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Digital resources that can help boost your career

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If you are feeling bored in your current job role or are looking to get a promotion, then there are a number of ways that you can boost your skills without needing to enroll in full-time study for a qualification. Due to technological advancements, there are a wide range of online courses that you can sign up for, allowing you to study at home, at a time that is flexible around your current job, or any other commitments that you may have.

There are so many colleges and universities that now offer online courses, you don’t even have to be in the same country as the university. If you are looking to move into a particular type of job that demands that you hold a qualification you currently do not have, you could check which universities or colleges offer this as an online study option.

If you don’t necessarily need to complete a qualification and are simply looking to enhance some of your current skills, there are also a number of online learning solutions for you to consider. Depending on the skills you are looking at, you can sign up for websites such as Lynda.com or Alison.com to get access to a huge range of skills from book-keeping, to CAD drawings and everything in between.

One of the great things about these types of online courses is that you can learn at your own pace, using a learning method that is most suited to you. This means you can choose from bite-size videos for a quick blast of learning, or you can download online study guides if you prefer to learn through reading. Technology is much more advanced, meaning there is much more choice when it comes to learning and how to do it.

Online learning is fast becoming the most popular form of study. You will soon realize that online is also how you become familiar with problems and skills you need to learn. An example being YouTube. How many times have you watched an online tutorial?

Whilst YouTube isn’t an official site for learning, many learning experts use YouTube to share their videos, so you can find some very useful video tutorials. You can learn practical skills such as how to hang wallpaper, through to how to design a business logo using Adobe Photoshop. The online learning opportunities are endless.

You can even use websites such as Toptests to practice for your driving theory test. The interactive testing techniques are much more popular and effective than the mundane task of reading the Highway Code book.

As technology is advancing further, we now have apps that can teach us skills, making learning a new language easier, quicker, and more fun, during your commute to work. Check your app store for all of the free learning resources that they have available, and see if they can help boost your skills.

Developing your skills is critical for progressing or changing your career, so make the most out of the digital resources that you have available at your fingertips.

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Giving First by Michael Palmisano

Intro

Four years ago, at twenty-nine years old, with zero business experience and two boys under three years old, my wife and I risked our entire life’s savings - our family house money - to start an online guitar school.  And then for 2.5 years I got almost everything wrong.  

Broke and in debt, we had to move three times and rely on family and friends for bare essentials.  We even had to sleep together in the same bed during the winter because our tiny apartment was so cold.

Today we have 70k+ students, one of the highest grossing guitar courses on the internet, major brand sponsorships, guest artist instructors, and have even had a course mentioned in Time Magazine.  Perhaps most importantly, the five of us (yes we had another boy) finally have a home of our own.

Here’s a glimpse of our struggle, and how knowing yourself and helping others made all the difference.

Preface

First off, I would like to say how excited I am to be collaborating with The Nice Guys.  Doug - or DJ Doug as he would say - and his daughter are former guitar students of mine.  They are such positive, hard working, and naturally uplifting people and I’m glad to see Doug sharing the message that he lives and breathes.  I reached out to Doug to get involved with The Nice Guys because I feel I have a compelling story of risk, struggle, and reward  - with success ultimately coming from giving first and caring - which is at the core of his message.  Of course, Doug was nice as ever and encouraged me to share.  And if this inspires to you to pick up the guitar (as I hope it does), I have included some tips and a free video to get you going. Furthermore, you can always email me at support@guitargate.com and I’ll do my best to help you in any way.  

Background

I don’t remember not playing the guitar.  Without a doubt, I have spent the vast majority of my life chasing a singular goal: to be the best guitar player possible.

I didn’t come from a musical family, but they saw my passion and thankfully encouraged me every step of the way.  My first private lessons began in Kindergarten, and for most of my adolescent life I could be found in my room, guitar in hand.  At twenty-three I got serious and moved to Hollywood to study at GIT with some of the very best players in the world.  It was incredibly difficult, but I succeeded - even chosen by my peers to represent our class at graduation - and immediately after graduation I nailed an audition with a major record label.  They had a summer tour lined up, and I thought I had it all figured out.  

And then - seemingly overnight - iTunes and YouTube changed the music industry forever.  My peers and I watched our label gigs disappear that same spring.  I never even had a rehearsal.  It happened that quickly.

My (now) Wife was in Baltimore, and because I desperately wanted to be with her, I moved home and did what all musicians do:  Teach and gig.  

For the next seven years I taught hundreds of students, up to 50-60 a week, coached rock bands (Doug was in one), and gigged around town.  During that time I realized something critical about myself:  

I may be a good guitar player, but I’m an even better teacher - and teaching made me a better player.  THIS was my niche.

There was only one problem:  I had scaled out and couldn’t make any more money teaching.  And then a friend gave me “Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuck and I immediately knew I had to move online to reach more people.   

Birth Of Guitargate

So - I planned the perfect product - the website I wish I had growing up: “A facebook for guitar lessons.”

It would feature a professional-grade curriculum like I found at GIT, but function as a social network, encouraging students to post videos for instructor and peer feedback.  And since I had never sold anything in my life, and my family encouraged me to complete my degree, I also went back to college full-time for business.  

Yes, you read that correctly:  Not only was I risking everything we had to start a business from scratch, but also I took out student loans to be a full-time college student, all while I was still a full time teacher, a full-time gigging musician, and a full-time husband and father of 2 non school aged children.  My Wife was also a special ed teacher and ran a skin-care business of her own.  

Hiring a firm for the site development, my main job was to create the content to fill this amazing new site:

It was a massive, 60 level, 10+ hour, all HD, multi-angle with pro audio video course.  I was the on-screen instructor and my brother-in-law manned the camera. It also featured 100+ jam tracks and 400+ images and documents.  I played all of the MIDI instruments, did all of the writing, all of the image editing.

