Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Personal Development

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

Find More IT Jobs by Improving These Soft Skills

We talk a lot about the soft skills IT contractors need in order to succeed on gigs. Unless you’re exceptionally one-of-a-kind in your field, you can’t get away with just your programming skills or project management experience — you can only truly stand-out with the proper soft skills.

Today’s digital economy demands more than just a great education. In this video from Entrepreneur, leading scholar Ernest Wilson discusses a recent study he led. They interviewed managers from all industries to learn what they look for when hiring, and discovered that it’s beyond an impressive degree. Wilson summed up 5 in-demand, undersupplied soft skills that top companies are seeking.

Business Owner? Invest in YOU!

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on The Eagle Blog on March 23rd, 2017

learning quote from Brian HerbertEagle has been working with independent contractors for more than twenty years.  One of the challenges that any business owner faces is in personal development and it is particularly tough for the owner of a one person business.  If “the business” is taking time out for training, then it is not making money  and a second issue is that the business also has to pay for training.

When I started Eagle I had a similar dilemma, how do I continue to learn about running a business and still do my day job.

“Develop a passion for learning.  If you do, you will never cease to grow.”  Anthony J D’Angelo

Here are some ideas:

Read! It seems obvious … but so few people do it! I love the Executive Book Summaries because they are an 8 page (20 minute read) synopsis of some of the greatest business books. A very affordable annual fee lets me download pdf files that I print and read when I have a few minutes between meetings or when I’m traveling! I also subscribe to Harvard Business Review which produces short, very informative and relevant documents that keep me thinking, give me ideas and help me to stay relevant.

Network! I started a small group of fellow CEOs that gathered on a monthly basis to share stories and collectively grow. There are many existing groups that provide the same experience.  Over the years I have belonged to numerous such groups .. including the group of CEOs who ride motorcycles!  If you are an independent contractor why not start your own networking group?

Online Training.   In recent years there has been an explosion of available, and free or very affordable, training online.  Sites such as Coursera and others like it have great training in a plethora of subjects.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”  John F Kennedy

My advice to any business owner, particularly the independent operator …invest a little in yourself and you differentiate from almost everyone else!

True Geeks Will Love this Motivational Infographic

Are you one of those people who base their entire life off of advice given in Star Wars, Disney Movies or your favourite childhood cartoons? There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Classic books, movies and television became the classics they are because of unforgettable, intelligent writing. As a result, many people recite motivational quotes from their favourite characters… even if it is a little geeky.

To prove that you’re not alone, we found this infographic from PlaygroundEquipment.com that compiles 30 different motivational quotes from some of the most influential fictional teachers and mentors. Everybody from Yoda to Mary Poppins, Master Splinter and even Boy Meets World’s Mr. Feeny are included in this throwback graphic. At least one of these quotes will connect with you and make your day. Can you find your favourite?

Alphabet of Nostalgia: 90s Edition - PlaygroundEquipment.com - Infographic
PlaygroundEquipment.com

Stay Focused and Impress Your Clients

Clients, phone calls, email, social media — there are so many distractions around our office that prevent us from getting work done faster.  And if you work from home, you can expand on those distractions when you factor in family, pets and (for some of us) the kitchen.

A common criticism we hear back from clients at the end of a contract is that a contractor wasn’t focused on their work enough, and they felt they were sharing their time with personal phone calls, emails or social networks.  Sure, the client’s employees do the same, but companies hold independent contractors to a higher standard. After all, how would you feel if the carpenter billing you by the hour took 45 minutes each morning to check Facebook instead of building your deck?

Because independent contractors can stand out with exceptional customer service and high productivity, you should make it a priority to remain as focused as possible, regardless of all of the distractions around you. Almost everyone can improve in this area to some degree, so have a look at this infographic from On Stride Financial for ideas to impress your client.

Get More Positive Stress at Work

Positive pressures create a way to balance out anxiety and worry

This post by Mark Swartz was originally published on the Monster Career Advice Blog.

Get More Positive Stress at Work (Positive pressures create a way to balance out anxiety and worry)Here’s some sunny news about stress: certain types can actually be good for you. A bit of pressure and nerves gets you focused.

But too much of what happens at work creates “distress” (negative tension). Like lack of control. Or not enough resources to do the job well. That can lead to ailments of the body and mind.

Creating more positive tension, also known as “eustress,” takes a conscious effort. A number of techniques are available to turn this into a healthy habit.

