Steps in Running Effective Meetings at work

how to run effective meetings

Effective meetings. We all want those don’t we?

If you’re like most employees, your schedule is at least 10 percent meetings.

There’s the meeting with your investors, where you’ll likely be grilled about your performance. There’s the weekly department sit down where updates on new projects happen. And don’t forget the lunch date with potential clients, where you’re to put your best game face on.

In fact, it may be argued that every business process starts with a meeting.

But depending on how they’re run, meetings can be great productivity tools or colossal time-wasters. Done correctly, a simple 30-minute chat can produce brilliant ideas. At worst, a well-intentioned conference can sidetrack to a disgruntled employee’s rant, idle chitchat, or a comprehensive discussion about something interesting yet low priority.

So how to ensure that meetings accomplish what they’re meant to accomplish? Consider the following:


Decide what you want to accomplish ahead of time.


Effective meetings must have concrete goals; that is, there’s something specific you want in your hands before you declare “adjourned.”

Your goals decide the agenda, the people to invite, the materials to be brought, the time allocation, and sometimes even the place where the meeting should take place. It informs how a facilitator should control discussions, and what participants should include and exclude in their input.

Do you simply want to gather feedback? Then set up sufficient time for everyone to have their say. Or do you want a final decision at the end of the day? If this is the case, discern ahead of time how the decision is to be made. Is it by majority vote? Then you need comprehensive presentation of scenarios. Is it an “If-then” call after careful study of financial statements (e.g. if profit margins is less than X, then we have to delay this project)? Then the decision rule must be agreed upon beforehand, otherwise you’ll end up wasting time debating formula.

Rule of thumb: if an activity is not relevant to the meeting’s objectives, then it should be parked for another day.


Do what you can to prepare everyone beforehand.


It’s not unusual for meetings to drag because of the need to level everyone on the information needed before further processes can push through. This is especially so if attendees come from different divisions, disciplines, and even companies. But while it’s recommended for meetings to start with everyone on the same boat, it’s also helpful to do away with some of the information dissemination process before the meeting starts.

A simple strategy that many meeting organizers procrastinate on: emailing participants relevant reports ahead of time, highlighting the bits and pieces pertinent to the agenda, and opening opportunity for questions a few days before the sit down. While this may seem like a time-consuming process, it’s actually time-saving in the long term. Imagine a “Where is that provision again?” after which others would have to wait while relevant provision is pointed out and the unprepared reviews it for the first time? If everyone is leveled off on information they need even before walking through the door, things will proceed a lot more efficiently.

It’s the same with sending out survey forms beforehand. If you know that a decision can’t be made without a reliable gauge of how others would feel or think about it, then do the information gathering as early as possible. If you wait to go to the supermarket before making a list of what everyone needs, there’s a good chance you’ll forget to buy something. Similarly, attempting to make an informed decision with incomplete information kinds of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?


Put limits on your politeness.


Okay, I don’t mean that you have to start being rude!

Effective meetings are controlled; and seasoned facilitators can control a meeting without participants noticing the steering. But even if done smoothly, control means assertiveness. You may have to cut someone’s talk short, or even declare a suggestion as off-topic. You may have to say “a final decision has been made” even though there are others still protesting. And you may have to take the unpopular job of party pooper (I know of so many meetings cum beer-drinking sessions) to ensure the meeting remains productive. If you can’t assert yourself for fear of offending others or rocking the boat, then you should be prepared for the discussion to go on the wayside.

Less I be misinterpreted, assertiveness is polite. “That’s very interesting Richard, and am sure we can all benefit from looking at your suggestion closer, but I think it’s best to finish our earlier discussion before we open a new one. Is everyone else okay with this?” Another approach is to appeal to your group’s sense of time. “Am sure you all have urgent tasks you had to set aside to attend today’s consultation. So let’s make the most of this meeting. We only have one hour, so it’s best to stay focused.”


Lastly, come up with “Action Items.”


A meeting that went well is still useless unless it translates to actual results. So don’t adjourn until you have concrete “where do we go from here?” statements.

Should there be a follow-up meeting to monitor the status of the project? Who is assigned to do what, and when should they complete their assignments?  How will the group know that everything is proceeding according to plan? What’s the control plan to ensure that no one falls behind? Get all these questions answered before you say adieu, get commitment statements, and ensure the meeting secretary has all promises in the meeting minutes everyone has to sign/delivery-on later. Amnesia is not uncommon after meetings, but there are ways to ensure that what happens within closed doors doesn’t remain behind closed doors.

I hope these tips help you conduct more effective meetings and save you a whole lot of time/effort!

Getting Jobs In Singapore through your LinkedIn Profile: Science or Chance?

linkedin profile tips and tricks

Some skeptics argue that folks who have a LinkedIn profile and get employed through the social media site are more the exception than the rule. All the hype about LinkedIn’s supposed power to connect headhunters to potential recruits is dismissed as nothing but self-serving press release. And it’s understandable if you’re a non-believer. After all, so many companies and job-hunters remain traditionalist; surely not everyone will migrate to an online platform.

But below are some of the reasons why investing in a well-written LinkedIn profile is worth it.

‘Cause contrary to popular belief, LinkedIn is changing the way Human Resources and employment agencies approach their craft. In fact, some pundits argue that LinkedIn will soon make employment agencies obsolete — or at least force them to adapt. If this is the case then you want to get on the bandwagon before it leaves without you!

Read the following and judge for yourself.

LinkedIn is actively marketing to companies with staffing needs

Here’s why you can expect LinkedIn to be friendly to job hunters: the site is actively courting companies and headhunters with the promise of specialized searching capacity, exclusive access to prime candidates, systematic recruitment databases, and candidate relationship management. And the more companies they entice with their wares, the more the site will be used for sourcing purposes.

Consider the LinkedIn feature Talent Pipeline. For a small fee, recruiters can tap into well-filtered lists of applicants and invite potentials for interviews through InMail. You can expect this feature to sell well as it saves companies precious time and money. You can also expect that once many companies avail of this service, you’ll have more job-hunters creating competitive LinkedIn profiles, which in turn will make LinkedIn a robust place for linking talent with organizations.

The companies themselves have spoken

You need not look far for evidence that LinkedIn’s job matching potential is fact and not fiction. Why? Companies themselves have declared their reliance on Linkedin for hiring employees.

According to BlueRiseMedia, half of the Fortune 100 companies hire through Linkedin. Pfizer, for example, has revealed that 4 out of 10 of its employees were recruited through LinkedIn.