12 months and our life savings later, I was ready to launch this incredible product that I was beyond proud of.  I thought selling would be the easy part. - because after all - who else could or would put that kind of time and money into the product??

We Lost Money For 18 Consecutive Months

Pouring every extra dollar we earned from gigging and teaching back into the company, I read every marketing book and blog known to man, took sales course after sales course, and lived and breathed Adwords and FB Ad Manager trying to make my LCV higher than my user acquisition cost.  

I finished my business degree 2nd in my class, placed in three nationwide collegiate whitepaper competitions along the way (won one), and I won our university’s entrepreneurial competition which included free office space and interns for a year.  My band was even voted “best band” in Baltimore Magazine 3 years in a row.  

I was working hard, smart, and succeeding in all my endeavors except one: Guitargate was going bankrupt.  Almost 3 years in I knew my business model was broken, and I was in complete despair.

Doubling Down On Risk - And Myself

And then I had my boldest, craziest idea yet.  The exact opposite of what I’ve been doing:  Let’s make the site completely free.  

The plan was to film a new 60 lesson course - but for complete beginners - and offer brands the opportunity to feature their products in the videos in exchange for co-promotion (I was long out of advertising money).  To hopefully make money, we would simply offer these free students a coupon to buy our masterclass at a discount (which we moved to a 3rd party course marketplace called Udemy.)

This was also when we moved for the 3rd time in 2.5 years to an old mouse-filled apartment with no insulation that backed to a train track.  We maxed out the last credit card.  

And we were having another baby.

And what did I do?  

I spent all day and night giving lessons to people without expecting or asking for anything in return.  I responded thoughtfully and consistently to every email, every video, every comment, and helped any way I could - all for free.  I talked to hundreds of guitar players a day and gave honest, professional advice and encouragement. Day after day, month after month, and now year after year.

I simply provided a link to the masterclass, explained that it picks up after the free beginner lessons, and let students know that that’s how I support Guitargate.  No ads, no email campaigns, no landing page A/B testing, nothing salesy at all.

And do you know what happened?

Within 12 months we had generated 40k+ students, $30k+ /mo in sales, and secured PRS Guitars (the 3rd largest guitar maker in the US) as our first corporate sponsor.

I could go on for hours about why, but it came down to two main points:

1.  I didn’t really know what my product was

2.  My customers didn’t know what they were buying

The Moral Of The Story

I was the product.  It was me - the good player and great teacher - not the amazing expensive website that took a year to build.

Making Guitargate free allowed people to get to know me and get value from my skill set before being asked for a credit card number.  They liked learning from me, and they bought my higher level content because they knew the value of it.

It’s that simple.

I gave first.

In that spirit, here’s a list of common questions the beginner guitarists ask and a video to help you get started.  I hope you find it useful, and if I can help you in any way, please don’t hesitate to email support@guitarate.com.

Beginner Lesson

  1. Am I too old? - NO WAY!  Even if you are 80 years old, you can absolutely learn to play the guitar if you try. If you start slow, give yourself reasonable goals, and have fun, you can do this.

  2. Are my hands / fingers too small? - NO WAY!  I have small hands. Some of the best guitarist that ever lived had small hands.  Look at Django Reinhardt - he only had 2 fingers and many people feel he is the best to have ever lived! Moral of the story = you can do this :)

  3. I don’t have much time to practice - is this a waste of my time? - Absolutely Not.  Actually, especially as a beginner, you don’t need that much time to practice… you just need to practice frequently. Learning a discipline is all about repetition, not duration.  15 minutes a day is better than 30 min every other day. You will not be practicing for hours and hours in the beginning, so it’s important to realize that regular practice is the key - not practicing for a long period of time.

  4. What should I expect realistically? - You get out what you put in.  I know this is obvious, but many people struggle with this simple concept. It is related to the previous question on practice time - if you practice every day for even 5 minutes, you should start seeing results on a weekly basis. And that’s fantastic.  If you practice an hour at a time, but only once every 7-10 days, it’s going to take you at least 1-2 times as long to progress.  Yes, of course, some people are more naturally suited to playing for a variety of reasons, but it’s quite simple: if you practice regularly, you will see regular and consistent progress!

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The Secret or Not-so-Secret Weapon: Self-Reliance by Anna Nygren

Photo credit: Photogore/ Flickr / Getty Images

Photo credit: Photogore/ Flickr / Getty Images

Theatre performances. Maid of Honor Speeches. Debates. Talent Shows. What do all of these things have in common? All eyes are on the person talking. Most of the time, the speaker feels the need to abandon the things that make her unique and act in a more “suitable” fashion. But allowing one’s performance to be an extension of self is where the magic really happens.

The journey of personal branding is just like that. Once you have decided that you are going to go down the uncharted path of making who you are and what you do the same, you begin to question how you do you and second guess yourself over minute details. Not only will you begin to question yourself but others will question you on top of that. Many will have doubts (“What are you going to do if this goes nowhere? What is your Plan B?”) and others may not even entertain the idea of such a career. This is where the rubber meets the bumpy, earthy, hand-carved road. You are going face to face with what you believe about yourself and about the opinions of everyone else (including your family). From that point on, you need to have self-reliance. A characteristic that will reinforce your personality and what makes you tick. It is in the moments when you are not thinking so hard, working all day or hanging out with friends, that you begin to see the lines that you have unknowingly drawn for years. Lines that show you love British humor or that you are good at coming up with name for ice cream flavors. Whether you can crystalize these lines in a day or a month, you will feel a solidity begin to form. As you focus on those things that put a pep in your step, the ideas for Instagram posts, tweets and blog topics begin to flow. The next thing you know, a website with your name front and center is up and running and you are slowly but surely, being 100% you on the social media stage. BAAM! You start to second guess yourself less but you do not lose the care given with each step. With that, you begin to define what makes you, you. And that my friends, is the game changer. Get focused, realize that you do have the personality and the opportunity to brand yourself. Get out there and do it.

