Building Skills at Your Own Pace: Online Courses to Improve Your Career

Regardless of whether or not a course generates a paper document to hang on your wall, if it enhances your skills, it is undoubtedly worthwhile.  Some paid courses might give you a certificate of completion, for whatever that is worth, but you should know that some free courses do provide diplomas, too.

With this in mind, there are some rather distinct advantages to learning online, especially when you are also maintaining a full-time job.  Leading among them is the sheer convenience of learning within your own time allowances.  Night school (for example) can affect your work, disrupt your family, and even limit your social activities.

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For instance, when working at your own pace, you’re free to decide that Tuesday and Wednesday will be your “school nights” with the rest of the week free.  However, if your daughter happens to have a recital scheduled, or your son has a school play on one of those days, you’re free to skip that particular night, or move it to a different day.  Catching up, or merely lengthening your schedule, is entirely up to you.

Here’s another valuable reason to consider online learning:  If you’re one of the many living in a location frequently affected by extreme weather conditions, you can still “get to school” if it is online, with no regard to the conditions between you and the school parking lot.

Furthermore, you’ll even save on gas driving to school, and reduce your carbon footprint; you’ll save on transit costs if you don’t drive; you’ll save the time and frustration of fighting traffic, and then finding and paying for a place to park, meals out, and even laundry (if you’re content to work at home in your pajamas).

The New Normal

Some believe that attending a brick and mortar school of any sort may be going the way of the Dodo.  It’s outrageously expensive and seriously inconvenient.  Unless there is practical work required (e.g., medical interns need to perform physical examinations, police scientists need to know how to take a fingerprint, etc.), then a significant portion of it is often just a social occasion.

Our society has evolved such that video can replace what was formerly direct interaction.  The very word “interactive” evolved because our technology pushed us apart from each other.

Once upon a time, everything was interactive; so much so that we didn’t have a word for it.  You went to a play, or you acted; you listened to live music or you performed; you learned how to dance, or you taught people to dance.  It was only in the late 20th century that we began to spend more time with our machines than with other humans.

We were numbly staring at computer screens, sending texts to someone in the next cubicle instead of talking to them.  Our devices became surrogate people.  Society has come around finally, and we’re starting to accept being interactive as normal again, albeit through our machines.

Just a taste

Here are a few online courses that could seriously alter your future career trajectory:

  1. Data Science A-Z™” (Udemy)
  2. Introduction to Computer Science” (Harvard)
  3. Competitive Strategy” (Coursera)
  4. High-Impact Business Writing” (Coursera)
  5. Writing for the Web” (OPEN2STUDY)
  6. Introduction to Programming in Java” (MIT)
  7. Introduction to C and C++” (MIT)
  8. HTML and CSS” (Codecademy — an excellent choice)
  9. Adobe Photoshop CS6 Essential Tools” (ALISON)
  10. Diploma in Social Media Marketing” (ALISON)
  11. Become a Networking Master” (The Muse)
  12. How to Start a Startup” (Stanford)
  13. Academic and Business Writing” (edX)
  14. Chinese Language: Learn Basic Mandarin” (edX)
  15. German Course for Beginners” (Deutsch-Lernen.com)

MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, were invented in Canada in 2008 by Dave Cormier of the University of Prince Edward Island.  The objective of a MOOC is to engage with an unlimited number of people through the web where lectures, videos, problem sets, and discussion forums can be delivered to the widest possible audience.

Course materials are always available, on demand so that a genius could complete the course in days or weeks, and a traditional learner could take months or even years to obtain a Ph.D.  Colleges and universities are often “full” with no available space for new students.  This solves the problem.

Some charge fees, but places like MIT offer all of their courses online, for free, under the OCW (Open Course Work) badging.  People might see it as altruistic, but in truth, it is merely practical.  We haven’t enough graduates to fill all the new tech roles that are evolving.  As the last of the Boomers retire, there will be a dearth of qualified employees.  Online education is essential if we are going to keep expanding our knowledge and enhancing our standard of living.

Aside from the advantages mentioned previously, there are unrealized advantages as well.  Take someone who is reticent, or simply shy, and suddenly they can become successful in expressing themselves because they are not overwhelmed by the presence of others.  Many students have reported the ability to focus more thoroughly on the work; they indicate that the distractions of a classroom detract from their learning experience.

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The Takeaway

Everybody stands to benefit from online learning.  It removes walls and barriers based on wealth, geography, gender, skin tone, religion, or ethics.  When I say “everybody” that is exactly what I mean.  Specifically, I leave you with this thought from Ken Goldberg:

“Our robots are signing up for online learning. After decades of attempts to program robots to perform complex tasks like flying helicopters or surgical suturing, the new approach is based on observing and recording the motions of human experts as they perform these feats.”—Prof. Ken Goldberg, UC Berkley, Roboticist

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with LinkedInSecrets.us. Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

Stress-Free Ways of Taking on a New Project at Work

The Origin of Stress

Stress is a state which developed during our early evolution to keep us alive.  When a situation presents a potential threat to our survival, we express the hormone cortisol (made in the adrenal cortex) which helps raise our blood sugar levels partly by suppressing the function of insulin, so that we are ready for action (fight or flight).