There’s also a study conducted this year by the Society for Human Resource Management which found that almost 80% of recruiters use social media in hiring. Of this web-savvy number, majority prefer to use Linkedin than Facebook or Twitter. Makes sense given that of the three social media sites, LinkedIn is the one aimed at creating professional persona.

LinkedIn makes scoping passive candidates safer and more convenient.

One attraction of LinkedIn for recruiters is its ability to get companies connected with passive candidates — that is, people who are not actively job-hunting. If you’re aware of how top employees sometimes get “pirated” or “poached” by the competition, then you have a good idea what scoping passive candidates is all about. Cause for many headhunters, the best hires can be those with proven track records, people you can entice to leave their present place of work through fatter benefit packages or more impressive positions. With LinkedIn recruiters can subtly and even anonymously search for potentials — an important consideration, as communication with passive candidates needs to be done as discreetly as possible.

But more so, LinkedIn offers companies targeted job advertising — vacancies are posted only for the viewing of those whose qualifications closely match the companies’ needs. This puts the job opening within the radar of people who wouldn’t otherwise have known that a company is hiring.  A definite attraction as sorting the traditional file cabinet of resumes is not only outdated but time-consuming.

LinkedIn is more credible.

Simple logic will point to you why LinkedIn is a recruiter’s tool of choice. Anyone can embellish or lie in a resume but with a LinkedIn profile, the chances of a candidate faking his or her credentials is minimized. This is because endorsements and recommendations can be traced to real people, some of whom may even be well-respected names in the industry. Also, the fact that these online CVs are broadcasted to all members of one’s professional network means that a profile owner would think twice before putting something he or she can’t back up.

Lastly, LinkedIn members are growing in number.

A solid principle in economics: business goes where the market is. And you don’t have a bigger manpower market than in LinkedIn.

According to Mashable, as of 2013, there are 200 million LinkedIn users all over the world. TechCrunch reports that 2 new people create LinkedIn accounts every second. More so, as many as 40% of LinkedIn members are active, updating their LinkedIn profile regularly. This means more accurate and up-to-date online CVs, which in turn means a stronger roster of would be employees.

So if you’re a recruiter, wouldn’t using LinkedIn be a reasonable choice? You can’t say getting hired through the site is by chance when so much of the site’s appeal is self-explanatory. If you’re still in doubt, just look at how well Linkedin stock prices are selling. The site is not perfect, true, but its immense potential is unquestionable. Therefore if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, do give it a try!

Improve Employee Engagement By Prioritising Mental Well-Being

singapore employee engagement - staff wellbeing

If you’re a manager or an HR practitioner, for sure you’re constantly cooking up ideas for employee engagement and motivation. You create reward schemes that would entice the ambitious; you run workshops on time management and effectiveness. And if you’re the type who believes in the power of camaraderie and rapport, you invest in the occasional night out in a bar.

But there’s one factor significantly linked to employee engagement that many in the corporate world ignore: well-being. In particular, psychological well-being.

Creating a mentally healthy workforce seems like such a wishy-washy thing to do, something that’s more of a luxury than an actual investment towards the bottom line. At the very least, it’s an intrusion of the workplace into what’s traditionally considered as an employee’s private business.

What few realize is that it’s actually a sound business decision to prioritize staff mental well-being. Psychologically thriving workers are the individuals who deliver the goods. Furthermore, mental illness is a silent crisis that incurs real costs for business.


The Cost of Poor Psychological Well-Being


Mental health conditions are prevalent in the working age population. It’s estimated that 1 in every 5 employees will experience mental illness at one point in their life. These conditions include mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, anxieties and phobias, panic attacks, and drug abuse. Those with pre-existing disposition to a mental health condition will experience severe symptoms at least twice a year.

singapore employee engagement - staff wellbeingMany countries have decided to take a closer look at how mental illness translates to actual numbers. The UK, for example, estimates that employers lose nearly £26 billion each year because of poor mental health. A 2008 Time Magazine article revealed that lost income from mental illness equate to $193 billion a year in the United States. Such losses are regretful considering that more than 80% of people with mental health conditions can live productive lives given the right support, and providing mental health accommodation is one of the most affordable wellness programs companies can implement.

The reason for poor focus on well-being in the workplace is because costs are indirect. But mental health concerns are believed to account for as much as 40% of employee sickness leaves, which when in total accounts for millions of working days lost in a year. Studies show that employees with one or more mental health conditions, even just mild depression, miss work at a rate 5 times greater than employees without conditions. Ironically, many leaves and absences due to mental health concerns are caused or exacerbated by psychologically unhealthy work conditions including poor office lay-outs, lack of stress breaks, and inability of managers to make reasonable adjustment for persons with mental health needs.

The biggest cost of poor mental health for businesses is from “presenteeism.” Presenteeism refers to attending work while sick or experiencing personal problems, resulting in below par performance. Indecisiveness, poor concentration, memory problems, fatigue, poor self-esteem, and even apathy all affect productivity and results in missed deadlines and lost opportunities.

Companies also need to consider the costs incurred from every staff turnover that’s well-being related, from the cost of hiring a new employee to training him or her on the job.


But the rewards are great!


On the flipside, creating psychologically healthy workplaces earns companies greater income. This is because mental health is a broad concept; it’s not just the absence of mental illness.

The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” It’s the end goal of every motivational and employee engagement workshop on the planet, and the larger picture why companies train people on stress management techniques.

In short, a workplace that puts the premium on psychological well-being aims to bring out the best in their staff members. The result: more motivated, more productive, and 100% present employees who care about the company’s bottom line.


And it wouldn’t even cost you much!


A program on psychological well-being sounds excessive for a company with limited funds, but for the creative, it doesn’t actually take much to mount a solid mental health program.

Mental health, for example, can be integrated in health programs already existing in the company. Mental health screening can be accomplished alongside physical health screening, and access to at least psychological first aid can be provided through outsourced providers. If getting a mental health professional on board is not feasible, the establishment of peer counsellors and peer groups can make the program self-sustaining and cost-effective.

Managers can also be trained to be more aware of signs of mental health problems in their staff members, so that they can provide reasonable accommodation when necessary. As mentioned, conditions like depression are not always debilitating given the right support. Reasonable accommodation doesn’t mean that you’ll be watering down the deliverables of your staff; you’re simply going to adjust ways of doing things to help those who need help function better. For a brilliant and hard-working employee, an accommodation as simple as allowing flexible break times is more than worth it.

