Saturday, July 31, 2010

live to work or work to live: polarised extremes

Do you live to work or work to live? The real question behind this question should not be about choosing one over the other. But if you didn’t think about the question long enough, if you only considered what this question has morphed over time to mean, you would probably miss the point.

Often nowadays if people are asked this question the underlying assumption is that the questioner is looking for the answerer to agree that work isn’t as big a part of their lives as time indicates. That really, even though they spend forty plus hours each week in an office working for someone else, their real life, what they value, lies outside of the work environment.

I believe the value of this question lies beneath what it is actually asking. Essentially, two polarised extremes are presented as the options for anyone being asked this question. Do you choose the first option, that boxes your work and lets you find meaning elsewhere, or do you pursue work as your way of life, looking for meaning and value there? But what about the third option that isn’t even mentioned, the option that rejects the premise of the question altogether?

What about replacing the ‘living’ and the ‘working’ closer together, making the common feature whatever it is that gives you meaning and value in your day-to-day? In other words, reject the assumption that meaning can only be found in either work or life. If you know what it is that gives a reason to get out of bed in the morning, why not put a part of that into every aspect of your life, and therefore give every aspect of your life even more meaning? If it’s something that you previously only got out of hours, look at finding a way to bring it to your ‘life’ as well and see where it leads. If you show people that you’ve made your values your life, then there is far more chance that people will take you seriously about that thing. Why do work and life have to be at opposite ends of the scale, completely removed from each other? Why not bring them closer together, widening the pool of inspiration and influence?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

live to work or work to live: taking stock

image via weheartit

Live to work or work to live. What does that phrase even mean? It started out as a way of implying that there is more to life than just what happens from 9-5 weekdays. When the ideas of ‘quality of life’ and ‘work/life balance’ were still new and fresh and exciting, this phrase was so overused it’s kind of lost its original meaning. It no longer has the same impact it did when it was first coined.

A great indicator of what is being valued in your life at any one time is looking at how much time is being spent on that activity. Sure, most full time jobs require you to spend 40 hours a week on whatever it is you’re employed to do. But how much time on top of that are you spending on work? While the time spent is usually valuable in terms of getting things done, it’s also a clear indicator of two things:

1. How much you value your work
2. How much you value your discretionary time

Think of time as a commodity, something that has value similar to cash. (insert lame pun like joke about 'time is money') What I’m getting at, is that those two points essentially have equal value until you choose to prioritise one over the other. That’s the value part.

The point? Time spent often indicates where your values lie.

Once identified where your values are in terms of time spent, do they match what you thought your values were?

Pew published some research suggesting that Gen Y are driven by values in different ways than previous generations. It makes for some interesting reading. Can openness to change be considered a value?

I'd love to hear what you think, leave me a comment.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Live to work or work to live: the gap year post

image via clevercupcakes

I met someone a couple of weeks ago who made a decision to not do any career-related work for the whole of 2009, straight after graduating. To all the graduates who stress and sweat it out until they’ve secured their first position, this could seem totally insane. Don’t mis-read this, they were still getting paid for doing work, but it wasn’t doing stuff that related to their degree or what they anticipated being their ‘real career’. It struck me as a kind of gap-year, post-university. This person recognised the value that work held in their life, and that at the point directly after graduating, for them, it wasn’t as valuable as pursuing other things.

There are a bunch of programs that cater to those students who want to take a year off between high school and further study. It’s actually a booming market, and some have suggested that there is more purpose to the gap year than just doing a Europe or south-east Asia trip with mates. Valuable stuff happens when people purposefully make space to reflect on their own position in the world and learn from what others are doing.

But what about post-graduation? Whether it be to take another trip overseas before starting life as a grown-up, or to get some valuable volunteering experience, or even to donate their recently minted skills to a worthy cause, taking a post-uni gap year seems to be a growing trend.

Basically, taking a gap year after graduating, to stock-take what is valuable to you, could be a really good idea. My friend? They’ve started doing some paid work as a result of volunteering last year. In an area entirely unrelated to what they studied. The reward of the year off for them has been realising what they are (and aren’t) passionate about. Turns out, their degree didn’t relate to their passion, but it didn’t matter, because the gap year provided opportunities of its own. Opportunities that weren’t already formulated from a cookie-cutter program, but from deliberate, personal examination. Taking a year off was a risk, but it paid off.

Food for thought.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What I'm reading: 'A whole new mind' by Dan Pink

I finished reading this book about three weeks ago. I said I'd do a review, so here goes...

