Competitive Advantage

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Competitive Advantage

Delivering Tips, Insights and Resources for Success

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Then & Now: How Paul Finally Reached a Satisfying Career & Made an Impact


Paul’s THEN — A Nagging Feeling of Unfinished Business
Paul Stuart had a good job, two kids, and was coasting to a comfortable retirement someday, but he felt that he couldn’t shake a nagging feeling of unfinished business. He had developed a reputation for getting the job done, with one exception: he had never finished college!

Thanks to the help of C2C, Paul NOW has his bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University (MSU) and has come full circle to excel in his first career choice: education. He is now making an impact in workforce education and is invigorated to continue to apply his skills to help others.

THEN: Career Confusion and a Job to Pay the Bills
On his first go-around as an undergrad more than 20 years ago, the education landscape was vastly different.

With an associate degree completed, Paul thought he wanted to be a coach/teacher. Back then as an undergrad at Mississippi State studying education, he didn’t feel ready for the classroom.

“I wanted to be a coach and a teacher. But after I started working in a middle school, I wasn’t sure if I could handle the classroom and it made me start looking at other options,” Paul said. “When I was 22 years old, I had my first chance to help in an 8th grade history class – that’s when I panicked.” Paul had come to the realization that he enjoyed teaching and educating, but that being a school teacher wasn’t the job for him.

Paul left school and took a manufacturing job that provided good money but that required rotating shifts on days/nights/weekends. It paid the bills, but the unpredictable schedule complicated his family life. It was also impossible to attend school, adding to the nagging cloud of unfinished business. In the 1990s, online classes were not even an option!

After 20+ years on the job, Paul’s co-worker encouraged him to go back to school and finish his degree. This colleague had discovered the Complete 2 Compete (C2C) program and was finishing a bachelor’s degree at Mississippi State University. His friend urged him to check out C2C, too.

“He assured me I could do it because he did it,” Paul said. “He was one smart guy. He urged me on and said, ‘you can do it; call me if you need anything.’ I’ve let him know often what his encouragement meant to me.”

THEN: Little Opportunity to Make a Difference
Paul’s early experience in education made him more aware of the need for education and training in the workplace. As a supervisor at the manufacturing facility where he worked, he could see that his employer had a great need for more and better training materials.

“I knew that there was a need for someone to develop workplace education resources,” Paul said. “Within our team at the manufacturing facility I was a supervisor and made sure that everyone stayed on track with their training. It was so busy that I didn’t have the time to create training materials. It would have been a full-time job to get everything updated, but I always thought that there was a need for it.”

And then the workplace educator job opportunity came up, Paul got excited: “Wow! I knew that was what I would love to do. I really, really wanted the job and thought I could do well at it.”

However, requirements for job levels weren’t the same as when he first entered the work field – if he wanted to make his way up the ladder, he needed a degree.

“It always bothered me that I didn’t have my degree. I was at that level that if I wanted to go further, I needed a degree,” Paul said. “I was fine where I was in my job, but I wanted peace of mind and the ability to excel.” Without a degree, he didn’t feel like he had what he needed to make a true difference in his workplace.

Once Paul took his coworker’s advice and qualified for the C2C program, his C2C Coach at Mississippi State helped Paul apply his prior educational credits to a degree that could help him make the most of his work experience, skills, and talents.

With the support from his C2C coach, Paul realized he needed only had 8 classes to finish a bachelor’s degree.

Bridging the Gap from “THEN” to NOW

College was tough going at the start. Paul was working 50 hours a week while also taking 8 classes over a few semesters. He was able to get help and support he needed.: “I found very few people who weren’t willing to go the extra mile.

It required a commitment, but it was worth it. Paul discovered a new path where he was able to develop valuable insights to help him combine his workplace knowledge and skills with his instincts as a compassionate educator.

Paul also relied on family support for inspiration and motivation. His daughter, who was attending East Mississippi Community College, helped him edit assignment drafts. He and his kids motivated each other to get straight A’s.

