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.

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  • 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.

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

9 tips for successful informational interviews

Have you ever been on an informational interview?

If you haven’t heard of them before, an informational interview is a meeting with someone who’s already in an organization, field or industry that you’d like to get into, which doesn’t relate directly to a job opening. It’s an opportunity for you to learn, grow your network and get your foot in the door.

Informational interviews can help improve your career prospects. They’re especially helpful when you graduate or if you’re starting out in a new field. In fact, the effectiveness of informational interviews has been described as “engineered nepotism”. Essentially, if you don’t have an existing strong personal connection, an informational interview can have the potential to result in one.

Informational interviews have benefited my career. My first job at a PR agency was the eventual result of an informational interview with a VP there. We were put in touch through connections in our networks, so I didn’t know her personally before the meeting. That said, I diligently prepared for the meeting and it was a success.

That’s why, when a role became available at my level at the agency a month after the informational interview, the person I met with contacted me. She thought I could be a good fit based on what she learned about me in the informational interview. As I had already dipped my toe by meeting with her and learning about the agency, I was immediately engaged. So, we met again to discuss the role and I was interviewed by other senior members of the organization. As a result, the role was a great fit for me, and I was a great fit for the team.

This experience has made me believe in the power of informational interviews. Since, I’ve continued to participate in them, both as interviewer and interviewee. Based on what I’ve learned, I have some tips for acing informational interviews as your start off in your career:

Tip 1: Prepare as you would for a job interview – Would you ever go to a job interview without Googling the company and person you’re meeting with? Informational interviews should be treated the same way. In addition to reviewing the company’s website, check out the social channels of and recent news articles about the company, its leaders, its brands and the person you’re meeting with. Review your contact’s LinkedIn profile and consider connecting with them before or after the meeting. Show you’re really on-the-ball by weaving-in what you learned in your research during your conversation, or even print out and bring an article or two.

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Tip 2: Determine an objective – Understand what you hope to get out of your informational interview. Keep your objective(s) top-of-mind, and even mention them to the interviewee either before or early in the interview. For example, if you’re emailing the contact in advance, you could say, “I look forward to meeting with you to learn about your career path and the trends and opportunities you see in the industry,” if that’s what your objectives are. This will help the interview subject prepare, and as a result, you’ll get more from the meeting.

Tip 3: Prepare a list of questions – Make a list of questions to address anything you’re curious about – the person’s career path, something you learned when researching their organization, industry trends, their organization’s culture or their organization’s open positions (if they’re not posted online). Write the questions down in your notebook (see point 5, below) or print the list. Refer to them during the interview to demonstrate your preparedness and engagement.

Tip 4: Get ready to share a bit about yourself – Ideally, the interview should focus on the person you’re meeting with. However, it would be helpful for the interviewee to know a bit about you so that they have context when sharing information or advice. Rehearse a summary, also called an “elevator pitch”, about yourself in advance. Make sure it’s short, concise and clear. Learn how to craft an elevator pitch here.

Tip 5: Make notes – Bring a notebook and pen and jot down important things that your interview subject says. Write down questions that arise when they’re speaking and ask them later to avoid interrupting them. Even if you’re a digital record-keeper, writing down notes demonstrates to the speaker that you’re fully engaged. Making notes on a smartphone, tablet or laptop can have the opposite effect. (Still not convinced to write in a notebook? Richard Branson has a compelling pitch for using them!)

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Tip 6: Dress to impress – First impressions count. But, before you put on a tailored suit for an informational interview, keep in mind that in recent years, attire for job interviews and other professional meetings has changed, just as how people dress in the workplace has evolved. A suit is great, but not always necessary (hello, suit separates!). As part of your research, learn about the culture and dress code of the organization and industry of the interview subject to ensure your attire is appropriate. However, even if the organization’s dress code is very causal on a day-to-day basis, you should dress more formally to convey your seriousness and professionalism. Learn more about dressing for a job interview here.

Tip 7: Find an appropriate venue and time – Allow the interview subject to share their preferences for when and where they’d like to meet. Encourage a venue that’s close to their workplace to minimize their time away from work. Your interview subject might suggest a meeting room at their office. Or, coffee shops or casual cafés are usually good bets, but make sure you can get a table at the meeting time; you might even want to arrive early to secure seats. Don’t order drinks or food in advance, and offer to pay if you’re the one who called the meeting (although if you’re a student or if it’s early in your career, the interview subject may politely decline your offer!).

Tip 8: Be mindful of time – Arrive early and ensure the meeting ends on time. This shows that you respect the interview subject’s time, that you’re able to manage time effectively, and that you understand they have other priorities in their schedule.

Tip 9: Send a thank-you note – Express your appreciation after the interview in an email or, better yet, a card sent in the mail. I mean, who sends cards these days? It’s a unique way to stand out. Also, if someone introduced you, take the time to send them a short email to share that the interview occurred and to thank them for the connection.

