Women in RKC – Iulia Maria Garbacea, M.Sc. Marketing, University of Salford, UK

These are difficult and scary times, and at least for me, it just highlights how much I depend on the strength of the women in my life to see me through. I pray and hope that all our readers are being safe, taking precautions, practicing social distancing and doing their little bit to fight the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Be safe! 

As we continue with these Women’s Day series of blog posts, we asked some of our students to share their experiences with us – the challenges of getting back to school, of managing work and study along with family, and the unique challenges they faced being female students. 

Ms. Iulia Maria Garbacea

Ms. Iulia Maria Garbacea is one of our student ambassadors and is a graduate of our M.Sc. programme in Marketing through our exclusive partnership with the University of Salford, UK. Let us see what she has to say:

Who is … 

A short profile 

Sahil Devasia (SD): Who are you, really? 

Iulia Maria Garbacea (IMG): I am a 28 year old Romanian woman, living in Bucharest. I am a bit younger than the average graduate (or at least was when I graduated) but would not change it for the world. Professionally, I am working on the implementation of a new ERP project for a big telecom company. 

Getting back into education 

Your story of getting back to do a Master’s degree 

SD: What was the driving force behind your enrolling for an online degree? Who inspired you? What motivated you? 

IMG: Well, I wanted to see how other education systems worked. I did my Bachelor’s in Romania, but for my master’s wanted something different. 

SD: What were the thoughts/situations/people/challenges holding you back from starting (if any)? How did you overcome them? 

IMG: It was intimidating having to balance a full-time job with studies, so it took me some time to decide to go for it. And I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy. I had to do a lot of work on myself – to avoid procrastination, to not be late with submitting my papers, to study on weekends, to take days off so that I could finish my papers. 

SD: What surprised you the most when you started your studies? 

IMG: That I can learn much more by researching articles/topics for my papers than I ever did by memorizing information. 

SD: Do you feel there are unique challenges women face when deciding to get back into education? 

IMG: It depends a lot I think on the period of life in which you decide to go back to school. In my case it was easier, since I did not have anybody else to care for (children) and I could use the free time to focus on my studies. But I think that even if it might be more challenging for women later in life, they are setting an example for their children – studying at any age is possible. I think it is important to invest in our children, by investing in ourselves. 

Getting the degree 

The work to get the degree – what did you learn, how did you balance, what would you do differently 

SD: Which programme did you do? Why? 

IMG: I studied Marketing because I believe this field has a lot of potential. I believe a good marketer is like a psychologist. 

SD: What is the single most important thing you learned during the programme? 

IMG: In my case, the most important lesson was not an academic one, it was one of personal development. I proved to myself that I am smart and determined enough to study in a language different from my own. I also had the luck to meet and make friends with people from around the world at our residency in Zurich. It was so much fun! 🙂 

SD: How did you balance work and studies? 

IMG: This was the most challenging part, especially when writing the dissertation. I worked on my assignments in my spare time, and also sometimes at work. I listened to a looooot of focus music to help keep my mind from wandering. 

SD: Any particular challenges to being a woman and studying online, or do you think all students face the same ones? 

IMG: Personally, I did not feel like I had it harder than my male colleagues. It was a very gender-neutral environment. We were all students in front of the professors. 

Life post degree 

What changed, if anything? 

SD: What’s new in your life since graduating / starting your studies? Any visible impact already? 

IMG: I switched from a more commercial role, into a more IT-focused position. 

SD: Anything you are doing differently now because of the things you learned? 

IMG: Yes, I am able to organize my projects better, to keep up with my commitments, and to be on time with delivery. 

SD: Do you feel that getting a Master’s degree or doing other online programmes can reduce gender discrimination in the work place? 

IMG: I feel that any type of studies can help reduce gender discrimination in the workplace. As far as I am concerned, the online programmes are a way of keeping up with the modern world. We can do almost anything online nowadays, why not study? As people start working, it is very difficult for them to attend night-schools, or weekend schools if they want to study in parallel. But studying online means that you can listen to courses while commuting, or while taking a break from work. 

Advice for other women 

Or other students, really. 

SD: Imagine you could send a message back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be? 

IMG: It takes a lot of commitment and a lot of hard work, but at the end, the knowledge you gain is something that no one can ever take away from you. Also, those annoying focus music tracks from YouTube – they are a life changer. I still use them today when I need to work on important things. 

SD: Imagine you could send an object back in time to your pre-degree self: what would it be? 

IMG: The ‘How to write you dissertation’ handbook – absolutely necessary! 

Closing thoughts 

SD: Anything else you would like to add that could help with the goal of increasing women’s participation/access to a Master’s degree? 

IMG: Just that investing in a woman is an investment in a generation of people. 

Our own little contribution: March Women’s bursaries of up to 2’500 CHF! 

We, at RKC, are proud to play a part in the ongoing efforts in reducing the gender disparity in education. We have already announced a special bursary on the tuition fees for all female applicants during the month of March in celebration of the International Women’s Day, only a few days to go, don’t lose out! #EachforEqual!

If you have been thinking about getting your master’s degree, proving to yourself and others that you CAN do it, now would be a good time to take the plunge. Have a look at our list of programmes and see if we have anything that could help.

