{Users, Passer-Throughs, Difference-Makers…} Lessons from Camping

25 10 2011

Fall is in the air.  The leaves are changing colors, the air is crisp, and it’s nearly dark at 5:30pm.  The change in weather from such a scorching summer has been welcomed with open arms across the nation.  That camping trip looks a lot more inviting now that you can make S’mores, right?

Don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this…

The CEO of my company is quite the outdoorsman.  If it involves nature or going outside, he’s in.  And believe it or not, there’s a lot that can be learned from someone who spends an abundance of time with Mother Nature.  During our last team meeting, he told us all a story about three different types of people as it relates to camping and life in general.

Here’s the scenario:  In many of our country’s state and national parks, there are hideaway cabins tucked away off the beaten path, available to those that pass by for a small fee or no money at all.  Some of these cabins are remote – you have to really get into the woods to find them.  The provisions are simple: there’s a roof, four walls, and a door.  No internet, satellite TV, or telephone.  Shelter is provided – that’s it.  If it’s raining or cold, you’ll be glad to come across a cabin like this!  At the campsite, there is usually a pile of wood that could be used start a fire to keep warm overnight.

I’m getting closer…

There are three different types of people who come through these campsites each year:

The Users.  These people stay the night, use the firewood, have a nice party, and leave their trash behind as they move on to their next checkpoint.  Users are only worried about themselves.  In the job search and generally in life, Users are those that don’t listen because they are already thinking of what they’re going to say.  They’re also the type of person that, when networking, take a WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) approach.

The Passer-Throughs.  These people pass through, use the resources available, restock and clean up for the next visitor.  Nothing more.  Passer-Throughs make sure that they’re replenishing what they use, but don’t realize that the next person might need more.  They’re not as bad as the Users, though.  In the job search and in your career, these people are the ones that do only what is on the job description.  “It’s not my job” is a phrase you might be familiar with.  Passer-Throughs don’t think they need to any more than the base level of expectations.

The Difference-Makers.  They stop for the night and use the available resources.  But they go a step further than the Users and Passer-Throughs.  Not only do they replenish the woodpile, they cut extra wood, thinking that it might be helpful to someone else on one of the colder nights.  They also leave the site better than they found it.  They pick up the trash left from the Users.  But, I’m not done.  Difference-Makers also take a look around and see what they can do to make things better.  They fix the window seal that let in the cold air.  They repair the screen door so that mosquitos don’t eat future campers alive.  Difference-Makers do just that – they make a difference.  Then, they move on.  In the job search, Difference-Makers offer to help others first.  Their success and yours is linked.  Difference-Makers are also proactive – they don’t wait for the perfect job to land in their lap.  They go get it and they’re able to do that because of the relationships they’ve built.

We all know people who fit into each category.  But, the question I have for you is, “What person will you be?”  Will you be a User, Passer-Through, or will you be a Difference-Maker?  The choice is yours.

Pay it forward as much as you can and remember the simple lessons of life.   Now, go out and make this the best week ever.  You can do it!!

Special thanks to Alvin for the inspiration to write this and for challenging us all to do more to help our fellow man.  The entire team was invited to his beautiful home last weekend for a great get-together that included a bonfire, weenie roast, and yes, S’mores.  I had a blast!


Paying It Forward Every Day

18 10 2011

This week’s post was originally posted on Girlmeetsgeek.com, but has great relevance to you.  I hope that you enjoy it!

Last Thursday (May 5), the world celebrated International Pay It Forward Day.  The day reminds us all to help our fellow man.  Why?  Just because.  Whether it was buying a cup of coffee for the next person in line or simply smiling at a stranger, the pay it forward principle is all about one thing: kindness.  The day was a success, but I’d like to encourage you to use this principle every day, not just when it’s a recognized celebration.  I challenge you to pay it forward at least once every day of the year.  You’ll be glad you did.