I’ll finish up with a disclaimer. The result of my informational interview scenario, described above, was ideal for me at that time because I was starting out in my career and looking for a job at the same time a position became available. However, not every informational interview will result in a job offer. And, sometimes, that’s not your objective!

You might not be able to anticipate how participating in an informational interview now can benefit you down the road. Outcomes can include being approached regarding a job opportunity, increasing your technical knowledge, absorbing perspective based on the interview subject’s experience and gaining connections to the interviewee’s network.

What other tips do you have for making the most of an informational interview? Share in the comments below!

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Should I start my career with an internship?

Last week, Bank of Canada head honcho Stephen Poloz recommended that unemployed young Canadians should take on unpaid internships to gain experience in their professional fields. The fact that top government officials accept that unpaid work is the only way to get ahead indicates that internships have become commonplace in today’s economy. Further, the competition to actually get an internship – paid or unpaid – is fierce.

Therefore, it doesn’t seem like internships will be going away anytime soon. From the job hunter’s perspective, an internship, paid or unpaid, is a means to an end. The ultimate goal of an internship is to put you in a more competitive position as you launch your career.

I had two internships in the early days of my career, both of which were paid or associated with an educational program. Although I was not paid great sums by any means, I had the benefit of living at home and also was a part-time server to help balance the books.

I’m of two minds when it comes to internships. First, I know from experience that taking on an intern role is one of the best ways to get a start in your career. Internships can provide key benefits. For me, they were:

  • I cut my teeth in a nine-to-five office environment and began to cultivate my professional identity
  • With broad exposure to different communications activities, I learned in leaps and bounds about marketing, public relations and advertising, and also determined what I liked to do
  • I made connections with smart and successful people, many of whom I still have relationships with today
  • I learned how to work with senior leadership and executives, including VPs and presidents

At the same time, it can be difficult to take on full-time work with no or little pay. Some ways to make an internship realistic include the following:

  • Plan ahead – To help save money before taking on an internship, I first took on full-time work outside of my career field so that I could squirrel away some savings.
  • Academic internships – An internship associated with an academic program can help you apply what’s learned in university or college. Your school may also help you find the internship, giving you a competitive edge in the job hunt.
  • Working part-time – Consider a combination of paid and unpaid roles while completing an internship. For example, being a server in the evenings or on weekends helped to supplement my income.

Do you have any other tips for making an internship role realistic? Share in the comments.

Image credit: Pixabay.com.

Workday walks are a productivity game-changer. Here’s why.

Short walks during the workday are mentally refreshing and help me focus on my work. I try to pencil one into my calendar whenever I can, so much so that my healthy habit is known among my colleagues. I often can get a colleague or two to join me on a walk, which is good for relationship-building and stress relief.

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Today I came across an article reporting on research on exercise and its impact on well-being. A key finding is that the first 20 minutes of exercise can have a great impact on both happiness and productivity. These are both key ingredients to a successful day at work.

“The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk — all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.”

– New York Times best-selling author Gretchen Reynolds, The First 20 Minutes

The article depicted the immediate impact of getting away from one’s desk for an activity break. The below scans of brain activity (represented by an increase in colours) were reported before and after a 20-minute walk:

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So, although it’s now November and we’re facing chillier temperatures, this information is definitely motivation for me to stay active in the winter.

Do you take walks while you’re working? If not, has this research encouraged you to start?

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Fastcompany.com.

 

Gallery

What to wear when driving a Vespa to work

vespaAs the summer is about to come to an end, I’m reflecting on how much I enjoy driving my Vespa to work on a daily basis in the warmer months. I really love it, not only because it’s really fun, but also because it can turn a 25-minute walk into a five-minute drive.

In the past few years of driving my Vespa to the office, I’ve also learned a few tricks to adapt my warm-weather work wear to keep me safe and warm, helping to make driving a scooter realistic. They involve Superman-inspired quick changes that are really easy to incorporate into my routine.

Below are some outfit additions I often make to drive my Vespa to work.

A Leather Jacket

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Driving a Vespa is one of the only reasons I’ll wear a leather jacket in the summer. Although it can be hot and humid during the day (although not this past summer!), the morning and evening temperatures can be quite chilly as I drive to-and-from the office. Combine that with the breeze one always feel while driving, and the warmth of a leather jacket is greatly appreciated.

Sturdy Flats
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Like many Toronto commuters, I like to wear flats or flip flops for the trek to work, and then change into one of the many pairs of heels I keep under my desk for the workday. I like these Michael Kors flats for my scooting commute because they have a sturdy rubber heel, which is perfect for gripping the ground when stopping. Depending on the style and colour, flats can also go from the street to the boardroom in a pinch.

