. A lot of these technical fields in the United States, their requirement is a four-year degree. You'll look a lot of times on these job boards on LinkedIn, it says sometimes for requirement four-year degree. A lot of times, I've never seen them say requirement four-year degree, here's the major. It just says requirement four-year degree. So, I think a lot of that might be a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will. I hope that answers your question. That's a long-winded answer.

Jeremy Cline 28:39
It does. So, I think, to paraphrase what you said, the degree itself shows, whatever it is in, it shows a certain application, it shows a certain diligence for completing a degree course. It gives you skills, whatever the subject matter might be, you have demonstrated and probably acquired some skills, just by virtue of doing a four-year degree course. And that will set you in good stead. Sure, you might struggle with competition with others, depending on what it is you're going for and what your major was. But it is still something that employers look at and go, 'Okay, yeah, this shows that you were capable of doing this and not everyone is.'

Zack Ballinger 29:31
Absolutely. Spot on.

Jeremy Cline 29:33
So, most people listening to this podcast probably will already have been through the education system. So, I'm hoping that this will at least provide them with some reassurance if they kind of look back on their career history and the degree they did, and realise that that doesn't necessarily close any doors for them. But if you've got someone who is seriously thinking about a change of career, and they're perhaps thinking about going back into education and maybe doing another bachelor's or maybe doing a postgraduate degree of some description, what sort of things should that person think about before they choose what they're going to do and commit and sign the check?

Zack Ballinger 30:20
Such a great question. Such a great question. Because I come across this all the time. What happens, Jeremy, in the United States, when somebody loses their job, and it's devastating, it really is, I've lost my job before, so I know how it feels, we panic. And rightfully so, you know, we got responsibilities coming in. So, I often meet with them people. And I talk to them and they say, 'You know, I'm scared. I just got laid off after 12 years out of the blue. I think I need to go back to school.' And I say, 'Well, wait a minute. What are we going back to school for?' And they're like, 'I don't know, maybe I need a master's degree.' And I'm like, 'Okay, why do you need a master's degree? You don't know what you're going to do.' So, I think there's a lot of panic, rightfully so, I understand. When we lose our jobs or something happens in the workplace, we automatically think that the education is going to fix our problem. And sadly, it doesn't always do that. So, where I encourage people to go back to school, to either get another bachelor's or a master's degree or even a higher degree is they have to have a plan in mind. So, I met with somebody the other day, who said, 'Zack, I want to be a nurse. I've always known I wanted to be a nurse. I majored in communications. But you know, for me, I love helping people. My mom was a nurse, she was an RN.' That, to me, is a slam dunk case, yes, you need to go back to school and be an RN, you need to be a registered nurse. But she's passionate about it, she's ready, she spent time in it, she knows what she wants to do. And she has to have the degree to go into nursing. So, that's a slam dunk, go back, go get your RN degree. Where I want to challenge your audience that are out there listening to us, a degree is not a band aid. It doesn't patch up everything. So, if you're out there and you've lost your job, or you hate your job, a degree doesn't automatically fix things, especially if you don't know where you're going. And education is simply a tool to get you to your passion. And we often use education as a band aid to try to fix our situation. And it won't. And that's where I want to encourage your audience. Now, they've already got a degree, and they know exactly what they want to do, let's say they want to be an engineer, they've always wanted to do this, they've talked to people, they've done their homework, they've realised the price, they know the financial responsibility, they know what hours it's going to set them back, because Jeremy, a lot of times I meet people and they get into school, and they're like, 'I can't do this.' Drop out after a semester. So, your heart has to be into it too. But don't let a job loss, don't let you hating your job be the reason why you're saying, 'Okay, I've got to go back to school for any and all degree, it doesn't matter. It's not how it works, you need to be focused and have the information in front of you.

Jeremy Cline 33:17
One of the postgraduate degrees that has an awful lot of cachet, or at least it seems to, is the MBA. Does everything that you've just said about education not being a tool and needing to focus on what it's going to do for you, does that apply equally to an MBA? Because that's another thing where you see lots of people who go, 'Maybe I should get an MBA.'

