Posts Tagged 'Personal Development'

MOOC Update

blog 3Well, here we are, one month on from my original MOOC post (which you can read here) and I know you’re all just DYING to hear how I’m getting on! It’s been a mixed bag so far, for a variety of reasons, so here’s a quick update to let you know where I’m currently at:

At present I am signed up for three MOOCs (I added a third on becoming a more confident trainer, also from Open 2 Study, which seemed manageable at the time…) and have commenced work on all of them.

One of my biggest challenge at present is time. Time is something I just don’t seem to have enough of when it comes to MOOCs! Alongside my MOOCs I am also doing another Level 4 qualification which, because it has a deadline and I’m paying for it, takes precedent every time. I’m also working funny hours and have had a slew of other commitments to attend to. So, honestly, it’s been harder than I thought to keep up with them all. Three was definitely too many! I’m not concerned about the Microeconomics one – it’s nice and flexible so I can pick it up at my leisure, but I already missed the week 2 assessment deadline on the other two. I honestly don’t get the deadlines – they are pesky and completely pointless! The Open 2 Study two are both reasonably low maintenance – though they’re supposed to be four hours a week they’re probably nearer two if you have half a brain. But the time constraints are really irritating as a week is no time at all if you’re busy. And, though it’s not much time, it’s not helped by the fact that they are…

Boring!¬†Oh. My. God. The Open 2 Study ones are so incredibly boring that I literally dread watching them. Where Saylor really go for a variety of teaching styles and materials, Open 2 Study go for nothing but video with some optional reading (why not make it mandatory?) Saylor are also very factual and to the point with their information; they explain things thoroughly and then back up the information with anecdotes and real world examples. Open 2 Study on the other hand just have someone talking at you. There’s some use of anecdotes on the Trainer course, but pretty much just lists of information on the Project Management one. And everything is delivered very slowly and precisely and in an incredibly dull manner. I take nothing away from the content (which is solid in all cases), but the structure is completely disengaging to me personally.

I have a multi-modal learning style (you can find out what yours is here) with a slight preference for reading/writing and kinaesthetics. It’s no surprise really – I’m a person who loves variety in all areas of their life so why should learning be different? It’s disappointing though that the organisations providing some of these courses are not utilising a wider range of teaching styles – particularly considering Open 2 Study is backed by Open Universities Australia (like the OU in the UK). Though I’m not a qualified teacher/trainer (something I’m working at changing), I regularly deliver courses myself and even I, with my fairly basic and self-taught knowledge, understand that you have to use variety in teaching methods if you want to engage your students.

So how am I feeling about it all a month on? A little disillusioned if I’m honest. I had heard prior to starting that they are a mixed bag, and that’s to be expected when you consider the different levels they’re working at, the different audiences they’re targeting, and the huge range of topics they are covering, but I still feel a little let down. If you’re going to do something then you ought to do it properly or not at all in my opinion. My feelings for the two providers are incredibly polarised – I am actively missing my Microeconomics course and can’t wait to get back to it once my paid course is complete, but I honestly doubt whether I’m going to be able to sit through another six-plus hours a piece of the Open 2 Study ones. I suspect I will become a drop-out statistic of the Trainer course but will just about hang on in there with Project Management. Doing so, however, will not be pleasant.

As it stands with Microeconomics, I have a bigger and more complex goal at present. Presuming I can see the course through to completion, my aim is to go on to complete the complementary Macroeconomics course and also one on maths or stats. Then, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious and that way inclined, what I would really love to do is to undertake a paid-for economics diploma for graduates. This would not only provide some proper recognition for my (not insubstantial) learning, but it would also be incredibly interesting to see how the two courses compare in terms of content, teaching, and so on. But that’s all pie in the sky for now – there’s a long way to go before I reach that point and for now it’s just a dream!

In the meantime, watch this space! I’ll write another update in a month or so to let you know how it all turned out. Maybe I’ll be in a better mood about MOOCs by then… ūüôā

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I’m Outta Love

blog heartbreakI can remember the exact moment I fell out of love with each of my ex-boyfriends. I can visualise the instances in my mind as if they happened yesterday. In each instance there was a defining moment where, while the moment itself was certainly not the sole cause of the breakup, a line was crossed and enough was finally enough. Break-ups rarely happen overnight – they are the outcome of a sum of many dissatisfactions, disagreements and incompatibilities. Things build up over time, you feel as though something isn’t quite right, you try to make things better; to turn it all around, but in the end it’s futile and better for both parties if you cut your losses and walk away.

