And so it begins…

Today my study officially kicked off.  Since quitting my job (well since well before quitting my job), this is what I’ve been waiting for.  So this morning, as the emails rolled in, letting me know that papers were open online, I was excited, distracted, nervous, and couldn’t wait to get home.

And when I did get home, I jumped on the computer and saw what was ahead of me.  I am doing 4 papers this semester, all leading towards a Graduate Diploma in Career Development.  And I’ve heard that it’s a big course load.  But when I first got into it, it didn’t seem too bad.  Each paper has two assignments, as well as a Reflective Journal (aka a blog).  There are a couple of readings each week for each one.  All quite do-able really.

But then I started putting everything into my planner, thought about how much I usually get done in a day, and the other things I have coming up in the next few months, and realised that this might be a bit more difficult than I first thought.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m willing to work hard for this, but I also know that I need to be kind to myself, and not get burned out on it.

At this stage, I’m not planning to change anything.  But I did make sure I checked out when I could pull out of papers and still get a full refund (10% of the course length, or the middle of next week).  So I’m going to see how I go once I see the printed materials, and make a decision then.

In the meantime, I’m planning in ways to get things done, thinking about how I can do work over Easter, and contemplating a study trip to visit my sister and her new baby!

Team building the Marshmallow Challenge way

Two weeks ago, my manager came to me and asked me to drag out some information on Belbin Team Roles for one of the teams at my work.

Last week, she asked if I could run the team building session for them.

Yesterday, I ran my first ever team building. And all indications are that it was a success. (Yay!)

In the lead up to the session, every member of the team completed an occupational personality questionnaire.  We then brought everyone’s information together to look at the team as a whole.  The goal of the session was to introduce people to team roles/team types, and then to use the information from everyone’s individual reports to create a stronger team.  So we split the day into 4 sections:

  1. The Marshmallow Challenge

    I heard about the Marshmallow Challenge from Tom Wujec’s TED talk, Build a tower, build a team.  The talk explains the challenge: to build a tower out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, 1 yard of string and a marshmallow.  The marshmallow must be on the top.   Teams have 18 minutes to complete it.

    The challenge sounds easy, but it’s far from it.  About 50% of teams end up with a standing tower.  Out of the four teams in our challenge, one team made a truly standing tower (27 inches high – the highest I could find record of was 39 inches, average is around 20 inches).  Another team cheated to get theirs to stand, but were pretty close.

    After the building, I facilitated a discussion about how the teams worked together, and then got them to guess which of the 3 ‘categories’ of Belbin Team Types they were – Social, Action or Thinking.  Each group guessed correctly, which started to introduce the group to the concept.

  2.  A Team Map

    After the towers, we created a map of the entire team, by completing the Team Circle from the Belbin website.   We broke for afternoon tea, and let people discuss where they sat.
  3.  An Explanation 

    After a break, we all came back for a quick presentation.  In the presentation, I covered the strengths and allowable weaknesses of the nine types.  I also got people to share their types as we went through.

  4. Using the Information

    Once we’d covered all the types, we got into the real work.  We split the team into their smaller work teams, and got each team to create their circle.  Each team then had to come up with three key strengths and three key challenges. It was great to see the things teams came up with, and interesting to take part in some of the discussions.

And then we were done.  Phew!

Overall, the day was great.  I love the cheesy personality type/team building stuff.  I know some people don’t really get a kick out of it, but I just love learning more about how people work and think and live.  Everyone’s so different, and I find that fascinating!  I also remembered how much I love public speaking and presentations. And getting compliments from people on how well I understood the material, when I first learned about it two weeks ago was a confidence booster.  Basically, I couldn’t be happier.

And I can’t wait to do the next one…  Anyone need some team building?

Becoming a Contractor: Part 1 – Where to start?

This is the first post in a series on becoming an independent contractor, a dream of mine that I’m finally on the way to living out.  

Since I first started work, I’ve had in the back of my mind that what I really wanted to do was become a consultant trainer.  Of course, when I started, I was actually headed more towards becoming a research technologist in a lab.  So it took a fair while for me to acknowledge this dream.  When I finally did start in Learning and Development, the idea may have popped up once or twice, but it seemed MILES away, given that I was in an entry level job.

Now, after 6 months in said entry level job and 12 months in a higher level project management job, and plans to study and create a niche for myself, the dream is back on the cards!

