Career 24 September 2019
Get an education... then get a job.
It's a familiar process and has always seemed like pretty solid advice to score a secure career. However, this age of innovation may call for a process that is less linear. Instead of the classic—go to college first then join the workforce after graduating—we must consider education and work together. You know, both actually happening at the same time. Augmenting the learning process with the experiential component of working can promote deeper engagement and the development of practical skills from a young age, which may become necessary given how quickly the job market is shifting in the modern era. Think about it, over 90% of the world's data was created in the last two years. Can the education system possibly keep up when these big changes are happening so quickly? As an education technology entrepreneur, I cannot get away from the headlines and panel discussions of "futureproofing" students. But how do you "futureproof" students for a workplace that might not even exist yet?
To answer this and more, I was excited to sit down with Tiffany Sorya, founder & CEO of Novel Education Group. With the rise of digital careers and the lucrative influencer market, teens now have a lot more options than a plain-old part-time job. With clients like Kylie Jenner, who Forbes Magazine recently named the "youngest self-made billionaire," Tiffany is modernizing the education process and changing the perception of homeschooling by implementing an effective curriculum to bridge the gap between unconventional lifestyles and successful education.
In a time where change is the only constant and the roles of technology and social media are growing exponentially, the core principles that Novel Education Group promote can be relevant to learners from every background.
What is Novel Education Group and what inspired you to start it?
Novel Education Group is a full-service homeschooling and academic agency that specializes in flexible, accredited customized curriculum and enrichment programs for students of all ages (K-12). We are able to provide a tailored educational experience for any student whether they are pursuing a career outside of school or reaching to get accepted to their dream Ivy League university. My inspiration for starting this business was twofold.
- My unexpected love for teaching, which emerged in college when I was a Biology and French major trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Many believe that education is increasingly less relevant in a world of growing entrepreneurs and social media stars. However, I have been able to change the way young people think about education by expanding beyond the academic and showing them how it can impact every avenue of their lives and arm them with life-long skills that will carry them far beyond their degrees.
- My desire to fill a huge gap in the market for private, personalized education. After working with several agencies, schools, and curricula, I had first-hand experience about what worked and what didn't. My goal was to consolidate the successful components of my experience and bring all of my best practices together in one business.
What Novel Education Group provides is a comprehensive education experience that caters to the needs of each student individually. Students are able to achieve high academic success while being creative and pursuing hobbies and career goals that complement their schooling. Education is another way of enriching the mind rather than conforming to traditional structures of a top-down delegated curriculum.
Among all the agencies, we seek to provide something unique and fulfilling by making smart stylish again.
What are the benefits of this model as opposed to the traditional education program?
Young people in school today feel confined by the rigid curriculum that traditional schooling mandates. The traditional model is stagnant. Considering the modernization of literally every other aspect of our society, the educational system needs to reflect that growth. Novel's framework can seamlessly integrate students' interests and passions into their curriculum, allowing them to finish their core classes early if they want so they can focus on extracurriculars. There's an overarching theme of learning life skills alongside the high-achieving scholastic nature of our schooling model. These life skills and the foundation of their education are things that will be forever applicable to any lifestyle they choose. One of our core pillars is learning how to learn, not just what. We've helped students blossom simply because of the one-on-one work that we do coupled with a curriculum that is focused on honing their strengths.
You have worked with incredible clients—how did you identify the opportunity to bridge the gap between "unconventional lifestyles and a successful education"?
Early in my career, I became a private tutor for many high profile students, some of whom had flourishing careers themselves. I started noticing that there was a huge gap between the educational, entertainment and alternative lifestyle worlds. That void was a reliable, legitimate, and accredited education (including an actual high school diploma versus a GED) for people who didn't have the time or typical day-to-day lifestyle to be sending their kids to school 5 days a week for 7 hours a day. Since we handle extracurricular and leadership opportunities outside of traditional schooling as well, students truly get a fully comprehensive experience, academically and socially, if that's what they want. When I saw that a lot of these kids were having to choose between a good education and pursuing an early career, I didn't want to be the norm anymore. I wanted people to have quality, personalized education that could fit into their lifestyle, whether they had careers or simply wanted a superior educational experience. So, I created Novel.
What is personalized learning and what role do you see it playing in the future of education?
Personalized learning is recognizing that every student learns and retains material and skills differently. Attempting to put a variety of learning styles in one classroom is not conducive to all students reaching their full potential. I think the future of education is allowing students to have more control over what they're learning as well as seeing more online learning options with greater flexibility. I think more people will want to incorporate "real-life skills" into their curriculum so that students will see more purpose in their education. Rather than focusing on facts alone, students will learn critical thinking, transferable skills, emotional intelligence, and practical problem solving. This involves more electives and extracurricular work. More and more, we're seeing universities select students who have turned their passions into tangible opportunities—not necessarily those with perfect GPAs and test scores.
