My Startup Weekend Pitch: OneTeacher.me

I’m in DC for the education edition of Startup Weekend! It’s my first Startup Weekend, but here are my notes on how it works:

– entrepreneurs, and those aspiring to be entrepreneurs, can do 60-minute pitches for new start-ups at a Friday evening event at the beginning of the 54 hour weekend

– pitches are selected based on votes and teams then form

– teams build products the rest of the weekend with access to awesome mentors

– the teams present to a judging panel and finalists and a winner are named

The reason why I registered in the first place? It’s a fantastic opportunity to hone an entire skillset and network with education greats. However, as the event got closer, I became more entrenched with an idea I’ve had for years and am pitching it tonight: OneTeacher.me, a social network focused on helping teachers “get good” at what schools want, and then helping them tell the world about it. The first part happens when you earn badges by developing and demonstrating the teacher skills research shows our students need (think Foursquare). The second part is about using the badges to create a profile that’s searchable by hiring managers and peers, and join communities (think LinkedIn). Badges might be earned if you’re certified in a high-need subject area, are certified in multiple states, or participated in certain professional development programs. They may also be earned if you attach a lesson plan to your profile, or can demonstrate that you meet soft skills that research shows matter, like leadership, resilience and time management, through assessments or evidence. Content may be provided to help teachers get higher-order badges.

Readers of my blog know that my background is in teacher recruitment, hiring and quality– I was TFA, I helped implement the NYC Teaching Fellows from the first summer, served as the Director of Teacher Recruitment for the world’s largest school district of 1,600 schools, and researched and wrote about teacher hiring from an economic perspective in my academic career. I still blog about all this on Tumblr. But when I made the decision to go out on my own as a coach and consultant, I tried to run away as far as I could from teachers- only because I felt that was what I needed to make a clean break and put MY stake in the ground. But over the last 13 months, teachers keep calling me back- the webinar I did with SchoolSpring in May that sold out in 20 minutes, and then of course, the Teach Newark project we’ve managed since June.

Like many inspirations, it comes to one moment and mine happened this summer at an event when I found myself unexpectedly rushed by 200ish teachers trying to find a job. I unconsciously started giving out advice, pep talks, and pats on the back and I felt at peace in away I haven’t always felt as a coach. I felt at peace because even though I give them tough love, I truly love teachers and I’m good with them… and what could I happen if I could scale that? And that’s where Startup Weekend comes in.

If you were a teacher, are currently a teacher, or are an aspiring teacher, I’d love if you filled out our survey about your thoughts on our idea. Thanks very much!

Guest Post: Virtually and Collectively by Tanisha Christie

Tanisha Christie, RecruitmentI am so pleased to feature a guest post from our team member Tanisha Christie on what it really takes to work virtually. So many clients and people I meet want to pursue virtual and independent work, but don’t always understand that to be successful in these positions, you ironically have to be fantastic at teaming. Even the traditional 9-5 worker can learn a lot from her post.

While Tanisha’s post is on some of her learnings from working directly on Teach Newark, she is also a critical member of The Opportunities Project’s team and you’ll be hearing more from her in the coming months as we launch more services and products for organizations. 

Now this post isn’t so much about time management.  No.  I’ve taken many a skype meeting while doing laundry and having eggs boiling for the breakfast I’ve yet to eat because I got an email from a principal at 6:45 am because she chose to go to the office early, and I chose to respond because I needed her answer on a few questions so that I can get to my tasks for the day that were predicated on that answer.  No. Not about time management but from working with the Teach Newark team, I wanted to share a few things that I’ve considered while working independently, yet  collectively, and almost all while virtually.

1)    Know how you work, e.g. understand your working style.  Are you detailed oriented? Do you need to understand every part of the process to do your share effectively?  Are you a ‘lone wolf’?  I’m a whirling dervish, but I like tasks that have a beginning, middle and end.  I’m also deft at the soft skills, strategy, brainstorming and assessment.  Ask me to set up an eventbrite url…I’m not so good. Knowing how you work best and communicating that to your team leader will not only help the relationship prosper but gives you more control over your work product.