It all boils down to a company’s ability to remove the stigma associated with the words mental health. This is tough to do. However, a company culture that discusses well-being openly, and strives towards greater well-being in their everyday endeavours, can mitigate hidden costs of poor employee mental health — and even jack up employee engagement and the organization’s performance to higher levels.

LinkedIn Profile Tips: Getting Traffic to Your Profile

linkedin-profile-traffic

So you’ve written an impressive LinkedIn profile. You won’t tell your best friend, but you spent all of two months tweaking it. (The OCD can be forgiven; you want to put your best foot forward after all!) The only thing left to do now is to get potential employers to view it. After all, what good is a powerful LinkedIn page when no one’s visiting?

Below are some tips on how you can get relevant traffic to your LinkedIn page. The more effort you put into getting those views, the greater are your chances of getting hired.


LinkedIn Profile Tips For Traffic #1 : Insert keywords in your profile.


If you’ve ever tried searching for your name on Google (oh come on, you know you’ve done it), you know your LinkedIn profile comes right at the top of search results. This is because search engines are configured to prioritize websites with established reputations, which LinkedIn definitely is. And you can use this fact to your advantage.

Take time to sit down and think of keywords an HR practitioner, recruiter or a hiring manager would look for. These keywords can be job titles, specific competencies, or certifications. If you have no idea regarding what keywords to use, interview friends in the business. A simple cheat is to look at job descriptions/advertisements of positions you’re attracted to.

Find a way to insert these relevant keywords in your LinkedIn profile, preferably in sections you’ve set as open to the public. You can, for example, add these words to your profile summary. Some do insert keywords in their name (e.g. Six Sigma Black Belt Rudi Cron), but doing so is a matter of preference.

And don’t forget: put your full name on your profile. Going by as just “Patricia F.” is not going to do you any favors!


LinkedIn Profile Tips For Traffic #2 : Add your profile url to your business card.


If you’re active in your professional circle, you know that handing out business cards surface leads where you least expect it. You never know — the person you were shaking hands with this morning could be a manager with a vacancy to fill.  So strive to make a good impression, and then hand out a card that has more than just your mobile number and email address. You can even make it a habit to point to the url every time you hand out your card, especially if in the company of people you want scoping your online CV.


LinkedIn Profile Tips For Traffic #3 : Be active in groups.


It may not look it, but the capacity to generate traffic to your profile page is already built in the site. A good start is through LinkedIn groups relevant/specific to your situation.

Join groups where people with your same interests hang out and where issues relevant to your profession get discussed. Make thoughtful and appropriate comments, especially comments that will illustrate your strengths and competencies. Seek mentorship or mentor others. A comment that hits bulls-eye will get people interested, enough to take a peek at the person behind the idea. Given that HR practitioners and managers regularly browse these groups to watch out for up and comers, your active participation may be able to get you a job interview invite.


LinkedIn Profile Tips For Traffic #4 : Include a link to your page when sending correspondence.


Add your LinkedIn profile url to your email signature. This way, every time you send a message what you’re doing is advertising yourself. When you use your email to send business-related correspondence, the potential reach of that url is high.

But it’s not just for online transactions. You can add your LinkedIn profile url to your printed correspondence. A job application cover letter, for example, can still use your LinkedIn profile url, as information on a CV is different from information that can be typically found on your LinkedIn page. Recommendations and endorsements, for example, can be highlighted in your job application cover letter. You can add something like “I have 64 people, 45% of which are head of B2B companies, in my network recommending my net marketing skills — click on this link to know more.” Testimonials from people in the real world can be more impressive than a list of seminar-workshops you attended.


LinkedIn Profile Tips For Traffic #5 : Connect with more people!


The power behind social media sites is its ability to connect people. So link up with as many people as you can, especially those working the same field you do. Do keep in mind that quality is better than quantity though.

And yes, you can be bold enough to contact HR managers and head hunters, especially those who have posted want ads. Send them a direct message; invite them to look at your profile.

The online version of “cold calling” may also be worth a try. Not all will respond to a complete stranger, but there are some who will. (Or you can take the sneaky route and just view HR experts’ profile, assuming you’ll get their notice once they checked their “who viewed me” setting.)

I hope you found these LinkedIn profile tips useful. Good luck!

Making the Transition from Freelance to Full-Time Work

freelance back to corporate world

Wondering why people would want to transition from freelance to a full-time job?

Working as an independent professional is a dream come true for most people. Who wouldn’t want control of your own time, freedom to decline projects that don’t seem interesting, and the opportunity to make a name for yourself? Yup, it’s easy to understand why those “tied” to corporate life look with envy at those who do freelance work.

But believe it or not, independence has its share of disadvantages. Working alone can be, well, lonely, and there’s nothing like the company of faces you get to see every day.  Having marketing rest solely on your shoulders is a lot of pressure; going freelance means if you don’t close a deal, you don’t get to earn. You’d also have to forgo benefits like medical plus dental, 13th and 14th month salaries, and paid vacation leaves.

So if you’re considering a transition from freelance to go back to a regular 9-to-5, don’t worry: there’s nothing wrong with you. But you have to remember, such a career change requires big adjustment. Working for a company versus being self-employed are two drastically dissimilar things.

Below are some of the things you have to work on when making the transition from freelance to 9 to 5.


Don’t view (and therefore present) your self-employment as weakness.


Getting full time work when you’ve been freelancing for so long can be difficult. Job recruiters will often take one look at your resume and assume you can’t possibly thrive in an atmosphere of corporate pressure. And yes, this may be true. But this doesn’t mean you’re completely unqualified or you can’t bring something extra to the company.

Think of transferable skills associated with self-employment. Initiative, confidence, self-presentation, decisiveness, and effective project management are just a few. And being in charge of your own business means you’re well-rounded — you’re marketer, worker, customer service, and personnel manager all in one.  Emphasize these skills in your resume and in the job interview.

And if HR wants to talk about how hard you’ll find life in a dynamic company, share how self-employment isn’t exactly a walk in the park. For instance, when they challenge your ability to work with a boss, tell them that freelancing means working for several bosses all at once! Yup, you’re way ahead of everyone else when it comes to managing up.


Anticipate the question: why the change?


As mentioned earlier, many people look with envy at the self-employed, so transitioning from freelancer to employee means HR will have to do some mental gymnastics. You have to be prepared to give an answer that wouldn’t make you appear as if you’re escaping a sinking business (which doesn’t reflect well on you) or you’ve exhausted your energy and creativity as a service-provider. Instead, illustrate how the career change is actually going up the career ladder. You can share, for example, how serving a larger company will give you the opportunity to apply your best practices to a larger market.


