Pandemic reflections

Things have definitely developed fairly quickly over the past few weeks. Just a month ago (on the 17th of February) we were traveling into Toronto to go to the car show, and now doing something like using public transit to attend an event attended by tens of thousands is unthinkable.

Since then, things have been slowly shifting, we went from fairly typical activities (going out for groceries and haircuts, going to the dentist, seeing friends every week, going to the gym, to none of that. I had planned to travel to Boston to visit my work team and attend some meetings, and that was cancelled as travel restrictions ramped up.

For me, the shifts were doubly interesting because I went from a job where I was going into the office every day, to one where I was working from home every day- before we had additional work from home directives. So I was ahead of the curve in that regard- we have already set up multiple workstations at home (my husband also works from home nearly 100% of the time).

It felt like things started to go away slowly, then quite quickly- I made a comment to my work team that the schools were still open after our March Break and then about an hour later we got an announcement that they were closed until April 6. I had already planned to take March Break off, so was able to spend that time with the kids, staycation-style.

Since I switched to working from home back on February 23, the transition doesn’t feel quite so dramatic, but the overall feeling of urgency and stress is not lost on me. We’re also going to have the kids home with us as we work through the next few weeks at least, so we’ll have some adjustments to make as we manage that.

Thankfully my workplace and others understand the situation everyone is in so there’s a bit more flexibility around having a kid show up on your conference call (that had happened for me a couple of times already and thankfully everyone was cool).

Overall I’m feeling grateful that I already had put in place what was needed to effectively work from home, I’m grateful my kids are old enough to manage themselves for short periods so I can focus on some things (though I still do have to intervene to get focus time here and there). I’m grateful we have service through Good Food and PCexpress to get groceries we need with minimal need for interaction. I’m grateful our house has space for us to spread out a bit and get out of each other’s ways.

There’s a lot to be nervous about but I’m feeling very grateful overall. As an introvert I’m able to get plenty of social interaction without a lot of effort using technology, which is great. I got to do a cool video chat with my regular tv-watching group this week, did a dress-up fancy party on Facebook (with everyone dressed up fancy in their own homes of course) and have more fun things planned. I’ve been able to donate to some of the fundraising efforts providing relief to those much more affected than me, and help out a few folks as well.

Back to work this week- we’ll see what the next week brings but I know I’m so lucky.

Reflections on a new role

A couple of weeks ago, I started in a new role- I’m now the Learning & Development Manager for US HR for Sun Life. I’m still in learning & development, but I’ve shifted to an entirely different part of the company and am now working in HR, which is awesome because it lets me have a bit of a broader talent development scope than I’ve had in some previous roles.

Now two weeks in, here are some of my observations:

  • I love working with the US teams. So far everyone I have met has been awesome and so many of their goals seem well aligned, which is awesome.
  • Working from home is pretty great. I’ve got everything I need to make things work well, even setting up a desk in another room so my husband and I can head to separate spaces for phone calls. It’s working well so far.
  • I’m still sorting out some of the changes in systems access and set up I’ll need- one of the things about internal transfers vs external hires is that it takes a bit longer to catch these things sometimes.
  • I’m super excited about every project I’m getting involved with so far! They’re all things I’m super passionate about which is great.

Overall so much positive! I’m loving the role I’m in and looking forward to a great year.

Work and Learning course

I’m only a week in to my Work and Learning course and I’m really enjoying it (as I expected). The readings have me buzzing about globalization, the future of work, how economies affect education and vice versa, adult education and the impacts on organizations, and and and… there’s a lot to think about!

Already I’m concluding from my readings that leaders increasingly need to take a futuristic view in order to avoid being left behind- as technology and the nature of work shift, leaders will need to be out ahead of it. Even in very traditional industries, the focus on technology and the pressures of shifting customer demands are having an enormous impact.

Even my masters’ program itself is an example of how learning is changing- a part-time, distance education program with a cohort made up of globally diverse students. It aligns well to professionals’ increasing demand for education opportunities that allow them to continue to work full time.

Looking forward to more as we dive in to week two!

