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163 | Willful Blindness – Margaret Heffernan, Author and TED Speaker, United Kingdom

Episode 163 is live! This week, we talk with Margaret Heffernan in the United Kingdom.

Margaret has run five different businesses in the U.S. and the U.K. She teaches at several business schools in the U.S. and U.K. and sit on the boards of three organizations. Margaret has published five books including: Willful Blindness, A Bigger Prize, and The Naked Truth. She’s also given multiple TED Talks, and speaks at conferences and organizations around the world.

On today’s episode, Margaret shares:

  • How she was able to find fulfilling work, and tips on how you can too
  • Why we should stop looking at life as a contest with one another
  • Why willful blindness happens at work, and why we should adjust our view of whistle blowers
  • Tips on what to look for if you’re searching for a new company

Listen and learn more! You can play the podcast here, or download it on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

To learn more about Margaret, visit her website: at You can watch her TED Talks here. And, you can find her books on Amazon.

Thanks to everyone for listening! And, thank you to those who sent me questions. You can send me your questions to You can also send me questions via Twitter. I’m @CopelandCoach. And, on Facebook, I am Copeland Coaching.

Don’t forget to help me out. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave me a review!


157 | Alex Smith, Chief HR Officer, City of Memphis

Episode 157 is live! This week, we talk with Alex Smith in Memphis, TN. Alex is the Chief HR Officer for the City of Memphis. She also served on the HR teams at Brightstar Device Protection, Target Corporation, and Microsoft. Alex will be speaking this year at SXSW on a panel called, “Dear HR: Ditch the pool table and pay student loans.”

On today’s episode, Alex shares:

  • The details on the student loan reimbursement plan the City of Memphis has implemented
  • What types of creative benefits companies are offering
  • The differences in interviewing at a corporation versus a government
  • Tips on deciding if you should work at a corporate job, or a government job
  • Tips for transitioning between different cities

Listen and learn more! You can play the podcast here, or download it on iTunes or Stitcher.

To learn more about Alex, you can find her on LinkedIn. Learn more about the City of Memphis on the City of Memphis website. And, learn more about Alex’s SXSW panel on the SXSW website.

Thanks to everyone for listening! And, thank you to those who sent me questions. You can send your questions to You can also send me questions via Twitter. I’m @CopelandCoach. And, on Facebook, I am Copeland Coaching.

Don’t forget to help me out. Subscribe on iTunes and leave me a review!

My Choice to Go to Graduate School

A very difficult decision we often face as professionals is whether or not to pursue a MBA, PhD, or some other terminal degree. I hear from professionals each week that are wading through this important choice. One of the things that makes this decision tough is that many graduate programs prefer that you have work experience. That means that by the time you’re thinking of going to graduate school, you might have a good paying job, a spouse, a mortgage, and kids.

I want to share a little with you today about how I decided to go to graduate school. My hope is that the thought process may help you to sort through your own complex decision making process.

For starters, I suspected in undergraduate school that I wanted to pursue a MBA. The thing is, my major in college was computer and systems engineering, with a concentration in manufacturing. My degree was like a combination of computer programming, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.

The problem was, I started to think I might want to pursue a career in another field, like marketing. This was especially tough because hiring managers rarely thought of me for anything outside of technology back then. I remember being invited to interview for an engineering management role with Motorola. I agreed to the interview, if they would also allow me to interview with the marketing managers. But, my interest in marketing alone really wasn’t enough. I needed more credentials.

I considered the idea of going to business school right after college. But, I did a little research. When I spoke to other professionals, I learned that having business experience under my belt would give me a better foundation for my MBA studies. It would give me experience to pull from during class discussions. And honestly, it would give me a few years to confirm that business school was the right route for me (before investing time and money into it).

So, then what? Well, I needed to decide where to go – and what kind of program I was interested in.

When it comes to the type of program, there are a few options. Some programs allow you to study online while others allow you to go in person. When it comes to business school, a big part of the value you gain is through the real life connections you make. And, at least for me, in person learning is typically better than online. So, I knew I wanted to be in an in person program.

