Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Interview with Tisa L. Silver, MBA: Educator, Author, and Nonprofit Leader

Tisa L. Silver is an award winning educator, speaker, non-profit executive and author of the best-selling book, The Time Value of Life. Which upon its official release in September 2009 became the Amazon.com #1 Bestseller in Time Management books. When she was just 24, Tisa joined the faculty of the University of Delaware as an Instructor of Finance, receiving the Student Choice Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2007. Since then, Tisa has published several works on personal finance and investing through Investopedia and BET.com. She is a frequent contributor to television, print and radio outlets including Delaware Tonight, Art Fennell Reports and Market Wrap with Moe. Always committed to giving back, Tisa is the founder and President of The Good Works Coalition, a non-profit organization which provides scholarships and educational programs for young people, particularly those in underserved communities.

She's an educator, author, nonprofit leader, and a true life model. Meet Tisa Silver.

Will: Who is Tisa Silver? Why finance? What was it about business, money management, and acquisitions that struck a chord with you?

Tisa: I am an educator and a volunteer. I believe learning is a lifelong process and I enjoy sharing what I have learned with others. Knowledge helps to improve the chances of making better decisions, and I try my best to make the learning process as painless as possible.

The excitement of Wall Street attracted me to the field of finance, but an internship with a stockbroker quickly changed my career path. Things were exciting until someone faced a loss, and losing is inevitable. Even for those who may have made the best possible decision based on the best information available at the time, there are no guarantees. Losing other people’s money made me very uncomfortable, so I shifted my focus from attempting to predict market movements to exploring, and hopefully understanding, what makes the market (and money) move. Whether we are talking about stocks, consumer credit, or taxes, it is all connected. I enjoy helping people connect the dots.

Will: For those who don’t know of you, you are the author of “The Time Value of Life.” What was the inspiration behind the book? And how on Earth were you able to write it so quickly?

Tisa: I originally began writing the book in 2005, and my goal was to write a book for teenagers about money management. After suffering a painful loss in 2006, I was reminded of what is most important: how we use our time. If you spend or lose a dollar, at least you have a chance to make it back. Once you spend a minute, it is gone forever.

In terms of content, the financial education piece was still important, but I decided the life lessons were equally important. I thought of the many parallels between finance and life, and money and time. I was able to offer some lessons on two topics, time and money, which everyone must deal with and for which there are no standard training tools in our educational system.

I toyed with idea of publishing a book for awhile, but I allowed myself to get sidetracked by fear. Fear of making mistakes, fear of revealing too much, fear of criticism, and perhaps even fear of my assertions being challenged or rejected. I did some soul-searching on my thirtieth birthday and decided to reignite the project. I came up with a plan to move to Florida so I could be by myself in the “perfect” creative environment (by myself in a warm climate near water) to get things done. After I compiled my list of possible rental properties, I took a moment to check myself. My surroundings had nothing to do with why the book was incomplete. My fears kept me from completing the book. This may sound cliché, but I made a decision to let the fears go. Once the decision was made, I buckled down and completed the first manuscript within three weeks. A decided heart is a force to be reckoned with!

Will: The economic downturn hit the U.S. and the world by storm. Companies were hit with the reality of bad investments and leveraging with capital they didn’t have and many Americans were awaken to the fact that they had been living beyond their means. To that point, what does financial literacy mean to you? Why do you think the average person doesn’t see the connection between Wall Street and Main Street?

Tisa: Financial literacy is just a specialized form of reading and comprehension. Being able to count money does not make a person financially literate. Unfortunately, many of us grew up with that lesson being the greatest extent to which money was covered in our educational journey.

Since there is no uniform training offered in schools, we learn about money from watching our parent(s) earn it and use it. As we get older, we see what our friends, classmates and acquaintances do with it. Enter movies, television, music and other mediums of influence. If all these inputs provided healthy examples, then perhaps everyone would have a greater chance at becoming a good financial steward. However, if we are surrounded by people with bad habits then our sense of what is optimal, healthy or appropriate will more than likely be compromised.

