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Posts Tagged ‘professional development’

Photo Credit: Miserteacher @Flickr

Photo Credit: Miserteacher @Flickr

There are lots and lots of lists profiling bloggers that would be cool to read or the best of 2009 or are considered the most underrated

Those lists utterly annoy me because time and time again, it’s like rating the best foods or the places to raise kids.

They can be totally irrelevant…to the reader, that is.  Not to mention, taken out of context.

And – stop – I know that they’re only suggestions. Or, voter’s choices. Or…whatever. I think in the blogosphere, it may not always be a good idea to have such rankings – because rankings are just opinions.

And, I think the blogosphere is too big  to separate – and rank – out a few from the million.

I much rather have someone tell me why they like something, why it would be relevant to me and – that’s it. None of this best, top, worst of the year crap.

Furthermore, these compilations lack purpose. And some bloggers forget to clarify whatever that purpose is in their lists. How is that?  For example, they tell me what the blog is about and why they read it. As a reader, I could care less about that – how do you think it will benefit me?

It sounds contradictory.

In fact, it is.

Yet, that’s the point. And, perhaps the blogs I list below have made lists elsewhere and I’m not saying anything differently about them. I’d like you to keep in mind that this list is made for people who want to gather bits of information from everywhere for everything.

I hope I add something a little bit new to that gathering.

I know I sound like a total hypocrite because I am writing a blog post on blogs that I read. Yet, I’m thinking if you follow my blog – you have the same kinds of interests (and peeves) that I do. You may like children’s literature, but you’re not only (and always) going to read stuff by Kate DiCamillo.

I like to peruse stuff that appeals to certain moods I’m in. And just like you, when I want to gain a certain perspective on the world or inflate a certain mood – I can’t just got to one place, I go to several:

My Human Rights Muses/NPO work/Social Change

Nicholas Kristoff/On the Ground

I think a lot of people are seriously out of tune with what goes on outside of the United States – well, in the world, period. And NO, you can’t get all your news from the Daily Show – even though I’ll be the first to try. Generally, there is a very weak grasp of the political machinations in our own country, therefore, understanding stuff beyond that can be overwhelming. We’re also at a disadvantage because we are distanced (or better yet, create the distance).

Nick writes about those various (dis)connections and bridges the gaps, specifically on human rights issues.

Allison Jones/Entry Level Living

I have not come across too many (good) blogs that detail the work of twenty somethings in the NPO world. Nor, I haven’t run across as many that are as insightfully opinionted and as well-informed as Ms. Jones. If you are a twenty something looking to understand social change (as a profession), please visit her blog.

It’s well worth the time.

Karyn/The Fabulous Giver

What can’t be more great than finding chic ways to do charity?  Karyn’s writing is sweetly engaging. The site fosters a lot of opportunities to learn new things about wonderful philanthropic social events and causes. If you are interested in seeing how advocacy turns into action, The Fab Giver should be one of your places to start.

Beth Kanter/Beth’s Blog

This is kind of the “grown up” version of a blog about NPO work and social media usage. Ms. Kanter is pretty straightforward and her advice is practical. I may not always know what she’s talking about – but her blog is like the individual contrast (perspective?) to K Street Cafe.

Career: Good, Bad & Funny

Marci Alboher/Hey Marci

I had just begun following Ms. Alboher’s blog, Shifting Careers, before she got booted from the NYT. Her blog focuses on the multiplicity of careers and jobs. You’ll enjoy it too if like to read about workplace trends and the redefinition of career life.

And, she’s a nice contrast from Ms. Trunk – I can only handle one career blog that details the sex life of the author.

FFN/Fired for Now

This is a fairly new blog. I hope it sticks around. FFN writes about the realities of getting canned from a rigidly honest and insightful view point. The definition of unemployment is changing and this blog seeks to challenge the assumptions of its “social meaning.”

In other words, this blog doesn’t make me feel so bad about getting fired – ever. I suggest this become a must-read for all people still griping about being canned, worried about getting a job or otherwise happy with their career (read: EVERYONE).