In my experience, jobs are like this as well; with just one exception I remember the moment I fell out of love with each of my jobs. As with breakups, I didn’t fall out of love with them overnight and many factors contributed: There were no career prospects that matched my career plan, the job had become repetitive or unenjoyable, my role was insecure, management had different values to my own, and so on. Many times it had nothing at all to do with the organisation or what it stood for but, instead, that I had grown and developed and that my wants and needs for a role had changed. As with relationships, I wouldn’t go down without a fight – conversations to try change things and improve the way I felt, suggestions for new ideas, learning more about company plans… Sometimes it was a success and I moved internally. Sometimes it wasn’t.

With both jobs and relationships, I personally have a point of no return. That defining moment where all hope is lost and I fall completely and utterly out of love. Once this line has been crossed, no amount of bargaining and incentives can convince me to change my mind – things have gone too far and it’s time to move on. But even though this is perhaps a severe response, I have no regrets or hard feelings about any of my experiences (no matter how unenjoyable they may have been at the time) because they have made me who and what I am today, and I’m glad that they were a part of my life.

Though I haven’t worked properly as a direct line manager for any serious length of time (such is the joy of working in matrix organisations or as a contractor) I have seen many colleagues fall out of love with their jobs over the years, and I often wonder what it looks like from a manager’s viewpoint. I can’t believe that the signs aren’t there to be read, but knowing that something isn’t right doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how to to fix it or that you are able to fix it.

So my thought for the day is this: Look around you at your staff and colleagues. Look at them without judgement and ask yourself – are they happy? Are they falling out of love with the job, team, company, management (statistics vary but nearly all research ranks line managers as the number one reason for employees wanting to leave their jobs)? Read between the lines and ask yourself whether there are tell-tale signs that you have failed to recognise before now or have spotted but are trying to ignore. And then ask yourself whether you really want to or can afford to lose that staff member. And if you’re not sure whether they’re getting close to the point of no return then sit down and have a chat with them; find out a bit more about what they’re thinking and feeling at the moment. Do it now. Don’t wait til their appraisal is due in several months time when it might be too late.

Sometimes the best thing for everyone to do is to go their separate ways; after all there’s little more poisonous than a negative and disengaged staff member. But any breakup – job-wise or relationship-wise – is much easier handled when it’s not a complete surprise to one of the parties.

Talking yourself into it

blog pic Feb 14Yesterday I noted with some amusement how easily Mr J and I can talk ourselves into something when we really want it. I guess this is true of a lot of people generally; everyone has their weakness, whether that’s swapping your car every year or so, constantly redecorating, or regularly buying the latest tech. For us it’s holidays.

As I got ready for bed I looked back on the day and realised we’d done what we always do when it comes to holidays. And even though I’ve known for ages that it’s something we fall foul of, and I’m very aware of it, the whole thing just makes me smile. I make no effort to change the outcome or break the pattern because, ultimately, I’m getting what I want.

This is how holiday hunting goes in our house. The destinations may change but the format rarely does:

Me:¬†Wouldn’t it be nice to get away for a few days. We haven’t had a holiday in ages.

This is blatantly not true however I conveniently don’t count long weekends or UK breaks as holidays. In reality we probably haven’t been away for three months tops. Probably less.

Mr J: Yes it’s been ages [because I’ve brainwashed him into my way of thinking…] Why don’t we do a city break somewhere?

This is fatal mistake number one. We always start our holiday negotiations with this line but in reality we’ve done the majority of Europe and what’s left we’re probably not that fussed about. I also have a “don’t go anywhere twice” rule on account of still having so much of the world to see before I die so, stubbornly, can very rarely be convinced to revisit a place.

So now the Internet search starts…

Me: There’s nowhere I want to go in Europe. The only possible options are the Italian lakes or [insert somewhere incredibly obscure and eastern European which is probably only accessible by a flight, two buses and a donkey ride here].