The average person does not see the connection between Wall Street and Main Street because no one taught them to. Many people saw the connection recently because they were forced to. If you are one of those people, there is neither a need (nor a point) in feeling bad about it. After all, Wall Street business dealings evolve so quickly that many of those involved in the deals, those who govern and those who regulate did not even know the extent of the potential repercussions. Simply make the choice to get educated.

Will: During this economic downturn, there has been a lot said about community banks versus megabanks and the credit crisis for the small business owner. What advice would you give to an entrepreneur or someone who is thinking about starting a business? What are some of the avenues available for accessing capital?

Tisa: First, I would advise any aspiring entrepreneurs to keep their credit intact. In the eyes of a potential lender or investor, having bad credit or no credit elevates your risk level. Risky status may result in higher financing costs and in some cases it may prevent you from securing financing altogether. Without money(yours or someone else’s), your idea will remain just that—an idea.

Second, humble yourself. You are going to be rejected at some point and you need to be able to get over it. Rejection always comes with a lesson, and sometimes even a gift.

Third, have a plan. Start with a goal and then work backward in plotting the necessary steps to achieve the goal. It is much easier to reach the desired destination with a roadmap.

In terms of financing, there are three options: gifts, debt and equity. For the average person, gifts are few and far between. Debt financing comes in the form of loans. Your personal finances and credit will determine how much you can borrow and how much you will have to repay. Equity financing brings in cash in exchange for giving up an ownership stake in your firm.

Before approaching any outside source, I suggest looking inward. If you are not comfortable with the idea of putting up your own money, then you have no business asking anyone else to put up theirs.

Will: In addition to being a financial guru, you are a professor and nonprofit leader. How did you get into nonprofit leadership? Is there a difference between nonprofit leadership and corporate leadership?

Tisa: I have always volunteered my time and contributed to charities. In 2005, I decided to concentrate my efforts and resources into two areas: scholarships and hands-on community service.

There is definitely a difference between non-profit leadership and corporate leadership. For instance, one of the goals of my non-profit, the Good Works Coalition(GWC), is to be profitable however the GWC is not profit driven. That alone, is a major difference.

Also, I have volunteers not employees. Volunteering is hard work, and pretty often it is not in the most comfortable locations or circumstances. Because of the sacrifice required and the fact that there is no compensation nor any other tangible gain involved with service, I do not have to question my volunteers’ motives for participating.

Will: What would you say is your life’s mission, and how is that reflected in the work that you do?

Tisa: My life’s mission is to love, to teach, to serve and to bring about positive change.

I think this is made clear by the types of events I participate in. If you look at my calendar, you will not see a lot of high-profile engagements but you will see a laundry list of schools. My life’s work may not be glamorous and it may not garner a lot of attention, but it gets results.

I challenge kids to think about life and value it differently. I focus on students because they have the greatest potential. The earlier they begin to value it and unleash it, the better.

Just to clarify, I am not knocking the high-profile engagements because they serve a purpose. I have bills to pay, just like the next person. However, in order to have the greatest chance at living out my mission, I can never go back on my commitment to youth.

Will: What is the greatest lesson you have learned thus far?

Tisa: One of the greatest lessons I have learned is simple: keep it moving. When things go wrong the world does not stop, so why should I?

I am a bit of a roadrunner, and something that often impedes progress is a lack of accountability. When something goes wrong, people often get so caught up in complaining and attempting to assign blame that a solution is delayed or, in the worst cases, never found. One of the best things I ever did on a job was to say, “I messed up.”

It was the truth, I figured by telling it I could save everyone the potential time and stress associated with playing another round of “who shot John.” My admission completely changed the course of the conversation with my supervisor. In addition to speeding up the process of finding a solution, I earned more respect. People take note when you admit fault because so often, others are afraid to.

Will: Before I let you go, I want you to give a list of the moves people need to make to put their financial houses in order.

