Choosing a Degree For You – TUB-Thump 012

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Are you thinking about what subject to study at university? Are you already at uni and worried that your degree may not have enough “direct job prospects”?

Whatever your situation, there are always questions over the choices you make.

Should you study a subject with good job prospects right now, or should you focus on what you like doing already?

If you’re like most people, you don’t have all your plans laid out perfectly. It’s rare to have no questions and no doubts.

That’s why Episode 012 of TUB-Thump is here to reassure you that the most important thing is to find your own context. Unless you’re studying Medicine or something with a well-worn and required path, a lot of the situation boils down to making the most of what makes you tick.

You’re worth more than the subject you study. There are lots of stories you can tell about yourself. Today’s episode is a brief reminder of that, to help you start thinking about getting the most out of what you’re doing, no matter what you’re studying.


Here are the show notes for the 6-min episode:

  • 00:35 – Get a degree with best job prospects, or study a subject you already enjoy? The first thing to do is to look at what is behind that question.
  • 01:30 – The act of undertaking a degree, as well as everything else associated with your experience, makes more difference than the course itself. Some vocations need a specific route, but the majority aren’t that set in stone.
  • 02:10 – Jobs change. It may not matter what you study now for the roles that don’t yet exist. Education isn’t simply a route to a job anyway.
  • 03:10 – What does “direct job prospects” mean?
  • 04:20 – Your achievements and stories from outside of your degree work are also important. Employers increasingly look to the wider story of who you are. The more you can use this, the more chance you have of distinguishing yourself.
  • 04:55 – The question of job prospects versus a subject you enjoy is a bit of a straw-man. It needs more context of you as an individual to be able to answer properly. Look at your own attitude, your own wants, and your own strengths.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

Do more of the amazing things that most people AREN’T doing

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I’ve published more than 10 episodes of TUB-Thump already. If you’re a regular reader of TheUniversityBlog, you’ve heard me going on about “Mind Your Higher Ed” and “Learning, Always” too.

Throwing myself into audio is a new endeavour. I see a gap where few people are producing radio shows and audio on-demand.

And since there’s a growing appetite for audio right now, it seems like the perfect time to get involved and do a lot in that direction.

I’m not saying that you need to start your own audio show or podcast too (although I think that would be a great idea!). My advice is to do more of the amazing things that most people aren’t doing.

When I say ‘amazing’, I mean the great ideas that have been overlooked right now.

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Find Your Unique

So let’s step back a moment. What is your position as a student?

On a basic level, the degree is what you’re expected to get. The degree isn’t the top prize, even if it is the overarching reason you’re at university.

It’s what comes next that will set you apart. The unique story of you. Wrap all your achievements at university (including your degree) around a narrative and tell the best story of you.

The next question is: How far are you willing to take it?

In the new year, I’ll be putting out the TUB Manifesto. It’s all about moving beyond the basics and about forging a path that’s unique to you.

And that’s where the amazing things that most people aren’t doing makes an appearance.

Why do something that many haven’t yet started working on?

  • It helps you map out your unique path a bit more easily.
  • It helps you shape your story without so much fuss. People will be more likely to show interest because of the scarcity, increasing your chances of being heard.
  • It makes you stand out through your new and exciting angle.
  • It takes the pressure off some of the fierce competition in more crowded arenas.

Gary Vaynerchuk calls this the “white space” where others aren’t yet focused on:

“…start paying attention to the white space; where are things not happening yet that you think could be huge?” [SOURCE]

For you, the aim is to distinguish yourself from other graduates. Be memorable through your actions and through the story you tell.

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Blogging Used to be White Space

I’m diving into audio now, yes. But what happened before? Let me take you back to when I started this site, back in 2007.

When I launched TUB, it wasn’t so common to have a blog. Not so many people were producing all this written content online.

However, blogs had been around long enough to make it easy and cheap to get started. That combination of ease and unusual made a huge difference. If you were writing articles back then, it was a much bigger talking point than it is today.

The idea is to find the equivalent opportunities. My example is audio. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • More intimate than reading text;
  • Not the same production values (and expense) compared with making video;
  • Fewer people producing podcasts than there are people writing online and publishing videos;
  • No need for consumers to be tied to a screen. Audio can use attention times that aren’t possible using other media.

Positives for the person making the content and positives for the people consuming the content.

And, as with blogging in 2007, it’s easy to get started with audio, but not that many people are working with it.

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Same Thing, Different Presentation

Podcasts have been around for ages. I’m hardly the first person to do this.

Run with the idea yourself. What career do you have your sights set on? What hobby are you most interested in?

Now take your answer(s) and imagine writing 10 articles on a blog about the subject. Consider how much work you’d need to put in and how far that would move you beyond other people with a similar interest.

Now imagine presenting 10 audio shows on the subject instead. There’s still work involved, but how many podcasts can you find on the subject? How many people produce audio content right now?

The scarcity of the medium puts you in a more original light. You’ve still got a learning curve and a need to think about production values. But there’s more room for forgiveness, and you’re far more likely to be noticed because of the relative novelty in audio.

Audio is just one example. Look for other opportunities where the “white space” may not be white space for long.

When anything becomes popular, the novelty ends. The sweet-spot is while it’s novel, yet also easy to jump into.

In other words, the groundwork has been set, the interest is there (and growing), and little is happening in that space right now. What white space sweet-spots can you think of?

Another bonus is that you can choose whether to be generalist or niche in your approach. A decade ago, you could start a website dedicated to your musings and it might take off in surprising ways. Today, starting niche is a much better prospect. Even then it may be difficult to stand out in a crowded space.