Lillit & Ashley/Save the Assistants

This blog appreciates admins from across the world. The Bossary should be the first stop for anyone visiting. Administrative work can be tough – and mind crushing (if you let it). This site can be your saving grace. If you feel you are wasting away your soul in a crappy administrative job, read this blog and become inspired.

Go ahead and be saved (no worshipping of another g-d required).

John Henion & Tania Khadder/Unemploymentality

Weird. Slightly offensive. Scathingly sarcastic. Those are the first three descriptions that come to mind about this site. And, it’s hilarious. It’s an extremely fun read – and the best thing?

You can actually laugh in the face  of joblessness (er…maybe).

Jodith Allen/Administrative Arts

Kind of cheating on this one because I already mention a blog that profiles admin work. Yet, I think this is a good blog to read for anyone no matter what stage of their career they’re in. Admin work is part of any job you do –  from being  the president of a company to the mail clerk. Paperwork is paperwork  – don’t fight it.

Ms. Allen’s blog talks about time management, technology and various facets of (admin) career development. You can try that or the Crabby Office Lady (bonus!).

Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down – Inspiration Blogs!

Alexander Kjerulf/The Chief Happiness Officer

Being happy is important (especially at work) – ’nuff said.

Stephanie/Stephmodo

Besides having the same name as my little sister  – this blogger and I have another thing in common: an appreciation for all things beautiful and appetizingly sensual. Stephanie’s blog is absolutely gorgeous.

And, it’s not nearly as terrifying as GOOP.

Erinn/The Happy Living Design Blog

I’m a big fan of having peaceful spaces. I admit, I just go here to check out whatever photos might be up, but the writing is very interesting, as well. Go here to get ideas on (inexpensive) interior design for all types of abode living.

Not to mention, her blog’s layout has a “soothing” quality.

Cheryl Porro/ The Cupcake Blog

Ok, this blog has been “closed.”  But you can still view recipes, photos, etc. Furthermore, anything featuring a cupcake is bound to make you feel better.

No matter what.

Ev-Yan/Apricot Tea

Besides being ridiculously cute, Ev-Yan is a sensibly chic fashionista. If you like reading about fashion, Ev-Yan can be your muse. She also writes about married life, vegetarian and vegan eating habits and ripped shorts.

She posts photos quite a bit of the various outfits she wears, she pulls off the androgynous look quite well – better than most.

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Photo Credit: Regolare @Flickr

Photo Credit: Regolare @Flickr

Perhaps this post is ill-timed. Maybe, in a deep recession, I shouldn’t suggest that job hopping is (still) beneficial

Nonetheless, today, I’m interested in giving you something a little ridiculous to think about.

You can always top yourself – NOT

Besides the completely 1990’s phrasing used above – topping yourself  is not always the (greatest) end result.  

Outdoing what has already been done becomes a repeat exercise in …what?

If you are determined to best yourself over and over again as long as you can – it will ultimately become unfulfilling, not to mention, BORING.

Among other things, moving away from (or beyond?) your professional zenith requires spreading your scope of experience while maintaing focus

The tricky party is being fooled into believing a unique and forseeable set of risks are in your way.

In reality, you’re only re-hashing previous obstacles. Why accept the possibility of exhausted options when, instead, you can reinvent the same challenges over and over again?

Its a paradoxical complexity shading a simple truth: such challenges ask for very little. In fact, they may insist you become medicore (on the inside) bit by bit.  

Have principles. Learn to walk away

Dave Chappelle essentially gave Comedy Central the kiss of death when he refused to return to Chappelle’s Show. The common knowledge – opinion? – is that the comedian felt his style of comedy was becoming warped by the writers and producers.

Others contend that he was crazy and out of control.

This is not the first time people have travelled down a successful road, danced with greatness and then, moved on. Despite what the world may think about such actions, acting upon them empowers you beyond the usual shifts in career and job adventures.

Instead of becoming subdued by your own power and success, take it at “face value.” Respect it for what it is – and what it isn’t.

Respect for your work (and yourself) requires handling decisions on whether to exploit it and your talents for fame or fortune. Prepare to live with the consequences of accepting or rejecting either of those paths.

Once that is done – you can walk away- and have it be your choice.