Tisa: I recommend starting with a self-inventory. Track your inflows and outflows for at least one month to determine if you are breaking even, operating at a surplus or at a deficit. From there, you can determine what course of action to take. If you are breaking even or operating at a loss, then you must cut spending, increase income or do both simultaneously. Once you arrive at a surplus, you can decide what to do next: spend, save or invest it. Spending it all is the only option that is guaranteed to send you back to the drawing board.

Next, I would advise people to strive for good credit. If you already have it, do your best to maintain it. Unless you plan to pay cash for every major purchase, then your credit history will have a direct impact on how much you pay for pricey items such as cars and homes.

Lastly, mind your assets. Some appreciate, others depreciate. Spending all of your money on the latter will not help you build wealth.

Will: Thanks for agreeing to the interview. Any final thoughts?

Tisa: Thank you for having me. Here is my final thought:
“You can’t change the past nor predict the future, but right now is yours for the taking.”

I want to help people take a more proactive approach to life, as opposed to a reactive one. I believe it is easier to bounce around reacting to things than it is to take charge, put a plan in place and go about making it happen. I can only speak for myself in saying that the former is less challenging, but the latter is more fulfilling.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Interview with Andria L. Corso: Principal Owner of C3 – Corso Coaching and Consulting and Executive Leadership Coach Talent Solutions Consultant

Andria Corso is an award winning Human Resources leader with over 15 years experience working with clients to develop leadership skills and talent strategies that that align with business strategy and drive results. She is an organizational and leadership development coach and strategic HR consultant with areas of expertise in career and leadership development, talent and succession management, and executive coaching. Currently the Principal Owner of C3 – Corso Coaching and Consulting, an executive coaching and strategic Human Resources consulting firm that specializes in creating performance excellence solutions to companies through coaching, leadership development and strategic HR solutions, Andria is also the author of From Gatekeeper to Trusted Advisor: Success Strategies for Today's HR Professionals, which will be published in 2010.

With a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Hofstra University and a Master of Science in Human Organization Science from Villanova University, meet Andria L. Corso.

Will: Who is Andria L. Corso? Why leadership and talent development? What about those disciplines speaks to you?

Andria: I started my career over 15 years ago in Human Resources and found that leadership and talent development were the areas of HR that I am most passionate about. Developing the talent in an organization for future leadership positions is key to the success of the business so that is where I decided to focus my work -- career, talent & leadership development.

Will: Congratulations are in order. On November 1, 2010, your first book, From Gatekeeper to Trusted Advisor will be released. What compelled you to write the book? What is The Bridge Model ™? And what do you want people to away from the book?

Andria: Thank you! I decided to write the book several years ago after seeing an article in Fast Company Magazine titled "Why We Hate HR". As an HR leader, I knew that we, in HR, can do much better (and we are doing much better) than that article (and many others) claim. The Bridge Model is what the book based off of and is a set of principles that provide information on the behaviors and practices required of HR professionals to support clients in reaching greater success. I interviewed close to 100 HR and business leaders across industry for the book and it contains numerous examples on how each of the Bridge Principles can be applied successfully in organizational settings. My hope is that after reading the book, HR professionals (or business leaders who have HR teams) will walk away with a set of useful tools and a lot of great information on how HR can be trusted advisors in the businesses where they work.

Will: What were some of the jobs you had before you started Corso Coaching and Consulting, and how did they lead you to the decision to strike out on your own?

Andria: I worked for 15 years in HR inside Fortune 500 companies -- 11 of them were with Lockheed Martin Corporation in a variety of HR leadership roles. My last role within Lockheed Martin was leading Talent and Leadership Development and Executive Coaching for the Corporation. After having great fun and success in that role in such a large corporation, I decided it was time to go out on my own so I could expand my reach and be able to coach a wide variety of leaders and individuals and help them reach their highest potential. I am most passionate about helping others reach their career and leadership goals and also about having strong positive influence as an HR leader and this is why I decided to go out on my own - so I could do this in a much broader fashion than I could while inside of a corporation.