It prepares the way for the release of adrenaline if there is an actual emergency.  To maximize available energy, it also turns off our immune system, stops bone-growth, activates anti-inflammatory pathways, making us more vulnerable to disease.

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Aren’t all these things bad, you ask?  Not for the brief period that they are meant to be activated, no, they’re just fine.

The problem arises when we are always stressed, constantly producing cortisol, because it makes us weaker and increases our tendency to get tired or sick more easily. Too much cortisol also results in proteolysis, or the breakdown of protein in our bodies (muscle mass), when we can’t keep our blood sugar elevated.

In our modern society, there is little need for stress anymore.  Most of us live relatively safe lives, not hunted by animals, with sufficient food, acceptable medical care, clean water, and proper sanitation.  Frequently unsatisfied with how good our lives are, we often create artificial stress for ourselves with deadlines and pressure.

We deal with stress in different ways.  Some thrive on it; others collapse under the weight; some forbid it.  We must step back for a moment and determine if our stress is making us sick; if it is burning us out; if it is robbing us of our quality of life.

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Responsibility

If your boss hands you a new project and says, “Pick your team members and let’s get this show on the road!” you might be a bit nervous.  Before you become hypercritical of yourself, just stop and think for a moment about why you were chosen.

Does your boss want you to fail and then have to explain your failure to bosses higher up?  No.  The most probable answer is that your boss has confidence in you, likely based on previous work or some ability you’ve demonstrated, and fully expects you to succeed.  Stress factor: zero.

Pick Smart People

Maybe it’s a new area for you, and you’re worried about your ability.  Remember, you’re creating a team, so pick people that have the talents required for the project.

You’re not there to do all the work yourself; you are there to manage the team.  You must choose people with different skills than yours; create a talent-range, so all the bases are covered.  A wise person selects people with skills beyond their own because if they are less capable than you, you’ll never accomplish anything better than what you can do right now.  Stress factor: zero.

Pre-planning

You can eliminate most worries about a project by speaking to those involved before the project starts.  That includes the team members you’ve selected, of course, but it also includes the stakeholders.  Everyone has constraints, whether they are ability, availability, responsiveness, technique, integration, or something else entirely.

Find out who can do what, areas where individuals excel, who they work best with, and scheduling conflicts.  Identify tasks clearly and delegate appropriately, with milestones for each task.

Consistency and Support

Once a schedule is created, your people must understand the interdependencies, and although it is possible to adjust for slippage, the expectation is that all work will be completed on time.  Don’t forget to make it clear that your door is open, and if something is falling behind, you want to know about it right away.

Emphasize that help is available and you’re willing to commit resources to a problem to get it back on track.  You do not want to know one day before something is due that it’s going to be delayed by four days.  Make sure they understand that you are willing to pitch in if someone is in a tight spot.

Assuming an Existing Project

Being asked to take on a project that is already underway is a good indicator that you are a trusted team member.  It can also be a daunting experience because you’re faced with the task of taking on processes and policies which are already in place.

First of all, don’t jump in with both feet!  Take an hour or two to read through the details of the project.  Review the Project Calendar, Project Schedule, Gantt chart or whatever methodology has been selected, and understand the current status.  Write down questions you need to be answered as you are reviewing (so they’re not forgotten).

Call in someone from the team who is likely to have the answers you need.  Question them to fill in the blanks in your knowledge.  Perhaps speak to more than one person, if warranted.

After you are up-to-speed, consider having a stand-up meeting and invite people to tell you about their current status.  There is no need to issue orders at this point, to establish authority.  Take your time to get comfortable; people expect a certain margin of error before you are integrated.  The only person holding you to an exceptional mistake-free standard is you.  Stress factor: zero.

Stress Free Ways of Taking on New Work Projects - Group of professionals working at laptop

The Takeaway

Team members will support you if you support them.  It’s simply common sense: If you trust your people, they will trust you.

If your team is managing their responsibilities well, if they’re making their deliveries on time, or even early, reward them.  It can be individually, or collectively.  It might be something as simple as sending them and a spouse out for a fancy restaurant meal or letting them leave the office as soon as the work is done.

When people know you’re a “good boss” they will work harder for you; they’ll produce top quality material because they seek your approval and want to encourage you to continue to also be a “good boss”; they will want to keep working for you.  They’re being paid to accomplish tasks, not to sit at their desk until 5 pm, despite having completed all of their work.

Being a good boss leads to a stress-free existence because people will trust you to deal with problems.  They won’t be reluctant to tell you about something going awry.  That means you get a great deal of leeway to deal with problems when they are tiny and easy to fix.  And that makes it all worthwhile…  Stress factor: zero!