Zack Ballinger 33:38
Yeah, I think it does. I mean, you know, here's the thing about an MBA, I don't have an MBA degree, you know, I thought about it, but what value would an MBA degree bring me? And so, you look at your current situation, and if you think it's going to help you gain something in the career, for sure go for it. So, a lot of times I'll meet professionals who like their job, and they're like, 'My company's willing to pay me 6-or-8000 more a year if I just had my MBA, and they're going to pay for it.' Okay. Why not? They're going to pay for it? You're going to make some more money each year at your company? Sure. Now, if you're out of work, you're exactly right, Jeremy, everybody runs to the MBA. There's an MBA, and I don't know what it is like in the UK, but in the United States, MBAs are a dime a dozen now. Now back in the 80s, they're very few and far between, but now I feel like everybody's got an MBA. And what happens is, when everybody starts to get these degrees, I meet even so many kids in college who have the game plan, 'Hey, I'm going to business school, I'm not getting any experience, and I'm going on to get my MBA.' Tons of people with their MBA is that way. Not a bad thing to have your MBA, I'm not saying that. But what I'm saying is, I almost feel like people run to an MBA degree, master's in business administration, to think that that's going to fix their whole world. And then guess what? I meet a lot of people on the other end of that, went into debt a lot, sacrificed family time, 90,000 in debt, they picked an MBA school that's too expensive. Now, they're sitting at home without a job still and they have their MBA degree. And it's really been no service to them in the marketplace. So, you have to be strategic with these decisions. So, you mentioned a really common degree when people run out to get, I really believe it still applies in the MBA degree, the advice I gave on your last question.

Jeremy Cline 35:45
Let's try to leave people with one piece of advice. So, if you can get something which speaks both to the 18-year-old who's about to leave high school, but also the perhaps 40-something-year-old who's thinking about going back into education. So, in either case, they're both thinking about going back to college, going back to university. What would you say is the first thing that either of those people can do to put themselves in a really good place to make sure that they make the right decision for themselves at that time?

Zack Ballinger 36:23
Again, yeah, not to sound like a broken record, but if I was in that situation, my rear would quickly be to the Career Centre immediately. And the reason I keep focusing on them so hard is, Jeremy, you think about it: where do employers go to on a college campus if they want to hire students? They go to that building. So, first of all, all your jobs for students are right there. Second of all, these professionals, because I work with them, I speak with them, a lot of times when I go to speak on their campuses, those are the ones who invite me, those professionals are trained to be a career coach. Now, what's happening is, and probably your audience knows this, a lot of them are contemplating on hiring a career coach. Career coaching is not cheap. It can be six to eight sessions, depending on your individual needs, in the United States, if you get the best coach, it could run up to $250 an hour, your coaches are generally $150 per hour. So, it's an expensive endeavour. That's free for your college student. If you're thinking about going back to school, guess what, you have the same benefit of actually going there yourself. So, let's say you're 35 years old, you're thinking about going to school, go to the Career Service, they're there to help you. They'll help anybody. So, go there, say, 'Hey, I'm 35 years old, I've got my bachelor's degree in this, I'm applying to be in master's in this. I'm really trying to find out what I want to do with my life. What can you do to help me?' They've got tools, they're professional educators. Right there is a free resource and a coach. And you can work with them. And guess what, as you work with them, Jeremy, you're building a network with them. You start to build networks with other people in that building. And so, I know plenty of students who have started there early, they go out to graduate, they had no idea what they wanted to do, but through seeing eyes through a career coach, a senior that worked with a career coach is almost nine times out of 10 more likely to get a job out of college, than a person that doesn't do this. And they go on, and those Career Service people love them so much, they're going to say, 'Jeremy, that kid has been here since his freshman year, this is the best candidate we have for you.' And you're meeting with hiring managers. So, right there is the way to do it.

Jeremy Cline 38:57
That's an awesome piece of advice in an interview full of awesome pieces of advice. So, thank you so much, Zack. Aside from Career Services, and obviously, I'll link to your books in the show notes, are there any other particular resources that you can point people to if they want to dive into this subject in any more depth?

