Pickens Technical College students are being constantly reminded that their studies will
only pay off if they can get a job in the industry they’ve studied. Once students get the skills and
hands-on experience they need from Pickens, they’ll need to show a potential employer they
have what it takes to succeed. But you can’t get in the door if you don’t have at least a functional
resume. Many jobs don’t require a fancy accounting of past accomplishments, and for most jobs,
(excluding positions like Graphic Designer, etc.) your resume doesn’t need many of the bells and
whistles you’ll find in the millions of resume editors and templates on the Internet.
Pickens Technical College offers a wide range of programs for students with all kinds of priorities and backgrounds. One of the more popular classes at PTC is the Graphic Design class with instructor John Lawson. Lawson teaches his students how to complete many different graphic design projects, such as webpages, illustration, layout design, and printed materials.
At the end of the last semester of the Graphic Design class, students will have the tools and opportunity to enter an accelerating market for quality Graphic Designers. After working on many different types of graphic design projects, you’ll have a thick portfolio to show potential employers or freelance clients. You’ll get help organizing your portfolio to produce one you can use in your job hunt.
Companies are starting to value Graphic Designers more because they’ve seen too many applicants and workers who think they’re more skilled than they are. Two school years with Lawson at PTC will put you on the path to a great career in Graphic Design.
The Graphic Designer Market
The market for good Graphic Designers, especially in Colorado, is expanding. According to the job and salary site Glassdoor, Graphic Designers in Colorado earned a median salary of $46,185. This has some variance, of course, based on the actual position corporate Graphic Designers take (i.e. an Assistant Graphic Designer will make less than a Senior Graphic Designer), but once you have the tools to win over recruiters or the skills to work for yourself, you’ll have opportunities to start making good money right away.
Jobs You Can Get
Many Graphic Designers get their start as an entry-level designer with a company, working on websites, advertising layouts, posters, and other printing materials. But there are many ways to “make it” as a Graphic Designer. Aside from working for yourself as a freelancer—getting your own clients, completing separate projects from separate clients all at once, etc.—there are entry-level positions out there for the right candidate.
Assistant and Associate Graphic Designers are more in vogue than ever, especially in and around the Denver metro area, where technology companies and other start-ups are looking for differentiation, many of them with visual branding materials. Many companies want to put young, eager Graphic Designers in entry-level positions like intern or assistant so they can promote from within down the road.
Then there are the alternative Graphic Designer positions. These are more difficult to land simply because these roles don’t exist at many companies utilizing Graphic Design artists. Positions like Motion Graphics Designer might not be readily available when you graduate from PTC, but with enough experience and skill, you might find yourself in position to take your training to places you never thought you would.
The skills you’ll learn in the Graphic Design program at PTC are universal and applicable to many different positions, especially in the rising tech and advertising industry in Denver. You’ll also have the skills to work as a freelancer, and a portfolio to get you started in the industry.
There’s no right way to study. Everyone retains information differently, and different people swear by different study methods. Part of the scholastic experience is learning about how your brain works and how you can use it most effectively. One advantage you have in your study habits already at Pickens Technical College is the experiential side of learning is taken very seriously. You learn by doing as much as you typically have to recite information from a book, so even if you struggle with study guides and memorization, you can still learn the skills you’ll need by using your hands in most classes at PTC.
But, just as there will always be opportunities to shine with hands-on experience, there will inevitably be test days when you’ll have to prove what you know in writing. Even if you find a way to survive these tests and complete your course, many industries require you to take a test to receive your final certification to work in your field.
Let’s look at three distinct study methods that will help you ace your tests. These examples aren’t meant to be followed to the letter, nor are they an exhaustive list of all the possible ways to feed information to your brain to be regurgitated later.
Read and Take Notes
My brain is wired to remember things better if I write them down. Seeing a concept explained in text is perfect for my brain, and writing notes on those concepts helps solidify the information.
The key to this study method, like any other, is organization. Write out your notes in a way that is easy to review, then go over the notes over and over until you only dream of the information in the test. Organization can be as elaborate or as simple as you want, the key is to be able to access parts of your notes that you might not be as familiar with as you study. You want to be able to quickly find weak points in your knowledge that need to be bolstered with your notes.
Make Your Own Test
I’ve lumped mock tests and flashcards into one general study habit. A couple of things to remember before you start writing out all those flashcards: your knowledge of the subject will only be as good as your mock test or flashcard, and you have to spend time studying your mock test before you can expect yourself to ace it. The key to this study method is that creating the flashcards or test questions for your friends to ask you is an act of studying in and of itself.