More from Stewart Cooper & CoonBoss Redefined: What Makes a Great Modern Business Leader

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with LinkedInSecrets.us. Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

For Better or Worse: How Being Impatient Affects Your Career

Patience is a virtue.” As most of us, you’ve likely heard this motto frequently throughout your life. Yet, while patience as a trait, is laudable, we are here to explore the various ways that this particular characteristic (and its polar opposite) can affect our career: for better or worse.

Alyse Kalish, writer and associate editor for The Muse, further researches this concept.

Effects of Impatience on Career - two people watching presentation

When Impatience Can Be Detrimental

Expecting results too quickly

An overly eager mindset can be detrimental if you’re expecting extreme results in a very short time-frame. Goals are important, but unrealistically high expectations can often result in disappointment. It’s important to remember that our most significant goals take time as well as a process of trial and error. Additionally, Kalish states that “[when] we’re impatient that something’s taking too long to get off the ground, or our careers are moving too [slowly], we never fully appreciate the small strides we make along the way”.

Reacting abruptly

When presenting coworkers and team leaders with information, it’s important to allow them enough time to process and respond accordingly. No one wants to be perceived as a “nag”, so be sure to wait a reasonable amount of time before following up.  As Kalish affirms, “In the day to day, being impatient in how you communicate will only lead people to ignore you or dislike working with you.”

Insisting on a promotion before you’re prepared

Kalish reminds employees that there are, unfortunately, certain realities of our careers that must be accepted. While we have all heard stories of a friend or colleague that received a promotion three to six months into a new job; remember this is the exception, not the norm. Kalish reiterates, “…for the most part, you shouldn’t expect a raise or promotion or some other big career opportunity before you’re truly ready for – and you’ve earned – it”.

When Impatience Can Be Helpful

You know a negative situation has dragged on too long

We are often acutely aware when something is taking much longer than it should. Perhaps you have addressed a less-than-ideal circumstance at work which was never properly resolved. Long-term issues that involve inefficiency, outdated systems or even unfair treatment will surely benefit from an increased sense of urgency. Kalish reminds readers that “…even if you can’t directly change them, you can often start productive conversations on ways to do things better”.

It leads you to take action and be helpful

If your impatience sparks you to get involved and proceed proactively, this can actually be a good thing. According to Kalish, “The people who spin their impatience into a positive thing do so by focusing on what they can do rather than what they need from others”. If you find yourself growing intolerant when a colleague seems to be lagging, consider what systems you can create — or what you can do on your own — that will help the job get done quicker.

You find ways of challenging yourself

Those who are willing to challenge to themselves are more likely to master their job duties and even take on more responsibilities at quicker rate. In this sense, as Kalish agrees, impatience can actually double as a sort of ambition. You may even find yourself learning new skills that allow you to resolve more issues on your own.

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In Conclusion

When channeled properly, a healthy sense of impatience can drive employees toward a more rewarding and successful career. Just remember how and when to draw the line between motivation and intolerance.

 

Fred Coon, CEO 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

 

 

 

New Job Require Traveling? Practical Tips for a Stress-Free Trip

If you are one of the many Americans who have jobs that require travel, there are many things you can do to streamline your experience.  Following are some tips that will help make it, if not enjoyable, at least manageable.

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Airports & Borders

We’ve all heard the stories of extensive TSA delays and subsequent missed flights. The airlines have since advocated for an alternative because they don’t like it any more than the travelers do.  Business and first class travelers are their bread and butter, generating more revenue than most of the rest of the plane put together.

As a consequence, a number of Trusted Traveler Programs have arisen with names like Global Entry, Nexus, and Sentri, if you’re traveling internationally.  There is the TSApreprogram for local travel.

You should absolutely register with these programs at the first opportunity to decrease the amount of time you spend on interminable security check lines.

If traveling internationally, get your passport if you don’t have one already.  Be familiar with the rules (some countries require that a passport be valid for at least six months longer than the last scheduled day of your visit).  Don’t turn in an old passport with still-valid visas.  Instead, carry both passports so you don’t have to go back to an embassy and repay for the visa services.

Planes

If you’re new to the game, focus on one or two airlines that will offer you the most suitable services for your needs.  If you are “hopping” from airline to airline in order to save money, it is going to take much longer to accumulate rewards.   Those rewards can be used to upgrade your flying experience, moving from economy to first class, or even business class.  There is no doubt that a 14-hour business class flight to New Zealand is much better than any sort of economical fare.

Moreover, on long flights, no matter how comfortable the seats are, get up every 90 minutes or so and take a little walk up and down the aisle, if circumstances allow. Otherwise, do your best to practice some basic stretches. This is required in order to avoid getting a DVT (deep vein thrombosis), which is not only very painful, but a potentially life-threatening blood clot that form in the legs.

Some employers require you to use your own credit card to pay for expenses and then submit a bill upon return.  The added benefit to this is that all of the “air miles” that you collect belong to you, not the company.   When vacation time rolls around, a free flight to an exotic locale may be just the thing you need.

Your Carry-on

Be sure to keep a handy change of clothes in your carry-on bag.  Baggage does occasionally get lost, but many times it’s due to passengers arriving late for check-in.   Airlines ask you to arrive early for a reason; they want to make sure that you and your luggage get on the same plane.

