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  • 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.

    INTRODUCTION

    In case you're wondering what's going on here please feel free to take a moment to visit Parts I and II in this ongoing series where I unpack the syllabus for Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century and the thinking behind it.

    (Pause)

    Welcome back.

    CONNECTIONS

    As we enter the enter the middle section of the semester we begin discussing the tools needed to find a job. But we also talk about love.

    More on the latter in the moment.

    Things at this point in the semester tend to kick-off with a Mixer organized by the administrators who run the In the Loop Program. There have always been two Mixers during the semester, but we now work together to integrate them into the syllabus. The Mixers gives the students the opportunity to meet Lake Forest alumni and both start, and practice, the process of connecting with those who might help them as they craft their careers, and narratives, as well as building a network of contacts they can (re-)connect with over time.

    The focus on thinking about how best to make connections begins during the first part of the semester as we both read, and talk, about pieces on "networking, or as one guest speaker on storytelling described it, 'connecting,' because as he said, networking is 'tired-ass" language.' All of which can be found in the previous post in this series: "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."

    We debrief the Mixer(s) in the following class and explore a mix of questions focused on assessing individual behaviors/connections (or lack there of) and the structure/content of the mixer itself. Questions discussed include:

    What went well? And what didn't?
    What would you do differently? And what you like the school to do differently?
    Which of your goals did you achieve and how did you go about doing so?
    What next steps have you taken, or will you be taking?

    Any one of these questions can be taken as leading questions, though the final one is the most bluntly so. I ask it because I want to know if the students asked for numbers or emails, attempted to schedule discussions with anyone of interest, or formally thanked any of the Alumni they spoke to for their time?

    If not, why?

    We then talk about love.

    LOVE

    As the semesters have evolved over time I have been struck again and again, and in looking back over my own work life, am reminded again and again, how much pressure there is to take the jobs that are available, pay well, suit what one's parents' want one to do, and on and on.

    But what about doing work we love? Do we even know what we love?

    I was always interested in bringing this kind of thinking into class, and when and where I could, I did, but it never felt quite formal enough. Until that is I ran into a brief piece in the New York Times titled, “The Incalculable Value of Finding a Job You Love.”

    This piece eloquently speaks to identifying what you love and making it your work, and so I now assign this piece as one of the Response Papers due during the semester (more on the Response Papers here), and I ask the students to address any questions they want in response to the article, but to also consider the following:

    What task(s) has absorbed you completely? Said, differently, what do you love?

    This assignment has also come to serve multiple purposes. First, and most obviously, talking about how we do work we love in a more formal fashion, but also as an exercise to begin laying out a structure for the next class presentation, and more on that later, which focuses on the field or industry the students are intrigued by or already immersed in.

    The intent here is to launch a conversation about what one might want to know about an industry of interest, if one is trying to figure out what one will need to know if one is going to "love" their work. My goal is that through the discussion of this article we get to a point where we more or less idenitfy the below elements about the world of work, which then also provide a framework for the presentations themselves:

    Hours
    Diversity
    Training
    Travel
    Benefits
    Types of Jobs
    Flexibility/Telecommuting
    Salary
    Culture/Work Environment - for example, values
    Location - particularly top companies
    Opportunities for Advancement
    Requirements - skills, classes, degrees, training, licenses

    SKILLS

    I'll come back to the presentations themselves in a moment, but before we get to them, both here, and during the semester, we take a field trip. One field trip we've consistently taken over the years - respective schedules permitting - is to the studio of Carlos "Dzine" Rolon, who talks about how he draws on everything from the ideas he loves, his childhood, inspirations, and personal connections - as we do in class - to create art, and run his business.

    More recently, though I've also built-in a field trip to the IO Theater to watch the Improvised Shakespeare Company, which allows the students to see professional improvisers at work. I've written previously how I strongly believe that the skills, games, and expectations that make for effective improv are an important part of this class and by extension the job search.

