• Never Too Old to Tweet!

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    Social media still have you flummoxed? Banish your bewilderment with this great array of free online tutorials and info-packed articles from the Case Foundation.

    While the foundation has geared these resources towards helping nonprofit organizations understand the best ways to leverage social media, every bit of advice is just as valid for individuals striving to master these key tools and optimize their own brands.

    I’d recommend skipping their somewhat gratuitous introductory video and diving directly into the introductory articles such as “Be A Beacon.”

    With these basics under your tool belt, drill down into the platform specific videos, such as Social Media in Plain English from Common Craft. They pack a lot of easy-to-understand information in two-minute segments.

    This is a great opportunity to learn at your own pace and test one platform – Blogs, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube – at a time. You may like one or you may like them all. If you use more than one, be sure to link them to one another (ie. connect your Blog to your Twitter account) to enhance your brand and maximize your visibility.

    Happy Tweets!

  • Knead It, Punch It, Bake It! – A Book on Bread and A Recipe for Life

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    Judith Jones is one of the most “savvy” and indomitable 83 year-olds whom I know. Last night, I had an opportunity to meet Judith again when she shared some of her reminiscenses with an audience here in Maine at the Portland Museum of Art. The museum had invited Judith to speak in conjunction with their exhibit, “Objects of Wonder: Four Centuries of Still Life,” because so many of those still life paintings included food. All that sounds rather insightful but I dare say they had not figured that Judith Jones is anything but a “still life.”

    Judith is senior editor and vice president at Alfred A. Knopf publishers in New York. She joined Knopf in 1957 and her 53-year career is still going strong! Today, Judith is the most renown cookbook editor in the United States, if not the world. The list of authors she has edited reads like an international Who’s Who in the art of cooking: Julia Child, James Beard, Marion Cunningham, Marcella Hazan, Ken Horn, Madhur Jaffrey, Irene Kuo, Edna Lewis, Joan Nathan, Claudia Roden, Nina Simonds, and Anna Thomas, among many others.

    Judith was born into a blueblood household in which the cooking was done by maids ensconced in kitchens tucked in far-off corners so the “smells” would not seep out and permeate the home. This was also a time when no upstanding person consumed French food, because Judith notes, “with all those sauces, it surely had something to hide.” Judith says that one of the most daunting confessions she ever had to make to her mother was, “I love garlic.” Her mother was appalled.

    Judith managed to escape this culinary wasteland by moving to Paris after graduating from college. She persuaded her parents to let her go for a three week visit. She fell in love with the city, the food and the Parisians’ passion for cooking and eating. At the end of her three weeks Judith “lost” her passport and had to postpone returning home. In the time it took to replace her passport, she cannily managed to secure a job reading manuscripts and subsequently extended her stay for three years.

    It was a heady time in Paris. World War II had recently ended and the people reveled in the freedom and access to goods and food lost during the war years. Judith recounts a joyous moment when she was standing in line in a bakery and the owner stood behind the counter holding a baguette of bread fresh from his oven. He lifted it over his head, broke it in half and proudly revealed its warm, aromatic and fluffy white interior to his patrons. Everyone cheered! Wartime shortages had precluded such luxuries as white flour. Judith was enamored of this new life where people took such joy in a simple loaf of bread.

    One of her most memorable “working” moments happened when she rescued Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl from a “reject pile.” Judith might have been new and inexperienced, but she was fearless about what she believed in – and she believed Anne’s story. She insisted the story be published in English in the US and it was.

    In 1957, Judith finally managed to tear herself  away from Paris. She returned to New York and accepted an editorial position at Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. In the beginning she worked primarily on translations of French writers such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Over the years she has worked with many distinguished authors, including Elizabeth Bowen, John Updike, Peter Taylor, John Hersey, William Maxwell and Anne Tyler. But food was never far from her heart.

    When Houghton Mifflin turned down Julia Child’s manuscript, Alfred Knopf brought it to Judith’s desk, saying “I think you might understand this better than anyone else in the office.”

    Judith loved the massive tome by three unknown ladies – one American and two Frenchwomen, Louise Bertholle and Simone Becks. She wrote in her memoir, The Tenth Muse, “I was bouleversee, as the French say – knocked out. This was the book I’d been searching for.” She convinced Knopf to publish the manuscript, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and the world of food has never been the same since.