A Backpack

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As a professional who tries to keep it sophisticated when I’m going to work, a backpack isn’t something I wear everyday, but it can be handy when it’s needed! My Vespa has storage space under the seat that conveniently fits my purse. If I have to bring a laptop, heels, books or lunch to work, it’s great to have a backpack available too. The above Mountain Equipment CO-OP backpack is a great example because it’s light and can be folded quite compactly, so if I’m not carrying anything in it on the way home it can be tucked into the under-the-seat storage space.

Leggings

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In the summer, I often wear dresses and skirts to the office. A quick way to make these outfit choices work while driving a Vespa is to have a pair of simple leggings handy. Wearing them under a dress allows me to move freely as I’m driving because I’m not worried about making sure my dress stays down, which can be really distracting and therefore dangerous. Leggings are also compact enough to be tossed in my purse after changing when I get to the office.

In conclusion, driving a Vespa to work is totally possible for professionals!

By incorporating these minor outfit additions into my work wear, I’ve made driving a Vespa to work realistic. I avoid major outfit changes, making the commute process simple, short and sweet.

As a side note, these outfit hacks would work well for driving a motorcycle or riding a bicycle as well!

What other clothing suggestions do you have for riding a Vespa to work? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Laine Jaremey; Mackage.com; MichaelKors.com; MEC.ca; Lululemon.com.

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

What’s behavioural finance and how can it help me save more?

A while ago, I watched this TEDTalks video by economist Shlomo Benartzi called Saving for tomorrow, tomorrow. Although it’s a few years old, and is based on U.S. data, many points resonated with me and still do.

Benartzi discusses how the general population’s lack of saving is a result of behavioural challenges related to self-control, loss-aversion and immediate gratification, and presents a solution to help increase savings. These concepts fall within his area of his expertise, which is called behavioural finance. In fact, a Bloomberg article discusses the growing influence of behavioural finance in many different, and even unsuspected, industries, and how it’s changing the way organizations reach their target markets.

I thought it was particularly interesting when Benartzi discusses a study of people who contributed to their retirement savings following the “save more, tomorrow” strategy, at 12:00 in the video.

Why does this matter? Keeping in mind my post on career transitions, I hope that many of you are progressing in your careers in a positive trajectory. As you move up in your roles – and your compensation moves up accordingly – I think it’s a great idea to keep this “save more, tomorrow” strategy in mind. Remember to “pay yourself first” by contributing to your savings incrementally. It will pay off!

What did you think of the tips in the video? Share in the comments.

Image credit: Pixabay.com.

Tips for working from home

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Working remotely or from home can be a big perk of a job.  In an earlier post, I shared some benefits of working from home from Minute MBA. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work from home in my professional role, which has been awesome in terms of work-life balance.

Whether you’re in a role that lets you work from home occasionally like me, or if you’re telecommuting from the home base 100 per cent of the time, there are a lot of ways to make sure you’re being as efficient as possible getting work done while you’re away from the office.

I’ve definitely developed my skills and abilities in terms of working from home. In university, I struggled to get homework or assignments done at home. I often lost focus and was continually tempted to step away from my work by endless distractions, including cleaning, walking the dog or watching daytime TV, and it was challenging to stay on track.

Over the years, I’ve become much more focused and efficient when working from home, and have found that the following tips have really helped:

  1. Plan your workday – Having the self-discipline map to your day, including laying out tasks and deadlines, along with meetings and calls, can really help you can stay on track. A daily and weekly to-do list helps to put immediate and medium-term deadlines in perspective. There is no better feeling than crossing something off your to-do list!
  2. Now, plan your non-workday – Working at home provides all the comforts of, well, home. If need to take the dog for a short walk at noon, or pick up your dry cleaning by 4:00, pencil it into your schedule. Use your judgment, but as long as you don’t have an important call, deadline or deliverable, you can try to work your day around these “wants” or “needs”. Remember to block-off time in your calendar so others know you’re unavailable, and advise team members you won’t be at your computer at a certain time.
  3. Improve communication with your team – I’ve learned that being clear and concise in emails is even more important when you can’t just pop over to someone’s desk to ask a quick question face-to-face. Make sure action items, responsibility owners and deadlines are spelled out clearly – bullets and lots of white space help! Picking up the phone and having a brief chat (gasp!) is another way to get to the bottom of a question or to discuss next steps.
  4. Pick your environment based on your work – Different settings can inspire me to be more creative, efficient or analytical. For example, quiet places are better for working on budgets or complex problems. When brainstorming creative ideas, a coffee shop or a restaurant may help yield more exciting results. If you’re writing a report, a serene setting like the couch or a chair on a dock at a lake (pictured above) could be appropriate. Being conscious of the impact of my surroundings on my productivity has allowed me to love working out of the office.

Do you ever work remotely? What tips do you have for staying focused and productive?

Image credit: Laine Jaremey.