1. First, Put Sobriety First: Nothing matters if we are not sober. Nothing. Not a single thing. We WILL lose it all and worse if we drink or use. The job, the family, the friends, the community, the hard-earned savings and any semblance of happiness or self-esteem. After some time sober, we get forgetful (especially when things are going good or great) and need to remind ourselves of this on a daily basis. Sobriety allows us the opportunity to take on “good problems” like school and careers. These are just that – good problems and gifts of sobriety. We “get to” take on our education, career, and life goals. We do not “have to” take on our education, career, and life goals. The stark reality is – we can do and accomplish anything if we are sober; and we can not do or accomplish anything if we are not sober. So we put our sobriety first – because we have to. If the course load or job stress is going to make us drink – we choose sobriety every time. There is no goal or accomplishment that is worth prioritizing or putting before sobriety because paradoxically that goal or accomplishment is doomed to fail if we are not sober. Sobriety first – then everything else.
2. The Early Bird Gets the Worm: What we mean be the early bird gets the worm is twofold: 1) we wake up early and 2) we arrive early to meetings, appointments and events (whenever possible). By regularly waking up at or before 6am and arriving at our time commitments early, its pretty darn hard not be a success in school or at work. On the other hand, if we can’t hack these baseline life skills – our lives quickly become stressful and unmanageable. You would not believe how many amazing relationships, mentorships, and golden opportunities we have stumbled across at early morning meetings, classes, etc. or by just arriving somewhere early. Because guess what – the other people that are up early and who got to the event early are more likely have their life together. What a concept! If you are going back to school or job hunting we strongly suggest mastering the early bird habits. It's often said that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. In our opinion, early birds have a lot more “luck” and good fortune than their late counterparts because they have more time to prepare and are present for more opportunities. We’re early birds – come fly with us.
3. Back to School: Once we’re sober for a bit and our brain is working again – the question of going back to school usually comes up. Whether it’s going back for a GED, college education, specific trade schooling or reading a good book – we are big fans of education. Education has the virtuous effect of growing with us and helping us connect the many dots of life. It can never be taken from us once imparted and can be readily given to others. In many cases, it makes us more useful to our friends, families, and communities.
If you are deciding about whether to go back to school or not – we think there are a number of valid reasons for and against formal education. The only reason against that we are not okay with is fear – especially the fear of not knowing if someone is “smart enough” and the fear that someone is “too old”. The whole point we go to school is to learn new things that we didn’t know before and the professors/trainers are there to teach and guide us. If we do the work, it works – it’s that simple. It is NOT a smart or dumb thing. On the point of being “too old”, if we expect to live for more than four more years, we’re plenty young. We can’t begin to tell you how many 20 / 25 / 30 / 40 year old’s that we meet that think they are too old. We’re scratching out heads thinking, “Dude, you have a lot of time left to use that education to do whatever you dream to be.” We’re sober – we can become or accomplish anything we put our mind to.
If you’re thinking about going back to school – here are a few resources that we have found helpful for getting a GED, exploring the college landscape, and a few other professional trainings we have taken for primary or side hustles.
4. CC to UC - The Best Kept College Education Secret on Earth: Didn’t graduate from high school (or maybe you did) and now want to go to UCLA, UCSD, SD State or UC Berkeley? We got you. California has the best public university system in the world. Six of the top 40 national universities in America are public California universities according to US News and World Reports (which we consider the gold standard in college rankings). It’s ridiculous how strong the public university system is in California. The reason we harp on the strength of public California universities is that tuition at these Ivy League equivalent colleges is actually AFFORDABLE and ACCESSIBLE for California residents. For example, out-of-state tuition for non-California residents at UCLA is ~$43,000 per year versus just ~$13,000 per year for California residents.
But how am I ever going to get into Berkeley? Simple – enroll in a California community college (which saves money too), get the grades and transfer in. Getting into a UC college straight out of high school is next to impossible. Transferring into a “UC” (University of California) college from a “CC” (California Community) college is extremely doable and affordable!
