Your computer is a factory for ideas. Go build something.

Category: Work (page 1 of 4)

Haiku for Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Today’s haiku is also a PSA:

Calling out someone
on social media—woot!
Don’t get yourself fired.

Want a raise? Follow these 10 steps.

Some people think getting a raise is about having a conversation with your boss when they’ve put in their time.

They’re wrong.

It’s really about doing great work and communicating regularly with your boss.

These 10 steps show you how to do it right.

Note: The other day I posted some success tips for internships. Follow the same advice in the article and do exceptional work, but you may not want to ask for a raise. Instead, focus on building a great relationship with your mentor/supervisor so they’ll give you a great recommendation when you’re ready to look for work.

Don’t you need to be a charismatic extravert to be a great leader?

In a word, no:

Let’s look at the relationship between extraversion and leadership effectiveness.  Some studies have found a relationship, but it is so weak that it is difficult to draw conclusions from it.  A much stronger relationship has been found when looking only at particular types of jobs: extraversion predicts performance in jobs with a competitive social component; for example, sales.  And if we look at extraversion in more depth, it can also predict other less desirable outcomes such as absenteeism.

Introverts and ambiverts of the world, unite! There’s hope for you.

via HBR Blogs

Why You Spend Most of Your Life in Two of the Least Creative Places on Earth

Photo Credit: Ol.v!er [H2vPk] via Compfight cc

Steve Jobs, Frank Lloyd Wright, Dave Brubeck, Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Martin Scorcese, Ansel Adams.

You’d like to think you breathe the same air as these creative geniuses–at least some of the time, right?

It turns out that you probably don’t, and the two major obstacles are the places you spend most of your life: school and work.

Jessica Olien, writing in Slate, offers this:

In the United States we are raised to appreciate the accomplishments of inventors and thinkers—creative people whose ideas have transformed our world. We celebrate the famously imaginative, the greatest artists and innovators from Van Gogh to Steve Jobs. Viewing the world creatively is supposed to be an asset, even a virtue. Online job boards burst with ads recruiting “idea people” and “out of the box” thinkers. We are taught that our own creativity will be celebrated as well, and that if we have good ideas, we will succeed.

It’s all a lie. This is the thing about creativity that is rarely acknowledged: Most people don’t actually like it. Studies confirm what many creative people have suspected all along: People are biased against creative thinking, despite all of their insistence otherwise.

If you’ve tried to push a new idea through your organization, you’ve probably faced this resistance. And anyone who’s been through the school system in the United States (I can’t speak for schools elsewhere) has experienced the factory-like approach to education. Ken Robinson’s outstanding TED talk on the creative desert in schools highlights the problems many of us have faced.

So what do you do?

Most people are inclined to conform, and new ideas make you different, an outlier. Don’t be surprised when you face resistance, take risks, and keep trying.

To get something new done you have to be stubborn and focused, the the point that others might find unreasonable.
–Jeff Bezos

Two Books I Hope You’ll Read This Month

The potential for future strife, in my view, involves maximizing acquisition and application of knowledge. We will see both institutionally (nations, businesses, enterprises) and individually a chasm grow between those who can readily use knowledge and those who cannot. That strife will be both internecine and international. We need to stop teaching people irrelevant content which can be acquired in seconds when needed, and start teaching them how to learn, so that knowledge acquisition is natural and lifelong. — Alan Weiss

My students at Lincoln Christian University are winding down the fall semester. Like students at schools all over the country, they’ll have about four weeks of vacation before the spring semester begins. So what to do with all that unstructured time?

How about this: keep learning.

Just as consultant Alan Weiss asserts, your ability to constantly learn is a competitive advantage, and one that doesn’t depend on any school or classroom.

With that in mind, here are two books you could read over the Christmas break that have the potential to pay dividends throughout your life:

Dan Pink, recently named by Thinkers50 as one of the top 15 business and management thinkers in the world, wrote the first American business book in manga, the Japanese comic book style. An instant bestseller, it offers career advice for young and old alike–and it has a pretty cool trailer (below).

Johnny Bunko trailer from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.

Richard St John’s book offers similar advice but from a different angle. After being asked the seemingly simple question “How do you become successful?” by a young teenage girl, he set out to find the answer. Ten years, 500 interviews, and reams of data later, 8 to Be Great tells you what successful people do–and you can do what they do. Here’s a summary of the book that Richard St John gave in a TED talk (below).

Both books are fun, easy to read, and undeniably helpful. You can read Dan Pink’s book in 90 minutes–it’s a comic book, for crying out loud. Richard St John’s can be read in a couple of sittings, so you have no excuse to not read them both.