Leave a Mystery

Knowing everything you could possibly know about something leaves little to wonder about. What happens?

You move on. The allure is lost because your interest depletes to zero. In an information saturated world, you aren’t necessarily growing just because the knowledge is there.

Leaving mysteries expands the the 3-dimensionality of your career. If you are interested in expanding your professional peak without becoming stale, engage in a mystery.

In short, fresh perspectives breathe new life into your own professional vision.

Being at your peak has little to do with how much you already know, but what little there is left to find out. 

How far are you stretching your current knowledge? What are you giving others to discover and what are you discovering from them?

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Photo Credit: Brymo @Flickr

Photo Credit: Brymo @Flickr

Narrowing your scope – keeping your eyes on the (stupid) prize

Instead of broadening your vision for the future, you’re worrying (a bit too much) about finding your next job. Obviously, if you have bills to pay and mouths to feed – your sense of urgency is more immediate.

Yet, even with (or without) those things, the unemployed rigidly stick to making it next to the hurdle. Remember: it’s only during the breaks and stop gaps that we get to recoup, reinvent and restabilize where our career and life are heading.

In the end, a job is what you want – but that narrow focus can cause you to miss other opportunities that may not present themselves again. The problem is not finding a job – it is keeping yourself sane (and satisfied) while you look for one.

The trick: Remembering what you like to do when you actually had this much time on your hands

Expecting more of the same (over and over again)

In other words, your Plan A is also your Plan B, and C and so on. As a seasoned job hopper, I’ve always been able to bounce back. I’m not going to blame the economy or my (lack of) willpower (OK, maybe just a little).  Instead, the disease of my indifference to job hopping  can be a suitable scapegoat for this scenario.

Job hopping is not always hopping up – sometimes you need to slip a rung or two if you want to add to your skill arsenal. If you jump from one professional venture to the other without much forethought, you may doom yourself to unrealistic expectations of the job market (and your place in it).

This is tricky territory because job hopping has a mixed bag of positives and negatives. In this case, if you have been job hopping within an industry in a downturn –  reasonably tweak your expectations. If you are looking for a career change, be prepared to make broad exceptions.

Question to answer: Is it time for career change, industry change or a change altogether?

Embracing Agoraphobia – in a big way

Some of the (un)expected side effects of joblessness is the amount of freedom and time that is suddenly thrust upon you. Nonetheless, you haven’t left the house in days. Maybe, like most job seekers, you are patrolling Internet job sites, mass emailing potential employers, contacts and God-knows-who else.

You’re glued to your computer looking for opportunities that might not be there. Yet, a lot of this activity is solitary in nature and only compounds the reality that you are not in an office or surrounded by other people. 

Life becomes radically different when the usual 8 hours is not dictated by someone else. It feels liberating… at first. Yet, for some, the sheer velocity of trying to maintain and create a centered routine can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s so important to give yourself the task of being active outside your home as well as within it.

If you go somewhere as prosaic as a coffee shop and read The Onion – that’s fine. Immerse yourself in an environment where there will be people, voices, noise and activity.

If you are introverted (like me) you’ll only leave as soon as you get there to relieve yourself of the stress of being in a crowded environment. Don’t. Do yourself a favor and surround yourself with the world outside your home.

Don’t sequester yourself from it.

Today’s Task: Leave the house. Immediately.

You aren’t working for free

Unemployment doesn’t mean unproductive. When given 8 hours to do whatever we see fit – the monkeys start to escape from the cages.  Volunteering while you are out of work can be your saving grace. You already know that the best job development comes at the highest price: your time.

So, don’t waste hours in front of a Monster job board when you could be learning something you always wanted.

Or, if you find the right opportunity, you’re developing the “defining moments” of your career. Usually, this means giving yourself the incentive to move on to something else while working on something new.

Semantics vs. Perspective: Think of it as a job sabbatical

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Obo-bobolina @Flickr

Photo Credit: Obo-bobolina @Flickr

You can’t get a word in. When you do, it’s glossed over like you are talking about the weather. You are ignored.

Or, at least it feels like it. Lots of twenty somethings complain that their superiors look over their ideas or outright ignore their creativity in the workplace.