Then, I had to decide if I wanted to study part-time, or go back to school full-time. Going back full-time typically requires you to quit your job to focus on school. For me, this was the best option. I wanted to focus completely on my studies. And, I wanted to finish my program in a reasonable amount of time. Studying full-time allowed me to complete my MBA in 15-months. If I had been a part-time student, this may have taken years.

Next, I decided what sort of concentration I wanted to have. I decided that I wanted a concentration in entrepreneurial management. I also wanted a program that was heavy in marketing options. And, I wanted a program that values giving back to the community. On top of these requirements, I was interested to go to a school that was near where technology related things were happening – in California. I was going through this process around 2003, so this list quickly narrowed my choices down. Entrepreneurial management in particular was hard to come by back then because it was still a new discipline for business schools.

Once I had my list of schools ready, I started to look up data on their programs. It’s almost like looking up reliability statistics on a car before you buy it. Long story short, not every MBA is worth the same amount of money. I looked at the rankings in US News & World Report. I looked up a report that’s called the ‘post-graduation report.’ Most schools publish these reports on their career site. They share how much money their graduates are making.

Then, I did an ROI calculation. Yes, you heard me right. A return on investment calculation. Business school is an investment. I compared the amount of salary I would give up (by quitting my job), along with the cost of school and living expenses – to the amount I would make after completing business school (or at least a decent estimate). I was only willing to pay a high tuition if I would end up making a high paycheck after graduation.

Alright, so that really narrowed down the schools. I ended up selecting Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.

Well, the last piece is this. How was I going to pay for the program? This was a tall order. I was in my early 20s and the thought of dropping over fifty thousand dollars on an additional degree was a big decision.

I worked for three years before going to graduate school. I lived cheaply, and was able to save around $1,000 per month for school. I stashed the money in a savings account. By the time I quit my job to go to school, I had saved over $30,000. To make up the extra money I needed for tuition and rent, I did two things. I asked the school for a scholarship, and I took out student loans.

Student loans are a hot topic these days. I won’t dive into all the pros and cons here. But, in my case, with a lot of research, they worked for me. They were low interest, and they allowed me to put myself through school.

So, what happened? Well, I graduated with my MBA in 15 months. Companies started to consider me for jobs outside of computer programming (like marketing). And, I was able to land job offers that were twice what I was making before graduate school.


For me, the decision to get my MBA was a good one. But, as I mentioned before… not every degree is created equal. The only way to make the right decision for you is to do lots of research. Calculate the return on investment. Talk to people. And, time it right. Don’t go too soon, or too late.

I know — it’s a lot to think about. But, it’s a big decision. Best of luck as you make yours. 🙂

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Visit to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland


Freedom at Work

One of the worst feelings you can feel at work is trapped with no way out. I meet professionals every day who feel chained to their job. They are very often in unhealthy situations that make them miserable each and every day. Some have an abusive boss. Others work for a company they no longer believe in. But, because they rely on the income, they’re stuck. It feels like a dead end road with no way out. It can be stressful and emotional.

I empathize so much with this experience. Feeling trapped at work can feel demoralizing. It gives you a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. It increases your stress and decreases the quality of your work. But, there are steps you can take to begin to regain your independence and your sanity.

It may sound counterintuitive, but the very first step to freedom is to avoid quitting your current job if possible. Of course, this doesn’t apply if you are in a truly abusive environment. But, if your office is tolerable, try to stick with it until you have another job. The old adage that “it’s easier to find a job when you have a job” is true. And, if you’re out of work and struggling financially because you quit, you’re more likely to accept another dysfunctional job to replace the income. You already have one job you hate. You don’t need two.

Second, take the time to set up a budget for yourself. Make a point to try to live below your means. Revisit it each month to track your progress. This isn’t always possible, but if you are able to keep your expenses low, you will be less dependent on your current income. Then, if you do lose your job unexpectedly or do need to quit, you will have more time to find another job– and more flexibility in your job choice. Because you won’t be tied to a high level of income, you’ll have more choices in future jobs.