    Judith has written many articles, essays and books of her own. She is the co-author with Evan Jones (her late husband) of: The Book of Bread, and Knead It, Punch It, Bake It! In 2007 Judith published her memoir, The Tenth Muse: My life in Food, and in 2009 she published another beautiful, groundbreaking book, The Pleasures of Cooking for One.

    When Judith is not at her desk or her stove in New York, she is at home in a rural corner of the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont, where she and a cousin are raising Angus cattle, which she calls “the girls.” She is healthy, fit and downright spunky. She calls this time of life her “ripe old age,” as opposed to her “old old age.”

    Dare I say, we should all ripen as well…

    Judith has already received the “James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.” I think they may have jumped the gun for who knows what else this 83-year-old dynamo will achieve in her years to come!

    NB: In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of Judith’s editors. I asked her and her husband, Evan, to write a book on bread for children, and when they delivered the manuscript to me it was as much of a magnum opus as Julia’s for Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not easily daunted myself, I asked Judith if I could submit the tome to a colleague to be published for adults and if she and Evan would work with me to pare the manuscript down to a second book, appropriate for children. We did and the result was two award-winning books.

  • Women Launch New Businesses at Twice the Rate as Men

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    This reflects women of all ages but, even so, women entrepreneurs continue to lead  the Boomer pack.

    Not a shabby statistic to note on this auspicious, 100th anniversary of “International Women’s Day.”

    In the US, March is “Women’s History Month,” but that did not become official until 1987. Even worse, this celebration began as just a week in 1978. For a country that espouses forward thinking, it seems to have taken an inordinate amount of time to rally behind our international counterparts.

    Nonetheless, we are happy to have caught up, and would like to add our support with this great Entrepreneurial To-Do List from Brad Sugars at Entrepreneur.com. We recommend you check off each of his seven key steps before you wade into the entrepreneurial waters. One essential step we love is know your numbers and theirs!

    Last but not least, as Sugars says in the conclusion of his article: “There are few truly new things under the sun. So build on the intellectual capital of those who have gone before you.”

    A nod to women’s history, perhaps???

    Suffragist Parade in New York City

    (Photo Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS)

  • Social Capital on Display: A Norwegian Parable about Social Entrepreneurs

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    This astonishing and true story, about Jan Baalsrud a Norwegian anti-Nazi Resistance fighter in 1943, is the closest parable I have ever read about the trials and tribulations of a social entrepreneur.

    NY Times columnist, David Brooks, retells Baalsrud’s epic to capture the essence of Norway’s long-standing Olympic Gold Medal success, but Brooks also describes the story as an “interesting form of social capital on display.” He writes, “It’s a mixture of softness and hardness. Baalsrud was kept alive thanks to a serial outpouring of love and nurturing. At the same time, he and his rescuers displayed an unbelievable level of hardheaded toughness and resilience. That’s a cultural cocktail bound to produce achievement in many spheres.”

    Determined to succeed for a cause greater than ourselves – isn’t that the essence of a great social entrepreneur?

  • How to Capture and Hold Your Interviewer’s Attention in 20 Seconds!

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    Mary Civiello’s tips on How To Capture a Crowd posted in a Fortune Magazine blog are a must read! They are just as applicable for a small audience: namely your interviewer or the interviewing committee.

    Her very first question is a stunner: 1. Can you give your presentation in 20 seconds even though you have 20 minutes to speak?

    Civiello says, “Start your preparation by asking: What is the one thing I want them to remember if they remember nothing else?”

    Read and memorize each of Civiello’s four tips and, while you’re paring your presentation down to 20 seconds, remember our SSW advice: You Are Your Brand: Be Authentic!

    Be honest about your skills and personal values.  Think about your interview as a blind date. Do not use your resume or social media marketing tools to create a false persona. Never advertise yourself as a young and sauve bon vivant when you’re really an older, highly experienced, albeit shy and introspective research analyst. Do not post a snap taken 20 years ago on your LinkedIn profile. The shock will knock your interviewer off his or her pins and they won’t believe a word you say.