If you can force everything you need into a carry-on, this does give you more latitude with your arrival time.  Wear your comfortable leisure shoes to travel and pack the formal business footwear.  Having both means you won’t have to play tourist in fancy leather shoes if you decide to do a little exploring. In any case, pay attention to the arrival times, especially if you have bags.

You can always buy extra toiletries (for example, a disposable razor and shaving cream at a local discount or Dollar Store) if the need arises, but it is smart to make a point of having your charging cables for all your electronics in your carry-on bag.  The same is true if you take a daily medication.   Have at least a couple of day’s supply in your pocket or your carry-on and make sure you have a prescription describing what you are carrying in case it comes into question.

Hotels

The same rules apply with hotels, in that you can get an upgraded suite, free meals, and additional days at no charge, along with other benefits.  Five days working in Amsterdam, for instance might be exhausting, but an additional two days all to yourself with no responsibilities would give you time to tour famous museums, galleries, their renowned coffee shops, and other attractions.

 Stay Healthy

Be sure to make a point of washing your hands frequently while traveling.  Your immune system may be perfectly adequate for the local flora and fauna where you live, but a foreign environment might have significant challenges to someone not used to it.

Don’t try brand new foods on your first night out.  Wait until you’ve been jet-setting for a while and developed some tolerances.  Drink bottled water; drink from sealed soda-pop bottles.  Never accept ice unless each one has a dent in it (this identifies them as having been made from condensation rather than local water that has been frozen.  Most hotels have ice machines that condense water). This is especially true if you have an important meeting in the morning and you want to avoid being stuck in the bathroom of your hotel room.

Try to steer clear of communal objects like airplane pillows and blankets unless they’re wrapped and sealed.  Bring an inflatable pillow if you need it, or better yet, one of the types that store completely flat.  It’s got a nice hollow for your face to provide darkness, a place to comfortably cross your arms, and it is even soft and comfortable!  Getting a few hours of comfortable sleep can be just the ticket.  Don’t forget the earplugs for much-needed silence!

Useful Tools

A complete set of international electrical plug adapters is generally small and can be a virtual lifesaver.  Your laptop may have enough USB ports that you can charge all of your electronics without having to bring along all their unique transformers.  That saves weight and space.  Sometimes renting a phone is cost effective (and required in some countries that don’t support your phone-type, such as Japan).

Carry candy or energy bars with you.  One winter storm in an airport that has sold out of food is enough to make that a must-have.  Also, keep a notepad handy if you’re hitting a lot of hotels on a long trip so you don’t mix up yesterday’s room number with the one you just received.  Finally, always buy a copy of the local paper, irrespective of language, and carry it when you’re out.  It makes you look like a local so a certain element of the population will turn their attention elsewhere.

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The Takeaway

All things being equal, the person who does the most planning and has the wherewithal to stick to their schedule is going to be the person who succeeds in enjoying their business trip rather than just “getting through it”.  Plan, accomplish, and succeed!

Further Reading:  Weighing the Pros and Cons of Jobs That Require Travel

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

What Employees Should Know About Team Transfers

Whether voluntary or not, change in any capacity poses its challenges.  Nevertheless, alterations in our routine are certain to generate opportunities for development and expansion of knowledge.

In the workplace, we may choose to stay within our comfort zones; even preferring to trade a chance at professional growth for an existing sense of security.  However, quite commonly, we eventually reach a point where change is not only imminent, but necessary in order to begin the next chapter in our career. For those who are not quite ready to re-enter the job market, this next step may simply include transferring to a new team within their current organization. Thus, following some basic steps will make the shift significantly less taxing.

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Author and career content writer, Ryan Galloway, cites the valuable advice of Stephanie Linker, member of the global investment management corporation, BlackRock. It is there she lead a team responsible for event and mobile technology and even launched the company’s first mobile app.  After several years in this role, Linker knew she was ready to take on more responsibility, which soon characterized the next stage of her career.

1.  Build a sense of familiarity.

Linker recommends making the effort to meet as many individuals on various teams within your organization. Building and/or fine-tuning your own personal brand, while asking the right questions and seeking mentorship when necessary, will help provide the foundation you need to enter the next phase in your career. Linker suggests workers aim to gain insight on a team’s most significant needs and challenges, as well as working and leadership styles.

2.  Clearly – but carefully – express your intentions.

Galloway quotes Linker who affirms, “Communication is key when considering an internal move. How you convey the message that you’d like to work on another team can mean the difference between a smooth transition and messy break-up”. Expand upon the formally scheduled meetings and performance reviews, but refrain from directly asking for a transfer right away. Rather, focus on communicating your interest in the team with which you’d like to work, as well as your eagerness to gain knowledge on a larger portion of the company. Once it’s time to make the shift, the process will seem more natural, creating less static during the process.

