CareerSherpas: Climbing the Mountain

When you’re on the way, it helps to share the load

Archive for November, 2008

Create Visual Reminders

Monday, November 24th, 2008

A recent article in Scientific American prompted me to think about memories and what makes them most accessible. The article goes into great detail about the way we as humans store and retrieve information, and the fact that we can access visually reinforced information far more easily and accurately than we can if we’re simply asked an out-of-context question.

This got me thinking about how this might be applied to making positive experiences more satisfying and long-lived, and how we might be able to recall lessons from mistakes easier as well. Since a big part of how we want to live includes inproving our experiences, I wanted to find out if there was a way to use this means of enhancing the mental search engine to that end.

So for the past week, with the assistance of my ubiquitous camera phone, quick sketches and powerpoint diagrams, I’ve been capturing moments of success and educational opportunities as they arose. As I started down this path, I noticed a change in the way I recalled the last day with my wife, the way I looked back over the week when writing a status report and the way I anticipated upcoming activities.

I’m not sure when the change occurred, but suddenly I had extra vivid details of discussions walking skyways, my daughters laughing on theme park rides and my saint bernard running with dogs half her size. Added to my task lists managed over at Remember the Milk, I’m finding myself almost automatically solving situations which might have stymied me a year ago.

The extra nudge of being able to check on an image from an event or attached to a reminder suddenly seems worth the strange looks received from co-workers when I whip out my cell phone to snap a pic.

What gains could you make from a visual reminder? Do you use them already? Let us know in the comments.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, conducting high-level business analysis, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Keeping the Plates Spinning

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

One of the difficulties I’ve had in recent years is being able to manage all the things coming in, going out and circulating around my life. I always seem to have more projects than I can possibly handle at one time, but at the same time I’ve gotten enough done on all of them to move them forward. Now sometimes that’s been in dribs and drabs, sometimes in intermediate sprints and spurts and sometimes in seemingly unending marathons.

The conclusion I came to a while ago was to look at how each project was paced and make sure that the ebbs and flows of each tie in with my energy available in that area. Once I realized this, it was a small step to expand into finding ways to remind myself of all the next steps on all of my outstanding goals. I spent some time figuring out a productivity model that works for me, and nowadays my efforts are all blending into a nice activity level. I’ll be the first to admit it’s a hodge-podge of more than a couple of approaches.

Now, this might seem like a bit of a diversion in some ways when looking at managing your career but the reality is that managing your time is a foundation for planning. If you don’t know what you’re spending your time doing, or you do know but don’t feel like you have any control over it, you can’t plan for the future.

 At all. On any time scale.

Does that seem ridiculous? Think about it. If I don’t have a picture of what’s hanging out there to be done, then I can’t figure out the best time to do it or possibly even what I need to be able to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Being able to plan your career, your life, even your week, relies on you being able to manage your time. It’s almost as important as having a picture of what you want, and it lets you get a clearer picture of the paths to your goals.

Naturally, I’ve got a couple of recommendations on places to start looking at your productivity and managing your time. The two sites that I consistently find the best information on personal productivity are www.lifehacker.com and www.lifehack.org. Both offer great information and great links out to other articles across the blogosphere and the larger web.

So go on, get productive!

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, conducting high-level business analysis, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Bridging the gap between here and there

Monday, November 10th, 2008

For all of us, there is a constant struggle of how to allocate our time and energies, and nowhere is this more true than in traversing our career paths. Each opportunity, challenge and effort offers a new learning experience and a chance to prove ourselves. The question we need to have in the backs of our minds when provided with a fork in the road is which direction makes the most sense for the goals we’ve set.

Sometimes it’s not a question of can we make a decision now, but rather have we got the right basis for making a decision. To try to figure out if this is the case for you, try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Are your goals too far out to make a real plan?
  • Are your goals too short term to make decisions?
  • Does either choice prevent the other alternatives from being possible?

Clearing the fog to see a bright day ahead can be difficult, but if you can frame your decision in terms of what your ideal future looks like, you can make wise decisions and move forward without second-guessing your choice.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, conducting high-level business analysis, connecting individuals with ideas and opportunities, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.

Protecting Your Job in a Recession

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

 A recent Harvard Business Review article (via BNET) lends credit to the well worn concepts of how to make your position secure in an organization. While it’s hard to argue with their recommendations, many are thoughts that appear time and time again and which definitely hold true in any economy.

It’s important to remember that layoffs happen even in good economies, and many of the practices of making yourself appealing as an employee are important whether or not the storms are brewing or the waves crashing over your company. As Salary.com’s Ruth Morss lays out in her article “Guide to Surviving a Layoff”, there are many opportunities to shore up your position, whether the options make sense for you or not, investing the time to try to avoid the layoff list is well worth your time if you want to stay in your current job.Take Fortune’s “Ask Annie” as Anne Fisher lays out again in “8 ways to recession-proof your job”, your visibility, contributions, cost saving ideas, your network and maintaining a positive attitude (or as she puts it “no whining allowed”)all play a part in making your position more stable.

For a more visually cheery approach, you might want to try Forbes’ article “How to Recession-Proof Your Job” which shares much the same ideas, but with an “in pictures” twist for fun.

Whoever makes the most compelling case, or offers the ideas that fit your situation best, look realistically at where you are, what turn your company’s fortunes are taking and how you can best weather the storm. It may be that your position is already much more secure than you think, and if not, maybe it’s worth showing that you’re engaged, delivering and ready for the challenges ahead.

Got your own suggestions for protecting your job? Share them in the comments.

Peter Fitzgerald is the founder of CareerSherpas.com and is currently working on his first book, managing a team of project managers, and attempting to learn the bagpipes.