Monday, January 31, 2011

How I found a Job using Social Media

Over the past year and a half, I have been actively involved on several social media platforms. Via social media, I have had the opportunity to receive the kind of interactive education people dream of in both K-12 and in higher education. At every click, I found experts from every field you could imagine. For example, if I have a tech question, I know Mary Beth will have the answer. If it's about social media, my go-to person is Shelly Terrell. And, if it's about career and life developments, Diana and Becky are rising stars.

What started out as a hobby quickly became a daily fix for me. What I did went beyond simply networking. I've meet people who inspired me, challenged me, empowered me, and wouldn't let me say no to my own dreams. Social media literally changed my life.

On Twitter, I met two of the most important people who would set my life in a new direction. Workplace consultant, J.T. O'Donnell offered me the opportunity to intern with the offshoot of her company - As the Campus Outreach Coordinator, I was charged with reaching out to college and university career centers/counselors to tell them about the great work being done inside the network as well as to get them signed up for a webinar, led by J.T. herself, about the campus. That experience not only earned me a contact with someone with real juice, it was then I knew that I had a future in the online world.

2 months into my internship, I got a call from Ingrid Stabb, co-author of The Career Within You. She told me that she was starting a business on the side and wanted me to be a part of it. As she explained her vision for me and what I'd be doing, my excitement for the position and my responsibilities grew and grew. And, on January 15, 2011, I officially became the Chief Social Strategist for StrengthsFactors - a career development resource company, specializing in the 9 Enneagram types.

Friday, January 21, 2011

iBio: Jenny Blake

Welcome to the iBio series, where people share their stories, their lives. I wanted to create a series focused on how people are succeeding or failing on their own terms - how they meet the challenges in their lives as well as the dreams they have for themselves. What they share is up to them. I will not edit or fact-check the submissions. That said, racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic or explicit sexual speech or images will not be accepted. This series will be what the people make it.

First up: Jenny Blake. Jenny Blake is a career development coach, blogger, social media savant and author of the book Life After College.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Work Smarter: Use Your Strengths

by Diana Antholis

Would you like to make it to the bar for happy hour in time for the two-for-one martinis? Do you wish your boss would shut it be nicer? Is swimming in the Hudson River more attractive than working with your team?

If you answered yes to these questions, don’t fret. You are not alone. Most people complain about something at work, the most popular being the long hours, the boss, the co-workers, and the boss (yes it is worth repeating). But do people take action against the mediocrity? Do they let their boss swallow them whole? Are they slowly getting sucked into their cubicles, barely seeing sunlight during the day?

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if things could change? Well guess what, they can change. YOU can make the change. It’s time, fellow activists, to work smarter. By working smarter, you can be more productive during real work hours, have a decent relationship with your boss, and suggest and implement improvements to make your team work together instead of tearing each other apart. Working smarter helps you perform better at work and in turn, builds a better workplace. We spend most of our waking hours at work; you deserve to be happy while you’re there.

Change is a scary word. It literally gives people goose bumps. But you are going to be different. You are going to start with your strengths. By recognizing and taking hold of your strengths, you can work smarter in your organization. For example, maybe you make excellent decisions. People marvel at how you can assess a situation and effortlessly deliver a brilliant solution to the problem. Maybe your boss sucks at this is not a good decision-maker. This, obviously, can make you want to pull out your hair. Urge your boss to make better decisions. Work your magic in your conversation with your boss and steer him/her to the right conclusion. Your team will thank you.

This works with any strength you may possess. Are you compassionate, inspiring, encouraging, motivating, challenging, organized, balanced, or a great listener? You can use these strengths to make the change you need to be happier at work, even if you are not in the typical leadership position. Lead from the middle. Motivate fellow team members to speak up in brainstorming sessions. Challenge your co-workers to dream up the next million-dollar idea. Listen carefully to understand the needs of your team and communicate them to your boss. Work together to create work/life flexibility strategy that lets you spend more time outside of the office (as in actually showing up during happy hour).

Not only use your strengths, but also engage your co-workers and encourage them to embrace their strengths. The common thought process is “figure out your weaknesses and improve them.” Why are we not building upon our strengths? This is why we create teams at work - to balance someone’s weakness with another’s strength. If no one is using their strengths, morale will be low, turnover will be high, and workplaces will suffer.

