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Archive: Don’t be afraid – You won’t learn unless you ask — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

December 13th, 2013 Comments off

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No matter who you are, where you live or what you do, if you really want to learn something about your work, your ideas or a particular product, you only have to ask. Of course, asking for feedback can feel embarrassing and even frightening. Still, listening to other’s consul and opinion is one of the most important ways that we learn to improve our own ideas.

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Books by Douglas E. Welch
  

The idea for this column came to me as I was watching a presentation at BarCampLA-3 (http://barcampla.org/), an un-conference here in Los Angeles that runs about every 6 months. One of the first sessions was Susie from SuperViva.com, a goal-tracking web site. I was impressed with the site, but I was even more impressed with Susie. She demonstrated the site and then asked everyone in attendance for their comments, questions and ideas. That takes guts! It also provided her with a wealth of information on what new features people might want and how to modify the site to better meet the members’ needs. Susie clearly thought her site was ready for review and knew she needed input from a wide variety of people, so BarCampLA offered her a great opportunity.

Now, you don’t have to go as far as presenting your work in a public forum, at least not yet, but there is a variety of ways to put the power of “asking” behind any of your projects, personal or professional. Start small and then grow into more public environments and larger groups of people as your project matures.

The first step in getting feedback on your ideas or projects is to collect a trusted and smart group of friends. Once you feel you have your idea in some basic form, take the idea to them and ask them what they think. This initial discussion can, and should, alter your original idea, adding features, removing others and getting you to the next step.

You start with a small group so you can acclimate yourself to the fear that all of us feel when we ask others about our ideas. We worry that others will hate the idea or even worse, want to change the idea so much that it no longer feels like our own. This fear is real and palpable. It is also the one thing that can keep you from learning and growing, so it must be overcome at all costs. Some of us can dismiss it through our own willpower. Others, like myself, will have to use tricks or rewards or otherwise force us beyond the fear. Whatever method you find best, you must move beyond the fear.

After your initial round of feedback, and any tweaks you have made to your idea or project, it is time to implement the first version. This version doesn’t have to be complete, but it should offer some clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish. Now it’s time to expand your feedback group. From the very beginning, everyone should be enticed to provide feedback on your idea or project.

Nothing can replace this hands on “usability” testing that the only the real world can provide. You will quickly notice issues and you should work just as quickly to resolve them. Sometimes, you might change one feature, only to realize that the initial idea was better. Change it back. Do whatever it takes to meet your user’s needs. I can guarantee that you will be learning something important every day.

Now that you have your idea or project in some basic shape, you repeat the process with an even larger group. This new group will bring different needs, thoughts and experiences to your project and help to refine it even more. Their ideas might contradict the concerns of earlier users, but you might find that this is simply a sign that a feature doesn’t work as well for 1,000 people as it did for 100. Again, you tweak and change, add and remove features and continue refining your ideas.

At this point, you have probably started to communicate your idea to the world at large, but this certainly doesn’t mean you stop taking input from those around you. In fact, this process should continue for the life of your product or service. If you don’t make a concerted effort to continually receive and act on feedback, you are stunting the growth of your ideas and business. 

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Archive: Make your resume a blog — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

July 26th, 2013 Comments off

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You can find advice on how to build, design and send your resume almost anywhere. They will tell you how to format it, which font to choose and what information to include. Heck, even I’ve written my share of columns on resumes. Despite this, though, I want to offer one more bit of resume wisdom. In this age of ubiquitous Internet access, search engines and an increase in the serendipity of finding the right job for you, the next step may be to make your resume a blog, because, in many ways, your blog might already be turning into your resume.


Books by Douglas E. Welch
  

Even in today’s high-tech world, resumes are still seen as relatively static, paper-based documents. Even if they eventually make it into electronic systems, in our minds we still see them as little sheets of paper that get shuffled around on someone’s desk. Just as the professionally printed resume has long gone out of style, I believe any form of printed resume is on its way out, as well.

In past columns I have preached the gospel of a portfolio-based approach to advertising your skills and work experience. Yes, I use the word advertising purposely, as that is exactly what you are doing. You are advertising what you know and what you do, in hopes of someone buying your services.
Part of building a great portfolio is documenting your interesting projects past and present and documenting them as soon after completion as possible. In some cases, you will probably want to do it even while you are completing the project. You want to capture the best “stories” about your project now so you can use them in your resume and in your interviews. It is these stories of actual work and projects that will best communicate your skills to perspective employers.

So, with these ideas in mind, one great way of exposing your work portfolio and resume to the widest group of potential employers is to put it into a blog. Sure, you will probably still have to produce the standard, one-page resume for those people stuck in the past, but producing your resume as a blog has many distinct advantages.

First, a resume blog allows all your stories to be slurped up by any number of search engines including Google, Yahoo and more. This increases the chance that someone might randomly stumble across you when they are looking for just the right person. Sure, an online version of your paper resume might do in a pinch, but you can do better.

Instead of having only one small description of each past job, I encourage you to post to your resume blog as often as necessary. Minimally, this would include a wrap-up after any major projects or accomplishments. Again, all this information becomes searchable and it helps to lock the stories into your mind so you can easily recall them during interviews or casual meetings with potential employers.

Now, go even further. Document any training you receive and your impressions of how it will be useful to your future work. Describe the hardware and software tools you use and why. The general rule is to include anything that would give a potential employer deeper insight into you and your work. The goal in all of this, beyond finding the best job possible, is to use the easy-to-use features of a blog to capture and share as much information about your work and skills as possible. The more information that is available, the better your chances of getting an interview and a job.

It is so much easier to update a resume blog than updating a paper resume and it can say so much more. Your resume blog can become the hub of your online portfolio, available 24/7 from any where in the world. Sure, you can then use this information to update your paper resume, but my hope is that paper resume will soon go the way of the 386 processor and dot matrix printers — useful in their time, but long, long gone.

Get your work experience, your skills and your career stories out onto the net where they can do you the most good. Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Let it shine and help build the career you deserve.

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