The Smallest Gestures Make the Biggest Impact – How Colleagues Pull Together
Ben Woodward
May 19, 2020
The Smallest Gestures Make the Biggest Impact – How Colleagues Pull Together
In years from now, when you think back to 2020 and your darkest periods in self-isolation, I'm willing to bet that your happiest memories will be the ones of individual people going out of their way for you.I have noticed people do incredible things in times of crisis - that is certainly true of my colleagues at Leadership Institute (LI). Here are my five favorite stories, and some touching takeaways.A new businessA colleague of mine, who happens to be one of the most talented cooks I know, launched his own bakery delivery service. He supplies bagels, English muffins, and bread to customers across much of Northern Virginia.If ever there were an example of making the best of a bad situation, this is it. Colleagues have shared his website on their social media and, of course, enjoyed their own purchases. Key Takeaway: Your colleagues have lives outside of work. They may play in bands, act, volunteer, and more. If you can support them by attending their events, sharing their content, and donating to their causes, please do! GraduationAnother colleague completed her Master's Degree in Communications -- years of hard work which she balanced with a full-time job at the Leadership Institute. Sadly, like so many students around the world, her graduation was canceled. Naturally, this wasn't going to fly with the staff at LI. One colleague took it upon herself to arrange a graduation celebration over Zoom. The colleague wore a graduation hat and ribbon, and celebrated with about 20 of her colleagues. Key Takeaway: Celebrate each other's successes. It might even give you an excuse for a staff party.Free t-shirtsAbout two weeks ago, I received a mysterious text from a colleague asking for my address so she could deliver a present. Wanting a present, I of course confirmed my address but after a few days, it slipped my mind. About a week later, a package arrived in the mail with a custom-made Leadership Institute Zoom University t-shirt inside. The t-shirt, given as a gift to colleagues who frequently present in webinars, is a perfect fit and you'll no doubt see it in a webinar very soon.Key Takeaway: Every organization should have a Chief Morale Officer. They are awesome, and company swag is a great idea. Sip and Chats On each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, several of my colleagues come together to drink coffee and eat breakfast. What initially started off as a replacement for ‘water cooler talk' has become a staple of our mornings, allowing colleagues to give updates on their lives and compare isolation weekend plans.Key Takeaway: Make sure you're keeping in regular contact with your colleagues, even if it's not about work. Having that interaction is an opportunity to bounce ideas around and it's also your chance to help others. A pick-me-upFinally, I couldn't write this blog without sharing my own story. A few weeks ago, a news announcement created uncertainty in my life. More information wasn't released for several days, but luckily the further information lifted the cloud.The worrying and the stress is behind me, but here's something I won't forget -- a large number of my colleagues, including senior executives, former interns, and friends collaborated to surprise me with a Zoom chat to remind me that I wasn't facing the uncertainty alone. It is my favorite memory of quarantine. Key Takeaway: Don't be afraid to reach out to your colleagues when you need them. Most of the time it'll be a work challenge, but you'll be surprised how much people care about you.
Do you know these work from home secrets?
Christopher Olson, Communications Training & Studios Intern
May 5, 2020
Do you know these work from home secrets?
Can you look at yourself in the mirror and say you are equally productive working from home as you were working in the office?If you're one of roughly 95% of Americans impacted by stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, odds are you've had to ask yourself this question.For some, the benefits are overwhelming. Eighty-five percent of businesses reported an increase in productivity since their staff began working from home. For others, working from home includes endless challenges that hinder your productivity.Working from home has turned me from an early riser who went to the gym before work, to someone who sleeps in and sits on the couch watching Netflix in my pajamas while trying to complete the workday.Luckily, on this episode of the Lead Your Future Podcast, Tiffany Roberts sat down with Leadership Institute's Director of Digital Training, Abigail Alger, to discuss some of her best advice for working from home.Here are three of her tips.Tip #1 -- Set a morning routine.Your morning routines are important. Most of us have a morning routine before a normal workday, but these routines tend to crumble when you work from home. Keeping your routines helps you to get started on work, and to work productivity. A routine is a way to get your mind in the right place, so you can perform the tasks required for your job to the best of your ability.Tip #2 -- Choose your workspace wisely.Set yourself up for success. Find a place or several places in your house where you are removed from distractions and can focus on work. This can be tough because, for many of us, our tendency is to sit on the couch and watch a show or movie while we try to work. We're at home, so we figure we might as well make ourselves comfy. If you notice you are struggling with productivity, think about changing your scenery and removing yourself from distractions.Tip #3 -- Maintain communication with work. Virtual meetings can take much longer than in-person meetings, and nobody likes long virtual meetings. To curb this, make sure you update your boss and supervisors by email to keep them in the loop. This is easy to forget because one of the benefits of working from home is not feeling like your boss is breathing down your neck. Keep your boss updated regularly, so you are still able to enjoy that freedom and not get tied down in virtual meetings.Don't wait! Listen to this new episode of the Lead Your Future Podcast and start working more effectively from home! Click here to listen and follow the Lead Your Future Podcast on your favorite platform: YouTube, Acast, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, Sound Cloud, iHeartRadio, and Stitcher.