Sticking with audio, can you find many current shows in your general area of interest? It may be difficult to find many shows in that general subject area, let alone a niche part of it.

Even if you find 20 shows, that’s still nothing compared to the number of websites dedicated to the subject.

Drill down on those 20 shows. Check the content, production values, and consistency of the shows you’ve found. Chances are, you can listen to them and feel that you could improve some of them. Chances are, not all those podcasts are being published any more.

The Foundation - October 2015 - Lexington KY Hip Hop - ShareTheL

Why Tried and Tested Isn’t Always the Answer

You may still be arguing that if so few people are concentrating on this white space, surely that’s a clue for you not to bother. Why tackle something that others haven’t embraced yet?

Actually, it is a valid question. Sometimes there is a good reason.

Other times, it’s because there’s too much work, the metrics aren’t clear, and the focus is still on tried and tested methods as opposed to new ideas.

Those reasons are weasels. It doesn’t have to be too much work, metrics aren’t the sole key to success, and tried and tested can easily become old and stale.

Chris Voss uses negotiation techniques to highlight the way tried and tested can lose effectiveness. As a hostage negotiator, Voss has been involved in some incredibly tense, life or death situations.

In his new book, “Never Split the Difference“, Voss highlights some negotiation techniques that used to work well. But he explains that people have become used to these methods. The once tried and tested methods may even work against you now.

Nothing is stopping you from sticking with the more common ways of putting yourself out there. At the same time, by setting out your stall in a different way can help get you noticed more quickly and more effectively.

I’m sure you don’t want to ignore everything else. Here I am writing an article of well over 1,000 words for a website. There are still many reasons to turn up where lots of people ARE still doing amazing things.

But I urge you to consider your choices and put some energy in an area that most others haven’t yet put their weight into. The aim is to increase your chances of being heard, listened to, and truly appreciated.

For all the choices you make, whether well-worn paths or walks through the white space, embrace the learning in everything you do.

For more on this, follow the shows on the Learning Always Network. Because learning doesn’t stop once you graduate.

Don’t Fear Feedback – TUB-Thump 011

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Feedback is a double-edged sword.

You want all your tutor’s comments about your coursework to be good. But you need the feedback most when there’s room to improve.

Hard is it can be, you can go a long way when you act on advice. That’s what it is…advice. Instead of thinking of it as negative feedback, give it a positive edge and use the advice to do better in your next assignment.

If you’re finding it difficult to take a peek at those comments, let Episode 011 of TUB-Thump give you a helping hand. It’ll be far less painful if you look forward rather than back.


There’s a lot of advice out there on how to use feedback. When you’re ready to tackle it, check out these links too:


Here are the show notes for the 8-min episode:

  • 01:25 – Think of feedback as help. This isn’t about where you went wrong, it’s about where you can go right next time.
  • 02:05 – Do you understand the feedback? If it’s vague or if you don’t understand it, find out more.
  • 02:50 – Check out online and library resources regarding feedback. This should help you get an initial idea.
  • 04:00 – Look for feedback as you go. Don’t wait until after you’ve got the assignment marked. Preliminary feedback lets you know if you’re going in the right direction and can help you build an even better piece of work.
  • 05:00 – Direct and relevant questions are far better than asking for vague advice. Go in prepared and you’ll get a much better reception. Plus, it’ll be advice tailored to your specific issues.
  • 06:00 – Feedback is about looking forward. It’s a tool to reach further in the future, not a retrospective on the past.
  • 06:50 – Summing up the episode’s main points.
  • 07:10 – It’s difficult to engage with feedback, but it’s worth your while embracing it for your next piece of coursework.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

How to Take Action When It’s Tough (and Be More Creative in the Process) – TUB-Thump 010

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Is there something in your life that stops you in your tracks? You wish you could do it, but you feel blocked.

It may be through embarrassment, overwhelm, worry…Whatever it is, it’s getting in the way of you being the best version of yourself.

Episode 010 of TUB-Thump looks at how to work on this. Find that drive, work out the why behind your why, and get more creative in the process.


Here are the show notes for the 12-min episode:

  • 00:50 – James Clear on how creativity is a process, not an event.
    More James Clear articles – http://jamesclear.com/articles
  • 01:40 – Why the fear of making mistakes can stop you from taking action.
  • 02:40 – Procrastination is about more than putting things off.
  • 03:15 – Beautiful Voyager on when the problem isn’t what you think it is.
    On unpacking the issues so you understand what’s truly bothering you.
  • 04:40 – Finding the why behind your why. The importance of asking “Why…?” several times.
  • 05:50 – “If you don’t take action, there is no creation.”
  • 06:30 – These feelings aren’t surprising. Overwhelm can be tackled, but only when you step back for a moment to work out the key issues. If you don’t identify the overarching themes, it’ll feel like everything is overwhelming. The reality is usually different.
  • 08:10 – You can recover from most things, as James Clear says. What can you challenge yourself to do?
  • 09:45 – Once you’ve found the big issue, it’s easier to act in the other situations. By removing them from the overwhelm, they no longer feel like such a big deal.
  • 10:40 – It’s better to tackle things head-on than it is to let them swamp you.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!

And a P.S. – The joy of scheduling posts in advance for when you’re not around. The woe of realising that didn’t happen when it’s too late to do anything about it. Oh well! One day late is better than not at all.🙂

Have a great weekend. See you on the flipside!