Make every attempt at creating an emergency fund for yourself. This goal can be tricky, but even a small amount of money added each month can add up. Emergencies are an unavoidable part of life. If you’re ready for them, you are much less reliant on your day-to-day paycheck.

Although these suggestions may seem small, it’s amazing how much mental and emotional freedom they can give you. Knowing that you are in control of your future makes a bad job feel less like a chore. Knowing you would be okay if your company went out of business gives you just a little extra breathing room.

So, while you are taking care of things at work, be sure to also take care of them at home. You will be amazed at how much better you’ll feel knowing you have a backup plan. In the end, giving yourself the mental peace of mind and freedom that comes with it is worth so much more than any fancy lifestyle.

Angela Copeland is a Career Coach and Founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Giving Yourself Some Breathing Room

As you grow in your career, finding a new job can become harder and harder. One of the big reasons for this has to do with salary. If you think about it, when you first started working, you were open to just about any job and would happily take a tiny paycheck. But, as you’ve progressed in your career, your requirements have evolved.

One of the most challenging situations job seekers face is when they want to leave a job, but are financially unable to. There are two main reasons for this. First, the job seeker may live right up to their means. In other words, they may spend all of the money they make each month. Second, the job seeker may not have a safety net in the form of an emergency fund.

A job seeker with no emergency fund who needs every dollar to pay their basic bills feels trapped. The worst is when they’re being treated poorly at work – in a way that’s definitely not acceptable – but, they feel unable to change it. It can leave them feeling helpless, as if they’re being suffocated.

One of the best ways to protect yourself from feeling trapped is to do two things. If at all possible, scale back your fixed expenses. Then, take the extra money you’re saving each month and begin to put it into a savings account. That account will serve as an emergency fund. Ideally, it should have at least six months of living expenses in it. A savings account is recommended because it will be protected from market fluctuations.

Creating an emergency fund takes time and dedication. It’s not something you can do overnight, and it’s not easy. But, if you’re feeling stuck in a bad work situation, think about how much differently you might feel if you knew you had six months of living expenses in an account – just in case.

The benefits of an emergency fund can’t be overstressed. Having a backup plan gives you room to breathe, even if you never need it. And, that creates financial freedom. It gives you the power to walk away if you truly are being mistreated at work.

Along these same lines, when you land a new job that pays more, don’t immediately jump to increase your fixed monthly expenses. A new house or car may be tempting, but give yourself a chance to decide that you really like your new job first – and that they like you. The last thing you want is to have a job not work out, but you have new bills that require a higher income.

The bottom line is this. Things can (and will) go wrong at work. Any number of things could happen. You may get a bad boss. Your company may go through layoffs. But, if you manage your finances carefully, you’ll give yourself an out. And, in the end, you’ll create both breathing room – and emotional freedom – at your job.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

Should you go back to school?


This is a question that comes up often, as it should. Education is important. We all learned that growing up. Whether or not to go back to school can be a tough choice.

On one hand, going back to school can feel like the “right” thing to do. You’re always supposed to be learning right? On the other, it’s expensive and time consuming.

To compound things, you’re not as young as you used to be. You have responsibilities like a spouse, children, a house, a job,… The list goes on and on.

I’ll be honest. The marketing higher education puts out bugs me a little. They’re selling a hope of a brighter future. If you’ve ever visited a fertility doctor, it reminds me of all the photos of babies on the walls. They’re selling hope. Hope that may or may not be fulfilled, due to a number of factors (like your age and how much money you have).

So, back to the question at hand… Should you go back to school?

The first question I have is this. Are you looking to get a second (or third) degree? Are you looking to finish a first degree? Or, are you looking to take one off classes to keep your continuing education up?