3.  Consider your choices.

Before entirely committing to their pursuit, employees must ask themselves some fundamental questions regarding their potential transfer. These questions should include 1) whether the role will offer a sufficient level of challenge, 2) if it will help you grow professionally, 3) how it will fit within your lifestyle, 4) whether you will be gaining new skills or maximizing current ones, and 5) what you will be giving up by transferring to another team.

4.  Never “burn your bridges”.

Remaining on good terms with former team members is always recommended, but unlike starting a brand new job, a transfer means that you are still basically maintaining the same group of colleagues and coworkers. While your direct daily connections will change, you may still be dealing with the members of your former team on some level. Showing that you continue to be a supportive part of the whole will ease any tension as you learn to define your new role with new team members.

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Conclusion

As a final word, Linker offers the following advice to employees pondering the option of a team transfer: “You’ve got to ask for what you want. If you see a place where you can add value, you’ve got to raise your hand. No one’s going to hand you your next opportunity.” And we couldn’t agree more.

 

Fred Coon, CEO

 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Informational Interviews: Understanding the Basics

What is an informational interview?

Also referred to as an “informational conversation”, an informational interview is a type of meeting where job seekers attempt to obtain guidance on their career of choice, industry, as well as the corporate culture of a potential future place of employment. Meanwhile, employers have the opportunity to learn more about a specific job seeker, ascertaining their possible value to the organization as well as their potential fit within the corporate culture, while also building upon their own pool of viable future hires.

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In an informational interview, job seekers can be either active or passive candidates; meaning they may be true job seekers or employed professionals looking to gather knowledge about their field of choice. In either case, the candidate is gaining valuable leads, network contacts, and expertise.

How do informational interviews differ from typical job interviews?

In a traditional job interview, the conversation is centered upon hiring and a specific job to be filled; whereas an informational interview provides level ground for participants to learn about one another on a more equal basis. However, it’s important to note that even if a direct employment opportunity is not being discussed, professionalism is still top priority.

Coined by best-selling career author, Richard Nelson Bolles, an informational interview can either be initiated by a job seeker or by an employer seeking to construct an assemblage of candidates for possible future positions.

However, when a candidate initiates an informational interview, close attention must be paid to etiquette. Job seekers should remain heedful of the fact that the employer is taking time out of their schedule to meet with them. In this instance – much like a traditional job interview – educating one’s self about the company and industry is crucial. Also, be sure that the meeting does not markedly exceed the 15-minute mark.

How should one locate contacts for an informational interview?

Much like a traditional job search or candidate screening process, connections can be made through job boards, career and social networking sites, placement services, newspaper “want-ads”, professional meet-up and trade associations, company websites, teachers and professors, professional recruiters, and job search engines.

What are some tips for job seekers looking to conduct their own informational interview?

Executive/career coach, speaker, and author, Tad Mayer offers some helpful guidelines for candidates looking to organize an informational interview with a prospective employer or expert in their field.

1.  Set an agenda that will get you the answers you need.

Ask the other party for their “story”, background, and what led them to their current role or position. Follow this question by asking for any pertinent advice that the employer or field expert can offer. For purposes of reference, be sure to provide information about yourself as well. By explaining your “story” to the other individual, you are providing them with a more effective opportunity to offer their assistance. Once they can understand your unique perspective, they will be better able to properly tailor their responses and advice in a more helpful way.

2.  Reach out to the right people.

Assure that the individual with whom you choose to connect will be both helpful and reliable. In other words, search for contacts who not only possess valuable knowledge based on where you are in your career, but also those who are most likely to agree to the meeting. Mayer asserts that the latter criterion is essential, especially when you are starting out. The more informational interviews you are able to complete with willing individuals, the more practice you will have for those deeper in your network.

Informational-Interview-Woman-accessing-Social-Network.jpgThe Takeaway

The reasons for partaking in this often overlooked career resource can be limitless, and the benefits are often multi-faceted. Whether you walk away with a job offer, some future networking prospects, or even a new friendship; informational interviews are a win-win for everyone involved.

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with LinkedInSecrets.us. Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

Corporate Vision: How to Communicate Your Ideas to Team Members

When deliberating upon factors most conducive to a successful business, there are few points more meaningful than that of effective communication. This is far from a new subject, even in conventional business circles; however, we believe that as standards and expectations rise with an executive through the ranks, so must the complexity of your understanding of core concepts and methods. To have a phenomenal and dynamic corporate plan is one thing; it is entirely another to be able to shape and share that vision so that it materializes in the minds of the crucial team members that will be working together to bring it about. As the leader (even if the plan itself is fundamentally collaborative) it is still in your hands to not only illustrate the plan cohesively, but you must also inspire your team to get that creative energy required for a true vision.

 

 

The Roots

Now, getting into the foundation of it all, our first step is to develop a well-fleshed-out vision statement.

A corporate vision statement is an overview, summary, and precursor rolled into one powerhouse delivery which, if done correctly, can be one of the most dynamic and powerful tools at your disposal for decision-making at every strategic juncture of operations, from rollout to closing.