Let’s start with a quick real-life story. A friend of ours, we’ll call her Mary-Kate, was a dancer from Indiana who came out to California on a whim just floating through life. After being out here for a year and becoming a California resident, Mary-Kate decided she wanted to pursue a formal college education. She had abysmal grades in high school but did manage to graduate with a high school diploma. We helped her enroll in community college at San Diego City College for very affordable tuition of ~$1,000 per semester (no loans needed). Mary-Kate worked hard and maintained a GPA above 3.5. After three semesters she submitted her transfer application to UC San Diego and was accepted. Barring anything unforeseen, she will proudly graduate with a diploma from UC San Diego next year – the #34th Best National University in America. Better yet – she’ll graduate with little to no debt. With a bit of willingness, a touch of faith and a sprinkle of help from us on how to navigate the California education system, she beat out 98% of her high school graduating class and the world is truly her oyster. It’s never too late for a comeback win – especially when it comes to education.
The moral of the story above is that if you are a California resident (or become one) and are interested in going to some of the best colleges in the world at a ridiculously affordably price – it is extremely possible. Below we have done our best to outline (in a 10 question checklist) the process of successfully getting into and graduating from a top-notch public California university while paying in-state tuition.
UCs (University of California) with US News and World Reports National Ranking
CSUs (California State University)
5. What Is My Motivation? “Get well” jobs are awesome in early recovery (shoutout to Lazy Acres and Seaside Market) – we’re big fans. But after some sober time its natural to start exploring jobs and careers that we can envision enjoying and prospering in over a lifetime. A fantastic place to start is with some free career aptitude and personality assessments. If the only reason we are considering a certain career or industry is money there is an extremely high chance we’re embarking on a fool’s errand. We’re going to spend a lifetime on a miserable journey trying to arrive at an unreachable satisfaction (basically, a different version of chasing the dragon). However, if we take some time to understand our motivations and what careers might be a good fit for our personality we will have a much higher chance of enjoying our professional journey and being successful in our field. Monster.com has done a lovely job of laying out the best free career assessment tools. Our personal favorite is the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment. It takes five minutes and helped us get a better understanding of our personality type. Funny enough, we came back as “Motivators” which checks out. It’s never a bad time to take a career assessment and learn a bit more about ourselves. Try one out or try all of ‘em – we bet you’ll find the results intriguing.
6. Resumes and Cover Letters: Before we hit the job search, we always update our resume because the first thing any job is going to ask for is our resume. We’ve reviewed thousands of resumes over our careers and have listed a few key do’s and don’t below. If you are just getting started – we suggest using / downloading a free Microsoft Resume or Cover Letter Template and editing the categories and content to best represent your background. There a plenty of free options to select – the right one is the one you like best. We highly recommend that you create your resume in Microsoft Word. Then when you are satisfied – save the Microsoft Word resume as a PDF and submit the PDF. This is the standard way to create and submit a resume – NO GOOGLE DOCS. A resume is a living, breathing document that is ever changing with you – it is never “done” or “perfect”. The best resume is the resume that best reflects how your background / qualifications are the right fit for the job you are applying for.
7. Job Websites and LinkedIn: Once we have a resume ready to rock and an idea of the type of job we’re gunning for – it’s time to hunt. We’ve listed our favorite job-hunting websites below. We also highly recommend creating a LinkedIn profile. Think of LinkedIn as your professional Facebook page. Remember to keep it professional because it’s your professional identity that is public to anyone (including potential employers) searching your name. LinkedIn is a fantastic resource that can be used to reach out to employees working at places you want to work. We’ve often been pleasantly surprised by people’s willingness to chat about their professional experience and, if we’re lucky and present well, their willingness to pass along our resume to the right decision maker (usually Human Resources). In our opinion, LinkedIn is the job search, posting and networking juggernaut.
Our Favorite Job Search Websites
8. Interview Preparation (Luck is what happens when PREPERATION meets opportunity): Once our resume is updated and before we start networking (reaching out to people) – we make sure to start preparing. There are essentially two types of interview questions to prepare for: Behavioral Questions and Technical Questions.