How to Succeed as an Intern
Christopher Olson, Communications Training & Studios Intern
May 5, 2020
How to Succeed as an Intern
If you're a young professional looking to enter the workforce, you probably know the importance of an internship all too well.You've probably been told multiple times the importance of an internship on your resume and the experience it brings. But has anyone ever given you the steps to make sure you are the best intern you can possibly be?Your internship is where you will make your first connections in that line of work. You don't want to just be good enough to put the internship on your resume, you want to have your supervisors so impressed that they can't wait to offer you a job, or help you find one elsewhere.Lucky for you, this week the Lead Your Future podcast gives you some tips and tricks on how to be a great intern. You'll hear from my fellow interns here at the Leadership Institute, so you can learn from their experiences.Here are three tips to succeed as an intern.Tip #1 – Be on time.This one is straightforward. Be on time. Do not be late. Try your best to be early, but if you can't be early, do not be late. Once your supervisor sees you come in late a few times, it's a trend, and they will start to assume you're unreliable. Supervisors understand interns are often young, but you want them to think of you as a young professional, not as a kid who's always late. So be on time.Tip #2 -- Don't treat it like a 9-5 job.Oftentimes putting in extra work requires getting in early and staying late. So, don't walk in at exactly nine o'clock and leave right at five. Stay late and come in early when needed. If nobody in your department needs extra help, then start volunteering your time to other departments. Whether it's a non-profit or for-profit, time is invaluable. Put in the extra time outside of the 9-5 hours, and it will go a long way.Tip #3 -- Discover what's inside your toolbox.Take the time while you're interning to navigate and discover your strengths and weaknesses. Your internship is the perfect time to identify your strengths and how to use them, while you work on your weaknesses. You may even discover that you hate the line of work you're doing or discover something you're passionate about.Listen to Episode 4 of the Lead Your Future Podcast to hear more about these tips and real intern experiences. Click here to listen and follow the Lead Your Future Podcast on your favorite platform: YouTube, Acast, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, Sound Cloud, iHeartRadio, and Stitcher.
Easy Guide to Professional Webinars and Online Meetings
Ben Woodward
April 21, 2020
Easy Guide to Professional Webinars and Online Meetings
I was catching up on Saturday Night Live yesterday evening and the show depicted the struggles of comedians as they attempted to hold meetings from their homes with hilarious consequences. One only has to take to YouTube to enjoy a long list of videos where professionals make the most embarrassing possible mistakes because they fail to realize their web cameras are switched on. Luckily, no such embarrassing moments have happened in Leadership Institute (LI) meetings or webinars yet. For years, Zoom, Teams, and other platforms have been an excellent tool to reach audiences who cannot attend LI training in person. During the pandemic, webinars are now critical to deliver LI training. This requires professionalism and high standards translated digitally. Here's how you can ensure – whether you're hosting or presenting a meeting or webinar – you make it as professional as possible.LightingIf possible, you should face natural light on camera. Your entire face should be illuminated. Failing that, order a simple ring light online, they're inexpensive and make a big difference. Remember, just like in a real meeting, people will respond to seeing your face and your expressions.You should always avoid light that shines behind you, which can overshadow your face. SoundTo avoid feedback and other distractions, use headphones and limit outside noise. You should also do a test of your microphone before your presentation to ensure the sound works and your computer is set up correctly. SpeakingIt is a good idea to write a script for you webinar or meeting introduction and sign off. What do you want to say? Is there anything you should advertise or someone to introduce? Keep notes by your side in case you lose your place.Be confident in your presentation style. Practice speaking and record yourself to pick up on any filler words or lack of eye contact. Always try to maintain eye contact with your camera (aka your audience). You can also ask your audience questions during the webinar. It's a great way to keep them engaged. DisplayPower points or other types of illustrations can be very helpful to the viewer, who might otherwise get distracted if you're reading from notes. Make your presentation easy to follow. Most of the information should come from you. Your presentation should simply act as a guide to your key points. Make sure you dress appropriately and hide anything unprofessional in your background. Custom backgrounds are a helpful tool. OtherKeep water on hand during your webinar in case you get a dry throat, and make sure you use the bathroom. Even if someone else is speaking, you may not be able to walk away from your screen once you start. Email instructions to your attendees at least half an hour before your webinar. I also recommend you email them upon registration so they know what to expect. Finally, security is important. As the demands on Zoom and other platforms increase, prevent unwanted attendees with password protection and by disabling guest screen sharing.If you follow these simple steps, you'll conduct webinars and meetings that demonstrate your professionalism and ensure they are as close to the in-person experience as possible. If you would like any further assistance with your webinar and meeting needs, you can attend the Leadership Institute's free webinar: Effective Communications in Business on April 29, 2020.
This is No Time to Rest
Christopher Olson
April 2, 2020
This is No Time to Rest
In this difficult time, businesses have slowed down, many schools have closed, and some elections have been pushed back. The economy is hurting, and travel is restricted.But this is no time to rest.You have an excellent opportunity to empower your principles and learn the tools to win.“You owe it to your philosophy to learn how to win." Leadership Institute President, Morton Blackwell, says that often.He goes on to say that if you don't take the time to learn how to win, and your opposition does, "they will beat you no matter how right you are — and you don't deserve to win."Those of us who have heard Morton Blackwell say these words know they ring true. They ring even truer today with the COVID-19 pandemic flooding our society.For those of us in the conservative movement, this is not time to stop. You and I must keep moving forward. Our work is never done.What are you doing during your quarantine time, and how are you preparing yourself for leadership?Thanks to our generous donors, the Leadership Institute is here for you during this difficult time.The Leadership Institute (LI) has moved trainings online and added many more. In April alone, you can participate in more than 35 elite online trainings and events. Learn to win from the comfort of your home while you practice social distancing.You cannot beat a plan with no plan. This pandemic too shall pass. When it does, businesses will reopen, the economy will begin it's comeback, and campaigns will kick into full speed.Are you prepared?You owe it to your philosophy to become a skilled and principled activist in the conservative movement. Don't let the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 affect your opportunity to become one of tomorrow's leaders.According to Forbes, great leaders are charismatic, empowering, and great communicators. Leadership Institute teaches these qualities and more in our communications workshops, including Debate, TV, Speechwriting, and more. Sharpen your communication skills at one of LI's six online workshops. Learn how you can make a difference as a conservative on a campaign, as an activist, and in your community at one of the Leadership Institute's more than 40 online trainings and events this month.