We’re going to take a quick step back to make a key distinction that is often a bit muddled:  The difference between a proper vision statement and the company’s mission statement. The distinction is one of focus and it breaks down fairly simply:  A mission statement pertains to what is, while a vision statement seeks to shape what will be.

To develop a solid vision statement that is truly effective, it must in turn be crafted by as many guiding perspectives at the highest level of the company. Therefore, it’s recommended that you seek out and redraft as many times as needed to get a truly cross-sectional statement from all the leading players; such as your board and stakeholders, as well as department heads and management personnel.

The Crafting

Now that we have our definitions lined up, it’s time to hit the collaborative drawing board with some of these tips firmly in mind:

Project: This is about the future, so think ahead creatively and with gusto. Where in your team’s wildest dreams do you want to be in five years? How about ten?

Clarity: Remember, your vision statement has to not only be comprehensible, but inspiring. You want to engage your team every bit as much as challenge them (and yourself).

Progressive: In keeping with the purpose of the vision, use strong and active language. Nothing in your vision statement should be remotely passive.

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The Rollout

Finally, don’t be afraid to challenge your statement. In fact, this is how you go from draft to cohesion, with constructive input and evolution-based critique. Putting your vision through the grindstone will inevitably lead to a stronger and more stable whole, every time. Above all, avoid the dross of carbon-copied language and buzzwords. Your vision needs to present clear emotional content:  A complicated goal when dealing wholly with pre-established corporate cultures.

Equally vital, is that you know precisely who you’re targeting. A statement crafted around an IT organization is going to be markedly different from that of a marketing agency, and understandably so.

In the end, the astute executive emerges from this process as more effective leader, on all fronts.

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with LinkedInSecrets.us. Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

Understanding Artificial Intelligence and its Effect on the Job Market

Earliest Signs

In the 15th Century in the Netherlands, if you were a weaver, it was a manual skill you learned from your mother, and she from hers.  It was a coarse-weave you created, but it was the only thing available.  At least, that was so until the steam or water-powered textile loom came along and took away a large part of your livelihood.

That technological behemoth could turn out high quality, finely woven cloth by the yard…by the mile!  That was “automation”—and its first big impact on human labor.

People have railed at automation in the past, and these weavers were said to have thrown their wooden shoes (sabot) into the machines in protest.  It may not be true, but it could possibly be where we get the word “sabotage”.

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There is a Difference

We need to make a distinction here.  Automated Manufacture (AM) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are two completely different concepts, and that must be perfectly clear.

Automation is not an intelligent process.  It does eliminate some jobs (usually very difficult ones), but also creates many others.  The machines must be maintained by someone, and usually more is produced, so it must be sold, shipped, and handled, requiring more people.

Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, is a simulation of human thought process by a program designed to take unregulated input, interpret it in a human-centric context, and respond as a human would.  For example:

A pair of empty paint cans come down twin conveyor belts, heading for two filling stations—one automated, the other controlled by AI.  On the AM side, the can comes to a stop under a spigot when it hits a solenoid switch.  The AM dispenses one gallon of paint, applies a lid, and presses it closed before sending it on to the labeling machine.

On the AI line, the conveyor is halted when a camera recognizes that a paint-can has arrived.  It follows it protocols, fills the can, puts a lid on it, and sends it off to the labeling machine.  The net effect is the same, however…

Let’s imagine that the cans fell over, or that they are upside down.  Now what happens?  The AM machine is going to pump a gallon of paint and make a mess.  The AI machine will not.

It has been trained to react to problems.  Maybe it has an air-powered piston that will kick the can into a “reject” container.  If it is really sophisticated, it may have a system to rotate a can under its scanner until it recognizes that the can is oriented properly before proceeding with the operation.  In either case, no paint was wasted, no mess was made, and the company saved money.

There are lots of examples of routine, middle-skilled jobs that involve relatively structured tasks, and those are the jobs that are being eliminated the fastest. Those kinds of jobs are easier for our friends in the artificial intelligence community to design robots to handle them. They could be software robots; they could be physical robots—Erik Brynjolfsson; American Academic, Professor /Director at MIT

AI Learning

As AI advances, it can be left on its own to experiment (either in reality or in simulations; it has no way to tell the difference).  It has massive speed and infinite patience so it can try every possible combination within the parameters given by its human teacher.

After thousands and thousands of tries, it learns to group certain actions together that lead to success, and eliminate strategies that always fail.  This is the way humans learn, too.

Advantages

A sufficiently indoctrinated AI is called an “Expert System”.  Consider an AI programmed with all the knowledge, techniques, and strategies of the top 20 Thoracic Surgeons in the entire world.  That would be great if the International Space Station had a remote Robotic Surgeon and an astronaut had appendicitis.  And that’s only 250 miles.  How about that same unit (dozens of copies) all over the world run from a central location, or each being discrete and autonomous?

That expertise can cover any field from auto mechanics to particle physics, but it can go a step further and freely combine the knowledge of one field with another in order to make new connections and extrapolations that humans might not make for years, centuries, or ever.  The fact is that a hacker doesn’t know what an electrician knows, who doesn’t know what a gardener knows, who doesn’t know what an electronics engineer knows, and so on…  Blending of knowledge could remove most of the impediments to our progress.