Cue rolling eyes and huffy sighs

Frustration is inevitable when one has so many ideas they want to implement – if only their boss would just listen to them!

Contribution and creativity are, in reality, two different things in the workplace. Effective contributions generate ideas that have a foreseeable (and achievable) impact on a company or department’s bottom line, operations or strategical methods (or all three). They are not necessarily plans that have the “wow” factor attached to them or implement the never-seen-before-or heard-before ideas.

Creativity ignores that – not in a bad way, though.

Creativity doesn’t follow the route of necessarily being practical. It tends to be big. It creates new (or side) projects. It requires a leap of faith or someone with guts. Creativity may not always be effective. Yet, it damn sure is interesting (to the creator, at least). 

If, however, you are able to successfully merge creativity with an effective contribution – then, you may boost yourself out of the Middle Child Syndrome.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with creativity. It, nonetheless, may have little to do with work. Here is what you can do in the meantime to get over your MCS:

Ignore

As long as your own work is not in peril, it may be best to “act like it’s not happening.” Depending on the hierarchy in your company, your boss and co-workers might not be ready to bask in the light of your sunny ingenuity. Don’t let that stop you from being your wonderful, creative self.

Keep coming up with new ideas – they’ll be useful.

Tone it down

Are you running down your boss (mercilessly) to get your point across? For example, its’ 8:05 a.m., you and your boss are at the Flavia machine and you hound her with all your “great” ideas for getting involved with social media.

Your boss is a 57 year old Baby Boomer who thinks Facebook is stupid. And, the last thing she wants to hear (for the 8th time) is you cheerleading for blogging, twittering or whatever else.

You have to dole your creativity out in small doses. Don’t stampede people with it – spoon feed instead.

Don’t Whine

“No one listens to me – and I have really great stuff to say!” Ugh. That’s one way to alienate everyone in the office. Don’t (openly) complain about how you are not getting the attention you think you deserve.

Be open and cheery. Whining is a major turn off. Who wants to talk to a whiny (Gen Y) brat?

Find a connector

This is especially helpful for women in predominantly male environments. Gender differences in communication (and creativity) will always exist. Therefore, if you have someone who can help support your innovation, it most certainly can’t hurt. Recognize that nothing gets done alone.

Find an evangelist for your ideas.

If that fails, connect with someone who can help you do the following:

  • Tweak your ideas so that they can better fit with the personality and goals of the company
  • Better address the priorities of the company or department
  • Target you towards existing projects that need a fresh jolt of energy and creativity

Chemistry

Sometimes, the frictions are more personal than professional. It can be hard to fit into a new environment and doubly difficult when the chemistry is off kilter. There are ways to fix this, but it takes time. Spend your time being likeable and dependable, implementing creativity will surely follow.

Good ideas and plans don’t expire, so don’t rush yourself.

What do you think of MCS? Do you think there is more to MCS than just having your ideas ignored?

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Stewf

Photo Credit: Stewf @Flickr

Inspiration is viral – I’ve been bugged.

Nisha Chittal and Aman Sanghara wrote posts regarding the validity and usefulness of Liberal Arts degrees. 

They’re sparking an already long standing debate on whether or not lib arts majors/degrees serve any professional (or social) value beyond having wonderful cocktail conversation at parties.

Essentially, I’m biased. But, I’m going to tell you that there are drawbacks that come with being a math and science brainiac.

My boyfriend was an electrical engineering and physics major in college. He designs light bulbs. He’s quite good at it. And, he constantly nags me about turning off the lights. He hates light.

Don’t ask.

Currently, he’s pursuing his masters degree in product development. What’s that? I can’t really tell you. Yet, from what I can tell, you learn the ins and outs of how to design, market and sell anything.

So far, half of  the curriculum has included classes on communication.

One in particular is the art of negotiation.

Dealing with the abstract frustrates those who manage the concrete – the absolute known. It annoys them in a myriad of ways. They also make no bones about letting you know how useless they think it is.

And, the reason it’s useless?

I can’t argue with your emotions. I can’t measure that,” says my boyfriend. Oh, lord – did you catch that word – measure?