It’s time to take control of your life. Don’t let your boss, your company, or your co-workers win. You are the one who spends unnecessary time working when it could be spent taking your kids to the zoo, catching the waves during the perfect surf, or showing up to the happiest hour of the day. Make it work. Use your strengths. Show others how to use their strengths by example. Work smarter.

Diana Antholis is a Strategy Consultant for Performance Advantage Inc, a training and consulting firm dedicated to making people feel better about work and work smarter in the workplace. With an MA in Organizational Management, she focuses on researching organizational behavior and work/life management issues. Her career experience is in advertising and fashion marketing at top New York City and San Diego agencies. She is also the founder of Enter: Adulthood, a blog dedicated to young adults who are transitioning into the “real world.” You can connect with Diana on Twitter @dianaantholis or @worksmarta and LinkedIn.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

To Reach Your Highest Potential, Start from Your Strengths

by Andria Corso

I just read a wonderful book called Unique Ability: Creating The Life You Want, by Catherine Nomura, Julia Waller, and Shannon Waller. The book is about identifying what makes us each unique and then sharing that ability with the world. It is about discovering our unique gifts and then using those to create our livelihood and life's work. For me, reading this book reinforced what I've known and seen successfully demonstrated throughout my 16 year career as an HR coach and consultant; that is, when we work from our strengths and let our unique abilities shine through, we are most successful. By doing this, we thrive, and, in turn, those who work with us can also thrive. To reach our highest potential, we need to start from our strengths.

Too often I see company leaders and even HR professionals focused on helping employees with their "developmental opportunities". They take a lot of time to identify what is wrong with the employees or what skills they are missing. They explore the areas where they are lacking and then hone in on getting the employees experiences or training so they can develop those "weak" areas. As an HR professional, I understand why this is important. Companies need to be sure employees are skilled enough to do the jobs which they were hired to do; however, it is much easier to hire people who already are strong in the areas required for the job and then work with them to leverage and build upon those strengths.

I have seen many people successfully develop or grow in an area where they were weak but that growth is often limited and may only last for a short period of time. Why? Because they are not starting from their strengths and it can be an uphill climb for any of us to develop in an area that does not come naturally or feel right to us. For example, when my friend, the artist, asks for a recommendation on a course in creating Excel spreadsheets (because she needs to learn Excel to help out with a family business), I can accurately predict that she will complete the course but highly doubt that she'll retain what she learns. Why not? Because she is being pushed to do something that is against her grain. It is counter to her unique ability and it is almost certain that even if she does learn a lot about spreadsheets, she won't do it very well or, even worse, will do it reluctantly. Yet, if you put her in a course on advanced photograph development, she will thrive, soar and excel because that is aligned with her unique gift.

When hiring employees, we should seek them out for their unique abilities. Find out what comes naturally to them and where they excel. There is a reason why some of us got outstanding grades in art class as children and others did not. There is a reason why some of us stood out in science class and became doctors and others did not. When we start from where we are strong and build upon that, we are already ahead of the game. We are using our strengths as a bouncing off place to excel even further. Forcing someone to develop in an area where they are not strong, or, even worse, in an area that has no meaning to them will be like paddling upstream in a very strong current. The whole idea with operating from our strengths is to enable our unique ability to shine through. Instead of fighting the current, we go with the current. We need to start from our strengths and watch how naturally we can reach our highest potential.

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 the author of From Gatekeeper to Trusted Advisor: Success Strategies for Today's HR Professionals as well as a columnist on and a career expert on

Andria has a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Hofstra University and a Master of Science in Human Organization Science from Villanova University. In 2009, she was awarded Training Magazine's top trainer of the year award for her outstanding HR leadership skills at Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pursue a Career Based on Your Strengths

by Julia Erickson

“I love my work!”

If you are like most people, you want to say those words with a straight face, and mean them. It is possible when you look for jobs and build a career based on your natural strengths and talents. I call this your “right fit” work. Just as there are clothes that fit us better, so too are there jobs and careers that fit us better.

Starting with your skills, abilities and desired impact is the quickest way to actually beginning a career you will love.