2020: A very Mondayesque Thursday

Back at work today, for the first work day of 2020. I’m happily able to wrap up something that has been bumping along on my to-do list for months, which is great.

In my reflections over the past week or two, I’ve been realizing that I have been missing the journaling I used to do. I’m going to endeavour to write more in this blog as a way to pick back up on that practice again. No defined goals yet, but it starts with writing some posts here and there.

I found a great sketchnote today that highlights 4 kinds of leaders that create the future (full credit to Tanmay Vora for the sketchnote)

Of these, I’m definitely identifying the most with the learning zealot. There’s a full post outlining these here on HBR.

2019 Year in Review

It’s snowing outside today. Things are quiet at work which is nice.

At the end of the year I always think about goals and where I want to be at the end of the next year. This year has been great in a lot of ways, but really challenging in others.

Here’s some wins and losses for the year from across my whole life 🙂

Wins for 2019

  • Worked hard on some really challenging work initiatives (challenging due to the climate, not so much the work itself)
  • Worked with new mentors and coaches and gained some really valuable perspective
  • Got into grad school
  • Finished my first term of grad school
  • Raised and matched a ton of charitable donations to causes I care about
  • Took the kids on their first overseas trip (to Madrid!) and it was awesome
  • Stepped away from volunteer work I care about in order to have enough time for schoolwork
  • Stepped back on some freelance work in order to have enough time for schoolwork (if you can’t see why the last two are wins, you don’t know me very well, haha)
  • Had a great trip to Quebec City and Montreal in the summer
  • I upped my savings
  • I made the most I ever have from freelance work
  • I got a great performance review at work
  • I got the yard landscaped
  • I got a new (hybrid) car (we’ve been a one-car family for 5 years, and may be able to be again, but 2 cars makes things easier for now)
  • I got some professional organizers to fix up a few closets in my house- the ones where they installed shelving are SO MUCH nicer than before

Losses for 2019

  • Didn’t make any great gains health-wise, I gained weight, I didn’t go to the gym as much, I didn’t eat as healthily as I could have
  • I didn’t spend as much time with my family as I would have liked to
  • I didn’t do as much reading for fun as I would have liked to
  • I did awesome work this year but I’m still reaching for some career goals that I haven’t met yet
  • Had some major work challenges and leadership shifts that made work really stressful this year
  • Didn’t prioritize the quiet focus time I would have liked

Overall, a lot more wins than losses and it was a really positive year. I know 2020 is going to be a really good year for me, I’ll be continuing work on my Masters degree and continuing to work toward my career goals, but I think this year I’ll also be focusing on my overall well-being and health.

I’ll articulate those goals in a list in the next few weeks.

What are your goals for 2020?

Setting up your Side Hustle

The environment we currently live in

One of my professional colleagues recently posted on LinkedIn about the whole idea of “the side hustle,” opening with this unfortunate anecdote: He had encountered a manager who claimed side hustles were for “people not good at their main hustle.” This is an old-school way of thinking, and side hustles are tremendously important these days. 

That’s become an increasingly reality for many reasons: There is a rise of ageism in the workplace, which means drawing income from a single primary job after age 40 becomes challenging. Then, you have issues around mergers and acquisitions; the Sprint/T-Mobile merger, for example, will end up costing about 28,000 people their jobs (while the executives of both companies make a good chunk of change). One of the fastest paths to growth for a company is to acquire another one, but when that happens, certain roles become overlapping and redundant. 

The side hustle isn’t so much something that should interfere with your main hustle — there needs to be an amount of respect and professionalism afforded to your main income source — but it’s more along the lines of thinking of your career as a pipeline, just as sales professionals think of their work. If Opportunity A drops, is there an Opportunity B? As many in various fields have said, develop your network before you need it, not right after you become unemployed. Side hustles are a way to develop your network — and one of them might become your “main hustle” at some point. In fact, that’s likely to happen.

So if you’re building side hustles right now, what do you need to be thinking about?

