Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Personal Development

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to personal development.

2018 in Review: Personal and Professional Development

“New Year, New Me!” That’s the attitude people around the world are taking today as 2019 has officially kicked off. Of course, there’s no reason to be a completely brand new you if you’re generally happy with how things are going, and certainly you can improve on yourself any time.

Year-round, we share content for IT contractors to help them improve on themselves. Some posts relate to specific skills development and others suggest ways to improve soft skills. In the staffing industry, recruiters recognize time and again the importance of improving skills and updating your resume with new value-adds and differentiators. To help you succeed this year, here are the best posts about personal development that we shared in the past year…

Technical Skills

Softer Skills and Development

Which Skills to Learn First?

It’s Time to Reflect on 2018 so You Can Set SMART Goals for 2019

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

As another year winds down and we look forward to enjoying some ‘downtime’ over the holidays, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on the past year, and think about what you would like to achieve in the upcoming year. From a career perspective, it’s important to set goals to ensure that you keep moving forward. Perhaps you have a long-term goal you are working towards but are struggling to identify how to get there. It’s extremely important to set smaller annual goals that will assist you in moving towards that larger goal.

As a consultant/contractor, it might help to reflect on the past year to help you determine what goals would be important for you. Was there an opportunity that you missed out on because you didn’t have the required certification or designation? Will achieving that in 2019 help you to land that contract that will help your career to move forward?

Perhaps you had a gap between contracts in 2018 while you tried to find your next opportunity. Setting a goal to increase your network, to connect with a mentor who is currently fulfilling the role you strive for, or to break into a new industry are all goals that can help you work towards that long-term career goal. You can also speak with a recruiter to ask for their input on what might make you more marketable. Recruiters see multiple opportunities every day and have a wealth of knowledge and insight that they are likely happy to share.

When setting goals, it’s important to ensure that they are ‘SMART’:

  • Is your goal Specific,
  • Is your goal Measurable
  • Is your goal Attainable
  • Is it Relevant (to your long term career goals)
  • And is it Time-based?

Be sure to set clear goals, to write them down, and to set timelines to hold yourself accountable.

All the best for a safe and happy holiday season, and here’s to a productive and goal oriented 2019!

Podcasts That Will Help You Grow

A couple months ago, we shared 15 Podcasts to Help Independent Contractors Get Through Difficult Times. The post, not surprisingly, received positive feedback and a number of shares. Podcasts are a convenient way to keep up-to-date on nearly any topic. You can listen to industry-leading experts to help you with personal development, all while driving, exercising, working or any other task.

A reader recently referred us to this infographic from CarRentals.com suggesting Inspirational Podcasts for Professional Growth. They’re solid suggestions, and if you visit the page, there are additional infographics, including Educational Podcasts for Personal Growth and Wellbeing and Self-Help Podcasts. If you’re not sure what to listen to next, you’re guaranteed to find something here!

Podcasts That Will Help You Grow

7 Reasons Why Smart, Hardworking People Don’t Become Successful

The idea that smart people who grew up in a good environment would be successful is a common idea that may not actually be true. There are many other factors that lead to success beyond intelligence and work ethics. This video by the Art of Improvement highlights seven reasons why a “smart person” may end up being unsuccessful. Knowing these reasons can make you more aware of how you act in the workplace and outside of it and allow you to incorporate change to maximize your success.

The Hardest Person to Motivate is Yourself — Here’s What to Do About It

The Hardest Person to Motivate is Yourself -- Here's What to Do About ItIf you’ve ever led a team, then you’re all too familiar with the challenges in motivating others who just aren’t feeling it. If you’ve ever had to search for a job, then you’re all too familiar with the challenges in motivating yourself!

Self-motivation is no easy task. Some days you wake up and you can take on the world and be the most productive person ever. Other days, you’d prefer to watch Netflix or play video games rather than to continue with the job search, complete the grid or do your accounting. Lack of self-motivation isn’t just limited to tasks you dislike. You could be working on the most interesting project for your client and getting paid a fair rate, but some days, you’d still rather chat with your colleagues.