Again, this is a preposterous claim. Though I have been lucky enough to visit many countries I have not been to all 50 countries in Europe and there is certainly more than one decent destination in most countries too…

Mr J: Well the lakes would be nice. Look, we can go quite cheaply for 3 nights. It’s under budget.

Me: Ohhh but look at the flight times. We’d have virtually no time there [the fact it’s a short city break being completely ignored…] and would spend so much time travelling that we wouldn’t get a chance to relax at all.

Mr J: You’re right. How about this 3 night mini cruise instead? We can just relax and be waited on. It’s twice the price but will be worth it.

Me: That’s a great choice but the dates aren’t quite right. How about this five night one instead? It’s longer than we planned but a complete bargain.

Fatal mistake number two: being sucked in by a bargain. By now the budget is blown.

Mr J: My only issue with that is that it will be cold. We should go somewhere warm.

Temperature being completely irrelevant when the first mini cruise was suggested just moments prior…

Me: So where is hot this time of year? The Canaries will be freezing [lie], as will Turkey [lie also]. How about Africa or the Middle East…?

Mr J: Yeah they would be good for sun. But we’ll have to go for a week if we’re going that far. No point going for less with all that travelling.

All that additional couple of hours… More Internet research being done. Budget now disregarded altogether.

Mr J: I dunno. A week in the sun would be great but I don’t fancy any of the destinations in those regions [Africa being tiny and all…]. What about Florida or the Caribbean?

Me: Ohhh YES! That would be awesome. But we probably need to go for nearer two weeks if we’re going that far.

Mr J: Well that’s ok. We should do it properly. And if we’re going to do it properly we should stay somewhere really nice too. Here’s the perfect thing – let’s book it!

Me: I love it! Book it straight away so we don’t miss out!

And lo! In the space of a couple of hours we’ve gone from a ¬£300pp city break in Europe to a ¬£2000pp fortnight holiday in somewhere like the Americas. Just like that! And only at the expense of delaying the kitchen refurbishment for another few months, too!

We have the power to talk ourselves into many things but we tend to do it selectively. Rather than aiming high in everyday life we talk ourselves down, tell ourselves that it isn’t possible, and don’t make that extra effort. Problem solving is not always easy, but where there’s a will there’s a way and, while there may need to be some sacrifices or give and take along the way, that’s surely a small price to pay for something you really want. When you take things one step at a time you don’t notice the extent of the change or what you’ve achieved until you can look back on what you’ve done and see how great the overall impact of that step change really was. Other people can have an impact on our success as well – a negative comment or conflicting opinion can be really demotivating, even where it was well meant. But having someone to coax you along is incredibly powerful and that, combined with the right attitude, can really lift the ceiling on your aspirations, whatever they may be.

It’s quite remarkable what we’re capable of talking ourselves into with enough motivation. But don’t worry ladies and gents! I’ve been to this country before so it doesn’t really count as a holiday. We’ll have our “real” holiday later in the year and will splash out properly on something then. This is just a mini break after all……… ūüėČ

MOOCing About

mooc 2This year I’ve decided to undertake my first MOOC. If you don’t know what one of these is then I’ll let Wikipedia explain it to you as it’ll do a better job than I, but fundamentally it stands for Massive Open Online Course. It’s online study, mostly free of charge (sometimes there’s a paid option if you want actual credits or a particularly flashy certificate), and as far as I can see, on most any subject you can think of.

So why am I interested in undertaking a MOOC? I finished my undergraduate programme this time last year and was due to start my masters last October, however things changed and that plan has unfortunately had to be temporarily shelved. I enjoy learning though and, having worked with at least one foot in higher education for the last four years, I’m really intrigued by the MOOC offering, particularly at a higher education level. Is it possible that a free online course can really be as good as that provided by a university? Well, yes, it can in terms of content because many well known universities all over the world have their own MOOCs. But when you go to university you’re not just in it for the content, your also in it for the life experience, the learning experience, the support, the great qualification, the networking… University is about more than just the content of your lectures.