Another study method is to take out all materials, notes, book chapters, manuals, etc. and start poring through them. When you reach something you’re unsure about, you concentrate on that weak point until it become strong. Some people swear by writing out answers over and over to remember information. Some like to speak it out loud, talk about it with others. Looking for holes in your knowledge can be dangerous at times, however, because it could lead to you forgetting concepts you thought you had down. A general overview of all the information you have can help with this.
These study methods are bendable to your needs, of course—and not every study method is easily applied to every subject. In practice, it won’t be counterproductive to use several aspects of these study methods at once to learn the material, ask good questions, and ace every test. Everyone’s brain works differently, so don’t confine yourself to these three study methods, either.
There are many big differences between high school and college. One of them is all college students are adults, and as an adult, you should start acting like it. I’m not telling you to shake your fists at young whipper-snappers who trample your yard, only to take your education seriously.
It’s excusable to not take your pre-college education seriously all the time, but in college, you won’t get the most out of your time and money if you don’t prepare, pay attention, show up, and do the work.
In four-year universities, you can get lulled into a false sense of security pretty easily. It’s difficult to focus on your studies when you’re away from your parents’ house for the first time. There are many ways to trip yourself up, and even though all universities have student resource centers to help, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.
But at Pickens Technical College, it’s a different environment. Use the small class sizes, the PTC Career Services office, and the support system in place to your advantage. The best way to take full advantage of all that PTC has to offer you on your way to your dream career is to create a plan and state your goals. And there’s no better time than now.
Start Setting Goals Now
Everyone wants to sit back by the pool all summer between semesters, but spending just a little time during the summer before the crush of classes, teachers, and classmates on getting your goals set and a plan in place can help you through the challenges you’ll encounter later.
The first step is admitting to yourself what you truly want. A job in a particular field, better training so you can do your current job better, a new career, etc. are all worthy goals. Sit down and write them out. If any appear unrealistic, ask yourself why they appear out of reach, whether or not they’re worthwhile, and how to break them down.
Just because you wrote a goal down doesn’t mean you’ve signed a blood oath to reach it or else. Goals can be malleable. Sometimes just thinking about what you want could give you the jitters. Have you have had goals that seem impossible? Want to become President? You won’t get there in one easy step. So instead of writing ‘Become President’ on your goal list, start with the first step to becoming President: ‘Run for public office and win.’ That’s still a huge task that can be broken down into a hundred smaller goals, but it’s far more useful and achievable than suddenly making a run at the White House.
Fight Fear with Planning
Goal-setting can be scary business. What if you never reach any of the goals on your list? First of all, let go of the fear of failure. Everyone fails. What keeps people from reaching their potential is never identifying what they want or articulating their true priorities. Logically, it makes sense, but it’s going to take more than a few breathing exercises and well-argued points to jettison this fear altogether. Breaking up the goals into smaller, achievable steps is one way to lessen the nerves. Another is staying away from deadlines as much as possible, at least in the initial goal-setting stage. If you’re focused on school in the fall and you’re setting goals now, you’ll get plenty of timelines and due dates. Start with general goals first and start fitting them into your schedule as it becomes clearer.
Stating your goals now will make you more prepared (and less nervous) for the school year in the fall.
I know you don’t want to start thinking about it, but the better prepared you are for the next school year, the better and more easily you’ll pass your classes, get your degree or certificate, and start your dream career. Pickens Technical College offers challenging courses designed to train you for the next step in your life and prepare you for a job you love. If you start preparing now, by the time school starts up again in the fall, you’ll be ahead of your classmates and ready to perform.
What can you do to prepare? Here are five tips to help you begin the process:
1. Go Over Last Year’s Material
None of these tips are going to be particularly fun right after the school year, but remember that you’re not in high school anymore, and all the training and learning you’re doing at PTC goes directly toward your position in the career of your choice. Probably the most tedious task over the summer, however, is going over the material you already learned.
It might be difficult to re-do the hands-on work your PTC instructor had you do during the year, but, even if you can’t access a place to practice, you can still go over your notes and readings. You don’t have to memorize the teachings from the previous year, but even a few quick glances at the material can help you remember those key points for next semester.