Since there is no immediate and obvious value in the argument, it’s dismissed. Everything’s an argument – there aren’t discussions.  Compromise? Does not compute. And, if you catch them in place where they don’t think the argument can be won – you hear this: “We’ll agree to disagree.”

Technically minded folks are just as apt (if not more likely) to shut down during a negotiation. Concrete thinkers don’t work in abstract because the whole world is in black and white. Well, at least their world. It makes them uncomfortable to venture beyond that.

Unfortunately, that can make them very poor negotiators. When you are constantly seeking a yes or no, wanting either/or and not allowing a but, you lose out on a whole lot more than you bargained for.

Obviously, of course, not all negotiations are abstract. Some are concrete and allow little room for compromise. But, in those cases, technically minded negotiators take everything at face value. They fail at trying to probe for the deeper meaning.

After all, there are no hidden meanings in a math equation. This plus that equals outcome.

Negotiations, however, are more complex than that. But, we already know that, don’t we my fellow liberal arts majors? We have to round out theories with facts, but we aren’t tethered to the terms of right or wrong. Actually, it’s quite liberating when you aren’t limited by finite and measurable data. You’ve got a lot more possibilities.

That’s why they call studies like political science, history, economics, etc.  the social sciences. It involves understanding how people fit into the world, not the other way around. It’s centers on finding the balance (and appreciating it) between the concrete and the abstract.

I’m not saying that the sciences have no value – of course not! I’m only annoyed that science majors want to place competing (or better) value on their education based on something like salary or that they work in “numbers” (or, oddly enough, an intangible idea of validity in the professional world).

It’s lame, quite frankly.

The art of being professionally engaging is negotiating your own talents and interests with relevance to the world and the people in it. I’m hoping my boyfriend is at least learning that in his communication classes.

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mouth

Fake

This communication trait is usually defined as someone who you feel (or you know) dislikes you, but treats you like sugar cotton candy whenever they see you. Women have big problems with this behavior, particularly in the office. 

In social circles, it’s less of an annoyance because women are much more likely to “call you out” on such behavior. Especially, if they’ve had a little bit too much to drink. Nevertheless, this post is not about the tipsy behaviors of women toward fake-sometimes-gal-pals in bars.

This is about the (sober) communication traits women pretend don’t happen in the office, but seethe about later to their boyfriends or husbands. So, if someone is being fake, most aptly, they are being “insincere.”

And women loathe insincerity. It’s up there with lying…or sleeping with her best friend (which ever will peeve her the most at the moment).  

Yet, the dual friction with such behavior is that women can’t stand it when other women actually act like they don’t like them. It’s hostile. It’s uncomfortable. It gets our Victoria’s Secret knickers in a knot. Especially, when we don’t know why.

And secretly, lots of women want to be liked other women

Women are more adept at using communication as tools of exclusion, derision or alienation. So, we’re particularly annoyed (simultaneously) when others fake-like us versus participating in real-dislike.

It’s nutty. So, don’t try to think too hard about it.

On the other side of the coin, women never acknowledge that the fake behavior is about someone treating you like a respectable human being, despite the fact that they may trash you when your back is turned.

In that case, the adjective “spineless” can be added to the long list of descriptors in relation to this person. Yet, fake is just an inaccurate designator.

Secondly, if given the choice (and moral permission) to behave how we really wanted toward people we disliked (immensely) we’d be in trouble as a society. So, be thankful that whoever you deem “fake” has the moral aptitude to at least to pretend to like you when they see you (whether or not they don’t have the moral decency to keep pretending after you’ve left the room).

Most people insist that if such behavior has to occur, they rather the person confront them with how they feel or be “real” about it. I respond, however, with “why?” Get over yourself and the idea that you deserve to  know what everybody thinks about you.

Leave those truthful sentiments for God and your parents.

And, yeah – they’re being insincere with their feelings, but that’s not the point. Fakeness (in the office) is not about sincerity – it’s about the (misguided) ways of getting what you want.

 

Bitch

How many women call men bitches? Honestly. Even though people like to think that the term is gender neutral, I wonder how many women will call men an @*!hole or jerk  before they call them a Bitch.

