Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review #9: Ask for It

On Sunday I wrote a review of the book Women Don't Ask (WDA) by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever.  In this blog, I said how I planned to use the book as a starting point to help me get more of what I want out of life. When I had ordered WDA from Amazon, I got the recommendation for a second book by the same authors, Ask for It: How women can use the power of negotiation to get what they really want, published in 2008, so I purchased it at the same time.

Well, if I thought the first book was a good starting point, then the second one is the how-to guide.  The same real-life scenarios are included in this new work, but the book itself is broken down into a series of steps which should be taken in order to increase negotiation power. One chapter even includes a six-week 'workout' in negotiating, which is supposed to make the reader more comfortable with the process as a whole.  From asking for little things you're likely to receive, to requesting a 'bulk discount' on gasoline (yes, I immediately thought of the commercial as well), the exercises are designed to create habit in asking for more, as well as reduce the sting of hearing 'no'.

What I really liked about this book is that although it was still mostly aimed at women, the strategies discussed could easily be applied by a man or woman looking to get 'more' out of life.

On a personal note, I've already started working on outlining some of my own goals, and am planning to begin asking for them soon :)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review #8: Women don't ask

When I first joined the twitterverse, a few individuals recommended that I read Women Don't Ask:The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiations - and Positive Strategies for Change, written by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever in 2003.  I was trying to go back in my tweet history to see exactly who it was that made the recommendations so I could thank them, but I can't see back that far :(.  Instead, I'm just going to send a huge thank you out into the universe and hope that they receive it!

As a new professional, I have often found myself unsure of how much is reasonable for me to ask in terms of salary, benefits, development opportunities, etc.  This book not only tells me that I am not alone in these feelings, but that I am in fact like the majority of women out there. One would think that there is comfort in knowing that there are others like me, but instead it makes me feel even more frustrated. Simply by being female, I am not only more likely to earn significantly less than my male counterparts, but can actually be looked down upon by asking for equal treatment, benefit, and compensation.

This book was a bit of an eye opener for me, in that it not only taught me the value of introducing negotiation in my daily life, but that it pointed out the drastic financial losses I could face by not doing so:

By neglecting to negotiate her starting salary for her first job, a woman may sacrifice over half a million dollars in lost earnings by the end of her career...
I hope to use this book as a starting point to setting specific goals for myself, both personal and professional, and determining what steps I need to take in order to achieve them.  Most importantly, I hope that I will find the strength to ask for not only what I want, but what I deserve.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Book Review #7: Demonstrating Student Success

The Student Learning Imperative (ACPA, 1994) states:
Knowledge and understanding are critical to student success and institutional improvement.
Whereas Alexander Astin (1991) says that:
Assessment practices should further the basic aims and purposes of our higher education institutions. 
These two statements are in many ways the basis for Demonstrating Student Success: A Practical Guide to Outcomes-Based Assessment of Learning and Development in Student Affairs, written by Marilee J. Bresciani, Megan Moore Gardner, and Jessica Hickmott in 2009.

This book serves as a 'how-to' guide on designing, implementing and reporting on assessment of student services and programs in higher education.

In the first section, the authors provide a historical overview of assessment theories in higher education, followed by an explanation of and rationale for outcome-based assessment.

The body of the work includes a listing of the main components of an outcome-based assessment plan, as well as an explanation of various assessment methods, analysis and reporting of results; and implementation of recommendations based on those results.

Finally, the book concludes by exploring some of the challenges in assessment, collaboration, and funding requirements.

As I came into my current position in late October, many of the current processes were already in place before I arrived.  One thing I am looking forward to doing this summer in preparation for a new influx of students is examining some of our existing programs and creating an outcome-based learning model moving forward. I plan to use this book as a starting point, and am sure that I will take advantage of the various resources listed within it to help guide my work.

Book Review #6: Connected

How can your colleague's sister's husband make you fat? If you want the answer to this question (and many others), you must read Connected: How your Friends' Friends' Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do, written by Nicholas A. Christiakis, MD, PhD and James H Fowler, PhD in 2009.

This book explores how the people we are connected with (up to the 3rd degree of separation) can truly impact our lives in ways we never imagined possible. The authors examine numerous sociological and psychological theories and experiments and come to surprising conclusions about how profoundly we are impacted by our social networks, both actual and virtual.

An easy way to explain their theory is to look at how couples meet. A study conducted in Chicago in 1992 showed that:
Roughly 68 percent of the people in the study met their spouses after being introduced by someone they knew, while only 32 percent met via "self-introduction." Even for short-term partners like one-night stands, 53 percent were introduced by someone else. 
In this work, the authors use everything from primate behaviour to a virtual epidemic on World of Warcraft to illustrate how truly interconnected we are, and to predict how we will act within our own social networks.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book Review #5: Five Seconds at a Time

I mentioned in my last post that I have recently joined the #sareads group through Goodreads (which, by the way is an awesome way to track readings and receive recommendations for new books). The first book for this group is Five Seconds at a Time, written by Denis Shackel (with Tara Bradacs) in 2010.

Shackel begins this book with a tragic personal experience, and how he survived almost insurmountable odds by breaking the challenge down into manageable bites, five seconds at a time. The author then continues by applying the techniques which helped him survive to a basic leadership model.
The Five Seconds at a Time Technique:
Breathe and pause to reflect on the goal, how you feel and whether you are still headed in the right direction. 
Prioritize what's most important
Break down top priorities into manageable intervals or tasks with specific timelines assigned to each
Acknowledge when tasks along the way have been accomplished and reward yourself when they have
A nice part of this book is that at the end of every section, Shackel encourages readers to 'take five seconds' with points to ponder, quotes to remember, and questions to consider.

All in all, the tools and techniques outlined in this book are simple enough for anyone to begin incorporating into their daily life. The only complaint I have is that much of the narrative is faith-based, and although I respect that faith played an enormous role in allowing the author to survive his ordeal, I'm not convinced that every element of leadership also directly linked to a reader's faith.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Review #4 - Motivating the Middle

You know how they say 'good things come in small packages'? Well the book Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations, written by T.J. Sullivan in 2012 definitely fits that description!

This is an extremely quick read (6o-ish pages which can be read in under 30 minutes), but offers some real gems for anyone working with student organizations.

The target audience for this book is the top third of all student organizations, those over-involved, crazy over the top students who want to be everything to everyone and put the needs of their organizations over their academics and most everything else in their lives (I was definitely guilty of this as a student). Rather than focus on the bottom third of the organization, those bare-minimum, often complaining and unreliable members of the group, Sullivan emphasizes the need to work at connecting with the mid-range group. These individuals may not be as completely devoted as the top tier, but are still much more committed and willing to participate than the bottom tier. 

Sullivan offers a list of thirteen strategies for the superstars of the group to better engage the 'middle', thus strengthening the group as a whole:
  1. Ask their opinion, but don't ask them to do anything else
  2. Ask "what one thing do you think we could be doing that we aren't that would make this group stronger?
  3. Start and end your meetings on time
  4. Invite the significant others
  5. Give them more choices and the ability to skip the things they don't enjoy
  6. Minimize the conflict in your group to the greatest extent possible
  7. Let the middle member lead on the thing he likes most
  8. Thank them for participating
  9. Offer to assist with other stressful areas
  10. Give them a meaningful supporting role
  11. Ask for help on one specific, limited-time task
  12. Take some personal time with them
  13. Slow down on the decisions 
In reading the given descriptions, I found a few errors that I myself make with the groups I advise, and am looking forward to applying some of these ideas. I am also strongly considering purchasing a few extra copies of the book to hand out to my Senior Resident Assistants and Residence Council President in hopes that it will help them in their work with student leaders. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book Review #3 - Achieving Student Success

I've just finished reading my third (not for pleasure, but still quite pleasurable) book of 2013, Achieving Student Success: Effective student services in Canadian higher education, edited by Donna Hardy Cox and C. Carney Strange, and published in 2010.

