Learning: the right challenge at the right time

It’s that time in my life where school is suddenly in the picture, via¬†a certain 4-year-old I know ūüôā One thing I’ve already noticed is how ready a child can be for a new challenge.¬†A challenge that is big, worrying, exciting, almost too much to get your head around – yet, at the same time, exactly what you needed without realizing just how ready you were to take on something completely new.

Ready for a challenge

Cat taking on the challenge | Click to view image by Waponigirl on Flickr

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Blogging impressions: content editing to content creation

The odd thing about blogging is it’s so easy. In a way. You just start typing along and words come out. They’re not always the best words, though, in the best order, so editing is a big part if you’re critical of your own writing.

Content editing

Edit or create

“After the edit” | Laura Ritchie on Flickr

So what’s it like editing other people’s texts? I’ve done so for a while now and it’s a nice way to make a living, if you don’t mind putting the dots onto other people’s i’s. But there’s a risk. There always is.

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How a blog and a LinkedIn profile add up to a new job

Are you out job hunting, or just wondering if you should be? Here are a few steps that can help you if you want either social media, writing, blogging, or content in any form to be part of your job:

First, start blogging

Blog to find a job that suits you

Finding a job that suits you.
HikingArtist.com via Flickr

Nearly 11 months ago I started this blog with the main aim to start writing because all I’d done was keep a diary about our son for over two years. By that time,¬†I was ready¬†to look for a new challenge.

After writing a couple of posts I started sharing them on Twitter.¬†Then I went a bit crazy and got accounts for nearly everything I could hook up to my blog so I could automate sharing in different places. Blogging and writing are popular with my fellow bloggers on WordPress.com, but the best results in terms of sharing and replies to my ‘business’ posts have been on Twitter and LinkedIn. Continue reading

How your job experience will help you get your ideal career

Do you ever feel you’ve wasted years in all the wrong jobs? The bad news is¬†you can’t get those years back. The good part is it was not all in vain.

What career perspective are you looking at?

Job experience is seldom wasted

If you feel you’ve mindlessly pulled someone else’s plough for years and think you’ve got nothing to show for it but sores, think again. Take writing, for example. Continue reading

Blogging impressions: your blog as an online portfolio

Apart from if you’re actually a professional blogger, what’s the use of having a blog?

Why would you want to blog at all?

What is in your blogging portfolio?

Portfolio cover of color plates by Charles S. Graham. Field Museum Library

  • Because you enjoy writing (or making videos, in case you’re into video blogging).
  • Because you don’t mind (or love) the attention.
  • Because you don’t mind the kind of work involved: writing, getting or creating pictures or videos, making sure your content is properly tagged so people who don’t know you will still find you by searching for the topics that are on your blog.
  • Because you need a portfolio. You need to create content for whatever purpose.

Even if you don’t start blogging for that purpose, posting fresh content on your blog will eventually build a portfolio of your content. What would you like to do with it?

Why would you want an online portfolio, and of what?

What goes into your portfolio – that is, onto your blog – shows a couple of things about you as a blogger which may be of interest to a potential client or employer:

  1. That you can write – in a language of your choice. (In my case I might have written in Dutch, but I chose English instead).
  2. That you’re able to¬†create content¬†to a schedule. That may mean posting daily, but it doesn’t have to be that intense. Once a week can be enough. Keeping it up for any length of time and consistently producing good or at least acceptable (although you should aim higher)¬†content costs time and energy. Can you keep it up and still enjoy blogging?
  3. That you’re able to build a community around your blog. You may do so on your blog, or off – I know people who have little interaction on their blog, but much more on Facebook. In my case, readers react on my blog, on Twitter, or on LinkedIn.

Your blogging portfolio as a (first?) step in your career

A potential employer or client may be interested in one aspect of your blogging efforts or all:

  • content creation as a creative process
  • regular content production
  • community management on or off your blog

And of course depending on what you blog about, they’ll get some idea of you as an expert on one or more topics – and as a person.

What kind of portfolio is your blog turning into Рand could it support your chosen career?

Time to update your resume (and find the right job, part 2)

A while ago I wrote about your LinkedIn profile and LinkedIn summary and so on. But what about the old-fashioned resume? Is it gone forever?

Job News On LinkedIn. How's your resume?

My News On LinkedIn Today
[click link to read the article]

Somehow I doubt that. But LinkedIn is a great place to organize your resume if you’ve never bothered to do so – or if it’s been a long time so you feel as though you’re starting from scratch.

If you want to apply for a job using video, it’s worth reviewing your previous activities. In a way, your resume is just a way of keeping score – a means to an end.