I’m encouraging my children to read them. In fact, my thirteen-year-old daughter has already read Johnny Bunko and we’ve had some good conversation about its lessons.

I wish these books had been available when I was 20. If you’re in college now, please do yourself a favor and read them. You’ll get a 20 year head start on me.

Bonus assignment if you finish these: Seth Godin’s Linchpin.

Book Review: “The Year Without Pants” by Scott Berkun

Can you name a company that hires employees without formal interviews and instead gives prospective job seekers a real assignment to see how they deal with it? Or a company that has a headquarters but whose international workforce hardly ever works there? Or that requires every new hire to spend their first weeks at the company working in customer support?

It’s the same company that hosts nearly 73 million blogs, and the platform on which this blog runs: WordPress.

Scott Berkun, a former project manager at Microsoft and now an author of some fine books, wanted to find out more about what it would be like to work at an organization with an entirely distributed workforce. So he spent a year as a team manager at WordPress and then wrote a book about the experience. Hence The Year Without Pants.

I’ve read Berkun’s books on project management and public speaking, and am a regular reader of his blog. He’s typically insightful, provocative, and funny. When I saw that he’d be doing a book on WordPress, which I’ve used for about seven years now, I figured it would be worth the read.

What: The book is structured chronologically, running from the initial arrangements that led to Berkun’s hire through end of his year+ of employment with WordPress. Berkun offers a look at the dynamics of his team and the projects on which they worked, as well as how that work and the team fit into the larger WordPress structure. There’s also some reflection on larger management, culture, and leadership issues as well as Berkun’s thoughts on “the future of work” in a world where a computer and an Internet connection can link almost anyone anywhere in the world.

Audience: Anyone who wants an inside look at how WordPress works as an organization, project managers, and HR and business types who are curious about how a distributed workforce can really get stuff done. I’d also recommend it for anyone who wants to do better at leading teams–you’ll get the vicarious experience of watching Scott Berkun lead his team and get a glimpse at the thinking and motivations behind his decisions.

Nuggets: Here are few bits that I underlined (well, highlighted on my Kindle version).

No technique, no matter how good, can turn stupid coworkers into smart ones. And no method can magically make employees trust each other or their boss if they have good reason not to. (p 29)

Product creators are the true talent of any corporation, especially one claiming to bet on innovation. The other roles don’t create products and should be there to serve those who do. A classic betrayal of this idea is when the IT department dictates to creatives what equipment they can use. If one group has to be inefficient, it should be the support group, not the creatives. If the supporting roles, including management, dominate, the quality of products can only suffer. (p 38)

Every tradition we hold dear was once a new idea someone proposed, tried, and found valuable, often inspired by a previous tradition that had been outgrown. The responsibility of people in power is to continually eliminate useless traditions and introduce valuable ones. An organization where nothing ever changes is not a workplace but a living museum. (p 76)

Morale isn’t an event; it’s the accumulated goodwill people build through work together. (p 206)

Application: After reading the book, I decided to try an experiment in one of my Lincoln Christian University classes. The marketing class is working on a project in teams. In the past, I’ve always met with each team to check on their progress and address problems. For a class with four teams, this meant scheduling multiple meetings with each team–a significant logistical challenge at the end of the semester.

For this class, I asked each team to select a project manager. Instead of meeting with all of the teams, I’m meeting only with the project managers. So far this has created two improvements: fewer meetings and more collaboration. Instead of scheduling four meetings with four teams, I have one meeting with the four project managers. And the teams are sharing ideas more than I’ve seen in the past. The semester isn’t over yet, so the plan could still flop but I like what I’m seeing so far.

This upcoming spring semester, I have two of my LCU students working on a human resource management independent study. I’ll have them read The Year Without Pants as one of their texts. I also want to use more project management ideas in future classes, passing more responsibility along to the students with the hope that it better prepares them for life after LCU.

How to Get Hired

Your skills and resume get you an interview but it’s your network that really gets you connected to the right people in the first place.

So how do you get good connections? It’s pretty simple, really: be the kind of person people want to work with.

What kind of person is that? Seth Godin has a list.

It’s simple–anybody can do it. But it’s not easy, and not everybody will do it.

How to Succeed After College: More Advice from Your Future Self

Last week I shared advice from two friends, Jackie and Ashley: knowing what you know now, what would you tell your 19-year-old self?

