Competitive Advantage

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Competitive Advantage

Delivering Tips, Insights and Resources for Success

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Then & Now: How a simple question changed Leah’s career future


Leah’s THEN: Best-Laid Plans…

Leah had a plan for her life. She had a mission to help others and nursing seemed to fit her goals. After graduating high school, she went to Northwest Mississippi Community College for about two years to finish prerequisite classes for nursing. She then transferred to Baptist College and took a few other classes but came up against a roadblock before starting clinicals: she decided that she didn’t want to do nursing.

“When you graduate high school, you think you have it all figured out: go to college, get your degree, and eventually land that job,” Leah said. “Well, I can tell you that life took me down another path.”

That “other path” meant a break from the nursing program. She realized that the duties related to nursing weren’t right for her and she found a job in retail.

THEN: A Big Step BACK in Her Career

Leah admits she didn’t think about school again after getting her retail job because she was moving up in the company, eventually becoming a full-time lead supervisor.

“My career took priority over education,” Leah said. “Since I was promoted to manager, I didn’t think I would need to have a degree.”

But then life happened — again.

Her manager job was eliminated and without a degree there was no place for her in the changing retail world. She was cut down to part-time hours, and she no longer had the prestigious managerial role.

“When my position was eliminated, it was life changing and eye opening,” Leah said. “I thought I would work there forever. I had a 15-year career in retail. It was tough to realize retail was changing and where I wanted to be now required a degree.”

THEN: The Same Stale Job

This career curve ball left Leah questioning herself and her path forward. She transitioned to a job with a new company and became a receptionist.

Although Leah didn’t want to give up on her dreams, she was now in a career holding pattern. She wanted to help others and use her 15+ years of experience as a leader and manager to make a difference. However, there was just one problem: to be considered for any other higher positions, she needed a college degree.

Leah lost focus, confidence, and direction. Floating in career limbo, she continued to work as a receptionist for two years until her boss asked a simple question: “Have you ever thought about going back to college?”

The Bridge from “THEN” to Now

Her boss’s simple question about going back to college was a turning point. “That’s when I realized I needed to venture out,” Leah said. “I knew I didn’t want to be a receptionist forever.”

She started looking into her options for going back to college to finish her degree. An online search led to information about Complete to Compete (C2C) and Leah connected with a C2C Coach who was able to answer her questions about the college credits she had already earned. Through this process she also discovered that she could still apply her passion for helping people even if she didn’t join the medical field.

“I knew that nursing wasn’t right for me and my C2C Coach helped me find a way that I could still help others through my degree,” Leah said.

After her transcript review, she discovered that she only needed two more classes to obtain her degree! She was soon enrolled at Northwest Mississippi Community College for her final coursework.

NOW: A Job Where She Can Apply Her Skills, Experience, & Passion

After finishing the two classes, Leah graduated with her associate degree in Radiological Sciences from NWCC in 2019. She now works in the business office in a higher education institution helping students obtain their healthcare degrees. 

The degree led Leah to two promotions and a job with higher wages, but the real benefit is knowing she makes a difference in students’ lives.

“I relate to them because I was in their shoes,” Leah said. “I was able to overcome obstacles and challenges and get my degree. I gained a purpose. I don’t think about my job in strictly financial terms. I am fulfilled in my role now.”

Leah traveled full circle – back to her original purpose to help others.

“I feel purposeful when I hear the gratitude and appreciation from students I have worked with,” Leah said. “It means I have met my goal of helping others. Sometimes you don’t know what someone is going through, and it feels good to be a support to them.”

In her job she finds ways to assist students in balancing their school, work, and family responsibilities. “I try to encourage students to stay on track with their payment plan,” Leah said. “I also work as a student advisor by setting up resources for students (transportation, housing, childcare, etc.).”

She connects to students through her own experience in the past and present.

“I am able to use my own experiences as a student and how I was able to overcome obstacles, like the loss of a job,” Leah said. “I can show them how to use these times in their lives as an opportunity to go back to college and get their degree.”

NOW: Feeling Secure, Appreciated, and Needed

Having a degree also gives Leah confidence, security, and personal satisfaction.

“In retail I always felt I could be replaced any day – people came and went. I never felt like I was essential – they could always get someone else in my position,” Leah said. “But in this role people look to me for answers and I have more of a purpose to help the students. This is the right job for me. I am treated as a person who brings value to the table, and now I am recognized for the value that I contribute.”

Through her experiences as she finished her degree, Leah learned how to manage her time better as she balanced school, work, and motherhood. This boosted her confidence for the leadership roles she holds.

“I was always in a leadership role in the past and this job put me into a leadership role again,” Leah said. “My degree validated my experiences and skills. Through my college experience and my job, I’ve become a better leader and even more competent. “

She also expanded her influence and impact on students in her job and as a role model and inspiration for her 10-year-old daughter.

“I was able to obtain my degree now and my daughter saw me do it,” Leah said. “I want her to know that at any point in her life it’s ok to take other paths. It’s ok to overcome obstacles and continue your education to get your degree no matter life’s twists and turns.”

The Degree Makes The Difference!

Just like Leah discovered, a college degree can bring you closer to your dream job. Career twists and turns can “throw you for a loop,” but C2C can help you navigate the path to a college degree and some potentially life-changing opportunities!

The Complete 2 Compete (C2C) program is a vital resource for those who want to return to college to gain a degree. Adults can access grant money to help pay for 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. To find out more, complete the quick survey application to find out how C2C could help you complete a degree. A degree could be your key to a satisfying career!

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.