So far a MOOC won’t get you a degree or even university credits (except in some rare instances in the US). The whole system is based on honour, trusting that you want to learn and that you complete the course and exercises off your own back and that you take any tests unaided and in the conditions requested. In its current form this works well – all you get at the end is your learning (but provided in a structured, engaging way way) and, I’m told, some sort of e-certificate of completion which doesn’t count towards anything but presumably makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside and as though you’ve accomplished something. But, while you don’t receive any official recognition, the knowledge is what you’re presumably there for and who knows, maybe there’s a challenge or entry exam you can take to demonstrate equivalency of knowledge at your institution of choice.

So my journey starts here. I’ve signed up for a couple of courses, both different formats, subjects and providers. Here’s a bit more info about them and the differences between them:

Principles of Microeconomics

  • Provider: Saylor.org
  • Level: Undergraduate
  • Start when you like
  • Structure: 7 units, done at your own pace
  • Anticipated completion time: 124 hours
  • End of unit exams for practice purposes but pass determined by a final exam after the course has been completed
  • Part of a bigger programme for those who wish to continue their Economics studies (you can effectively “major” in economics if you complete 11 courses)
  • Anti-social (no tutor contact and minimal contact with peers. Though there is a discussion forum it appears to be mostly unused)

I don’t know much about economics so I’ll be starting from scratch on this one.

Principles of Project Management

  • Provider: Open 2 Study
  • Level: Unknown
  • Fixed start date
  • Structure: 4 modules over 4 weeks, complete with deadlines
  • Anticipated completion time: 16 hours
  • Individual end of unit exams only
  • Standalone course
  • A little social (I don’t think there’s any tutor contact but, again, there is a forum and presumably this will be used more considering everyone will be completing the course at the same time)

I already know a good bit about project management and have an Agile PM qualification so it will be easier for me to gauge the content for this one.

I have already started the microeconomics course and¬†I’m really enjoying my first unit. While economics is certainly not an easy subject, the materials are well written and use lots of everyday examples to describe more complex ideas and models. I am finding it very accessible. There is a real mix of materials: some videos, some recorded lectures, some articles, some “textbook” reading, all broken down into bitesized chunks. Each unit and sub-unit suggests the amount of time you will need to allow and these can be as short as 5 minutes or as long as an hour. I’ve accessed various resources on PC, mobile and tablet but the only downside to studying on the go is that you really do need to take notes (on this subject anyway!) so you need a dedicated notebook and to have that with you at all times if you don’t want to have to repeat your activity.

So how do I think I’ll fare? I’d like to think I won’t become one of the drop out statistics (allegedly up to 90%) and, having completed my undergraduate programme on a part-time distance learning basis, think I’ll work better with the more flexible, deadline-free format as this is familiar territory for me and I’m used to managing my own study time (or, you know, not…). I think I’ll probably be a bit half-hearted with topics I find less interesting because ultimately it doesn’t really matter if I pass or fail the final exam as I’m not getting any official recognition for my work. I think I’ll find that lack of recognition frustrating when I finish, particularly if I have studied hard. But mostly I think I’ll be pleased with what I’ve achieved, and with the fact I will have have discovered, for free, whether I’d like to pursue my studies more formally in either field.

So we shall see!¬†I’ll be keeping you informed over the coming weeks and months about how I’m finding my programmes. I will share my experiences and feedback, good and bad, and hopefully pique your interest to try a MOOC of your own ūüôā

Top 100

So 100 was a good number. Not an exact number, but a pretty close estimate. It was the number of attendees the Middlesex Bright Futures Society had at their first event the other week and it’s a number I’m very proud of!

I try not to get overly involved in the day to day running of the society – I have plenty of experience organising events and working in the corporate world. The idea is for the committee to get as hands-on as possible and just use me to bounce ideas off and steer things back on track if needs be (not that this ever seems to happen!) so, while I was involved in the event, I was hardly a key player. From room booking to catering to marketing to inviting corporate sponsors, I was really impressed with the way the committee pulled together to organise such an awesome event! Everyone played a part and played to their strengths!

The format for the first event was kept as simple as possible. As it’s¬†the first year of having a Bright Futures Society on campus at Middlesex University, we needed to hammer home what¬†the society was¬†about and what the students can get out of it, rather than being too creative early on. So the format was simple: Three corporate speakers, talking about their company, their experiences and what they look for in graduates when they’re recruiting.

