JULY 2010

         VOLUME TWO, ISSUE 7

3 Human Elements  "He needs to be free like the wind, he needs to be wild like the man that he is through the dog days of summer..." (lyrics from "Cowboys Work" by Brandon Rhyder)
We're certainly in the dog days of summer. That phrase reminds me of when I was about three and my granny would sit in front of a big floor fan and complain about "dog days". I didn't know what she was talking about - we didn't have a dog. Now, of course, I know she was referring to the hottest days of summer, between early July and early September, when the weather is its most sultry. I got to wondering...where did that phrase come from?
In ancient times, when the night's natural darkness was unobscured by artificial lights and smog, people could see the stars clearly. They "drew" images in the sky by connecting a series of stars and then gave them names - Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (bears), Gemini (twins), Taurus (bull) and Canus Major and Canus Minor (dogs). The brightest star in Canus Major (the big dog) is Sirius, which also happens to be the brightest star in the night. In fact, it's so bright that the Romans believed that it helped heat the earth. Sounds crazy, but the fact that Sirius rises and sets with the sun in summer didn't make that too big a stretch. Hence, the "dog days of summer." 
Of course, our modern use of the phrase has nothing to do with ancient Rome. Now when we talk about the "dog days of summer" we're referring to anything that's slow, lazy or languishing.
Well, I'm all for doing a little languishing in this heat. I'm going to kick back and do some light reading. Why don't you do the same? 

Jennie Ayers
Senior Partner, Challenge It Now  
In This Issue
Looking for Work...In All the Wrong Places
How to Write a Darn Good Email
What Happens When You Stop Multi-tasking?
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Just for Fun! 
Wake up your brain with the color test, courtesy of Humor Sphere.
It takes - on average - 5 times to get 100%. How will you do?
"Looking for Work...In All the Wrong Places" by Jennie Ayers
(442 words - estimated reading time: less than 2 minutes)

A friend is looking for work. She's not alone. The current rate of unemployment nationwide is 9.7%. She's in California, where it's somewhat higher - 12.3%. She's been searching for months. It's tough to keep up the momentum when there's no return but she keeps at it, day after day. When I talked to her last week, she'd just spent another day online, searching one job site after another. As it turns out, she's probably wasting her time.


In today's hi-tech world, it may seem only natural that the best way to find work is through the internet. But that's just not the case. Columnist Kate Boemeke Uptergrove of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently spoke with Teresa Balestreri, director of Career Services at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who strongly advises that job seekers keep their job searches in line with the hiring practices used by business.


What Does That Mean?


According to Balestreri, 75% of company hires come from referrals. Only 10% of company hires come from ads in newspapers and posted on the internet. A measly 5% of company hires come from unsolicited sources. So if you're looking for a job, you should be spending the majority of your time (75%) developing meaningful relationships that can lead to referrals - in other words, networking. Uptergrove's POV is this:


"It's okay if you don't know the person today who will help you find work tomorrow. The goal of relationship building (networking) is to use your already established connections to meet new people you relate to and who share your have to grow every network relationship to the point that Person A thinks about you and talks about you when he is networking with Person B. Then, when Person B mentions that her company is looking to fill a given job, Person A can tell her about you."


It turns out that the old saying "It's all about who you know" is especially true in this current job market. The internet is still an asset. But instead of searching general job sites, use it to research specific industries, companies or opportunities.



Relationships matter.

people networking
Let me guess. You added up the numbers above and came up with 90% and are wondering where job seekers should spend the remaining 10% of their time, right? Well, according to the expert, they should spend it reaching out to recruiting firms.


In Conclusion


If you're looking for a job, maybe it's time to reassess where you're putting your efforts...and all of us need a reminder that even in a high tech world, it still comes down to "who you know".

"How to Write a Darn Good Email" 
 (compiled from various sites on the net so you don't have to)
(659 words - estimated reading time: less than 3 minutes)

One good reason to get better at email is power networking. Most of us should be spending more of our time connecting. Whether we're looking for work or building a community of practice, the more people we know the more knowledge we can access. My preference is always face to face contact, but with time and geographical constraints, that's seldom possible. A huge majority of us communicate by e-mail everyday and some of that time, we'll be contacting people we've never met.


Here are some tips that will help get your e-mails read.  collaboration cubes 

The Subject Line

Think about it. When you get an e-mail, don't you scan the subject line to see whether or not you're even going to open it? The subject line is uber important. Make sure it accurately describes the content of your e-mail. If you've got a quick question, don't write "quick question" in the subject - just write the question. If you've been referred to someone you don't know by a mutual friend, say so in the subject: Referral from mutual friend Robin Wrigley. If you can, write a subject line that gets the recipient thinking - subject: 15 Confirmed for Friday's meeting - will we need a bigger room?              


