How Gen Z can succeed during a recession, from a millennial who’s been there – Forbes

The current pandemic is unprecedented, but there are some clear economic lessons to be learned from the 2008 financial crisis. – Elizabeth Segran

How Gen Z can succeed during a recession, from a millennial who’s been there

I found this article on LinkedIn today, and while it’s geared towards the Gen-Z generation looking for work from the perspective of a millennial, I could relate to it. As many know, I’m clearly and proudly a Gen-X person, but my career was on hold in the early 2000s as I took some time off to be a stay-at-home mom. When I went to rejoin the working world, I had a hard time getting back in, and just as I was about to make some headway, that same “Great Recession” described in the article hit. So, me restarting my career coincided with the millennials, and unlike the 70% of millennials who have eventually gotten permanent jobs lasting 5 years or more, I’m still stuck in the gig economy–not by choice.

That said, ignore the bit about the generational stuff in this article, and focus more on the rest of it. It talks about the benefits of having to steer a career through a gig economy then and now, and that we will emerge from it. It’s not going to be easy–it hasn’t been easy so far–but there are some good takeaways from this article that could benefit everyone who is fearful about losing their job due to COVID19 right now.

What do you think? Include your comments below.

 

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We all have to be in this for the long haul.

Woman talking to another woman in video conference call imageRemote work got another unintentional boost.

A friend of mine posted this link on Facebook today, and it shows calculations done to help people understand how long one’s particular state in the US that people will have to be in a “shelter in place”, and at what week is the most critical to follow this to ensure that their state can handle the crisis. According to this, at this writing (March 22, 2020), the critical week for my state is this coming week.

Here’s the link:
https://covidactnow.org/

So, depending on where you live (speaking of just about everywhere in the US), it’s going to be a while before we are free to roam around and interact like we did before.

This pushes the agenda of remote work even more. So many positions have been forced home, much sooner than anyone would have initially predicted. This is also forcing many companies to take a deep look at to how remote work affects their bottom line. Are they still able to function from home for the long haul? And what does that mean once we are allowed to return to “normal”? There’s going to be a big shift for how business is done going forward during and after this pandemic.

Of course, advocates of remote work like myself are hoping that there will be positive inroads that will have companies create and continue more remote work positions. However, we don’t know that for sure. None of us can read a crystal ball to know how all of this will fall out. For some companies, it might actually be a bad move after all. Or, some will see how their infrastructure truly needs to support more of this work flexibility.

This is a really unstable time for everyone on multiple fronts–employment is just one aspect. Supply chain to sustain us all is important. Health of everyone is important. The link above shows how mathematically it makes SO much sense to respect and follow the “shelter-in-place” orders. I live in one of the earliest states that already has that in place. What will happen next? None of us really knows, but we can all try to work with what we have, support each other by staying home when possible, and help slow this monstrous disease. I already have one friend in another state who has been confirmed to have it; she’s stable enough to quarantine and heal at home. I have two friends with coronavirus who are a couple counties away from me; the mother is in the hospital while her daughter is healing at home, and they aren’t sure if the father has it as well. I have another friend whose nephew–a doctor–has contracted the disease. It’s almost like the Kevin Bacon game. Eventually, we’ll all know at least one person who has contracted it, but we need to ensure that the number of people who survive it–whether they contract it or not–stays as high as possible.

Be safe everyone! Above all else remember that this, too, shall pass. Additionally, as I’ve reminded a lot of people, the human race is adaptable. We can all adapt as we need to in order to push through this. 

(ETA: As of 24 March 2020, I had to edit this a bit–thank you synergistech for catching that slight error! And also, the friends a couple counties away from me–it’s been confirmed that all three have COVID19. The mother and father are in the hospital, while the daughter is at home, even though she has it as well. These are not easy times! Let’s keep those infection numbers down!)

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Content in the Age of Coronavirus

Man watching TV intensely Welcome to day 4-ish of my self-quarantine from the coronavirus pandemic. I say 4-ish because I went out on Sunday, but once I came back, I’ve stayed home every since. I went for a walk with my husband around the neighborhood yesterday for a little bit of fresh air, but now most of the weather is expected to be wet and soggy for most of the next week, so other than a doctor’s appointment that hasn’t been cancelled yet, I plan to stay indoors.

This post was inspired by something that I just watched on Twitter. Normally, I don’t watch Jimmy Fallon and the Tonight Show much (we’re more Late Show with Stephen Colbert people), but I saw he had posted a “home edition” post, and I was curious. I didn’t watch the whole thing, but he said something in his conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda in passing that perked my ears up. He mentioned that right now, it’s “all about the content”.