It’s worth reviewing your past employments through the eyes of¬†your potential employer. What are they about, and how do you fit into their picture?

Update your resume: mind your language

If you’ve been (un)employed for a long time, getting back into the old resume-making routine (was it ever a routine?) may cause you to create sentences with¬†a vocabulary¬†that was out of fashion well before the 21st century started.

Size up your future employer:

  • What clues does the company website yield about the nature of the organization and its employees, language-wise?
  • Check¬†the LinkedIn profiles of a few employees to enhance the picture.

In very formal organizations, little may have changed over the years. Everywhere else is a different matter. Don’t use the language you would have used twenty years ago.

Resume add-on? Writing your motivational letter

The letter or video to go with your resume should contain as little as possible from your resume. This is where you show your potential employer:

  1. Who you are as a professional and what you’ll bring to the company.
  2. No less important is what you’ll get from the company.

#1: What can they expect in terms of skills, knowledge, and work attitude? Don’t put anything in there that’s not you. I don’t just mean inventing skills you don’t have, but also presenting yourself as more proactive, or more pliable, than you really are.

Tip: being turned down for who you are is bad enough. Don’t get turned down for trying to be like someone else. I’ll admit this sounds like dating advice ūüėČ

Does #2 sound odd? How about getting the chance to do new projects, meeting new people, or making sense of the organizational mess they’ve made? What a company has to offer you is working experience. Lots of it. If it’s the right kind of experience,¬†so much¬†the better. If not, keep the valuable bits of your newly found knowledge and run.

After a¬†friend of mine left a company he said: “That was a complete waste of my time”. It wasn’t. He’ll never, EVER, apply for a job in that branche again, or for that type of job, without being aware of the potential pitfalls. It’s that easy. Next time you’ll know better. Unless you fail to learn.

What have you learned from your previous job?

How a content strategy will help your blogging career

Suppose you want to turn blogging – or let’s call it content creation – into a career. The first thing it means is that you need a business attitude at least where it comes to how much content you’ll create about what topic(s).¬†What you really need is some kind of plan for your content.

A Content Strategy is important for your blogging career. So is Meditation. Relax...

What¬†are the characteristics of a¬†(good) content strategy anyway? I ran into a nice, possibly helpful definition on Business2Community, to which I’ve decided to add my own perspective in this post.

A content strategy for your blogging career

Having a content strategy means you

  • deliberately create content
  • which you have optimized for search. This means that you base your content¬†on keyword phrases that drive ‘organic search traffic’ (and conversions) – this is what the article I mentioned focuses on,
  • that demonstrates an understanding of your¬†potential customer‚Äôs knowledge acquisition at various stages in their buying cycle. Don’t worry, I’ll explain later ūüėČ

This means you don’t write whatever you like – a different approach from what you’d do on a personal blog. Instead, you start by finding out what keyword phrases your potential customers are probably using to find the information they need.

What kind of content is your potential customer looking for?

Put yourself into your customers’ shoes for a moment. What information¬†you need depends on several aspects:

  1. Whether you’re already familiar with a type of product or service. Do you need to know what different smartphones do, or do you own one and do you want to compare the latest smartphones with yours?
  2. Whether you’ve already decided which product or service you want, or from which company you’ll buy.
    1. You may want to compare prices to get the best deal regardless of the brand so long as the product meets your demands.
    2. Or you know what product you want. All you need to know is which site or company offers you the best deal.
    3. Or you’re fed up with the lousy service you’ve had from company X and you need to make sure you find a company that does know that “customer service” contains¬†the word¬†“service” for a reason.

Every different situation means you’ll be using different keywords while looking for information.

A content strategy that is optimized for search means you take your potential customers’ search behavior into account even before you start creating content for your blog (or website).

What do you know about your potential customers? Can you ask any of the customers you already have?

Delivering your content to your potential customers

Next: you deliver your ‚Äúoptimized‚ÄĚ content to¬†your potential customers¬†in a relevant and compelling way.

What is relevant depends on what your readers and/or your potential customers are looking for, not what you feel is important for you to tell the world.

Compelling is a word I’ve seen too often since I started reading about content marketing, and relevance takes care of a lot. True, it doesn’t help if you analyze quite interesting stuff down to the level of atoms for potential customers who either want you to¬†help them or to entertain them. On the other hand, maybe you’re doing exactly the right thing to attract the people you need for your business. Do you know?

What kinds of content can you deliver on your blog?

A couple of categories of content that could work in the context of your blog are:

  1. Case studies that show how you dealt with a particular kind of issue. This lets people know what to expect from you.
  2. The ‘how to’ posts are familiar and they can be quite popular. However a post doesn’t become popular just because the title starts with “How to…”. Again, relevance to your potential customers matters most.
  3. White papers that give in-depth information to those readers you’ve selected as possibly interested in more than the average blog post.
  4. News about events you attend or organize, so people know where/when to find you.

