You need to be ready to present yourself anywhere and anytime to be ready for your next step which is why my seminars in March at Wagner College Office for Lifelong Learning are including “media training” on the agenda. As a public speaker and now, in some ways, a public person sharing so much on my blog and vlog (youtube channel is here, please subscribe: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1JteHStt5UNE3buyBhLvMA) I want to revisit this with a quick video (or two) see below and also my lessons learned as I create and build my business presence like, everywhere.
The idea is that we all should be working on building our online "brand" - this is more than just our personal social media world of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram but adding a layer of professionalism or having a version of these tools for our professional goals. I can tell you right now that almost no one uses LinkedIn the way they should and a huge seller is my product to overhaul and improve LinkedIn profiles along with teaching people how to use their profile to help them get their next step. I will be doing this in my seminars for only the $99 cost as opposed to the product I sell, which is more money. So think about the value pricing there. A recent article said that hiring managers look first to LinkedIn to find candidates for open positions so do not miss out on using this to help build your brand.
Some of my lessons learned have actually been quite funny. As much as I talk about media training and what it means to job seekers, I recently made a mistake. Despite “teaching” the lessons to media training including being fully dressed even if the meeting is only of your face and I shot a whole video for my YouTube channel in full top professional attire and PAJAMA BOTTOMS – my family is still hysterical laughing over it. Thankfully, it was not a live shoot and I was able to crop the shot in editing to release it to my unsuspecting YouTube channel watchers but it was hysterical and ironic given how much time I spend preparing people for these types of things – even the prof can make mistakes! Obviously…
Another lesson I have been learning is what equipment works best and how to make better quality videos. I have been doing this only a short while and am definitely still learning how to do the best produced videos. I recently found an editing program that works with my Canon camera for my videos and I am pleased with that accomplishment but I am definitely still a learner in this area.
What do you think about social media and also the idea of being "media ready" for interviews and more? What are your plans for building your brand online? Will you be joining me at Wagner College Office for Lifelong Learning in March; register here: http://wagner.edu/lifelong-learning/career-management-seminar/.Happy Hunting!
Bonus post for today to provide an update on my community outreach event on Wednesday night. You can find more information on the genesis of this event here: http://www.thenextstep1234.com/blog/giving-back-to-the-community-as-an-entrepreneur
I first thought about giving back on December 9 and by Wednesday, January 27, I started the relationship with a local charity in person with a kick off event. The place I am giving back to is a place where homeless moms and moms-to-be live together. I arrived a little early (I am always early; it is both a gift and a curse) and upon arrival, I threw my prepared "speech" away. I just did not think that was authentic enough or what was needed in this environment. There are 7 women living there and I was able to just sit with them and tell my story. Talk about how being a mom changes everything and how passionate I am about helping people to take their next steps. I told them I would like to volunteer at the facility to help them each identify and move forward on their paths.
I then opened it up and spoke to each of them about what their hopes and dreams are and then brainstormed on how I can help reach those goals. I am working on creating a study group for the GED, working on some applications and essays to get back into programs that were left due to life issues, resume creation and cover letters for next steps and more. I will be going back in February to kick off the working sessions on getting these things "done". I plan on becoming part mentor / part "do-er" with these women.
I received feedback from the director that everyone was so excited to have my help and it made me humbled, happy and proud of being an entrepreneur and devising a plan - I have always been an action person. I remember when one of my companies sent me to Singapore to help a failing project and during the 27-hour plane ride, I thought about how I was going to "teach" and what I was going to "preach" and then when I got off the plane, got to the office (no sleeping; just jump into the time difference; I was a bit of a zombie but it was ok), I threw out all of my "lessons" and "speeches" and just sat down and told them, "I am here to do the work with you; let's go." And just started doing instead of talking - this is the way I am.
As I work on various ideas and ways to promote my company, I always go back to the "just doing" idea that has built my career and makes me the teacher and educator I am today. What do you think about my "doing" methodology? Do you also feel rewarded by giving back? Happy Hunting!
You need to stay ahead of the curve with technology; especially as women. So much that will be changing over the next 4+ years is going to impact jobs that are mainly women- dominated. So how can you prepare for this?
As an educator and a career “guru”, I will tell you that you need to continually learn and get focused on how to be ready for the changes that are coming. The only way to do this is to identify what are your skill sets that cannot be done by technology and how to apply said skills into new roles and new industries. This is not as tricky as it sounds.
A lot of work is project based; even for those who have no idea that it is – for instance, a small company and / or an old fashioned company might not realize that what they are doing with each day is a project based mentality. Even as a teacher, what we do is project based planning lessons, monitoring schedules, assessing people’s performance. The ability to identify, nurture and highlight these skills in project management can be the best way to diversify yourself and your career for your next step.
Identifying the skills around communication, teaching and management can all help propel you onto version 2.0 of your career path. Particularly if you are in the fields identified as being hardest hit by new technologies taking over said roles – those of admin, customer service, banking etc. You are already skilled in details and personality if you hold any of those jobs. However, are you ready to transition if tomorrow (or four years from now) those jobs do not exist any longer?
You need to identify who your “teacher” can be, your “Sherpa” so to speak to help you grow and guide your career. Have you considered taking a seminar with me at Wagner College for only $99 to identify your current skill sets that can be tweaked and moved over into the high demand world of Project Management?
Click here for more information:
Yes, it sounds like a doomsday prophecy but I can see it becoming true – the advances of AI and technology is astounding. There is an app that can be your own personal “concierge” and /or high powered “admin” available already and more are coming. People barely use the phones anymore for calling people and making appointments; things are done virtually via website and/or other methods of communication are used instead of direct contact.
Check out this video I made about project management, below and let me know in the comments or via any of my social media channels what you think about it. Happy Hunting!
I wanted to write a little bit about managing your career with balance - or how I try to do it. I left Corporate America in late 2009 to focus on my teaching career and entrepreneurial pursuits. I also had a second child during that time and am now the proud mom of two children, wife and owner of a large house with many crazy tasks and more. Oh and of course, I own and run my own business, work as a substitute teacher for the NYC Board of Ed and am an adjunct at CSI with two courses starting next week...
Each day is a balancing act; I wind up spending a little too much time on my social media accounts promoting my business, “meeting” with clients (virtually at times, hence the quotes) and planning content, events and more for my business. I also spend time working on my teaching career –planning my lessons for my college courses and working on my certification for NYS in math grades 7-12 while maintaining relationships with the local schools who call me to come in and sub for them.
Added to this are the other stuff – keeping the house in order, managing the meals, handling extra-curricular activities/homework/etc for the children and more.
Being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 job and in no way when I left Corporate America was I thinking I would be taking a “break” – I knew that with my education, background and experience that I had an interesting path ahead of me but I was not sure exactly where that path would lead to and if you had told me even 6 months ago that I would be using my talents and speaking skills making videos for a YouTube channel and blogging every day to share my content and words, I would have thought you were crazy.
Even with all of the advances and great stuff I am working on, you deal with the "mommy shame brigade". Recentl, another woman said to me, “Why don’t you work in the city anymore? You have your degrees, you are wasting yourself.” It is always interesting that other woman can be the hardest “critics” of what you do and how you do it despite them having to deal with the same societal pressures and decisions. I did not defend myself; though that was my first instinct. I know what I am doing – I am building something that I can do flexibly, without traveling to Singapore (yet) and by continuing to layer in the “triple duty” of teaching and working towards certification, I have multiple opportunities and career choices while I build out my business.
As an entrepreneur, you know that there is always the possibility of failure. I joke around a lot that I am just waiting for something I do to go "viral" because I make a mistake - and I am only half-joking because it is something that actually does scare me. Also, having my face and thoughts be so out there - there are times where I just want to scale it back and "hide" but then I take my minivan with my face on it for a ride and say, "Screw it; I deserve to be here and I have a lot to share with people to help them so I am going for it..."
You know when you are out there and entrepreneurial that there is a possibility of failure. And I have failed; a few times already. But the teacher in me just says, "Well, that is how you learn - if you do not ever fail, you never learn" and then I go about my day and keep trying. I have launched this business idea in different iterations and with way less technological options – like, launching a web site and having almost no way to promote it without paying the money to list it with Google (like at the time over $600++) or with a print ad in a local newspaper or more (also $$$) – I have a post about the increases in technology and how it makes owning your own business so much easier in this decade than it was last decade (see it here: http://www.thenextstep1234.com/blog/technology-for-small-businesses).
What do you think about being an entrepreneur? Did you have a dream of being your own boss and running your own business? Did you see the class I offered at Wagner College Office for Lifelong Learning on how to be an entrepreneur and to go from zero to launch? Happy Hunting and please click here for more information: http://wagner.edu/lifelong-learning/entrepreneurship/.
My semester is beginning soon at the College of Staten Island. As of my last review of the registration, I have over 60 students across two classes. It is so exciting for me to get back into the college classroom after focusing exclusively for the past year on the K-12 classroom. There are lots of differences between teaching a bunch of college students vs any other age group – but there are also lots of similarities. Across the board, most students are waiting for you to entertain them and thankfully I am pretty entertaining but the older students are usually more easily taught – I think.
It is a hard comparison to make though because most of my K-12 experience is as a floater; I rarely have the same class consecutively although I do sometimes have the same classes pop up over a stretch of time. Meanwhile as an adjunct, I have the same class throughout the semester. It is more of a relationship because I am with them throughout a whole term. It also leads to a more mentoring type of relationship where I always help my students with their resumes, interviewing and real world advice and more.
This spring semester, I am teaching Corporate Finance, which is a favorite of mine – believe it or not. I mean, I love teaching everything but there is something about Corporate Finance that I really enjoy sharing. Part of this is because I have actually used these formulae and skills in my career in Corporate America AND as an entrepreneur. Plus, there is so much you can add on to with the lessons in the text book, especially as someone who lived through the 2007-2009 financial crisis and saw with my own eyes the $2 bill taped to the windows at Bear Stearn in protest over their stock being sold for $2 a share…
I also enjoy teaching the younger kids and floating, learning different schools and different methods of instruction. Sometimes, I am a secondary teacher in a room and those are my favorite days because I can learn so much from the lead teacher and also do some teaching myself under the watchful eye of a pro. And they are pros. Every K-12 teacher I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with has been so wonderful and so open to sharing and helping the “new kid on the block”. Even though I have been teaching since 2003 transitioning those teaching skills to the younger grades is a challenge. I am not going to lie -being in a room of 30 Kindergartners is one of the most challenging thing to do in anyone’s life. I think so, anyway. Give me a 50 student room of Freshman college students and tell me I have to teach them Macro or Micro economics over that K room of 30 any day!
Something I would be remiss if I did not mention is my observations of people's reactions to each of my "jobs" as a teacher / professor. The reaction of people when they hear I am a “professor” even an adjunct one leads to admiration and impressed reactions of how I handle being a professor, how wonderful it is and what a great career path etc etc. When I say, “teacher”, I do not get the same responses. It is sad. As an adjunct, I do take great pride in my teaching and my research and even considered getting a doctorate and becoming a full professor somewhere. And that might still happen if I can clone myself and find the time to do it…
However, being a teacher of younger students even as "young" as high school (blogger note: we knew it all at 14-17, too - don't you remember?), is an honor and a privilege. I can see how these teachers really impact these kids and even though I know I have impacted many of my college students, they come to me already “formed” – these students I teach at college are mainly adults (or almost adults) who know who they are and what they want to do and all I can do is provide my advice and insights into their already made decisions. For the younger students, they are not yet there – they are still forming who they are, what they are good at and what they can be in the future. These students are more malleable and formed by these teachers who are with them every day and sometimes are the adults that spend the most time with them in their lives due to work and schedules.
No matter the age group, I do love teaching and I am honored to be the teacher whether for a day, a week or a whole semester. I do look forward to one day being certified in Math grades 7-12 and using my unique background and insights to help those aged students move forward in their lives and educations and helping form them on their way to adulthood. For now, though, I am so excited to be teaching in Spring and helping a college class learn all they can about corporate finance and careers!
What do you think about my observations? Are you a teacher or do you love a teacher? If so, thank them for their work no matter what age they teach – it is all challenging and rewarding… Happy Hunting!
What is entrepreneurial career planning?
I keep mentioning in my videos and other blog posts about how everyone should manage their careers as if they are their own business and I wanted to expand on it for its own post with vlog (in production).
When you own your own business you are the only one responsible for your success and your failure. Sometimes when you work for a big company, you give up that “hunger” or that feeling of being in “control”. If we manage our careers like our own business, we can be more proactive about our performance and path than the competition.
How to do this is to keep in mind the principles of entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur since 2002, there are so many things I have learned about managing my career in both my "corporate" one as well as my entrepreneurial one. I always guided and directed my corporate America career as if it was my own business – I worked on a path and an idea of what I saw for myself in the short and long term. This became easier to do with each business that I launched and tried as an entrepreneur.
Some of my lessons learned are here:
What do you think of my lessons for managing your career as if it was your own business? Do you try to do these things already? Has it worked for you? Will you try these lessons out in 2016 and let me know how it works for you? Check out my new EBook about this here: http://www.thenextstep1234.com/new-ebook-college-readiness.html
There is a new app available called "KnowMe" and I have to say, so far, I love it.
It works from your iPhone and allows for the creation of a more advanced type of video - the man who launched it also launched moviephone back in the day and he felt that we should have the ability to make mini-documentaries on our smartphones.
For a busy momtrepreneur like me, this is awesome. Check out some of my first videos.
Video on What My Blog Posts will be about this week using Knowme
Video on my college readiness seminar using knowme
Video on using entrepreneurial skill hacks for career growth
So as those of you who have been following my blog and / or social media know, I had some big meetings yesterday.
My session at the high school went very well. The guidance counselors asked how my talk would be different than what they do with the students on a daily basis. The truth is, what I have to say in one seminar is just an add on to reinforce the work and dedication of these counselors who work with the students on a daily basis across a school year. With that being said, the value add is in hearing these lessons about social media, stereotypes and education from someone who is a) an educator and b) an entrepreneur who helps countless students get ready for their next step and connecting it to the lessons the guidance counselors have been teaching them each day is a great reinforcement.
This was great for me because first of all, I got to really discuss and highlight my company, my mission and what I can do to give back to the community and I got to do it with a group of people. As an entrepreneur and a public speaker, this was especially fulfilling. Yes, you knew I was going to bring this back to public speaking, didn't you? I am all about public speaking as a skill and a talent that can serve you in so many ways. When the meeting began, there was a table of people who were there to listen to what I had to say. The fact that I could tell my story as a story, keep it interesting and (hopefully) tie it all back to how it benefits them, their school and the students is, I think, the key in how I can continue to grow my company.
In the end, we are scheduling some sessions in the near future for me to speak to students.
On a side note, walking in to the school I graduated from (almost) 22 years ago was quite surreal especially as I was texted words of encouragement from two of my best friends who graduated with me from said school 22 (almost) years ago - the circle of life and all that.
With the other event, this was the chance to represent my company at a local high school, which is the first school I am launching my college readiness seminar at in February. I am so excited to launch this program and to present what I have learned as an educator and more to these students!
The evening went so well. Special thanks to a great friend who recommended my college readiness seminar to the school! I had my own table at the door and my materials had been sent out in advance to all of the parents' attending the meeting. As everyone walked in, I was able to introduce myself, my company and tell them about my upcoming seminars that are launching for their daughters' class this February. I was so humbled and so excited to be sitting there, representing my own company. I have sat at many events representing my employer and promoting my employer but to have it be me, my message, my company there is just so much pride, excitement and a little pinch of disbelief!
Who knows what I am talking about? When did you first realize your company was a company? I feel like even though I have clients and lots of social media exposure that today was the first day I realized I am a company! Happy Hunting!
Two big events going on for today. First a meeting at a local high school to see if my college readiness seminar can be launched in their school, as well. I already have a school scheduled and I am looking at expanding the reach of this seminar as I think it can help so many of our high school students in and around Staten Island to hear what I have to say about managing their application essay, being ready for college and beyond. I will be sharing more about this as I launch these seminars...
Also, as an entrepreneur there is nothing more exhilarating than representing your own company at an event. And yes, I will be doing that tonight for the first time with The Next Step. I have been focused on creating this company for the past 10+ years and have just now launched it in a way that gels with social media, technology and my strengths and skills. I say many times if you had told me a year ago that I would have a YouTube channel, Instagram Account and a personalized blog, I would have told you that you were crazy.
Despite that feeling of being in over my head with my head-shot everywhere and branding this company to me and my face, there is the excitement of creating something that is really mine – as a legacy or just as a way to promote the fact that I have this unique background of corporate America and education industry of being a professor since 2003 that comes together and allows me to write content that shares lessons and more – and really proves that learning every day can help you in your career and your life.
This college readiness seminar has been a dream of mine for the past few years – this is not something I just came up with and ran with over the last few weeks although in part it does feel that way with how quickly everything fell into place and came together.
I will share more on the event going on tonight with pictures and more for Friday’s blog post – it is an exciting time for this entrepreneur to step out and represent The Next Step at this event and even more exciting to launch my College Readiness Seminars in early February.
What do you think about being an entrepreneur? I made this quick video about the college readiness, social media, stereotypes of Staten Island and of course how being entrepreneurial can be a great career choice for you, too! Happy Hunting!
I wanted to write about negotiation and how to do it without as little pain as possible. I think for most of us, particularly women, there is a fear to negotiate. This fear can stem from not knowing how or when to negotiate. It is also part and parcel of putting qualifiers into our worth, our requests and who we are. Like, “Oh, I am just a teacher.” Or, “I think this but I could be wrong.” There is actually an “app” for that – an email add on I read about recently that will flag the sentences that look self-depreciating and offer edits to make it sound more powerful and less apologetic. If only we had that in real life for when we are speaking and negotiating our salaries and more...
Of course, the uncomfortable feeling of having to negotiate goes across all types of people but no matter what it is something women historically are known to have trouble with doing. It can be so hard to take a firm stance on saying what we do well and how well we do it and thus that is why we deserve to be compensated for it by XYZ.
Close your eyes and think back to the last time you got a job offer. Did you accept it as is? Or did you request more – more salary, a better title, a certain bonus for your work? If yes, congratulations! Also, did the world end when you did it?
If not, why didn’t you? The idea is that we can negotiate professionally and, in fact, we should be doing it because if we do not do it the only ones we are hurting are ourselves.
Whatever role you wind up whether your first or 10th job, this starting salary will be the salary that sets your next job and the ones after that. You will always have begun at this number; whatever said number is and when you are ready to move on or to be promoted, if you stay internal at your company, there are usually strict rules for percentages of raise that can be given at one time – of course, rules are meant to be broken but if you start your career too low you will always be playing catch up. Conversely, even if you leave your company to go elsewhere, a big part of compensation packages are offered based off of your previous company salary, proven by your W2 (tax forms in the US).
This is why it is so important to have as much information going into your salary / offer negotiation as possible. And yes, you should consider it a negotiation not just a yes/no answer. You are getting a job offer, no need to be flippant about it – if you are serious about both the company and your career, you can and should be ready to present industry facts and yourself in the best way possible to get the best package possible. Perhaps you would like to work from home on Fridays – for many millennials, having flex time is more important than money. Or maybe you always wanted to be closer to X salary – and you know the market and your skills could be getting that number IF you could just ask for it.
As I have mentioned in the past, most larger companies have salary bands. So each position has a salary range within a certain dollar amount of maybe say $10-20k between the higher and lower bands. You want to be as close as possible to the top of the band because this will help you be poised to be promoted if you do a great job as opposed to just getting a raise because the band is so wide and you are not yet at the top of it. It is hard to know this information though unless you have contacts and friends internally who can give you pointers on this information or if you can ask the questions professionally and with tact, perhaps your HR rep for the company can help you understand the bands and how the company compensates.
Quick tips on how to negotiate:
What do you think about my information around negotiations? I will be including some levels of this information in the college readiness seminar in terms of being women and focusing on life after college. It is an exciting time to be an entrepreneur for me as I prepare for my upcoming professional seminars and college readiness ones, too. Happy Hunting!
How to apply my lessons learned as an entrepreneur to manage your own career - a mini-lesson with homework below:
As an adjunct professor since 2003, I have a lot of experience with creating content, devising curriculum and executing on said content and curriculum in both in-person and online classroom settings. As a public speaker since uhm birth, I am able to bring content to life in any format and on any topic (my first courses I taught were macro and micro economics and trust me, no one fell asleep in my classes despite the "dryness" of the topics - supply and demand curves anyone? Anyone? Bueller, Bueller? You get the idea.) You can see more about my teaching style on my YouTube channel (please subscribe if you like what I am creating).
I have been entrepreneurial in nature since 2004; I took my skills and abilities into consideration when I recently relaunched my business. I have been helping people get to their next step for the past 15 years by doing one-off projects of editing resumes, writing cover letters and more for various people in my network. Also, I have been an educator for almost 13 years where I have always brought in real-world advice and lessons along with textbook topics in a dynamic and engaging way.
Now, I am focusing on helping my clients get to their next step with career help (resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn Profiles) and education help (application essay and resume package) as a professional business and not just as a one-off. Also, I am using my skills to create real-world training and seminars on managing careers for clients.
With the relaunch of my website The Next Step in July of 2015, content has been one of my strategic advantages. I have used my blog as a way to distinguish myself as a provider of career advice, education help and more. My content and my social media strategy has been a huge part of how I have built my reputation, my client base and even specific strategic partnerships, like the one I have with Wagner College Office for Lifelong Learning.
With this partnership came the ability to use my teaching expertise along with my Project Management background to create seminars to help people identify and take the next step in their career. This unique blend of corporate America experience as a Project Management Professional (PMP) since 2004 and as an educator since 2003 has helped me to create this seminar with amazing content and actionable next steps for those just starting out in their careers, those already working and interested in growth and even for those who have been out of the workforce for some time and need to re-train and re-tool their skills to return to the workforce.
On February 4, I will be launching this seminar to help people grow their career with Project Management. It is an exciting event for my company and for me as an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, you need to know your strengths and what you are able to do - I know that for two hours on Tuesday February 4, those who attend will learn from me how to grow their career with real actionable next steps.
I am including two videos below. The first one talks about how important it is to continually learn and how learning can help your career. There is a lot of research out there that shows being a generalist is better than being a specialist in this economy. I talk in this first video about how learning can help you remain ahead of the competition and help you to be a generalist in your own career.
The second video talks more about my upcoming seminars at Wagner College Office for Lifelong Learning and explains why attending these types of events can help you maintain your competitive advantage.
Now for your "homework" (I cannot help myself; I am an educator, after all.):
I wanted to make a post about the differences between teaching online and teaching in person.
For me, I love both methods of delivery and instruction because as challenging as it is to step in front of the room in front of a bunch of people, it can be just as challenging to engage those same students via technology.
I feel I am pretty adept at using technology to provide content and lessons across any medium. I would say this has only improved since I relaunched my business in July. Now I am using web based videos and looking into hosting teleseminars and more to help provide more and more content under The Next Step banner.
I have been teaching for (almost) 13 years and when I began teaching everything was done "outside" of technology. It was rare for you to email your students; if something changed and you needed to get a message to them, it had to be done in person (as in you would call security and have them put a sign up telling the class changes in schedule, etc). In 2003, we were just starting to use email methods of communication but even if you sent an email, there was no guarantee your students would read it because they more often than not had to log in to a desktop computer to even access those messages.
Over the last decade plus I have seen people move to more immediate ways of communication and though I took some online courses (asynchronous ones – meaning you could log in at any time to do the work) in 2008-2010, the way I launch and teach my online courses now just five short years later is much different and more robust and more student and teacher friendly.
When I was taking online courses for my DPS degree, the environment was kind of simplistic; just text answers and attachments allowed. Now, you can include video and make your PowerPoint files come alive with either Camtasia or Voicethread; you can actually make the classroom come alive via Moodle or Blackboard or whatever program you use for online delivery – heck, I feel I am making a classroom come “alive” by integrating video content into my site along with my blog posts. We have come a long way.
What do you think about online vs in-person learning? I will say that having an audience in front of you is very different to teaching to an "online" room. That being said, new technology is working on scanning and recognizing feelings by doing facial scanning and sending the information to the professor. This is interesting because I definitely use in person cues when presenting and teaching to figure out how people are feeling about the material. As I move forward with my seminars and other courses that I deliver both in-person and online, I look forward to learning from my audience and sharing the best information based on my lessons and curriculum.
I would estimate that I have written almost 500 letters of recommendations for my students over the past 13 years of teaching at the college level. I love doing it. It is something that in a way ties me to said student and where they might wind up. It also means that the person who asked me to do it trusted me and was interested in having me be one of the voices to get them to their graduate degree or job.
As an adjunct, I have sometimes had the pleasure of teaching students more than once; if the schedule worked out and the courses I taught were needed by the students, they often said they picked me on purpose. No matter what, I am a fair adjunct. I present information from the text and information from real life and tie it together as best as I can. As I prepare to get back into the college classroom this semester and potentially also teach virtually this semester and beyond, I wanted to write about college recommendation letters for the younger group (although this advice also applies to the recommendation letters for grad school and jobs that I have been writing over the past 13 years).
For my high school readers (or their parents), you should have an idea as to who will be your "recommenders" for your college applications. Who is your favorite teacher(s)? Who knows you best? Who can write about you in glowing terms and get the attention of the application reviewers in a good way?
Something you should know is that you should have drafts of your recommendation letters- some teachers/recommenders will love to see it; some will say they do not need it. Have it anyway. Think about what said teacher knows most about you and what you have done that has made you stand out (in a good way) in the class. Did you start Italian in Freshman year without understanding anything and now as a Senior can speak and write it? Did you do an awesome science project that won some medals and maybe was entered into a larger science fair?
Also think outside the box on recommenders - have you had a job through high school? Did you work in an office or even a fast food place; would one of your manager be willing to write you a letter of recommendation?
I have been reading lately about certain school districts in California where students are just killing it and not getting in to their dream schools – know the balance – what is your dream school? Do you have other schools you would also love? How did you decide what your dream school is? Much like finding a career that fits you, the school you love most have a culture that fits with you – maybe it is the best school for XYZ major – and you have always known you wanted to study XYZ major. Something to think about is how much you will change from 18 as a new HS grad to even 20 and in middle of college.
My whole young life, for instance, I wanted to be a child psychologist. I enrolled at St John’s University in 1994 as a Psychology major. By the middle of my first semester, I no longer wanted to be a child psychologist. I just was not interested in the career path, the schooling and the courses. I guess I am lucky I figured this out so quickly. I took interest testing, did research and found that Marketing was the degree that most made sense for me. I switched to Marketing and loved every second of it and find myself now using so much marketing background and lessons as I run my own business.
So draft up your own letters of recommendations, highlight what made you stand out in those classes or jobs and share it with the person you are interested in having write your letter. Tell them that you prepared something in draft form for them to potentially build off of or chose to not use but that you would like to share it. I am sure most recommenders would be interested in seeing what you have written.
For me, as an adjunct, I know most of my students for only 10-12 weeks across a semester so it is always preferred that they draft something and provide me with their resume so I can then build an awesome letter. For you younger students, you have maybe a 2-4 year relationship with said teachers and they have the idea already of what to write for you.
Something I never thought about was in utilizing my course work as a high school student to highlight and differentiate myself. At my high school, as freshman, we were pushed to do this major interdisciplinary project about different cultures and times that was so huge and at the time so boring – it was something we all dreaded, we all wanted to quit but in the end, we made real amazing research and projects that could have been showcased in a museum. I am sure we did more of that through our time at school but I did not highlight or recognize how important those projects would be to a university looking at my application. Do not make the same mistake. I am sure you are now doing even more amazing things than I did more than 20 years ago in your high school programs – make sure you highlight those things in your essays, in your recommendation letters and to think about how it can apply to your future next step in your schooling.
What do you think about this application / recommendation advice? What would you include from your high school portfolio? Do you have a portfolio? I am including this video below that includes more information on my upcoming college readiness boot camp seminars. Happy Hunting!
Being a good communicator can make you stand out. Did you notice I said “good” and not “great”? There is a reason for this and it comes from being an educator and a communicator since 2003; the way we operate in this world is one where you can do everything from your phone without even speaking to someone through it – in fact, almost all of us primarily use our “smartphones” for the “smart” features – however, if Albert Einstein really did say that quote you see floating around on Facebook, technology maybe really does have the capacity to make us “dumb”.
We have cultivated a way of being and communicating that involves photos and text speak and not a real focus on being communicators in the sense of in person, group, and / or phone. This now spans across generations – even people my parents’ age will prefer to text sometimes than pick up a phone. And why? Because it is convenient. Because we can explain and communicate this way but will this necessarily work with careers?
Some corporations have done away with voicemail and/or even having each employee have a dedicated desk phone. We are moving towards using email and text as a primary mode of business communication. I have mentioned many times to my classes that in my day in Corporate America, you always called someone first before you sent an email. It was the unwritten rule of communication. I do not think this rule exists anymore.
Do we still need, though, to have these soft people skills if technology allows us to do things remotely?
I argue that yes – that if you have these “soft” communication skills that you do not have to even be “great” – just “good” will lead to you having a great competitive advantage over other people in your field, career, job search cohort.
I would say that over the last few years, I have noticed a decrease in communication skills among my students, my peers and others. I do believe this is due to the tremendous increase in technology and the fact that everywhere you go, you see people staring at a small screen in front of their faces. It is even challenging as a teacher to get my students to put down their devices and pay attention to the world around them. I have seen whole families on vacation or out to dinner somewhere all each engrossed in their own devices. I have been one of these people - "GUILTY" am I, too. Giving the kids an iPad to watch a show to get them to sit quietly while waiting for a doctor or for food to come to the table, obsessively checking my facebook page (why, I do not know) but the idea is that we all do it. I am consciously trying to be less connected - even as I run my business online, I am trying not to check my weebly stats 100 times a day and to dial back the tweeting and sharing just so that I can work on life and all that is around me.
Many people are so used to texting and living vicariously through their social media crafted world that being someone who can do the following things is a competitive advantage – here are my quick hacks to being a good communicator, which you can then continue to build upon to become a great communicator.
Speak among a group – maintain conversation and resist the urge to touch your phone in any way:
Writing – continually practice your writing skills; share your end results
Being able to succinctly write content and communications is so important for your career. So many people do not know how to write and do not know how to write to different audiences. You should be able to do the following types of writing:
Public Speaking – being able to speak in front of a small or large group
You must practice this ability - you must work on your speaking skills. Do you use sounds like "uhmm" and "ahhh" or even the word "like" as stop-gaps in your speaking? If you think you do not, right now, open your voice recorder on your iPhone I told you to put down and record yourself talking about something - anything. I will wait. Now play it back. What do you hear?
You need to practice this ability and to use it - force yourself out of your comfort zone and speak in front of a group of friends for fun or ask to give a presentation about your job at your kids' school's career day (which I might be doing soon). Or offer to come speak to my classes this Spring at the College of Staten Island - I have two classrooms of over 30 students who would love to hear from you about how you identified and found your career. Can you do it? I am serious about letting you be a guest speaker - think about it.
What do you think about these quick hacks to getting comfortable with communicating well? What would you do to improve your communication style? Do you want to come speak to my classes this Spring? Happy Hunting!
Lisa Vento Nielsen