3 Reasons to Join a Professional Group

At the end of the year, it seemed like all I was doing was paying dues. I belong to several groups and membership expired on Dec. 31. As someone who has served as the membership director, I know how wonderful it is to see all of the renewals come in before the year ends.

I know that I have to pay my dues at the end of the year. I set money aside throughout the year, knowing that with the holidays I may run short of expendable cash. This way I’m ready.

I didn’t hesitate in paying my dues because of the value of the organizations.

My mystery writers group (Sisters in Crime Central Virginia) provides me with hope and confidence. Most of the members are published authors, some of whom have made the best-seller list. All of them have offered tips and encouragement as I work on mine at my own pace. Hearing their stories gives me confidence and hope that one day my book will appear in print and reside on a shelf or an electronic device.

zen-rockMy coaching group (International Coaching Federation Virginia) is helping me to learn and develop skills. I’ve been informally coaching for years, and decided I wanted to formalize the process. I attend monthly meetings and learn from successful coaches. I’ve learned about imagery, mindfulness and credentialing. Last year I created my own coaching page so individuals can secure my services.

My communications groups (VPC, NFPW) have provided me with hope, confidence and new skills. They also have provided me with leadership opportunities. I have served as president of both my state affiliate and the national organization. I’ve led a strategic planning workshop for NFPW with another member.

As an added benefit, I have found that in all of these groups there are several individuals who also offer friendship. That’s a nice bonus.

Many more reasons exist for joining a professional group. I am interested in hearing from you about what groups you belong to and why. If you are willing to share, please post your reply in the comment section.

 

Sunshine Week Shines on Open Government

swlogo-198x300Sunshine Week, which runs March 16-22, is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. It began with a group of Florida editors starting Sunshine Sunday where they held a coordinated campaign to focus on open government.

Without an effort to keep government open we could shift to a government-run society. “We would gradually see an acceleration of initiatives intended for perfectly good reasons to keep information from the public — to protect privacy or efficiency or security or internal deliberation — to the point that the public would have to prove a ‘need to know’ to penetrate the custodian’s protective shield around the government information,” says Tonda Rush, a media lawyer in Washington, D.C., and a long time National Federation of Press Women member.

Some think we are already there in many categories of records. “When that happens, we shift from an open society to a government-run society where democracy has to apologize for asking to be informed,” Rush says.

Part of an open government is Freedom of Information, which on the federal level, “creates the presumption that all the records of the federal executive branch are open, unless closed for a permissible and exempt reason,” Rush explains.“It sets an important tone of transparency and citizen-stakeholder values in our national life.”

In addition, every state has some version of an open records law (as well as open meetings laws) that give this same guarantee of citizen-facing transparency, and in that case, opens the government that works most closely with most people in their daily work and lives.

“Unfortunately, the many exemptions, competing stakeholders and sometimes conflicting court opinions have made most of these laws something of a Swiss cheese,” Rush notes. “Also, the plethora of privacy laws coming from Congress and state legislatures have created a gaping hole where public accountability is sometimes entrapped.”

To learn more about Sunshine Week visit http://sunshineweek.rcfp.org/.

 

 

Time To Schedule Time Off

Utah logo

NFPW Conferences feature tours, which make for great vacations.

Earlier this week I took a random day off. It wasn’t spontaneous because I scheduled it with my boss in advance, but it was random in that one day last week I realized I needed a day off to do nothing.

I’m able to do that because at the start of each calendar year I divide up my days off among the four quarters. I find it restorative to take some time off each quarter. Admittedly, I don’t take as many days in January, February and March because it’s just too cold. Some of the days are floaters, meaning I may change when I take them closer to the time.

The point, though, is to schedule the time off and to take the time. Many Americans, however, will leave an average of nine paid vacation days unused this year, according to a new survey reported by Marketplace.org.

Not taking the time has a cost. Marketplace.org also reports that women who don’t take vacations are two to eight times more likely to suffer from depression, while for men the risk of heart attack rises by a third.

One of my favorite times to vacation happens in late summer/early fall. I attend the National Federation of Press Women Conference and sign up for the pre- or post-tour and sometimes a day tour. Those extra days off give me time to recharge my batteries, explore America and hang out with a bunch of amazing women (and men).

If you haven’t, now is a good time to be sure you have scheduled all of your vacation days.

Are You Standing Still, Or Are You Growing?

What have you done outside of work to make yourself better over the last two or three years?

That’s a question that Seth Besmertnik asks of interview candidates. Besmertnik, who was being interviewed by Adam Bryant for his New York Times column, “Corner Office,” said, “How people spend the time when they’re not working and when they’re not sleeping is the biggest indication in my mind of what they want in life.”

It’s a question I ask myself frequently. One thing that has helped me for the past two decades is my involvement with the National Federation of Press Women. Through that organization, I’ve developed my event planning skills, my networking skills and my leadership skills. The next conference is in Utah, and if you are a communicator, it’s a great time to get involved. If you already are a member and have not been to a conference, why not make this the year you do something to help your career? As a first-timer, you can apply for a grant to have the registration fee covered.

You can also learn new skills by taking online courses. One of my favorite places to learn is Lynda.com, which allows you to participate in tutorials on thousands of software subjects for a small fee. A one-month membership is $25 or you can sign up for several months or a year and access close to 1,000 courses 24/7. I’ve found the courses helpful for improving my skills in PowerPoint and Excel and for learning the basics of new technology.

Another way to improve your skills is to volunteer. One of my colleagues is a graphic artist and she volunteers those skills to help an animal rescue organization. I’ve been learning more about the world of publishing by volunteering at my local library to coordinate a writers’ series.

You could also pick up a book. I try to read four to six books related to my profession each year. I’m doing better now that I participate in a book club at work that is focused on leadership. Once a quarter we read a book and discuss it. We just read The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner.

The adage “If you aren’t changing, you’re standing still” is more true than ever. I ask again, what have you done outside of work to make yourself better?

5 Tips to Manage Your Career

Recently I was speaking with a young woman whom I met as she was finishing her undergraduate college degree. She’s getting ready to move and is deciding what she wants to do.

She asked me about my career and how I chose where to work. As I considered my current position, as well as those I held previously, some themes emerged. I think this advice works whether you’re seeking your first position or your next one.

1. Know what you don’t want to do. That’s a good way to eliminate jobs. If you prefer writing, then a job as an event planner is probably not for you even if it sounds like fun because you will miss writing.

2. Find jobs that allow you to contribute to the organization and also to stretch. Obviously, you have to bring something to the position or you won’t get hired. You also don’t want to become bored with the job so seek opportunities to grow your skills. When you’re first starting out, it may simply be learning how the business world works.

I was fortunate in my newspaper career to also spend some time in the photo-graphics department so I learned about pre-press and printing, which helped influence what I would and could do as I was designing pages.

3. Take advantage of opportunities outside of the office. I joined a professional group called National Federation of Press Women and the state affiliate Virginia Press Women. Because of those organizations I developed my skills as a public speaker, event planner and newsletter editor. I also learned about diplomacy and working with volunteers. More importantly, I developed an extensive list of contacts so if I am stumped, I can always find a member to give me pointers or suggest a consultant.

4. Find mentors. You may not be ready for your next dream job. Speaking with someone, though, who has a similar job is a great way to learn what you will need to get the job. Don’t hesitate to reach out. Most people want to help.

5. Volunteer. I serve on some boards and work with my local library where I created a writers’ series. I aspire to publish a novel and this volunteer work is a great way for me to connect with published authors and learn about the craft.

What advice would you give to some just beginning their career or who is looking to transition?