7 Nuggets of Career Advice

The other week I was fortunate to hear from four leaders in higher education. All four also were women. I’m not sure if that really mattered, but the event was billed about hearing from women leaders. And they did share challenges they had faced as women advancing in their careers.

Their stories resonated with me, and I took away several lessons.

Take advantage of opportunities. One of the leaders said she didn’t necessarily have a career path, but she took advantage of opportunities, particularly the ones that excited her. She noted that paths always opened up new opportunities.

Say yes to the right things. One leader said she sometimes has problems saying no. “Perhaps it is a fear or a belief that it might close off some opportunity,” she said. She has learned, though, that only individuals know what they are trying to achieve. Her advice? We should stay focused on what we want, not what others want.

We should stay focused on what we want, not what others want. 

Follow your passion. You know what you love so talk about it and share it with others. Believe in yourself and be open to the next opportunity. Another leader urged audience members to discover what brings them joy.

Don’t set limitations. One leader said she had to give credit to how she was raised – specifically, without limitations. Consequently, she believed she could do whatever was important to her.

Find silver linings. One leader said that when something is negative, she thinks about the negative from multiple angles and tries to determine what could be positive or good about the situation. As she put it, “It’s a mind game that gives me a better perspective.”

Be strong. As a leader make deliberate choices about with whom you surround yourself. The leaders also encouraged amplifying the voices of women in the room in an effort to bring men and women into the conversation as co-equals. And don’t allow yourself to be pushed off to the end. One leader said she was at a conference and the last speaker (a male) had a plane to catch. She was asked if she would switch, and she said no, noting that he should have arranged his flight schedule according to when he was slated to speak.

Be open to mentoring or mentoring others. Find a mentor who will push you and provide you with different perspectives. If your mentor is just like you, “one of you is dispensable,” noted one of the leaders. Find someone with who you can have extensive conversations and talk in detail about your goals.

6 Steps to Plan a Successful Event

 

Birthday BalloonIn December I threw my sister a surprise 50th birthday party. I did it with by brother-in-law and while living in another state.

In another month, I’ll be part of team that is putting together a conference. I’ve lost track as to how many conferences I have put together.

When I tell others that I’m organizing an event, many cringe. They think it is too much work, no one will show up, or it will cost too much money. Those can all be true, but if you follow these six steps, you should have a successful event.

  1. Establish your goals. Why are you holding the event? The surprise party was to celebrate a milestone in my sister’s life. Knowing that helped define the other elements of the party. The conference I am organizing is intended to provide learning and networking opportunities for members.
  2. Identify a team. Events require a strong attention to detail. It’s helpful to have someone who is overseeing the event at a macro level, as well as individuals who can handle specific areas, such as speakers or logistics.
  3. Pick a date. If you have flexibility with the date, consider holidays and availability of speakers and how they could impact your event. You also want to give yourself enough time to plan the event.
  4. Create a task sheet. I’m always surprised when someone asks me to help with an event and I ask about the task sheet and am told they don’t have one. I can’t function without one. I build in all of the steps needed to pull off the event and note the due dates and anything I need to be aware of. I track the status of each task.
  5. Establish a budget. Registrations and sponsorships should cover all of your expenses and, ideally, provide you with profit. The surprise party didn’t need to make a profit, but we did need to consider the budget, which informed the venue, menu options and decorations.
  6. Evaluate the success. When I am organizing a conference for a group, I consider it a success if most members attended and said they learned something from the speakers or made a new connection. The surprise birthday party was a success because my sister was surprised and she told me later, “It’s exactly what I wanted for my birthday.” That’s the best evaluation I’ve ever received!

Invest in Yourself

Are you getting a tax refund this year? If so, how do you plan to spend it?

A vacation? A shopping spree?

Why not invest in yourself?

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Be bold! Color outside the lines and invest in yourself. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Identify what your goals are and then spend part of your refund (I’m hoping you received one!) on you. Maybe you have been wanting to join a professional group. Or perhaps there is a class you want to take or a conference you want to attend.

I’ve been fortunate in my career that my employer has supported me with one conference a year. However, I’m at work on a book (with two more in the wings) and my employer is not going to pay for me to join a mystery writers’ group or attend a conference focused on authors.

That’s on me.

And because it’s important to me, I save the funds so that I can participate in the group and attend the conference.

I also pay to be part of a group of communicators who hear monthly from Michael Smart about best PR practices. Sure, I’ve been at this business a long time, but I don’t always have time to identify the next great place to pitch (hint: it’s not The New York Times). Sometimes the calls reinforce for me that I am doing the right things and that I should stay the course.

I like what Michael shared in an email about the success of two individuals who continued to learn:

“The desire for continuous learning and improvement likely contributed the MOST to those people’s success,” he shared.

If you want to keep learning and growing and succeeding, investing in yourself may be the best investment you make.

 

 

Feeding the Content Beast

As a young reporter, I was tasked with producing a story each day the newspaper published. That meant finding six stories every week, week after week.

At first, I struggled. Then I developed sources. I learned to take a national story and localize it. I asked people what they wanted to read about. Before long, I always had plenty of stories. I could sometimes write an extra one and have it banked for the day when I couldn’t find a story. To this day, I appreciate a good evergreen story.

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To tame the content beast, find ways to repackage content and look for content in different places. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Today one story can serve so many platforms with a bit of tweaking.

I gather information from an expert on campus, and I can pitch the information to a reporter, write a blog, send a tweet or post to Facebook. Depending on the story, I might also gather photos or shoot video.

Here are some ways to find content:

Create videos. When you interview a subject matter expert shoot a few minutes of video. When you share the footage, you may find others who are interested in writing about the subject. You also are helping the expert gain exposure and further develop their interviewing skills.

