• 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.



  • Cleaning-House and Cleaning Brains - A Collaboration Checklist: 10 Questions for Success.

    Some people clean their houses as they look to make fresh starts. Ridding themselves of the old as they look towards the new. But I'm cleaning out my brain and I'm not looking to rid myself of the old, instead I'm looking back at work I loved for inspiration, and guidance, as I think about what comes next. Recently I shared a piece titled "Zen and the Art of Team Building," which was published back in 2002 by the Society for Nonprofits, and today I thought I would share a piece titled "A Collaboration Checklist: 10 Questions for Success," that was published by the Society for Nonprofits as well. You can find a PDF of this article here, but as with that earlier piece, I thought I would share it in its entirety in this post, which I have done below. If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know, and if you just want to talk about the themes captured therein and how you might apply them in your work, please let me know that too, because I would love to discuss this with you. Thanks.

    A Collaboration Checklist: 10 Questions for Success Redux

    You know that funders and donors expect you to collaborate. And you know there are great benefits to collaboration, ranging from increased access to information, tools, and resources to enhanced efficiency and effectiveness.

    Much as you believe in collaboration, however, it’s hard. You find yourself struggling more than you should.

    Why? Because you rarely slow down long enough to ask yourself what makes a collaboration succeed.

    To assure a successful collaboration, ask yourself these questions:

    1. What Can You Learn from the Past?
    • What can you find out about your co-collaborators? How have they acted in previous collaborations? Were they easy to work with? Your co-workers and peers can provide insight and help you prepare for the collaboration. The more you learn beforehand about other members of the collaboration, the more successful you will be.
    • Has this type of collaboration been pursued before? If so, what can you learn from that experience? What were the successes, and how were they achieved? What were the failures, and how can you avoid repeating them? This last question is especially important when you want to engage individuals or organizations previously involved in a similar effort that failed. They will want to know how things are going to be different this time, and you must be able to tell them.

    2. What Is the Climate Like?
    • How supportive is the environment? Say you want to build a drug treatment center in a residential neighborhood. Do you know whether the stakeholders in the community — including people who work in nonprofits, those in the business community, and those who live in the area — support collaborations in general and this effort specifically?
    • Do you have the political and economic resources needed to support this effort?
    • What are the logistics of getting together with other members of the collaboration? Is there a place in the community where you can meet if needed? Is it comfortable and accessible? Are there places to park? Are there impediments that may keep some people from coming to the meetings?

    3. How Well Are You Communicating?
    • Do you use a variety of different communication channels, including websites, Listservs, newsletters, minutes, and social media?
    • Are you prepared to take people to lunch to sound them out about how the collaboration is progressing?
    • Is communication between members open, honest, and respectful?
    • Are calls and emails returned promptly?
    • Do you have good communication both within your organization and between your organization and others in the collaboration?

    4. What Do You Want to Gain?
    • How does your organization want to benefit from the collaboration? Have you shared that information with your fellow collaborators so they are clear about why you’re participating?
    • Do you know what other participants hope to achieve so that you can address their needs?

    5. Is Leadership in Place?
    • Have you designated someone to take charge? Is someone ready to organize meetings and remind people to fulfill the tasks they’ve agreed on? When things get bogged down, is someone prepared to step forward and challenge participants to make a decision?
    • Have you pinpointed allies in the community and at your organization who are willing to tackle obstacles, bureaucracy, and red tape on your behalf?

    6. Are You Prepared to Combat Impatience?
    • Have you accepted the fact that building consensus, acquiring funding, and obtaining organizational and community support for the collaboration takes time?
    • Have you identified which outcomes will be short-term and which will be long-term? Are you ready to build early successes into your efforts?
    • Do you forge camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment by celebrating successes as they happen?

    7. How Effective Are Your Meetings?
    • Have you chosen someone to facilitate every meeting? This doesn’t have to be the same person every time, but you must identify a facilitator who will move things along and guide the discussion.
    • Is the meeting agenda planned and shared with participants in advance?
    • Do meetings start and end on time?

    8. Are You in Sync?
    • Do you and other members of the collaboration share the same vision? Do you have common goals for pursuing that vision?
    • Does everyone agree on where the collaboration is going and how to get there?
    • Have you made sure that everyone involved in the collaboration shares a common language and understanding of terms? Have you defined the meaning of acronyms and buzzwords? Are you careful not to assume that everyone has the same idea of what collaboration and facilitation mean?

    9. Are the Right People Included?
    • Are the key players and decision-makers in the community — regardless of organizational affiliation — at the table? Have you taken the time to brainstorm who they might be?
    • Have you included staff from different levels of all the participating organizations?
    • Are consumers of the services included in the collaboration?

    • Might there be too many people at the table? What feels manageable to this group?
    • Most important, have you included representatives from the groups, communities, and organizations who stand to be most profoundly affected by this effort?

    10. Are You Taking Full Advantage of Formal Tools?
    • Do you have a written agreement, laying out expectations for participation? Have all participating organizations approved and signed this agreement?
    • Have you created ground rules everyone can agree to, such as the importance of being on time for meetings? Have you established prohibitions regarding abusive language and behavior? Do you revisit these rules when people break them?
    • Do you make time for assessment? At the end of meetings and phone calls, do you make a point of asking people how the collaboration is progressing? Do you plan formal assessments once or twice a year to evaluate progress?

    Revisit these questions often to be sure you’re on course. Share them with other members of the collaboration. If you ask the right questions — and commit yourself to the right answers — your collaboration will be on its way to success.

  • 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.


    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.


    Welcome back.


    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.


    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:

    Types of Jobs
    Culture/Work Environment - for example, values
    Location - particularly top companies
    Opportunities for Advancement
    Requirements - skills, classes, degrees, training, licenses


    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.


    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.
    Updated systems.

    V.  Organizational culture.

    Please look to answer questions such as:

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


    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.