In this social media age, students are inundated with information and instant gratification; we see a disconnect with this environment and the traditional education system. Novel Education Group has been filling that void. How?
With Novel's approach to education, students can see applicable results while still understanding that achievements are the result of hard work. We want to teach the younger generation that instant gratification regarding all things is not a realistic expectation. However, when they rise to any challenge with preparation and hard work, they will see faster results.
What advice would you give to students and parents who are considering homeschooling?
Novel is changing the way people perceive homeschooling. Because we are full-service and comprehensive in our approach, the typical worries about socializing and extracurricular activities don't apply. We handle the whole experience, in a way that caters to you, specifically. I would reassure them that homeschooling a highly legitimate alternative to traditional schooling, and it will allow your kids to explore their passions and have a more worldly approach to education and life in general.
Furthermore, we recently secured a global partnership with premier college consulting firm, Command Education, to bring high level skills and enrichment programs to students around the world by helping them stand out for college entry, especially for top tier and Ivy League schools. With this partnership, we're able to help students and families start earlier to guide them into making the right academic and extracurricular opportunities. We want students to focus on what they WANT to do, not what they feel they HAVE to do to bolster resumes for admission. You don't need to be valedictorian and have perfect SAT scores to get admitted to the best schools. Plus, minimizing the stresses of this process and helping students discover their passion and superpower along the way is the reason we do this.
What are some common misconceptions about homeschooling?
Homeschooling used to and still occasionally carries a specific connotation. Some see homeschool as an alternative option to traditional because something was amiss with a student's schooling experience. However, we're seeing a seismic shift in that notion. Parents are now choosing homeschooling over regular school to provide their children with the best possible educational experience. Homeschooling is also a fantastic supplement. Taking accredited courses—AP-level, creative classes, tailored coursework, all of your choosing—that your high school may not provide and that fits your schedule makes people realize that the framework of homeschooling has really changed through Novel Education.
What would you change about the current education system?
I would love to see the current system become more modernized and teach kids how to succeed in life and problem solve. I'd like to see a focus on reading comprehension, writing, and applicable math. I would also like to see teachers get the respect they deserve and empower them to take control of their classrooms. If kids see teachers understanding the power they have to influence a classroom, I think students will respond to their teachers much more positively.
With the rising popularity of working remotely, how does this trend translate to students learning remotely?
Students will really start to embrace the idea of being able to attend school and classes at the location of their choice. No longer are the days where students are not able to take a demanding internship, play a sport or pursue a hobby because of the obligation to be physically present at school. I'm excited for future students having the possibility to learn from anywhere. This translates so well to international students! Now, families from all over the world are able to access American curriculum—and American students are able to travel the world without compromising their education.
Something really exciting about the Novel Education Group is the customized programs for each student. How do you design balance in their workload that also enables them to be creative and pursue other hobbies and even careers during their academic journey?
Well first, a homeschool day goes by much quicker than a regular school day. Even without customization, seat time between student and teacher can be as little as 2-3 hours a day and that includes homework. This leaves so much time for the student to fill their afternoon with extra-curricular activities, start a business venture, play sports or develop a non-profit. We also have a "design your own elective" option for all of our students. In this course students can earn high school credit by choosing course content of their own. This not only drives a student's passion but also gives them the power to choose what they are learning both in and outside of school.
To put it simply, learning never stops.
In order to best equip our students for the future of work, we need to instill the importance of lifelong learning. Through Novel Education Group's emphasis on personalization, students are able to excel in their customized curriculum while balancing their jobs, hobbies, and personal lives. Education should be another way of enriching the mind rather than just conforming to traditional structures without question.
We can all agree that receiving a quality education is vital. However, how a student earns their education can vary. Do not wait to "finish learning" in order to work. Who decided that they needed to be so separate? Get real-life experience, and you'll always be learning along the way.
Tiffany Sorya, founder of Novel Education Group and education influencer, is on a mission: #MakingSmartStylishAgain. The elite homeschooling agency-to-the-stars is expanding its global presence and offerings after recently partnering with premier college consultant, Command Education. This collaboration is just the beginning of The Newest Wave of Education; by providing customized courses and specialized enrichment programs at any age, students achieve academic success and stand out from other applicants at top schools and universities, all while doing what they love and emphasizing their individual strengths. In an ever increasingly customized and curated world, its time the educational system finally follows suit.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."
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