If you’re looking to complete your first degree, or keep up your continuing education, the answer is much more straight forward. If you haven’t finished college, I am definitely an advocate of going back. It provides some level of stability, especially as you enter the later part of your career.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of job seekers who never completed college. They had great careers and were stellar at their jobs. Then something happened. For example, their company went out of business. It wasn’t their fault, or a reflection of their work. Suddenly, they were on the open market, trying to explain to employers why they don’t have an advanced degree. It’s stressful and can create a sudden decrease in salary in a situation like the one described.

When it comes to getting a second or third degree, there are a few things to think about.

First, why do you want to get the degree? There’s this rumor floating around that a degree in a particular field will guarantee you work. Let’s be honest. That rumor is not true.

The result of getting a second degree is highly dependent on lots of things, including what your degree is in and how needed the degree is in the job market.

A few reasons you might consider getting a degree are — You want to change career paths and re-brand yourself with a new degree. I did this with my MBA. I have a computer and systems engineering degree from undergraduate school. It was hard for me to get people to look past the fact that I knew how to write code. My MBA helped solve this issue.

Or, perhaps you’re a lifelong learner. Your company pays for you to go to school and you have the time. So, you think — why not? It’s almost like a hobby and something you’ve always wanted to do. It’s for yourself. I can get behind this. Self improvement is an important part of life.

So, say you’ve decided to go back. Now what? How do you decide where to go?

IMHO, deciding where to go to school is almost as important as whether or not to go at all. Very often, I talk to people who went to a for profit university. They invested years of their life and have huge student loans. They are shocked to learn that some employers don’t take their degrees seriously at all. So, what can you do?

Learn as much as possible about a school. Thinking about why you want to go can help to narrow down your choices. For example, when I entered business school in 2004 (wow, that was a long time ago!), I wanted to learn about starting a business. So, I found a school that had a concentration in entrepreneurship. It was also around the same time that Enron fell apart and Martha Stewart went to jail. I felt a bit concerned about ethics in business, so I looked for a program that put an emphasis on this topic in their coursework. And, I hoped for a scholarship. I put myself through school (after quitting my job), so going to a school that could help me financially was important. That’s how I selected Pepperdine University.

Another thing to check out is what’s called the “post-graduation report.” This is a report that both colleges and graduate programs publish once a year on their graduates. It explains which industries their grads are working in and how much they make.

Often, the career center helps you to get your first job out of school. And, that career center will have existing relationships with certain companies. For example, my engineering college sees many graduates going to work for places like NASA. Pepperdine however has graduates going to companies such as Disney.

You also want to pay close attention to the part about how much the graduates are making. It’s sometimes surprising to think about it, but companies often pay different amounts for graduates based on which school they went to. You can argue whether this is right or wrong, but it just is.

So, if you have two graduate programs that both cost $20K per year in tuition (for example) — and one has graduates who make $70K after graduation, while the other has graduates making $95K, it can help you to pick between the two schools.

Another good place to look for these rankings are sites like US News & World Report. They have lists of the best schools. The lists contain lots of data that can give you an even better sense of the school and how it’s viewed by the world.

One trend I’ve noticed with people returning to school is that they consider enrolling in an online program pretty frequently. It’s easier. You can fit it into your life better. It’s less disruptive.

I would caution you against doing any kind of online degree program. Think about it this way. A big part of what you get out of business school (for example) is networking contacts. You meet new people who go with you through the rest of your career. They’re your friends. Your colleagues. You help one another get jobs and with projects. You aren’t going to make those strong connections through an online program. You’re going to make them when you sit next to your classmates day in and day out in class.

The same logic applies to something like engineering. How in the world are you expected to truly grasp onto engineering concepts if you never set foot into an engineering lab?

Last, think of school as an investment. As with any investment, you should evaluate the ROI. There are many calculators online to help you to figure this out. Here’s one from Learn Vest you might try. It helps you to get a sense of how much you’ll put into school — and how much you’ll get out.

Going back to school is a highly personal and highly individual decision. There’s no one answer for everyone. My bottom line recommendation here is DO YOUR HOMEWORK. When you finish school, you want to be sure that you end up with the results you were expecting to.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland