Set goals, not resolutions

Happy new year!

A new year brings a fresh start. It’s a great time to commit to making positive changes, both personally and professionally. Many of us set new year’s resolutions, despite the harrowing statistic that 80 per cent of them fail by February.

Want to avoid becoming a statistic and make lasting changes this year? Try setting SMART goals rather than simply making resolutions.

What’s a SMART goal, you ask? SMART goals are:

Specific – Call out the who, what, when, where and why. What exactly do you need, or want, to do?

Measurable – Numbers are everything! Without metrics, you won’t be able to know if I’ve achieved a goal, or how far you need to go to get there.

Attainable – The end result needs to be attainable based on your skills and experience.

Realistic – Be honest about what you can achieve. Consider your workload and available time to tackle the steps you need to take.

Time-bound – Map out the milestones between now and a deadline for achieving the goal.

Find out more about setting SMART goals here.

Goals, career, job, resumeAt the start of 2018, I set a goal to gain recognition of my project management expertise and skills. I applied the SMART model to this goal so that I knew when I achieved it. Success meant obtaining my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification by February, and applying my knowledge to manage a significant project at work from March to August.

This year, I have some new goals on my mind. They are to dedicate more time to Pencil Skirts & Punctuation (as a reader of this blog, I’m sure you’ll appreciate that one!), and to run a 10 km race in June. My next step will be to make these into SMART goals.

Have you set goals for 2019? Take a few moments now to jot down what you’d like to achieve. Follow the SMART model and make it more likely that you’ll get there.

As we move through the year, I’ll continue to check-in to see how I’m progressing toward my goals. Hopefully, I do well enough to share my progress here. Until then, I wish you a healthy, happy 2019!

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Freelancing: Friend or foe?

A recent Fast Company article on the current state of the freelance job market revealed, at least in the eyes of this media outlet, that “working for one’s self used to be the definition of the American dream – and, apparently, it still is.”

The article reports on the Freelancing in America 2018 study, which concluded that “Americans increasingly prefer to work where they want, when they want, and on the work of their choosing.” One in three American workers freelances, and 61 per cent of freelancers said they’ve chosen to work this way versus working in staff jobs more by necessity. Millennials are leading the pack. Forty-two percent of of 18-to-34-year-olds now freelance, up from 38 per cent in 2014.

The report on the study results makes it seem like freelancers are eating their cake and having it too. It reports that full-time freelancers are 21 percentage points more likely to say their work also allows them to live the lifestyle they want (84 per cent of freelancers say this versus 63 per cent of non-freelancers).

Freelance, resume, job, career

This paints a rosy picture of freelancing as one’s primary form of employment, which appears to be coveted by younger workers. But what the researchers don’t seem to ask is what about the labour market has made freelancing float to the top? And, has it become more common by choice or necessity?

According to Forbes, the driving forces behind the freelance job economy are becoming more prevalent. These include education not meeting the skills that employers need, using “gig” workers to reduce employment costs (freelancers are often paid low wages and don’t receive health benefits), and bringing freelancers in to meet short-term project needs. The availability of communications technologies that support freelancers is making the growth in this job category possible.

Twitter responded by highlighting the complex issues at the heart of the study results, while also calling out Fast Company’s use of the word “deciding” in their headline. For example, @RevEricAtcheson explained some of the reasons that freelancing is a necessity, not a decision, for some. He said:

“Deciding to freelance” sure is a funny way of spelling “navigating a job market that has eliminated pensions, affordable health insurance, cost-of-living raises, and many other trappings of steady employment our parents and grandparents benefited from for decades.”

Freelance, career, resume, cover letter, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation

That said, freelancing has other pros and cons that should be considered. It can be a way for people to generate an income for their side hustles. Or, freelance work could allow a person to gain experience and references in a new industry as a stepping stone to a career shift, while still working full-time elsewhere to make a living. Saving time, energy and money on a daily commute by working as a remote freelancer might be a perk for some people, while others might miss being around colleagues on a daily basis.

So, although freelancing’s attributes are a good fit for some people, for others it’s likely done out of necessity if a full-time position, along with its security and relatively higher pay level, can’t be obtained.

What are your thoughts on the growth of the freelance job market? If you’re a freelancer, what advice would you give to others? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Twitter.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

3 things not to say in a job interview

Picture yourself at a job interview.

You might be seated across from a hiring manager in a boardroom, or sitting with your potential new boss in their office. You’re wearing your favourite interview-appropriate outfit. You’ve prepared for the interview based on tips from recruiters. You answer the interviewer’s questions and clearly, concisely and convincingly share information about yourself, your capabilities and your accomplishments. You convey why you’d be an awesome fit for both the role and the organization.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

But keep in mind that while you’re in this interview, there could be a few things that you want to know about the job, or that are motivating you to apply for it, which you should keep to yourself. Otherwise, you could risk tarnishing your image with the interviewer, or risk your likelihood of being hired.

Here are three things to never ask about or say in a job interview:

  1. Don’t say the job you’re interviewing for is a stepping stone to another job. Think about if you were dating someone and they told you they were waiting for someone better to come along – you’d feel pretty bad. That’s how a potential employer would take it too.
  2. Don’t complain about your past employer. It can indicate that you’re immature or unable to build professional relationships.
  3. Don’t ask about vacation time. You may seem like you’re already eager to step away from the role and your responsibilities. You’ll learn about (and maybe even be able to negotiate) vacation time if you receive a job offer.

Can you think of any other things to avoid saying in an interview? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Job recruiters share how to get hired

If you have a job interview coming up, you probably want to make the most of your face time with the company. Whether you’re working with a third-party recruiter or an in-house hiring manager, these nine tips from recruiters, compiled in a video by Buzzfeed, can help you prepare for your interview. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to watch the full video!Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine JaremeyTip 1: Don’t lie
In an interview, people might say that they’ve worked at a company when they haven’t, or that they have a degree when they don’t, thinking it will give them a competitive edge in the hiring process. If the recruiter, hiring manager or the company’s pre-employment screening department are thorough, it’s likely that the truth will be revealed. Depending on when that happens, you may not get a second interview, or a job offer can be rescinded. The worst part of that scenario? You’d never know if you would have been successful with the company had you just told the truth.

Tip 2: Nail your resume
What are recruiters’ top tips for a great resume? They include:

  • A resume shouldn’t be longer than two pages (or one page double-sided)
  • Highlight the things you’re most proud of first, then list your work experience
  • Avoid using unprofessional fonts like Comic Sans or symbols like Wingdings
  • Only include information that’s relevant to the position, without oversimplifying too much

Tip 3: Do your research
Find out about the company and the role that you’re applying for. Learn as much as you can by visiting the company’s website and social media channels, look them up on Glassdoor, or have an informational interview with a current or former employee. Know what about the company makes you want to work there. Bring print-outs of your findings (like a recent press release) to an interview to demonstrate that you did research and understand the company.

Tip 4: Don’t come in sick
If you have a communicable disease, like pink eye, a cold or the flu, be honest about it with the recruiter, hiring manager, or other person who arranged the interview. Be as flexible as you can about rescheduling it.

Tip 5: Dress appropriately
Do research on the company’s dress code as you prepare your outfit for your interview. Then, dress one “notch” above it. For example, one recruiter described his office as “business comfortable” and would want a candidate to demonstrate that they fit into the dress code. Depending on the industry you’re in, wearing a three-piece suit to an interview may not be appropriate. Find more tips about dressing for a job interview here.

Tip 6: Know your greatest weakness
This question can indicate how honest and self-aware you are. Recruiters or hiring managers can generally tell if you’re being genuine. When sharing an actual weakness that you want to work on, be sure to follow it up with how and why.

Tip 7: Know when to negotiate
Be transparent about your salary expectations from the beginning so that both you and the recruiter or hiring manager can find a salary level that all parties are happy with. However, be aware of the salary band for the role you’re applying for. It’s unlikely that a company can exceed the band’s upper and lower limits.

Tip 8: Ask questions
Have at least three questions to ask the recruiter or hiring manager at the end of the interview. Where do you start? The following questions are helpful because the responses can serve as a “cheat sheet” for what to do in the first three months on the job if you get it.

  • What can I do in the first three months to be successful?
  • What do the first 30 to 90 days look like in this job?
  • How can I immediately add value in this role?

Tip 9: Keep calm and carry on
Sometimes a person who isn’t hired may overstep when engaging with the recruiter or hiring manger after getting the bad news. Requesting a Linkedin connection is fine, but following and messaging them on other social media channels or showing up at their office won’t be well-received. If an opportunity doesn’t work out, stay calm and professional. The recruiter may end up having another job that’s a better fit down the road.

Do you agree with these job recruiters’ tips? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Buzzfeed.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, science communication, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Science communication 101

My professional role is Communications Specialist at CCRM, which is a Toronto-based leader in the commercialization of regenerative medicine technologies, and cell and gene therapies. Part of my role involves learning about the science and innovations that happen in the lab and translating them to the public. This practice is known as science communication.

The craft of science communication is becoming more common as researchers, engineers and others working in science increasingly want to make the public aware of their research and results through social media, media interviews (which lead to articles in print or online media, or segments on TV or radio news broadcasts), in videos, at exhibitions and in presentations. Although science communication falls within the larger domain of communication, there are specific nuances and approaches that science communicators must be aware of to be successful. Canadian universities even offer courses on science communication so that people can start to master the practice early on in their careers.

By examining the transferrable skills I’ve gained as a public relations (PR) strategist working in an agency setting in past roles, I understand how these skills can be applied to supporting folks in the science community as they delve into science communication. Although experts know the facts and figures behind their projects and results, a communications specialist like myself can successfully translate this information to public audiences who are interested in science, but may not share the same technical prowess.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, science communication, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

If you’re a communications professional who is providing counsel to a science communicator, I have a few tips for you to pass along. The advice noted below comes from posts that I’ve composed as a guest blogger on Signals Blog, which provides an insider’s perspective on the world of stem cells and regenerative medicine, and is managed and edited by CCRM.

Tip 1: Hone your message for media – Sharing messages with media has the potential to increase their reach and credibility. However, scientists must adapt their messages to ensure that media can easily understand and effectively incorporate them into an article or broadcast. How? Cut the jargon, get to the news early in the pitch, and tailor messages to resonate with the audience. Learn more about these techniques here.

Tip 2: Incorporate storytelling principles – Good communication is essentially storytelling. When crafting messages to report on scientific research or a new discovery, using the six elements of a great story can lead to more compelling messages. The six elements to add are a hook to pique the audience’s interest, characters to captivate the audience, the right setting, small details that convey implicit messages, inside information in layman’s terms (see cutting the jargon, above!), and surprise to drive engagement.

Tip 3: Pick the right channel – The communications channel you use can depend on what’s being communicated or who the target audience is. It might take a bit of creativity to think of how a non-expert would best absorb the material. For example, exhibitions, like the ones at the Ontario Science Centre, are good ways to engage children and youth. A Facebook Live broadcast, like this one that I helped produce at CCRM that shares an engineer’s work and career path, can engage social media-savvy adults.

What if you encounter someone who’s skeptical that science communication even matters? Let them know that in some cases, effectively sharing research results and their implications can be a life-or-death scenario. If you think I’m just being dramatic, watch the below video that explains some science communication fails from history, and their ramifications for the public’s health and well-being.

What other science communication tips do you have? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

Tips for turning a hobby into a side hustle

Results of a 2017 study revealed that 44 million Americans take on extra work to make extra cash, in addition to working full-time. This is generally known as having a “side hustle.” The study identified millennials as the largest group of side-hustlers.

What are some of the most common side hustles? U.S.-based research tells us that doing the following activities allow people to earn cash on the side.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

That said, what differentiates a side hustle from a part-time job?

While discussing his book Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days, author Chris Guillebeau clarifies what makes a side hustle unique: striving for financial independence.

“A side hustle is not a part-time job. A side hustle is not the gig economy. It is an asset that works for you. Picking up a few extra hours at the factory or at the coffeehouse is not a side hustle. Jumping on TaskRabbit or Uber when you feel like it isn’t a side hustle, either. The problem? Someone else can pull the plug. Gig economy businesses have literally folded overnight. If the intention of a side hustle is to create financial independence, then working within the gig economy is a walk in the exact opposite direction.” – Chris Guillebeau

Now that we’re on the same page about what a side hustle is, let’s tackle how to do it well. The secret is to figure out how to turn something that you love doing, like a hobby, into paid work that you can do on your own terms.

Why a hobby? According to Mark Zuckerberg, having a hobby outside of work is one of the best ways to cultivate your passion, leadership skills and technical abilities. Having a hobby is considered so important by Zuckerberg that Facebook’s hiring managers ask job candidates about their hobbies during interviews. What was Zuckerberg’s personal hobby? Last year, he figured out how to build an artificial intelligence (AI) system to control his home.

It’s easy to see how mastery of this task could result gaining a skill set that a person could monetize in a side hustle by offering a service that makes other people’s homes AI-friendly. (On a side note, you could also apply the knowledge gained from the experience to your full-time role for a potential career boost if it’s relevant to your job.)

But, before you get started with your own side hustle, check out my five tips below for transforming a hobby into extra cash:

Tip 1: Follow your passion – By turning a hobby that you were formerly doing for free into something that’s paid, there’s a better chance that you’ll love spending your non-9-to-5 time doing the work.

 Tip 2: Use skills you already have – Understand your existing strengths and think about what people would pay for. Can you repair smartphone screens? Do you have a passion for personal training? Are you able to consult as a communications advisor? Any of these services could provide value to customers.

Tip 3: Manage your time – One of the downsides of having a side hustle is the potential for burnout. If the income from your side hustle work supplements the income from a full-time job, don’t jeopardize that full-time role. Find a balance between the two positions. Understand how long each side job will take so that you can over-deliver to your side hustle customers, while ensuring that the time spent on your side hustle doesn’t compromise your performance at your full-time job.