International Women’s Day – is that enough?!

One day! – to celebrate the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters in our lives. We say we live in modern times and consider ourselves enlightened and educated, but even now, in many parts of the world women are discriminated against, not being given even basic human freedoms. And I am not just talking about third world countries: even in the so called “first world nations” women are discriminated against, looked at as objects and paid only a fraction of what is paid to a man for the same job.

I do not understand the reason for this discrimination. My father was an officer in the merchant navy, which meant that for most of my childhood he was away at sea and that meant my mother was the one who looked after all our landbound affairs, and I can tell you that if my father was in charge, things wouldn’t have gone nearly as smoothly as they did.

We have made some progress already – things are better today than they were in the past. Women were considered the weaker sex and seen only as a companion, caregiver, housekeeper, cook and breeder. Men on the other hand were stronger, the hunter, the protector, the main bread winner and because of this they were given some education and seen as smarter. There was no need to educate women as it would have been a waste of money and would not have been in their job description. I can’t believe this is what men thought and, in some cases, still think!

In fact, some western countries gave women the right to vote only about 50 to 100 years ago, mostly during the interwar period – Canada (1917), Britain and Germany (1918), Austria and the Netherlands (1919) and the United States (1920). Notable exceptions in Europe were France, where women could not vote until 1944, Greece (1952), and Switzerland (1971).

Women have had to fight at every step for the right to be treated as equals to men.

Gender Pay Gap

Female filmmakers protesting the gender pay gap and other inequalities in the film industry, during the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

Even today, in several countries (including in “enlightened” first world countries), women are not paid on par with men for doing the same job and just as competently. There are a number of social reasons given for this disparity in income – from motherhood (perception that women cannot work as long or as hard as men) to jobs that are perceived to be male dominated (construction, manufacturing, mining, transportation, etc.).

For example, the following graphic shows the women’s weekly earnings, employment, and percentage of men’s earnings, by industry, in 2009, in the United states.

The OECD was showing the following gender pay gaps (unadjusted) in 2008.

The unadjusted gender gap according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2008.

There’s been positive change since, with numbers from 2015-2019 showing improvement overall. Lower numbers are better – and Belgium is leading the pack.

Gender Education Gap

What is more shocking than this disparity in income, is the disparity in education.  

Learning is the cornerstone for growth and self-discovery, so what happens if educations is denied or restricted to a part of the population. This part of the population will not have any growth or self-actualisation.

A world map showing countries by gender difference in literacy rate. A detailed Robinson projection SVG map shaded by country using two equally distributed colour palettes (red and blue) according to the difference in literacy rate between men and women (i.e. higher rates for males denoting positive numbers). x = difference in literacy rate and countries without data are light grey. The figures represented are almost entirely collected by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) on behalf of UNESCO with 2015 estimates based on people aged 15 or over who can read and write.

The countries with the largest difference between men’s and women’s average years of schooling are Afghanistan and India. 

Top 10 Countries with the biggest difference in mean years of schooling (2017) 

Country Male Female Difference 
Afghanistan 1.9 4.1 
India 8.2 4.8 3.4 
Equatorial Guinea 7.3 3.3 
Togo 6.5 3.3 3.2 
Congo (Democratic Republic of the) 8.4 5.3 3.1 
Cameroon 7.6 4.7 2.9 
Nepal 6.4 3.6 2.8 
Pakistan 6.5 3.8 2.7 
Liberia 6.1 3.5 2.6 
Central African Republic 5.6 2.6 

Human Development Data (1990–2017); www.hdr.undp.org (as on 15 October 2018) 

Even in developed countries, according to OECD 71% of men graduates with a science degree work as professionals in physics, mathematics and engineering, whereas only 43% women work as professionals and fewer than 1 in 3 engineering graduates and lesser than 1 in 5 computer science graduates are female. 

Moving forward

It saddens me that in this day and age, there is still so much sexual discrimination both at work and in education. Doesn’t this get you worked up? What can we do to change this status quo?

We at Robert Kennedy College are pleased to see an upward trend in the number of women students enrolling for our online master’s degree programmes in management. Over the past 7 years, we have seen a steady year on year (YOY) increase in the women to men ratio, shown below – we are off to a flying start in 2020 (Jan and Feb numbers counted so far), so we hope to see this trend continue and this disparity in education between men and women being greatly reduced in the years to come.

The trend of the percentage of female students over time. Color shows relative year on year (YOY) change in this value. After a slight dip in 2011-2013, the trend is clearly upwards, with 2020 (based on just Jan/Feb so far, of course) showing an encouraging spike towards the 50-50 line.

Our own little contribution: March Women’s bursaries of up to 2’500 CHF!

We are proud to play a part in the ongoing efforts in reducing the gender disparity in education, and today we are announcing a special bursary on the tuition fees for all female applicants during the month of March in celebration of the International Women’s Day! #EachforEqual! 

* the button above will connect you with our team over Whatsapp.

If you have been thinking about getting your Master degree, proving to yourself and others that you CAN do it, now would be a good time to take the plunge. Have a look at our list of programmes and see if we have anything that could help.