    This is followed by an in-class Improv skill-building session, which comes during a stretch of classes where we focus on specific tools and skills. A series of guest speakers join us in class, and speak to:

    Improv - history, exercises, applications to the job search;

    Creating a public profile - everything from personal websites to utilzing Twitter and LinkedIn;

    LinkedIn itself, inlcuding upgrading their LinkedIn pages and enhancing their understaning of the platform's tools for job search and making connections;


    As well as staff from Lake Forest's Career Advancement Center to talk about how the students can enhance their resumes, drawing on current best practice, which has proven to be one topic that is continually changing.


    FIELD PRESENTATIONS

    We also hold the field, or industry, presentations during this time, and with this presentation I invite the students to present individually or in groups. The important thing is that they explore work that excites them and I use the following Expectations/Grading Rubric to assess their work:

    Expectations/Grading Rubric - All categories are scored from 1-5, 5 being the best.

    I. Preparation

    Have you organized your thoughts in advance and have you been thoughtful in doing so? Please take this seriously.

    II. Presentation

    Are you taking your time, speaking clearly, and allowing yourself to breathe, and the words to flow? Further, is what you're saying aligned with what your actually sharing with the class in terms of the final product?

    III. The Basics

    Please look to answer questions such as:

    The top companies in the field.
    Where they are located. And the cost of living.
    Academic requirements.
    Skills and experience.
    The range/types of jobs.
    Organizational structure.

    IV. The Amenities

    Please look to answer questions such as:

    Salary range. Or ranges.
    Benefits.
    Hours.
    Advancement.
    Updated systems.

    V.  Organizational culture.

    Please look to answer questions such as:

    What does a day on the job look like.
    Dress code.
    Values.
    Happiness.

    Grading:

    A - 24-25 points

    A- - 23 points

    B+ - 22 points

    B - 20-21 points

    C - 19 points and below

    CONCLUSION (for now)

    I will save the final part of the semester for a final post on the class, but one last thing we do before heading into the final stretch, is we start examining how all of these steps, tools, and  strategies hang together when it comes to the job search. I also 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.”

    I hope you read it too.

    If you have any questions or thoughts on any of this, please let me know.

    Otherwise, speak to you soon.

    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.

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  • Origin Stories, Organizations, and What Comes Next.

    Introduction

    I was invited to lead a memoir writing workshop for a group of teenagers on a recent Sunday afternoon, but I'm not so sure anyone was asked to sign-up, or even that it was quite advertised, which is to say that it's possible that no one showed-up. Okay, no one showed-up, but that doesn't mean I hadn't borrowed some cool ideas and exercises for the workshop from the storytellers that come speak to the class I teach - Loop 202: Professional Development in the 21st Century, or that I can't share the outline with you. More importantly, as I prepared the outline I was struck that from a storytelling perspective, this outline could easily be adapted for individuals and organizations looking to explore their stories, and reflect on not just what makes them them, or what inspires them, but what they might focus on as they look to the future and what comes next.

    The Outline

    First, begin by clearing some space in whatever space you're in, give people room to move around, get physical, blood flowing, and connecting with the energy of the room and one another.

    Places of Origin

    Think of the room as the world and ask people to go to the part of the world where their family is from. Don't limit them to the places they or their parents were born or moved from. Or even the place where their grandparents came from. Ask them to think about the places of origin they associate with their families, and the origin stories that have been passed along to them. And then ask them their associations with those associations. What do they think they know about place however they define it, and their place in it? How did they get from there to here, the journey, the decisions? What drove those who came before them?

    Life Line

    Next, ask the participants, assuming you have some, to line-up to one side of room. Tell them that where they are standing is when they were born. Have each of them tell you in 30 seconds the story of their birth based on the stories they were told by family, whether it's their biological or adoptive family, or the family they've built for themselves.

    After that, you, or me in this case, stand on other side of the room, and announce what the moment is right then, both the date and time.

    Identify a small group of participants to walk towards you, and say to them by name, if that moment is your birth and this moment is now, you are walking across your life and everything you've experienced - crying, laughing, heartbreak, love, loss - and this point - and then you point - is when you were 5, 10, 15 years old and so on. Now give yourself ultimate permission to think about what comes to you, and resonates with you, about what was happening then.

    Remind them that everything they've ever experienced is available to use and that personal narration is full of life experiences. Then have them walk to that age, and while they don't need to tell the room everything, ask them to share their story for 30 seconds.