Full Circle – How Welcome to Washington Helped Me from Both Sides of the Stage
Ben Woodward
March 13, 2020
Full Circle – How Welcome to Washington Helped Me from Both Sides of the Stage
In 2015, an ill-experienced but enthusiastic professional, eager to succeed, attended Welcome to Washington. The event was hosted at the grand offices of the American Enterprise Institute in central Washington, DC, and organized by America's Future Foundation. This person was me, a 22 year old politico just a few weeks into an internship at the Leadership Institute. The internship would change my life, not least because I learned skills that would help me to succeed.Fast forward five years. I had the opportunity to sit on the other side of that stage as a panelist with the heavy responsibility to pass on these lessons, along with three other brilliant speakers. Washington, D.C. goes full-circle. Today's intern is tomorrow's panelist. So what are these lessons? What did I learn at Welcome to Washington and throughout my internship which would subsequently land me a job here? 1. You are only as employable as your reputationWashington, D.C. is the biggest small town you can imagine. It's a large city, but somehow everyone in D.C. seems to know each other. Forget six degrees of separation, more like one at most. Within your professional circle, reputations spread quickly. A foolish error as an intern will follow you around for a long time. On the reverse, a strong reputation among the right people will accelerate your career.2. There's a lot of job seekers to compete with, but it's easy to stand-outLet's start with your resume, which should be one side of regular 8.5 x 11 paper. There are few exceptions to this rule. The resume must be flawless in spelling, grammar, and consistency. In addition, your cover letter must explain why you want to work for the organization you're applying to.In preparing for interviews, make sure you know the organization inside and out. It's important that you not only demonstrate your motivation, but how your skills and accomplishments will allow you to succeed. 3. Networking is not a dirty word There's a right way and a wrong way to network. Ask any professional, and they've all met someone who showed no interest in them as a person at all, only in their job and the extent they can be used. If your interactions with someone aren't sincere, you're not likely to remember a person positively or want to work with them.The best networkers are sincere. They show a legitimate interest in the person they meet and exchange business cards at the end of the conversation. To continue building a connection, send a follow-up email within 48 hours. If you seek to build a strong professional relationship, ask them to coffee to learn more about their work. 4. You can lead without authorityMany of those attending Welcome to Washington were interns and students, so naturally the question arises – how can you stand out in your internship, despite the fact you're without much decision-making capacity?Lead without authority. The best interns are the ones who become a presence in the office. They help other departments in addition to their own. And they introduce themselves to as many people as possible. Within their department, they take the initiative by anticipating their boss's needs. They communicate their ambitions. And they have a commitment to excellence. 5. There's a life outside of your job Obsessive politicos become tiresome. Find passions outside of your work and politics that excite you and give depth to your character. Washington, D.C. has a rich culture and no shortage of wonderful opportunities. Go discover them!…And finally,If you haven't yet had the opportunity to attend Welcome to Washington, make sure you follow America's Future Foundation to find out the dates for 2020. There's also an abundance of opportunities to learn essential career skills. The Leadership Institute's Career Services are on hand to assist you with training, job recommendations, and free, personalized, one-on-one consultations.
From CPAC to DC Intern
Christopher Olson
February 25, 2020
From CPAC to DC Intern
The biggest conservative event of the year is coming up this week and the Leadership Institute will be there in full force!If you have never been to CPAC before, I highly recommend it!CPAC 2019 was when I was first introduced to Leadership Institute. Fast forward one year and I am interning in the Communications Department at LI.On top of all of the speakers and happy hours, CPAC really can open many doors for you. If you are looking to get involved politically or looking to further your political connections, CPAC is a great place to be.Leadership Institute will host One-on-One Career Consultations, co-hosts the CPAC Job and Internship Fair with the Heritage Foundation, and even has a Student Communicator Competition with the Leadership Institute's Campus Reform.Check out the details for CPAC 2020 here: www.LeadershipInstitute.org/CPACAnd watch this video for a throwback to CPAC 2019. Maybe you're in it!Hope to see many of you there! This really is a can't miss event!
When the job market slows down for Christmas
Ben Woodward
December 16, 2019
When the job market slows down for Christmas
When the job market slows down for ChristmasIt's December, and for many recruiters the holiday season slows down their hiring process. Recruiters have just returned from Thanksgiving break and they are spending their days like most professionals; catching up on emails and other priorities before year-end. Combined with a feeling that they cannot train new hires until New Year, you have a perfect formula to dry up recruitment.As a jobseeker, applying in December can be incredibly frustrating. However, that does not mean you cannot find opportunities or even use the season productively.Here are three ways to make the most of your job search during the holiday season.Just because applications aren't being reviewed, doesn't mean you can't prepare them.Without the pressure of pending interviews, you have time to produce high quality applications. You can browse jobs and prepare thoroughly researched resumes and cover letters that articulate why you aspire to work for the organization.The pressure of a tight deadline can prevent applicants from taking the necessary time to proofread their work -- do not fall into this trap. Over the Christmas period, ask your friends to read your applications for quality control. Come January, you will have exceptional applications ready to go. Christmas is the period of holiday parties; get off your laptop and meet recruiters in person.You can do some of your best networking at Christmas. As the holiday parties begin, monitor social media events, newsletters, and organization events pages carefully to find opportunities for great networking. Everyone is in a good mood during their holiday party, so it is a good chance to get to know people.Make sure you remain professional, especially when there is an open bar. Follow-up with the people you meet within forty-eight hours of meeting them, though it is likely that networking coffee will not take place until New Year. Focus on your strategy for 2020.A New Year is often great inspiration for new beginnings. If you are considering a career change, use the break to consider your ambitions and make a plan for how you will hit the ground running come January.Your plan may include where you will apply, preparing your references, editing your resume, and talking to your network.Finally… Just because the Christmas period job market is slow does not mean you cannot use your time productively. Remember, ConservativeJobs.com is here to help.Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!
