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  • Beginning, Middle, and End: Or The Ongoing Search for Story and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part IV.

    The End.

    “Good cover letters tell a story. Beginning, middle, and end.” -Hannah Frei, Career Advancement Center, Lake Forest College

    And so we are at the end... for now.

    I concluded the last post by speaking to what the final part of the Loop 202 semester looks like, and where we start examining how all of these steps, tools, and strategies hang together when it comes to the job search. Also, how I assign an article by an author I love, myself, to help the students further organize their thoughts, and that piece is titled “The Search: Obtaining the Right Job, Finding Yourself, and Crafting a Career.”

    But there is also what what was, and what is, which is to say, that even as I revisit the syllabus from semester to semester, revising and refining it, some times we do so during the semester as well.

    For example, this semester I wanted to introduce a greater focus on having the students grapple with how they can apply their story to thinking about their brand and looking forward. And so in that vein I've introduced simple branding exercises such as the following:

    - What 3 words would I use to describe myself when I first meet someone?
    - What 3 words would someone else use to describe me having just met me?
    - How do they compare, and are there words that work better?

    Refining.

    I've also sought to keep refining our focus in a more granular way however on skill-building and enhancing connections from class to class and tool to tool.

    Last semester as we talked about crafting resumes I got stuck on the idea that we were building out stronger resumes, but only briefly talking about cover letters... they go together though, and so I added a cover letter section this semester, where we spent time breaking cover letters down by component, looking at language, honing the craft.

    I was also struck that the students need to be able to tell their stories in all spaces, and in all ways, and that called for insights into how we break our story down and into an "Elevator Speech."

    And so we have have introduced a section on that as well, which might I add, is still to come, so more on that soon.

    Interviews... Informational and Otherwise.

    We focus on Information Interviewing as well, recognizing that while informational interviews may not yield jobs, one can still learn a lot about the jobs and industries, one wants to know more about, make connections, and work on their narrative. One thing I ask students to do when we cover this section, is Identify three orgs/people they want to schedule informational interviews with... and then go out and do so.   

    We move on to applying these skills through meeting with professionals from out in the field by hosting a career panel and Q&A. There are also now so many graduates of the program out in the work world, or looking anyway, that I hold a similar panel populated with Loop 202 grads as well.

    We further hone in on interview skills, by bringing back our Improv instructor, runnning warm-up exercises, and then swapping out interview questions for the usual Improv scenarios so everyone is thinking on their feet, engaging in active listening, and having fun.

    I added a section on salary negotiations in recent semesters too, because like with cover letters, if we were going to keep talking about somethinig, I felt like we ought to be sure we were actually covering it and learning something.

    We finish with a final project focused on building an online portfolio/web presence. Not everyone may need one, but with the marketplace transforming more and more from the traditional into something digital, one has to show what they've done and make it accessible. So why not start here, now, putting your best self, and ongoing narrative out in the world, and at worst, though ideally at best, be ahead of the curve?

    Finally.

    And so we are beginning, middle, and end ourselves.

    This has been intended as a love letter to this class I love, and these students who rock, where we talk about a topic I find endlessly fascinating.

    My ongoing goal is that the class becomes a lab and a piece of performance art, always, on and always thinking, creating, and becoming its best self.

    With that in mind, I will always tweak it, seeing some kind of ephemeral perfection.

    This semester I tweaked the response papers students have historically submitted, and we now do those in class, and in long hand, the facilitation, and facilitators, as well as the direction of the discussion unknown before the start of class. The first time I suggested this, no one volunteered to facilitate, but the second and third times both yielded results in terms of facilitation... and great discussion.

    Ultimately then, and on good days, there is a beginning, middle, and end to class as well. It is both tightly constructed, and loosely implemented, and we repeat it and build on it, and keep honing the craft.

    And with that we are end, and if you want to know more about any of this, you know what to do.

    Control Your Own Narrative: Or The Ongoing Search for Story and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part I.

    Did I Mention Story: Or The Ongoing Search for Story (maybe I did mention story) and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part II.

    What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Or The Ongoing Search for Story and Flow in Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, Part III.

  • Seeking: Stories, Cool Opportunities, Transformation.

    For some time now, I've had this idea that I wanted to write about my search for work. I wanted to do so as a reflection of how I think about teaching my class Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, and to a lesser extent the article I wrote many years ago the first time I engaged in an extensive job search: The Search: Obtaining the Right Job, Finding Your Self, and Crafting a Career.

    The idea came to me, because just over 18 months ago I left my long time place of employment. I didn't have a plan and I suddenly had to look for work for the for time in a long time.

    I thought I had been open to opportunities before that, but I hadn't really been doing anything. Yes, I had been keeping my resume up to date and my eyes and ears open for interesting things, working side gigs, taking meetings, looking to get my name on projects and publications, opening doors, and pushing, always pushing to work on the next cool thing.

    The thing is, these are the action you take when you're employed, and not exactly willing, or wanting, to leave something that you like, or are comfortable in. When you're scared and not really sure what comes next.

    A job search though is something else. It's contacting everyone you've ever met, worked with, talked to, sat with in a meeting, or next to on a bus, plane, or train, and asking them if they have anything or know anyone, and to keep you in mind if an anything comes up.

    It's also punching-up your LinkedIn page, using it to follow organizations you admire, and connecting with people who do stuff that you want to do even when you do not know them.

    It's saying yes to networking events, finding confidence, and putting yourself out there. All the way out there.

    And it's getting your story down, who you are, and where you've been, what you want to do, and how it all connects. It's also telling that story in a succinct, but slamming fashion, while somehow remaining authentic.

    These are things I know to be true, these are things I teach, and these are actions I have taken.

    What I have ignored, or overlooked, though during these past months is the need to work on things you love and feel passionate about. Sometimes that means, looking back over your career, and life, to remind you what it is that energizes you most. Sometimes it's reminding yourself about what you don't like spending time on. And most difficult, is coming to both understand, and embrace, that there are things you just aren't good at, something that has become painfully clear to me as I sought the next big thing.

    None of this is easy, but it is necessary. Being happy is important. Knowing yourself is important. Spending time working on things that energize you are important.

    In the past few months I've revisited many things I once worked on, but hadn't recently - leading teams, collaboration, story development, strategic planning, building partnerships, organizational change, facilitation, and book promotion - and things I want to spend more time on - storytelling, branding, teaching, and training.

    I've also made a decision: I'm going to go out on my own, I'm going to consult, chase projects that excite me, and look for cool opportunties that are focused in these areas.

    I'm going to craft a new story for myself and figure out how all of these things hang together. I'm going to help people and organizations tell their stories in new and exciting ways. And I'm going to explore how I can link people who want to promote their work and their ideas in cool and innovative ways, with the endlessly fascinating artists, designers, changemakers, and thought leaders I've been cultivating, curating, and connecting with over at (my once faux) cultural and lifestyle (empire) site This Blog Will Change Your Life.

    You can read more specifically about my intentions on my website here and I hope that you will. After that, please let me know what you think about all of this, tell your friends and networks about me, and then let me know how we can work together.

    Cool?

    Thanks.