It's a new year and a new you! Fresh Start is a short series detailing 12 helpful tips to start off the year right, whether it be to advance your career or increase your financial cushion. We've already given you advice on kicking your daily deal habit, quitting caffeine, and making a call to lower your bills. Here's another way to start afresh in 2012.
Many people include software skills on their resume, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and HTML, but not all of them have a good grasp of those programs. It's good to learn how to use various software because this knowledge can boost your résumé or even help you advance in your job.
A good way to learn these programs is through the online software training site, Lynda.com. If you pay a subscription fee, you get access to over 70,000 instructional videos for programs like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and even Facebook. But if you're not keen on spending the money, you can even test out the service with a seven-day free trial. You might not even need a month's access because there's plenty you can learn in seven days. Remember to cancel before the trial ends or you'll be charged with a paid membership.
My New Year's resolution: dress more professionally at work — and that includes wearing heels! That may not sound difficult, but let me tell you: walking up and down the hilly San Francisco streets can be a pain — literary! My feet are killing me.
I'm starting kind of late, but so far I've worn heels everyday this week. And besides a few compliments thrown my way, I can really feel the heels work wonders for my posture and toning my legs (thanks, Mr. Louboutin and Mrs. Miu Miu!). I wonder if being in shape can really be an advantage over your average-size co-workers.
Do you think dressing better will help your status at work?
It was one of my goals to attend a professional mixer, and ideakick seemed to suit my purposes. Basically, it's a smorgasbord of brainstormers coming together to feed off of each other's ideas and suggestions. You know the genius idea you had in the shower? Well, ideakick is the perfect place to see if your shower-inspired idea is awesome or just plain crazy; the line between the two can be quite fine sometimes. The premise behind the meetup is brilliant: anyone who wants to present gets 10 minutes to pitch an idea and receive feedback from people.
To hear some of the amazing pitches, including playing air guitar on an iPhone, read on.
Professional development is all about learning about yourself and the world around you. I decided that a trip to The Commonwealth Club would definitely be fitting for my goal of growing professionally.
The nonprofit organization brings together the greatest minds for the purpose of educating the public, and there's always something for everyone. For example, upcoming speakers include people from all walks of life — from Hillary Clinton to a prison staff member who assesses whether a criminal is a psychopath to Bay Area food bloggers.
When I entered the club, I walked into a room splashed in navy blue. The off-white marble walls and oak bookshelves lent a very distinguished air to the place — perfectly suited for an intellectual forum. I felt like I was gaining privileged access to a secret society, and I was very pumped.
To find out what I learned and whether I'll be back, read on.
One of the ideas that I played around with for my professional development kick challenge was to find a mentor. I knew that it would be very hard to seek out a mentor and cultivate a relationship in eight weeks so I decided to fast track it. These things usually take time and happen as a natural progression. Yes, it was slightly creepy of me to reach out to someone with a, "Will you be my mentor?" plea (don't worry I didn't phrase it like that), but I figured every challenge has its pitfalls and successes. If I fail, you readers can learn from my mistake, and if I succeed, what a doozy of a story I'll have for you!
To find out who I reached out to and what happened, read on.
Taking an improv class at the San Francisco Comedy College last night had to be the most uncomfortable moment in my life. That is, if you discount the hip-hop classes I used to take back in college (I am the ultimate klutz). I reminded myself that this was another step in my professional development kick challenge, and my journey was not supposed to be easy.
You might be thinking: what in the world can improv do to help you professionally? Surprisingly, there's a lot to be learned. Improv will help you think on the spot and that's very valuable skill that you can use in every situation. It will be handy at a job interview when your interviewer throws out an unexpected question or when your boss tells you to make a last minute presentation. Having the ability to make people laugh will lead to better interpersonal skills and confidence. Humor is great for office politics because it can lighten the sting of criticism, and it can also help you take a neutral stand when you don't want to take sides.
To hear how my experience on stage went, read more.
It's always tough to take a good, hard look at yourself and to see your strengths and weaknesses laid out in front of you. I experienced that vulnerability recently when I took up my friend's challenge to take a personality quiz as part of my professional development journey.
Personality quizzes seem like pure fun, but they can also help you think about how you work and what you might want to work on. Analyzing the results will enable you to figure out things like your communication style, know what kinds of people you work well with, and help understand what your potential weaknesses might be. For example, if you find that you're more of an introvert, perhaps public speaking is one of the things you should work on.
To find out what kind of results I had, read more.
I am pretty organized but also, I am a little old-fashion and still use post it notes. So needless to say my to do list is ever growing on each side of my laptop. I am computer savvy but have never really kicked the habit of paper lists. I have finally decided it was time to move my list from a stack of post-its to stickies in my computer. Any tips on staying organized or programs/websites you use to stay on top of your work load?
Recently a friend and U were discussing creating a career "board of directors." We are each others first members. Here is my list for the 8 week challenge:
1. Find a new volunteer opportunity
2. Create a career action plan through 2011
3. Identify a few organizations to increase my involvement and serve on a non-profit board
4. Join 1-2 "professional" groups
Wish me luck!
My first Toastmasters experience was unreal — think hedonism, Patrick Dempsey, and bacon-hating. But first, let's go back to the beginning. Yesterday, I started the eight-week professional development kick challenge, and I told you readers that my first step was to go to a Toastmasters meeting. I admit I was nervous when I walked in, because I wasn't sure what to expect. You hear about it all the time — Toastmasters, Toastmasters — but you can't fathom what that means until you've experienced it.
I think what surprised me the most about the club, a nonprofit aimed at helping professionals develop public speaking and leadership skills, was how structured it was. There were officers, timers, and schedules to be followed. Everyone had to stand up when they spoke, and the people who were assigned speeches stood behind a lectern to speak. There was someone assigned to time each speech, someone to watch for verbal distractions such as "ah" and "um" and someone to scribble down a detailed evaluation of the presentation. It all seemed pretty intense, so when it was my turn to say something, I was really nervous.
To find out what happened, read after the jump.