As I’m thinking about people who pay it forward, I can’t help but think about teachers.  Some of the best advice I have ever received came from a teacher.  In your job search, seek out the teachers and learn from them.  Teachers give so much, asking only for their students to be the best they can be.  The doctors, lawyers, astronauts, politicians (yes, even the President had great teachers), educators…basically everyone has a teacher to thank for where they are in life.  In keeping with the theme of Pay It Forward, this week follows suit – it’s Teacher Appreciation Week (May 23-27)!  Here are a few teachers that made me into the person I am today:

Ms. Bridgers – My Kindergarten teacher.  As a youngster, I was quite the handful.  In between keeping me from jumping off the tables with my friends, chasing the girls and sending me to the Principal’s office (which was often), she encouraged creative problem-solving.  My favorite part of class was the “listening skills” portion.  She’d read from a lesson and we would have to apply our listening ears to solve the problem.  I have used this every day in my life.  Thank you, Ms. Bridgers.

Mom  – My mom is a Family & Consumer Sciences (previously known as Home Economics) teacher.  Today, she teaches subjects that range from Parenting to Psychology.  She has taught me a lot of things from how to cook and bake (there IS a difference) to how to change a baby’s diaper, even how to sew.  All of these lessons that have proven to be very useful throughout my life.  She and my dad taught me that “if I fail to plan, I plan to fail.”  That’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way, but hey – that happens.

Ms. Welker – My junior high English teacher who opened my eyes to the world of classic literature, writing, speech and debate.  Perhaps even the inspiration for starting (and continuing) my blog, Ms. Welker continues to encourage me to use my talents to help others.  We still keep up on Facebook.  Whether that’s by inciting laughter, inspiration, motivation or just a little silliness by my arsenal of voices (from Kermit the Frog to Hank Hill), she taught me to be true to myself.

My wife – She is finishing her studies in elementary education and has a true passion for this field.  Every day she comes home with new excitement from her practicum teaching (Kindergarteners to 4th graders) that inspires me.  In fact, she’s the very source of inspiration for many of my blog posts.  The education system needs people like her: people who truly care about their students, who are there for the right reasons, not just the paycheck and summer vacation.  She has great potential and I’m excited to walk hand in hand with her as we embark on the journey together.

Think:  Is there someone in your life that has taught you a lesson you’ll never forget?  It may not be a formal teacher in the education system.  It doesn’t have to be.  In fact, some of the best teachers are those that you encounter every day like friends, parents, grandparents, mentors, etc.

Don’t underestimate the power of learning.  One last challenge:  Strive to be a teacher in life.  Lead.  Help someone in need.  Pay it forward.

Leverage Life by Maximizing Efficiency

11 10 2011

Guest post by Andrew at RedType

Of the many things in life, there is only one constant; time. Once past, you will never ever be able to regain; to the extent it’s managed well, almost anything is achievable.

4 tips to help you maximize efficiency…

  1. Set a goal. It is important to be able to see the big picture; the end of the race. At the same time you will need to set milestones to measure your progress. This will help you see how far you’ve come and how much further you’ll need to go to achieve it.
  1. Create a plan of action. Identify your most productive time of the day and plan your schedule to accommodate. Look for a quiet place to think, focus and work. Make it a point to forward your cell phone to voicemail, quit your email & social media apps or better yet, disconnect from the Internet completely.
  1. Plan for efficiency. Keep your plan of action simple and straightforward. Make it easy for you to follow it to a T. Identify repetitive tasks, leverage technology to help you automate them and eliminate redundant processes.
  1. Stick to it. In order to ensure that your plan to maximize efficiency is sustainable, you will need to continuously work at it for about a month. Research shows that it takes a minimum of 30 days for a habit to take root.

Recommended Apps

Dropbox backs up your data to the cloud and syncs it across all your computers. Accidentally delete or overwrite a file? The standard account saves versions of each file for up to 30 days. Automated image galleries, shared file & folder integration to help you collaborate, public folders for your career advancement, HTML micro-sites of your work, résumé and more.