Will: What are some of the services Corso Coaching and Consulting provides? What do you look for in a client? Are there individuals or companies you won’t work with?

Andria: Our company provides leadership and career coaching for leaders and individuals who are looking to advance their careers and grow their leadership skills. We also provide HR consulting in the areas of HR team development and talent and career development solutions for midsize and Fortune 500 companies. Whether our clients are individuals or organizations, we look for those who are looking to grow, stretch, and learn so that they are able to reach their highest potential.

Will: We see examples of failed leadership everyday across every field. Why do some leaders get it and some don’t?

Andria: My belief and my experience has been that the leaders who get it are those who want to get it. They are the ones who want to make a difference and have a true desire to lead so that they are creating positive impact and generating positive results. They take the necessary steps to be impactful motivating leaders. It starts as a drive and desire from within and then carries on from there -- those are the leaders who "get it".

Will: What role does talent play in leadership? Are leaders born or are they developed?

Andria: I believe and have experienced that there are certain personality types that are naturally drawn to leadership whereas others are not; however, there is also an environmental factor that plays a big role in leadership; that is, for leaders to be effective and successful, they need to be in an environment that fosters and develops leadership characteristics. So, I believe leaders are both born and developed because although it starts with an internal drive, even those who might not be as naturally inclined to be a leader can flourish and be successful as one if they are in the right environment where they can grow and develop.

Will: Strong and effective leaders seem to always have this larger than life brand, even if they were/are soft-spoken. How do you define personal branding? Is it a part of your coaching process?

Andria: My definition of personal branding is that which distinguishes someone and helps them stand out from the crowd -- it is that which expresses someone's unique value. And yes, this is a big part of my coaching process. As people are working to develop their career or advance their career and enhance their leadership skills, they need to be differentiating themselves and demonstrating how they are unique and what value they bring that is different from everyone else. As part of the coaching process, I work with my clients to define their unique value and develop their personal brand. Doing this always supports them in career growth and leadership development.

Will: You and I met or connected via Twitter. How is social media affecting how Corso Coaching and Consulting conducts business? Where do you see social media taking talent and leadership development?

Andria: Social media is a huge platform with which to make great connections with peers, colleagues and clients. This has had a large impact in how our company conducts business because without it, we would not have the opportunity to have such a broad reach to not only share valuable information, but gather valuable information.

I believe social media is impacting talent and leadership development in that it enables individuals to quickly share knowledge and wisdom with each other. It creates learning cultures both inside and outside of organizational settings which fosters talent and leadership development. Inside of organizations, HR leaders are looking for ways to facilitate more effective learning which can readily be done with social media so this assists in building a strong learning culture. As an HR consultant and a coach who works with individuals on leadership development, I strongly encourage my clients to use social media to tap into the vast amount of information that social media presents, as well as to use it as a vehicle to keep well connected and networked with their colleagues and peers. This all lends itself to the ability to better cultivate leadership and talent development.

Will: Andria, I appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to do this interview. Do you have any final thoughts?

Andria: Thank you for this opportunity to share my background and insights with you and your readers. The greatest pleasure I get from my work is the ability to engage and interact with people and support them in reaching their career goals. If anyone is interested in hearing or learning more, I hope they'll reach out and email me or visit our website. It would be my pleasure to hear from them!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Interview with Erika Napoletano: Writer, Social Media and Branding Strategist, and Entrepreneur

Erika Napoletano is the Head Redhead at Readhead Writing, a Denver-based online strategies firm. A writer, professional snarketeer and named by Social Mouths as one of their 7 Examples of Kickass Personal Branding, her unfiltered content delivers unpopular thoughts and blunt advice daily to a rapidly growing audience. You can follow her on Twitter @RedheadWriting if you dare and check out her highly interactive Facebook fan page. Free mimosas on Sundays.