Anna Nugren is: Young, Smart and Strugglin'. She is a realistic optimist, rower, lifelong student. You can see her here or follow her on Twitter @annavnygren

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Small Woodland Animals by Nicole McDermott

There’s a quote I like to share with the staff at school each year, and it’s posted in my office too:


“Think of your boss as a small woodland animal – make no startling moves or strange gestures.” (Cathie Black from Basic Black)

This is funny to many because if you know me, you know that I am probably the least likely person to be compared to a small woodland animal – or any animal, really! – but the message fits.

Your boss doesn’t want you to do things that are odd or unexpected.  Your boss wants to feel confident that when she hears from you and sees you, both in and out of the work place (and on social media, too), she knows what she’s going to get.  Your boss wants your behavior and your work to reflect well on the company or organization.  

Because if something you do is strange and startling, what will a customer or client think?

Because if your boss is feeling like your behavior is strange and startling, can he trust you?  Can your colleagues or teammates either?

I think the answer is no.  And, if there’s no trust, there’s not much of anything else…

Another way to get at this is: be consistent.

Last year, I heard a speaker say, “When people are consistent around you, they show you their integrity.”  When I think about the people with whom I work – both in my professional life and in my volunteer work – I think this quote rings true.  How do you earn respect?  How do you become seen as someone who is reliable, trustworthy, committed?  It’s by being consistent over time, living your values through your actions, focusing more on the organization or company than yourself, following through on what you say you will do – and by making no startling moves or strange gestures.

 

Nicole McDermott recently concluded her eleventh year leading Pinecrest School, a small, independent preschool through sixth grade school in Northern Virginia. In addition, Nicole has extensive experience working with high school student leaders through her community service work with Kiwanis International, and she spends a week each summer volunteering at Camp Sunshine, a retreat in Maine serving critically-ill children and their families from around the country. She prioritizes building connection and community, supporting people she loves and causes that are important to her and continuing to grow into a better version of herself. You can read more of Nicole’s written work on her blog.

 

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Moving from reactive to proactive customer experience. By Kevin Leifer

A reactive customer experience is the kind that manages customer reactions instead of customer expectations and needs. It’s an outdated approach that aims to mostly put out fires.

Businesses creating a reactive customer experience are usually businesses that believe that investing in experience is an extra cost they can do without. The problem is that when customers complain, it costs more. Here are some numbers that demonstrate why:

  • 78% of customers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.

  • On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.

  • It takes up to 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.

  • 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again.

Customer experience that is not up to par with customer expectations costs a lot of money; you can’t fool your customers, they’ve been around, shopped at your competitor’s stores and they can feel when you’re not making an effort to meet their needs.

If you’re reacting to events in your customer’s lifecycle instead of leading customers through a well-orchestrated funnel, you’re not giving your customers the experience they deserve.

While a reactive customer experience responds to customer concerns and complaints, a proactive customer experience interacts with the customer before, during, and after problems occur, anticipates customer needs and nurtures their connection to the brand in several ways.

Here’s how you can be more proactive with the customer experience you provide.

 

Proactive engagement with associates

In the ”Cost of Poor Customer Service” survey conducted by Genesys, 40% of customers expressed that if they could improve one thing in the stores they visit, they would improve the human element of the service.

Your associates are the face of the brand in your stores; they can identify a problem before it happens and aid customers to make their way around your store. By training your associates to engage customers who are looking for help, you’re proactively engaging even the ones who are not satisfied and so prevent complaints.

Customers who get the attention they need before they become frustrated are satisfied customers. By making even the smallest change, like training associates to ask the customer’s name, you stand to gain a lot. People love the sound of their name and react favorably to those who use it.

Unfortunately, employees only ask for the customer’s name 21% of the time. Training can fix that!

 

Conducting customer surveys

You don’t really know what kind of customer experience you provide at your stores until you ask your customers. While 80% of brands believe they deliver a superior customer experience, only 8% of customers believe they’ve received an outstanding service.

Talking to your customers while they’re browsing your store’s aisles is an excellent way to engage them on several touch points.

Make sure that your surveys are short and sweet (no more than 3 minutes) and try to make them more customer-centric; the customer needs to understand what they can gain from completing the survey and they’ll only do so if you train your associates to explain how this benefits them. More on best practices in inviting customers to participate can be found here.

 

Mystery shopping

96% of your customers don’t voice their compliments; you’ll never hear from them, they’ll just leave. Sending trained reviewers to your stores gives you feedback that you can’t get from your customers.

That’s why you have to proactively identify problems at your stores; mystery shopping helps you with that by sending in a professional shopper who will give you an unbiased review of the customer experience you provide based specifically on your expectations.

 

Customer journey mapping

Nothing is more proactive than visualizing the road the customer takes at your stores. By creating a detailed customer journey map, you’re predicting issues and can potentially handle them before your customers realize them.

 

Calling customers and talking about their experience

Managing the post-purchase customer experience expectations should be on every retailer’s agenda. After your customer arrives home, they unpack the products they bought, interact with your brand and the customer experience it provides again.

By contacting them at that critical point and asking them a few short questions about their experience you’ll get answers from customers who are not heading for the store’s exits that might provide more honest feedback.

 

Engage on social media and your site

There are two ways in which you can proactively interact with customers online and extend your customer experience:

1. Certain tools can give you the ability to track keyword combinations that are relevant to your brand. These keywords can include product names, brand mentions, and much more. When you find a brand mention online and react to it, you’re proactively engaging customers.

Also, customers love to be celebrated; interacting with customers by approaching them and featuring them in your social outlets shows that you’re a brand that is proud of its customers.