For example, we talk about esoteric materials—like Carbon Nanotubes—being necessary to build a “space elevator”.  We require a material strong enough to support its own weight from Geo-stationary Orbit all the way down to the surface of the Earth so that a ride into space would cost between $1-3.00 per kilogram, instead of our current price of up to $20,000 per kilogram via rocket.

That’s all very noble, but it is difficult to accomplish.  Scientists have been working on this for decades and still haven’t come up with an answer.  An AI might be able to solve the problem in weeks or months.  Maybe we already have the knowledge for anti-gravity, warp drive, or teleporters, but it is spread over dozens of fields and professions, and might never be discovered because there are so many barriers to understanding between disciplines.

Disadvantage—You’ll have to learn

Jobs like data entry and server maintenance have the potential for going the way of the dinosaur.  These are easy tasks for early and basic artificial intelligence programs.

If you want to go into the field of artificial intelligence yourself, it’s going to be necessary to study things like statistics, robotics, and algebra.  There are even courses of study arising in our educational institutions.  Do your research to make sure that they are not just pandering and are actually offering something of value.

If you want to stick to the more familiar things, then Data Science is probably a very good bet.  We’re still going to need human minds to figure out how to sort Big Data to get the most use out of it.  So make sure you understand things like Ruby, Python, Hadoop, SQL, Java, and JavaScript, of course.

Jobs will go, but new ones will arise

AI will displace workers—there is no doubt—but people already working in Tech will have a relatively easy time of upgrading their skills to remain relevant.  For people outside of tech, there are still opportunities.

The job of teaching AIs how to understand spoken English is falling to actual English teachers.  By simply expanding their skills a tiny bit in the computer field, they suddenly become a much-desired commodity in the world of computer AI development.

If you step back and look at technology from every era, it has displaced jobs but also created a lot of jobs—Ginni Rometty; American Businesswoman, President/CEO of IBM

It’s only going to get better

AI will eventually be able to spot a cyberattack in mere microseconds, and end it.  Right now, however, security is a great field to be working in.  Some employees still make poor judgments like open unexpected e-mail attachments, or follow links to unvetted websites.  And, as with anything new, IoT, or the Internet of Things, is exposing us to a brand new collection of vulnerabilities.

In the latter case, the camera which you have covering your inside front door so that you can see when the kids get home from school—it might be hackable and accessible to anyone in your neighborhood.  The same is true for that nanny-cam you keep in the children’s bedroom “just in case”.  If you can write code that delivers unhackable IoT devices so parents know that strangers aren’t watching their children, you’ll have a job for life.

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The Takeaway

Knowing that change is coming, and is inevitable, is what will allow you to be prepared.  Don’t wait until the last moment.  If what you are doing now is likely to change substantially, start building your adaptation strategy immediately.  This is all the warning you are likely to get so take advantage of it!

More from Stewart Cooper & Coon:  Tech Employment Opportunities Still Ranked Near the Top in U.S.

Tech Employment Opportunities: Still Ranked Near the Top in U.S.

When you compare the number of job openings available, the overall job satisfaction rating, and the rate of remuneration, skilled technical jobs are among the leaders.  Why?

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Beyond Compensation

First, let’s discuss this topic of salary.  The top 10 Tech Jobs right now have a median pay-rate of between 68k and 125k.  When you average the medians for those ten jobs it comes in at a nice $98,250 per year.  It would be hard for most human beings to even be dissatisfied with a mere $68,000 per year.

Those Top 10 jobs in technology, according to a July/2017 summary, released in early August were:

Job Title Median Salary Open Positions Percent of Job Satisfaction
1.  Solution Architect 125k 2,200 74 %
2.  DevOps Engineer 110k 2,700 84 %
3.  Data Scientist 110k 4,200 88 %
4.  Data Engineer 106k 2,600 86 %
5.  Software Engineer 101k 17,000 70 %
6. Database Admin 93K 2,900 76 %
7.  UX Designer 92k 1,700 80 %
8.  QA Manager 92k 2,500 74 %
9.  Mobil App Developer 85k 2,100 74 %
10. Sys Admin 68K 4,000 74%

Clearly, these jobs are in demand; people are being compensated appropriately; and, most importantly, people feel that their job has purpose, and that they are appreciated for performing it.  The truth is, there are large factions of workers — whole sectors of our economy — where people never reach a 50 percent job satisfaction rate.  There is something inevitable about the advancement of technology, which in turn, offers a greater sense of job security in an ever-changing market.

Ubiquity

Why are there so many jobs available?  It is because older companies (which did not traditionally consider themselves data-centric) are now finding themselves in need of the same tools that modern businesses have already adopted. In fact, without them, they just can’t stay competitive.  Jobs in the technology sector will continue to flourish as the holdouts come to terms with modern business practices.

