Sunday, August 3, 2014

Volunteering: A Highlight, Not a Chore

The biggest volunteer gig I've ever done starts its second year tomorrow and I'm thrilled! I needed the summer (mostly) off to recover from last year, but now I'm rarin' to go.

Why is volunteering so energizing?

  • Commitment to your passion--Or supporting someone you love's is incredibly fulfilling. My volunteering is in support of my daughter's extracurricular activities at school and I'd like to think I make it easier both for her and for the other volunteers to have fun and succeed. There are many cogs in our wheel and they are all important to the kids having a fantastic time. And if one of them is missing, it doesn't work as smoothly.
  • Time together--I'm grateful every day I volunteer that my teenage daughter lets me be there to share her experiences with her (as long as I don't hover!). We have found a comfortable level of being together so that I am easy to reach if she needs me and I get to see what she's doing and how it's going, without getting on her nerves. I would hate to be missing these moments before she leaves for college all too soon.
  • Using your skillset--One thing I learned as a Volunteer Coordinator was: always assign people a job they like and are good at. There are extremely varied levels of skill needed on a big project (our program supports over 200 students as they perform, travel and compete). Choosing a niche that suits your specific area of expertise will be more valuable to your organization and increase your competence and confidence at the same time. I work in the Box Office and also provide content for our program's Website and Social Media accounts, right up my alley! We would all be frustrated if I got put in set building. There are always jobs available at every skill level or things to learn.
  • Make connections--Yes, it's all about the population you are serving, absolutely. But there is nothing like being thrown into a group of likeminded people under a deadline for making friends and fast. You will meet lots of different personalities--some you like better than others--but working together for a common goal builds a diverse bunch into a team. If you're lucky, some of those folks will become lifelong companions.
I will be "out of the office" tomorrow, hanging out with my teenager and her friends, cleaning and reorganizing the box office in preparation for a busy season, editing our lists of students to be ready for measuring day and enjoying the anticipation of another exciting year of showchoir. I'd love to hear about your volunteering adventures!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Social Media Is Fraught with Perils

Whether you are an individual or a brand, social media puts many challenges in our path. If you are having a bad day, your personal voice can easily lean toward the negative. A company brand voice can do the same.

Do the links that attract your attention today tend to talk about potential mistakes or potential successes? Are you posting articles about bad news stories or good ones? If you are drawn to the negative, it might be a good idea to take a break, take a walk, get a fresh perspective.

There is a fine line, however, between real enthusiasm and sounding over-emphatic. Sometimes it's hard to tell where that line falls. Here are some of my tips for walking the line:

  1. Universal truth--If that meme would make anyone with a heartbeat give you a high-five, you're good to go.
  2. Check the source--A great quote can still come from a controversial person. If you think your audience might object to the name at the bottom of the meme, you might want to find another one with a similar sentiment.
  3. Timeliness--If something negative is actually taking place locally (like a fire) or it is a trending topic and you don't mention it, you might sound out of touch. It is never out of place to wish a current event would work out as well as possible or express condolences.
  4. Watch out for cleverness--You are a writer and a clever turn of phrase is probably your bread-and-butter, but how many times have we seen communications pros get caught in a clever--but tasteless--tweet? Too many. Use a scheduler like HootSuite to give you time to look at that 140 characters before it gets published. Or better yet, run it past a trusted colleague if you think it is worthy, but may cross a line. 
  5. Know your audience--What are they interested in? What do you have in common? What do they like that may not be your cup of tea? Your client's audience is not you necessarily. Put yourself in your target's shoes.
Sometimes personal social media communication can get difficult. We are all out there, shouting into the void and hoping likeminded folks are listening. Things can be misunderstood, misconstrued, miscommunicated. Body language is no help. Keep your pinkie off the Caps Lock key and take a breath. Your friend might be having a bad day, too.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

July Ponderings on September Projects

Do you have a hobby? I hope so! Having a hobby can make a big difference to your creativity for work, even if it is completely unrelated to what you do for a living.

Here is a blog post I wrote a while back for Artisan Creative:

You Need a Hobby
Remember when I gave you some advice about how to ask for a raise? Well, I took my own advice and it worked!

And so, because of the way my life is structured, soon I will have a little more time to spend on my hobbies. You say, why aren’t you spending all that extra time on work? Guess what—I am!
Creatives, like you and me, need to spend some time on creative activities just for themselves to replenish their energy and keep them on the cutting edge.
A hobby is wonderful way of jumpstarting your creativity for your work, as well as offering personal rewards. But once you have carved out some time to “play,” it can be hard to decide what exactly you should do. Here is where a hobby comes in.
Whatever you do for fun outside of work is a hobby; be it collecting, visual or performing arts, craft activities, athletics or cooking, they all require creativity for success. Some of the skills you use in your hobby can enhance your skills in your work, too, like small motor control or doing research.
The other important element a hobby brings to work, though, is the energy we gain from taking a break and doing something that we are passionate about. We’ve talked on the Artisan Blog before about how to be at your most productive all day and taking breaks is essential to that productivity. What we do with those breaks, though, determines how valuable they are. If I take a break from writing a blog to read on my computer, well, that’s not much of a break, is it? Doesn’t rev me back up to finish the post. But twenty minutes of one of my hobbies will help me think of the conclusion, wake me up if I’m in a slump and get my afternoon’s work done more efficiently every time.
A Twitter Follower was having trouble getting down to work the other day and asked the Twitterverse, “What can I do to be more productive today?” My answer: “Counterintuitive, but take a break with a definite end.” If I had more characters, I would have added “and do something you love for a little while.”
What is your hobby? We would love to hear about and how your avocation it helps you do better in your vocation! And if you don’t have one, go get one! Hey, I’ll teach anyone to knit!
Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative
I just came back inside from a trip to my yarn stash in the garage with a clearer idea of the materials I have to choose from for a new sweater to be done by September 19th, when my daughter once again goes to Choir Camp for the weekend. I did this same thing last summer, hoping I would go along and need a wooly sweater in the mountain air. Last year I didn't go, though, and there's no knowing whether I will get to this time, but just in case, I would like another new fall handknit to keep me (or the kid) warm and toasty. Of course, right now it's 100 degrees out and the idea of actually putting on a wooly sweater is anathema, but September is fast approaching and stripes are calling out to me. What shall I choose?

I'll let you know as soon as I decide! Have a great rest of the weekend!

Welcome to the Eternal Balancing Act


This blog will address the balancing act I and everyone I know are eternally trying (and sometimes failing) to manage between work and looking for work, creativity, relationships, the environment, and the chaos that inevitably trips us up on occasion.

Whether you are interested in job search and career advice, knitting and other fiber arts (and how to fit them into your crazy busy lifestyle), philosophy, creating a healthier home environment or vegetarian recipe reviews, this is the place for you.

That sounds like a lot of different topics, doesn't it? But those are the things I am thinking about every day so let's get started!

And thanks for visiting!