The best thing about featuring customers is that usually they reciprocate; featured customers are more likely to become brand evangelists, supporting their appearance on your social outlets with their brand-supportive commentary.

2. By installing an online chat option on your site, you’re giving customers the tools to contact you with questions and get live answers, like they can in-store.

Also, these tools allow you to approach customers with messages, questions, and even offer them deals on the products they’re browsing for.

By proactively commenting and interacting with your customers (and potential customers) online, you’re showing customers that you’re there for them all the time.

 

Customize offers and experiences

Customization makes customers feel that you thought about them and their needs.

It’s ok to cross-sell proactively and upsell tailored offers when customers provide you with their purchasing history, their interests, and feedback. When customers give you access to this information, they want these offers and you should use this. 

Educating customers

If you’re selling makeup, educate your customers about how they can use it, if you’re selling clothes, educate your customers how to wear it. If you’re selling home appliances, show your customers how to use it.

You can do it in store, show them how to do it live, you can hand them brochures, and you can do it online via social media, emails or blogs. Nothing nurtures a connection to a brand more than educating customers about purchases they made and the things they’re interested it.


Can you suggest additional ways to provide a more proactive customer experience?

 

Kevin is passionate about retail, specifically aligning a brand's expectations of their customers' experience with consistent execution in-store. With expertise in leading clients toward a transparent omnichannel (on-line, in-store, call center and mobile) experience, Kevin and the ICC/Decision Services team work with clients to define the desired customer experience and use a suite of tools (including Mystery Shopping, Customer Satisfaction Surveys and Customer Intercepts) to measure that experience.

 

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinleifer

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kevinleifer

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iccdecisionservices/

Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+KevinLeifer

 

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Nice Guys Finish First? by Dara Goldberg

Last month, I had the pleasure of seeing Doug Sandler give a presentation at The Philips Collection. Doug has recently released a book, Nice Guys Finish First  about how to effectively build and maintain relationships. I have to admit, the title sounded intriguing, and so I decided not to skim through his book online and spoil the mini-seminar since I wanted to hear the author make his case in person. 

During his talk, Doug even pointed out that nothing he was saying was revolutionary. In fact, he said, everyone is already aware of most of his points, and even more importantly, they already know they should be following them. I thoroughly enjoy going to these types of talks as a refresher, to... well... keep myself sharp. Here is what I learned at this talk:

Note: Doug was speaking to a room full of sales and marketing executives -- apologies if sales or marketing is not your full time job -- but I believe this can be applicable to any industry!

We all know that communication is the key to relationships, and luckily for you, according to Doug, you're in more control than you think. When you're interacting with a client, you want to feel a human connection to that other person. People want to work with businesses focused on making an exceptional customer experience, rather than exceptional products. In order to get there, you need to connect with your customers, clients, prospects, or leads. The simplest interactions can deliver enriched, meaningful relationships; however, they can get botched by the silliest things.

The Five BIG Mistakes People Make:

  1. Failure to Listen
  2. Over Promising and Under Delivering
  3. Poor Response Time, i.e. replying to a text several days later (Why pay that forward? Don't be that person...)
  4. Failure to Have a System / Failure to be Consistent
  5. Failure to Care -- the Holy Grail of them all

OK, so all of the above are not easy habits to break. But you can turn all of this around, and position both yourself and your clients in a win/win situation. If you truly want to succeed, you will strive for leaving other people feeling good about themselves and thereby wanting a deeper more engaging relationship with you and your business. Don't forget that creating systems is very important for your daily operations, since it will build that trust and consistency that clients crave. Oh, and advising and educating your clients, rather than 'selling to your clients' will lead your client to better decisions.

'Go the extra mile, it's never crowded'

Doug asked us to take a Thirty Day Challenge, the Nice Guy’s Challenge. Here are the Nice Guy Rules:

  • Return Every Phone Call
  • Return Every Email
  • Deliver on Every Promise
  • Be on Time. Every Time
  • Send Two Messages a Day (texts or emails to two people you haven't spoken to in at least 3o days. Something quick, 'Hey, I'm thinking about you, and hope you're having a great day')

I’ve decided that December will be great month to do this. The theory behind this is to throw positivity into the universe like a handful of glitter. You get what you give, you know, the golden rule of the universe:

'Treat others as you would like to be treated'

As I said earlier, I believe anyone can benefit from this type of advice. I highly recommend Doug’s Podcast as well. I started listening to some of the episodes on my morning walks and I've been learning a lot of great tips to incorporate into my daily work.

About Dara Goldberg (in her own words):

I’m just a twenty-something woman, navigating her way through this strange, yet fascinating, adventure called life. I’m a sunshine, sand, and ocean loving  Florida girl, currently living in the heart of Washington, DC with my boyfriend, Alex. We have a house full of herbs, succulents, and cacti we are attempting to keep alive. Check out Dara's lifestyle blog at Peonies+Bees.


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Free Agency: New Market, New Model, New You? by Ryan McShane

The traditional workforce of full and part time employment is shifting to one of seeing more free-agency taking place, in which workers are hired on a project basis. Are job seekers and employers ready for this new “free agency” type of relationship dynamic?

First, much of the “why” for the shift from a traditional workforce of full and part time to one of a more project-basis realizes much of its momentum from employers seeking cost containment. That’s right! It comes down to basic economics. Why hire in a full time capacity if you only need the work completed during a portion of the year or hire full time if the work is project-related and time bound? In other words, why pay for more than you need when hiring.

Why hire in a full time capacity if you only need the work completed during a portion of the year.

The new paradigm of hiring based on short term –project-based assignments may be beneficial to employers and job seekers but, it is not without its challenges for Human Resource professionals, employers and job seekers alike.