The idea Pink proposes is that there is a requirement on employees to move beyond transaction-based, reactionary work in a knowledge economy and start thinking conceptually, taking advantage of opportunities to exercise creativity in all workplace contexts. The proposal is great, however this book doesn't reach much above the standard tone and formulaic approach that most business self-help books use. Perhaps that's because Pink is trying to target those people still thinking in linear, fomulaic ways about work? If so, he does a great job of getting to them in a way that they're already used to, but I'm not so sure how successful it is at bringing those types to a place where they're comfortable dropping those tools and picking up conceptual, creative thinking instead.

I'm sounding negative, but this book was good overall as a conversation starter with people at work, and people thinking in the same space as me. Just be sure to think for yourself about how the concepts Pink proposes apply to your situation.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fun stuff to do in Perth

london court - horrendously touristy, just accept it for what it is.

go walking down bon marche arcade to pigeonhole - worth the hunt.

escape the CBD to tigertiger and secret garden, where you can order vegan food off the menu!

knit-bombing on Mill Point Rd, South Perth? brilliant!

breakfast at greenhouse perth. gotta love a place that has a rooftop bar and live music amongst their veggie patch. (you should also watch/read how this place came to be here)

sunset on Cottesloe beach. highlight of the trip.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Diversity and equity

image via weheartit

I’ve been reading about including provisions for diverse needs all over the place. Yesterday on fbi radio there was a segment on an event called Sencity. It’s was born out of a project in Holland that tried to make the impossible possible in music. The result is a club night that tours the world designed to stimulate all the senses and bring the deaf and hearing community together. There’s food, music, vibrating dancefloors, aromas and and visual displays all coordinated so that everyone present can experience the same thing.

Last week at NCVER 2010 No Frills, a key note address was given by Trevor Gale on student equity in vocational education. He suggested that although vocational education is one of the most accessible forms of training, it lags behind tertiary education in terms of delivering student equity. One quote (that I have to paraphrase because I don’t have access to his presentation) was that in adopting an attitude to treat all students the same, educators automatically validate and help to perpetuate the cycle of disadvantage that people with diverse needs experience. Interesting stuff.

Then, I read about a way for bloggers to better accommodate visually impaired readers. Apparently alternative text for links and images goes a long way to help visually impaired readers to get through a blog post easily. I’ve tried to include the suggestions in this post and hope to do so in the future.

But what about private education? Purely from personal observation, I don’t know that there are a lot of efforts made by private enterprises to include alternatives for people with diverse needs. With Trevor Gale’s quote in mind, is the onus to identify and accommodate these differences on the individual or the company?

Instructors can’t anticipate all the needs of course participants, and if they’re not made aware of them early enough, maybe aspects of a course won’t be as effective. How are learning and development professionals in private enterprise expected to use different learning strategies for different participants if they’re not informed of the difference beforehand? And while we’re at it, how can they expect to be informed beforehand if the company isn’t collecting the information (because there are no data standards for private training companies)?

It all seems a little too big to handle, but definitely something that is worth the little attention it gets.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Inspiration (online edition)

image via the daily what

I think I read a lot online. Loads of inspriational stuff can be found online. These are some of the things that have been inspiring me so far in July.

1. Seth Godin talking about approaching development for an employee – this guy is pretty switched on.

2. Wise words for grads, tweeted by everyone else – Monster is a jobsearch site. The blog is usually pretty good career advice, if you’re into reading that type of thing.

3. New space for faith and theology discourse – who knows whether this will succeed as a place for open, constructive and challenging discussion, but I hope it does. Also, my friend is going to be writing an article.

4. Cascadeer – I’ve only heard this one track, but it’s awesome.

5. Block colours and structured garments – I don’t know how some people pull it off, but they do. Lucky ducks.

6. Gilliano being inspired by others – not only does this girl astonish me with her personal insights, she does it with puns!

7. Ancient languages futuristically translated – I have a hobby-level interest in linguistics. Go ahead and say it, I already know I’m a nerd.

8. Helping my grandma get a handle new technology – helping anyone become less intimidated by technology is great. Just because grandma’s didn’t grow up with video chat doesn’t mean they wouldn’t love it!

9. Pepperstitches – I’ve been following this entrepreneur for over a year and am inspired by the way she’s brave enough to quit her boring ninetofive and start up her craft-oriented business. Plus, she makes great stuff.