One of my all time favorites, meet Erika Napoletano

Will: One of the reasons I was so interested in interviewing you is because you seem not to give a ____ about what people say or how you might offend some people’s sensitivities. I find that to be a rare quality. I know that I couldn’t do it. I have this condition in which I like to eat and have a roof over my head. So I am careful not to go too far with my opinions.

On that note, who is Erika “Redhead Writing” Napoletano? Why have you chosen to go all in? You definitely don’t shy away from playing outside the corporate handbook.

Erika: There’s no other way to go other than “all in.” I used to be a pretty decent poker player and running a business has many parallels to sitting down and playing a game. Reading behaviors and decisions, asking questions, pushing buttons. Listening. When you go all in, you’re forcing your audience to make a decision: do you want to be here or not? I want the folks who want to be there. I know the audience I’m unpopular with and I don’t try to serve them.

As far as me? Well, people often say that when they meet me, I’m exactly how they envisioned me…and more. It’s the “more” part that’s the biggest compliment.

Will: What attracted you to writing and social media? How are you using social media to advance your personal brand?

Erika: I’ve always been a writer, yet for some reason, I found every damn profession under the sun to keep me from doing that. So I quit those things and decided: this is what I want to do. And I’m doing it. Social media was baptism by fire. I fell into a Twitter account and then found myself presented as the “social media expert” (gag) at an agency I worked for a few years ago. I figured that I should learn what this stuff does and to be honest – I fell in love with the medium.

And my brand is all about social media. Sharing, linking, connecting. I’ll be completely honest: my brand would be nothing without social media. More importantly, however, I wouldn’t be growing at the pace I am without having taking the time to understand how to use it to drive conversations, build relationships and bring value to my clients’ businesses in the process.

Will: Your website Readhead Writing is a wild ride of the professional to the provocative. Take me through the planning of what content will be posted on your site. Do you have a line you won’t cross? And what in the dickens is “The Bitch Slap?”

Erika: I’m a stream-of-consciousness writer. That means it’s rare for me to hash-out something in advance. I’m inspired by words, people and ideas (and many times, my readers). I post 3 to 5 days per week and don’t post when I can’t come up with anything I feel is decent read.

The biggest source of inspiration for my posts are my own experiences: successes and screwups alike. That’s what guides my content. My posts are a blend of personal and professional, and I think that’s one of the reasons my readers keep coming back – they get to see and experience the humanity behind the trolls that run around in my head and inspire me to write.

And a Bitch Slap…well, those are the “shake the baby” moments. They target behavior and the overall goal is to shake people up and move them forward. They drive a lot of conversation and comments and there’s kind of a running joke to the effect of, “Yes, Mistress! May I have another?!”

Will: What is the inspiration behind your writing? That piece on your site Titled: Blow Jobs and Reassurance: A Girl’s Guide to World Peace caught me completely off guard. That was unexpected even from you.

Erika: I used to separate my business-related posts and personal posts on two separate blogs: Redheaded Fury and Redhead Writing. In early 2010, I made the decision to merge all of my posts into a single site and it’s proved one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The post you mention is another one of those I-say-what-other-people-thing moments. My best writing comes from conversations and this particular piece stemmed from a one with a girlfriend who said something to the effect that she felt her husband would be just as happy if she gave him a new BBQ grill as with a blow job. And probably ask for a blow job again. I ran with it.

Because let’s face it: sometimes we need to cave to our urges. We go through life trying to keep our urges reined-in and that, my friend, is exhausting. Go forth, get laid. Great relationships are about communication and understanding that sometimes our partners don’t want to “talk about it.” I just opted to use blow jobs to illustrate the concept. I also used to write an op-ed column called Dead Redhead for a site called ToyWithMe. You might not want to pull up that site at work, but I got to take on some interested sexual and political issues like gay marriage. It was great fun and they have some incredibly funny ladies writing over there!

Will: On several occasions you have mentioned that there are companies you won’t work with. What is the process like for determining whether or not you’re going to be a good fit with a client?