2. Peek at Next Year’s Material
Some professors will lay out a plan for their classes and the progression their students need to complete to move up and on. See if you can ‘peek’ at next semester’s syllabus or curriculum. Some professors are a bit more secretive, but if you can get ahold of them via email, they might be willing to at least give you a preview of the material coming in the next step.
3. Keep Your Brain Sharp
You probably know this from high school summers, but if you let your brain slip into a lazy routine, it will be in for a rude awakening in the fall. Read, try to apply the things you learned to your ‘real’ life, and impose some kind of discipline to these endless summer days to stay sharp and ready for the next semester.
4. Keep in Touch with Your Peers and Mentors
Some teachers go on vacation or do other things during the school year. Many PTC teachers have other jobs or responsibilities. Take advantage of any mentor or teacher who is still in touch with you during the summer. Pick their brain. Ask them questions about the next step.
It’s important to keep in touch with your classmates as much as possible, too. The people sitting next to you in class could be the foundation of a useful professional network in the future.
5. Start Looking for Internships or Jobs
You may not be qualified for jobs in your industry without your certificate or diploma, but the sooner you can start looking at the opportunities out there for people in your industry, the better prepared you’ll be when you need to use your credentials to land that first entry-level job.
Remember grade school, when your teacher would hand you a list of books to read over the summer? No matter which books were on that list, whether you’ve heard of them or not, you rolled your eyes and groaned, if you’re anything like me. I’ve since come to love reading books, even when I wasn’t required to.
If you’re planning on returning to school in some form or another next fall, creating a summer reading list can be a big help. In addition to looking around for employment opportunities, updating your resume, and networking, spending some time reading books, articles, magazines, and other material is worth it. And beyond the help that a summer reading program can give your career, you can build your overall skillset and expand your imagination by reading the classics of literature and the new releases promising to change the literature scene.
Starting a summer reading list is as simple as jotting down several books you want to read. Be sure to give yourself enough time to read all (or most of) the books on your list, and don’t feel ashamed if you don’t quite get to everything. It’s summer, after all.
Here are a few suggestions, from new releases to great works of the past, to books to boost your career, to get your summer reading list going:
All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin. Giffin is the author of the bestselling book Something Borrowed. She’s back at it again this summer with her latest release, about a photograph that intertwines several influential families in Nashville’s upper crust.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage. The debut novel by Stage is a domestic horror story that takes the anxiety inherent in raising children to a twisted new level. Hanna, seven-year-old, has increasingly violent tantrums, speaks in the voice of a 17 th century girl who was burned at the stake, and plots evermore demented ways to “step up her game against Mommy.”
The Girls by Emma Cline. The novel about a young woman swept up in Manson Family-esque madness took the literature world by storm back in the summer of 2016. Cline’s debut novel is shocking and astonishing, and you won’t be able to put it down.
Industry help or instructional book of your choice. I wanted to save a place on this list for the books that will help you directly when you return to class in the fall. As painful as it is to think about reading textbooks during the summer, getting supplemental information about your studies and keeping yourself in that frame of mind will keep you sharp over the summer when everyone else is losing their skills for lack of practice.
Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… and Maybe the World by William H. McRaven. In the world of cheesy self-help books, this light, fairly easy, brisk, 144-page book will tip you off to small habits that can make a big impact. Try it!
On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Now, I know that not everyone will love this book as much as I did—it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. But, as residents of Colorado, where Kerouac famously wrote and stayed during his many restless travels, we should all at least give it a try. If you can find your way in Kerouac’s breathless pace, you might find a rebellious streak you never thought you had, and a will to be yourself above all else.
Nourish your brain by reading while you sunbathe this summer, and get started with these six great books.
Summer is right around the corner, and if you’re anything like me when I was in school, thinking about lounging in the sun for three months is one of the most prominent things in your mind right now. It’s important to let your mind and body relax after completing a school year of hands-on, rigorous training and learning at Pickens Technical College, but you also have to think about your skills and your career after graduation. PTC makes it easy to transfer knowledge from the classroom to the job, but it’s up to you to learn and maintain the skills that will make your career. Summer vacation is the perfect time to identify areas that you might not be as strong in within your field and focus on those weak points to round out your abilities. This is especially helpful and important if you’re in the middle of a two-year program or if you plan on getting more education in your area later on. Maintaining your skills also helps you stay sharp for the fall, when Human Resources folks, hiring managers, and other company officials come back from their vacations ready to hire new blood. Remember elementary school, when the teachers or librarians would challenge you with a summer reading list? As much as I love reading, I didn’t particularly care for the idea of homework over the summer. But there was a reason why teachers did this. They didn’t want to have to essentially start all over again with their students when they returned to school in the fall. The more reading their students did over their three-month vacation, the better prepared to learn they were in the fall. In a specialized field like the one you’re likely training for at PTC, staying sharp is even more important. Even with all the advantages you get from earning a certification at PTC or completing a program there, you’ll still be competing with who-knows-how-many other job- seekers when it comes time to use your skills to start a career. So the sharper you are when it comes time to hire people, the better chance you’ll have of getting that job.