Brace yourself: Actually doing a project is demanding work.


If you’re a freelance consultant, you’re probably used to visiting clients only when requested. Being an outsider and an expert, you’re in a position to assess what’s going on in a company and provide qualified advice. The thing is: the perspective from the outside is radically different from the inside. Many consultants, especially those who have not worked from end to end of projects in a good while, do get culture shock when reminded how toxic the ‘real’ world can be.

So start your 9 to 5 with a reality check — and a large serving of humble pie. Your industry may have changed significantly since you went independent; it’s best to start with a blank slate. Some of your work-related muscles may have atrophied from underuse, so take the time to re-learn old skills.  View it as an adventure, like visiting a well-loved place you haven’t seen in a long while.


Get comfortable working with structure.


Going back to a full time job means you have to surrender a lot of control over how you do things. Unless your company offers flexi-time, you’d have to clock in at regular hours. You’d have several heads to consult before you can run with your ideas. There’ll be protocols left and right. You may even have to do more paper pushing than you’re used to.

The best way to go about adjusting into new habits is to just jump into it. Most psychologists say it takes 7 weeks to learn a new habit and about 3 months to settle into it. In the meantime, remind yourself why you decided to make the change in the first place. Structure can be stifling but it can also be comforting — it’s a source of stability. The structure, for instance, means that you would know beforehand how much work you have to do and when you can take your rest. This is as opposed to freelancing where you just don’t know if you’ll have income or you’ll have to work through the weekend.


And lastly, review your social skills.


Not all self-employed individuals have rusty social skills. But those that do (e.g. writers who work at home for online companies) may need to re-learn how to interact again with humanity!

You may have forgotten how to survive little irritants that come with personality quirks, or manage the stress of a diverse team. You may need to resolve conflicts face-to-face instead of email. Breathe deep and remember you’re no longer working alone. There are perks to anticipate anyway such as increased social support and better self-regulation.

With these tips in mind, you should see a smoother transition from freelance to full time work.

3 Different Kinds of Bosses and How to Manage Up

types of bosses managing

“Managing Up” is not a phrase you often hear. The idea that employees should also manage their bosses seems counterintuitive — aren’t higher-ups supposed to be the one in charge?

But when you think about it, the idea that only managers are responsible for the success of a task or a working relationship seems absurd. Your very human boss (the boss who also makes mistakes, can’t always read your mind, and is sometimes — or often! —- beset with personality quirks) needs help so that you’d both arrive at the same place.

To get a better idea of what managing up entails, imagine your boss mouthing the famous Jerry McGuire line: “help me help you.” That’s right, managing up is basically helping your boss manage you.

However you look at it, the skill of managing up will make you a more productive and a less stressed employee. So consider below 3 common types of managers and how you can help them help you.

The firefighter.

These bosses are always in emergency mode; there’s always a raging fire that needs to be put out therefore every task they assign is urgent and important. The problem is you can only attend to one thing at a time. Getting one pressing task after another, and receiving constant “where is the report I asked you to make ten minutes ago?” is the shortest path to an ulcer.

So, how to manage up?

First off, don’t catch their stress. Getting all tense and anxious yourself will keep you from the clear head you need to approach the “crisis” objectively. Instead, calmly explain how much time and resources you have, share what tasks you have on your parking bay, and ask which one is higher in priority. “I have 2 hours to work before the noon deadline. You assigned me to work on report A and B both of which would take 1 hour and ½ to finish. Which would you like me to start working on first?”

Sometimes firefighter bosses simply need to be reminded that you’re a person and not a machine, and that you function better without a ticking clock in your ear. If this approach doesn’t work, explain to your boss that to meet the deadline, you’d have to make some shortcuts, so perhaps output standards can be lowered to meet the timeframe.

The weather disturbance.

You know how these bosses are. Sometimes they want to talk to you, sometimes they don’t. One morning they’re all upbeat and cheery, the next they’re the bearer of doom. There are moments when proposals get approved without question, but catch him or her (hey, mercurial moods are not exclusive to the female sex!) at a bad time, and similar proposals get thrown out of the window.

How to manage up?

Having a moody boss will require your keen powers of observation, especially in the science of behavior. As the chances of calling out your boss without getting burnt is nil, what you need to do is make the adjustments yourself.

Figure out the times your boss is in a good mood. Is he a morning person who works best after 3 cups of caffeine, or does his motor run better during midday? What kind of people get on his nerves? What is his or her communication style? What kind of reporting does he respond best with?

Time your reports when he’s less likely to be cranky. Watch out as well for other signs that he’s in a bad mood so that you can act accordingly. And don’t get mad or hold grudges. Aim for empathy. Perhaps your boss suffers from intense pressure from his or her own bosses, or maybe your boss’ health is not in tip-top shape. If your boss’ mood swings are all bluster anyway — meaning he still gets the job done at the end of the day —  maybe you can afford to be a little more patient.

The laissez-faire to the extreme.

This kind of boss rarely interferes on the daily operations of his department or company. He gives minimal instructions and doesn’t check for accountability. Now, while some degree of autonomy is great for empowering staff, this one is more of the neglect you variety. What’s worse is, when things go wrong, it’s you who takes the blame.

How to manage up?

Now before you get frustrated enough to type that resignation letter, perhaps you can start by increasing your boss’s awareness of that fact that you’re flapping around like fish out of water. It’s easy to make the assumption that your boss is lazy but perhaps he honestly believes you’re better off with less control. Maybe the hands-off approach is because he or she trusts you enough to get the job done. If so, take the proactive route and just constantly ask for directions instead of waiting for instructions to fall out of the sky.

Do your work to the best of your ability and perhaps take the opportunity to shine. Understand your boss’ weaknesses and supplement it when you can. Anticipate potential problems and solve it yourself. Get motivated by the fact that in doing so you’d probably get to replace your boss one day. The move sounds manipulative and tacky at first, but if you’ve already made your boss aware of the problem and he or she does nothing about it, perhaps your boss has it coming. Upper management is going to notice sooner or later who’s greasing the gears and if you’re a better boss for the company, then take the challenge.

Creating Conversations that Inspire

inspiration at work office

Have you ever been in the company of people whose mere presence makes you want to be better? This can be a relative who survived overwhelming odds. Or achievers who went after their goals. Or perhaps colleagues who inquired after your welfare and made you appreciate the human side of business.