2)   While there is no “I” in Team, you have to remember that you are on one. We often worked in silos, handling various areas of the project.  Deadlines became important but sometimes pieces of a particular project may or may not be connected to the work I was doing.  So I made sure to keep deadlines. Or if there was difficulty, I asked questions. It may not be necessary to know what people are doing, but chances are your work affects someone else’s.

3)    More often than not, it’s better to pick up the phone or Gchat or Skype.   One of the benefits of working virtually is that you get to avoid meetings, which can be a time suck, however once you’re getting into a high number count on an email exchange over one issue, context does gets lost.  At times I would stop the madness and call.  Schedule a time to talk or just call the person.  Partial comments, fishing through long emails can be tedious and take more effort than necessary.

4)    And speaking of emails put proper subject headings on all correspondence.  This may seem trivial but this is an easy way to manage your emails, and others on the team will appreciate it.  This aiding my time management needs and gave me a way to organize my work.

5)    Participate in the corporate “culture.”  This might sound crazy but even if you are working alone in your pajamas, it is a good idea to pass along interesting articles to the team based on your work, connect to others on Linkedin, or follow the team on Twitter or Facebook (if you use your profile for professional purposes.)  I’ve written a recommendation for one of my colleagues on this project; linked, ‘friended’ and followed where appropriate.   If you are local to the project, go to events or at least ask how things went.  It’s important to show that you have some interest in the success of the project/organization.  It engenders good will and initiative could lead to more work for you.

 

Oct 18 Announcements, Music Monday

It’s been 90 days since our last Music Monday post and it’s time to bring it back as 2011 speeds to a close. We had developed Music Monday as a quick way to let you know about new opportunities and give you a little music inspiration to start your week. After a season where I retreated to work intensely with clients, we’re balancing that with some new offers, initiatives and events so it’s time to bring our updates back. Here we go!

#YPNYC Tweetup Tonight 10/18

Just a reminder that Julia Moon and I are co-hosting the Young Professionals #YPNYC Tweetup tonight at The Opportunities Project’s favorite and welcoming bar, McAnn’s in mid-town. We have 45+ RSVPs and it’s a mix of young professionals, career experts and entrepreneurs attending. Both Julia and I hope to see you there.

BrazenU Social Recruiting Bootcamp 11/7-11/18

BrazenU Social Recruiting BootcampI am very excited to be one of the speakers in the BrazenU Social Recruiting Bootcamp with my peers and heroes. More on this leading up to event, as well as some more social recruiting oriented blog posts. If you’re a recruiter, or are thinking about becoming a recruiter in the future, you’ll be able to learn a ton through this program. Enroll today (disclosure, this is an affiliate link).

I’ll also be announcing some exciting stuff about our social recruiting business services and my new plans for them very soon. This is one of the big changes I hinted at last week.

 

#DCEDU StartupWeekend this Weekend- 10/21

I’ll be pitching an idea at the education edition of StartupWeekend in Washington, DC on 10/21 and hopefully building a prototype with a technical team. I’ve been excited about Startup Weekend since my colleague called me from one in June. Thanks to all the people in my life who have been helping me prepare. I’ll throw up my idea on the blog here on Friday and start talking about it slowly all week on my Education Rebel @ Work Tumblr. Warning: I’m still talking about The Hunger Games over there.

Music Monday

And here is your Music Monday. I saw the new Footloose this weekend. Not only did I not die inside, I thought the acting and story was better than the original’s, though I’ve always been a sucker for a Boston accent. My big complaint is they shouldn’t have changed the music so drastically- the covers sucked. I used to practice my round-off cartwheels to this song in my backyard with the girls from the Wood School.

I certainly can’t do cartwheels any longer, but here’s to a great week of professional accomplishments that make you wish you could!

Herman Cain vs. Steve Jobs vs. Occupy Wall Street

Last week, while walking home in Brooklyn after meeting some friends, the heel of my boot got stuck in a hole in the sidewalk, breaking my shoe and sending me flying into the air. I eventually landed on both my knees on cobblestone and then fell on my right side in pain. I couldn’t get up for 20 minutes and somehow picked the one street in New York City to fall on that no one else uses. I could have at least used someone to take a picture in case I could have sued!