It simply makes sense to go toward work that uses your strengths and talents. If you are doing what comes naturally, you are more likely to be happy at work. And when you're happy at work, you'll be happier in life.

• Job search is a long and sometimes painful slog. You might as well channel that energy to getting the best possible outcome.

•Employers value your strengths, because you do your best work when using them.

•When you look for work that uses your strengths, talents and abilities, you have a better chance of finding it.

Work occupies a huge amount of our time, so it’s desirable to have a job we like.

Job search itself forces you to focus on what you love to do and do well. When someone says "I just want a job, any job," they also quickly reject many suggestions. Someone recommends applying at a bookstore or for a sales job, and they say "but I can't do that" or "I don't want to do that." They are getting more specific about what they want by first rejecting what they don’t want or like.

Most of us DO know what we want to do, what we're good at, and what we're willing to do as a job. It just may be hard to admit it. For a shortcut, start with your strengths and what you love doing as well as the impact you want to have.

Most people can do lots of things. What are the things you like to do more than others? What activities make you lose track of time? What brings a smile to your face? What do you always gravitate to doing even when you don’t have time or patience to do other things? What do people always tell you you’re good at doing?

Now, think about the impact you want to have with your work. What will you do with your skills? What effect will you have? What's your purpose in using these skills, talents and abilities?

Be honest with yourself, and accept who you are. There's a lot of "shoulds" surrounding work - I "should" do what my parents want me to do or I "should" like this work because other people do. If you can, stop "shoulding" on yourself and instead look clearly at what "is" rather than what is "supposed to be." If you fight your natural abilities, you’ll end up miserable at work.

Knowing the skills and abilities you want to use will help with your job search. Essentially, your strengths become your key words in your job and career search.

•You can tell people that you are looking for work that will use these strengths.

•You can network in and explore several industries.

•You can have informational interviews with people in many fields or occupations, to learn more about how you could apply your strengths and talents.

•You stay open to many different kinds of jobs.

•Using your key words, you can discover the many different job titles that could use your strengths.

Soon you’ll be able to zero in on specific fields and jobs that are a good fit. Then it’s time to develop a “must have” list and create a job search plan.

By envisioning exactly what you want to do, you establish a goal and an intention toward which you can work. With a destination, you can map out a plan for getting from where you are to where you want to be in the world of work and careers.

Julia Erickson coaches people to find, get and do their "right fit" work - work they love, do well, and want to do again. She blogs and tweets on career and job search. Julia is a career expert on, a top 10 career blog. Julia’s coaching is grounded in nearly 30 years experience in NYC’s non-profit industry, including 12 as CEO of two major organizations. She hired hundreds, fired some, and coached many to use their talents at work. Julia led Public/Private Initiatives at NYC's Department of Employment, which gave her in-depth knowledge of what employers want. Julia applies to career management the marketing expertise she used to raise more than $100 million, much through direct response. Julia graduated from Smith College and has an MBA in leadership. She was the James Beard Foundation's 2003 Humanitarian of the Year, and a Women's Day's "Women Who Inspire Us" in 2002.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Forward Motion

by LaKesha Womack

Recently, a conference that I was attending required that each attendee complete the Myers- Briggs assessment so that the leaders could understand their personality style and work more efficiently together. My assessment revealed that I am an INTJ.

Have original minds and great drive for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. Quickly see patterns in external events and develop long-range explanatory perspectives. When in a committee, organize a job and carry it through. Skeptical and independent, have high standards of competence and performance – for themselves and others.

Knowing myself and the information provided, I concluded that my strength is my ability to move on my ideas. I am not the type of person to have an idea and wait for the perfect time to execute. Once I have an idea, my immediate thought is how will I make this happen? I create a plan of action to determine whether it is feasible and get to work. Sometimes in the process of planning, I realize that I’m not as interested in pursuing the project or that it probably won’t be successful but I never sit back and wonder if. I have found that this approach prevents me from living a life of regret.