5 EASY Steps to Successfully Start Budgeting

I have never been one for budgets. In my youth (and I still consider myself young at under 40), whenever I tried to keep a budget sheet on Excel or an old fashioned passbook, I have always found it boring, tedious (yes, I know it means the same as boring, but that is how I feel about it) and ultimately it just got me all worked up and confused. In short, I hated keeping a budget.

Rocket Science or Budgeting!?

And so, I stopped keeping a budget and just left the money in the bank using it as and when I needed it. I figured as I got older, I would get more responsible and would start budgeting. But that just did not happen, until one day it all just hit me – wife, kid, mortgage, car loan, living expenses, school fees, etc., etc., etc. – scrambling to keep afloat. Forget personal development – it’s all about survival.

So, I sat down, introspected and approached the budgeting issue as any other problem. It all starts with understanding the what and the why.

What is a budget?

It is a plan. A planed and controlled way for me to spend or save my money, knowing exactly where, when and how much I will need, how much I will be paying and how much I will be left with after.

In other words, budgeting is the ability to be able to say what each individual swiss franc ( or dollar or pound or rupee or naira or euro or whatever your currency is) is meant to do. Some francs will be tasked with paying your phone bill. Some with paying rent. Some might have no job at all – so their job would be called “emergency fund”.

What should I (someone who hates budgeting) consider when I start planning?

I promised you five easy steps to start budgeting, so here we go.

  1. Know your monthly budget (income): At the start of every month (for most people) fresh funds hit their bank accounts; maybe from a salary, parents, or a trust fund. It doesn’t matter where you get your money from, but this is your starting point. So, be clear when and how much money you get every month, this is your money available to budget. We’re talking net income (after taxes) and not gross income, unless you get taxed as self-employed / independent contractor / freelancer / whatever the word is in your country, in which case this also means you need to account for those taxes coming in later on. Important!
  2. Split it: I wanted to keep my budgeting simple. I started by splitting my budget into three groups or funds.
    • Needs: I started by making a list of my fixed monthly expenses: utility charges, telephone and internet charges, loans, insurance charges, housekeeping and maintenance charges, school fees, fuel and travel, etc. These are your fixed expenses and money have to be allocated to this fund. You can of course reduce your expenses here in a number of ways, such as moving to a cheaper or less expensive telephone and internet plan, saving on water and electricity (switch off the light when you leave the room), move to a house with a smaller rent, etc. Not rocket science, but worth mentioning.
    • Wants: This fund is put aside to improve the quality of life. Some people might say that this is not important, and you can do without, but I am definitely not one of those people. Going for movies and dinner with family, meeting friends for coffee, taking the kids to the arcade, subscribing to Audible or Netflix, buying a gift for the wife; I could do without any of this, but I would be miserable. There may be times when I might have to cut back on this, but that is alright as long as it is only for a short time. I would put aside about 50% of the budget remaining after the Needs fund.
    • Savings: The remaining 50% goes into my savings fund. My aim is to have at any time a minimum of 12 months Needs+Wants fund in my savings, with the sky as the upper limit of the fund.
  3. Use your credit/ debit card: Credit cards have a bad reputation and for good reason, a lot of people have failed to pay their cards back on time and have been penalised heavily and disproportionately by the card issuers for this mistake. It will also mess up your credit score. So, if you are someone who does not have the willpower or awareness to spend within your limits or pay the card on time, then do not use credit cards, just use your debit card. On the other hand, if you are like me (at least till now, fingers crossed), someone who ensures money is there in the bank to pay for every penny spent on the card and who has never missed a payment due date, the credit card can be awesome. 
    • They help you keep track on your spending and help you analyse your spending habits.
    • You earn points for every spend, which in turn translates into saving either in cash or purchases using points.
    • Most credit cards will offer some kind of discount, offers, insurance or cash backs – again savings.
  4. Be a hunter: Before making any purchase, lookout for offers or delay your purchase until a sales/ discount season. Check multiple stores for the best deal on the item you are looking to purchase. Even RKC, generally known for its frugality and already low costs, will occasionally run some promotional campaigns, driven by our desire to level the playing field for all sort of candidates, regardless of gender or cultural background. If you are signed up for our newsletter, you should know this – if you are not, what are you waiting for?
  5. Limit your expenses: Before making any purchase, ask yourself: 
    • Do I really need this? 
    • Do I have sufficient “Wants” fund for this purchase?
    • Can this purchase be delayed until a sale comes along?
    • Will a less expensive and lesser known brand work for me?
    • There’s a nifty trick for this one (in particular the delay option) – keep your credit card separated from your phone, which you presumably always have with you, and do not save its details on the browser. That will require you to stand up and go look for it every time you need/want (budget verbs!) to buy something – do not underestimate the power of inertia!
Keep track of your expenses, no matter how bored you get.

Budgeting might be the most boring aspect of your month/week/day, but it goes a long way in helping you get financial security, independence, and peace of mind. It is also the only way you can be confident you can afford big expenses such as a house, car, or an investment in your future in the form of a Master’s degree – yes, shameless plug. But it is the truth.

Can you actually afford a Master’s degree? Now is as good a time as ever: we are launching a number of new online master’s degree programmes, and we’re offering a limited time bursary on the tuition fees. If your budget is in good shape for it, and you believe in yourself, do check in with your RKC education advisor

MBA or MSc: Is there a difference? Should you care?