Motivating yourself extends beyond time management. Even the most organized and productive IT contractors fall into a slump. That’s because motivation is emotional. It ignores rational thinking and if you’re not in the proper headspace, it’s just not there. So how can you overcome your temporary lack of drive and push yourself to do what needs to be done? Here are a few hacks to get you started:

Get Yourself in a Positive Mindset

You’re more likely to procrastinate when you’re in a bad mood, so the logical first step is to make sure you’re in a good mood. There are various ways to do that, including:

  • Remaining optimistic by tracking your progress and celebrating success
  • Setting the right environment with a clean workspace and happy music
  • Getting plenty of sleep and exercise
  • Taking breaks as necessary

Set Meaningful Goals

Obviously you have goals: “Update my resume by the end of today”, “Complete the project on time and on budget”, “Do my taxes before the deadline”. Now you need to take those goals and make them more meaningful:

  • Make your goals mean something to you that’s deeper than “If I don’t succeed I’ll get fired.”
  • Keep reminding yourself of that goal AND its benefits and why you’re truly trying to achieve it
  • Don’t punish yourself for not achieving a goal, rather be constructive to understand what happened and move on.

Don’t Go It Alone

Even if you prefer to work alone, it still helps to have somebody on the sidelines who knows your goals. This will help to keep you motivated. When there are other people involved, you make yourself accountable and suddenly there’s extra pressure to get the work done.

  • Find others who are as motivated as you are (or more) and bring them into your circle
  • Expand your network with other IT contractors to share challenges and mentor each other
  • Don’t be afraid to get a little competitive to help drive your motivation
  • In times you really need motivation, try a commitment device. Give a friend (or even better, a foe) $100. If you don’t succeed, they keep the money. stickK will help you create a commitment contract, set stakes and manage the entire process online.

Get Moving

At some point you might have to fake it ’til you make them. If it takes a cold shower or jolt of coffee to wake you up so be it, but if you don’t start somewhere, you’ll never start at all.

  • Reduce all possible distractions so you have no choice but to work
  • Set routines that will let you know where to start — and change up those routines occasionally to keep it interesting.
  • Take baby steps with small simple tasks. Often just working 5 minutes will get you into the flow.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, everybody falls into unmotivated slumps. The most successful people are those that know how to deal with it. How do you motivate yourself to get moving? Are there are any specific tasks you find are harder to get started than others?

7 Things Everyone Should Know About Negotiating Anything

Negotiations can be difficult, especially if you aren’t a confrontational person. For IT contractors, negotiating is something that happens regularly and being good at it is what can help you go from getting a fair rate to an exceptional rate. Once you’re on a job, you continue negotiating in various circumstances, for example, when deciding on the plan you’ll use for a specific project.

If you’ve noticed you keep coming up on the short end of a negotiation and want to improve your skills, Close.io is here to help. They compiled seven fantastic tips to help you negotiate anything and summarized them all in this infographic.

7 Things Everyone Should Know About Negotiating Anything

25 of the Best Picard Tips from the Past Year

Star Trek fans far and wide adore Patrick Stewart’s character, Jean-Luc Picard. They trust his ability as captain and would follow much of his advice. So much so that over 100,000 people follow the novelty Twitter account @PicardTips. It features daily tips that, while often humourous and relate to Star Trek, nearly always provides valuable advice on management, personal development, technology and other topics.

We scrolled through and, as expected, @PicardTips has plenty of one-liners suitable for the IT contractor. Here are our favourite 25 from the past year…