Thanks to Julius Kessy and Kenneth Izevbigie, we ultimately had a rep from Centrica, one from the ACCA and two from IBM. I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed all three presentations! I suppose that was a little presumptuous of me, but it’s true…

Both Centrica and IBM sent employees who were former students at Middlesex, which was an excellent move. The students identified instantly with the speakers¬†and it was great to see such success stories taking the time to come back and spread the word to current students! It was also lovely to see Joakim Feltborg again, having worked with him the previous year – oh how the tables have turned!¬†ūüôā

Centrica surprised me with the versatility of their scheme. They only require a 2:2 (fairly unheard of) and have no hang-ups about UCAS points – something which I am quite passionate about for a variety of reasons! They judge applicants almost entirely on the calibre of their application and where they are at in their lives now. I thought this was an incredibly refreshing approach and, as the presenter was clearly passionate about the company and the graduate scheme, this only made them all the more appealing!

ACCA surprised me because I’m not an accounting/finance person and, while the information wasn’t particularly relevant to me, they still managed to keep it interesting and informative!

IBM, frankly, left me very much wanting to work for the company! They had sent two reps Рone on the graduate scheme and another on her placement year there. They did an energetic tag team presentation, covering all areas of the company, schemes and company culture.

We had over 75 student attendees in the end¬†(I say over because, although 75 signed in, there were¬†quite¬†a few¬†who sneaked in through the back and side doors of the lecture theatre without registering), plus a range of lecturers and¬†careers/placement staff, plus¬†myself and the¬†committee, which totally to something in the region of 100 attendees in the end. I don’t know how this compares to other societies, but I thought it was an excellent number!

We are planning our next event¬†to be a more hands-on affair with some business games and the like. There is lots to do between now and March but I have no doubt the committee will do a sterling job! ūüôā

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If you would like to meet the Middlesex Bright Futures Committee, we will be leading a track on graduate recruitment at #TRULondon on Thursday 17th March. Come along and say hello!

The Future’s Bright…

So it was @thesourceress who first introduced me to Bright Futures some 6+ months ago. I have to say, I fell in love with the idea straight away. It’s a simple but clever concept which is totally symbiotic. Graduate recruiters get to meet, eye up and potentially headhunt the up-and-coming talent, while keeping their finger on the pulse of generation Y. At the same time, students get to network with corporates, get noticed, build their employability skills, gain experience and have fun. CLEVER!

Basically throughout the year the Bright Futures committee for each university organises a range of activities and workshops which are attended and sponsored by the Bright Futures corporate partners. And there are some big names involved, including all of the Big Four, BT, Tui, Nestle, and so on. Bright Futures themselves also have regional events where committee members can learn valuable skills (it was networking at the one I went to the other week, and very good it was too!) from corporates and external trainers to really help build confidence and make their society a success. They also run competitions throughout the year for all society members to take part in, with some excellent, employability-focussed prizes. From my side of the fence if nothing else, it is a very professionally run set-up which really achieves what it sets out to do.

Anyway. I umm-ed and ahhh-ed for ages about setting up a society. It’s a student-led thing (which technically I am) but my issue is that, as a non-full timer (and some *cough* 10+ years older than the majority of students) I don’t really have many student friends, as such. What I do have, however, is a core of bright, proactive final years who I advise on employability two days a week, so it was to them I turned.

I ought to have known better really. I invited all those proactive enough to have taken up my invite of coaching/support/whatever-you-want-to-call-it over the summer holidays to meet with me and discuss the society and how they might like to get involved. I knew they wouldn’t all turn up (it was technically still holiday time, after all) but, as it was, eight did. I thought that I was going to have to harangue them all in to joining or at least playing a part, and that I would end up doing the lions share of the work. As it was, every last one of them wanted to join the committee and roles were actively (though thankfully not physically…) fought over. I even bowed out as President so that one of them could take the helm!