A perfect example… as a little girl, I loved to watch the Miss USA Pageants on television. I dreamed of being on the stage and having a crown placed on my head. I had no formal pageant experience but somehow thought this would be something that I would enjoy. While living in Nashville, one of my friends mentioned that she was going to participate in the Miss Tennessee USA Pageant. She also mentioned that at our age, this would be the last year that we would be eligible to participate. I immediately decided to participate. Of course, I imagined winning and what my life would be like as Miss USA but as I got involved in the training and the pageant process, I realized that I am not a “pageant person.” It was a great experience because I watch the Pageant each year wondering “what if” or thinking that could be me.

I always encourage others to stay in forward motion. You have to learn from your past, live in the present and plan for the future.

LaKesha Womack is a Business Consultant with over ten years of management, training and consulting experience in a variety of industries such as retail, financial services, real estate, transportation and publishing. Also, she hosts an online Blog Talk Radio Show, “Late Night with LaKesha” each week on Tuesday evenings from 10pm until 1030 (CST). In addition, she is a Professional Speaker specializing in helping people to have it all - providing inspirational messages to help people achieve success in their personal, professional and spiritual life. Further, LaKesha is the author of the book,“Is SHE the ONE?”, a blogger, and conference organizer.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What's Your Sentence?

Based upon the What's Your Sentence? exercise in his book, Drive, Daniel Pink asked people to submit their sentence in a 15 second video, from which he would make a movie. Both intrigued by his work and the exercise, I submitted my own video. And, somehow I made the cut. The movie can be viewed below:

Friday, January 7, 2011

5 Questions for the Prospective PreK-12 Teacher

Hello! I'm Sabrina, and I'm a passionate upper-elementary school teacher turned writer and advocate. I'm really happy to be joining Will and the other contributors here at PEOPLEGOGY, and at his request, I'd like to share five things I think prospective PreK-12 teachers should consider before entering the profession.

1. How's your stamina?
I once read an article where the author described teaching as "the perfect family-friendly job" because "you can be home when your kids are, and you have all the same vacations." I alternately snarled and laughed as I read this article, which I found after Google searching "downshifting + career" because I had just returned home from my classroom at 8:30 at night (again). Clearly, this person was not a teacher-- and he or she certainly couldn't have been a teacher in a high-need school!

Contrary to what some folks believe, pre-K-12 teaching is incredibly demanding. For starters, it is not a "job" that can be completed in the contracted hours-- any teacher will tell you that's impossible to do. Teachers routinely either stay late in their classrooms or bring work home with them (sometimes both) in order to get everything done; that's just the nature of the work. You will also spend a lot of your "vacation" time preparing for students and engaging in professional development. Additionally, I and many other teachers have found that working with children is more energy-intensive than working with adults. You're responsible for them in a way you aren't for adults. You have to keep them safe and account for their personal and emotional needs (which are hard to overestimate, especially in stressful times like these), as well as plan and deliver instruction. And following the "guide on the side" model of teaching means you will be on your feet moving from student to student and group to group for most of your day-- the days of Miss Smith sitting at her desk while her students work silently in neat rows are, for the most part, over.

2. How well do you know yourself as a learner?
This is an important thing to consider because who you are as a learner will affect how you teach. For example, I'm naturally an auditory learner, so when I first started student teaching I unconsciously catered to students with those learning styles. Thankfully, a thoughtful professor noted that for me during an observation, so that I could become conscious of my need to attend to visual, kinesthetic, and other modes of learning as I teach.

It's also critical to remain a learner, and to think about what kind of student you were. Continuing the process of learning new things helps you to stay in touch with what it's like to struggle to learn something new, and helps you think about what kinds of feedback you find useful, and ways to deliver it that are useful and kind. (Nothing's less conducive to deep learning than feeling stupid, embarrassed, and frustrated!) Likewise, consider your assumptions about students who are both like and unlike yourself as a student. I was a "successful" student, so I worked really hard to try to understand what it would be like not to feel successful, and how that might affect someone's ability to learn. It also led me to think carefully about what messages I sent about what was valued in the classroom (innate ability, or hard work? Just the 3R's, or the arts, sciences, and social development as well? Conformity, or individuality?) and the opportunities I created for students. The goal should be for all students to have a chance to feel smart and genuinely successful everyday. Success breeds success, while feelings of failure tend to beget more failure.