Final considerations for a blogging career

If you’re serious about a blogging career you also need to consider which format suits your potential customers, and where they hang out for preference.

  • Are they the reading kind or do they prefer video?
  • Do they write lengthy comments on your blog or do they drop a short line on Twitter?

If, like me, you’re writing for the fun of writing, or to help your thinking process along, these considerations are probably not for you. But if you’ve decided to try to make money blogging, you’ll need to cater for your potential customers’ preference rather than stay in your own cosy comfort zone wondering where they went.

Why you don’t want this job – and how to get the right job, part 1

My previous ‘career’ post was about leaving your job. On the flip side is getting a new job (hopefully). If you’re looking for a job, hearing me say “you don’t want this job” probably sounds balony. So –¬†is it?

Do your homework, get a job

Your Career: Right Job Or Wrong Job

Right Job Or Wrong Job?
Only you can tell. Hopefully

This is what most of us consider normal nowadays: do some research into your potential employer. View a couple of LinkedIn profiles of people who work there – maybe you’ll find one of them even blogs. You’ll get to know a lot about the people who may become your coworkers. So far, so good.

But what if you’re so good at job interviews you land the wrong job?

Thanks to a comment I got thinking about this. Some of us are just too competitive. Landing a job becomes a sport in itself. Or you’re applying for every job you can think of just to get the money rolling in. Then you get an offer. One offer.

Your future employer maybe made the job sound a bit more glamorous than it really is. This happens¬†to any job that contains a lot of routine work. Employers dial up the interesting bits, and dial down the days and days you’ll spend staring at a screen churning out numbers or client data.

How to get the right job

Start by getting a clear picture of what you want from a job – apart from the money. Even if you feel this isn’t the right time to be getting critical, you need a reference point to tell if a job is 80% your kind of job, 50%, or only 20% (you’ll probably¬†spot that last one effortlessly).

Check if your estimate is right at your job interview. The match¬†determines how fast you’ll be looking for your next job.

Questions to ask yourself:

What do I love to do?

In my case, I wanted to become an archaeologist when I was a kid. Leakey-style. Digging in the sand to unearth the most amazing fossils. As an adult, I dug around in archives and found some beautiful specimens ūüėČ

I still enjoy combing the long beach of the internet for interesting stuff, and building sand castles on my blog. The nature of a specific job doesn’t change what I love to do.

What do you enjoy doing? What’s the common denominator in your life and career?

What do I have to offer to this potential employer?

How can you help this particular organization doing this job? What are your strengths? What knowledge have you already gained? Sometimes you think you have an answer and you’ll find that your future employer has different ideas of what you have to offer.

I was called “over qualified” so I depended on employers who would¬†let me¬†prove I wouldn’t run away screaming after a few weeks. Then one day¬†I ran into an organization where affinity with art actually helped me get¬†a job over several other¬†candidates¬†who had applied¬†before me.¬†And I didn’t know my background had triggered their interest until the job interview.

Tip: be careful what you leave out of your resume.

What does this job have to offer for my career?

Let’s break this one up into a few pieces:

  1. What tasks does this job entail that are part of the career I would like?
  2. How much time will I be able to spend on those tasks?
  3. What new experience will I gain doing all this?
  4. And a tricky one, do I have a specific goal for the next few years?
  5. If the answer to #4 is yes, how long (minimum) do I want to stay?

Tip for #4: At the organization that offered me an archiving job I could also do the research for my part-time study. That saved me an internship that would have meant little income for months. Did I mention this at my interview? Yes.

Tip for #5 (or 4B): Be prepared for this question. Your potential employer wants to know if you’re worth investing time and training – if you’ll stick around for a while after you reach your own goal.

Read more:

An article on Exertusjobs aimed at anyone over 50. But I’d say you can read it if you’re younger.

An earlier career post I wrote on this blog.

You may have gathered I got the job in spite of, or thanks to, my honesty. It was a what-you-see-is-what-you-get deal. It worked for me. What works for you?

How to leave your job in an orderly fashion

Writing as I am at a table in a home in the Netherlands, the abdication by our queen and subsequent coronation of her son is something which makes me wonder how you prepare your successor for a job you’ve had for a long time – possibly decades, although that doesn’t happen very often.

Leave Your Job In An Orderly Fashion

Harvest [click to view image by Vilseskogen on Flickr]

With many jobs, the role remains in some shape¬†where the individuals leave. Unless we run a family business, we don’t (consciously) prepare our children to do¬†our own¬†job – to become our successors.