Google Docs is the equivalent of Office suite via the Web and more. Word processor, spreadsheets, presentations, one of its core key features is the ability for users to collaboratively edit the same document in real time.

Google Calendar – Helps you manage and share your schedule, automates repeat events, reminders. Set it and forget it, at least until the next reminder email or pop-up arrives.

Google Alerts – Automated alerts that notify you of preset keywords indexed on websites. Choose from a selection of immediate, daily or weekly notifications.

Social Media – LinkedIn.com for professional profiles, Twitter to learn more and participate in conversations related to your interests and continuing education.

Caveat: High potential for information overload. Be selective about what you engage, don’t stretch yourself too thin. (See Tip #2)

Suggested reading: “Making Ideas Happen, Overcoming the Obstacles between Vision and Reality” by@ScottBelsky

Andrew works at Redtype, a creative design studio that helps to connect people by leveraging design thinking and technology to empower change & growth.

Not Your Typical Millennial

4 10 2011

By this time, we’ve all heard about the Millennial generation or Gen Y.  We know about Helicopter Parents (or worse, Blackhawk parents), entitlement issues, and the fact that they’re all what we’d consider “digital natives.”  Yep – Gen Y has never known the world without the internet.  We’re different than any other generation.  Yes, you heard me right.  We.  I’m a Millennial too.  Surprised?

There has been this huge topic of how companies will have to adjust everything they do as Gen Y enters the workforce.  For some, the very term “Millennial” or “Gen Y” may cause a knee-jerk reaction to roll one’s eyes.  Some companies have embraced this new generation of workers with open arms, while others continue to resist change.  Here’s the thing, though.  We’re not ALL your typical Millennial.  Below, I’ve highlighted a few reasons we’re good for the workforce.


Who didn’t or doesn’t think that they should have a job waiting for them upon graduation?  When I graduated college, I just knew there would be a company ready to offer me my dream job.  After all that hard work and time put into studies, it seems natural that a person would be considered a candidate.

Debunking the entitlement myth:  We know we’re going to have to work to get to the top.  That corner office isn’t going to be handed to us.  But, we’ve also been taught that it’s okay to pop into a supervisor or the CEO’s office if we have an idea.  If we have something to share, we’ll share it.  And we’ll go to whomever we wish.  The lines of bureaucracy don’t apply to us.

Solution:  Help us understand the processes and procedures.  Provide a little more flexibility in those processes.  We want to know that if we work hard, we can advance quickly.  Transparency is paramount with Gen Y.  We have good ideas and want to be heard!  Typically, we’re thinking outside the box, so our solutions may sound radical at first.  Remember, doing what you’ve always done probably won’t get you to where you want to go in the future.  Gen Y gets this!

Bonus:  We feel appreciated and valued as a team member.  Not only that, but both parties (company and employee) benefit as both advance.

Helicopter parents

Mom and dad are the people we go to for advice.  They’ve been with us the entire way.  They’re our cheerleaders.  We’re probably even Facebook friends with them.  When we need ANYTHING, we call them.  That could range from career advice to laundry services to lunch money.  Yeah, we’re pretty dependent on the parents.  But, let’s face it – MOST college students are!  I bet that if you looked back at what you were doing at age 18-22, you’d agree that the world was a bit scary.  Who better than our parents to assure us that everything would be okay?

Debunking the helicopter parent myth:  Here’s the thing – we love mom and dad.  They’re our most trusted advisors.  If we don’t understand a corporate benefits package (who really does?), then we ask someone who has some experience.  Yep – mom and dad.  They’ve not only learned how to navigate the benefits for themselves, but they’ve also managed to understand how to utilize the benefits for their children.  Generation Y is going to ask their parents.  Parents are going to be involved with much of their child’s journey to success.  But, they typically don’t expect to accompany the child to the interview, call to negotiate benefits, attend the career fair, or show up to class to take notes when their child is sick.  STUDENTS:  If you think this is okay, think again.  It isn’t!!  Parents want to help – we get that.  But we’re adults here.  Let’s take some responsibility to do our own research and learn to manage ourselves.  We can still ask our parents, but we’re the ones that should do the work.  I’d say that most Millennials understand this.  A few didn’t and ruined it for everyone!