Erika: It’s usually as simple as a discovery call. When I can get a feel for a client – their situation, expectations and style – I’ll know if we’re going to be a fit. I’m fortunate that a significant portion of my new business comes on referral, so my alliances know in advance if a client will or won’t be a fit. They’re pretty much pre-qualified by the time they get to me in many instances.

People get ME when they hire my company. My writers and researchers are like me and we all gel. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to build a business filled with talented people who view and embrace my “all in” approach.

Will: I saw you in an interview in which you stated “You were planning on leaving the SEO writing stuff to concrete on being a brand and social media consultant.” Do you still feel that way? And what are clients going to get from you that they won’t from someone else?

Erika: The SEO copywriting is an art. Over time, I’ve gotten a pretty good grasp on how to not only show a brand’s personality, but make the search engines recognize. Like any business owner, I had to figure out what would allow me to scale my business in the direction I wanted it to go. That means I have to find the best combination of my time versus revenue – and that means I should focus on consulting and strategy. I’m fortunate to have some fantastically talented writers working with me, and there’s no greater joy I could get than teaching them to do what I’ve come to love and giving them a new way to go out and earn more work by having those skills in their arsenal.

Will: Those who have heard you present or read any of your writing knows you as this ballsy chick. What were you like in high school?

Erika: The ballsy chick. But then again, I was also a big ‘ol nerd. Summa Cum Laude, 9th in a class of 360, National Honor Society…and a goth chick. Through the miracle that is Facebook, quite a few people I went to school with read my columns. It’s going to make my 20-year high school reunion a hoot. 

Will: What do you think the attraction is for people who are fans of yours?

Erika: The response I get more often than not is that people like to live vicariously through my writing. I say what they won’t, can’t…and the other part of that is that people know I respond. If you leave me a comment, I leave you one back. I wouldn’t be anywhere without my readers and I do my best to thank them. They’re my life line and I want them to know they can come to my site and say whatever’s on their mind. Agree, disagree, agree to disagree – it all lends to a great dialogue. And I have to tell you – the comments and discussions on my blog between my readers are oftentimes more interesting than anything I could ever write!

Will: I have always wanted to try this in an interview, and you are the perfect person to give it go. You may not know this but I have an undergraduate degree in Film Production. I love movies, and one of my favorite TV shows is The Actor’s Studio. And if you’ve seen the show, you know that the host, James Lipton asks his guest a final set of questions, which he borrowed from Bernard Pivot. That is how I want to end this interview.

Will: What is your favorite word?

Erika: Linoleum

Will: What is your least favorite word?

Erika: Authentic

Will: What turns you on?

Erika: Words

Will: What turns you off?

Erika: Monster trucks

Will: What sound or noise do you love?

Erika: Rain – anywhere, anytime

Will: What sound or noise do you hate?

Erika: Young girls squealing at a celebrity.

Will: What is your favorite curse word?

Erika: Naturally…fuckwit

Will: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Erika: Mountain guide

Will: What profession would you not like to do?

Erika: I would not make a great maid.

Will:*If Fresca didn’t exist, what would be your beverage of choice?

Erika: HAH! Since Fresca is only an occasional indulgence, I have to admit I’m a big tea drinker. My friend Cali gave me a tea set that I can use with loose-leaf tea and I’m addicted.

*This question is my own and doesn't come from James Lipton or Bernard Pivot.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Interview with Shelly Terrell Part 2

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is the VP of Educator Outreach for Parentella and the Social Media Community Manager for The Consultants-E. She is also the co-organizer and co-creator of the award winning educational projects, The Reform Symposium E-Conference, Edchat and the Virtual Round Table conference. Find educator social media goals on her education blog, Teacher Reboot Camp or in her free e-book, The 30 Goals Challenge. Find her on Twitter, @ShellTerrell. She also teaches young learners in Germany.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Interview with Debra Wheatman: Entrepreneur, Blogger, and Career Specialist

Debra Wheatman, a human capital management strategist, has been featured on Fox Business News, WNYW with Brian Lehrer and her work has been cited in such leading online and traditional outlets as Forbes.com, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CNBC. With over 18 years of experience in human resources on the corporate level, Debra has proven that she has the goods in assisting her clients in identifying career paths that are personally rewarding and meaningful.

Dear readers of Peoplegogy, meet Debra Wheatman - blogger, career specialist, and owner and CEO of Careers Done Write.

Will: Who is Debra Wheatman? When did you discover you had a gift for helping people with their careers?

Debra: I started my career in human resources. What I do is a natural extension of that. I spent a lot of time in corporate HR working with people, listening to concerns from both a workplace and personal perspective.

Will: How long have you been a career specialist? What are the three most common mistakes you see in your work?

Debra: It has been over 20 years. For the better part of 10 years I have been very active in working with people to advance their careers or make transitions to new areas. The most common mistakes I see are the following:

a. People not preparing effectively for a job search – disorganization and seemingly unaware of what their value proposition is.

b. Being ill prepared for an interview, including failure to conduct research regarding the company and position.

c. Poorly prepared career documents and a failure to understand the importance of self-marketing and personal branding.

Will: How would you describe your coaching style?

Debra: I tend to be fairly straightforward. I really enjoy speaking with people from diverse backgrounds and sharing ideas. I have found that there is really no one right answer or one way to do something. Certainly, I have my opinion and an expertise in the career space. However, I will say that I learn something new everyday. An open mind is something that is a necessity if you are going to be successful in working with and coaching others.

Will: In deciding on a niche to pursue, what are some of the ideals, signs or values should one pay attention to?

Debra: There are many things to consider as a person pursues a career path. Many times, family and other personal matters come into play. Every one of us has things that we are passionate about; it would be great to translate this to professional efforts. Sometimes, this is not a possibility due to other limitations or constraints. Research is a very important part of the career planning process. Research allows a career seeker the opportunity to understand industry and company information. Research will also help uncover information that can facilitate the decision making process.

Will: How long should the typical resume be? Is a cover letter ever optional?

Debra: There is no such thing as a typical résumé. All people are unique – so too are their individual career documents. A résumé should be like a skirt: long enough to cover the topic, but short enough to keep it interesting. If a candidate has enough relevant, interesting, and timely information for a two-page résumé, so be it! No, a cover letter is never optional. Would you leave the house with a shirt and no pants? Probably not. Your résumé and cover letter come together. They are an ‘outfit’.

Will: There are a myriad of jobsites and career boards out there. What should be ones game plan for applying for jobs? Is there such a thing as applying for too many jobs?

Debra: Not all jobs are created equal! Again, the research will help a candidate uncover and understand the positions that he or she should be applying for. Yes, you can certainly apply for too many jobs. If a person keeps applying for things he is not qualified for, likely he will not get any responses. This can cause the person to become despondent and abandon what could be a productive search. Planning for a search requires a plan, including knowledge of one’s own abilities, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and drivers. Self-awareness is an important aspect of the career planning process. Applying for things with no clear direction will not yield positive or expected results.

Will: What is an informational interview? How often do you recommend clients to conduct them?

Debra: An informational interview is one in which there is no job available at the time. As the name implies, it is to gain ‘information’ about the company, its operations, and serves to allow the candidate an opportunity to establish a relationship with the interviewer for potential future openings. Informational interviews are important because they can facilitate interactions and serve as a springboard for a longer-term relationship – potentially leading to a job interview and offer of employment.

Will: So one of your clients tells you they have just landed an interview. What advice do you give them? What should he or she wear? What is the one thing you should never do?

Debra: I tell all of my clients to play the ‘recall game’. Oftentimes people need to reacquaint themselves with their own backgrounds. Do research about the company to learn about any new things that are going on. A quick Internet search will likely yield enough information to keep a client informed. Wear a suit. Even if a company says they are business casual, the client is not employed there yet! First impressions are lasting ones. There are a lot of things that should ‘never’ be done. Don’t be late to the interview; don’t come unprepared – bring several copies of the résumé – you never know who you will meet; never leave the interview without asking questions!

Will: What made you become an entrepreneur? Tell us about your company, Careers Done Write? What was the inspiration behind your company?

Debra: I really enjoy the process behind driving the growth of something – especially something that I really enjoy doing. My passion is helping people with the career planning process and contributing to their success. Careers Done Write is a career planning and management company, which helps guide people through all aspects of their career. We strive to establish long-term partnerships with our clients so they continue to use us as a resource.

Will: How do you use social media? What is the process for deciding which platforms to use and which to pass on?

Debra: Naturally, social media is a part of the career planning process. Yes, I encourage clients to use social media. There are a lot of platforms out there. Since it is not possible or even advisable to use all the social media platforms available, I encourage clients do conduct some research about how they plan on using social media to enable them to choose the most appropriate platforms. Generally I recommend LinkedIN for business; Twitter for connecting with a broad audience, sharing ideas, and general networking; and Facebook for personal interactions.

Will: Has the popularity of social media influenced how you conduct business?

Debra: Social media has been a definite impact on how I conduct business. It provides me with a wide variety of vectors to communicate with people looking for assistance in their career search.

Will: Do you encourage your clients to get involved in social media? If so, what are some of the guidelines you give them?

Debra: Yes, I encourage clients to get involved. Social media is a wonderful forum for people to engage with their peers. I recommend keeping the information positive. Of course, no matter what social media a client uses, I advise posting information that he or she would be proud to have his or her grandmother read or see.

Will: Debra, it has been a pleasure. I want to thank you for the opportunity to share your expertise with the readers. Do you have any final thoughts?

Debra: Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my background and thoughts with you. The career planning process is one that should be planned and implemented with care to ensure success.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Spontaneity of Education

One of the best thing about being a teacher is that you become a very transparent and reflective individual. As I move into my second year of teaching and embark on this journey at a new school with new children, I have tired to block out the 10 months of my first year of teaching. The 2009-2010 school year ended on a very bitter and sour note. For the first time in my life I realized how and why our, yes OUR public education systems have failed across the board.

Working for DC Public Schools truly showed me why our children are significantly behind in reading and math. It is a sad day when adults allow adult issues and drama interfere with educating children. From the header to the footer, dysfunction reined supreme in the nation's capital public schools. The stories and actual accounts of this dysfunction left me wanting to leave the teaching profession all together and not look back.

Last school year I work at school where I got punched 5 times in the face and my foot fractured due to students pushing me down the stairs in order to go witness a fight. I have seen the art teacher get drugged down the hallway by her neck by students. Students have busted out windows, vandalized property, exhibited gross disrespect, and through all this administration did nothing. In fact the principal at my old school was nauseatingly ineffective, disrespectful, unsupportive, and exceptional unprofessional. Through all this and more students' test scores on the DC-CAS Biology exam improved. Yes that is a triumph but still so much work to be done!

As I start this new position at a charter school, I can't but help recall and reflect on the year I had in the classroom; it is still fresh in my mind. There are hundreds of educators who have experienced my battle. We have witnessed the spontaneity of dealing with human products, of seeing countless incidents of adults playing and pawning with children's lives. You would think with horror stories like that, one would leave the classroom.

I find it amazing that I stepped foot into a classroom again. Although its like night and day at my new school, I am still haunted and troubled of not only the year I had but the fact that we have failed our children! With each comes a new set of students, new expectations, and new experiences, but what we can never change is the course that all these variables will take during the school year.

I have shared my experience in hopes that our classrooms will get better. That schools operate and function for the sole purpose of educating and nurturing children. As I reflect on what works and what does not in my classroom, we, as a country need to reflect on the overall disregard for public education and how we can act as a catalyst to ensuring EVERY child has access to a quality education.