Until I got up, shook it off, and limped home shaken, I sat on the street wondering what would happen if I couldn’t get up on my own. I should have worried about physical pain, but I was more worried in that instance about what would happen if I had really injured myself with a crappy health insurance situation as a single woman who owns a solopreneur business. The Opportunities Project has made it through its first year, but just barely, and if I had broken something, what would I do to pay for that care… and how would it impact my ability to serve clients… and what would happen to everything I’d taken a risk to try to build for myself and others over 80+ hour weeks since I first had my idea for my business in late 2009. Just because of a damn dark hole in the sidewalk.

It turned out that I had banged myself up pretty bad, but self-treatable- I spent almost 4 days flat on my back with a heating pad on my bruised side and lots of Alieve. So yeah, I’ve been dealing with increased anxiety the last week or so exacerbated by staring at the ceiling (I also made some poor book choices. Sorry, Tina Fey). While I’m not 100% ready to formally announce things yet, I am on the verge of some business and personal changes. Decisions have been made, plans sketched out, but been difficult to physically put into action just now, even though I’m psychologically ready. But no matter how much clarity I have, I’m also worried about the uncertainty my choices will bring and the stability of the market… and how I went from being someone with an MPA in economics and finance to someone who is passionate about and really good at career coaching, social media, teaching and recruiting… things that just go with recessions like peanut butter and jelly? Breathe. But then there were also these things I heard or read the last week:

– “Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”- Herman Cain

– “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”- Steve Jobs

– “I don’t want anyone listening today to think that once you’re done with high school, you’re done learning, or that college isn’t for you… You have to start expecting big things for yourself, right now… Take some risks once in a while..” -President Obama

– Someone who seems to have taken both President Obama’s advice (get your college degree, become a teacher) and counsel from Steve Jobs (follow your heart and intuition) from We Are the 99%.

The number of BFAs under 30 on the We Are the 99% blog with $85K+ in student loan debt has made my heart feel like it’s going to jump out of my chest. All around, the housing and medical debt are making my shoulders hunch permanently.

The problem is everything Cain, Jobs, Obama and Occupy Wall Street say are true, at last in part. Over the last year, I’ve met some amazing job seekers… and a lot who like to play the victim and/or don’t understand that creating success requires a disciplined plan and patience, among other things. But the majority of unemployed young professionals I’ve met are good people who did everything they were told to do by their parents, civic leaders and institutions to launch a career… study hard, go to a good school, pick something you like to do and are good at, get internships… and are stuck in place with few opportunities. Even for those of us who are taking risks, it is almost impossible without family wealth or the institutions previous generations could count on, like your local bank, to be there in your corner.

The rules have changed and the institutions we’re forced to work with- education, banks, and health care- won’t admit it and don’t have to change, and our political leaders are playing naive. I read some posts in my Facebook feed that the Occupy Wall Street protestors should watch Steve Jobs’ Stanford speech and understand personal responsibility instead of blaming companies, but Jobs believed our institutions should be focused on serving customers and users more than anything else. Harvard Business Review agrees. So everyone is right and everyone is wrong. And we all continue to suffer and wonder when and if anything will change other than bring more and different anxiety.

I spent yesterday upright, told my fear to go f’off for the day, and then followed up with as many clients as possible who are dealing with their own transitions, sent the final version of The Opportunities Project’s Quarter 4 plan to my team, and prepared for a group coaching session I led last night. To cure my anxiety, I can take responsibility for my future as much as I can and use my passions and talents to to serve others, and hope that no more hidden sidewalk holes creep up until the health care system can better serve someone like me. To make change, I can talk about the issues and challenge people to get real about what problems we’re actually facing. But is that enough?

Careers 101: Tweet Your Way to Success

Hopefully you received our invite to the #YPNYC Young Professional Tweetup we’re co-hosting with Julia Moon of Job vs. Career next Tuesday, October 18th. (If not, you should sign up for our mailing list). If you’ve been following my activities at all over the last year, you know I love Tweetups! I think they are a perfect example of harnessing the impact of social media to create and improve real-life relationships.