A Note from One Mentor to Another
Ben Woodward
November 18, 2019
A Note from One Mentor to Another
From Morton Blackwell to Kay Coles James, the conservative movement has numerous highly accomplished leaders who have dedicated their lives to mentoring and fostering a new generation of talent.As someone only a few years into my career however, I sometimes wonder at what point I will feel qualified to give people advice. Just yesterday, a friend came to me following a fantastic job offer, asking about salary negotiation. Throughout our meeting, I could not help but feel the weight of my advice given that he was about to go into a conversation with his future boss.You will likely find, if you have not already, that soon into your career people will begin asking for your opinion from small things like how to respond to an email to larger, more pressing career questions.While there is no formula to good mentorship, here are 4 rules which have helped me along the way.Be generous with your time and expertiseThinking on the times when you have not been the high quality mentor, you would like to be, I am willing to bet it came down to one of two things; you were too busy, or you became impatient with the mentee. It is easy to become wrapped up in your work and to be frustrated when someone does not appear to take your advice. Remember that people invested in your development, and you likely frustrated them at times. It is important to communicate clearly and to remember that this good practice for you too. After all, you will mentor many people in your career.Understand that you are developing tooIt can be daunting to mentor others when you are new to the workforce. You will likely continue to rely on mentors yourself for many years to come. However, your fresh perspective may be what your mentee needs, especially since you remember better than anyone what it was like to require similar guidance.There are occasions when you will say, “I don't know”It is imperative that the advice you give is informed from your experience and will help the mentee. Remember that your words carry a lot of weight; do not make the mistake of giving advice simply because you do not want to let your mentee down.A good example of this is when a mentee asks me about whether they should go to college or not, or sometimes if they should drop out. Despite my own personal opinion, I will always advise the mentee to speak with their family and with their professors. Sometimes “I don't know” is the best answer.Make a long-term investment in your mentees Your commitment to your mentee does not end when they find a job or move away. That is not to say you should chase them down to give advice -- and if your mentee stops asking then let them take their own path. However, follow-up from time to time, and make sure you are on hand to assist should they require it.Remember, the people you mentor today could be your colleagues and coalition partners tomorrow. Invest in them and it will be both rewarding and pay dividends.
The Power of the Business Card
Dominick Porcella
October 21, 2019
The Power of the Business Card
Important new contact: “Do you have a business card?”You: “…erm, no, sorry.”Without a business card, even the most genuine promise to reconnect is offered in vain. That temporary power of influence one carefully builds in conversation, that power of visibility, power of impact, and power of reach, immediately disintegrates before your eyes as your interlocutor politely excuses himself to mingle with some slightly more serious company. Your name is as memorable to him as the name of the doorman who bid you goodnight is to you.Did you catch his name?No, of course you didn't. How could you, with so many prestigious guests to meet? But, as a matter of fact, many people do remember the doorman's name, typically their doorman, the gentleman who kindly greets them at eight o'clock each morning as they leave for work. When repeated physical interaction occurs, memories are reinforced and relationships are sustained.His name is Irving and each day for the past seven years, he dutifully operates his station at six o'clock sharp. His wife's birthday is next week, and he is very proud that his only daughter recently passed the New York State bar examination after studying at Columbia Law School, though she is still struggling to secure employment.But who are you, again?How can you acquire Irving's level of memorability? How can you gain the power inherent to physical presence without possessing the quality of physical presence itself?The business card is a small, 3.5 x 2 inch ticket that may transport you to such power. It is the only tangible piece on your person that may be politely gifted to another professional as a visible reminder of your importance.The following is a list of helpful tips on how to wield the power of the business card:1. Be sure that your business card is as ordered, attractive, and clean looking as you are.If you think of your business card as an extension of yourself, surely you would want it to make as good an impression as you did in conversation the night you gave it out. Be sure the font is legible, the text well organized, the designs and images cleanly printed, important information prominently presented, and superfluous information stricken (especially misattributed quotations). Just as your tie complements your shirt, or your clutch purse matches your dress, be sure your business card matches your resume.2. Always carry a business card on your person.Some events are just made for networking. You can quickly recognize the importance of carrying a set of business cards with you when you attend them. But always keep a deck on you, should you find other players outside such events. You never know who you might bump into on the subway, at the coffee shop, or at an informal gathering.3. Assess the appropriateness of business card exchange on a case by case basis.Take care not to go hog wild in distributing your business card. Liberality is a virtue, but wastefulness is a vice, and your business card is a limited resource with only one's time being more valuable. Offer it only when a genuine mutual connection has been established or when an opportunity reveals itself. Handing a business card to someone is a gesture that says, “I am willing to invest some time and speak with you again, here is my contact information should you need it.” It is not advisable to promise this to every Tom, Dick, and Harry you meet. Think strategically.4. Hand business cards without expecting anything in return, but hand a business card should you be given one. Should you succeed in establishing a strong basis for furthering dialogue, do not shy away from offering your business card. But give without expecting something in return, for there are no obligations for the other party tied to your generous act. At the same time, it is merely polite to hand a business card to someone who offers one to you, but essential to do so if you want a chance to solidify that connection.5. Handwrite a note on the back of all business cards you receive.Upon receiving a business card, quickly jot down notable facts about the person that were brought up in conversation on the back of the business card once you find privacy and still have a working memory. Such information might include expressed interests, past positions they've held, persons or organizations within their network, and so on. In addition to the business card, you'll discover latent power in the pen. Always carry a writing utensil on your person as well.6. Follow-up immediately with newfound acquaintances with whom you intend to maintain a professional relationship.Message your newfound acquaintance within a 24-hour period. A prompt, thankful email or invitation to coffee might solidify a connection that would otherwise dissolve in the sea of competition for attention.7. Diligently organize all acquired business cards and produce a detailed catalog of your activity.Collect your cards like precious jewels. How will you keep record of them? You might want to organize them alphabetically, by date acquired, or by personal value to you. Your grandfather's Rolodex might come in handy. Finally, catalog who you met, at what event, where that event took place, and when that event happened.8. Do not fear handing your business card out vertically as well as horizontally.It is quite easy and natural to mingle horizontally to peers of similar station. How much in common you have! It is less natural, yet no less important, to mingle vertically as well – upwards and downwards. Do not feel shy approaching persons of higher station than you, and likewise do not be so haughty and arrogant when someone of lower station approaches you. You will not know what potential they might have, positions they have open, where they will be in the near future, or who they know. Keep your ears open, and a little generosity and humility can go a long way.Remember what the doorman said!