BAM!

In the conditions that all of us are in right now, with most of us on self-imposed quarantines, many don’t know what to do with themselves if they aren’t doing their work from home or helping their kids with schoolwork. Being generally sequestered indefinitely, they yearn for content to keep them abreast of what’s going on in the world as well as something to entertain them to help pass the time. Many business-related companies that have means of broadcasting through webinars or the like are already taking advantage of this, and trying to help the “cause” of needing content to help people get through these times. So many people are not used to staying at home for long periods of time, unless they’ve been seriously ill, or snowed in from a blizzard or other natural disaster. Perhaps because I’m a bit of an introvert, and I’ve worked from home for a long time, I’m used to staying home and not going out for long stretches of time. I am a natural couch potato–my mother used to criticize me for it, but I’ve always loved watching TV to watch all the comedies, action shows, and documentaries I could. I swear half of my knowledge comes from pop culture from those years of intensely watching TV from the 1970s-1990s especially.

So, this is an opportunity to either appreciate the content that is out there or start creating your own. I’ve been watching documentaries, movies, and TV shows that were on my watch list for the longest time, and I’m starting to read some books again. At the same time,  I’m working with my programming chair/vice-president of the STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter and another STC person on creating other content and events to go on virtually in the coming months.

Now, you might think that you need to have fancy equipment and lighting and audio to create content. Nope. Heck, this blog post is content. It’s taking up some of your time, and giving you something to think about, doesn’t it? Additionally, it’s not about the “bling”. Again the point is the content itself. What is the big message? What value does the content–whether it be text, video, audio, or whatever–have? Does it need to be “perfect” in order to get that main message through? In my opinion, it doesn’t not have to be glitzy. It’s nice when it is, but it doesn’t have to be. All content, as we’ve been told by content marketers, is about storytelling. Yes, that procedure manual you are writing or those instructions that you are writing as a technical writer are still telling a story. Any kind of entertainment we watch right now is content and it’s storytelling. Content storytelling comes in infinite forms, after all.

Photo of TechCommGeekMom and hubby walking in their neighborhood.

Here’s my contribution. Here’s a photo of me and my husband taking a walk around our neighborhood. It’s usually this quiet around here for the most part anyway. We didn’t stay six feet apart for long!

What kind of content are you either going to consume or create today? For me, it’s watching a mini-series on Hulu, then watching Star Trek: Picard and the Ready Room later today. I might create some storytelling by submitting my resume to another job opening. I know I’ve definitely been having conversations via social media and instant messaging with friends and family during this time. For me, most of this is generally the same as usual–I fill my life with content. Content is storytelling, but it’s also how you fill your life with experiences. Going out for a walk to get some fresh air is still absorbing content–you are using all your senses to create your story of taking that walk outside. You can translate that into further content by either video recording that walk, taking photos along the way, or writing about it later. No matter how it’s processed, it’s content.

So, while it’s frustrating to be sequestered for this long, we all know it’s for our own health and for the greater good of the PLANET. Coronavirus has definitely hit my area, and with my bad asthma, I’m hesitant to leave the house–other than a neighborhood walk–for anything for the most part. I know a lot of people are having a hard time with this, but we really are in this together. My recommendation is to concentrate on the good content that is out there. Be aware of the “doom and gloom” to be educated, but focus on the better stuff. Pay attention to how others are helping each other. Look at the content that people are putting out to ensure that you are recognized, loved, helped, and that your mind is staying active. Watch webinars and video conferences. This is a great opportunity to hone your verbal and written communications skills because working from home involves better communications skills than when you are in the office. Appreciate and enjoy all the entertainment and education that the media offers. You know I learned how to cook better over the years from watching a lot of the Food Network? My husband I have learned a lot about DIY projects and real estate from watching HGTV. It’s an opportunity for you to read all those books that you’ve been collecting to read and “will get to eventually”. This is time to spend with your families. This is a time to break out your creative side and draw, paint, knit…whatever. Learn to exercise at home doing something different–there are plenty of “dance parties” and yoga classes online where you don’t need equipment. Use this time to absorb content that will help you be a better person when you emerge from the quarantines. It will help distract you from the doom and gloom. Contribute content when you can, even if it’s a one-to-one instant message conversation with a friend, or an email. I know an email checking in on my parents lifted their spirits that I was checking in on them. Or heck, a blog post. 🙂

It’s all about the content right now. Learn to absorb and appreciate what’s out there right now that we can use, and help contribute positive content to share.