You probably thought “I wish I could be like them. I wish I have the charisma to move others.”

Well, you can be. Inspiring others should be something non-formulaic, but it’s also a skill you can develop. And it’s a skill worth learning. If you’re in a management position, your ability to connect with staff members can turn deliverables into driving visions. Even genuine coffee table talk with a stressed colleague can enhance your team’s over-all productivity.

So how can you engage others in conversations that inspire? Consider the following 3 tips; they’re simple but backed by research.

Manage your moods — and other people’s moods as well.

Case Western University’s Dr. Richard E. Boyatzis, author of “Resonant Leadership,” has conducted several studies pointing to the importance of moods in inspiring others. In his research, Boyatzis found that it’s not enough for leaders to simply project an upbeat mood. Instead, conversations that inspire are actually a combination of genuine positive emotion on the part of the leader and genuine positive mood on the part of his or her staff. He calls this matching of moods “resonance.”

One of the main premises of resonance is a phenomenon called emotional contagion: that is, even without saying a word, people unconsciously catch the mood of the people around them. (It’s brain-to-brain communication that happens without you noticing.) In fact, our brain waves tend to match the brain waves of the most emotionally expressive person in the room! Thus, if you come to work still upset about your daughter’s overspending, even if you put your game face on, you’re going to contaminate your team with your bad day.

If you want to be able to inspire others, train yourself in emotional regulation — and aim for authentic but realistic positivity. A good way to accomplish this is to constantly think of happy, meaningful memories before going to work.

Find the style that fits you best.

A May 2013 article written by Joseph Folkman, published in Forbes Magazine, revealed the results of a study of 1,000 inspiring leaders using a technique called 360-degree feedback. Here’s what he and his co-researcher Jack Zenger found out: contrary to popular belief, being an inspiration is not always about charisma; there’s more than one way to connect with people. In particular, his study unearthed 6 different styles inspirational leaders use.

  • Some leaders inspire others by constantly communicating their vision: a view of the future that’s specific, realistic and growth-oriented. When people are able to engage others in a worthwhile pursuit of something definite, it’s easier to get on board with a task.
  • Some leaders, on the other hand, inspire through enthusiasm. They are passionate speakers who genuinely love their work.
  • And then there are leaders whose inspiring ability comes from being great “drivers.” They have focused intensity to meet target goals and are sticklers for accountability.
  • The other 3 inspirational leadership styles are enhancing (building positive one-to-one relationships with people), principle-orientation (interested in being good role models), and expertise-orientation (inspiring others through one’s skill and proficiency.)

The important thing to remember is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to inspiring others. You can find the one (or more) which fits your personality or situation the most. For sure each will have advantages and disadvantages, but it’s about being able to navigate each successfully that would matter in the end.

Lastly, replace instructions with intent.

Captain David Marquet, a former commander of a nuclear submarine, has talked about the counter-productivity of giving orders — to the point that he has resolved not to give orders. Even if the work of his crew is sensitive and critical, he opted to relinquish control to his staff members. This move empowered his men, especially when it came to making decisions. His crew then became better inspired to get the job done to standard.

According to Marquet, don’t give orders, but instead share what you’d like to happen. Letting other people figure out what’s the best way to get from point A to point B is part of helping others develop efficacy. So don’t judge the how, unless it’s totally deplorable. If the desired end result has been achieved, then what you have is a success.

LinkedIn Profile Tips: Make Your Summary Pop & Grab Attention

linkedin summary headline

It’s difficult to compress years of experience into 2,000 words — which is why writing a LinkedIn profile summary is challenging.  But going the extra mile pays off.

  • For starters, the LinkedIn summary is one of the first things browsers see on your profile; if it’s interesting enough, it’s incentive to look at what else you wrote.
  • Second, your LinkedIn summary gives a picture of what your years of experience and education is all about — generic job titles like “Public Relations Officer” doesn’t exactly hit the significance of what you do.
  • And lastly summaries, as the term implies, provide a total of all your selling points. A powerful profile summary can integrate even the most random data into a meaningful whole.

So how can you write a LinkedIn profile summary worth the space? It’s all about phrasing, phrasing, phrasing!

Below are some tips to create a LinkedIn profile summary that pops.


LinkedIn Profile Tips For A Great Summary #1: Identify your audience. It’s not about you.


There are LinkedIn summaries that go on and on about who the writer thinks he is and what are his dreams for the future. But remember: potential employers are more interested in what you can do for them than your star sign and your favorite restaurant. (Okay, star sign and resto preference may be an exaggeration but you get the point.) When you write a summary, start by identifying who you want reading your profile, then detail how they can benefit from hiring you.

Good: I am a self-driven legal management graduate with a passion for research.

Better: Assign me to legal research — what you’ll get is an accurate and exhaustive list of court decisions organized to impressively support your argument.


LinkedIn Profile Tips For A Great Summary #2: Make it snappy.


If you want to create impact, avoid long-winded statements that take forever to get to the point. You’re not writing a graduate school thesis, you’re delivering an elevator pitch. The sooner your readers get to what makes you stand out, the better. And yes, you can temporarily forget what your grammar teacher told you, not everything has to be written in complete sentences.

Good LinkedIn Summary Example:  In 2004-2007, I worked as a city engineer helping out in the construction of major roads and highways. In 2007-2010, I shifted to private consultancy; I provided professional advice on safety issues during construction. In the last three years, I became part of the National Housing Authority, teaming up with architects and social entrepreneurs in building low-cost residences for disadvantage communities.

As you can see from my experience, I have the skills needed for a leadership position in a large engineering firm. I know how to work within a team. I am goal-centered. I have attention to detail. I also have a caring heart that can appreciate the human side of any business.

Better  LinkedIn Summary Example:  What makes me a good fit to a leadership position in your firm? A city engineer’s track record of accomplishing projects with a national scope. A safety consultant’s keen eye on meeting strict building code standards. And a team player’s ability to build strong and sustainable structures despite limited budget — all in the service of a great social cause.


LinkedIn Profile Tips For A Great Summary #3: You can get creative.


Yes, it’s called a profile summary and the term sounds so…formal.  But it need not be. Browse through LinkedIn and you’ll see that many use the space creatively. Two thousand words, after all, is about 3 pages worth of double-spaced text on a standard document. You need not hit that word count ceiling but it does give you room to screw vanilla in favour of chocolate.

Why not tell a story? Share how you built your first business, all the challenges you overcame, and the intense focus that got you to the finish line. Or talk about your most memorable client (or your most satisfied one); paint a picture on how that encounter happened. If you want to illustrate that you totally get your target market, you may even go for a humorous or empathetic piece about your clients’ needs and how you can help fill gaps.

