5 Tools You Should Be Using in the 2.0 World

11 09 2009

Tools form a fundamental part of our lives. All your daily tasks will become much easier to accomplish if you find the perfect tools for the job. Just imagine digging a deep hole with bare hands as opposed to using machinery. Which one will take more time? Which one will require more effort?

Just as well as any other task, getting oriented in the 2.0 world requires not only skills, patience and commitment, but also an effective set of tools that will make your life easier. Here’s a list of 5 tools that should not be missed:

  1. Gmail – A clear winner in the email department. This tool alone will save you precious time and nerves to an extent you would never even dream of. Stop checking multiple accounts – you can receive email from multiple email addressed inside Gmail. Get rid of overflowing inbox in which you look for that specific reply to a thread of messages from the same person, all the time. Gmail orders your messages into conversations so you always have your emails in context and can easily keep track of the latest additions. Just go and do it. Get a gmail account and see the wonders. Your productivity will skyrocket and you will wonder (like me in the first few weeks) how you could have waited so long.
  2. Launchy – Find stuff faster. Open programmes on your computer with an easy keyboard shortcut of your choice. Launchy helps you do things faster. It finds documents, images, videos on your harddrive (or even webpages) and opens them within seconds. It is a very powerful tool. I hear Google Desktop can do similar things yet I find it a bit intrusive on my computer screen. This is why I prefer Launchy as my fast launching and finding tool.
  3. Tweetdeck – Do you use Twitter? And do you still use only the online basic version? Why? Tweetdeck makes tweeting much easier and more user-friendly. Keep one column for those that you are following. See who mentions you in a second column. Search. Save. Look up users. Tweet from the same window. Hide what you’ve already read. Tweetdeck has an automatic link shortener and you can tweet with a single click. The organisation certainly pays off.
  4. Skype – Skype is a great and essential tool especially for those of us leading “international” lives. As I study abroad, I use Skype to connect with my family and friends back at home. Skype can also be used as a cheap alternative for your international business calls or as a complete replacement for a mobile phone. I especially like the video and video-conference abilities.
  5. Evernote – I’ve written on the wonderful uses of Evernote for getting organised before in the Get your life organised – Evernote article. Evernote simply creates a cross-platform way of storing anything you come across in your daily life – be it an idea, pdf, video, picture. It is great as a reminder tool or as a searchable backup of all your sticky and other paper notes. It is highly portable and usable and will make your life much easier.

So here is the list of 5 tools I think you should be using in this wonderful new world. Do you have any essentials to add? Do you agree or disagree with any of these? Please comment.

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Soon-to-be Grads: What are you doing now that will help you later?

26 08 2009

I’m about to enter my final year of university. This is both an exciting and uncertain time as I don’t know what the future will hold after I leave the relative safety of university environment behind me. I have had two amazing years at Cambridge and enjoyed every second of it. And I’m eager to make the most of my final year as well. The workload will be high but also rewarding and I’m keen to take on everything that comes. At the same time, however, it is hightime for thoughts about my future direction after Cambridge. The “scary” job search is getting nearer and nearer. And whilst the possibilities of gaining internships and summer work experiences are mostly aimed at first and second-years, soon-to-be grads are left with great tools that can help in the future job search.

The best time to implement these, of course, is before you get into the swing of your senior year and schoolwork occupies most of your time. The summer before your final year at university should therefore be used not only to get some needed last-minute experience but also to prepare for what lies ahead and make your future job search a bit easier.

So what can you do now that will help you later?

  • update your CV and learn how to write cover letters and market yourself to potential employers

Put in the effort, do your homework, and make your CV stand out. Think about all your activities, skills and experiences that could show what you’ve achieved so far. Use the Situation-Activity-Result process to identify how your achievements can be presented on your CV. Research cover letter requirements and make sure you show yourself in the best light.

  • build your online presence

Almost 1 in 2 companies will now check your online identity before they make you an offer. That means almost a 50% chance that you’ll be “googled” before you even get an interview. Go now and perform a “vanity search” – putting your name into Google. What do the results tell you? Is your online presence strong? Is there something that you wouldn’t want a hiring manager to see? Check for unflattering information and then work on building up your positive online image. Social media can help you a lot and I suggest starting and maintaining a LinkedIn profile, Twitter feed and a blog. This way you can influence your personal brand on the web and prove your expertise and commitment.

  • build your knowledge of the field

School is not the only place to gain knowledge. Read blogs that talk about your industry. Follow experts on Twitter. Watch inspiring talks or listen to podcasts. There are many ways in which you can gain new expertise and thus enhance your job prospects.

  • devise a plan of attack

When and where will you start with your job search? Is there anything you need to do beforehand? Who will you ask for help? How will you balance school and job hunting? Sit down and make a plan of action. Figuring all of this out in advance will save you precious time later.

  • broaden your network

Networking is still one of the most important strategies in any job search. Do you know any people who could help you? Have you been in touch with old connections, classmates or peers? Start building and broadening your network by realizing who you already know and then building up on it. Attend events, get involved in Alumni groups and social networks. Work on your network now and offer value and help to others before you need help yourself.

What are YOU doing now that will help you later? Any other strategies that you would recommend?





Are You Using the Right Motivation Strategies?

24 08 2009

What is the most effective way to motivate people? Does it depend on the task and situation? Do motivation strategies change from person to person? Dan Pink asks these and other questions in a very inspiring TEDTalk on the surprising science of motivation.

The main point?

Incentives DO NOT WORK!

