Monday, November 21, 2011

is college worth it?

An interesting piece over at CNN Money. What do you think? Is college worth it? Read. Comment. Follow. Share.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

and today from ted talks....

And today from Ted Talks we have Ken Robinson discussing the importance of creativity in the classroom. For more visit, Ted: Ideas Worth Spreading.

Monday, November 14, 2011

let's chat

If you're new to the Simply Defined community - welcome. And if you're becoming a regular - thank you. Either way, I want to invite you to engage. We're a long ways from the time where you just viewed online information like you would a newspaper or a brochure. Technology now offers opportunities to interact with what, in the past, was static content. So, yes read and follow but also comment and share. And, if you're really wanting to jump in head first - take a look at my let's chat section. Powered by BlogFrog, this open forum is a place to either respond to an ongoing thread, or start one of your own. And it's a great place to find others interested in the topics that we're discussing at Simply Defined.

So, grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair. It's time to chat.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

the informational interview

Following my conversation with Harry, I set out to begin conducting a series of informational interviews. But, I was flying blind. I knew what I should gain from the experience but failed to ask for specific guidelines. Years (and many many informational interviews) later, I can finally narrow the "must dos" to three bullet points.

Research :: Focus :: Expect

photo by Brady Withers
The worst thing you can do is walk into an informational interview with little to no idea about the person with whom you're speaking. Through Google, LinkedIn,  and similar resources, you can quickly learn a few details about your interviewee including:
  • If and where they studied
  • A brief career history
  • And perhaps professional associations with which they're involved. 
Now I don't advise that you walk in the door with a laundry list of everything you've learned (you want to be seen as well-informed not a potential stalker) but having some of this information in your back-pocket may help contextualize your conversation.

The goal of the informational interview is to learn about the interviewee: who she is, why she made the decisions she did, and how she got to where she is today. That being the case, she (your interviewee) should be the focus. Many make the mistake of walking into an informational interview talking about themselves. Not the point and a bad idea.

Now that said, you should expect to answer questions too. Because depending on the interviewee's time and inclination, she may turn the tables on you. Though you aren't expected to know and articulate long-term goals (if you could you likely wouldn't be spending your time conducting informational interviews), you should be prepared to articulate your short-term goals. Know your values and interests and expect that you may be called upon to answer a few directed questions.

Keep in mind that the overall aim of the informational interview is to learn and network. Being prepared, focused and ready to think on your feet will make an excellent first impression and will likely pay off in the long run.

Monday, November 7, 2011

first look at the informational interview

I was twenty-two years old and a professional wreck. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater but was quickly realizing that a career in the performing arts wasn't in the cards; I had neither the stamina nor the confidence. I was working as a substitute teacher and a part-time advisor and was playing around with the idea of going to graduate school - but in what?

Fortunately my boss, let's call him Harry, paid attention. Harry pulled me into his office and asked me about my plans. I sat at his desk and cried. What I really needed was professional mentorship. Harry's advice, the first bit of many, was to set up informational interviews.

But what in the world was an informational interview and how did it relate to mentoring? That's what we're talking about this week at Simply Defined.

Don't forget to read, comment, follow and share!

Friday, November 4, 2011

paisley and stewart talk about mentoring

We're not the only ones discussing mentoring. Last night on The Daily Show, country music star, Brad Paisley said you have to find "those people that are sort of in your corner." Check it out.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Brad Paisley
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

mentors: simply defined

Earlier this week, I challenged the uncollege student (and others looking to "stop" or "drop" out of school) to think about how they will create an environment that fosters intellectual discourse and innovation. And one of my suggestions (though not explicit) was to identify and connect with mentors. So that brings up the question - what is a mentor?

Coffee in the morning
Photo by chichacha
A mentor is defined as "a wise and trusted counselor or teacher" or "an influential senior sponsor or supporter." And it would seem that the college environment is a natural place to find such a person. But even students actively engaged in pursuing a degree (undergraduate or otherwise) struggle to identify and connect with mentors. 

The first thing I would say is, if you have to ask someone to be your mentor - you're already heading in the wrong direction. The mentor/mentee relationship should be organic. It is through mutual trust and understanding that such a relationship develops and thrives. I think back to my own undergraduate career and my first academic mentor; a professional actor who taught theater courses as an adjunct professor at the University of Utah. He was (and is) a smart, creative, and compassionate man who embraced teaching with the same degree of passion that he embraced life. I never left his classroom uninspired. But in all the years I studied, I never once asked him to be my mentor. That said, he was almost always the first person I turned to for academic support and guidance.

I am shocked with how many college students approach the end of their college career with no one they can confidently turn to for advising and letters of recommendation. These are students who showed up, did their work, but never took an active role in their own learning.

Everyone needs a support group, a sounding board, someone (really someones) who has been down this road before, to help lead the way. Who is that for you? 

If you're in school: whose office hours can your visit? From whom have you taken a class, that you can study with again? Alternatively, if you're a young professional or trying to create an independent learning experience, who can you call today and invite to join you for a cup of coffee? Who's advice has been sound? Who's doing what you'd like to do a year, five years, ten years from now?

Over the next week, I will offer you up a set of tools and exercises to help you identify and connect with mentors. Read. Follow. Comment. Share.

and today from ted talks...

Many are calling for a radical change in higher education. Watch this brilliant piece from Liz Coleman. Expect goosebumps. Then, see TED: Ideas worth spreading for other great talks.