Accountability — The only person responsible for your rise or fall is YOU. Be accountable for your efforts and their results.
As a part of my interview series about the things that should be done to improve the US educational system I had the pleasure to interview Susan Newman of school2life.
Susan is a career marketing professional and instructor at Columbia College Chicago. Since 2001, Susan has taught the college’s popular Marketing Yourself course, showing students how to apply sales tactics and marketing strategies for career happiness and success. The course has prepared hundreds to enter the workforce with confidence and career-enhancing tools. As an instructor, Susan calls upon her 15 years of networking and marketing experience with large and small organizations, including Leo Burnett, Playboy Enterprises, and Make-A-Wish Foundation, as well as brands such as Jose Cuervo, Smirnoff and Phillip Morris. Susan is a native Chicagoan who knows firsthand that everyone has the potential to fulfill their dreams.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory”behind what brought you to this particular career path?
I spent the first half of my career as a marketing and advertising executive with large and small agencies. My last stint was at Leo Burnett, where I had the opportunity to work with some of the industry’s best and brightest people. After 15 years in client service, like many of us, as my career evolved, so did my interests, and I was ready for a change. That was really my first real significant “career pivot,” knowing that I needed something more but was unsure of what that was.
I took the practical and actionable tactics and strategies my dad taught me while growing up and “best practices” from my marketing career and applied them to my next career move.
Fast forward to today, where I have the best job in the world as “Chief Education Officer” for school2life. My job consists of providing simple, actionable programs for students from middle school — post-college to self-assessing their notable accomplishments from in and out of the classroom and self-advocating by communicating their capabilities with relevance and sophistication, AND confidence. It’s the trifecta of skills necessary to make a great first impression with generated interest and growth opportunities.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m fortunate that I get to “turn people on to themselves” for a living. I get to draw to the forefront of their accomplishments, which are usually right in front of them but haven’t been recognized and leveraged to understand one’s strengths and where those strengths fit in the “real world.”
So, what is my interesting story? Regularly hearing 6th graders or freshmen in high school say, “they’ve never realized their growth and potential.” It took me 40 years to say that statement!!
In executing school2life programming, such as helping high school and college students become competitive candidates in the college application processes and successfully interviewing for internships or jobs, I have learned to practice what I preach. No matter what you’re pursuing, we all deserve to feel confident about our achievements and market ourselves for ANY opportunity confidently. It’s challenging BUT rewarding!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We sure are! Just before COVID, we launched school2life Gallery. Twenty years after teaching a popular college course, “Marketing & BrandingYourself,” and guiding juniors and seniors in college on how to effectively market themselves to gain advancement in education and industry, I realized that we teach these critical skills far too late in one’s educational career. However, school2life is out to change that using our school2life Gallery; think Pinterest meets LinkedIn.
We created a digital platform to recognize and socialize student’s achievements throughout their educational career. The platform shows growth, promotes self-advocacy, and positions them as competitive candidates for professional opportunities. We like to say we are bringing Show & Tell back!
Since COVID, the platform is especially relevant as it is a personal yearbook for students, keeping track of all they are achieving rather than all they are missing out on. By recognizing and socializing our individual achievements and experiences, school2life Gallery builds confident students who believe they belong in the room at an interview, as well as in the world by providing the same relevant and actionable steps to prepare them for the “real world” and to take on life’s pivots, the stuff many of us learned on the run!
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority in the education field?
As a successful marketing executive and college instructor, I enable my students to market themselves successfully. My combined experience in both the education and marketing industries has enabled school2life to help thousands gain opportunities. I’m humbled to say that my clients, students, and networks are the ones who have deemed me an authority based on the success THEY have had working with me and school2life.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?
These are unique and difficult times in our education system due to the pandemic. Various educational practices are occurring based on the positivity rate, and these executions work for some, not all.
Again, my expertise is in career preparedness and workforce development; as far as those efforts are concerned, I feel they currently aren’t a priority due to accommodating the virtual learning experience. However, these are still critical skills that our kids need! This is the problem which school2life Gallery solves.
Can you identify 5 areas of the US educational system that are going really great?
I actually cannot comment on what’s “going great” in the US educational system not because it isn’t happening but because my area of expertise is career preparedness. To date and in my 20 years of experience, I haven’t seen mainstream guidance for how to practically and actionably pivot and thrive in the “real” world. This is what inspired me to create school2life.
We’re bringing “show and tell” back, as that experience ends in second grade or so, yet all we do as professionals is, to “show,” and “tell” how we’ve evolved in our lives. My expertise is enabling people to communicate with sophistication, relevance, and confidence …the trifecta of skills necessary to gain advancement opportunities… I stay in my lane! 🙂
Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement?