Dan argues that unless you have a clear-cut task with a set of pre-determined steps and rules, giving someone an incentive to win or be faster (e.g. a monetary reward) will usually not only be unhelpful but often also harmful. Carrots and Sticks do not work anymore. People working only for a reward will often produce worse results than when not presented with any incentive.

Using psychological research to back up his claims, Dan Pink suggests a better alternative may be an open-minded search for solutions, whether in a group or with an individual, concentrating on intrinsic motivations. Intrinsic motivations, as the name suggests, come from within the individual. They put the employee or the team member in the centre of the work process by letting them decide how they’re going to tackle the problem. The three key components, Dan argues, are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

How is this useful?

Whilst Dan focuses on the premise of businesses not utilizing the scientific evidence and being stuck in the traditional management phase, I believe that Dan’s discussion pertains to the individual in a great measure as well. You, as an individual, should use his ideas.

How?

Do not limit your scope of focus. Let go of prejudices you may have about the range of solutions for a certain task and be open-minded. We’re talking about the often-mentioned thinking outside the box. Anybody can provide a fresh perspective and the fact that you’re not an expert does not disqualify you from coming up with the best solution. This is especially important for the younger generation just entering the workforce. True, we may not have the same expertise and experience. But if we try hard and make use of all our knowledge, we may produce more innovative solutions than someone who works solely for the reward. We are, afterall, highly motivated from within to prove that we are worth the hype about Generation Y.





What If You Had 15 Extra Hours Every Month?

22 08 2009

Andy Robinson who writes about career success at his blog recently published a post about Getting 15 Extra Hours Every Month for Personal Transformation. He writes:

“What would you do if you were “given” 15 extra hours each month? We’re talking about more than four weeks of extra PERSONAL time each year! What would be the highest and best use of that time?”


How do you get this time?

Andy suggests that you set your alarm clock to wake you up 30 minutes earlier than normal tomorrow. And then continue this habit day after day.

In this way you’re cutting down on your sleep (although you may go to bed early and thus balance your sleeping time).

Other ways of gaining 30 minutes a day may include:

  • cutting down on time spent watching TV (or at least recording your favourite programmes and shows and then watching them without commercials)
  • committing to actually GET UP when your alarm clock rings instead of lying in and then rushing
  • getting organised
  • using your commute time to do productive things
  • getting ready for your day the night before
  • not procrastinating

What to do with your 15 hours a month?

Andy suggests you use your 30 minutes a day for highly personal time (journaling, meditation, inspirational reading or planning your day).

But I believe that your extra 15 hours a month could be used in hundreds of ways, depending on what your priorities are. Use them to:

  • learn a new skill and advance your career
  • learn or improve your knowledge of a foreign language (daily practice is your best bet)
  • read for pleasure
  • read to keep up with your and other fields
  • watch interesting talks from outstanding people (try TEDTalks or Fora.TV)
  • get some exercise
  • find a blog in your field and read it
  • do anything that your normal day doesn’t allow

If the only thing stopping you from doing something is your (perceived) lack of time, give serious thought to these strategies and start changing your life today.





Have you done your homework?

20 08 2009

Maybe you have been out of school for a long time. The days of sweating over homework the night before it’s due or finishing that assignment just at the last minute are probably gone. But do such experiences ever completely disappear? No, they don’t. And it wouldn’t be advantageous to you if they did. Why?

The meaning of homework

In school, homework was always set to move you a bit forward. An assignment with mathematical problem sets is designed to help you revise what you did in class, test your knowledge and maybe point to several areas which still need more practice. Homework is essentially a control system – a preparation for further improvements and gains. In school it allowed you to look at things in more detail and maybe gain new bits of information that helped with absorbing the following advanced subject matter. I’m not claiming that homework is universally a good tool and should be (over)used. But on a general level, it often has the advantage of allowing a person to ensure better gains from further opportunities to learn.

Homework outside school

In life we come across many situations that require “homework-like” preparation. And often these are key to improving our standing or raising our chances of gaining more in the long run.

EXAMPLE:

Looking for a job is a clear example of a situation where “doing your homework” is almost essential.

  • take care to write and then constantly update your resumé/CV:

Crafting a complete and representative CV detailing your qualifications and competencies takes time. A lot of time. Yet this initial investment pays off very highly especially since, after the first push, updating is usually much less time-consuming. So take the time to think through all that you’ve done in the past and make an inventory of activities, competencies and results that could make you a perfect fit for a job advertisement. Then tailor your CV for every application.

  • research the company before you make an application

Spend time on researching the company and position that you are applying for. This could separate you from the tens of applicants who will have posted general mass CVs expecting to be called for an interview simply on the basis of a non-tailored and (from the hiring manager’s perspective) nothing-saying piece of paper. Look for news in major newspapers. Use google or new social media like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. What has the company done in the past few months? What is their position on the market? Why are they better than the competition? Why do you want to work for them? Investing 30 minutes of your time could save you the opportunity to actually receive an invitation for an interview.

  • send in a cover letter with your CV

Take the time to actually send a non-generic cover letter with every CV you send out. This may limit the number of positions you can apply for. But it will raise your chances for getting an interview at those that you do choose by a large percentage. Cover letters, tailored to the specific company and showing how your skills match the requirements of the positions as well as your interest in the company, will take you a great lenght further than hundreds of non-specific CVs.

“Doing your homework” still applies long after you’ve left school and can increase your chances of getting better opportunities and open a lot of doors. So have you been doing your homework recently? Maybe it’s time to start! Success if about more than just showing up.