It’s been a while since I finished my MBA, but I very clearly remember my thought process and the confusion I felt before deciding to start it.

I kept asking myself all sort of questions.

These are just some of the many questions that flashed through my mind at that time. But once the dust settled and I picked the path I wished to travel, a new question popped up.

Should I do an MBA or an M.Sc. (in management/business)?

Back then I already had friends who were doing or had completed MBA and M.Sc. programmes in management from universities around the world. As I myself was looking only at full time on-campus programmes, I asked them about their courses to get a better understanding on which programme to enrol for. These differences carry to the online versions too.

There are some basic differences between an MBA and an M.Sc programme.

  • Student demography: MBA programmes are usually targeted at individuals who have a minimum of 5 years work experience and as a consequence are usually somewhat older, people who are perhaps already in middle management positions. Whereas the M.Sc degree programmes are targeted at younger graduates, individuals with little to no work experience, usually coming in straight from their bachelor studies.
A graphic of median age distributions over MBA and MSc programmes since 2010
Figure 1. Median age for female (orange) and male (blue) students across the MBA and MSc programmes in RKC since 2010 – a clear and significant difference (statistically significant that is, rather than “important”).
  • Teaching methods: From the student demography we can deduce how the education will be structured in class. M.Sc. programmes are usually more theoretical and classroom centric, whereas MBA programmes are based on experiential learning, calling on the work experience of the students to analyse case studies, projects and submit dissertations, working in groups with other students, learning from their experience coupled with the theoretical aspects of learning.
  • Focused study: MBA programmes are usually focused on general management and not in a specialised field of study, in fact most of the modules taught in an MBA programme would be on general management. M.Sc. programmes on the other hand are usually more focused in a particular field of study (for example, Information Systems Management, Global Management, Accounting and Finance, etc.). 
  • Duration: MBA programmes are usually 18 to 24 months long, with a project and dissertation. M.Sc. programmes can usually be completed in 12 months, although they too will typically require a dissertation.
  • Cost: In most universities MBA programmes are priced much higher than M.Sc. programmes (although you will find exceptions too).

So, which one is good for me?

In recent times more and more universities have started creating courses where the differences have been reduced, creating courses that are unique and catering to the student’s requirements. This is especially true for online master’s degree programmes where technology has had a big impact on communication and giving students from all over the world and from different professional backgrounds access to information like never before.

So, which one is right for you? Not a question I am able to answer via a blog post, I’m afraid, but if you want to find out, you can get in touch with our team of admission advisers who can have a look at your profile and give you some advice.

Explore the number of specialised master’s degree programmes offered by Robert Kennedy College through exclusive partnerships with top British universities. Or, if you have already made up your mind, click here to apply

Interview hacks to land yourself that dream job (and a well-paid one too!)

I have had a fair share of job interviews in my career so far. And thinking retrospectively, I realize most (if not all) of these interviews asked very similar questions. You can probably relate. 

An interview is a great opportunity to prove your worth to the interviewer
  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself (a bit of a time-waster, unless they are trying to judge your verbal communication skills – otherwise that information is already present in your CV (or should).
  2. Why are you looking for a change/career change? 
  3. Why do you want to work with us? 
  4. What value will you add to this company? 
  5. What are your strengths and weaknesses? 
  6. What criticism or advice did you get in your earlier job? 
  7. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? (another cliche´ and rather a useless question).
  8. Proudest accomplishment? 
  9. What motivates you the most in a job? 
  10. Explain the gap in your career. 
  11. How do you handle the pressure? Describe a situation when you did that and how. 
  12. What are your hobbies/passion? 
  13. Describe a situation when you went over and beyond the job requirements and expectations.
  14. What are your salary expectations?

Behavioural Interviews

Some of these questions are “old school” and of little value, but more recent research in HR, and in particular recruitment and selection point to the value of behavioural interviews and there is a tendency towards this approach in recent years.  

When interviewers conduct a behavioural interview, they are looking for past experience and evidence of existing behaviours; a clear advantage over hypothetical questions such as “how would you handle conflict with a co-worker” where most candidates will try to give the “right” answer. They are looking to find the right fit, not only for the job role but for their company as a whole. You will normally be asked to respond to questions during such an interview using the CAR (Context, Action, Result) or STAR (Situation, Task, Action and Result) structures. These interviews are highly focused, situation-based interviews that demand crisp, precise and structured responses and having the ability to answer in this way takes practice.

It may seem to be an intimidating experience, but as you go through job interviews throughout your career, you will probably come to realize it is merely a conversation between the interviewer and the interviewee. While you may be nervous about answering the questions right, the interviewer is equally concerned about asking the right questions and establishing a good rapport with you. Recruitment and selection are an expensive process for any company, and they would like to avoid a re-run of the process for the same position again. Organizations do realize the importance of a good employee and of the fact that even if the interview process does not end up in selection, the candidate is a potential customer of their product or service, and they would like to make a good impression.  