What are your thoughts? Include your comments below.

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The COVID19 pandemic is spurring more online learning

Smiling college students in a lecture

While I’ve been talking about how it took a pandemic to truly begin to show companies that remote working is a viable option for many, I’m starting to see that it also applies to online learning. In light of the spreading virus, many university and college campuses are closing down and switching over to online classes. As a result, it seems like the ripe time for online learning–especially m-learning–to be put to the test (as if it hadn’t been already) in the same way that remote working is being put to the test.

If you look to very early entries on this blog, you’ll see that there are a LOT of articles that I’ve written in the past in favor of online learning.  I don’t remember the exact statistic off the top of my head as I write this, but I remember reading that there are more active smartphones in the world than there are people, and those in third-world countries are more likely to have a mobile or smartphone than a computer and adopt mobile learning (also known as m-learning) than other places.

What prompted this post was that I was reading social media posts and responses of parents who are skeptical or worried about their children’s education having to switch online (especially college students) for the rest of the semester. As someone who has done all of her graduate credentials (three graduate certificates and a master’s degree) online from “brick and mortar” schools in the last ten years, and having taught two graduate classes online for a “brick and mortar” university, I can tell you that students will only lose out if the professor teaching doesn’t put a little bit of time into what they post on online courses.

If a professor has got a good foundation for the curriculum, it will be easy to follow. Assignments will still be due and graded, and online forums, chat groups, etc. will be MORE important. It’s a matter of how well laid-out the course is in a learning management system (LMS) and how strong the curriculum is. It’s also a matter of how well students and instructors choose to communicate. Short of being in person, it’s important to utilize all online means possible to ask questions and discuss in order to continue the learning process. To be honest, this kind of communication, in fact, is actually good training for the real world. We can’t always be in face-to-face contact with clients or co-workers globally, and using conference calls, online forums, chat groups, instant messaging, and email are all par for the course (no pun intended). This is the norm! Getting used to this not only helps to keep their education going, but it also prepares them for the “real world” and expanding their communications skills. 

I’ve been a huge advocate for online learning for at least a decade now. It can be done, and like anything else, it’s a matter for the student to be dedicated towards reading the syllabus and assignments carefully, following instructions, and putting the same amount of effort in, if not more. The success of the course lays on how the course information and lines of communication are kept open by the instructor. It’s an adjustment for those who are not used to doing things this way, but it’s been a feasible way of doing things for more than a decade, and now, more learning is being forced into seeing this as a viable option out of necessity. 

What are your thoughts? Include your comments below. 

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Structure and Semantics for Context – Simple A

Maxwell Hoffmann

Maxwell Hoffmann, circa 2013
Photo credit: D.M.Villegas

Simple A’s Maxwell Hoffman happens to be a good friend and mentor of mine. I’m lucky and honored to have him as one of my cheerleaders. Maxwell recently wrote and excellent article about structure and semantics for context in content for Simple A’s blog and for the ISTC.

His article starts,
Content becomes intelligent, flexible, and capable of scalable personalization through structure and semantics.

Content drives customer experience (CX). In order to achieve optimal CX, we need the ability to manage multiple variations of content components that are dynamically assembled as relevant experiences, based on the context of the customer’s touchpoints. We need the ability to create a content component once, then reuse and deploy it many times, in many ways. This requires structured content with an intelligence shaped by semantics.

Structuring content within a well-defined content model makes content scalable, reusable, adaptable, and measurable. We cannot create real-time, personalized conversations at scale without structured, intelligent, semantically rich and truly accessible content.

He continues the article breaking down how we can create content models based on reusable content (do I hear DITA?) and how we model content has direct impact on user and customer experience. This is the foundation of intelligent content, if you think about it.

It’s a well-written article, and I highly recommend that you take a look at it.

Structure and Semantics for Context

What do you think? Include your comments below.

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Virus puts gig economy to the test – LinkedIn

Woman blowing her nose, sick at workIt’s amazing to see how suddenly companies are taking coronavirus/COVID19 so seriously, and suddenly allowing remote work in droves. In light of this, my friend Ken Ronkowitz shared this link on LinkedIn which covers a few articles and comments about how this pandemic may show how the gig economy can truly work, and despite all the protests about remote work not being productive, it really can be.