The Office Walls Are Closing In
Ben Woodward
September 27, 2019
The Office Walls Are Closing In
If you are a Star Wars fan, you will remember the classic scene when Chewie, Hans, Leia, and Luke were trapped in the trash compactor on the Death Star. As they hid from the Storm Troopers, the walls began to close in.Does your office ever start to feel that way? By the end of the workday, I am far more productive if I leave the building.By leaving, there is less risk of interruption from phone calls and colleagues stopping by, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to clear your head and work in a new environment. Where do you like to work, if not in the office? Here are the advantages and disadvantages of some of the most common choices. HomeAdvantages: Working from home is many people's favorite alternative. You have access to everything you need: a charging station, optional background noise, food and drink, and it comes at no cost. You also have more control over your environment, meaning you can avoid distractions or seek them out should you require a break.Disadvantages: You will likely find working from home a huge test of will power. Your home is where you relax; it is where you escape from work, which is why motivating yourself to work from home is very difficult. In addition, if you live with family, spouse, or roommates it can be difficult to work if they seek out your attention. Coffee ShopsAdvantages: The change of scenery can be helpful to productivity, and a certain amount of background noise is usually preferable to total silence. In addition, coffee shops can often give you the chance to work outside, unlike the office, and access to beverages and snacks if required. Disadvantages: You do not have control of your environment, which means if someone starts speaking loudly on the phone, the location becomes very busy, or there are no charging ports, you will have to adapt. In addition, you pay for the privilege of working there, which can add up. LibraryAdvantages: If distractions detract from your ability to work, there is no better place than a library. It costs nothing and you will have access to a comfortable environment. The Library also has the advantage of being a new environment; the mere act of going out of your way to the library could focus your attention. Disadvantages: Trapping yourself in an environment where all you can do is focus on your work can be difficult; there may be little opportunity to grab coffee, or use the bathroom, etc. unless you are willing to pack up your laptop.Transportation Advantages: This is a great use of your time. If you are on a train, plane, or automobile, you have little else to do besides entertain yourself or work. It can also give you something on which to focus besides the monotony of travel.Disadvantages: Access to internet or charging stations will likely be your biggest challenge working on transportation. In addition, the cramped space and constant interruptions will make for difficult working environment.Wherever you choose to work, ultimately it is a question of what works best for you and your boss. Personally, I am a coffee shop worker and do so regularly. If you can work late into the night or early on a Saturday morning with the TV on and in the comfort of your bed, go for it!
Beyond Your Job Description
Sheridan Nolen
August 5, 2019
Beyond Your Job Description
Good employees always complete their assigned tasks and duties on time and do them thoroughly. The work they present is up to the standard their boss expects. However, doing the minimum does not advance a good employee's career. What should you do to level-up? What does it take to become an exceptional employee? Going beyond your expected job responsibilities paves the way for advancing your career. Whether you're looking to move up in your current office or want a strong recommendation for another position elsewhere, here are some ways you can become an exceptional employee. An exceptional employee has a two-job mindset. Your first job is the one you were hired to do. The second job you decide for yourself. As an exceptional employee, you'll look for ways you can help different departments or people around you, even if you do not normally interact with each other. You'll help others with projects or tasks that you otherwise might not have done if you had not asked. By doing this, you demonstrate your commitment to the organization, company, or office. Exceptional employees are those who demonstrate that they are dynamic, collaborative members in the workplace. via GIPHYAn exceptional employee is open to developing new skills.You were hired because you have the necessary skills and qualifications to complete the basic description on the job application. Take it a step further. As an exceptional employee, you'll take initiative by challenging yourself to develop new skills, even if they are difficult and take a long time to learn. Exceptional employees know that stepping out of their comfort zones will not go unnoticed by their boss. Not only is learning new skills indicative of your desire to learn, but demonstrates your commitment to challenge yourself on behalf of the company. Reading a book by an expert in your field or taking extra certification courses are two great examples of going beyond your job description to enhance the work you are assigned to do. This behavior also sets a new standard for who is hired for your current position in the future. via GIPHYAn exceptional employee asks for more responsibilities, but doesn't drown. Your boss might be pleased with your performance at work, but they will be impressed if you have a chance to help alleviate their workload. It might not seem like it on the surface, but they can almost always use an extra hand. As an exceptional employee, you won't be afraid to ask your boss or supervisor for more responsibilities. Perhaps you want more challenging tasks or a larger quantity of the type of work you are already doing. You might even get a chance to work on a higher-ranking project if you simply ask for more work. Asking for more responsibilities is a testament to your diligence at work. It is important not to overload yourself while you're asking for more work. Know your personal limits and capabilities. Do not take on additional responsibilities if it is going to interfere with your ability to complete your basic job description duties. via GIPHY
Do's and Don’ts of Small Talk
Sheridan Nolen
July 22, 2019
Do's and Don’ts of Small Talk
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, “It's not what you know – it's who you know.” Most professional opportunities spark from conversation. Striking up a good conversation starts with a little bit of small talk. Because someone at a cocktail hour could potentially be your next boss, you want to make sure your short interactions leave a lasting, positive impression. It's important that you start off the conversation the right way. Here are some Do's and Don'ts of Small Talk.1. DO repeat someone's name.People will remember when you take extra care to catch their name. When someone introduces themselves to you, respond with “It's nice to meet you, [their name].” Using someone's name yields good results because people love receiving special attention. You are also much more likely to remember someone's name if you repeat it after meeting them. When the conversation is wrapping up, it doesn't hurt to repeat their name again. You could use something like, “It was nice talking to you, [their name]. Hopefully we will run into each other again soon.” This will leave a lasting impression. via GIPHY2. DO smile.Have you ever thought someone who looked angry or sad seemed approachable? Of course not! If you're looking to make friends at an event, you should keep a smile on your face. Nobody wants to start a conversation with a negative Nancy. 3. DO use small talk to start a meaningful conversation.Making new friends starts with meaningful conversation, but this can feel overwhelming being in a room with many people you do not know. You might be thinking, “Do I even have anything in common with these people?” The answer is yes! Everyone in the room is at the event for a reason. Don't be nervous. For me, one of the easiest conversation starters is a compliment. “I love your shirt! Where did you get it?” is a great way to break the ice. People love to be complimented. You can follow up by asking, “What brings you here?” or “How did you get involved with [organization hosting the event]?” Asking questions like “Are you from around here?” or “What do you do when you're not working?” help demonstrate your genuine interest in getting to know someone. This will start an engaging conversation. via GIPHY4. DON'T end a conversation abruptly. Don't look around for a reason to escape a conversation, even if it is going terribly. Leaving a conversation can be done gracefully. When you notice a conversation is starting to slow down, end it on a positive note. At a natural break in the conversation, smile and find a spontaneous transition. For example, “Well, I think I am going to grab another drink. It was great to meet you, [their name]!” is an acceptable, polite way to end a conversation. 5. DON'T spam your business cards.If you build enough rapport with someone, it is likely that they will give you their business card. It's easy to see past people who are simply speaking to you just to get your contact information. You also don't want to be the person who hands their business card to everyone. Make your connections meaningful by having a conversation worthy of you receiving the other person's business card. via GIPHY
What Makes a Great Intern Program?