Career preparedness or relevant lessons in how we apply SCHOOL TO LIFE. The behaviors deemed necessary to make a successful first impression which gains interest and directly leads to opportunities in education and the industry are:
1. Curiosity — Daydream, ask questions, explore “what if’s,” and be creative with how you execute your life.
2. Professionalism — Shake a hand,send a follow-up thank-you note, spell check and edit your work. Also, say thank you!
3. Self-Analysis — Explore what you’re good at and recognize the examples that showcase your qualities.
4. Self-Advocacy — Organize and share your achievements and ask questions about the industry, education, experience, and how they all relate.
5. Accountability — The only person responsible for your rise or fall is YOU. Be accountable for your efforts and their results.
How is the US doing with regard to engaging young people in STEM? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?
Again, this isn’t my forte, but I do know whatever kids engage in whether it be STEM or anything else it has to be actionable, simple and current to be considered relevant by kids. We take an “education via conversation” approach to everything we do because it is unavoidably engaging. Schools like Lane Tech in Chicago, where my kids go, seem to do an extraordinary job engagingstudents, at least mine anyway!
Can you articulate to our readers why it’s so important to engage girls and women in STEM subjects?
It is imperative EVERYONE is empowered to learn a broad range of content. Let us cast a wide net for our knowledge landscape because it affords us future growth opportunities. Especially STEM subjects, as they are intertwined into most industries and seeing that a large percentage of upcoming/recent grads will work with start-ups, you never know where you’ll add value by having this knowledge base. If not direct experience in STEM subjects, learning necessary skills sets such as STEM subjects and STEAM will only enhance one’s marketability.
How is the US doing with regard to engaging girls and women in STEM subjects? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?
I think we can increase engagement by teaching how STEM or STEAM is intertwined within an individual’s curiosities and day-to-day life outside of school.
Educators, parents, and professionals should initiate conversations with kids about their jobs and their parallels to school experiences. In our effort to increase engagement, we created school2life Gallery to draw a direct link between students’ work, their specific skill sets, and how that translates into jobs in the “real world.”
As an education professional, where do you stand in the debate whether there should be a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) or STEAM (STEM plus the arts like humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design, and new media)? Can you explain why you feel the way you do?
I’m all for STEAM…life is long! Our brains need to learn from a dichotomy of educational experiences. We should have a wide range of exposure early on to have a reference for later endeavors. Think about it; we don’t know what we don’t know, so arm yourself when you’re young with the necessary knowledge base, tactics, and strategies to navigate the entirety of your life as successfully and rewarding as possible. We believe, “Don’t just get a job,” Instead, “Get a life.”
If you had the power to influence or change the entire US educational infrastructure, what five things would you implement to improve and reform our education system? Can you please share a story or example for each?
My “show and tell” reference above was delivered with a comedic tone, yet I’m quite seriously laser-focused on integrating self-analysis and advocacy far earlier in students’ educational careers.
We currently wait until college or when a job is on the line before recognizing and socializing our achievements. Our kids are socializing everything else they are doing, yet the one niche that isn’t covered is sharing those achievements that translate to potential, which creates growth in one’s life. We must teach the “gateway” skills necessary to leverage our capabilities as valuable assets, so we can advance in responsibility and income and, most importantly, our self-worth.
We are all alum of different education types, and I believe it is our responsibility for those in the working world to share their experience; the good, the bad, and everything in between. We need to share these stories with our kids, and at their career days, we need to leave our legacy by preparing our kids to navigate the realities of the real world. This needs to be addressed early on in their lives.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Practice what you preach:
This had the most meaning when I became a mom and gave my daughter advice. Having learned many life lessons, I gave my daughter great pointers, even better than I would have given myself. So, I practice what I preach in my personal and professional life. This leads me in a clear direction for my students, children, and myself.
Try: No matter how it turns out, TRY. If you know that you tried, you gave it your best, and then there isn’t anything you can do about the result.
Own your sh*t: We all make mistakes, but own it. When you actively own your mistakes, it builds confidence and respect. Own your mistakes, and try your best to improve on them, so that you can recover and move on.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Please pardon my polite persistence as I respond with three people of high interest and admiration. I’d welcome the opportunity to have a private breakfast with 2U Education Founder Chip Paucek AND Cresco Labs Founder Charlie Bachtell. With 2U’s education platforms and the “real world” entrepreneur experience provided by Cresco, coupled with the help of school2life, we could create a program that embraces our veterans when they return from serving our country. We could provide an action-based education and the tools necessary to market oneself to gain employment and advancement. It’s a well-funded, all exclusive career entry program that honors and leverages the soldier experience and manages the pivot into their professional life.
This last-minute add was due to having just watched her interview with David Letterman regarding the “importance of female advancement in STEM and the value of internships as well as development and strategic professional initiatives.”
School2life Gallery provides the actionable steps to delivering the Gate Foundation’s platform and is in alignment with current skills development and internship programming.
Imagine providing every student early in their education with an organic introduction to the necessary tools which will positively impact their individual educational and professional trajectories.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
School2life Gallery: gallery.school2life.com