Personally, I think women instinctively like using the word bitch. It’s got the extra oomph descriptor we need when wanting to describe a hard nosed, exacting and difficult woman.

On the other hand, it has that emasculating quality as well…when used in reference to a man.

Women are the gurus of detail when it comes to picking the word descriptors that best fit any situation (or person).

 

Snobby

This trait is always interesting to me because snobbishness is probably the most sensitive, subjective opinion one can have of other people.

And, women pick up on it like blood hounds. In work place culture, it’s hard to be nice to snobby people because they make it so easy not to be. Yet, snobbishness is manifested in a number of ways via cliquishness and other communicative behaviors women claim they abhor (but practice with shrewd efficiency when they need to).

I could go into an infinite amount of details of snobbishness taking place in the work environment, but let’s be safe in saying that no matter what – a woman will pick up on it.

Snobby behavior may be the symptom of pretentious, ill-mannered people, but it has some uses in the workplace.

For instance, knowing when to avoid the Bitch or the Fake-jerk.

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at Flickr

Photo Credit: ::stromberg:: at Flickr

1. When an entire department is on vacation or during the major holiday season

If the salaried employees can’t be bothered to be there, why should the temp? Once, I was supposed to cover for two admins that were on vacation during Christmas. The agency asked me to work the day before Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas.

Ok, that’s fine. But get this: the entire department was gone as well. Actually, not the entire department, just the director of operations, the office manager, all support staff for both floors, the managing directors and the consultants – not to mention, the lights were on weekend timers.

Needless to say, even if I could find another soul in that place (and I did) – none of them could give me work to do. There was nothing I could do. But, the guilt goes away fast. You get some cash in your pocket, at the expense of a disorganized manager.

2. To help someone else with work they were hired to do in the first place

If you need to hire a temp so that someone can catch up on their job tasks – something is seriously wrong. Most likely, this person has too heavy of a workload. Or, they’re an incompetent employee. Or (scarily) both. Either way, it costs businesses money. Hiring a temp to help someone do work that only one person was hired (and needs) to do is a sad case of mismanagement and wasted company funds.

Years ago, the office manager at a company I worked for hired a temp to cover the phones while the receptionist sat in a cube. The receptionist supposedly used this time to catch up on her administrative duties. On the surface, it just seems odd. If you probe even deeper, it just gets stupid. If you are going to outsource someone else’s (current) job, wouldn’t it make more sense to have them perform the “cheaper” portion of it?

You probably wonder what that means.

In reality, it costs more to have a temp answer phones (per hour on average) than it does to have them do data entry at a desk (especially when it takes the same amount of time to train). Also, you’re aren’t doing your business any favors when you pull maneuvers like that in the name of “efficiency.”

3. You are overwhelmed with “outstanding projects”

Outstanding projects are business wild cards. You have the idea that the work should’ve been done. But, it wasn’t. Now, it’s collecting dust. And perhaps, we (the business) should pay attention to it now (for whatever reason).

The projects become outstanding because they fall out everyone’s primary job description. You know how it goes, “I don’t do that, Pete does that!” “Well, I used to do that, but my boss says it’s not my job,” blah blah blah. You know the drill.

As a manager, you can stick it to some hapless soul and make it part of their job description. Nevertheless, it sounds like you may need to create a new job position within your company. For the sake of employee morale and efficiency, hiring a temp to take over tasks that are too time consuming for one person to do is the best use of time and money for any company.

4. When someone quits unexpectedly or you haven’t hired anyone yet for a job vacancy

This is a perfect opportunity for managers to evaluate if the position needs to be filled, eliminated or rewritten. Some companies take the cheap (and most inefficient) route. Managers lodge additional job duties onto other employees to pick up slack. Unfortunately, business suffers in the long run when employees have to deal with handling two jobs instead of one (in the long term). 

Not only will you have cranky employees (who question your management skills), but you will have to deal with confused clients and a medley of whining complaints thinly disguised as “concerns.”

After a few weeks, if you don’t expect to promote or hire anyone soon, it’s your best bet to have a temp come in.

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