Join our Tweetup on 10.18

While there will be a number of people at the #YNPNYC Tweetup who are serious Twitter users, many will be new and slightly older than the typical “young professional” age bracket so don’t be intimidated if you’re unsure about coming. I’ll be there to not only help facilitate, but provide career coaching tips on maximizing Twitter for anyone who wants them. Here are some quick pieces of advice I have to get started on your own.

Tip 1- Follow: One of the best aspects of Twitter is that you can get access to experts and content for free. Lots of bloggers have created lists of people they recommend following on Twitter in various industries- search for them on Google and then start following. I have been featured on a few and my favorite has been YouTern’s The 50 Twitter Accounts Job Seekers Must Follow. I met the YouTern team on Twitter about a year ago through a few RTs (see Tip 2) and now- even though we live on opposite coasts- I’ve had coffee and meals with CEO Mark Babbitt three times and consider him a trusted colleague and advisor. Twitter is a great introduction to people you might never meet otherwise.

Tip 2- Engage: There are many ways to engage with people in Twitter. The easiest is to retweet (RT) something someone else wrote to your followers. Sharing is a great way to say thank you and start a conversation. You can also reply to people’s questions or just send someone a public tweet whether or not they follow you back. Every night, I look through my Twitter feed for people who found jobs or had other huge wins so I can send them a congratulations tweet, even if I don’t know them beyond 1 or 2 brief interactions. Compassion rocks. I met young professional and music industry guru Cate Louie on Twitter well over a year ago when we shared some tweets about job searching and organization. About 6 months ago, I had a really bad day (prob worst of all of 2011) and made a cryptic tweet about it. After following me for some time, Cate knew I loved Glee and tweeted me a link to a video from the show with a smile. A month later, I got to meet her at a conference by chance and we hugged. It’s one of my favorite Twitter moments.

Tip 3- Socialize: Socialize is a little different than engaging in that it means talking with others in a community setting, like at a Twitter chat. There are Twitter chats about all sorts of topics. One of my lessons in the free summer e-Course I offered this summer talked about how important it is to include Twitter chats in your career management plan. Feel free to read that stand-alone lesson for tips on participating in Twitter chats. For our Tweetup, we’ll be using the #YPNYC hashtag to create our own community. Everyone is free to use it, including those who won’t be at the Tweetup.

Finally, here are five of my favorite articles about Twitter I’ve collected over the last year that can help you get started.

– How 3 Tiny Tweets Got My First BIG Client

– Mind Your Business: Why You’re a Fool if You Don’t Use Twitter

– 4 Twitter Tips for College Students Seeking a Career (good for all ages, really)

– Twitter: 15 Ways to Stay Interesting

– Using Twitter for Work 

Look forward to speaking with you on Twitter and possibly at our event on the 18th!

Pay Attention to the Girls

Last year, I was fortunate enough to participate in a blogging campaign for The Girl Effect through an opportunity presented by one of my online coaching heroes, Tara Sophia Mohr. The annual blogging campaign (500+ bloggers) brings attention to the sobering stats of what happens to young girls in the developing world without intervention. Forced marriages right after puberty. A lifetime of poverty and an inability to take care of their family. By writing about these issues, we can start a conversation that creates a ripple effect which will eventually reach those who can make change on a systemic basis.

The Girl Effect has proposed that if we laser focus on investing in young women- before the age of 12- through education and entrepreneurship, we can make a large scale impact on the economy of third-world countries. The Kauffman Foundation for entrepreneurship recently found that women are the key to economic prosperity here in the U.S., too. If you pay more attention to little girls and young women in the world, things can really start to change for all of us. This video will explain and inspire.

The Opportunities Project doesn’t have an international reach, but we were started because I became passionate about the issues around economic inequality and access, and in particular how these issues impact still impact Generation Y women. The Girl Effect does a fantastic job of showing the impact of what happens when we don’t pay attention. What can you do to start?

Thanks to my colleagues and friends Tanisha Christie, Dana Leavy, and Michelle Ward who took me up on my invitation to join this year’s campaign. Please read their posts when you get a chance.