I have been humbled by all eight of my fellow committee members over the last couple of months. They are resourceful, commercial young men and women, full of ideas and all working their butts off to get good degrees, apply for graduate schemes, work part-time jobs (in some instances), be good parents (in other instances) AND run our busy little society. They have helped one another out with all sorts of things and worked so well as a team, focussing on strengths and positives rather than weaknesses and negatives. We have nearly 100 fully paid up members so far and nearly 300 further students have registered their interest with us. Our first event will run before Christmas and I’m really looking forward to it! ūüôā

Some of my blog posts are a bit hard on the students. Some of them are ranty, I know. This one is not.

The following Middlesex University Business School students are on our Bright Futures committee. If you are looking to recruit a graduate next year, I strongly recommend you start here…

President – Kenneth Izevbigie (also on Twitter as @Kenny_I)
Vice President
Julius Kessy
Treasurer
Kevin Izevbigie (also on Twitter as @KevinIze)
Secretary – Mansah Gbesemete
Events Co-ordinatorMartina Stromkova (though you’ll have to wait an extra year for her as she’s only a second year)
Public Relations Dominika Bzdyra
Corporate Liaison OfficerJaspal Jassal (also on Twitter as @JaspalJassal)
Corporate Liaison OfficerNatasha Tsoka

Social Media Holiday?

So my sister flew off to China the other week.¬†We’re not really sure if/when she’ll be back as she hopes to stay a couple years and lots can happen in that time! (I’m thinking rich Chinese husbands here…)

China’s a beautiful country: I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a couple of times and it’s a truly amazing place so I can¬†totally see the attraction. But China is also a bit of a black hole in terms of¬†the internet and social media: No Facebook; no YouTube; no Wikipedia;¬†sometimes access to blogs and Twitter,¬†depending on the mood of the powers that be… To me, that makes it heaven on earth and hell on earth all at the same time! On one hand a beautiful, developing country steeped with a rich and fascinating history; and on the other hand lots¬†of stuff I love¬†banned!¬†

So my sister’s relocation¬†had already got¬†me thinking, but then I caught up with a friend¬†last week too, and he got me thinking about it¬†even more!¬†He has just returned¬†back from a self-imposed three month social media break.¬†I was surprised – he seems to have survived unscathed (though it’s plausible he’s covering some¬†deeper wounds…!) and all the better for it! So with my sister, my friend, China,¬†and lots of recent talk on¬†Twitter about¬†social¬†media stalking,¬†I can’t help but wonder whether we shouldn’t all take a break from time to time. Take a chance to re-connect with the people and¬†world around us!¬†And¬† maybe it shouldn’t¬†just be¬†a social media holiday either – maybe it should be a¬†break¬†from technology in general. Smart phones, netbooks and laptops make everyone overly accessible these days. When do we really and truly turn off? I imagine some people do… People with more self-discipline than me… Maybe people with more money to burn¬†or more commitments to keep…¬†

But I have no wish to stop my social media activity altogether. A lot of people don’t understand it (Mr J included) but it adds another dimension to my professional/personal development,¬†my work life¬†and my¬†social life. When I started out it was more about networking, but as I’ve come to meet more and more people, and learn more and more new things, it’s benefitted me a lot on a work level too. We’ve had job opportunities, the chance to market ourselves more (for free, I might add!) plus I’ve learned¬†so much¬†about business, marketing, recruitment, and so on, and¬†(I think) I’m¬†able to bring a lot more to the table professionally as a result.

Though I personally think there’s a big future in social media, I know it’s not for everyone – the lines between my work life and personal life have never been so blurred as they are now. It’s a grey area made up of many different shades. And not just¬†because of¬†the relationships I’ve forged but also through the 24/7 access that it engenders: Be it¬†helping a client with something on Twitter at 7am; emailing¬†a student on the weekend; or responding to an amusing¬†comment from a contact during work hours.¬†Social media is such a blend of work and personal that I don’t really switch off from anything at all any more, but I’m kinda OK with that.

But social media is an integral part of my life and turning off from it would be difficult. Mr J and I naturally plan to holiday¬†in China at some point during¬†my sister’s¬†stay, but it won’t just be a tourist holiday for me; it’ll be a social media holiday too! But maybe it’ll¬†do me good. Maybe I need one.¬†In fact, maybe we all do from time to time…


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About Me

Over ten years’ recruitment, employability, HR and sales experience in both the private and public sectors. I've worked in construction recruitment, FMCG headhunting, and in higher education on the employability agenda.

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