10. Hanny – regular people making history in science!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Perspective and scale in skills target agendas

One of the keynote speakers at the NCVER conference was Dilip Chenoy, CEO of India’s National Skill Development Corporation. The mandate given to this semi-public, semi-private organisation is to strategically drive and oversee the skills development of the nation. The prime target? 150 million Indians up-skilled and given a formal qualification by 2022. That breaks down to graduating 45,000 people every single day from now until then.

The presentation had an emphasis on leveraging the organisations and networks that currently exist. Another point Dilip made was that he wants to see the services currently being delivered by charities and NGOs be replaced by organisations with a for-profit business approach in order to at least have a shot at reaching the target.

The Australian education and skills targets have been set and are obviously nowhere near the same scale as the Indian ones. It’s made me realise that the resourcing issues we have here are nothing near the problems experienced in other countries. But after this keynote address I’ve been left thinking where is the point that quality suffers in order to reach a target?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

NCVER research presentation review

Perth bell tower - apprently a 'must-see' over here

Yesterday I gave the presentation I've been stressing about for four months. A progress report on my honours research, covering an appreciative inquiry into the e-learning experiences of young professionals. It was part of the NCVER No Frills 2010 Conference, the largest one held yet apprently. I worried a little (but not too much) about the whole exercise being a complete failure. I've never presented at a research conference, or any conference actually. The last 'big-deal' presentation I did was probably in school, over 6 years ago.

Around 20 people showed up to the session, which I guess is ok considering the abstracts for the presentations weren't distributed until about 2 hours beforehand.

More than one experienced researcher has told me that as sign of a good, engaging, topical, presentation is lots of questions at the end. I definitely had more than a couple of people who wanted to know more about the specifics of my research - the moderator had to cut them off in the end, but I did exchange a few business cards and follow-up with some attendees after the session. It was also a really reassuring experience to be able to confidently answer questions about the details of what I've done and explain where the limitations of my research are as well.

I know I’m getting better at presenting because I wasn’t sweating like it was 40 degrees outside and I could control the pace of my voice to suit the questions and sections of the presentation. The only ‘tell’ that I was nervous at all was that once I leaned on whatever it was at the front of the room, I became instantly and permanently attached to it, and didn’t move for the rest of the session. I think the lack of movement could have detracted from the presentation.

Nevermind, the use of prezi worked well, I had more than one person come up to me during the conference to talk about it – including people who weren’t in the session! There were also some great conversations and connections made with other researchers on similar topics, who knows what that will turn up…

p.s. fun things to do in Perth and a review of the conference to come...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Online+Social Networking issues (part two)

This is the second half of an extended post on professional networking online. The first post is here.

Option 2 – ‘publish’ your network and tell the world who you know

Which brings me to another option: making your network viewable online. This involves a little bit of bravery on the individual user's part, because all the relationships that have been built up over a career suddenly become exposed to a bunch of people that didn't previously have access to this snapshot particular snapshot of your work history. Sure, there are ways to manage who can see your network; choices to make between letting just those in your network see the list, or the wider network tool members or anyone online at all. The bonus with this option is that once those connections are made viewable by others, eventually someone will look at your network list and see some familiar faces and think 'hey! what a great person who knows all these people I know, I wonder if we can have a conversation'. Or at least that's the hope.

Option 3 – connect with people you would otherwise not meet

The third option isn't actually an option, it's more a decision and attitude that needs to be adopted. At some point the use of using an online tool to manage an offline professional network will reach its end. This is where the decision needs to be made about whether to try extending your network through connections made online. All sorts of social cues apply in this situation, so it needs to be well thought out.

This is super-maximised when people combine their social network with their professional network, by linking their Facebook and LinkedIn pages, for example (Penelope Trunk, creator of Brazen Careerist promotes this and does it really well). This requires even more bravery, but with that risk comes the potential for an even bigger pay-off. It brings multiple sections of your life into one melting-pot, making your world a little bit smaller, but also potentially larger at the same time.
Other ideas

The only other thing I would say is that by choosing to add to your network through online connections, make sure those connections are genuine. Executing a massive 'add to your network' drive similar to the myspace friending of ages past, is not a genuine action, and will get ignored as a result. That's where the harsh truth of socialising online is so clear in comparison to socialising in person: because a computer has been placed between the two people interacting, the need to pussy-foot around a blatantly rude act is removed. People are a lot less worried about ignoring you online than they are in person, especially if you’re not valuing them in the first place.