Preparing the interview

Receiving an interview call in itself means that you knocked off other competitors and possess the competencies that the company is looking for in its potential employee. However, do not become complacent at this point. You have got to prove your worth and an interview is a perfect opportunity to make your case as to why the interviewer should hire you. Here are a few tips that will help you in preparation for a successful job interview. 

Pre-interview preparation

Understand the job description 

The humble job description yields much more than a naïve interviewee can decipher. The job description provides you with details such as the qualifications, qualities and competencies the company desires in a candidate (at least if the job description is done well). You could pick up hints on potential questions that an interviewer may ask in an interview. This is a good opportunity to align your presentation of your qualities to the given job description and make the case that you are the right candidate for the role. 

Match your qualifications to the Job 

You must have a good understanding of how you qualify for the job and why you are interviewing for the position. You must be able to explain to the recruiter your interest in the position and convince them how and why you are the best fit for the role. You have to be honest with yourself first – are you really a good fit? 

Research the Company and the role thoroughly 

This is probably one of the most common complaints, or, rather, disappointments for a recruiter: to see the candidate did not do their homework well and have little knowledge of the company and the position. Do thorough research to show that you have invested time in preparing for the job, and do care about the company, its values, and requirements of the job. 

Identify the requirements of the company – empathize with their problem 

When the recruiter asks questions like “why should we hire you?” Or “what can you offer that no one else can?”, they really are looking to understand if you “get” their requirements and whether hiring you would solve their problems. Be a problem solver to increase your chances of recruitment. Scrutinize all resources available such as company website, YouTube channel, LinkedIn profile, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram presence, etc.  

Google Yourself 

You want to put your best foot forward in an interview. You would not want to be surprised at the interview. Some experts report that up to 85% of hiring managers “Google” a candidate before or after an interview, and so should you. See what the first page of results brings upon you, and be ready to answer any questions about those (whether flattering or non-flattering) results. 

Rehearse and Role-play 

The best way to score your performance at an interview is to practice mock interviews. Rehearse the answers you would want to give and watch out for non-behavioural communication that might confound the message. There are apps available now that use AI to score you (almost in real-time) on diction, intonation, filler words, and so on. Practice with a friend works well too.

Prepare in advance for STAR interviews

The mantra to be successful when appearing for the STAR/CAR interviews is to go prepared. Strategize and draw your responses from the key competencies for the position. Structure your responses with situations that highlight your knowledge and behaviour from previous experiences. This is a great opportunity to impress the interviewer with your skills and achievements.

Work on your body language and interview etiquettes 

Recruiters are generally good readers of body language and can gauge your confidence level just by the way you shake hands with them (they do this for a job, after all). Other body languages such as posture, gaze, how and where you sit on the chair, can leak information about your state of mind and sincerity.

Interviewers analyze your body language and etiquettes

Plan your travel ahead and get directions 

An employer appreciates punctuality and pro-activeness from its potential candidates. Being prepared and arriving prior to the scheduled time for the interview can always earn you some brownie points. 

At the interview

Wear appropriate interview clothing and groom your hair 

You do not have to dress to kill. However, put on formal clothing and take care of even how you groom your hair. A hippy hairstyle may speak volumes of your character and preferences that may not necessarily fit with the company’s vision and values. Then again, if that is who you are and enjoy being, showing your true colours can prevent landing a job in an environment you might not enjoy!

Know what to bring along for the interview  

Always ask ahead of the interview if you need to bring any original documents, certificates, etc.

Hone your salary negotiation skills

One tricky question that most candidates are hesitant about responding to during an interview, and for good reason, is about compensation.

Interviewers ask this question to see how well you know your worth, or maybe as a way to get a “cheaper” deal. Is it fair to ask it? Debates are raging, but one thing is for sure – it is fair not to answer it! 

Of course, you do not want to antagonize your interviewer, and there are different ways to handle remuneration related questions avoiding conflict. Try to deflect such questions towards the end of the interview, so that you have complete knowledge and understanding of job duties and expectations. Experts advise that instead of quoting a number, always provide a salary range. Show that you are open to negotiations. Include other remuneration forms like benefits and perks as an opportunity to negotiate.

Prepare follow-up questions 

Most recruiters will normally allow the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview – be ready to do so. It shows your interest and how well you have researched the company.  

These are some of the hacks that will come in handy to break through the toughest interviews. Sound knowledge of your field of work, grit and thinking off the feet can actually get you on the other side of the table.  

Do share with us your job interview experiences in the comment section below. And I wish those who are going to appear for a job interview the best of luck. Even though our students are mostly employed while they study in the Masters programmes, most do end up interviewing for new/better jobs as a result of graduating.  

3 failed resolutions! It’s the New Year, time for another resolution (sighroll)!

I really did not mean to start this article off on a negative note, but new years resolutions and I have rarely had a positive relationship.

Seasons greetings…

Before I carry on with my rant, let me wish all of you, our readers, good tidings for this festive season and a happy and prosperous New Year 2020!  

…and a Happy New Year

Why resolutions?

Why do people make resolutions at new years’ time? The answer, more often than not, is self-improvement. To start the new year on a positive note, to be a better version of yourself. Such a laudable goal and yet most people fail in their resolutions. 

And this new year being also the start of a new decade, people are going to be making resolutions left, right, and centre.  