When I left my job to study and figure out my life, the dream was there, guiding me towards where I wanted to be.  But it still seemed like a long term goal.  A direction to head in, but more like a 5 year goal than a 2 year goal.

But in the last 7 days, I have had 3 different offers of potential contract work.  I don’t know if any of them will come to fruition (I am concerned about my ability to add more work to the work/study mix – heck I’m worried about working and studying without adding anything more!), but just having those offers there makes me think this might be real.  This might be something I really do!

So now I need to figure out where to start.  So far my checklist looks a little like this:

  • Figure out a name for my company
  • Register as an employer with the IRD
  • Create a logo
  • Research market rates for contractors in L&D and career development
  • Get out there and do some work!

As you can see, I’ve got a long way to go.

But, so far, I’ve got one tip:

  1. Network your heart out when you’re working, and draw on those networks later.
    All of the people who have offered me work have been people I worked with at my last company.  I worked with them at different times, in different environments.  One of them I’ve only worked with in a Technologist role – he hasn’t seen my L&D work at all.  But the fact that I worked with them, made a good impression, and kept up my network has opened up opportunities for me!

Any tips for me?  Does my checklist cover it? Has anyone else branched out on their own? How did you do it?

Wish me luck!


30 before 30 list

My 30th is a while off yet.  And really there’s just one big, life changing thing on my 30 before 30 list.  But given that that doesn’t seem to be happening, I need some other goals to keep my mind off it.

So I created a list to help me. I’ve got nearly 3 years to:

  1. grow something we can eat in the vege garden
  2. start my own business
  3. climb Mt Taranaki
  4. go on a holiday alone
  5. snorkel in North Queensland
  6. volunteer at my local thrift store
  7. make a big donation to a charity I love
  8. get involved with a political party
  9. ride in a ‘frocks on bikes’ event
  10. get work in careers advice/coaching
  11. write a guest post for a blog I love
  12. launch this blog 
  13. reupholster a chair
  14. research and write something just for fun
  15. build something
  16. walk or ride the Whanganui River trail
  17. get an article published
  18. go to a TED event
  19. learn to use a dSLR camera
  20. get a tattoo (to represent me and my sisters)
  21. ride the Otago Rail Trail
  22. walk the Tongariro Crossing
  23. sew some work pants
  24. be in a theatre show
  25. go blonde
  26. hold an outdoor movie party
  27. go on a big holiday
  28. attend a careers conference
  29. do a yoga course/meditation retreat
  30. complete my Graduate Diploma

In the past, these things haven’t gone all that well for me, so I’m going to try and check in on this one often.  But with two done already and one underway, I’m hopeful (unless of course, life changes)!

Long weekend

Tomorrow I don’t have to go to work. Then it’s the weekend. Then Monday is a public holiday. So the next time I’m off to the office again is Tuesday. I love long weekends. And I love them even more when they’re four full days of long weekend.

I’m using this one to do some mountain biking with my husband, and then spend a few days with my sister celebrating her birthday and the impending birth of her first child. I can’t wait.

Biking at W2K, Taupo
What I’m doing instead of heading to the office tomorrow…

I’ve taken advantage of the fact that I only work 25 hours a week to get tomorrow off (and I still worked less than 8 hours each day this week). And in the process, I’ve realised that I don’t think I want to work a full time job ever again.

That’s not to say I’ll never work 40 hours in a week ever again. But I will try to avoid working 40 hours in a 9-5 job that requires me in the office every single week day at the same time. I love the flexibility of part time. I love having afternoons off to do stuff around the house, and sew, and garden, and do the shopping, and read books. I love that today I got to participate in a tweet chat in America, because I was home at 3pm. I love that work fits around my life, rather than my life fitting around work.

Since I finished uni, I’ve always had a full time office job, until now.  And I always thought I’d continue in that vein.  I didn’t think I had it in me to be an entrepreneur, and be my own boss.  I didn’t think I even wanted that.  But now that I’m looking towards that as my career future, I can’t wait.  Sure, it’s a bit scary.  And sure, I might not always earn as much as I did in my office job (at the moment, I certainly earn a LOT less).  But I don’t care.  It’s a small price to pay for the awesomeness of real work-life balance (or as I prefer to call it, life balance)…

(In a couple of weeks, when I add study to the mix, and apparently challenging study at that, I might feel quite differently.  But for now, can you just let me enjoy my long weekend…?)