Ashley thought about it some more and offered a few more nuggets:

  1. Our pastor frequently says, “The person you will be in 10 years is directly affected by the people you hang out with and the books you read.” I think there’s a lot of wisdom there. Read more books and surround yourself, not only with smart people, but good people; people who will speak life to you and who will challenge you to do the same.
  2. Disillusionment is coming. It happens to everyone. As you get older you realize that some people that you really loved and respected didn’t really deserve your love and respect. It’s sad and heartbreaking. Embrace it–there’s no way around it. Love them anyway, but be careful who you let speak into your life.
  3. A few months after I got married, Eric Teoro (one of my business professors) told me that I didn’t know what it meant to love my husband, and I wouldn’t really know what that meant until we had some water under our bridge. He was right. He also once said, referring to some scripture from Corinthians, that love means growing up (in some other words;)). He was also right about that. I’d probably advise myself to keep my opinions about love and marriage to myself for the first several years of marriage.
  4. A smile and polite, gentle answer can get you out of most everyday difficult situation.
  5. A van is really not as bad as you think it is. In fact, it’s kind of fantastic.
  6. READ Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen, stat. Most twenty-somethings desperately need to hear those words.
  7. “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for his cause, but the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for his cause” (The Catcher In the Rye). I would tell my twenty-year-old self to choose to live humbly–it speaks volumes more than a noble death.
  8. Buy some real clothes. Jeans and vintage t-shirts are only going to work for so long. If you are wearing jeans and tees all the time, while complaining that no one takes you seriously, you should probably change your wardrobe. Take yourself seriously enough to invest in some decent clothing. And dress up for the job you want, not the job you have.

Advice from Your Future Self

If you’ve been out of school for a while, you’re (hopefully) a little wiser now than you were a few years ago. Knowing what you know now and looking back, what advice would you give your 19-year-old self?

That was the question I asked two professionals to answer for my students at Lincoln Christian University yesterday.

LCU hosted an internship fair earlier this week, so folks from a number of organizations were on campus recruiting students for these opportunities. Two of my friends, Jackie and Ashley, were here representing their organizations and asked me if they could have a few minutes to speak to students in my accounting and marketing classes about internships. Sure, I said, if you’d be willing to share with the students a few thoughts about your life after college and what you wish you’d learned or paid attention to (but didn’t).

Here’s a summary of Jackie and Ashley’s advice to their college-aged selves. Not surprisingly, their lists overlapped–a lot.

What I’d tell my 19-year-old self that would have helped me in my life and career

  • It’s important to learn how to interact with adults instead of just your peers
  • Learn how to network and communicate better
  • Meet as many people as you can–you never know where a connection may lead
  • Learn how to be persuasive and to handle conflict with tact and grace
  • Learn how to work with people who are different from you
  • Be humble–be willing to ask for advice and learn from your older bosses and colleagues
  • When someone gives you advice, write it down!
  • Plan ahead: save for retirement while you’re young and get health insurance (because you never know when you may need it)
  • Keep reading and learning
  • Take chances, embrace your mistakes, learn from your failures. Don’t play it safe: be willing to take risks!

Thanks, Jackie and Ashley. Keep doing what you’re doing–it’s important.

You may want to compare their lists with Ben’s.

So what advice would you give your teenage self? Drop it in the comments below.

I’m a College Student; What Should I do with LinkedIn?

One of my students at LCU recently emailed me with this question:

I hear that LinkedIn’s website is a good way to do networking.  Do you have any suggestions on how I can effectively do networking for my future career now?

First, this is a great question. While other students are watching Netflix and playing video games, she’s already working to make an impression on future employers. In my marketing classes, we say that marketing is getting people to know, like, and trust you. Everything you do–whether you’re a business or a college student wanting to get hired or start a business some day–is marketing. Start building your LinkedIn profile now and you’re marketing yourself like a boss.

For the uninitiated, LinkedIn is a social networking site for business professionals. Think Facebook but without the playground. It’s a place for people display credentials (like a resume), share content, and connect.

If you’re new to LinkedIn, you’ll need to set up a profile. What should you include? This article, “What Every College Student Should Post on LinkedIn,” will help you get started. Pay attention to the first point: get a good headshot photograph (not an Instagram selfie). Research shows that profiles with photos are seven times more likely to get viewed than profiles without a photo. Again, it’s all about getting other LinkedIn members (think: prospective employers or clients) to know, like, and trust you.

What else can you do? More important than a good online profile is strong character.

Do good work in the classroom, show up on time, pay attention, participate in discussions, ask questions, be a leader. Take risks and be willing to fail. Care about the people around you. Be the kind of person your professors want to recommend. Many of us want to do that but you need to show us you’re worth it.

That will get you started. Once you’ve got a profile set up, let’s connect.

(Shameless plug: I know where you can get a good headshot.)

Older posts

© 2018 MichaelGowin.com

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