So how do we prepare our jobs to be taken over by successors we may hardly know?

How to leave your job in an orderly fashion

I’ve left a few jobs behind me over the years, though not one I’d done for 30-odd years. Even so I’ve learned a couple of things so far about handing over your tasks to your successor. Here’s my pick-and-mix harvest:

  1. Don’t postpone documenting your tasks until you can see the exit outlined. Make documenting essential procedures a normal part of your routine. It’ll give you something to refer interns or new coworkers to. If anything changes, you’ll be able to check (and show) quickly where your own tasks are affected.
  2. List every task you can think of and write down everything worth knowing for every task on your list. (check if current procedures are up to date)
  3. Make sure you distinguish between priorities #1 and the rest. Don’t pretend everything you do is equally important.
  4. Don’t believe for a second you’ll be able to document 100% of what you do, how you do it, and why you do it.
  5. Don’t believe for a second that nothing will or should change after you leave. You’ll give them a way to keep going without you, until they decide to do things differently.
  6. If you remember why you follow a certain procedure, add your reasons. Those reasons will help your successor understand why a seemingly dull task is important – and if they change anything, they’ll know what to keep or whom to check with before they skip that part.
  7. For preference, have your successor in place before you leave. If you can’t, haul in a coworker who’s not about to leave in the next month or so and have them perform the most essential task from your list. Then improve your documentation accordingly. Including: “If you’re not sure, ask Jake.”
  8. Depending what branch you’re working in (at your next job) give your successor anywhere from 2 days to 1 month to call you if they have any questions.
  9. Leave.

This is all under the assumption that you and your employer are on good terms when you leave.

A royal exit for everyone

Whether or not you were happy at the job you leave behind, don’t make enemies on the way out. If you hated everything about your job, smile on your way to the door. You’re leaving, remember? You can afford to give your ex-colleagues a final royal wave.

How have you left your previous job(s)? Have I left any important bits out?

How improving your learning strategy will help your career

If there’s one thing in my career I’ve regretted it’s not¬†pouring some strategy into¬†my learning processes sooner.

Here’s the thing: I was a fast learning kid. No plodding for me. Sounds great, right?

Career Hurdles and Learning Strategy

Women’s Final of 80 meter hurdles, Olympic Games, London, 1948.
Daily Herald Archive at the National Media Museum [Click to view image on Flickr]

Wrong. The one thing you need to consider – I’m now looking at it as a parent – is that if your kid¬†is (or if you are) very fast on the uptake, part of all that learning capacity should go into the strategy of learning. Don’t wait till your kid is 16 years old.

Questions for your learning strategy

Starting small, explore questions like these:

  1. What is learning?
  2. How can you learn something new?
  3. What different methods of learning are there?
  4. What works for learning different topics?
  5. How can you tell how you should go about a new task or a new subject? It’s ‘meta’ time ūüôā

Most importantly, you need to take the whole concept of learning to a level where the task in hand no longer matters. Only when knowing how to perform a specific task is no longer enough does your need to know #5 become apparent.

How can being a fast learner spoil your learning?

That’s easy. My default learning strategy was: “You read it. You read it again. You’re ready.” Sophisticated stuff, I know. It worked for me most of the time.

Oddly enough, it didn’t work¬†with maths after a certain point. Of course now I know that¬†I¬†was trying¬†to memorize everything without understanding any of it.

There’s nothing like a crisis to revise your¬†learning strategy

When did I finally revise my learning ‘strategy’? After I failed big time in my first year at university. I had four exams and failed two. How did that happen? Actually this is a bit embarrassing in retrospect. I failed because I couldn’t read and memorize everything in that foot-high pile of … well, stuff about art ūüėČ

This was an eye-opener. I had¬†skipped maths before my grades reached embarrassing levels. Getting really poor grades for the first time in your life makes it painfully clear you’re doing something fundamentally wrong. It is, as they say, a great learning opportunity. Yay!

It worked. I learned.

How does a learning strategy help you in your career?

Whenever you’re faced with a new task, new job, new career, you’ll find yourself having to figure out what will work best in that particular situation. Doing what you always did will lead to good results in some cases, or it will leave you in a smelly bog wondering what went wrong.

Bringing a strategic approach to your tasks means you will do things like:

  1. come up with a rough guide or plan for a new task,
  2. consciously¬†opt for a general direction that’s most likely to get results,
  3. finetune your actions as you go along.

Take a learning approach to your career – starting today.

More reading:

How do you approach new tasks? Add your thoughts about learning, plodding, career, and school issues in a comment. I will, as always, reply to anything non-spammy ūüėČ