    For the next small group, share some prompts: Go to the moment that rocked your world. Go to the moment that changed your life. Go to that moment where you learned a lesson. Coach them to try to focus on place, to put themselves back in that moment, and then have them walk towards that moment and tell you 30 seconds about it.

    After you're done engaging everyone, take a moment to have them assess the experience, how it felt, what they learned, and always taking a moment to reflect.

    Circles

    Now have the participants form two circles, and if the group is really big, multiple circles, but the idea is that there is a circle of participants facing outward, and another circle circling them, standing face to face, and facing inward.

    Start by having the members of the inner circle tell whatever story has captured their imagination, the moment, and what has come to them since the exercises began to the person facing them in the outer circle. Remind them to think about dialogue, what rooms look like, smell like, who was there, their stories too, and to think about contect and texture.

    Give them two minutes.

    Then have the inner circle rotate one person over and tell the same story again to someone new, but now give them one minute. Encourage them to concentrate on what's most important to the story they want to tell. What's the actual story? Which details, characters, feelings, and conversations are most pertinent?

    After that, its the outer circle's turn. Two rotations, rinse, repeat.

    And then take a moment to have the participants reflect, again, this time as both storyteller and listener. What worked, what didn't, what did you want to know more or less of?

    All of it.

    Write

    Now we write. Ten minutes. Again, whatever story resonates most with the participants, have them channel it, and write it, no editing, just writing.

    Maybe though nothing has quite resonated yet, or inspired them, maybe this has been a warm-up for the story they most want to tell, which is great. But maybe that story hasn't taken form yet. The idea is to liberate these ideas, to take action, to keep pushing, and so give them more prompts - one of the happiest days they can remember; their first crush; when they learned to do something new; when they were scared but overcame it.

    Just write, feel something and seek to capture it in words, and on paper.

    Workshop

    And then, and again, assuming you have participants to share their work, ask each person to read what they wrote, and the group to share their thoughts on that work.

    I always encourage people to share something positive first, but then be thoughtful, push people, offer constructive comments about the characters, and point of view, what made sense or didn't, the gaps, and issues around continuity.

    Next

    At this point, we would be done. People would have been on their feet, talking, sharing ideas, moving, digging, reflecting, and writing.

    They would leave with a story, and if the day went really well, stories.

    But that would be it.

    For now.

    And that would be cool.

    But in preparing for this workshop and mixing and matching these different ideas, I started thinking about how this kind of exercise will benefit writers, but my initial interest in these exercises was in helping my Loop 202 students learn their stories.

    We only brief touch on these exercises in class, but why couldn't there be an extended stand-alone session such as this for any individuals who are looking to better tell their own stories as they think about work and what makes them happy?

    Further, and full-disclosure, this has very much been on my mind lately, how do we even know if we are on the path we want to be on professionally?

    Are we happy, effective, and motivated by our work?

    Are we energized?

    When's the last time you asked yourself that? I've been thinking about this alot, and if you aren't certain how to ask yourself that question, or even how to start, why not engage in a series of exercises like these that focus on your origin stories?

    With some tweaks they could be focused on work. Instead of your place of birth for example, what was the first place you ever worked? And what if we asked ourselves not what was our happiest day in general, but what was our happiest day at work?

    Do you know even know the answer to the latter question? Might you want to find out?

    I know that in personally exploring these questions, much of what I have been doing recently is not what made me happiest and most energized earlier in my careet when I first started finding some direction and my voice.

    How do I, you, get back to those things? The first step is making sure you recognize them for what they are and why they meant something to you.

    Further though, why stop with individuals?

    I've worked with many organizations over the years who no longer quite realize, or recognize, who they are, or why they're doing what they're doing, much less how they got there?

    Couldn't we adapt exercises like these for the individuals running these organizations, inviting them to spend time reflecting on their organization's origin story, it's history and timeline, what happened when. What it felt like? What energized the staff? Why people want, or wanted, to come work? What the organization did well and may have gotten away from?

    I'm sure we can and I think this would be really cool, and really doable. I'm still thinking about what it could look like, but if you have ideas about this, or interest in making something like this happen, and you want to talk about it with me, let's do that.

    Just give me a shout, share your thoughts, and we will get down to business.

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