Repeat. I used to publish a tweet for each blog I wrote. But then I heard from several experts who pointed out that I was missing the audiences who weren’t on Twitter at the time I posted. I now schedule 5 to 7 tweets for every blog post I write. The result has been better engagement. The same holds true for tweeting media releases.

Speeches: If someone in your organization is speaking to a group, obtain a copy of her remarks in advance. You can identify some quotes to share in advance of the talk, and then do the same during and after. Include the handle of the organization she is visiting so others will share, too.

Website: Your website can be a gold mine of content. Much of the evergreen information on your site is still new to many and it’s worth sharing. You also can highlight new content.

The key to always having good content is to post on multiple platforms. The easiest way to do that is to create a content or editorial calendar. To learn more about such calendars, visit this post.

Video Plays Role in Content Strategy

I’ve been watching videos and commercials more closely of late.

That’s because I recently heard Tod Plotkin, principal of Green Buzz Agency, speak about videos.

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Source: Hubspot

He pointed out that most videos and commercials include text over the images. Why? Because so often we do our viewing in a public setting such as on a subway, in a waiting room or at a restaurant and we have the volume muted. Words superimposed over images ensures that even with the volume muted we will understand the message.

Videos should have a complete message even without sound, Plotkin said.

This is important to know because more video content is uploaded in 30 days than all three major U.S. TV networks combined have created in 30 years, according to Insivia.

Videos should play a role in your content strategy. Most likely you have videos on your website. Are you also using them on your social media platforms? Have you included a video link an email you send? Have you used video at a conference or sales presentation?

Plotkin encouraged individuals to not focus on having a video go viral with a random audience. “The goal of your video should be to engage your audience on an emotional level,” he said.

He also debunked the notion that a video needs to be of a certain length. The key, he said, is that whatever the length of the video, it must keep people engaged. If it doesn’t, then shorten the video.

The encouraging news is that advancements in video technology are bringing costs down and making corporate videos more competitive with content on TV and in film.

If you haven’t incorporated video into your content strategy, now may be the perfect time.

Keeping Your 2017 Resolutions

Two months into the year and less than 60 percent of individuals who made resolutions have kept them, according to Statistic Brain.

It’s still better to make resolutions than not, Statistic Brain notes. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

You likely won’t succeed at your resolutions if you don’t have action steps and ways to be accountable. Think of your resolutions as SMART goals.

S – specific

M – measurable

A – attainable

R – realistic

T – time-bound

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What moves will you take to ensure your success in 2017? (Photo by Cynthia Price)

The point is that if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve, and you don’t have a way to measure it, you are more likely to fail.

An example is the resolution to lose weight. Simply saying your resolution is to lose weight likely will not lead to weight loss. However, if you apply the SMART principles to it, you will more likely succeed. Your resolution becomes “Lose 20 pounds in four months by doing X, Y and Z.”

I have a goal of writing a book. Once, I applied the SMART principles to it, I’ve had much greater success. Now my goal is to complete the first draft of my book by May. It’s specific and I can measure it (is the draft completed?). It’s attainable and realistic because I gave myself five months to complete the research and writing.

To further ensure my success, I broke my goal down into tasks. I have identified writing days and have scaled back other activities. I also have an accountability partner with whom I discuss my progress every two weeks.

Another example is walking. I purchased a Fitbit and walk 10,000 steps a day. (I admit, though, I don’t always achieve that goal.) I have my best success when it’s timebound. Last summer, I set a goal of walking 1 million steps between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s basically the same as walking 10,000 steps a day, but there was a finite time to achieve the goal. I created a tracking form so that on days when I did not reach 10,000 steps I would make up the steps the next day. At the end of the period I had walked more than 1 million steps! And I rewarded myself with a new, more advanced Fitbit.

Sometimes, though, your goal is a bit more nebulous. One of mine is to slow down and have time for reading. I write down all the books I read. Yes, it’s fun to go back and look at the list, but what the list really does for me is identify when I am overcommitted. Typically, I average five books a month.  When I look at my list and see that I have only read two books, I know it’s time to schedule down time.

The third month of 2017 has arrived. Now is the perfect time to recommit to your resolutions. Make sure they are reasonable and that you can track your progress against a deadline. If you do, this may be the year that you keep your resolutions.

 

The Power of Measurement

20000 StepsThe other week I lost my Fitbit. And for a few days I didn’t work out because I didn’t know how to measure my progress. (Yes, I realize that was a lousy excuse for not working out.)

Of course, fitness goals were achieved and records broken before the arrival of Fitbits and other tracking devices. I, though, had become dependent on mine. While I waited for my replacement to be shipped, I found other things to track, including the number of miles I walked on the treadmill and the number of flights of stairs I climbed in a day.

The same holds true at work. How do you know if you are succeeding? My team has monthly goals, and toward the end of each month, we review our progress against the goals. Sometimes we need to step up our games. Sometimes we need to recalibrate.

A professional group to which I belong is concerned about membership. When I ask how many members we have and how many have renewed, no one knows immediately. I do because I’m tracking it. I suspect I drive the parent organization crazy because during renewal season I ask for our membership list about every two weeks. I want to track and determine where follow-up needs to happen. If members aren’t rejoining, I want to know why. If we’re getting new members, I want to know what has drawn them to the group.

When I decided to visit all states within the U.S., I listed them and tracked my progress. I knew I wanted to see all the states before I turned 50. Without a plan and means of tracking, I was not going to get to see all 50 states. I worked my plan and, in the end, I visited all of them by 50.

Management guru Peter Drucker is often credited with saying “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” If you want to succeed, figure how to define your success and how you will achieve it.

Here’s to your success.