So, I pulled out my list of unfulfilled resolutions and resolved that this year I will not fail in my resolutions. I looked into why most people fail in their resolutions and more importantly how they succeed. Here is what I found.

7 and a bit ways to make your resolutions a success!  

Tim Pychyl – professor of psychology at Carleton University
  1. Cultural procrastination: According to Tim Pychyl, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University and the author of “Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change”, this is  – “culturally prescribed procrastination,” meaning we’re culturally primed to procrastinate by making a resolution for a future date, instead of committing now. So, don’t wait for the new year to start your self-improvement goal, start right now! 
  2. Reprogram your mind: Your mind and body are used to the way you do things, something akin to muscle memory. If you are under the impression that starting or stopping something is going to be easy and not require you to work on it, you are (probably) wrong. You need to work on developing good habits that can help in achieving your goals. There is a reason why so many people fail in their resolutions. So how do you go about reprogramming you mind? 
    • Get specific: Let’s say your resolution for the new year is to get healthy. What does that even mean? Do you mean eating healthy, losing weight, going to the gym, giving up smoking – getting healthy is just so vague. Be specific: what do you want to achieve in “getting healthy”? 
    • Set short-term goals: Now let’s say you choose to exercise more. Again, let’s try and get more specific: you choose to run every day (although swimming might be a better choice, lower impact). First, set yourself the end goal: running in your local 10K marathon at the end of the year. Now break this down to short term goals – you will run 1 kilometre a day for the first 30 days, then 2 kilometres a day for the next 30 days, then 4, 6 and so on. 
    • Track your progress: As you progress, keep track of your achievements. It will help in building your confidence and motivating you. You will be able to see your progress and your success and will not want to fail. There are plenty of apps and fitness trackers (you might already own) that can help you do this with a high level of granularity.
    • By the end of this exercise, your body would have gotten used to running every day from not running at all and you would have gotten healthier. You would have also succeeded in reprogramming your mind and developing a good habit. 
  3. Choose achievable goals: Be realistic! If you decided to become the next leader of your country and are not already in politics, then that is unlikely to happen. So, choose something achievable, that can have a positive impact in your life. Learn a new language, lose weight (set a specific target), stop smoking, complete your assignments before the deadline, show up to all your classes, join an MBA, complete your master’s degree this year, etc. 
  4. Choose a resolution that is personal: Your resolution should be personal to you. Achieving it should make you happy and benefit you. You will be more motivated to stick to your resolution if the resolution has a tangible and positive impact in your life.  
  5. Stay true to yourself: Don’t choose to take on so many resolutions that it will change your very character. If you want to be a better version of yourself, do it slowly, step by step, get used to the changes and like what you see. If too many things change too soon, you are not going to like it and will start making excuses to fail in your resolutions. Make one or at most two resolutions, there is always next year.
  6. Keep going: Failure is part of life and every failure is a learning experience. Cliché, I know, but it is a fact. Everybody fails, but that doesn’t mean you just give up; start over tomorrow. It’s not like all your hard work will be wiped out with a single failure, or even multiple failures – pick-up from your last success.
    • It is usually the case that we are our harshest critic, so if that is your case too, give yourself a break. If a friend or family member failed at something and was upset, you would likely (hopefully!) support him or her. So, what is the harm in extending that same support to yourself?
  7. Ask for help: If you are comfortable with sharing your resolutions with your friends and family and believe that they will be able to support and help you in achieving your resolutions then don’t be ashamed in asking for their help. Chances are, they will be happy to see you succeed.   

What’s next?

Have I missed any points that you feel can help someone stick to their resolutions? Let us know in the comments below. 

If your resolution is to do a master’s degree or learn something new, then explore the number of specialised master’s degree programmes offered by Robert Kennedy College through exclusive partnerships with top British universities. Or, if you have already made up your mind, click here to apply

6 Reasons to Do a Master’s Degree Programme

I am going to tell you a story about a friend of mine and yes, I know “a friend” sounds made up, but this friend is real and what happened to him could happen to anyone of us in the corporate world.  

To make matters simple, let’s call this friend of mine Jojo (yes, this time a made-up name). A while back Jojo found himself out of a job due to no fault of his. The reasons given: downsizing, centralising, the usual corporate jibber jabber, and this from a company in which he had spent the last two years of his life setting up and developing an entire function for the organisation. 

He was reporting directly to the Managing Director and Country-Head, a position he achieved by hard work and determination and with professional experience going back two decades – working for some of the biggest multi-national companies in the world. He was not worried: with his experience, getting a job would be EASY. 

Safely crossing the gap from one job to the next is not always straightforward…

But as the days turned into weeks and then into months and he was still unable to find a job, the gloom around him was palpable.  

Jojo’s story 

Jojo started his career immediately after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from a top local university and as his career progressed at a faster-than-average pace, he never found the need and time to go back to school and enhance his academic profile too.  

Over time as life evolved, so grew his professional and personal commitments, demanding a greater share of his time and effort. He concluded that putting in time, effort and money into his education did not merit the return on investment.  

Fast forward to Jojo’s job search – he found that the lack of a master’s degree was having a profound impact on his ability to get hired. 