“It’s a cool dynamic, the kids and I battled over our grades,” Paul said. “We’d joke around and snap pictures of our grades – we say ‘no Bs’! When I was exhausted, it sure was a motivator. I never did get a “B” in my bachelor’s degree coursework!”

“It is important for my children to see me valuing my degree. It comes to a point where it is difficult for me to lay out a set of expectations for kids when I can’t point to myself,” Paul said. “A lot of people say, ‘That’s awesome, and I don’t know how you’re doing that.’ Others say, ‘I can’t do that,’ but I respond, “Yes, you CAN do it!”

NOW: The Fulfillment of Finishing

At his college graduation, Paul finally crossed the “finish line” for his bachelor’s degree and experienced the pride of accomplishment. He also felt that he was able to honor his parents with his graduation – they paid for his initial college education, and he wanted to finish what he started to make them proud.

“It wasn’t my intention to get a better job opportunity with the same employer, or to work days instead of rotating shifts,” Paul said. “I really just wanted the degree for my own peace of mind. Even though I’m a grown man, it meant something to hand my diploma to my parents who are in their 70s.”

NOW: Coming Full Circle To Reach a Satisfying Career

Within the last couple of years, Paul has been able to switch to day shift because of his degree. While this wasn’t his exact motivation for going back to school, it was an opportunity that came from the degree.

Now more than two decades later, he’s back in education, teaching a workplace classroom with a renewed sense of purpose. He discovered how to combine his passion for teaching and his on-the-job knowledge to advance his career.

His degree filled a void in him, creating opportunities that led to a more fulfilling position in the same company and created an inspiring impact on his children, coworkers, and new hires.

“As an adult student, there is a learning curve and you still struggle with. I grew up in 80s and sometimes it was hard to ask questions. I had some difficulty figuring things out,” Paul said. “There’s a lot that is asked of you and you’re working until 11 p.m. at night and on rotating shifts. But now there are a lot of new hires in the same boat. I’ve gotten them started in online learning – I don’t push it, but I do tell those who left college early about the opportunities with C2C.”

NOW: The Joy of Making an Impact

“With this degree I’ve been learning about other cultures, different generations, and training people in the ways they need,” Paul said. “I feel like I’ve made an impact – they’re our future and to train them you have to find out what makes them tick.”

He feels needed and a new sense of fulfillment in the job that he is doing now. C2C provided flexibility and expanded his career opportunities. Before getting his degree, he knew the company needed new training material. Now he is able to create and implement new training material himself, providing benefits to the company, co-workers, and fulfilling a career goal for Paul.

His degree has also given him the opportunity to teach community college classes which allows him to choose his own topics.

“I gained the passion to learn again — it took me 20+ years to get my bachelors and now I’m working towards getting my Master of Science in Workforce Education in 2022.”

Take it from Paul — A Leader in Workplace Education:

  • No matter what your age, a degree can be the bridge to your dream job.
  • Many workplaces will pay for your education – check with your employer.
  • Education is the key to career advancement — a degree matters and makes the difference!
  • Be flexible and adapt to the changing needs of your chosen career.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – C2C has the resources and people to support you resume your educational journey.

Don’t Stay Stuck!

The Complete 2 Compete (C2C) program is a vital resource for those who are looking complete their degree and establish a career that will give them the flexibility and creativity to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. Adults can access grant money to help pay for returning to college. Additionally, each C2C student is connected with a coach who takes care of much of the paperwork (like credit transfers and class planning) so that students can focus on studying. Many other resources are available. To find out more, complete a quick survey to find out how C2C could help you complete a degree.

Don’t stay stuck in a job where you count the hours till you’re free. A degree earned with the help of C2C could be your ticket to a better life through a fulfilling and challenging career.

“I didn’t dislike what I was doing, but this was an opportunity to change after so many years of doing the same thing and seeing a need somewhere else,” Paul said. “After years in a career, sometimes it is hard to get a spark from somewhere to want to go to work and help people, but with this degree that led to this new job, I don’t even think about retiring now.”

Additional Resources for You


C2C is a state program that helps Mississippi adults who previously attended college earn a degree and create a brighter future.