    Stephanie Clark, a career consultant in Canada, recently addressed the importance of authenticity for long-term best results. Referring to how pressured job seekers feel about the interview, she said:

    Why not relax about it all, do something or behave in a way that is authentic to you and how you feel, and let the chips fall where they may? No use trying to manipulate a situation … by being anything other than you! If the person doesn’t respond favorably … perhaps it is best to move on.

    I would much rather work somewhere where my quirks, personality, and style were welcomed, appreciated, needed, than somewhere where they found my approach not aligned with theirs. Such a situation, aside from potentially being a confidence buster, isn’t likely to provide workplace successes. No success, no great content for the next resume, the need for which would likely come soon enough, given that the fit was all wrong!

    Stephanie has lots of great articles on her website: www.newleafresumes.ca

  • Simple Productivity: The Little Rules of Action

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    Fellow blogger, Leo Babauta, at Zen Habits, says, “Too often we get stuck in inaction — the quagmire of doubt and perfectionism and distractions and planning that stops us from moving forward…. And while I’m no proponent of a whirling buzz of activity, I also believe people get lost in the distractions of the world and lose sight of what’s important, and how to actually accomplish their Something Amazing.”

    We hope Leos’ “Little Rules” will help you create “Something Amazing,” or – at the very least – help propel you forward in your quest for meaningful work:

    1. Don’t overthink. Too much thinking often results in getting stuck, in going in circles. Some thinking is good — it’s good to have a clear picture of where you’re going or why you’re doing this — but don’t get stuck thinking. Just do.

    2. Just start. All the planning in the world will get you nowhere. You need to take that first step, no matter how small or how shaky. My rule for motivating myself to run is: Just lace up your shoes and get out the door. The rest takes care of itself.

    3. Forget perfection. Perfectionism is the enemy of action. Kill it, immediately. You can’t let perfect stop you from doing. You can turn a bad draft into a good one, but you can’t turn no draft into a good draft. So get going.

    4. Don’t mistake motion for action. A common mistake. A fury of activity doesn’t mean you’re doing anything. When you find yourself moving too quickly, doing too many things at once, this is a good reminder to stop. Slow down. Focus.

    5. Focus on the important actions. Clear the distractions. Pick the one most important thing you must do today, and focus on that. Exclusively. When you’re done with that, repeat the process.

    6. Move slowly, consciously. Be deliberate. Action doesn’t need to be done fast. In fact, that often leads to mistakes, and while perfection isn’t at all necessary, neither is making a ridiculous amount of mistakes that could be avoided with a bit of consciousness.

    7. Take small steps. Biting off more than you can chew will kill the action. Maybe because of choking, I dunno. But small steps always works. Little tiny blows that will eventually break down that mountain. And each step is a victory, that will compel you to further victories.

    8. Negative thinking gets you nowhere. Seriously, stop doing that. Self doubt? The urge to quit? Telling yourself that it’s OK to be distracted and that you can always get to it later? Squash those thoughts. Well, OK, you can be distracted for a little bit, but you get the idea. Positive thinking, as corny as it sounds, really works. It’s self-talk, and what we tell ourselves has a funny habit of turning into reality.

    9. Meetings aren’t action. This is a common mistake in management. They hold meetings to get things done. Meetings, unfortunately, almost always get in the way of actual doing. Stop holding those meetings!

    10. Talking (usually) isn’t action. Well, unless the action you need to take is a presentation or speech or something. Or you’re a television broadcaster. But usually, talking is just talking. Communication is necessary, but don’t mistake it for actual action.

    11. Planning isn’t action. Sure, you need to plan. Do it, so you’re clear about what you’re doing. Just do it quickly, and get to the actual action as quickly as you can.

    12. Reading about it isn’t action. You’re reading an article about action. Ironic, I know. But let this be the last one. Now get to work!

    13. Sometimes, inaction is better. This might be the most ironic thing on the list, but really, if you find yourself spinning your wheels, or you find you’re doing more harm than good, rethink whether the action is even necessary. Or better yet, do this from the beginning — is it necessary? Only do the action if it is.

    Thank you, Leo!

  • Bare Words: Pare Your Writing Down to the Essentials

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    Yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I am a lover of words and writing. I try to be open-minded about the art, but this weekend I was struck by two less than artful abuses.

    The first was New York Governor, David A. Paterson’s ludicrous pronouncement, “I pledge I have not obfuscated.” Whatever happened to “lied”?