Guest Post: Notes from a Skype Interview by Rachel Eckhardt

Rachel Eckhardt Here’s a new post from one of our team members on our Teach Newark project, Rachel Eckhardt. Rachel helped us persuade teachers across the Northeast that Newark Public Schools was the place for them and then identify the best from that pool via many tools, including Skype interviews. Read her thoughts and advice if you’re an organization considering conducting Skype interviews as part of your recruiting process, or a job seeker who has been invited to one.  

My first experience conducting Skype interviews occurred during my work with Teach Newark. To prepare for using Skype, a free online video conferencing service, I did a trial run with my partner from opposite ends of our apartment. That was sufficient for me to familiarize myself with the setup, which is very self explanatory but I would still recommend a trial run for anyone using it for the first time.

How to Invite Applicants to a Skype Interview

Wondering if some candidates would decline to use Skype, our team gave them the option for a phone interview to occur the following week. This decision provided candidates with an incentive to learn to use video conferencing in order to have an earlier time slot, and it also provided a way out to anyone who legitimately could not. We effectively set a relatively low bar for candidates to demonstrate their technological mastery. Those who opted for phone interviews ranged from reporting that they did not have “a skype” to apologizing for having a broken webcam.

For many, it was their first time using video conferencing. Almost everyone expressed a certain wonder and delight, maybe recalling the video communication systems on the Jetsons or the original Star Trek! Skype interviews gave a positive impression of Newark Public Schools as a forward-thinking, tech savvy district. This tone left me well set up as the interviewer to convey the positive changes, improvements and transformations occurring in Newark.

The Candidate Experience

People were excited at the initial connection of the video! There was something fun about making it work and people got a kick out of it. It is unusual to start an interview with having a laugh together, but Skype added a sense of delight and novelty to the usual process of introducing ourselves. Candidates seemed to feel like they accomplished something just by connecting, which allowed them to start the interview on the right foot. When occasionally the video didn’t work for them, it turned out to be a frustrating process which I somewhat mitigated by allowing them to see me, reminding myself to smile at the computer, and moving along to the questions. In a few cases, it functioned merely as a phone interview.

Even for those who were being screened out, I wanted to leave them with a positive impression of the process and the district. Regardless of the medium, my goal as an interviewer is to always give the candidate every opportunity to show their best self. In order to do this via Skype, I tried to put them at ease but also convey the importance of the interview process and the work at hand. It is tempting with video conferencing to be more casual, so inserting a little professionalism can go a long way. Some candidates were especially taken with Skype and wanted to chat about how awesome it was, which we did a little just to ease into the conversation, but not for too long. Often it was up to me to hold the formality, and this may be a function of the culture of education or it may be a function of video conferencing. Either way, just as it does in person, a warm yet professional tone is essential for putting the candidate at ease while simultaneously setting them up for success.

It’s on Skype, but It’s an Interview!

A video interview creates a very condensed interaction so it is important to be deliberate about each element of the experience, even things you might not ever need to consider as closely for an in-person interview. All we see of each other is from the waist up, if that much. For attire, the most formal candidate wore a suit and tie. He aced the interview. The least formal candidate was seated on her couch and apologized for not dressing up, but she aced the interview too. Both of these extreme cases were able to demonstrate their commitment to students. Somewhere there should be a happy medium where attire is not a distraction, somewhere more on the formal side.

Participants on both sides of the interview see everything behind the other, so it is important to remove distractions. It is also important to be well lit. I found that a light source that is shining on me from behind my computer is best. Definitely avoid sitting with your back to a window! A silhouette makes you appear anonymous, which is not a good quality for interviewer or interviewee. After being distracted by an email notification, I made it a rule to close all other applications on my computer. Another thing that can be distracting is our own narcissistic desire to observe ourselves talking! Skype provides a tiny window where you see yourself over the person on the other end. It helped me to reduce this window to be as small as possible, and place it near the web cam.  That way if I couldn’t help but glance at it, at least it would appear that I was looking directly at the candidate. Overall, a Skype interview is something like a compromise between in-person and telephone. Setting yourself up for success on either side of the interview takes technical preparation, mindfulness of professionalism, and willingness to enjoy a little futuristic fun.