If you’re returning to school, either at PTC or another college, you’ll be ready to learn and pick up where you left off if you spent time working on the weaker areas of your skills. Just like the NBA players who shoot hundreds of shots by themselves in the gym, developing muscle memory is highly important for many of the skills PTC teaches. There are many ways to approach this. Check in with your instructor to see if they have any kind of summer availability in PTC shops or other hands-on learning environments. If you’re in the Automotive Technology Program, for example, see if you can get in for a few hours to work in the auto shop on campus. Another option is to look for internships or volunteer opportunities at organizations outside of PTC. Seek out a few of the companies you’re likely to apply to and try to get a foot in the door, even if it’s just meeting someone for coffee, that’s a valuable connection. Don’t work yourself too hard this summer, but remember that your skills could always use improvement, and everyone’s competency needs to be maintained with practice. Summer vacation is the perfect opportunity for this.
If you’re attending Pickens Technical College and you wrapped up your semester of intense, hands-on training, congratulations. You’ve earned some rest. The classes and programs at PTC are not easy. They’re not supposed to be. Learning a new skill is difficult, whether it’s how to weld or how to time the hit-stick just right in Madden.
Since you’ve worked so hard to develop this new skill, you deserve to rest, as well. Playing hard—getting out and having fun—is important, too, emotionally, psychologically, and physically, but so is rest. Why? Because rest helps your body and mind recover so you can come back stronger.
Physical Benefits of Rest
I don’t need to cite scientific research showing how beneficial rest is on your body. You know it instinctually. Not only is rest crucial for not working yourself to death physically, it helps you become more coordinated and strong, especially if what you’re learning and working on at PTC is physical in nature.
It’s a pretty simple concept. When you work out at the gym, you don’t always see dramatic improvements in your strength or muscle mass. It’s only the next day that you feel sore and yet see a difference in your body. Rest helps your body rebuild the lost and spent cells from your physical workout and lets these new cells become even stronger than the ones they replace.
You’ve probably heard before that your brain is a muscle and needs to be exercised to work at its best. Just like a muscle, the brain needs a rest period to regrow stronger and better than before. But more than that, your mind needs rest to be fully functional and ready to learn. Even if you’re doing the smart thing and continuing your reading and training over the summer, your brain needs rest because your mind needs rest.
When I say your mind needs rest, I mean more than sleep. Even when you’re focused on some task you learned only weeks before, your mind is pestering you with questions and random thoughts while your brain is attempting to sort through all the sensory input that makes up its overall perception of the world. And just getting your mind to focus on one task or thought at a time takes concentration and effort. You need rest to enable your mind to focus on the task at hand when you need it to.
When people use the term ‘burn-out’ you might think of it as a physical or mental problem. A person is so tired that they physically can’t drag themselves back to work for another 14-hour day, or their brain is so fried from being burnt out that they can’t perform their job. I see burn-out as an emotional problem. When I feel burnt-out, I either feel emotionally empty, or that I can’t control my emotions. It’s not that I physically can’t do my work, or that my mind has been turned off, it’s that I just don’t feel like doing the work. Motivation is a struggle we all go through. When you’re tired, you’re less motivated. Your brain is trying to tell you something: that it’s time for a rest. Don’t ignore it.
The weather is turning and summer is finally here! In addition to staying up-to-date with new information developing in your industry of choice, you can help yourself by taking some time off and exploring all the outdoor activities Colorado has to offer.
There are two main problems to enjoying yourself to the max at most outdoor Colorado activities, especially in the Denver Metro Area: cost and crowds. While I can’t predict where the crowds will surge next along the Front Range looking for fun ways to enjoy this Colorado sunshine, I can identify a few places to enjoy for free or for very little money.