As with anything new, there is an adjustment period, in which all stakeholders toil to refine and define their respective roles and position him/herself accordingly.

For employers the challenges include offering just enough compensation and benefit resources to attract the best and therefore maximize the return for the organization’s human capital investment. Implications are such that, employers may need to examine their compensation and benefits structures to accommodate the new relationship paradigm. Typical compensation and benefit offerings are likely to increase to compete with employers and attract talent, as well as balance the fewer healthcare benefit offerings that are likely to dwindle due to rising costs.

Some such companies even offer perks of onsite daycare, laundry service, and even unlimited vacation to attract talent. Yes, unlimited vacation! Think about it. As long as the employee does the job he/she was hired to do, what does it matter how often he or she goes on vacation. The work is done, the work is done.

Free agency implies change for the job seeker.

Employers take heed, if you are not already equipped to source, recruit and retain in this manner, knowing that most of your upper level management will turnover in the next 5-10 years may provide the needed motivation to make a change.

The time is now employers, to perform an assessment of your turnover risks, conduct attitudinal surveys and analyze your current workforce structure to determine if it still meets efficacy and stakeholder needs and whether project-based hiring is a viable tactic to ensure organizational efficiency and productivity.

With benefit costs rising and global competition for talent ready to heat up, hiring based on specific time bound needs is an ideal choice enabling employers the flexibility to respond to the market place and still meet stakeholder demands.

A second condition promoting a “free agency” model of project-based hiring comes from our largest demographic, the boomer population; a group that is no longer interested in working the 9-5, and a 40 hour work week schedule. Many boomers are retiring only to return to the workforce for money, active engagement or just to give back and do something they love but, on their terms and schedules. (Note flexibility is also a factor that rated highly for millennials in their consideration of employers, making flexibility it a competitive factor indeed for employers.)

Free agency implies change for the job seeker, as well. The job seeker not only must market him/herself as a job seeker but also as an entrepreneur, who can work independently as a contracted employee. Marketing yourself with in this new “free agency” model must now encompass both their functional and entrepreneurial skills and competencies; demonstrating leadership, project management, delegation, team work and team leader roles.

Economics is a common driver of workplace conditions and the “free agency” phenomenon is no different.

Seeker, identify how the role will operate within the prospective employer’s current structure and speak to how your skills match those expectations. Free agency, again in this case, offers the job seeker flexibility of not being confined by the traditional employer/employee relationship. Seekers who enjoy diversity of roles or require a great deal of flexibility in their schedule, may want to consider a project-based role.

Economics is a common driver of workplace conditions and the “free agency” phenomenon is no different. Free Agency and the workplace flexibility derived from a project-based relationship may influence employers to consider a shift away from a traditional workforce for a model that benefits organizational response time to market conditions and positions them to attract the best talent in the industry through strategic examination of workforce trends, demographics and tools supporting progressive human resource practices and just in time leadership development. However, in order for the shift from traditional workforce to “free agency” to take place in a manner that creates competitive value for organizations and job seekers, both employers and employees must be prepared to consciously create a new relationship paradigm based on mutual value. That new model and approach is called, Conscious Capitalism.

To find out more about Conscious Capitalism and how their principles speak to accommodating this and all future work-based trends, I can be reached at 410-688-5054.

Ryan McShane, Human Resources Officer for Baltimore County Department of Aging, VP/COO for Marc3Solutions Leadership Development Consultancy and Principal & Founder of HRevolution, LLC, a Resume Writing and HR Consulting firm.

Professional affiliations include serving as President of Chesapeake Human Resource Association (CHRA), Member of UMBC’s Instructional Systems Development (ISD) Advisory Board, Chair of the Baltimore County Chamber’s HR Exchange Committee. Member of the Boomer Council, an advisory council focusing on civic engagement and mature workforce strategies.

Ryan is passionate about creating a new way of learning, working and living based on Conscious Capitalism Principles of Higher Purpose, Conscious Leadership, Conscious Culture and Stakeholder Orientation.

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3 Ways To Find Valuable Customer Experience Insight by Jeremy Watkin

I’m 6’4” tall so I don’t typically spend much time riding in the back seat of cars–especially not in my own car. We had family in town this past weekend so I answered the call and sat in my back seat quite possibly for the first time ever. When I sat down, I adjusted the floor mat and found the tiny USB plug for my headphones that went missing quite a while ago. It had fallen out of my pocket and I assumed it was gone forever.

Isn’t it funny how simply changing my seat resulted in finding what I was searching for? Business insights are a lot like my missing USB plug. Sometimes a change of seat or speaking with those in other seats within your organization will give you new eyes to see problems and solutions you previously believed were nonexistent.

Voice Of Customer (VOC) is all the rage right now for companies interested in improving the experience for their customers. Before you spend many thousands of dollars on a VOC solution, allow me to offer a few ideas to kickstart your program.

Get To Know The People On The Front Lines

Housed within your contact center is a wealth of knowledge and information about what is and isn’t working about your product or service. Whether you periodically speak with customers or speak with the people speaking with your customers, create open lines of communication so they are comfortable sharing the challenges and complaints they regularly face. You may find that there’s a simple, inexpensive improvement that can pay big dividends for your customer experience.

Get People In All Different Seats Talking To Each Other

You may not realize it but many people within your organization have an impact on your customer experience. Sales and marketing work to get customers in the door and signed up, management creates policies that affect customers, and customer service takes care of them once they are customers. These groups should be talking regularly to gain insight into how they can help one another make the experience as smooth as possible. At FCR we are big fans of regular round table discussions in an effort to share more and more insight about customers with our clients.

Ask Your Customers

The best way to ask your customers about their experience is to survey them. At this point I’m less concerned about what survey you use and more concerned about getting regular customer feedback. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), or even the one with the happy and sad face are all great and inexpensive provided that you allow your customers to share feedback about their experience. The important part is routinely reading this feedback, following up, monitoring trends, and fixing issues.