Good Stress Builds You Up

We all know the symptoms of stress. Over time the bad kind can lead to health problems, or play havoc on emotions unless dealt with.

Eustress does the opposite. There’s still tension and pressure involved. Only it challenges you to try harder, reminds you to concentrate on what’s important, and generates results that improve self-confidence.

Good stress is a great antidote to negative tension. There is less wear and tear, more drive toward accomplishment.

How Eustress Is Experienced

You know that feeling of butterflies in your stomach? Not the kind that makes you violently nauseous, or leaves you paralyzed with fear.

It’s more like the nervousness you feel on the way to a job interview you’ve prepared for, or before making a presentation in front of your colleagues.

The adrenalin is flowing. Your heart pumps faster and louder. All of your senses seem amplified. This fight-or-flight response makes you more alert and ready for the tasks at hand. It seems like whatever is about to happen will be within your coping abilities.

When the challenge you’re facing is completed, relative calmness returns. Eustress tends to be short-term and event-specific.

Typical Good Stressors At Work

There are lots of examples of positive personal stressors on the job. These may include:

  • Starting a new job or career you’re excited about
  • Receiving a desired promotion or raise
  • Relocating for work after asking to be re-assigned
  • Getting ready for a much needed vacation when things are busy
  • Preparing for retirement

 

Big events such as changing jobs or relocating don’t arise frequently. So you’ll have to produce your own eustress on a more regular basis. Consider the examples below.

Learn a new skill

It can be stressful to try and pick up new knowledge or skills. Yet it ultimately brings about self-improvement and increased personal marketability. Those are the hallmarks of eustress.

Set Firmer Boundaries

Have you said “no” recently when the boss asked you to work nights and weekends? Standing up for yourself takes gumption. It often creates tension at first, which encourages you to take care and do it respectfully.

Volunteer To Do A Presentation

Few things boost your profile like giving a well-prepared talk. Yet few things are as nerve-wracking as public speaking. The secret is to know your stuff, cater to the needs of your audience, and rehearse till it hurts.

Deal With Workplace Conflicts

It is risky to confront an annoying colleague or supervisor. However if something must be done, proceed in ways that are likely to generate eustress. Plan your approach carefully. Try to propose win-win solutions. And do your best to keep emotions in check.

Take On A Stretch Assignment

Step out of your comfort zone every so often. Offer to work on a committee that puts you in a leadership role. Attempt to solve a problem that no one else has been able to.

Eustress Versus You Stress

Worry and strain are among the many aspects of working life. They need to be balanced with positivity in your daily routine.

Eustress is beneficial pressure that ignites your resolve to succeed. Insert more of it into your overall activities. At first you may feel increasingly vulnerable. But as you learn to manage the fears, you can harness those butterflies to fly in formation.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health

Breigh Radford By Breigh Radford,
Director, Human Resources at Eagle

Let's Talk About Mental HealthIt’s about time we started talking about Mental Health, not just in the workplace but everywhere — at schools, at the dinner table — we need to make it a part of our everyday vernacular.  Why? Why now? Is it just another buzz word?  Hardly.

Mental Health is what it implies: health for the mind. There are too many examples of workplace violence where the root cause, given by officials, is the mental health of the perpetrator.  How many examples have to be given before we take action?  How many people have to suffer in silence before being heard?  How many generations have to go through the pain of stigma? The solution begins with a conversation. Why wouldn’t you want to talk about it… heck, we talk about everything else!

One of the ways we talk about mental health is through our social involvement and sharing our stories.  At Eagle, we encourage a community approach to promote all health.  We partner with a national gym to give staff a membership discount, therefore, boosting physical well-being.  This in turn helps deal with anxiety and depression; it also gets employees involved in another social circle, helping reduce feelings of isolation. We encourage discussions through workshops, have information posted on the company intranet and send the team regular emails on the topic. I myself attended a Mental Health First Aid workshop in order to provide immediate support for anyone who is in crisis.   This all helps create an environment where mental health can be spoken about freely and without stigma.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?

There are lots of initiatives to help generate discussion on this subject, with more and more people speaking up and getting involved.  How can you help? Get educated about mental health!  Listen to people in a non-judgemental way; let them talk freely and comfortably about problems.  Help the person feel hope and optimism; it is after all, a real medical condition.  Encourage them to seek help and guidance; there are a ton of effective treatments out there.