It’s a LinkedIn article, so make sure that you log into your LinkedIn account first:

Virus puts gig economy to the test

What do you think? Will this be the “needle that broke the camel’s back” when it comes to proving remote work is viable? Or is this solely a temporary fix? Include your comments below.

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Who knew it’d be a pandemic to encourage remote work?

It is early March 2020. At this writing, the coronavirus (also known as COVID19) pandemic is slowly taking over, and people are starting to realize that they need to take it seriously. Unlike other pandemics in the past (last big one was “Spanish Flu” 100 years ago), we do have the knowledge and means to prevent it from spreading too much with basic sanitary hygiene like washing your hands and not touching other surfaces and hands that infected people might have also touched.

It is in light of this that I’m getting many of my tech comm friends pinging me on social media about remote work, as in, “Hey, I know you are an advocate for remote work, and more companies are sending people home in fear of the coronavirus.” Yep, so I’ve seen!  Who knew that it would take a pandemic to encourage remote work?

While there are jobs out there where you do need to show up, most technical communications jobs are really not among them. I’ve worked on virtual teams of technical writers, content strategists, UX designers, programmers, project managers, visual designers, and we did just fine. It’s all about communication and having the appropriate tools, but I’ll go into that more in a moment. Let’s look at some other factors that show that remote work is super viable.  

I could have told you that remote work was better for health reasons long ago. First, we can keep our germs to ourselves more by staying home. This doesn’t mean that we never leave our homes, but because we only go out to shop or get errands done, we’re not exposed to as many things as most. Yes, it only takes one germ to get ‘ya, but your risk is significantly minimized. I used to get really bad bronchial infections, colds, and other things when I worked in offices, no matter how much hand sanitizer I used and how many Clorox anti-bacterial wipes I used on my equipment.  Once I worked from home, that happened less often.  If workers don’t get sick as often, then their health benefits are not as expensive and there’s more time working. That benefits employers as much as it does workers. 

Costs of working from home is significantly less. I think I read a statistic–I think Chris Herd put it on LinkedIn recently (he’s another big remote advocate like me) that it costs something like $18,000+ per worker per year (or something like that) to pay for office space. I don’t think that included internet/wifi connectivity, water/electricity/heating/cooling, telephony, or any other things that you have in an office. Working from home, that costs about 1/10th of that per year. Additionally, there’s the cost of commuting by car or public transit, or even eating out for lunch. Those costs in not only money but time also take away from the “bottom line”–they add up very quickly. 

Remote workers also reap mental health benefits from working from home. In most cases, there have been studies that show that working from home is more productive as there are less disturbances, allowing workers to better focus on their work.  They can use that free time to get a gym workout in, talk to their kids, make a healthier meal than take out, or just…whatever. The balance between work and home is better because there’s more “home” time involved.  Less stress means happier workers. 

Now, I know there are those who say that they like having to work around people. Good for you! But I know this tech comm bunch–most of us (including myself) are introverts. (I know, I don’t seem like one, but I am an extroverted introvert.) We don’t have to deal with people ALL THE TIME. What about that one co-worker you would prefer not to talk to unless you have to? When you are in the office, you are forced into seeing your office colleagues all day, whether you like them or not. You see them more than you see your family, in some cases. If you have great colleagues, good for you. I’ve been in bad groups and good groups. I would rather control my face time with all of them. Remote work lets me do that.  We live in an age where we can video conference, audio conference, make phone calls, email, and instant message people. There are shared drives and BaseCamp and Microsoft Teams and Jira/Confluence and other tools that help with the collaboration. As I said, I’ve been on teams where everyone was spread out globally, and with consistent, concise, and frequent communication using most of the tools listed above, we would make great things happen. 

IT CAN WORK. 

Now, companies are forced into trying it for the sake of world health. I’m willing to bet that many companies that previously didn’t have any kind of telecommuting or remote options that are now forced to consider it are going to get a shocking surprise at how well things will work. Remote work was supposed to be something that was going to be very commonplace by 2020, and it still isn’t. (Thanks, Marissa Meyer.) 

I’m looking for a new remote position right now, as a matter of fact. I am suited for it. I prefer it. I get more work done. I am able to keep after my health better. My mental state is better. I can take care of my family better. I’m more comfortable working in my own setup, and saving money on commuting and other working-at-an-office costs. Some of my best work has been done when I worked from home. 

Will this be the huge wake up call that we advocates of remote work have been waiting for? Time will tell. 

What do you think? Include your comments below.  

PS – You might also want to do a search in this blog on the word “remote” and see several articles that I’ve shared and other insights as well. 😉

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