It’s so easy to plop down in our chairs each day and only see the customer experience from our own point of view. Perhaps you think your customer experience is perfect–or perhaps you think you have an insurmountable problem. Regardless of what camp you are in, make it a routine to get out of your chair and view the customer experience from another seat. By gaining a new perspective, you may just find something you lost– whether you were looking for it or not.

Jeremy Watkin

Jeremy Watkin is the Head of Quality at GoFCR.com, the most disruptive and respected outsource provider. He has more than 15 years of experience as a customer service professional. He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Communicate Better Blog. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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But First, Let Me Take An (Un)Selfie by Miri Rodriguez

When Doug Sandler initially tweeted me to guest-write this blog, he gave me a few topic options: Entrepreneurship, Marketing or Customer Service. I thought, Great! I have so much to share on each of these subjects, I don’t even know which to choose? Then came a follow-up tweet: [Also] Give me your best quote on being a leader. Wait, what?

My mind started racing. LEADERSHIP? What can I say that somebody else hasn’t said already (much better than me)? What original excerpts have I posted that have gotten the most Likes or RTs? What’s for lunch? 

I went into overdrive, then suddenly drew a blank. Quickly checked my phone to see how much time I had before tweeting back and right before putting the phone down, received this text from one of my mentees:

If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.” This is how you treat me.


And there it was. The most opportune reminder of what I believe good GREAT leaders (and leading brands) do: They take unselfies. That’s right. Remarkable leaders take time to showcase their most unselfish attributes…through others. They feature images of love, compassion, kindness and servanthood. They make it their first order of business to leave a selfless legacy. 

 



Leading brands can attribute much of their profitable success to taking unselfies. Organizations that make Corporate Citizenship a top priority are fruitful way beyond their bottom line because they’ve been able to turn both customers AND disadvantaged communities into fans. They also focus on providing a customized customer experience because they see people for who they ought to be: people.

I know this because I happen to work for a company that recently made Forbes Most Valuable Brands list, ranking at #1 in Customer Perception. It was also recognized by the Harvard Business Review for providing great customer service via social media channels. We get it. We take the focus off ourselves and put it back on who deserves it: our customers, our future generation, our legacy. Microsoft has donated over $1 billion to charitable organizations since it first began its Employee Giving Program, back in 1983. That’s a lot of unselfies!

Unselfies do more than capture a random act of kindness here and there. To true leaders and leading brands, unselfies are intentional leadership strategies that drive their every day. In a world increasingly growing with selfish motivation, unselfies help us stay noble and human. They remind us why we do what we do. If we are not genuinely serving others, if we are not helping people succeed, then what are we doing?

Last year a study estimated that over 1 million selfies were taken each day. That’s a lot of MEs. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against selfies. In fact, if you know me, you know I’m guilty of taking one (or two ☺)…but I often wonder, how wonderful our world would be if each of us flooded Instagram with unselfies too!  If for every selfie taken, TWO unselfies were posted. If you and I took twice the time and dedication to build other people up, as we take to build ourselves. If we shifted priorities, made it a point to go from good to GREAT leaders and first, took an unselfie.

Miri Rodriguez is the Social Media and Communities Lead for Microsoft Latin America. Her extensive career includes Marketing, Operations and Customer Experience. She is the mother of 2 boys and an American Bulldog. Her philanthropic work includes teaching middle school students at her local church, mentoring high school students at Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and discipling young women into business leadership.


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The 7 Best Tactics to Handle Online Crisis by Lesya Liu

Social media is like a microscope all companies have to surrender themselves to. Most of the time nothing that happens online, stays online. Major PR flops get picked up by traditional media or become a focus of the real-world discussions.

Before you know it, a not-so-well-thought-through tweet gets you an unwanted attention. All of a sudden, people become angry at companies for saying something insensitive and here is where the real nightmare begins.

Don’t post anything right away – think first

It’s tempting to start posting something right away, whether it’d be an apology, explanation or defense. Resist this urge and think first. If you’re in the midst of PR crisis, it’s better to avoid any kind of quick-judgement actions that can further put you in disadvantage. Gather as many team members as possible and discuss the best course of action. The more heads you can put together, the better. This will give you different perspectives on what happened and possible reasons for it as well as on how to handle it.

While you’re developing a crisis management plan, don’t keep people waiting. Post something along the lines of “working on it” to show an audience and all affected groups that you’re aware of what’s happening and you’re trying to get to the bottom of an issue before jumping to self-defense.

Don’t engage in negative conversations

While the crisis is happening, there will be people and groups who will be very vocal in blaming your company and attacking it as a whole and/or individual employees. It’s best to not engage in these conversations and ignore them to the best of your ability. Two reasons for it: First of all, you might say something that will further worsen your position. Remember: don’t post anything on the first thought of it.

You’re also running a risk of continuing this conversation and further angering those people. You’re asking to be put in more hot water. If you really feel the need to respond and don’t leave people hanging, post a well-developed short message along the lines of showing your appreciation for their concern and stating that you’re working on a solution. Try not to get too into details while situation is not completely clear. Finally, if messages your company receives are simply rude, defamatory and threatening, block those individuals, flag their comments and don’t even dare to respond.

Investigate and keep people updated

While you’re trying to share information with the outside world, your back-end needs to work hard on investigation. If causes of public outrage are not clear (or not completely clear), your team needs to get to the bottom of things. Was something done by an employee or an individual associated with business? What are the reasons for the behavior in question? What groups were affected by these actions? How can you make it better now?

If investigation takes longer than expected, keep your audience posted on the progress. Don’t share everything just yet, but let them know that you care and didn’t just let it “fix itself.” Oftentimes, when a company makes a sincere effort at fixing an issue, public is more understanding, tolerant and their anger doesn’t persist.