Gen Sanchez and Ben Woodward
July 5, 2019
What Makes a Great Intern Program?
For every young politico, interning in Washington, D.C. is a dream come true. It is the opportunity to live and work in the heart of political activity.Luckily, there are many internship programs from which to choose. In particular, the summer internship programs offer the most choice not just professionally, but also socially, as D.C. comes to life with social and cultural events.For recruiters, finding interns is not difficult; but to attract the very best talent, organizations must compete. While payment is important in exchange for hard work, many interns understand it is not always possible to pay a living wage. It's not often money that motives the best talent to apply, it's the following.NetworkingThis is probably the most beneficial part of an internship. If interns are not going to happy hours, conferences, and policy luncheons at least once a week, they have wasted their time. The connections interns make are critical for their future success. Ensure that you provide interns with the time and the knowledge to make good contacts.via GIPHYOpportunity for GrowthAt the Leadership Institute, one or two interns from each class are commonly hired as full-time staff. This incentivizes interns to perform their best and shows their hard work does pay off. This is great for recent graduates or upcoming seniors still unsure of their next step after college.HousingFor many interns, affordable housing is the difference between coming out to D.C. or not. Organizations like Leadership Institute offer free housing, and George Washington University opens its dorms. As an organization, work with your interns to ensure they know what is available.via GIPHYGiving critical feedbackThis is crucial to the success of your interns. Aspiring professionals should to be taught how to see their projects through to completion, and then taught how to improve. Organizations do their interns no favors by treating them with kid gloves. Make sure your intern knows their weaknesses, so they walk away from your organization stronger.A positive work environmentNobody wants to work in a place where their work or is not valued. Remember, your intern today is your colleague or coalition partner tomorrow. When they're working for your organization you enjoy a close relationship; their time interning with you will affect how they work with you in future.via GIPHY
The Professional's Guide to Basic Dinner Etiquette
Sheridan Nolen
June 3, 2019
The Professional's Guide to Basic Dinner Etiquette
Sharing a meal is an excellent way to build interpersonal relationships. In fact, you can learn a lot about a person by the way they eat. It is rumored that President Ronald Reagan once said, “You can tell a lot about a fella by his way of eating jellybeans.” While you most likely won't be eating jellybeans at a formal dinner, it is worth noting that your actions, going as far as the way you eat, matter.Throughout your career, you will be invited into homes for formal dinners or have the opportunity to attend special galas. I wish I had understood dinner etiquette tips before attending these events. I look back and realize I might have looked immature with my lack of formal table manners. Having proper dinner etiquette will leave a lasting impression on potential employers, your current boss, and your peers. Being a courteous dinner guest at an important event, or in someone's home, demonstrates your respect for the host and other guests. via GIFERHere are a some ways you can exercise proper dinner etiquette.1. If you are a guest at a dinner party, bring a small gift for the host.The dinner host has spent countless hours cleaning their home, preparing food, and contacting guests in order to throw a successful party. Bringing a small gift, like a bottle of wine or flowers, is a nice gesture to demonstrate your gratitude for the host's hard work. via GIPHY2. Do not be the first one to start eating.At a dinner event, the guest of honor at a table will be the first one to eat. Once they begin, everyone else at the table may proceed. If there is not a specific guest of honor, then the host or hostess of the dinner party assumes that role. If you are at a gala or other event that does not have a guest of honor or host at your table, you must wait until everyone is seated with their food to begin eating. 3. Never touch your food!Unless you're eating fried chicken or bread, using silverware is the only way to politely eat your food. Eating with your hands looks quite animalistic. Need I say more?via GIPHY4. Hold your fork and knife properly.When cutting meat (and other foods), it is customary in the United States to hold your knife in your right hand and your fork in the left hand, tines down. The fork should be used to hold the meat in place as you cut off one small piece of meat. You should then place the knife on the right side of your plate and shift the fork to your right hand to eat the piece of meat. Repeat this process for each piece of meat that you eat. Yes – that means cutting and eating individual pieces at a time. Never cut up several pieces of meat at once.5. Introduce yourself to the other guests at the table.Personally, I find few things more awkward than having to eat a meal next to someone I have never met. Also, it's rude to sit next to someone and not acknowledge them. Upon arriving at the table, introduce yourself to guests who you do not know. Not only is this polite, but it also creates an opportunity to expand your professional network. via GIPHY
Informal Mentors: Friends You Never Knew You Had!
Ben Woodward
May 6, 2019
Informal Mentors: Friends You Never Knew You Had!