To be clear, I am not saying that you need a master’s degree to succeed in life. In fact, most people don’t have a master’s degree and are very successful in their profession. What I am saying is that a master’s degree can have a positive impact in your professional career (because, learning is good :D).

Added benefit of a Master’s – graduation is fun! Notice how these RKC graduates from 2018 have big smiles on their faces, despite the freezing cold of November in York.

Here are 6 reasons you should consider doing a master’s degree. 

  1. It shows you are hard working and committed: A Master’s degree implies that you have taken the extra step of getting a higher qualification, gaining extra skills and specialisations. Having worked on projects and submitted assignments and dissertations in a timely manner, it shows you to be more disciplined, structured and task oriented. 
  2. It levels the playing field: In today’s competitive job market, most of the candidates applying for any above entry level position will already have at least one master’s degree, if not more specialised qualifications and just a bachelor’s degree or lower educational qualification would just not cut it. Depending on the nature of the job and the position you are aspiring to, a master’s degree might be the minimum requirement to even apply. 
  3. It can help with switching careers: There may come a time in your career when you pull your hair and cry out – “I CAN’T TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”. I understand, I have been there a couple of times. For whatever reason, if you feel it is time for a change in career to a field that requires specific knowledge that you do not have or to a career in a regulated industry that requires you to have certain education qualifications, a master’s degree might give you a leg up in your new career. 
  4. It can help you standout: Unfortunately, this is the world that we live in. There may be several of your co-workers eyeing the same promotion that you have been after. Whether it is a management position or that specialised role within your company, a master’s degree could make the difference in your getting that position. In some cases, a company might also be willing to sponsor the master’s degree if they feel you are a potential leader and it could be mutually beneficial, so it is always worth asking the question to either your manager or the HR department.  
  5. It may help with relocation: We are no longer limited by geography. A master’s degree might help you in getting a work visa to a particular country; after all, you might be required to show why you are more deserving of a particular job than a citizen of the country and a master’s degree might go some ways in your company hiring you over a local.  
  6. It can fill the gap: Going back to the example of my friend, the longer you go without employment the harder it will get to explain the gap in your resume and to get employed. Doing a master’s degree is a good way to fill this gap, improve your knowledge, gain new skills and to generally show you are not one to wait around for things to happen.  

There’s more?

I am sure that there are many other reasons why people choose to do a master’s degree with benefits we wouldn’t have even thought off. If you have experienced or can think of any, let us know in the comments below! 

Finally, getting back to Jojo. It took him a while, but he is finally back to work. It is not what he wanted to do, and he had to take a hefty pay cut, but he is working again. He has still not joined a master’s programme (despite my constant reminders) but he is on the lookout for one that meets his requirements. Let’s hope he doesn’t leave it for too late.  Can it really ever be too late?

Explore the number of specialised master’s degree programmes offered by Robert Kennedy College through exclusive partnerships with top British universities. Or, if you have already made up your mind, click here to apply.

Robert Kennedy College and York St John graduates being silly with their hats in the Quad before graduation.

Understanding University Rankings – humph!

So, when I decided to write an informative blog on university rankings to enable you the reader to make an informed decision, I did not realise what I was getting myself into. And after days of research and multiple migraines, I have decided that if I just go ahead and dump all the information here, you are just going to lose interest, get confused and finally just go away and never come back. 

Utility of Ranking Systems

To begin with, should we even look at rankings to base our decisions on? After all UNESCO did observe that rankings “do more harm than good” and you will find some of the reasoning for this as you read further. On the flip side they also observed that rankings have also become a measure of quality and have created an atmosphere of competition between universities. You can find more information on this UNESCO finding in the UNESCO Publishing – Rankings and Accountability in Higher Education: Uses and Misuses.

Like most things in life, rankings also have their good bits and their bad bits. To begin with, there is no almighty, all encompassing ranking system out there, because that is just not possible. There are just so many parameters that educational institutions can be ranked on, any ranking agency will just get overwhelmed with data and quite possibility put out a very confused and confusing report. There was even a ranking in the United States that ranked universities on squirrels (yes, the cute little rodent).

So, most agencies will pick and choose a few areas they feel are important and grade the university. This is where things start to look a little murky.

The Perspective

I remember when I was considering universities to apply for my MBA, I just opened a few of the top selling magazines and educational journals, looked at the top universities, made a list of universities that featured in multiple magazines/journals and applied to them. It did not ever occur to me to look into the parameters that the universities were being evaluated on and if they were even relevant to me.

There are many ways to reach your destination. The choice is yours!

So, make your own list, make a list of parameters you feel are important, may be campus job placements, alumni engagement, faculty, student to teacher ratio, campus, etc., and focus on rankings that evaluate on parameters that come closest to your list. Another point of view is to forget about the university rankings and look at subject rankings (say, Law). A particular university might not be ranked too high, but for the subject you are interested in, the university might be ranked 1st in the North West and 8th in the UK.

As we are looking at rankings that come closest to our list of parameters (and here comes the murky bit) there is usually no transparency. Most ranking agencies will not share their algorithm (and why should they, they have worked hard on it and have spent a lot of money on it) or for that matter, even parameters that have gone into giving a particular rank to a parameter. Why did university A get 8 points for Student Engagement, but university B get only 3 points? At the same time, last year university A was on 3 points, what has changed? So, look at rankings that are a little more transparent, they don’t have to open up their algorithms to you, but a little transparency will help you make an informed decision.

