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.

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.

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?

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!

 

January 2018: Recap

So much has already gone on in 2018, I feel like I need to write it all down so I don’t forget.

  • Presented my team strategy at work to the CEO and got approval
  • Attended and presented at work Sales Kick-Off event
  • Team won 2nd place in the Dragon’s Den contest at said event
  • Took on a new mentoring project which has been going really well
  • Started a new courseware development project
  • Completed several Daily UI challenges
  • Got a talk accepted to a conference in the Netherlands
  • Transitioning into new role as Chair of the Waterloo, Wellington and Area chapter of the Institute for Performance and Learning
  • Started designing and developing the first of 4 key facilitated sessions that will become a key piece of my company’s new training program
  • Did a singing video for fun because someone asked and it was well received
  • Donated to the Humane Society
  • Joined YW Kitchener-Waterloo
  • Walked over 163k steps (so far, looking to increase this number in February!

And it’s not even fully over yet.

2017 Year in Review

2017 was a good year for me personally and professionally, and as always, I learned a lot! Here are some stats and highlights from my year for reflection and preparation as I look into 2018.

If I had to sum up 2017, I would say it was a big-deal year. It felt like the importance of everything I’ve been doing has been increasing, and I’ve been jumping into more and more interesting and complex challenges.

Travel:

I enjoyed several opportunities to travel this year, taking three big trips! I had a quick trip to Omaha in May, then I travelled to Ottawa with my whole family in July, and then in August, got to go to Belgium and Germany. I learn so much when I travel, and it was great to get to visit these three very different locations. Aside from that, I did a quick trip into Toronto for an industry conference (more on that below).

I love Belgium, particularly Brussels. I am so fascinated by government and policy, and the EU Parliament has both in abundance. Köln had amazing history to see in and around the Dom. We also flew in and out of London, and I was reminded again how much I love that city. All in all, another great trip to Europe (our 6th!)

Below:  Me with the Palace in Brussels (which I loved!), my son with the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, and me with my best friend Summer and her daughter and her friend.

Work and Learning:

I did a lot of work with seven new-to-me or updated tools and platforms. These included:

I’d used some of these prior to 2017 but not to the degree I did this year. I got updated photos and did updates tomy website. I went to the Institute for Performance and Learning Conference (which I helped to program) and helped program 4 professional development events locally as well.

I completed a Marketing course on LinkedIn Learning (and have touched on a few more!) I checked out a few different MOOCs, and joined the xAPI cohort (though I haven’t started on a project yet). I started doing the DailyUI challenges, and haven’t looked back (I’m about a third of the way through, now, check out my posts here or on Twitter!).

I did high-level design and initial development for a two large learning programs with big audiences, some of which will be realized, some of which might not. I designed and developed three new eLearning courses, and updated many others. I took a new job with a fantastic co-worker and am jumping into bigger and better things there. I’m moving back into the world of customer experience and professional services, and it’s great to be getting back into doing what I love- helping people solve problems and do meaningful work using technology.

I re-certified as a CPLP and have sent in my recertification for my CTDP as well. It has been three years holding those credentials and the learning never stops! I’ll never have a problem hitting my numbers for PD hours

I’ve learned a ton about design, tech, and communication this year, which is fantastic.

Giving Back:

I made monetary donations to 12 different charities this year, along with ongoing volunteer work, fundraising, and a few blood donations (when I pass the hemoglobin screen). Giving back has become a bigger and bigger part of my life, continuing from the plans I started in 2016. While I may not be able to give as freely of my time as I once was able to, my monetary donations have increased to take up the slack.

Below: Economical Insurance Heart and Stroke Big Bike Team, I’m in the first row, second from the left!

Health and Wellness

I lost about 25 pounds this year, and really settled into my 3-times-a-week gym schedule. I’ve managed to make activity and health monitoring an easy part of my routine thanks to my Fitbit and my Aria scale. I got better at eating breakfast every day which seems to make a difference. My resting heart rate has been greatly improved over 2016 and I look forward to keeping things going in the right direction on all these fronts. Check out my weight graph below:

2017’s Thumbs Ups:

  1. This has been the year of fantastic coffee mugs. I had a great mug at work that made every day easier.
  2. I finally stopped being so lazy about my hair and now book regular hair appointments like a grownup. I found a cut that works and am sticking with it!
  3. I stopped answering the phone with “hello?” which has saved so much time in my life.

2017’s Thumbs Downs:

  1. I definitely did less reading books and more Facebooking than I would have liked.
  2. Still working on becoming more relaxed and even-keeled in general. Trying to balance excitement that keeps me engaged vs. excitement that makes me anxious is an ongoing effort.

More on 2018 goals in my next post.

Productivity Tip: Rescue Time

People are always trying to squeeze more productivity out of an increasingly fragmented day.  I find for me one of the best tools for this is Rescue Time. It’s an application that tracks how you spend time on your computer, and based on information you provide it, can give you ongoing productivity scores.  I find it really helpful for keeping me on task.  You can restrict the information it has access to (so for example, I would have it record that I was using Outlook, but not the title of my Outlook windows).

It’s great for discovering just how much time is really spent on communication and scheduling.  As demands on one’s time increase, managing those becomes yet another demand on time. Timeboxing email and scheduling has really helped me to reduce some of that timesink.

I also found it really interesting in that I always thought my most productive time was the morning, but I fairly reliably am actually more productive in the afternoons.  I’ve been able to adjust when I book things and take better advantage of time when I’m at my best.

Give it a try if you’re interested in better tracking and managing your time!

Taking charge of your professional development

87% of millennials (as much as I hate the term) rate professional development as important to them on the job. I would hazard a guess that most employees would agree with this. Despite this, many organizations are less and less willing to invest in professional development for their staff.

As a insatiably curious person, this can be challenging for me. I constantly want to learn, to network, to share knowledge. Professional development is extremely important to me and has been throughout my career, though I’ve frequently been in the position where development budgets are cut and support is restricted.

Rather than let this discourage me, I’ve taken charge of my own development. If I’m not willing to invest, why would my employer be? Knowing I like to attend events and conferences, I’ve started to seek out low-cost ways to do this. I’m involved with industry organizations and frequently volunteer time in exchange for passes to events. Some industry conferences provide free registration for speakers, so I propose sessions to conferences I’d like to attend. I program PD events in my area and am able to attend these at no monetary cost. I’ve found my companies more willing to give me a PD day here and there than they are to approve budget for tuition or registration feeds. I make use of free resources at the library, read LinkedIn voraciously, join open slack channels, buy books on sale, and constantly seek out new low-cost opportunities to learn.

Even with all this, sometimes I do still want to attend an event or course where I can’t get a discount. To cover these things, I have a personal PD budget. I set up a separate savings account, and auto-deposit 3% of my pay for professional development. I’m able to draw from this fund to cover costs that I can’t cover other ways. It’s a big priority for me, and so I invest in this area. I have found that since I started doing this, I’ve been able to advance significantly in my career. If you’re struggling with getting the development you need and want, give this approach a try!