Growing up, we depend on mentors to teach us life skills and prepare us to stand on our own two feet. It starts with our parents, maybe an older sibling, grandparents, and then teachers. All of us can remember the most important lessons they taught us… where they succeeded, and where they made mistakes. My father taught me to go the extra mile and that nothing comes free. My mother taught good manners, and to care for the people around me. My sister taught me how to succeed academically and get into good schools. Now at 26, it is sometimes easy to be arrogant – “I don't need help” and “I know what I'm doing” are thoughts that cross my mind all too often. via GIPHYNo doubt, you have expertise and you are probably someone others look up to. However, no one ever stops developing, and you can always learn something from somebody. As you continue in your career, start looking for informal mentors who can help you grow. Here are five characteristics of a great mentor.1. They possess skills you aspire to obtainA mentor does not have to be someone in your place of work, and does not have to be older or senior to you. Often, a great mentor has a skill they are willing to teach you; such as writing, networking, public speaking, etc. If you identify someone who is great at a skill you would like to develop, ask him or her to teach you. 2. They are respectedA good mentor has to be someone people look up to, not just as a worker, but also as a person. Being good at your job is important, but that can be undermined by the personality of the individual. Ensure that people respect your new mentor. via GIPHY3. They take time out of their day to help othersDo not invest your time in someone who does not reciprocate. Not everyone is helpful because of the demands their time or lack of enthusiasm. Find a mentor who is willing to invest in you and roots for you to succeed.4. They don't sugar-coat There are few people more valuable in your life than those who tell you what you do not want to hear. A great mentor is someone who is willing to tell you what you do wrong and work with you to fix it.via GIPHY5. They understand confidentiality A mentor is someone you should be able to confide in. Do not choose a mentor who gossips, or is in a position where they have to report certain details. For example, if you are facing a cross roads in your career, a mentor outside of your current place of work could be helpful to give you honest and confidential advice. Finally, no matter how far you are in your career, you can learn from someone. Look for great mentors in your career and be humble enough to seek their guidance. via GIPHY
Be your boss’ go-to
Nana Jr. Bekoe-Sakyi
April 22, 2019
Be your boss’ go-to
About a week ago, a guest lecturer came to work to teach about management. The advice he gave was incredible, and I can confidently say that as a young professional, my attitude about work has significantly changed. Although I cannot share the management lecture in its entirety, I'll share one idea which has stayed with me. The secret to becoming the go-to woman or man is anticipation. In other words, if you think ahead and preemptively meet the needs of your supervisor you will set yourself apart from your peers almost immediately. So here are three ways to become the Robin to your boss' Batman. via GIPHY1. Understand how your tasks and responsibilities are linked to their larger objectives. Usually, the work your supervisor is engaged in will be one level above the tasks you are engaged in. If you are the one drafting the memo, your boss is probably the one who will be presenting it to their boss. Or if you are organizing a database, your supervisor may be taking the data to create a visual aid for a client. When you are aware of where your smaller task fits into the larger goal, you and your boss can cooperate more definitively with one another. This will take you from assistant to partner in the mind of your supervisor. 2. Prepare your work as if it is going to be published. via GIPHYAlways remember that your supervisor's job is to delegate tasks to you. Your responsibility is to execute these tasks flawlessly. For instance, if you write reports for your supervisor, write them as if they are going directly to print. Treat the draft as if it will be published the moment you submit it to your boss. Make it easy for them to trust your work. Proofread what you write.Ask a trusted colleague for a second eye, and then, when you are sure that your work is perfect…PROOFREAD it AGAIN. 3. Get to know your bossOf course, it should be a given that you must always interact with your boss in a professional manner. I am not recommending that you necessarily go out for drinks with your boss or analyze their social media pages. I am suggesting that you integrate your work into their routines. If you know your boss checks emails at 9:30am every morning, make certain you have sent in the most important work to them by that time. Or if you know they do most of their meeting prep after lunch, hand them your findings on their way back to the desk. Even if Batman is the greatest D.C. hero of all time…he would be nowhere without Robin. Your boss knows you work hard. Anticipating your boss' needs will show you care about their success and the success of the organization. And that makes you a hero too. via GIPHY
5 Ways to Ease Your Commute
Ben Woodward
April 4, 2019
5 Ways to Ease Your Commute
You wake up on a Tuesday morning, around 7:00 am. After snoozing your alarm once, with all your might you drag yourself out of bed and get ready for the day. You just about have time for a quick breakfast before you make your way to work. You arrive at the metro… it's busy. Waiting at the platform, you see countless competitors arrive for your rightful place on the busy metro carriage. You miss the train because someone needed the extra space for their bike!Does this sound like your commute to work? I must admit, I'm a little spoiled these days. I have had jobs that required me to drive and then catch multiple trains. In the winter I remember scraping the ice off my windshield with one hand and attempting to eat my cereal with the other. I vowed, never again. Today, I live just a 5-minute walk from work.via GIPHYA difficult commute to work was not conducive to productivity when I arrived. I was either in a bad mood or I'd spend the first part of my morning drying off from the rain, or changing into my work clothes because it was too hot to wear a suit. While not everyone has the option of living close to work, especially in the city, there are ways to improve your commute.1. Go to bed and wake up earlierProbably easier said than done. We're all guilty of hitting the snooze button one too many times or binge-watching The Office hours after we should have gone to sleep. If you can reorganize your routine however, you'll find yourself much happier in the long run.More time in the morning means you can eat a full breakfast (I recommend breakfast tacos), you won't have to rush and risk forgetting something important, and you may even have time to walk. Also, the earlier you leave, it's more likely you will beat rush hour.via GIPHY2. Stop somewhere on your way to workTreat yourself before you arrive at work in the morning. If you give yourself something small to look forward to, it'll give you more incentive to leave the house on time and improve your mood.This can be something as simple as buying a fancy latte, taking 20 minutes to read, or even walking your dog a little longer. Whatever brings you joy in the morning, give yourself the time to do it. 3. Negotiate with your boss to start earlier and finish earlierIf your commute is really causing you difficulty because you live far away or there's temporary maintenance on your route, ask your boss if you can make different arrangements. Many organizations are open to flexible working hours, providing you have proven yourself a reliable employee. It may be that you can start an hour earlier and finish an hour earlier to avoid rush-hour. 4. Entertain yourself Find a way to entertain yourself during the stressful morning commute. More and more people extoll the virtues of podcasts as an opportunity to learn and entertain themselves. For others, music or reading is the answer.Whatever brings you joy in the morning, use it to ease the stress of your commute and put yourself in the right frame of mind before work. via GIPHY5. Not forgetting your commute home Somehow the commute home doesn't feel as bad because you're heading home to dinner rather than a busy workday. Your evening commute can be tedious however, especially when you spend it in traffic. Whenever I go to a sports event or concert, where many people are battling to get out of the same venue, I have always used the opportunity to go to a bar or have an evening stroll to avoid waiting around. By the time I decide to go home, my journey is far easier.I recommend the same with your commute home. If the rush hour is making your journey miserable, take extra time to run errands nearby, grab coffee with coworkers, or go to a gym near the office. By the time you have done that, your journey will be much smoother. Too many people consider their commute the worst part of their day. It doesn't have to be!