The Rich get Richer

There are also a number of ranking agencies, especially the smaller ones, that fall into the trap of ranking universities on their reputations. While I personally believe there is nothing wrong with this – to a very limited extent – after all, the university probably worked hard on developing this reputation and in all likelihood deserves it, basing a ranking system primarily on reputation will continuously reward only a handful of universities. For example, a reputation based ranking system will always rank universities like Oxford and Cambridge at the top while ignoring universities that are working towards developing their reputation by offering better programmes, teaching methodologies or more advanced and modern study environments.

Universities have also learnt to play the ranking game. Most universities have dedicated teams that engage ranking agencies, understand how their ranking system works and learn to either improve their offering and thereby improve their ranking or to manipulate the system and improve. Look at the older rankings of the university and mark their progression through the ranks, seek out explanations as to why a university has improved in a certain parameter but not in others. Try to seek out transparency on the change in rankings. 

Look at rankings that are updated on a regular basis, preferably on at least an annual basis. A university on top today may be at the bottom tomorrow.

Further Research

Finally, let me leave you with the link to the Wikipedia page (even though using Wikipedia in academic writing would get me wrist slapped by Dr Negoescu!) on the college and university rankings, where you will find information on a number of global and regional ranking agencies that should provide you with information you might find useful or you might just find confusing. This is the way the cookie crumbles, sorry! I wish you the best in your hunt for that perfect university, there is one for everyone.

It is worth it at the end

Since you are reading this blog, you probably already know that we at Robert Kennedy College offer more than 30 Master’s degree programmes in partnerships with 3 UK universities and we have been helping more than 14,000 students from almost every country in the world develop their skill sets, improve their CVs and advance their careers – you are in good hands should you consider taking the plunge. Have a look at our programme catalogue and get in touch with our Admissions’ team if you have any questions about the programme most suitable for your background.

Overcoming challenges of studying online

Most people decide to do an online programme because of the convenience and advantages online programmes offer. However, every coin has two faces and while the benefits of doing an online programme are many there are also a few challenges that students studying online will have to overcome in order to complete the programme with flying colours.

Here are some of the challenges our students face in online learning – holding that a better understanding of them will help you in your own ventures in online learning. 

Time management: Time management is one of the biggest challenges that a student faces. Being able to manage one’s personal and professional life while at the same time getting the space and time to complete all the requirements of the programme – assignments, readings, etc. – is a problem faced by most students. If you don’t manage time well – putting off assignments until the last minute, not completing the required readings, being unable to participate in classroom sessions – you will inevitably fall behind and struggle to complete the course. Balancing work-life-study is the key to successfully completing any programme. We have an entire post on how to overcome this challenge – have a read, but know that with a little discipline this is an easily surmountable challenge – be it for online studies, or your life in general, so well worth improving your time management skills.

Learning Methodology: Until choosing to do an online programme, almost all of us would have received our education in a physical classroom, having attended schools and colleges for almost two decades in our formative years. As a result, most of us would have developed skills and methodologies to best meet the challenges of an in-classroom learning environment. As a result, for some of us online education might come as a culture shock and might take some getting used to, while for others this adjustment might come quickly and naturally. This is another skill that we just have to accept we need to develop – and make the most out of the flexibility afforded by the online interaction.

Distractions at Home: In my personal opinion, for most professionals, the benefits of studying from home far out-number those of studying full time in an on-campus programme. For most of our students this would not even be possible, since they are working professionals. However, at home there are a lot of distractions that can derail your study plans as well. The best advice we can offer on this challenge (verified by many of our students) is to set aside dedicated time slots for your studies and to protect those at all costs. Do not let anyone  distract you during this time (which is why getting your family on board before starting is crucial). Set up a dedicated study space at your home, which will act like your own personal classroom, this will help keep distractions out and your focus in.  

Dependence on Technology: While it is true that technology has changed the face of education, online education is entirely dependent on technology. You will need to ensure that you have a reliable and fast internet connection, laptop/ home computer or other mobile devices that will help you create and deliver assignments and stay connected with the college. But once you are connected, technology can also help ensuring all your work is backed up and you never have to blame the dog for the missing assignment!   

Doing it Alone: Human beings are social animals. One of the biggest benefits in doing an on-campus programme is the social interaction you can have with your peers, whether it is building long lasting relationships, group studies or just hanging out to relieve stress. 

In our programmes we use online forums, live classroom sessions and residential week-long workshops to try to mitigate the impact of the missing face to face social interaction. The residencies are indeed some of the most appreciated parts of the programme, attesting to their value (but also to the fact that face-to-face interaction is indeed a challenge). 

Students of Robert Kennedy College attending the week-long residency at the University of Cumbria campus

We have more than 30 Master’s degree programmes and we have been helping more than 14,000 students from almost every county of the world develop their skill sets, improve their CVs and advance their careers – you are in good hands should you consider taking the plunge. Have a look at our programme catalogue and get in touch with our Admissions’ team if you have any questions about the programme most suitable for your background.