Once you’re on board with the genuine connection thing, make those genuine connections ones that build on the purpose of networking. It’s very easy to use connections online to post ‘great idea!’ and click the like or thumbs up button just to let people know you’re there and you like what they’re doing. It’s harder, but potentially more rewarding for both of you to actually question or build upon the connection with more ideas, proposals and suggestions. After all, the point of networking is to extend your field of connections in the hope of bringing in more work and building a name for yourself. It’s hard to do this with just a list of 1000 people you don’t really know and have never exchanged ideas with. Put yourself out there and you’ll probably (hopefully) find others are not only doing the same, but they appreciate that you are too.

Friday, July 2, 2010

NCVER 'No Frills' 2010 Conference

Next week I’ll be in Perth to present at a professional conference. My first one ever. I’m a little nervous. I was selected to present as part of a scholarship from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER). I never really expected to get the scholarship, but mostly just applied for the experience of going through the process. One of the obligations for awardees is to present at the NCVER ‘No Frills’ annual conference.

My topic is an appreciative inquiry into the e-learning experiences of young professionals. I’ve been interested in the applications of e-learning across different contexts for a few years. Combining that with my interest in the generational differences and needs of Gen-Y as compared to generations already at work seemed like a good thing at the time. I’ll be speaking on my research motivations, methodology and first impressions of results.

I have no idea what this is going to be like as I’ve never even attended an academic conference, only work ones which I imagine have a different flavour. All I know is that I have to come up with something to say for 40 minutes on my honours research topic.

Other people on the program seem to be mostly academics in teaching/researching positions at universities across Australia and New Zealand. Plus a couple of government representatives and international speakers.

NCVER is on twitter, so keep an eye out for updates from them over the next week if you’re interested in how the conference is going. I haven’t heard of any hash-tags for the conference yet.

Hopefully I'll have something exciting and positive to post when I get back.


I’ve just started using a new presentation application to replace powerpoint. It’s called Prezi and you can get it for free here. Someone at uni recommended it to me and when it came to the progress report day where all the education honours students presented the progress on their projects, those who used Prezi to supplement their talks made a real impact. I loved creating a non-linear, more visual and dynamic presentation. I was able to mind-map my thought process through the creation, and got to use everything I put down, without having to rework it too much. You can check out my work here.

This is because the premise that Prezi works on is that presentations should be engaging, dynamic and able to change each time they’re delivered in front of a new audience. Users can create navigation paths, but can easily ignore them if an interesting discussion is started during the session. Basically, I love it. And it’s free and encourages open source content which is fantastic!

Head over to the site to check out what other people are producing using Prezi. The potential to include it in learning is also there, it just requires a little creative thinking (that you could probably map on a Prezi anyway)!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Social+Online Networking issues

Online networking is one of those things that can be a bit hit-and-miss. I'm someone who doesn't like to make too much of my world mix together, but the idea of increasing my network both socially and professionally, and at the same time increasing my efficiency and ability to access a pool of resources is so tempting. So is online networking the lazy person's way of maintaining a professional network, or is it another tool that productive go-getters use to maximise opportunities and make their network work for them?
The traditional view of professional networking brings to mind a whole bunch of images of people in suits at some swish location, taking advantage of free alcohol and trying to off-load as many business cards as possible. Some would say that if you moved that idea to an online setting, the result would be a not as fun, but more comfortable way of doing the same thing, and without the booze. Kind of like the old myspace friend add with a lashing of semi-serious online comments. Also, the social interaction that comes with a bunch of people physically meeting at the same time as opposed to asynchronous interaction is undeniably a loss for online networking.

A great thing about online networks is that users can become centred around content – something that the traditional version of networking hasn’t always been great at achieving. Individuals can publish their ideas on online networking sites via discussion boards or on their own profiles and this data is then connected with people who react to it by replying or posting similar stuff themselves. Learning and development types call this becoming part of a community of practice, but whatever title you put on it, it’s simply bringing likeminded people together around common ideas, issues or products.
So how do you deal with extending professional networking to an online format? There are several attitudes that can be taken to this, depending on individual need and willingness to interact and build an online presence.

Option 1 – keep your network yours.

The first, least interactive option, is to use an online tool to manage the details of your current professional network privately. This is kind of like keeping your contacts list in the cloud. The positive of this is that your network stays exactly that way, yours. No need to share what you've worked hard at building, right? The con of this approach is that you may in fact be missing join-the-dot opportunities that making your network online public might present. For instance, two people in your network may both know another colleague who specialises in your field and is currently doing something really cool that you want to know about (freelancing, touring a book, getting published on their research, whatever), but you don't even realise that you want to know about this stuff, because you don't realise that two people in your network actually know that third, awesome person. Again with the community of practice.