The “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of the Professional Conference
Nana Jr. Bekoe-Sakyi
March 25, 2019
The “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of the Professional Conference
I recently attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) for the very first time. It was truly a unique experience, and I will remember it for the rest of my life. Conferences, on their own, can be great experiences. If you know how to approach a large professional event, you can leverage almost any conference in your favor. Let's examine some “DO's” and “DON'Ts” you should keep in mind before, during, and after a professional event or conference. Before the conference… DO…Plan ahead. Take the time to conduct research about the event you will be attending.via GIPHYYou should know almost everything you can reasonably know about the event. Be aware of every speaker in attendance, where they will be speaking, and for how long. If the event will feature booths with sponsors, vendors, and organizations, you should know which ones will be there and estimate how much time you should spend interacting with them. Be conscious of the venue itself. The location, the typical climate, or chance of inclement weather while you are in the area and prepare your wardrobe accordingly. Here is a strategy tip: Imagine yourself as a member of the “Events” staff at the event, and consider what you might expect them to know. During the conference…DO…Get plenty of rest. via GIPHYThe conference lifestyle is a true grind. The programming can begin early in the morning and continue into the late hours of the evening. This aspect of the typical conference schedule has pros and cons. Pro: the longer days mean you have more time to learn from speakers and network with other conference attendees. Con: it is a long day. DO…Remember to be flexible. The plans you made will change. Perhaps you had planned to attend a program that the conference is offering, but a connection you made after an earlier session would like to grab a coffee during that time. You must then make a decision based on the plans you have made thus far. Your plan is a guideline to keep you from getting lost in the endless possibilities the event presents to you. DO NOT…Make a fool of yourself. Nobody wants to be the person who leaves the event with a ton of business cards, but not an ounce of dignity. As long as the conference is on, YOU are “on.” Quite simply, during the event you will encounter scores of people. Some could be potential employers, colleagues, and perhaps most importantly, friends. You do not want to lose their respect before you have even met them! Any time you have food or drink at the conference pace yourself and remember your manners. Dress to impress. Wearing the appropriate attire reflects well on you as a professional. It means that you respect and honor those around you, it shows that you think about the impressions you make on others, but most importantly, it shows that you respect yourself. After the conference…DO…Follow up with new contacts you made at the conference. Send an email thanking them for taking the time to speak with you. Mention a topic you were talking about and ask if they would be willing to continue the conversation at some later date. DO NOT…Delay. Follow up with new contacts within 48 hours of meeting them. via GIPHYTry to keep all of your new connections alive. The best way to do this is to remain prominent in the mind of the person you connected with. So get going! Find a conference that interests you and make it the most productive week of your professional life.
International Travel Builds Perspective for Two Interns
Grayce McAllister
February 11, 2019
International Travel Builds Perspective for Two Interns
When you look for learning opportunities or ways to expand your skills and broaden your knowledge base, it can be daunting to determine what is most valuable and where to spend your time. Two of Leadership Institute's Spring 2019 interns decided they would spend time abroad in 2018. As you read about their experiences, see you can use international travel to broaden your skills.Abbey Bongiorno, Leadership Institute's Development program intern, spent the fall of 2018 studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain.GrayceMcAllister, Leadership Institute's International Training intern, spent the summer of 2018 interning abroad in Haifa, Israel.Q. What did you learn in your study abroad?A. Abbey: “I learned so much from my study abroad, I could write an entire trilogy. I have gained an unbelievable amount of independence -- even though my school was a ten-hour drive from home, being in another country is even further out of anyone's comfort zone. Not only did I have to live and go to school with strangers, but I also had to speak a language that wasn't my own.”A. Grayce: “By interning in Israel, there were many experiences that challenged me, to see things through a new light. One of the first things I learned, is to explore and have an intuitive mind, open to discovery. Especially in Israel, there are many historical, Biblical, and current sites of great interest that await detection. “By interning for a company in Israel, I was able to learn business and interpersonal communication skills that would not have otherwise crossed my mind. It taught me to be more aware, observant, and eager to try new things. “Travelling internationally allows you to find out more about other places, but it also allows you to discover more about yourself, the interests you have, or challenge some of your preconceived ideas about other cultures.”Q. What cultural differences struck you in your travels?A. Grayce: “Israel was a fantastic place to visit and realize how awesome I have it here in the United States. Continually, we see there are many problems in the United States, but if we look at Israel, they are under a constant threat of being overtaken or attacked. “When I visited a Kibbutz near the Gaza border, the guide told us that the townspeople have seventeen seconds from time of missile launched to the time it lands. During this time, they must find shelter. Therefore, there are bomb shelters within close proximity to everything; but the item that struck me as most powerful is the attitude people have about the shelters. “As you can see in the picture, Israelis enjoy where they live and would not change it. They look for the best in their situation and therefore, paint the bomb shelters to fit into the specific area of the town. That made me appreciate how safe I am here in the US and realize that when you can't change the circumstances, your attitude is what counts.”A. Abbey: “I am incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to study abroad. Many of my mentors told me the one thing they most regret in their lifetimes (not just their undergraduate career) was not studying abroad. “I met so many amazing people, learned about and lived in different cultures, and really grew to appreciate where I'm from. Spain itself has only had its current constitution for 40 years. Learning about the workings of another country's laws was a real eye-opener.”
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