Today, January 25th is Bell Let’s Talk Day, where every time you talk, text and join in on social media, Bell will donate 5¢ more to mental health initiatives. The goal is to open discussion about mental illness and offer new ideas and hope for those who struggle. In addition, the first week in May is National Mental Health Week. What happens the rest of the year is up to you. How will you join the conversation and help end the stigma on Mental Health?

2016 in Review: The Softer Skills of Work

2016 in Review: The Softer Skills of WorkYesterday we shared some of 2016’s top articles and tools about training and development so you can start setting your technical skills development goals this year. While these skills make it so you can successfully complete a project, recruiters and clients alike are looking for more than your abilities. They want to know how personable you are and how advanced your “soft skills” are.

How important is it to keep these skills refreshed? Every member of Eagle’s Executive Team touched on it in 2016:

These skills include everything from basic workplace etiquette…

…to proper communication in various situations.

Finally, and possibly most importantly for a busy IT contractor, is time management. Everybody can always improve in this area, so we encourage you to check out at least one of these posts:

8 Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating (Infographic)

If you haven’t already started your vacation, you will soon have at least a few days off, and this is the time of year where we somehow manage to get out of shape in just a few days. This year, rather than setting a New Years’ Resolution to get back into shape, why not ensure that you don’t get out of shape? How? With the help of this infographic from Cleveland Clinic which provides 8 Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating, so you can keep on top of your eating habits before they escalate out of control.

8 Tips for Health Holiday Eating

What COULD You Do With 20 minutes?

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on The Eagle Blog on November 21, 2012

If you were to invest 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week towards “self development” what could you do?

Health & Fitness

I have a weight routine that takes me exactly 20 minutes. When I do it, I usually do 20 minutes of cardio first but if pushed for time I just do the weight routine.  There are 9 upper body moves that I execute one after the other as a circuit.  I do a set of abs before the first set, a set of abs between the sets and again after the second set… it all takes 20 minutes!  I can tell you that when I started doing this it had a dramatic affect on toning my upper body, and I only do it twice a week!  In addition to toning your body, weights increase muscle mass which increases the amount of calories your body burns!

A 20 minute brisk walk every day burns calories, builds some muscle, exercises your heart and gets some “fresh” air into your lungs.

20 minutes exercise each day for 5 days a week is more than 85 hours of exercise a year!

Brain Work

I can read an 8 page summary of a business book from Executive Book Summaries in 20 minutes.   If you read one book summary a week you can cover off the main concepts of more than 50 business books every year.

I can do a tough Sudoku or a crossword puzzle in about an hour… or 3 * 20 minute sessions.  If I devote my brain to that activity three times a week I am spending 50 hours a year exercising my brain.

Relationships

I can have a 20 minute conversation with my mom (sisters, friends etc) and we all enjoy it.

I can write 4 cards with hand written notes in 20 minutes . They might be to friends or clients, but they are always appreciated.

I can take 5 minutes to share a good business read on LinkedIn and enhance my personal brand as a knowledge expert.  If I invest 20 minutes over the course of a week I can share 200 stories in a year and the Kevin Dee brand gets noticed.

I can spend 5 minutes sending an email to a friend or relative to let them know how I’m doing, and that I’m thinking of them.  Again a 20 minute investment each week means 4 times a week (200 times a year) I am reaching out to people I care about.

How much time do you spend watching “mindless TV shows”?

How much time do you spend sitting on a bus or train?

How much time do you spend sitting in a hotel room while on business travel?

How much time do you spend sitting at the rink while your child skates?

There are lots of “20 minute opportunities” out there and you don’t need to cram them all with activity, but just maybe a small investment in 20 minute activities could give you a good return on that investment.

PS.  This is just scratching the surface … if you really think about it there are a million high return ways to use 20 minutes!

5 Tips to Improve Your Critical Thinking (Video)

When clients engage an independent contractor for their tech projects, they’re often seeking an IT professional who can think outside of the box and move in a direction that hadn’t yet been considered. That could be innovating a brand new solution, but more often, it means troubleshooting small problems and solving them in new, efficient ways. In the end, they want somebody who can think critically on their team.

How are your critical thinking skills? Have you put much work into improving them, or at least testing yourself to see how much improvement they need? Because we can all use some improvement in this area, and critical thinking is a huge differentiator between alright IT contractors and exceptional IT contractors, here’s a video from TED-Ed with five tips to improve your critical thinking.