3. How well do you know yourself, period?
Somewhat related to the last question, this one speaks to the need to reflect on who you are, and your own identity, before entering the classroom. Knowing about yourself-- how you like to work with others, what you need in order to be your most effective, what pushes your buttons, etc.-- goes a long way to figuring out how you'll collaborate with colleagues and how you'll be able to relate to your students.

Additionally, it's almost certain that you will end up teaching students from a diverse range of cultural, ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds. And you will definitely enter your classroom with the privilege associated with age and education, regardless of the other aspects of your identity. If you're interested in teaching for empowerment and equality (and I hope everyone is!), it's crucial to unpack your assumptions about people like and unlike yourself. This is doubly important if you are a member of an advantaged group working with students from a disadvantaged group.

4. What's your philosophy?
Having a well-articulated philosophy about education and learning is an essential part of being a good teacher. One, your philosophy gives you a way to frame and plan your actions in the classroom. Two, it will help you stay focused on your overall goals for your students during times when the politics of teaching (ugh...) and the more trivial day-to-day realities distract you from thinking about the bigger picture. Going back to your "roots" can help you to prioritize-- "Which is more important-- doing [X activity] to please this administrator, or spending some extra time with this student and her parent?"-- and can be a source of strength during those times when you feel worn down, under-valued, or lost. (And you will feel worn down, under-valued, and lost. Fortunately, many students have a knack for sensing those moments and doing something really sweet to help pull you out of it.)

5. Why do you want to teach?
This is the most important question of all! The incredibly long list of good answers to this question include statements like, "Because I want to make a difference," "Because I love learning, and want to share my passion with others," and "Because I love our youth, and want to help them live better lives in the present and future." (On the other hand, if your answer has been influenced by some random article about how you can get summers off and be home in time for Oprah every day...well, you might want to look into something else!)

Teaching is an incredibly rewarding and important career path, but it's also really tough-- make sure you know exactly why you want to do it, and whether you think you're up for the challenge, before you jump in.

Sabrina Stevens Shupe is a teacher, writer, and activist who has worked with students in struggling communities in Philadelphia and Denver. She recently launched the Failing Schools Project, which aims to empower teachers, students, and parents in so-called “failing” schools to share their perspectives on what it’s really like to work and learn in such schools, and to promote alternative ways of thinking about and solving the problems these schools face.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Empowering Teachers

My Google Docs session at TSETC

So much of today's discourse around education is focused on putting good teachers in the classroom.  This is both a vital and complicated endeavor. Most 'professional development' revolves around an expert relaying his or her expertise to a group of teachers sitting in a room looking at a PowerPoint.

We would never expect our students to stay engaged in this kind of setting, and many teachers fail to stay engaged in these kinds of sessions (picture teachers grading papers, texting and whispering at the back of the room).

Just as we talk about empowering our students, this can only happen when they are led by empowered adults. No highly-educated professional would want to be told how and what to do every minute of every day. Teachers are no different, yet many educators must follow strict pacing schedules and mandated, scripted programs.

So how do we empower teachers to be the best they can be in the classroom while ensuring that they are following best practices?

1.) Ask teachers what they want to learn.

This may seem obvious, but ask a teacher you know the last time they got to decide the topic of their last professional development day.

2.) Use teachers as your most valuable resource.

There are hidden gems on your staff with creative techniques and methods that they can teach each other. Who else knows your student population and what works with them better?

3.) Support your teachers in building a Professional Learning Network.

Help teachers build a network among their colleagues for learning. This could be in the form of a book club, or observations with constructive feedback sessions.

4.) Bring in experts who are known for their interactive and inspiring presentations, not just because they are 'experts.'

Sometimes an expert is the right person for the job, but do your research and talk to people who have had great sessions or attended great presentations and get those experts into your school.  If you attend a great session, get the presenter's business card and share it with your leadership team!

Who, you may ask, is in charge of making sure teachers are well-served with their professional needs?  The obvious answer is administrators, but these kinds of initiatives can also be pulled together by the staff itself.

Empowered adults teach empowered children. Let's trust teachers to build learning networks and guide their own growth.

Mary Beth Hertz is a Technology Teacher and Technology Integration Specialist at a K-6 public school in North Philadelphia. She blogs at Philly Teacher and you can follow her on Twitter as @mbteach.