    The second occurred as my grandson and I drove to his 5th grade breakfast fundraiser.  As we were cruising along in the dawn’s early light, he proudly announced he was a PTP.  Science wizard that he is, I thought this must have something to do with the Periodic Table of the Elements. Not so, he smiled and said that’s “Pancake Transportation Personnel.” Are “waiters” no more?

    The late, E.B. White, master author and essayist, would have been horrified. White was adamant about clarity in writing.  One of his cardinal rules was:  “Avoid fancy words: Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.”

    White and William Strunk, Jr., wrote The Elements of Style, a tiny but venerable guide which is just as valuable today as when it was when first published in 1919.  As we struggle with résumés, cover letters and all other communications related to capturing and positioning ourselves for our job searches, we need to keep this little gem of a book at out fingertips.

    The guide begins with sixty-three words that could change your world of writing: “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

    In this weekend’s NY Times excellent essay, Writing a Résumé That Shouts ‘Hire Me’, by Phyllis Korkki, the advice is “be concise, tight, lean and clean” – an echo of  the 1919 Elements of Style, credo: Make every word tell.

    Muriel Barbery in The Elegance of the Hedgehog has written a remarkable passage describing a Maori rugby player that is a perfect metaphor for telling words. He “was like a tree, a great indestructible oak with deep roots and a powerful radiance – everyone could feel it. And yet you also got the impression that the great oak could fly, that it would be a quick as the wind, despite, or perhaps because of its deep roots.”

    As you write, take care to choose words that are grounded, words that are clear and concise – telling words which ignite the imagination, radiate and resonate so everyone can hear you.

  • Take Back the Name: Stop Negative “Senior” Stereotyping!

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    Remember when we were in high school and achieving “Senior” status was the Holy Grail. It was the same in college. The senior class was highly revered; it was the font of wisdom and experience for the undergrads. No one was more “with it” than a senior. It was a powerful position oft lauded with reckless abandon – in fact, if memory serves, the more reckless abandon the more the senior was lauded.

    It wasn’t until we joined the work force that “Senior” became a pejorative epithet. Not an instant metamorphous, it accrued bit by bit as our seniors’ workplace tenure increased. Each year, each crop of new corporate mogul wannabes, ambitious, cutting-edge entrepreneurs and innovators slowly but surely pushed older employees into the “establishment.”  This was not a good establishment but, rather, one that connoted stodgy, unimaginative, over-the-hill and senior (bold is to emphasize the thud). We need to revamp the definition of senior to include such positives as:  dynamic, creative, energetic and treasure trove of experience and wisdom. In other words – very savvy!

    AARP did not help. Their market focus was so successful that 50 became synonymous with retirement. And their image of retirement was a good thing – like a lifetime achievement award. That was their pitch but the folks actually approaching 50 dreaded the AARP member invitation. It arrived in mailboxes like a death knell. We were crossing the Rubicon from living and working to retiring. On the other hand, the young, eager-beaver workers loved this blueprint because they needed room at the top to move up the ladder. You’d think we’d know better today. But AARP is still thriving; it is one of the most profitable nonprofits in the country, if not the world. And negative senior stereotypes remain rampant.

    We also need to stop saying, “sixty is the new fifty, seventy is the new sixty,” etc. That just pushes the problem down the road, and we all know what happened to Sisyphus. Remember that king in ancient Greek Mythology who was cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity…

    It’s time to redefine seniors and retirement through new role models such as Robert Chambers, who at 60+ founded a nonprofit organization, Bonnie CLAC, in rural New Hampshire and, in less than 10 years, was invited to a White House press conference, where President Obama hailed him as one of the nation’s greatest social innovators.

    There are lots more seniors like Robert. It’s time to take back the name!

  • Social Media Works! The day I posted my profile on LinkedIn my Blog stats tripled and I received a job offer.

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    Speaking as a former technology Luddite (I did not lose my Web virginity until my 50th birthday had sailed by), I am thrilled to see how well the latest Social Media tools can work. I posted my LinkedIn profile, emailed 30 colleagues to cue them I had joined their virtual network and within hours the number of unique visitors to my blog had tripled and one contact wrote back to offer me a job. All of this happened – not on a “busy” weekday – but on a late, sleepy Sunday afternoon. Clearly, these online networks operate 24/7 and folks are not just surfing; they are working!