For instance, consider a LinkedIn profile prefaced by an intriguing teaser like “How I Closed a Thousand Dollar Deal on the Back of a Paper Napkin.” Wouldn’t that title alone make you want to read more? And if you can deliver on the title’s promise — that you did manage to close a business deal using ideas scribbled on coffee shop tissue paper — you will get that interview. Sometimes anecdotal accounts impress more than fancy job titles and university degrees.


LinkedIn Profile Tips For A Great Summary #4: Make it clear and structured.


If the first three suggestions seem difficult to follow (that’s okay, writing doesn’t come naturally to all), just remember your basics.

Create text with structure: each paragraph should be talking about a coherent and distinct subject to facilitate flow of ideas. You can, for example, have three paragraphs: first paragraph talks about who you are, the second paragraph talks about your skills, and the last can be your call to action: a statement that would entice the reading HR personnel to pick up the phone. If paragraphs feel too cluttered, bullet points will do.


LinkedIn Profile Tips For A Great Summary #5: Use keywords.


And lastly, use words you know persons in your field are using, and words that an HR personnel would recognize and be looking for. Being an internet database, keyword search is a typical way headhunters filter candidates from the masses. You want to create a profile summary that will show up on search engine results. Figuring out what’s a good keyword and what’s an annoying cliché may mean some research, but it’s to your advantage to know what terms will land you that job.

LinkedIn Profile Tips: How to Write A Profile that Will Get You Noticed

how to write linkedin profile

If you’re like most people in Singapore, your approach to writing your LinkedIn profile is to simply copy-paste what’s written in your CV. And in some ways, this style can be sufficient, especially when you have a stellar CV in the first place. But it’s such a waste of LinkedIn’s potential if you don’t create a bespoke profile for the social media site. With more and more employers in Singapore relying on LinkedIn to scope out candidates for vacancies, you want to come up with something powerful and sticky.

Below are some tips on how you can write LinkedIn profiles that rock.

LinkedIn Profile Tips For Impact #1 : Use a professional photo.

Okay, let’s start with this one. You’d think that posting a photo that makes you look like you can get the job done is common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many think their Instagram masterpiece is a great pick.

Reserve the beach shot with Tequila for Facebook.  You want to show potential bosses in Singapore you’re trustworthy, competent, and presentable. You’re not required to go for the slick hair and the business suit route — in fact you can aim for simply casual and approachable — but you must still appear as how you would in an actual room of decision-makers.

And yes, mind that pixel count. You want the manager you shook hands with this morning to recognize you once he goes looking!

LinkedIn Profile Tips For Impact #2 : List all your work experience.

Resumes have to be tailor-fitted to the requirements of the job you’re after, which is why strategic job-hunters omit irrelevant work experiences when they submit to HR in Singapore. This means many different versions of resumes, one for each target position.

But your LinkedIn profile is something open to all, and since you don’t know what criteria potential employers may be looking for, it’s best to have a robust profile. (Unless you’ve already decided beforehand that you want to present yourself to just one type of audience.)

Complete your work experience and provide detail for each one. Whenever possible, use the professional gallery: upload presentations, images, documents, etc. to give browsers a better idea of what you do. Share volunteer work experience. HR practitioners today give less value to those with straight career paths anyway, and if your various experiences make you look like a better rounded individual, go for it.

Here’s one advantage of a complete work history: LinkedIn is a networking site; it aims to connect you with people who can endorse you, give you work, or connect you with clients. When you have a complete work history, you’re positioned to link up with every person you’ve worked with over the years — and get as many nods to your skills and expertise as possible. This is because LinkedIn is designed to recommend connections based on where you’ve worked and what you’ve done. A stronger professional network therefore equates to a stronger profile.

LinkedIn Profile Tips For Impact #3 : Take advantage of the summary section.

LinkedIn provides you space for a 2,000 word summary of who you are and what you can offer — and you should take full advantage of this feature. The rest of LinkedIn can feel so disjointed, even dense, but if you write a great summary, you can string everything together into one coherent whole. The summary section can also be the place to inject some humour and personality in an otherwise formal page, and many people in Singapore have opted to use this section creatively.

For instance, some people use the summary section to tell a great story about themselves: how they got their first gig, what they feel is their greatest accomplishment, how they plan to solve problems experienced by their target clientele. Others use the summary section to beef their profile with relevant keywords that will put them at the top of search results (e.g. official job titles, certifications, etc.). Most though opt for a powerful and punchy integration of everything they have to offer including measurable deliverables they’ve accomplished, specific competencies, and vision for the future.

LinkedIn Profile Tips For Impact #4 : Use the skills, recommendations, and endorsement section wisely.

LinkedIn allows users to log in as many as 500 skills and expertise in their profile — and this is where you should promote your competencies. The great thing about LinkedIn is not only do they give you space to list all the things you can do, it also allows people in your professional network to validate every skill and expertise you’ve listed. This gives your profile more credibility than the typical resume. You can be suspected of exaggerating your proficiency in a paper resume, but a verifiable endorsement from a respected person in the field invalidates any argument.

So come up with a comprehensive list of your skills and expertise, and make sure you phrase them in a way that’s search engine optimized. Search engine optimization means taking steps to ensure that you use words headhunters and employers will use when identifying and filtering candidates. For instance, you can put “E-course Designing” in your list, but you can also list specific software e.g. Mindflash or Articulate you’re good at. Once you have your list, it’s now time to ask friends and co-workers to recommend you or even write you a glowing endorsement.

LinkedIn Profile Tips For Impact #5 : Come up with a headline that grabs people’s attention.

You must invest in a headline that will make people in Singapore want to take a look at everything!

I placed this last because the best time to write a headline is after you’ve gotten everything else down. This is because your headline is an integration of everything in your profile, and sometimes it’s only when you’ve looked at the bigger picture that you better understand your competitive advantage.

So what makes a headline stand out?

A concise explanation of what it is you do exactly is an excellent approach. “Internet copywriting expert — Known for a 65% conversion-to-sales rate among website visitors” is better than simple “Freelance Copywriter with 6 years of Experience.”

Some folks opt for a list approach, which is also great. “Social Entrepreneur. Grant Proposal Writer. Project Management Expert.”