Explain what happened

When investigation is completed, share a picture of what happened. Share your stance. This is not to say that you need to present a situation in a favorable for you light, but most of the actions have some kind of logic behind them. Explain that logic and why things developed the way they did. Transparency can bring trust back.

Acknowledge mistakes

If there is any fault on you (and there probably will be even if it’s minor), acknowledge mistake. It’s easier to apologize and move forward than to show your arrogance and lose customers and positive public perception. If you do acknowledge your mistake, try not to repeat in the future. Learn from this experience and become better. If a company has a whole history of the same type of offenses (or even different ones), it’s really difficult to gain any trust again; and slowly but surely a company can simply be dissolved.

Work on enhancing a positive image

Now that the crisis is quieting down, it’s time to highlight your positive attributes and enhance positive image. This can be done by fixing the mistake, helping out groups that were affected or just being a better part of your community in general. Yet, there is a fine line between trying to get back on track and enhance your positive image versus being overly-promotional and too active with PR efforts. Make it meaningful, not flashy.

Document processes, details for future

Once the crisis is over, make sure your team documents everything that happened in this particular situation, what measures were taken, what processes were developed. Create a crisis management plan for the future, if you don’t have one yet. This will help you be better prepared next time (if it will happen) and make you more resilient to crisis in the future.

Have you managed a crisis before? Do you have a well-documented plan in place in case it happens? Share in the comment section below.

Lesya Liu is a blogger at The Social Media Current (thesocialmediacurrent.com), a photographer and a social media expert. Her passion lies in art and marketing (and combining the two). You can find her on Twitter: @LesyaLiu.

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Less Collecting, More Reflecting by Heidi Doheny Jay, M.S.

Why is it so difficult for us to feel truly happy?

If I asked you right now to recall the happiest time in your life, my guess is you would remember an experience and most likely it would involve someone you loved.

I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t recall the day you purchased your Burberry watch or Scotty Cameron putter.

When reflecting on happiness, most of us remember experiences we’ve had with people, yet we yearn for material things when we contemplate our future happiness. The disconnect lies in our false belief that “things” will make us feel better. Society teaches us that if we have certain things then we’ll be happy and then we spend an exorbitant amount of time and money acquiring these things only to end up in the same unhappy place, but with very expensive things.

We seek happiness in a new pair of shoes, a new car or a five thousand square foot home.

We seek happiness in a new pair of shoes, a new car or a five thousand square foot home. We feel elation when we acquire these things but it’s fleeting and we usually want for something better several months later.

The never-ending pursuit of “things” is one of the best tricks played on humans and one of the deepest rabbit holes we could ever go down, yet we fall for it every time.

The reason, I believe, that happiness is so elusive is because we’re looking for it in the wrong places. We seek anything external to fill the void we feel inside. We convince ourselves that if our outer circumstances changed, we’d be happier.

Bryon Katie tells a story about a woman walking through the woods and she comes across what appears to be a snake. She immediately becomes terrified and frantic.

Her heart racing she tries to figure out how she’ll get around it? It’s right in her path. Will she die if it bites her? As she approaches it, she quickly realizes that the snake is actually a rope. She begins to laugh at herself for over reacting. She proceeds to walk around the rope, relieved that she doesn’t have to fend off the scary snake.

Pay attention to the thoughts we think and how they make us feel.

Her circumstances never changed. The snake/rope hasn’t moved; but her perception changed, and that made all the difference.

We all posses the power needed to change any situation with our thoughts. Trying to change outside circumstances in order to be happy is the biggest fool’s errand we’ve ever sent ourselves on.

So how do we discover this happiness?

We do it by monitoring our thoughts and emotions. We pay attention to the thoughts we think and how they make us feel. It’s a process and takes practice, but in order to truly change anything, we must first change ourselves; there is no other way.

It can be 3-4 minutes of quiet time in the morning −you can call it meditation if you’d like− just after awakening, prior to checking your phone or emails.

Give yourself this time to ask for a gift from the coming day, be thankful for the prior days gifts and the sleep you just had. Set your day in a positive direction, seeking only to notice and find the good things about anything that happens that day, regardless of your surroundings or what “reality” is showing you. So many wonderful and magnificent things happen to us daily but we fail to notice them.

Pay attention to what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling underneath everything.

Ask whomever you believe in for help with whatever you think you need and know that they are here to assist you. Ask them throughout the day to help you when something uncomfortable arises. Seek clarity, not an opportunity to ruminate only to keep the problem alive and well.

This quietness allows you to hear the thousands of messages we receive daily but are often too busy to hear. Other than your house being on fire, there is no other reason to put off doing this every morning. Alarms going off and kids screaming are no excuse for you to not take 3-4 minutes for yourself. Inner peace is worth waking up 5 minutes earlier.

If you become frazzled throughout the day, focus only on the opportunity that this perceived “problem” is showing you. You must consciously look for the good in it and change your perspective in order to stop the momentum of negative events.

We tend to focus on one or two seemingly bad things that happen in a day and we talk about them incessantly, actually fighting for our limitations.

The trick is to move past them quickly, look for the good, lighten up regardless of the circumstances and pay attention to what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling underneath everything.

Opportunities are presented to us in the most magnificent ways. If we all took responsibility for making ourselves happier, the world would undoubtedly be a more enjoyable place, but it has to start with you.

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How Big An Investment Are You Willing To Make? by Casey Cornelius

When I launched my company ForCollegeForLife a year ago, other entrepreneurs offered strikingly similar advice; make wise investments. Initially the only investments I considered, and possibly what they were trying to suggest, were those of the fiscal variety. Upon reflecting on an amazing period of growth, I find the investments needed to be successful are far more than money.