The questions to ponder regarding side hustle development

These would be some of the big ones to start thinking about:

  • Is there a conflict of interest with your full-time gig? For example, I knew someone once who was writing about learning and development, but his main job courted bigger companies that worked in the L&D / instructional design space. Sometimes those companies would go to him directly, because engaging with one freelance option is cheaper for them than engaging with his main company of employment. This created a series of issues and eventually he was fired from that company. Make sure there is not a conflict of interest between main gig and side hustle, and if there’s any potential overlap, make sure that you make it explicitly clear to your current full-time manager.
  • Register your business: You can get an Employer Identification Number relatively quickly, which is a good boon for small businesses and the self-employed. There are similar steps, with different names, in Canada.
  •  Establish a brand: This is hard and massively time-consuming, so you will not be able to do it overnight. How to begin, though: Start by thinking about what you offer and where people who need that would be spending time. If you offer instructional design as a side hustle, for example, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are likely better platforms than Instagram. You could get into niche discussions on Reddit and other boards / industry sites as well. Your brand needs to be unique, i.e. you cannot say the exact same stuff everyone else is saying, and it needs to be a mix of visual and text-based, with some video thrown in, as humans are creatures that respond to multiple learning modalities. You can check out brands you admire, but don’t straight copy them. Take elements of them and infuse those elements with your voice.
  • Create a proposal and contracting templates: These can be pretty simple, and proposals can start by thinking about your finances (scroll down a bit). Look around at what others are offering. You don’t want to be the lowest in a market because that means you’ll attract mostly people competing on price, and people competing on price tend to — not always — be less-than-stellar client engagements to have. Here’s one self-employment contract template, and here’s another.
  • The numbers: This is a series of steps. You need to work out these numbers — >
    • How many hours per week can you devote to side work?
    • How much money would you like to earn from side work in those hours?
    • What are your core offerings?
    • How can you price those offerings to meet the other numbers?

Here’s a relatively simple math breakdown: Let’s say you think you can devote 10 hours/week to a side hustle of consulting on instructional design. In a given month, you’d ideally like to make an extra $2,000 from your side hustle. That means you will be spending 40 hours/month on the side (10 per week) and need to make $50/hour to reach $2,000 (40 x 50). $50/hour is not a huge rate for many businesses, so this is totally doable! You could probably get it from one client, or break it up across two clients and potentially even clear your $2,000 goal.

  • How do you find those clients, though? Start with your networks, especially LinkedIn. Explain what you’re doing, what you can offer, and ask if anyone knows of referrals. Message people directly as well. Send emails to old colleagues, confidantes, and bosses you trusted. Work the existing network you have; this can usually land you 1-2 initial conversations (or more!) and those can become clients. Once you get clients, it’s about delivering for them and getting more referrals and recommendations; that’s largely how the self-employed make the hustle work. But as you go through these steps, consider slightly advanced ideas like building an email list around weekly content blasts, using Facebook or Google ads, and more. You want to get a little bit established with people who have a pre-existing knowledge of you before you try that out, though. 
  • Get business insurance: Look specifically into errors and omissions coverage.

How will you know when to move “side” to “main?”

There are easy, direct ways to know — i.e. getting laid off at main gig. Then there are more subtle ways to know, i.e. you enjoy the side work more, there seems to be more of it, the relationship with side partners is growing and your main income source seems purposeless and flat. Most people reach a specific point where they inherently know they should switch from Option A to Option B, but it’s obviously a great idea to discuss with friends, significant other, mentors, and more to see if it feels right to someone not experiencing both options daily. 

What else would you add about setting up a side hustle?

Strong leaders

This month, I finished a 10-month-long leadership development program offered by Communitech called Strong Leaders. As a learning and development professional who works on leadership development programs, it was awesome to be a participant in the program.

There was a built-in coaching component which I found super valuable, and it was a great way to build connections with other leaders in the community.

The pacing was incredibly useful as well- the every-three-weeks cadence of the face-to-face sessions made it easy to take the time to process and recall each new concept or approach we learned.

Overall I found it really valuable and use things I learned from it every day!

Certificate!

Next in my development- I’m starting a masters program in the fall! Super excited about that.

5 small things that can make you look out-of-touch

As a business leader, your credibility is tied to your connectedness to the needs of your customer, team, and organisation. In everything you do, it’s critical to keep this in mind, and to ensure that both you and your team are focused on the most important work to advance your goals.