And others take the opportunity to put in relevant keywords headhunters and HR personnel will be looking for. This is also a great idea. Just remember, make sure your insertion of keywords still create a natural flow — stuffing every keyword in your headline just for the sake of getting them in is going to backfire. Pick just 1 to 3 keywords and run with it. Anything more is tacky and desperate.

LinkedIn Profile Tips: 10 Features You Should Make Use Of

linkedin job search singapore

At first glance, LinkedIn is just Facebook — minus the fun.

But LinkedIn offers an array of features you won’t find in other social media sites, such as:

  • LinkedIn provides companies with a venue to advertise themselves and post job openings.
  • It gives job hunters a credible list of leads.
  • LinkedIn also helps you project a professional image, one that can convert potential employers’ interest to an interview.
  • As the largest professional network in the world, LinkedIn gets you on the radar of headhunters looking for specific qualifications.

If you’re serious about job hunting, it’s time to pay serious attention to your LinkedIn account. Below are 10 LinkedIn features you should take advantage of.


LinkedIn Profile Tips To Take Advantage Of #1 : The Headline


By default, LinkedIn makes your latest job title and company name as headline. Well and good, if your current employment is your greatest selling point. But if it’s not, you can actually change your headline through the edit button under your name (many people don’t know this!).

Headhunters don’t have time to open every profile they see, and a powerful headline gets attention. For instance, there’s a huge difference between “Accountant, Jolly Rogers Company” and “Management CPA, specializing in Cost Control for the Fortune 500.” Guess which one lands the job?


LinkedIn Profile Tips To Take Advantage Of #2 :  Connections


As with the real world, a fair amount of opportunities and job leads come from people you know.

Ideally, your network on LinkedIn should mirror your physical network. Having a decent number of first level connections gives you access to a large number of people, who you can contact during your search for a job.

If you stayed within your field, your college buddies are probably in the same profession, and are in a position to give referrals.  Peers can recommend your profile to their company. Linking with company hiring managers/HR personnel and external recruiters is also a viable idea; though note that not all recruiters accept requests from strangers.  Check out who you know in a company, and get someone from the inside to open the door.


LinkedIn Profile Tips To Take Advantage Of #3 : Endorsements and Recommendations.


Connections to clients, suppliers, peers, co-workers, and bosses can beef up your profile with endorsements and recommendations.

Endorsements are validations of the skills and expertise listed in your profile, and they appear as a positive number (e.g. +16 endorsements for Legal Research). Recommendations, on the other hand, are comments written by your contacts to describe the quality of your work and character. The more endorsements and recommendations you have, the stronger your profile will appear.


LinkedIn Profile Tips To Take Advantage Of #4 : Skills and Expertise.


Speaking of Skills and Expertise, LinkedIn allows users to log in as many as 50 in your profile but you’d want to be more thoughtful regarding what’s worth the space.  It’s not about quantity, but about relevance.

Remember: when you add a skill or an expertise, LinkedIn automatically adds you to a category of professionals with similar competencies, and the right keyword increases your odds of getting found for the right reasons. Plus, your unique combination of skills and expertise adds to how you brand yourself — for instance, not everyone has the powerhouse combination of proficiency as a CPA, franchise consultant, and social entrepreneur! When an opening calls for a specific set of skills and expertise, what you list in your profile marks your competitive edge.


LinkedIn Profile Tips To Take Advantage Of #5 : LinkedIn Groups.


Joining and even creating groups in LinkedIn can help you position yourself, especially among people who share your interests, area of specialization, and target markets.  Joining discussions and giving insightful comments can highlight the fact that you have the brains to back up your formal credentials. Some headhunters also post job openings in relevant groups, especially if there’s but a handful of you in the market.


LinkedIn Profile Tips To Take Advantage Of #6 : LinkedIn Today.


LinkedIn today is the news feed section of the site. It gives you three kinds of updates: news that’s relevant to your field, news that’s interesting to people in general, and news posted by the people in your network.

One great way to use LinkedIn Today is by posting thoughtful comments about issues relevant to your profession.  If you’re a psychiatrist, for example, commenting about the recent revisions made to the Manual of Mental Disorders can highlight your professional opinion.

Another strategy is to post updates that underscore your interests. Just attended a workshop on latest trends in your field? Tell your connections about it! And yes, if it helps break the ice, posting the occasional “cute cats” videos can be forgiven.


LinkedIn Profile Tips To Take Advantage Of #7 : Professional Gallery.


Professional Gallery is a feature that allows users to post hyperlinks under the Summary, Experience and Education section of your profile. The links can direct to pictures, videos, documents, presentations, and other media.

Professional Gallery is a way to emphasize the strengths of your credentials, by providing readers with an idea about what you actually do. You can post portfolio samples — if you’re a professional photographer, for example, this feature helps you showcase your work. You can also post documentation about projects you’ve done or workshops you’ve attended. You may also want to include links to the official website of the universities you attended or companies you worked for.


LinkedIn Profile Tips To Take Advantage Of #8 :  Following


Just like Twitter, LinkedIn gives you the option to follow companies you’re interested in. Following a company will keep you abreast about new job openings and information. You may not be seeing the job opportunity you want right now, but the follow function ensures you’ll learn about the opportunity when it does present itself.


LinkedIn Profile Tips To Take Advantage Of #9 : Volunteer Experiences and Causes


Many choose to keep this section blank, but socio-civic work is an excellent way to market yourself. Volunteer work highlights your transferable skills — a big plus especially if your work experience is still unremarkable. More so, volunteer work talks about your values. What you write here speaks about your character as a person, your contribution to the community, as well as the things you care about.


LinkedIn Profile Tips To Take Advantage Of #10 : Jobs


Oh, and before I forget, there’s a LinkedIn tab titled “Jobs.”

I placed this last because it’s the most straightforward LinkedIn feature for job hunters, and probably the one that needs least explanation. In this section, you can search for openings using basic and advanced settings, e.g. search by company or zip code or salary grade. You can also browse through the latest job postings offered by companies. 

Reasons Why People Miss Their Calling in Life

what jobs career suits me life

You can have a job, or you can have a career. Or you can go one step further and find your “calling in life.”

The word “calling” is difficult to define, and some do dismiss it as an esoteric concept with no practical value.  But for those who do believe in the concept (as I do), a calling is a sense of higher purpose, a sincere belief that you’re placed in this world for a reason. Some believe a calling is an invitation by a higher power, others believe it’s simply an invitation to be authentic to self. My favourite description of a life calling is that of Ignatius de Loyola: calling is “when your heart’s deepest desires meet the world’s greatest need.”