  1. Picard programming tip: A computer is like a mischievous genie. It will give you exactly what you ask for, but not always what you want.
  2. Picard engineering tip: Even if computers can talk now, remember how deeply stupid they are.
  3. Picard management tip: Data is easier to manage than humans.
  4. Picard management tip: Break a complex, urgent problem into subcomponents, one for each of your lieutenants to solve.
  5. Picard devops tip: No, you are not allowed to connect your brain to the computer. Learn to type like everyone else.
  6. Picard diplomacy tip: When communication is breaking down, try to speak the other person’s language.
  7. Picard ethics tip: The fact that a conflict has many sides does not imply that every side has merit.
  8. Picard management tip: Tell your employees when they do well, even if you believe they are empathic and can read your mind.
  9. Picard social tip: A Vulcan can laugh. A Klingon can soothe. A Ferengi can give. Your preconceptions are not facts.
  10. Picard resistance tip: Occasionally there are times when you must draw a line and refuse to budge.
  11. Picard management tip: Everyone’s a critic, but some criticisms are more correct than others.
  12. Picard management tip: In a strange new environment, be wary of making changes until you understand more about what’s going on.
  13. Picard management tip: Put your experts in a conference room, tell them the problem, then shut up and watch the magic happen.
  14. Picard programming tip: When the holodeck malfunctions, stay in character. Don’t piss off the computer.
  15. Picard management tip: Give your crew the best technology available and you’ll be amazed what they can do for your enterprise.
  16. Picard programming tip: The first version of any software will be buggy. That’s why so many holodeck programs try to kill you.
  17. Picard technology tip: An advanced system isn’t always easy to use. Improve the interface, or try pushing buttons at random.
  18. Picard management tip: Adopt the latest technologies right away, even if they’re in beta.
  19. Picard management tip: Don’t negotiate absurd schedules with engineers. Encourage truth telling and reasonable time estimates.
  20. Picard engineering tip: Don’t allow the computer to push you around. Let it know who’s boss.
  21. Picard management tip: Be willing to ask for help, even from people you dislike.
  22. Picard technology tip: Sometimes your chief engineer can build new systems that are better than your existing enterprise software.
  23. Picard programming tip: Don’t be fooled. Machines have feelings.
  24. Picard management tip: If they know their jobs, leave them alone. If they don’t, help them learn.
  25. Picard management tip: Know when to put on a happy face. It’s part of adulthood, and essential for command

Age is Just a Number: It’s Never too Late to Learn Something New

There seems to be a common belief that at a certain point in your life, you’re too old to learn something new. However, if this was actually the case then many creations and companies wouldn’t exist today. According to an interactive infographic from Funders and Founders, the creator of Starbucks, Gordon Bowker, was 51 when he started the company and an even better example is that IBM was created when the creator, Charles Flint, was 61! These are perfect examples of how you’re never too old to take on the challenge of starting something new.

The same thing goes for IT contractors. Our technology is always changing and improving, so to keep up with industry requirements you need to be learning about latest technology. Because, the reality is that late bloomers can be successful. Funders and Founders created another infographic (see below) demonstrating late bloomers who were successful later in life. For example, Julia Child was a famous French cuisine chef, but knew nothing about French cuisine until the age of 30.  Anyone can learn something new!

 too late to learn - late bloomers-people who succeeded infographic

How to Stop an Argument from Getting Out of Hand

Every independent contractor knows how a simple conversation with a colleague, client or even recruiter can go from good to bad in a matter of seconds. Your first instinct is to become defensive and argue your point. Unfortunately this may not be the best tactic.

Business Insider put together a list of ways to get your point across without the debate getting out of hand. This includes not trying to be the winner of the argument and to respect the other person’s point of view – even if you don’t agree!

How To Win Any Argument Graphic

15 Podcasts to Help Independent Contractors Get Through Difficult Times

For all of the good times, being an independent contractor can bring on some tough times that make you feel alone. Some days finding the next IT gig is like pulling teeth and you’re left with little or no income for a period of time. Then, after putting in hours of effort to finally land a contract, technology projects can go off the rails, clients and their employees might throw you under the bus, and your personal plans start to get destroyed. It’s times like these that you need to be strongest and get back up fighting, but where do you find that motivation?

Fundera has a solution for you… actually they have 15 helpful solutions! This infographic suggests podcasts on nearly any topic that are both inspiring and help build resilience — perfect for the independent IT contractor. Check them out and let us know you favourite in the comments below.

15 Podcasts to Help Independent Contractors Get Through Difficult Times