Solution:  Give us a little time to digest information.  We live in an instant gratification world, but there are still things that need some extra attention before making a decision.  Once we have done our research, involve us in the decision-making process.  Help to provide an opportunity for transparent feedback.  We want to know now if we’re doing a good job or not (mom and dad ALWAYS let us know where we stood).  Don’t wait until the annual or bi-annual performance review to tell us.  Help us by sharing this with us now.  That way, we can adjust if needed.  If we’re already doing a great job, then we now know and are motivated to continue to improve!

Community involvement

There’s no myth here to debunk.  It’s plain and simple.  Today’s generation of workers want to know that their employer is involved in the community.  Not only that, but they also want to actively participate.  For Gen Y, doing well by doing good is inherent.  We don’t want to just give money to support a cause.  We want to be in the trenches, empowering those that are less fortunate with the tools they need to be successful.  We don’t do it for extra credit.  We do it because it’s the right thing to do.  So, whether it’s working with United Way, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, American Red Cross or organizations like Enactus, we want to be part of the goodwill.  It helps us remember that the world is bigger than ourselves, that we should be lucky to have what we have, and it provides us with an opportunity to share our gifts with others.

I mentioned Enactus earlier in this post for a reason.  If you’re not familiar with the organization, here’s a perfect opportunity to see the global scope of these young leaders’ projects.  Check out the newly launched See Opportunity campaign.  These students and global business leaders are not just talking about how the world needs to change.  They’re actually out there making the positive change happen!  Empowering people in need with the tools they need to be successful, Enactus students are changing lives forever.  It’s no wonder why the organization is supported by so many top Fortune 500 companies.  Enactus’ mission is clear: To enable progress through entrepreneurial action.  With programs active in 36 countries, 65,000 students on over 1600 university campuses, Enactus students completed over SIX MILLION HOURS of project service in 2010!  Yes, you may have heard about Enactus from me in another post a while back.  I work for Enactus and am proud to be part of such a dynamic and rewarding organization, helping our partner companies recruit students for entry-level jobs and internships.  Every day, there’s a new challenge and a new inspiration.  How many people can say that about their job every day?

I bring up Enactus students because they’re the perfect example of students who aren’t your typical Millennials.  They’re independent, creative thinkers, highly motivated, and possess business acumen with a global perspective.  Enactus students are involved in the program because they want to give back.  And they go to work for Enactus partner companies because of the investment those companies have made in them.  Like the research has shown, students today are motivated by opportunity for advancement, a company’s involvement in the community, and a sense of purpose that what they are doing contributes to the organization’s overall success.

Jillian Walker from theHRnetwork.com recently wrote this about Gen Y:

“We are all very different. Some use smart phones, some use landlines. Some love social media, some hate it. Some are entrepreneurial; some are 9 to 5…..Consider Gen Y as people. No different than the past when we have reflected on Boomers and Baby Boomers. It’s not one against each other…together, we are the workplace of tomorrow.”

Like she said, when it all comes down to it, we’re no different than Baby Boomers or Generation X.  The stereotypes all come at the same age.  With time, we all mature with life experiences.  So, it’s not that really about a generation.  It’s about the level of maturity at that time.  We all learn.  If we don’t, we fail.  Right out of college, we’re all naïve.  The world is our oyster.  Everyone is motivated differently and there are going to be those stories that become somewhat of an urban legend.  Don’t let one bad experience ruin you for life.  Learn, and then move on.

So before you pass judgment on Gen Y, dig a little deeper.  I think you’ll find that we’re not all typical.  In fact, if you give us a chance, we’re likely to debunk every myth about our generation!

Have a comment?  I’d love to know your thoughts.  Please leave a note below.  As always, thanks for reading!