Behavioral questions are the one’s that come to mind when you are thinking about any type of interview. Per Indeed, behavioral questions are ones posed in an interview that showcase how you manage work situations, challenges or circumstances. They aim to give insight into your abilities, skills and character traits and can help interviewers determine how you might behave in future situations. Because behavioral question are more or less the same for any type of interview – we have tracked down a really solid list of behavioral questions to be ready for in any interview (thanks Indeed!). We are also huge fans of using the STAR method – situation, task, action, result – to answer behavioral interview questions (especially for any question that starts with “tell my about a time when…”).
Technical questions are industry specific questions and almost always have a right answer that only someone in the industry would know from studying or previous industry experience. For example, “What happens to bond prices if interest rates rise holding everything else constant?” would be a finance technical question that would be gibberish unless you studied or previously worked in finance. Every industry will have its own unique set of technical questions to prepare for. For an idea of these types of questions, we recommend Googling the industry or job role followed by “technical interview questions”. For example, if applying for an IT Services position – Google “IT Services Technical Interview Questions”. You will quickly get an idea of the types of questions that will be “technical” or industry specific.
It’s impossible to prepare for every question that comes your way – but there are four fundamental questions (below) that are bound to come up when networking and/or in an interview. It is important to have rock solid answers to these questions (i.e. not be making them up on the spot). If we do not have solid answers to these questions prepared and ramble on in an attempt to make them up on the spot we will look like total jokers. Below are the four fundamental questions we highly recommend starting any interview prep with (with hints on how we answer them).
9. Networking – A Contact Sport (Luck is what happens when preparation meets OPPORTUNITY): Scrolling through job postings and submitting a resume online is a great start – but networking and referrals is where we have had the most success. When we start a job search process – we make a written list of all the people that we know who work in the industry we are targeting. Then we reach out to each of them with a nice email or text and seek their advice. If someone is willing to give you advice and you are willing to put that advice into action and report back to them for more advice – they will become invested in your success and will help you connect with other people in the industry. No – you are not tricking them. You are receiving mentorship from them which is normal and healthy. Networking is truly a virtuous cycle if you are professional, prepared and follow through on your word. You could say it works if you work it. It’s okay if you don’t know many people that are in the industry you are targeting. If that’s the case, ask people you trust if they know anyone in that industry that they could connect you with and message people on LinkedIn at companies you are interested in with a short, professional LinkedIn InMail message. If its an option, reaching out to alumni from your college is great too. Last and best, ask around in the sober community. People are crazy willing to help each other. That’s part of why we love being sober. 😊
10. Embrace Your Inner Entrepreneur (Faith > Fear): If you love your job or career, that is fantastic – we are super pumped for you. However, if you’ve always dreamed of starting your own business or working for yourself – we are telling you that you absolutely can. It may take some time to save up first and put together a plan – but it is possible. We are extremely passionate about helping people to get, stay and thrive in sobriety – in this NOCO Sober was born. We started this business using LegalZoom for legal, tax, insurance and accounting resources, a national bank as our business bank account and Shopify as our webpage and store. From there we expanded the list of helpful small business tools / software providers based on our needs (i.e. Fivver, Mailchimp, etc.). We think Tim Ferris does an excellent job of explaining his entrepreneurial journey with tons of useful tips in his book The 4-Hour Work Week (which inspired us!). It’s certainly an adventure and we are learning a ton. So what’s your greatest passion?
Bonus. Travel is the Greatest Education: This is probably an unpopular opinion but we believe traveling abroad is the greatest education of all. Traveling outside the United States widens the lens though which we see and understand our world. It has expanded our palate to so many yummy foods, led to tons of lifelong pen pals and made us a more empathetic global citizen. It is certainly wise to get some sober time under your belt first and even better if you can do it with other sober friends. But once you are ready – we hugely suggest going to REI, buying a backpacking backpack, and jetting to any one of the destinations on Nomadic Matt’s Travel Page. We’re not fancy and love backpacking hostels (which we research on Hostelworld) but find whatever works for you (hotels, Airbnb, etc.). We have trusted in Nomadic Matt’s recommendations for all of our backpacking travels and he has never led us awry. From bungee jumping in New Zealand to bullet trains (Shinkansen) in Japan to the tastiest pasta in Italy – it’s always an epic adventure. There’s a great big world out there we were hiding from while drinking and using – we’re sober now, it’s time to go check it out!