Zack Ballinger 39:16
Yeah, you know, things that have really helped me over the years, and it's just great to get different perspectives on, because I think we should get knowledge from all different parts, not just me, not just you, it really should be a diverse thing. And I'd recommend a couple of things. There's a show, a podcast called the Ken Coleman Show. He's probably one of the top career coaches in North America. It's available on podcasts on Apple, and he sits down there and he actually takes calls on the radio. So, you can actually call him on a show, now he's rather busy, so it may take you a few weeks to get that call, but you can listen to these people's stories, and then they'll start to resonate with you, and then you'll hear his advice and you may want to call into his show. Another advice, I've read a few books that really jolted me, and one of them was Start by John Acuff, A-C-U-F-F. And Start is a book about how to find a career you love, how to find work that's meaningful, where to start. That's the whole book's premise. And John said something in there that kind of resonated with me my whole life. He said, he wanted you to crash a plane in your life. And I reread that statement and read the chapter. And then I know exactly what he's talking about, he talked about a plane that crashed, and there were survivors in it. And it's a pretty traumatic experience, as you can imagine, seeing other people pass away, and you're the only few people that actually walk away from the flight. Wouldn't that change your life? And so, our life is so short, we have a very finite amount of time on earth. And so, those people when they survived and walked away, they didn't just go start watching more TV. They changed their lives. And so, crash a plane in your life. And that really resonated with me and that book's chock-full of great tips. The third thing I would tell people to do and check out is a lot of careers involve business, and I'm not sure if it can happen in the UK or just in the United States, I encourage people to sell something. That sounds so weird, but what happens is, you get an idea of a business in mind. So, sell something on eBay. Sell something on Craigslist here. Begin dipping that in your process, make money on that, make money on that transaction. And believe it or not, you'll learn a lot about that. And I've seen a lot of people propel into even small businesses by just selling something. And it sounds so simple, but I read it somewhere, and I can't remember where I read it. So, I hope those are some tools that will help your audience outside of what I do.

Jeremy Cline 42:17
That's brilliant. And I love this idea of just trying to sell something. I think that's a great idea. It pushes your boundaries, it means you're trying out new things, it's going to give you some skills for whatever you end up doing. So, I think that's brilliant. If people want to find out more about you and maybe get in touch, where's the best place that they can do that?

Zack Ballinger 42:37
Yeah, I appreciate that, Jeremy. So, Zack Ballinger, zackballiger.com is the best place to find me. You'll find my LinkedIn, you'll find my Instagram, Facebook, all those links where you want to follow us on social media. Those are my three main platforms. And then in a couple months, you'll see a career library populated there. If not, if you want to watch the career library, you're dying to do that right now, you simply search Zack Ballinger on YouTube, you'll be able to find me with multiple episodes. And really the best place to find me is zackballinger.com.

Jeremy Cline 43:12
Awesome. There will be a link in the show notes. Zack, you've given us some absolutely fantastic advice. Thanks so much for joining me today.

Zack Ballinger 43:20
A lot of fun. Thank you for having me.

Jeremy Cline 43:23
Okay, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Zack Ballinger. I know that most of you listening to this episode will already have been through the university or college system. But I hope at the very least it provided you with some reassurance that whatever degree it was that you ended up doing, it doesn't need to define the shape of your career. And if maybe you've got kids, and you're starting to think about whether they might go to college or university, well, hopefully, there were some good tips from Zack there, which will help them as well. I thought Zack gave some really sound advice at the end there, particularly when it comes to taking the decision whether or not to go back into education. Zack made the point that education is a tool, and it doesn't automatically fix things. You've really got to ask yourself first, well, what do you need this qualification for? What is it going to enable you to do? It's very easy when we're in uncertain times, or when you're unhappy with your job, and you don't really know what you want to do next, just to default on, 'Oh, well, maybe I should go and get some kind of degree or certificate.' But it might not make sense doing that, unless you've got a really clear idea what you're going to do with it at the other end. I also found it quite uplifting that Zack was saying that really, no matter what the subject is of your degree, having a degree of itself shows a certain skill set. It shows that you've got the application to complete a three-or-four-year degree and to graduate. And that's not something to be sniffed at. It can take a lot of work to get there. So, it does show that you've got the skills and determination to get there. I've put links to Zack's website and his books and also the resources which he mentioned in the interview in the show notes page for this episode. They're at changeworklife.com/107. That's changeworklife.com/107. I loved what Zack was saying about using the university or college career service to figure out what you like doing, what you don't like doing, what you're good at. If you don't have access to a service like that, or you'd like to try and look at these sorts of things in a different way, then do check out the exercises on my website. You'll find them at changeworklife.com/happy, that's changeworklife.com/happy. One of those exercises in particular is designed to help you draw out these sorts of things. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? What don't you enjoy doing? So, do check out those exercises. As I say, you'll find them as changeworklife/happy. I can't believe it's already three quarters of the way through the year, and I really hope that for you 2021 has been better than 2020 was. What hasn't changed is that there's another great interview coming up next week. So, subscribe to the show, if you haven't already, and I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.

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