Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fat Free is the Way to Be

With the spring upon us and summer looming, cutting down on fatty food and getting fit becomes a focus for many of us. In the workplace another opportunity presents itself for trimming the fat - our writing. Far too often we write without adhering to the KISS (keep it simple, stupid!) principle. This results in writing full of fluff and fat. In the business and technical setting, writers should strive to be clear and concise; oversized documents aren’t desirable.

A careful review of your writing after composition with a fat-free lens can cut out those unwanted pounds. Ask yourself “who cares?” You should only be including information which is relevant to the reader; anything else is simply excess. Utilizing numbered/bulleted lists or tables can cut down on words and provide brief representation of content.

For tips and strategies to put your writing on a diet, see the Fat Free Writing Series[1] and Fat-Free Writing or How to Eliminate Wordiness in 10 Easy Steps[2]

Remember, just like any fitness plan, cutting the fat from your writing takes time, dedication, and practice. Keep yourself engaged in your work by striving to improve your writing. It’s a skill that will carry throughout your career.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Marketing Yourself

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been busy in my personal life prepping my condo to sell. Some things my realtor and I have done to market my condo include:
1. De-cluttering and packing away anything that doesn’t need to be on display.
2. Sweeping up the leaves on my patio to highlight one of the condo’s best features.
3. Approving marketing flyers.
4. Uploading the details of the condo to an online listing service.
As I have marketed and branded my condo as a great place to live, I started thinking how can these strategies be transferred to marketing and branding one’s career? Some effective strategies might include:
1. Developing a 30-second elevator statement. In 30 seconds or less be able to tell someone who you are, what you do, your strengths, and your goals.
2. Highlighting your best work features. Know your strengths and ensure the people you work with know your strengths and what you enjoy working on.
3. Developing, or updating, your resume, cover letter, and career portfolio.
4. Networking at face-to-face events or through online social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Marketing yourself at work and in your career is one effective technique to stay engaged. Even if you’re not looking for a new job, marketing yourself can help you to move up in your own company or focus on projects best suited to your strengths.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New Beginnings

It’s officially spring…a time of endings and new beginnings. William Bridges introduced a transition model that involves 3 different zones…an ending, a neutral zone, and, finally, a new beginning. This is a good time of year to reflect on what each of those zones holds for you.

In Canada, April marks the beginning of a new fiscal year for our government (which, within Life Strategies means an end to several of the government-funded research and development projects we’ve been working on). It’s also the end of the university term – with lots of end-of-term projects and marking but also a chance to look ahead and prep for the new term beginning in a few weeks.

In our gardens, we’re seeing new buds on trees and fresh growth poking through the ground. In front of our new Life Strategies offices we were delighted to see the spindly trees out front erupt with gorgeous pink Magnolia blooms – like a reward for surviving a long and busy winter.

To successfully move on to something new, however, requires attending to all the tasks associated with closure and completion of projects. It’s easy to get excited about new beginnings and ignore those final pieces that wrap up the past season, life stage, or contract.

Within the Life Strategies team, we sometimes engage in “ticky contests” at such transitional times. In our ticky contests, we earn points for completing items on our To Do lists – each task, no matter how small, earns a ticky. Everyone benefits by having the weight of endless to do items finally removed from their shoulders – and all get rewarded (usually with gift certificates); the person with the most tickies, of course, gets doubly rewarded – a shorter “to do” moving into the new season as well as the biggest gift certificate!

The neutral zone is a time of reflection, regrouping, and redirection. It can be an exciting time as old projects are tidied up and new possibilities are considered. However, it can also be a confusing time, with less certainty about schedules and expectations in the months ahead.

Within the Life Strategies team, after extending Amanda Pereira’s contract for 3 “new beginnings,” we’ve now said “au revoir” (the French version of “until we meet again, rather than a more permanent “goodbye”). We have been working full out for the past year and are very much looking forward to a slightly quieter spring and summer for consolidating some of our in-house projects as well as beginning several new external ones. In his work on Flow, Csikszentmihalyi wrote of the importance of matching skills to challenge; in my own “flow” research, I’ve added “resources” to the skills side of the equation – Flow occurs when challenges are carefully balanced to available skills and resources. We can use the neutral zone to replenish resources and re-energize, ready to face new beginnings with energy and excitement.

As you reflect on your own transitions this season:
  • What still needs your attention and energy?
  • What needs closure?
  • What needs to be completed before you can move on?
  • What is happening for you in the neutral zone that sometimes comes with springtime?
  • Have you taken the chance to re-energize over this Easter long weekend?
  • Looking ahead, is there something you need to do to prepare for the upcoming season?
  • As you enter a new beginning, what excites you?
  • How will you keep your energy up?
  • What resources will you need, personally and professionally, for a successful transition?