    Lest you think my virtual network success was a bolt from the blue, it was not. I have been developing networks the old fashioned way (phone, letter, email, and shockingly even face-to-face) for eons. I have tippy-toed into the virtual world with extreme care and much due diligence. I studied all the do’s and don’ts and scoured zillions of online tutorials before I so much as typed the big “T” for  Twitter!

    Five steps I learned the hard way which could be key to your success:

    1. Identify your audience. Is this about family and friends or professional colleagues and securing a job?

    2. Know what you want to say and, of course, have something to say that will be of interest or value to your audience. Nobody really cares if you’re having bananas or blueberries on your cereal each morning. But, if you had a flash of genius about how to secure the job of your dreams whilst munching, it might be okay to mention the fruit – just don’t overdo it. Your audience is interested in your epiphany not your edibles.

    3. Determine how you want to convey your message (humor, info, facts, data, personal experience, aggregated wisdom) and then assess which platform (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc) will work most effectively for you. Don’t jump in with both feet. Dip a toe in to test the water and make sure you can wriggle all ten comfortably before you dive in to another platform.

    4. Always remember that, like a traditional on-the-ground network, your virtual network needs nurturing and on-going maintenance. Keep it fresh and up-to-date. If you limit your postings to once a year or even once a month, it connotes a certain lack of interest and commitment or, even worse, that you really don’t know what you are doing!

    5. Be prepared to let go. Once you post what you consider a wise or erudite tidbit, be open to feedback – both positive and negative. That interchange or exchange of information and insights is the real value added – the way we learn.

  • Do you know WHO you are online? “An old wine in a new bottle???”

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    If you think you control your online fate by not participating in any Social Media Networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc, you must think again. Even better, try popping your name in Google’s search window.

    The results could be fascinating, riveting or downright appalling.

    I submitted my name with a little fear and trepidation and found references to speeches I had long forgotten about, a video of me created 4 years ago at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford England, books and a vast assortment essays I had published, reviews of those books and essays, and I found (in the prestigious de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection online) a letter which I had written to an author almost 20 years ago. After perusing 24 of my Google pages, I stopped in my tracks when I discovered a reference to me as “an old wine in a new bottle.” I can only hope they meant a vintage champagne. I did not have the courage to continue reading my Google dossier but I will and you must also.

    Today, at least 50% of employers will check your online presence and those same techies will eliminate more than 35% of all candidates because of their online persona.

    You may not control your Google profile but you absolutely need to be aware of what’s there. That way, if, per chance, you’re applying for a management position in a sausage factory, you can proactively explain just how you came to be photographed in that big Animal Rights rally.

    On the other – much more positive – hand, Social Media Networking offers a great opportunity to not only differentiate yourself from other candidates but also to bring your more traditional credentials to life. We’re all competing for visibility with employers and, ultimately, for that job offer. If your credentials look just as good as many others on paper, you have to find a way to make your less tangible attributes – your commitment, passion, personality and motivation – stand out. With all due respect to the mighty Groundhog of Punxsutawney, this is no time to bolt back into your den.

    Just look at this Social Media utilization chart. It indicates there were over 300 million unique participants in 2009, and we know that number is increasing exponentially. Today there are more than 65 million people registered on LinkedIn alone.

    Global Web Traffic to Social Networking Sites

    Soooo, gird your loins and take your first Social Media steps forward. The best way to learn how to use these tools and to see the ways in which they can be of help is to sign-up and give one or two a test drive. Believe me, if I can “tweet and blog” you can too.

    Once you begin to dip your toes in these virtual waters, keep the following in mind:

    • Make certain each Social Media profile (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Blogs etc) you create is professional.
    • Keep your direct and web contact information up-to-date.
    • Check to be sure your profile/personality is consistent from platform to platform. You cannot hide your wild side any place online.
    • Pay attention to your headline – just as a book’s title should make you want to read it, your headline should capture your reader’s attention, promote your skills and demonstrate how you can help.
    • Select a picture that conveys intelligence and enthusiasm. Ask yourself: is this someone with whom I would like to work?
    • Last, but FAR from least, never ever post anything on any platform that you would not want your mother or daughter to see!

    Happy Tweets!

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