Here are five great outdoor activities to keep you sun-tanned and smiling all summer:
City Park (Denver)
City Park is the largest park in Denver, and while it might be a little out of the way if you live in Aurora or Centennial, it’s open from dawn until dusk every day, and its sunshine, lakes (I wouldn’t swim in them because of the geese), and wide open green fields are free for anyone to enjoy. City Park is so large that it hosts a number of events throughout the summer, many of which are free to attend. One example of a splendid City Park event is Jazz in the Park, a weekly outdoor concert featuring top-notch jazz bands and orchestras every Sunday evening from Memorial Day until Labor Day.
Confluence Park (Denver)
In the heart of downtown Denver is where the city began: the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. It’s the best place to get in the water anywhere in the city, in my opinion. Even with the crowds that tend to fill up the sunny sitting areas on the riverbanks, it’s a relaxing scene. The water moves fast, yet makes for a great place to take a quick dip. Look out for periodic events taking place at the park as well.
Boulder Creek (Boulder)
Every summer, the residents of Boulder and the surrounding area congregate on the banks of Boulder Creek. This 32-mile river provides opportunities for wading, swimming, inner tubing, sunbathing, and even fly fishing. Crowds will be present, but on a sunny day, all you need is a towel and a generally positive attitude to fit right in.
Aurora Reservoir (Aurora)
A little more close to home for Pickens Technical College is the 800-acre Aurora Reservoir. You’ll find a bit more space here to spread out and relax under the sun while going for a swim in the reservoir. Non-motorized boats are allowed, as is fishing. There is a $10 entry fee per vehicle, but if you buddy or squad up, this fee can be very affordable.
Mount Falcon (Morrison)
In the foothills behind Morrison is Mount Falcon Park, which features a 1.7-mile hikers-only trail, and another 11 miles of multi-use trails that run up and down the mountain and lead to historic ruins such as the John Brisben Walker castle, the would-be site of a summer White House that was never completed. A hike up the mountain offers spectacular views of the area. For a fee, you can even set up camp here.
Of course, there are plenty of other outdoor activities for free or on the cheap in the great state of Colorado, especially if you make it out of the Denver Metro Area. Get out and explore this summer.
If you want to use your summer vacation to your advantage, it’s time to start setting goals now. Many people, especially students, get carried away with summer relaxation and end up wasting valuable time. It’s important to relax during the summer, of course. Your brain needs the fresh air, sunshine, and rest that summertime in Colorado can bring. But, with that in mind, it’s not a bad idea to set a few goals for yourself to accomplish in the next three months.
Everyone’s goals and strategies for reaching them are different, and they should be. Your goals will change as you accomplish them. Once you graduate from Pickens Technical College, your goals will likely be very different from someone who will return to PTC in the fall for more classes.
Since everyone’s priorities are different, instead of supplying your goals for you, (which I can’t do) I’ll organize them in three broad categories you should pay attention to when you’re planning out your summer:
Planning for your future career, whether it’s starting right now or further in the future, should always be a point of interest at PTC. Your instructors give you the hands-on skills to learn the trade, and the opportunities to ask questions and learn from real professionals. Over the summer, though, while many offer opportunities to train and get more experience in one way or another, the instructors aren’t there anymore to demand your homework. You have to take it upon yourself to supplement your instruction with solo training. Assess your weaknesses and find ways to strengthen them over the summer with your own lesson plan.
Next Year Goals
For students planning on continuing their education at one of PTC’s excellent programs, these goals should be called ‘next school year goals’. Those moving on should start planning their next move right away.
For the returning students, look ahead at which classes you’ll be taking with which instructors and introduce yourself as best you can both to the class material and to the person responsible for supplying it to you. Connecting with teachers early is a good way to get help later in the year when you run into problems.
For the graduates and those moving on, you have more uncertainty. The first objective should be considering your options carefully and deciding on what you want to do next. Pursue a higher degree? Get more training? Get a job or an internship in the industry? Find what works for you and start to lay out a plan that will get you there. Meet people working in the industry, draw up your resume, etc.
I made this a separate section because, even though graduating and getting a job in a good field can of course be personal goals, but you should also focus on your personal development, beyond the professional realm. You’ve learned the skills and gained the experience that will make you a star in whatever industry you’ve chosen, but in order to move ahead and lead a fulfilled life, you have to work on yourself, too.
What’s a personal weakness you have? Try to identify weak points and discomfort zones and challenge them. Focus on doing a little more each day—cleaning the house, communicating more with loved ones, reading—to improve yourself and your personal relationships. It’s time well-spent.