More importantly, our economy is slowly, yet inevitably, switching to an information-based economic model.  Automation is eliminating many manual labor jobs, making it more difficult for those in any position of political influence to reinstate manufacturing jobs which no longer service a purpose.

STEM

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are now dominating almost all professions.  An auto mechanic must be computer savvy in order to operate the diagnostic equipment.  An outside sales rep can’t simply rely on a clipboard and carbon paper forms, because without a smart phone, tablet, or laptop, that person is hopelessly outclassed by their competitor.

Ordinary jobs are no longer “ordinary”, so the sooner we get over that notion the better it’s going to be for all of us.  If you’re currently in a job that doesn’t employ technology regularly, take a technology course (in school, online, or even self-taught) because every skill you learn makes you more useful and will help keep you employed until you’re ready to retire.

No one wants to be replaced because they went to their boss with a great idea, but when the boss asked them to create a “PowerPoint presentation” for the managers meeting they said “A power-what?”

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The Takeaway

The demand for people with any sort of technical skill is high, but the number of graduates has seen some fluctuation in recent years.  However, someone with a two or three year community college degree — or even someone who is completely self-taught, yet possesses an excellent skills level – will still possess an add value in the job market.

There are currently 627,000 unfilled technology jobs across all sectors of the economy (USA Today, April/2017).  They might be in Healthcare, Banking, Farming, Retail, Real Estate, or anything else you can imagine.

When the whole economy is looking at an unemployment rate of over 5 percent, and the tech sector shows less than half of that amount, it is time to upgrade your skills in order to maintain your relevance in both the job market or as an existing employee.

 

Fred Coon, CEO 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Five Tips for Embracing Change in the Workplace

New policies, management alterations, technological modifications, shifts in company culture, and varied expectations are just a few of the common changes that can occur in the workplace at any given time. While adapting to new procedures is often challenging, an employee’s reluctance to adapt can certainly disrupt the direction of his or her career. Given this fact, there’s no denying that in today’s workplace, flexibility is the key to success.

Here, we review some practical advice on adapting to change in the workplace according to Bob Miglani, bestselling author of “Embrace the Chaos” which discusses moving forward in times of professional uncertainty.

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1.  Accept the new normal.

Most people tend to idealize the past, and often for good reason. However, holding on to the memory of how things once were is counterproductive when changes are present.  As Miglani states, “Let it all go. Let go of the old promises, the way we used to work, the people we used to work with, and the kind of workplace we originally signed up for. Let it go because it doesn’t exist anymore”. However, he continues, “It’s not doom and gloom… some of the best opportunities in life are presented to us when we open up to change”.

2.  Maintain a positive inner dialogue.

It’s quite easy to balk at a new procedure or shift in circumstances, especially when we didn’t find issue with the previous set of regulations or methods. Of course, accepting a new point of view is not something that happens overnight, but maintaining the ability to view any potential change with a positive attitude is certainly integral to one’s capacity to adjust to new situations. “What helps is to have a mentality where we think more about the possibility than impossibility”, says Miglani.

3.  Rework your goals and set out to achieve them.

It’s common for extreme or sudden workplace changes to leave us feeling somewhat directionless or even suspended in a state of limbo. Therefore, when our surroundings change, it’s to be expected that our plans and aspirations will also need to be adjusted. According to Miglani, “By setting a clear goal for ourselves, we can bring about a wonderful new mind shift that helps to direct our energy that is often wasted in so much workplace change”.

4.  Take charge of your own actions.

As in all aspects of life, there will always be factors within our careers which are not within our control. However, as Miglani reminds readers, a great portion of anxiety and stress can emerge from the uncertainty that occurs when we feel we have lost control of a previously manageable situation. This is why it’s important to own our actions, even in a changing workplace. “Allowing ourselves to be pulled into our work, focusing on specific tasks we can do gives us great happiness, fulfillment and meaning”, says Miglani. He continues, “Effort has the possibility to breathe fresh air into a stagnant life”.

5.  Avoid isolating yourself.

Sudden change can sometime cause an individual to feel a sharp reduction in their comfort zone. In fact, this is true of workers on all levels where unfamiliar “terrain”, so to speak, can easily result in the tendency to isolate one’s self. Unfortunately, however, this particular pattern is conducive to neither productivity nor success. Miglani advocates the importance of reaching out to others in both your professional and personal network during times of change. Not only will this help you remain plugged in to your evolving work environment, but it will also expose you to other perspectives, opinions, and even advice. Often, circumstances aren’t quite as dismal (or as unmanageable) as we envision them to be. “Speaking with others allows us to break the negative pattern in our head from all the confusing messages we get at our workplace, boosting our spirit, our resiliency tools, and our energy”, says Miglani.

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To Conclude

The most important factor to keep in mind is that as our surroundings (professional and otherwise) are capable of change, so are we. The evolution of circumstances is not an exclusively external process, as human beings are capable of incredible feats, which includes the amazing internal ability to change, learn, and adapt at will.

More from Stewart Cooper & Coon:  6 Common Workplace Concerns and Solutions

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200