Robert Herjavec, known primarily for his role on Shark Tank, is fond of saying “every minute you spending doing something is one minute you aren’t doing something else.” This wisdom applies to time and every other resource we have at our disposal.

For any startup entrepreneur (or student leaders, whom I most closely encounter) the investments needed to be a success are profound.

Comfort

Anyone who has ever introduced something new into the market has learned a sharp reality—with rare exception, you are going to be uncomfortable “selling” yourself. There is the physical discomfort of late nights/early mornings, which is to be expected, but also the emotional discomfort of marketing, cold-calling and rejection. It is essential to embrace a certain level of discomfort but also to invest in small rewards for yourself. Mine are timely cups of coffee, exercise and (occasionally) an afternoon catnap.

Relationships

As it turns out, not everyone is going to root for your success. Your friends might “like” your social media posts and ask you about your work, but only a few are going to truly care. Invest in the relationships with the select few (friends, mentors, partners and family) who champion you. Also, be wary of those who attempt to abuse their relationships with you for personal gain, access or favors.

Integrity

Since launching my brand, I have fielded countless requests for collaboration or consideration of partnerships. While every offer received might seem appealing (and, honestly, who doesn’t like being wooed?) it is essential to only invest yourself in those which are consistent with your vision and values. One of the greatest investments any new entrepreneur/leader can make is the power of saying “no” to potential offers.

Time

Of all resources we can put forward into a new venture, there is only one which is distributed equally; time! We are all given 168 hours each week, for example, and the difference between those who are successful and others is how they spend each. A useful practice is to project how you are going to spend your week each Sunday evening. Map our details about how you plan to invest your time and energy. Then, at the conclusion of those 168 hours, reflect critically on how you “spent” your capital. Permit for distractions and unexpected diversions (remembering Robert Herjavec’s advice) but also be wary of those who want your time. Similar to the relationships discussed above, your time is valuable and shouldn’t be given away to everyone.

Money

Please don’t mistake what I have said thus far to mean I fail to respect the importance of financial investment. Any startup is a living and breathing creature and, as such, needs to be tended to as you would a child. Investing wisely means not jumping at every marketing opportunity (100,000 Twitter followers does sound nice, but what is the true value-added?) Instead look for ways to efficiently maximize your resources. Making your own social media posts, as an example, can save a lot of dollars which can better be spent elsewhere.

Finally, one of the most important investments any entrepreneur or leader can make is reinvestment—taking care of one’s self mentally and physically, reflecting critically and making appropriate course corrections are essential. Investing bandwidth on your own personal inspiration is critical.

The challenges facing startups are akin to the person attempting to spin plates on their body—each one needs a certain amount of attention to stay steady. Think of your investments, both fiscally and otherwise, as one of those plates. The trick is to keep them all moving without neglecting any.

Casey J. Cornelius is Founder and CEO of ForCollegeForLife. He can be reached on Twitter @CaseyJFCFL and on Facebook at Facebook.com/ForCollegeForLife

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Keep Going! by Brenden Sheehan

A few weeks after starting my MBA program, a caption came up on my Facebook newsfeed that caught my eye. It read, “Keep going! Do all that you can and at the right time the right help will come.” I thought, “What a powerful statement.” Motivational quotes are such a great tool for giving us the strength to continue forging ahead without quitting so that we may achieve whatever we set our minds to. What I had read on Facebook made such an impact that I printed out the picture and taped it onto my wall. I’ve looked at it every morning since January 15, 2014.

The reason this hit home is that it’s a quotation that’s proven to be so true for me throughout my entire life. The first time I can recall being in this type of situation was when I was 11 years old. At the time, I was competing against 12 year olds for a starting position on the Little League All Star team. I ran as fast as I could, threw as hard as I could, and hit the ball as much as I could; but I still wasn’t selected for a starting position. One day my dad mentioned that I could ride my bike to the coach’s business and ask him straight up what I could do better. So I did it; only to be denied after a long discussion of promoting myself. However, I kept playing hard and the combination of the impact of my discussion and my effort on the field gave him a change of heart and I started the next game.

Many years later, as an adult working in a Fortune 500 corporation, another example occurred in 2010. At the time I was working in a finance role where I was trying to move up and gain visibility. I supported an engineering manager who believed in my work ethic and encouraged me to apply for a high-visibility position in a completely different functional role in another department. I was eventually selected and it gave me the chance to deploy to Afghanistan as a team member on a cutting-edge program.

These are just a couple examples of the many times in my life where I was moving and moving and kept going until someone stepped in and helped. When I was a boy, my father stepped in and pointed to a road I could take that would require the bravery to level with a 45-year-old man. Although the rejection hurt, I’ve always respected my dad so much for bringing something to my mind that I otherwise never would have thought of. And grown up in a company, the supportive manager’s direction gave me the confidence to take a leap of faith into the unchartered.

The moral of the story is that momentum is powerful. It takes momentum to gain the speed we need to be pushed in the right direction. In each of these instances, the people who surrounded me could tell that I was working very hard to reach a certain destination. Perseverance was recognized and I was just softly pushed down another road. Without that momentum though, those who were around me wouldn’t have seen enough determination to believe their advice would produce anything substantial. Thus, by working hard and running towards a destination in the marathon of life, we may inspire others to give us a cup that’s filled with opportunity. That way, they may share in our victories and take pleasure in knowing that they helped to make it happen.

So whatever your dreams are, keep going and make an unfailing effort to run down the path leading to your goals. If you believe, someone will step in when you need them the most. And most importantly, when you achieve them you may pay it forward later on.

About our Guest Blogger:

Brenden Sheehan is a Pricing Analyst for Northrop Grumman Corporation and is currently working toward his MBA in International Business. Brenden has been awarded many certificates and honors for exemplary service. Check out more about Brenden on LinkedIn

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