Whichever way you look at it, the belief that there’s more to life than daily grind creates happiness, reduces stress, and inspires greater productivity. Daniel Pink, the author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us,” lists purpose as one of the main reason people wake up eager to face the day. Thus, if you want personal fulfillment and job satisfaction, aim for a little transcendence.

If you’ve yet to identify what your calling in life is, that’s okay. It’s a process that takes time. In the meantime, consider the following reasons why you may be giving off a busy dial tone.

You’re living someone else’s dream.

Did your parents push you to take engineering because you’re from a family of engineers? Did you say “I want to be a programmer” because many self-made millionaires are computer geniuses? Or maybe you feel guilty saying no to the uncle who paid for your education, hence you’re slaving away in his company.

A calling is something deeply personal. True, others can give input about what might inspire you, but at the end of the day it’s a choice you must freely make. Pleasing others is the easiest way to burn-out. Similarly, copying other people’s formula means you’ll never get to discover your own formula, the one that will make success all the more worth it.

You don’t take time to meditate and reflect.

Cultivation of an internal life is a pre-requisite to finding purpose. The abilities to push pause, get silent, and listen to what your thoughts and feelings are telling you are necessary to spot the difference between what’s working and what’s draining you dry.

Workaholics who don’t go for alone time lose sight of what’s driving them in the first place. Similarly, the restless young professionals who don’t take time to reflect why they job hop will never discover what they need to be happy. Men and women who go through midlife and quarterlife crisis, assuming they can carry on just as they always have, can miss the message of what older age is asking of them.

You don’t expose yourself to situations where help may be needed.

Personal callings are often solidified by the realization that you’re making a real difference. When you know that there’s more to work than monthly paycheck, each little task has meaning. This is especially so when the cause you’re working for is something that resonates with you, either because you’ve experienced a similar need or the people you serve have touched your heart.

Being a medical representative, for example, may seem like lackluster work, as all you may be is a glorified salesperson. But if you interact with the very patients who benefit from getting matched with the right drugs, you may re-appreciate the value of what you do. Your extra effort to educate one more doctor about the latest in pharmacy may mean the difference between living in pain and experiencing relief for a child somewhere. Unless you expose yourself to the significance of what you do, you may miss the bigger picture.

You don’t believe in serendipity.

Okay, so you’re a realist. You don’t believe in something unless there’s concrete evidence. But there’s also nothing wrong in indulging the belief that the universe is constantly speaking to you. (At the very least, consider the idea that seemingly random experiences can be strung together to make one coherent whole.)

While most think that a sense of purpose comes in an instant, for most people calling is found through the culmination of a series of events. For instance, you may have had enjoyed being a women’s shelter volunteer as a teenager, but thought nothing of it other than a summer job. Then you met the person who would be your best friend in your late teens, a person who survived domestic abuse. You took up Psychology in college thinking you want to be an HR practitioner. But in your 30s you suddenly had the realization that your college course is actually a good pre-law, and that your calling is to become a lawyer advocating women’s rights.

So try to read the signs. Sometimes when the idea for a possible calling comes along, you’ll see little things coming together to make it happen.

You don’t go beyond the present.

Lastly, consider these questions: How would you like to be remembered? What would you like written in your epitaph? What legacy is most appealing to you?

A calling transcends time, its impact long-lasting even to but a handful of people. Going beyond the present can help you identify whether you’re moving towards a vision or simply surviving the day.

Cost-Free Options for Continuous Professional Education

continuing education free mooc

There’s nothing that can deflate a person more than ‘stuckness’. As Stephen Covey advised, you’ve got to “sharpen the saw.” Chase after new or updated knowledge. Perfect the skills you already have. Apply yourself to tasks you haven’t tried before.

And this is why Continuous Professional Education (CPE) is a must. CPE is a requirement in the renewal of professional licenses, but there is more than one reason to pursue higher learning. For starters, CPE boosts your confidence and self-worth. More so, CPE would help you remain relevant come the time your profession ditches old ways of doing things.

But CPEs can be expensive. Quality workshops can cost you an arm and a leg that sometimes you wonder if it’s still worth it. And who has time for an MA or a PhD? But for the determined and the resourceful, cost-free CPE is doable.

Consider the following options:

Enrollment in MOOCs.

MOOCs stands for Massive Open Online Courses. They’re interactive online courses meant to be delivered to large number of students at a time. Examples of providers of MOOCs are Coursera, EdX, and Udacity.

MOOCs are great value for, well, no cost at all. They’re free: you only need an internet connection to access them, although some providers charge a minimal fee for the verification of student identity or more advanced subjects. But more so, the courses are designed by top universities all over the world, so you get above par curriculum. There are MOOCs for all professions, from business to marketing to computer programming.

Membership in Professional Organizations.

Professional organizations take care of their own, which is why it pays to stay active in them. More often than not, seniors in the organization create opportunities to pass on their learning, either through affordable seminar-workshops or free journals and newsletters.  You can also approach the pillars of your organization for regular mentoring, maybe over coffee and doughnuts. If you have extra time, you can volunteer to assist in events or committees so that you can get new ideas for free.

Visits to the Library.

Seriously.

Even at this age when paper and ink books are considered obsolete, libraries still hold gems for those seriously interested in improving their craft. You can download e-books, of course, but most of the quality ones are for a price. Libraries, on the other hand, remain free. You can even request your local librarian to purchase a book you’re particularly interested in, as many libraries do take their patrons’ needs into account. And if subscriptions to academic journals are too pricey to consider, libraries with a decent budget will help you log on to journal publishers without shelling a single dime.

Taking on Side Projects.

Practicum is one of the best ways of learning, especially if your field of work relies less on theory and more on application. If you want to improve then, it wouldn’t hurt to take on paid or free projects on the side. If you can do these projects with a team of fellow professionals, all the better, as you also learn by exposure to different working styles or younger blood.

A programmer bored troubleshooting the same system over and over again? Look for crowd-sourcing sites to see if anyone’s interested in designing Open Source software. Feel like your marketing skills are rusty? Volunteer to create a campaign for your local Red Cross. If you have time you may even take part-time work in a company advocating innovative strategies.

Get a grant or a scholarship.

You can still pursue advanced studies for free by trying out for grants or scholarships.

Most universities have options for the cash-strapped; for instance there are those that offer free graduate courses in exchange for man-hours as Teaching Assistant. If your research slant is particularly interesting, academic institutions might get an incentive for taking you in. The government may even give you a grant for your studies, sometimes overseas, in exchange for being a state employee for a few years.