Last Day to Get our Career eCourse for Free

It’s September 22, the last official day of summer (sigh) and that means today is the LAST day to enroll in our Avoid a Cruel Summer eCourse (at least for FREE).

If you sign up, you’ll get 22 great career lessons emailed to you every 1-2 days while you’re in the course. The course isn’t just for recent grads or job searchers, but anyone who wants to upgrade their career significantly by thinking differently about relationships, branding, and personal power.

See you in class and let’s look forward to working with you in the fall!

Guest Post: Creating the Perfect Internship by Justin Mathews

Justin MathewsI am super, super pleased to feature a post today by Justin Mathews who I met over a year ago through my college mentor at Syracuse University, and has worked with The Opportunities Project since January 2011. Justin has helped me take my little idea of changing people’s perspectives on careers and education to a real live profitable organization with national credibility. I can’t thank him enough for sticking by me through all the peaks and valleys of the last nine months and keeping us on track.

While Justin and I make a great team, I also support his career goal to work in the consulting industry and think any organization who convinces him to accept their offer will be a very lucky place. 


Many college students waste too much time looking for that perfect internship. They apply at big shot companies, become discouraged when they don’t get it or, if they do get in, are disappointed to find that most of their work involves answering phones, clipping news article, or shredding paper.

But what if you could construct the perfect internship from scratch? What if the entire experience was sculpted from the beginning to utilize your strengths while broadening your skill set with tools to help you succeed in a career?

It’s a very real possibility. In fact, that is exactly what happened to me during my virtual internship with The Opportunities Project last spring. I began in January when I was brought on as Market Research and Digital Strategy Assistant. Before discussing the details of my position, Tracy and I searched job descriptions for “my perfect job” and identified recurring skills an ideal candidate would possess. When we met to structure the internship, we incorporated learning these into my daily responsibilities.

Even with three and a half years of college under my belt, most of my duties required the use of tools that I had barely (if ever) learned to use. I had never touched Google Analytics or WordPress, I used social media exclusively to communicate with friends I saw on a daily basis, and I had all but forgotten the little HTML and CSS I learned in Intro to Web Design.

But I learned them quickly. I analyzed the site’s website traffic, created a custom landing page on Facebook, co-authored a white paper, managed cost per click advertising campaigns, and more.

That was the true beauty of my internship. At the time, I was one of two team members working for The Opportunities Project, which meant that the company’s potential successes and failures hinged very much on my ability to learn and apply these new skills. My work didn’t just impact a grade – it had a very real effect on the overall health of a small business.

I have since been hired by The Opportunities Project as a paid operations and marketing consultant, as well as a subcontractor on their latest recruitment consulting contract. While other recent grads may be scrambling for their first, income-generating, post-grad opportunity, I am getting paid to use all of the skills I learned through my internship, make a difference, and learn even more skills. I expect these skills to aid me as I continue to search for long-term career opportunities in consulting.

That said, here is my best advice for college students:

Reach out to small businesses:

There are tons of startups out there. In fact, with businesses becoming increasingly web-based, your opportunities for a virtual internship are endless (I’ve done all my work while at least five hours away). Many of these startups haven’t even considered the possibility of having an intern yet. Use this to your advantage. If you’re trustworthy and present a compelling argument as to how you can help, you might just create an internship on the spot. You can work with your supervisor to structure the experience to learn new skills and employ the ones you have.

If you are successful, you’ll be able to broaden your skill set and have the opportunity to make a positive and measurable impact on the business, both of which will make you extremely attractive to future employers.

An RSS Update

A quick note for our blog RSS and email subscribers:

For the last year, we have using Posterous to manage our blog’s RSS feed, but are now using a custom feed developed by our web person. (We’ll leave the Posterous site up, but will not update it any longer.) If you read our blog via RSS or email, you shouldn’t see any difference, but if you do, please contact us.

Didn’t know that you could subscribe to our blog? Go here to subscribe in Google Reader or your other favorite blog reader or to get our posts via email. We also have another personal blog where we talk about topics like educational politics and our obsession with The Hunger Games called Education Rebel @ Work on Tumblr. We’d love your feedback on it, too.