The Message

  • Keep it clear. Keep it concise. Refrain from multiple messages.
  • Use standard capitalization and spelling. (Don't ask your recipient to LOL.)
  • Skip lines between paragraphs.
  • Avoid hard-to-decipher typefaces.
  • How you say something is more important than what you say. It's tough to discern tone in written material so choose your words carefully. If there's any doubt that something you've written could be misinterpreted, rewrite. And please, no emoticons. Save those for family and friends.
  • If you're following up on a face-to-face contact, drop a casual hint to jog the other party's memory: "I enjoyed our discussion about the new computer program in the elevator the other day."


Avoid Sending Attachments....unless absolutely necessary. Copy and paste the most relevant info you want to send and put it right into the body of your e-mail. For longer documents, you can still avoid attachments by using a service like slideshare or where people can "pick up" the attachments.


ID Yourself

This is vital, especially if you're writing to someone outside your company or someone who doesn't know you. Have a clear signature line which gives your name, company (if you have one) and contact info. Include a usable link to your LinkedIn Profile (or bio) and website for your company. And if you want to be perceived as professional, get something other than a hotmail address.


Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

Enough said. And remember, spell check doesn't capture things like the "to" that should be a "so".


Privacy Isn't Guaranteed

Don't send anything via e-mail that you wouldn't want the world to see, with your name attached. In some companies, the e-mail administrator has the ability to read any and all e-mail messages - and you never know who is going to forward your email.


Be Respectful

Use BCC instead of CC when sending sensitive info to large groups. The name of everyone on the CC is visible but the names of people on the BCC list are hidden. You can put your own name in the "To" box if your mail editor hates the blank space.


Show Restraint

Be tolerant of e-mail blunders by others. If you think you've been insulted, quote the line back to your sender and add a neutral comment, "I'm not sure how to interpret this...could you elaborate?"


Before You Hit "Send"

Take a minute. Review your e-mail. If it's addressing an especially touchy topic, walk away a minute (or wait until the following morning), grab a cup of coffee and come back to review. If it meets your standards, hit "send" and off it goes.


Isn't technology grand?



"Multitasking Redux: What Happens If You Simply Stop? by Jennie Ayers
(493 words - estimated reading time: less than 3 minutes)


Several of you who responded to last month's "brief bite" on multitasking are admitted multitasking "addicts" who can't imagine what it would be like not to be doing a dozen things at once. To be candid, I couldn't either...until I read about the week during which Peter Bergman gave up multitasking.(Peter Bergman writes for the Harvard Business Review blog.) Here's what he discovered:


  • Engagements were deeper. No e-mail, no phone, he was "present", in the moment, with the people around him. (He admitted he couldn't always trust himself to turn off his phone when taking a meeting, so he'd leave it locked in the trunk of his car.)
  • Challenging projects moved forward significantly. He persistently focused on work that required strategizing and/or writing; losing distractions led to a number of breakthroughs.
  • Stress dropped dramatically. Research shows that multitasking isn't just inefficient - it's stressful. Bergman found it a relief to do only one thing at a time and felt reassured to finish one thing before moving on to the next.
  • Patience evaporated for things that weren't a good use of time. Bergman became laser focused on getting things done and discovered an intolerance for wasted time. (He also suggests using this loss of patience to your advantage by creating unrealistically short deadlines and cutting all meetings in half. When you give yourself a third of the time you think you need to accomplish something, it sets a tight deadline and keeps you focused and moves things forward.)
  • Patience increased for things Bergman felt were useful and enjoyable. And since nothing else was competing for his attention, he could give himself over freely to what he was enjoying.

Break free from the tyranny of multitasking.
collaboration cubes
What's the Downside?


Bergman found no downside. No projects were left unfinished and no one got frustrated that he didn't return a call or answer an e-mail the minute he got it. if there's no downside - as Bergman contends - why aren't we all jumping off the multitasking train?


It's Habit


I think it's habit...we're just used to doing more than one thing at a time. But habits can be broken. Today, I'm breaking my multitasking habit. I'm taking my "to do" list and I'm going to tackle one thing at a time and see how it goes. I'll let you know.


(It's 9:30 p.m. I started the day with 17 things on my "to do" list. I made a conscious effort to focus on one thing at a time. At the end of the day, I'd completed 6 things on the list and took 2 more to the next level. I feel more accomplished than I have in a long while. And I was pretty brutal about no multitasking...except for playing a quick game of fetch with one of the poodles while I was on the phone. I think I can be forgiven - I mean, who could resist Farrin's little face?)



3 Human Elements
Challenge It Now focuses its energies on a common goal - through consultation, coaching and facilitation, we help professionals in business organizations create and sustain a workplace climate where the positive experience of work is optimized, engagement is enriched and performance potential is maximized.
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