However, most leaders have times where they do or say things that are out-of-step with the world around them, and these things send messages that you may not want to send! Keep an eye on these things to make sure you’ve got your finger on the pulse and eyes on the horizon.

1. Disconnect from current technology and how your customers and workforce use it

If you’re using out-of-date technology, it’s a dead giveaway that you’re not in touch with the times. If you need to use certain applications or hardware due to your work, it’s important to acknowledge that so that your teams and customers don’t assume it’s because you just can’t be bothered to keep up. Keep your fax machine at home and join the video conference instead.

2. Lack of awareness of your team’s people challenges

Your team has some major challenges with people- all teams do. Whether the challenges are within the team or elsewhere, it’s something that has the potential to suck up a lot of employee time and energy that could be better spent on adding value for your customers. If you’re blissfully unaware of it, it will only get worse, not better. Make sure you’re aware and on top of these challenges, and work with your team to improve their interactions.

3. Disconnect from the day-to-day work your teams do

Nobody expects the leader of a team to be able to jump in and complete any task that their team is accountable for- but they must be aware of the process to complete it. When leaders aren’t familiar with the processes their teams work through every day, they can’t effectively remove roadblocks and elevate the capabilities of their members. Make sure you’re fully in touch with how the work gets done on your team and where the time goes, and if you’re not, spend some time in the trenches to get connected.

4. Lack of awareness of political climates and local issues that affect your customers’ lives

This is not just related to national politics, but also local issues. If your customers or team members are dealing with political challenges in their local government, labor union, school system, or other organization that affects their lives, it will have an impact on their behaviour. If you’re disconnected from this, it will create the impression that you’re not in touch with the environment that you work it and affect your credibility.

5. Public criticism of other teams or leaders

Public criticism can have a huge impact and create unnecessary anxiety among your team members. Modern leaders praise their teams and others publicly, and save their criticism for a more targeted audience.

All these things can add up to an image that you’re not the best advocate for your team or your customers. You can avoid these things by spending time on your own development, having frequent one-on-one meetings with your team members, and engaging in social learning. More tips to come in a future article- in the meantime, keep learning and stay connected so that you’re always in-touch!

2018: Year in Review

2018 was a big year for me. I’m going to do a quick-hits bullet point list of my accomplishments in 2018, so I can reflect.

  • Worked with 5 wonderful high-achieving mentees to help them achieve their goals
  • Worked with a great mentor and a fantastic coach
  • Spoke at my first overseas conference
  • Analyzed, designed, developed and delivered several training programs, elearning courses and curricula
  • Took over as chair of the WWA Chapter of the Institute for Performance and Learning
    • We had 10 networking breakfasts
    • 4 pub nights
    • 1 full-day PD event
    • 1 half-day PD event
  • Got a promotion to team lead
  • Planned and ran 2 concurrent pre-conference training tracks for another conference
  • Hired three team members and contributed to the hiring process for several more
  • Progressed into a new manager-level role
  • Increased my income and doubled my freelance income
  • Increased my savings and retirement savings
  • Joined the Grand Philharmonic choir again and sang 7 concerts

2019 is shaping up to be a big year as well! I’m looking forward to it.

February and March 2018: Recap

What an unprecedented couple of months it has been!

I missed out on a recap of February, so I’m going to go ahead and lump February and March together here in one big list of bullet points.

  • Caught up with some friends, had some great lunch dates!
  • Had minor surgery to remove a mass (which wasn’t cancer, hooray)
  • Designed and piloted a new customer training program at work
  • Designed another training program on top of that (pilot to come)
  • Travelled to Holland to give a talk at LXDCon (which went fantastic)
  • Successfully completed the Escape from Casa Loma King/Queen of the Bootleggers escape room with 15 fab friends for a dear friend’s birthday
  • Delivered new training program to the first cohort of customers (~40 in all)
  • Worked with I4PL chapter executive to add a new member and plan upcoming events
  • Worked with a few fantastic professionals as a mentor
  • Worked on a new safety training program for a client

Now in April, and there’s a lot more to come! I hope your 2018 has been going well too!