Tip 4: Build your network – How you connect with others to promote your side hustle depends on what product or service you’re offering. If you fix and sell used bicycles, you can connect with local customers on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace. If you provide a consulting service, you can reach customers through social media channels and word-of-mouth. Get creative about how you reach your customers to get maximum exposure.

Tip 5: Set a goal – Think about why you’re spending your free time on your side hustle. Decide what you want to achieve early in the process. Whether it’s a saving a certain amount of money or completing a specific number of jobs, knowing you’re getting closer to your goal can provide perspective when you’re putting in extra hours every week. Learn about setting SMART goals here.

What other tips do you have for a successful side hustle? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Credit Loan, Pixabay.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

How can I earn PMP PDUs for free?

Professional development is critical part of everyone’s career, no matter what industry they’re in. Opportunities for professional development have been shown to benefit companies, and have been ranked as more important than pay for millennials.

For people with certain professional designations, the completion of professional development activities is not only helpful, but it’s also necessary to maintain the designation.

Since obtaining the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification in February (and proudly crossed off one of my professional goals for 2018, which I shared in a post from earlier this year), I’ve started to complete the mandatory project management professional development units (PDUs). Completing PDUs allows PMPs to stay relevant as the professional evolves and as needs of employers grow and change. PDUs are educational tools that can come from a variety of in-person, digital and on-demand sources.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine JaremeyThe Project Management Institute (PMI) stipulates that PMPs must complete 60 PDUs every three years to maintain the certification. One hour of training or education equals one PDU. Learn more about the PDU requirements for PMPs at PMI’s website.

One of the things that I noticed when I first started to investigate PDUs is that they can be expensive, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s important for PMPs to have high-quality and relevant training, and paying to attend an excellent in-person workshop or online course could provide a lot of value. On the other, completing some PDUs at no cost can reduce the overall financial burden of this requirement. It’s up to the PMP to decide which professional development opportunities are worth paying for, and which free opportunities still provide value.

If you’re a PMP, or considering becoming one, and find the costs associated with earning PDUs daunting, check out my suggestions for earning free PDUs below:

  • Listen to podcasts – Podcasts can be listened to at any time and in any place. I’d recommend the Project Management Podcast. It covers a wide variety of project management-related topics, the episodes range in length but are generally not too long, and the host provides a clear roadmap at the beginning of each episode that outlines its learning outcomes. Projectified is another relevant podcast that’s produced by PMI. A tip: Making notes while listening to a podcast provides proof of participation in case a PDU claim is audited.
  • Read – PMPs can earn PDUs for reading articles, blog posts and books. Picking reading subjects based on the areas for improvement indicated in the PMP exam results, or focusing on a specific area of the PMI Talent Triangle, can allow PMPs to advance where they need to most. This activity is great because one PDU is earned for each hour spent reading, so a lot of PDUs can be banked by the time a book is finished. Where can free reading materials be found? Local libraries are good sources for books. For example, check out some options based on the search results for “strategic project management” at the Toronto Public Library. Or, many blog posts, articles and white papers can be accessed for free. Again, making notes while reading can provide proof to PMI in a PDU audit that the claim is valid.

Woman reading in chair

  • Watch webinars – PMPs can log-in to Projectmanagement.com using their PMI credentials for access to live and on-demand webinars. The webinars can be searched based on the PMI Talent Triangle area, webinar length and other keywords. I’m a big fan of the on-demand webinars because I can access them outside of business hours when it’s most convenient for me, since many live webinars run during the work day.
  • Participate in online symposia – Projectmanagement.com offers full-day virtual symposia throughout the year, which allow PMPs to hear from experts in the field while earning PDUs. For example, I participated in the annual PMXPO in March 2018 (check out the agenda here). This full day of live webinars allowed me to earn 6.5 PDUs, and I had on-demand access to the presentations after the event in case any sessions were missed so that I could earn all of the PDUs being offered. The upcoming PMI Talent and Technology Symposium that takes place on June 13 gives PMPs the opportunity to earn 6 PDUs.
  • Work in the field – Many PMPs are already working as project managers for some portion of their day jobs, so they can get credit for something they’re already doing! PMPs can document and submit descriptions of up to eight hours of project management-related work for up to eight PDUs.
  • Give back – This category of PDUs captures the time spent teaching or mentoring others on project management. It also includes creating or delivering project management-related content, like webinars, presentations, or even blog posts (like this one!), to help further the education of others in the field.

What other free PDUs do you recommend for PMPs? Share your suggestions in the comments.

Photo credits: PMI.org; Pixabay.com.