This book came up on my 'recommended reads' list on Amazon, and I immediately ordered it (along with about 10 other books last month - thank you Amazon Prime free trial!). What attracted me to this one, was that it is CANADIAN, unlike so many other Student Services references books out there. Although it can be expected that student services aren't very different between the US and Canada, our histories are still different, as are our practices. This book is a compilation of chapters written by Canadian #sapros (or pros in the US who began their careers in Canada), and divided into sections: 
  •  Historical, Philosophical, and Theoretical Foundations of Student Services
  •  Forms, Functions, and Practices: Structuring Services for Student Success
    • Matriculation
    • Accommodations, engagement, and involvement
    • Support and adjustment
  • Institutional Mission and Context
  • Achieving Student Success: Conclusion
What I enjoyed about this book is that although it had the expected 'textbook' feel, it offered an analysis (and sometimes critique) of student services as they currently stand in Canada. Most notably was the observation that so few graduate/doctoral programs are offered to individuals interested in student services as a career. As I am currently in the process of researching Master's programs (with hopes of a 2014 start), I have noticed this void myself, and am hoping that I will be able to build a more specialized program through the ones already available. 

This book also mentions the importance of building and maintaining relationships with alumni, not only for the financial benefits to the institution, but because individuals may only be students for a few years, but they will be alumnae for life.  

A quote I found particularly notable (especially given my positon on UOIT's brand new Alumni Association):
Student services programs can contribute expertise about how to help current students begin thinking as "alumni/ae in residence" and seeing graduation as a process of joining something for life rather than departing the institution.
I would recommend this book to any student services professional who wishes to supplement the existing resources with some Canadian information, and believe it will be a useful reference in my library.

I'm beginning to think that my 'one PD book per month' goal is going to be easier to achieve than I thought! I am especially excited about #sareads, and am looking forward to adding those books to my monthly reading list.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Book Review #2 - Quiet

I have been reading this book off and on for a few months, but finally finished it this weekend, which is why it has made its way onto my 2013 book review list.  The book in question is Quiet: The Power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking, and was written by Susan Cain in 2012. 

This book was recommended to me by a former manager at Fleming College on my 2nd day of work, when he realized that I may not actually be the glaring extrovert I appear to be on the outside (side note: an instructor at Seneca College suggested that I may in fact be an ambivert, given that I tend to fall right around the line distinguishing introverts from extroverts on the Myers-Briggs scale - the quiz on Cain's website would also see me classified as an ambivert).

In this book, Cain introduces notable introverts in history, and explains how their preference allowed them to make such significant contributions over time. She also explores how some of the 'typical' traits of introverts can be both a gift and a burden, especially in North American or European societies that so value extroversion.  Most importantly, Cain identifies some of the challenges faced by introverts and extroverts alike in the workplace, in romantic relationships, and even in parenting. 

One thing I liked about this book is that it wasn't 'extrovert bashing', in the sense that Cain didn't focus on how society is wrong for expecting all individuals to act a certain way. Instead, she explains some of the errors made by individuals of both types in certain situations and how they can meet in the middle to create/strengthen productive, supportive, and loving relationships.

As someone who can identify with both 'types', I found this book helped explain some of my own behaviours, as well as the reactions of others when I exhibit more of one than the other. Given that one third of all individuals identify as introverts, I think this book is a great read for managers who wish to support and encourage the more 'reserved' members of their teams; spouses looking to better understand their partners; parents who wish to help their children thrive without forcing them into a mould; or any individual wanting to understand the people around them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I guess this is growing up

Last week, I spent a week in beautiful Punta Cana in preparation for my younger sister's wedding. That week, and the group of people who joined us on the trip gave me some time to reflect on some of the relationships that carry us through life.

You have to understand, my sister had always been one of those shy, quiet people who could spend hours at a family gathering without saying more than ten words.  Through martial arts, she helped develop her confidence and became more outgoing, though still never really saying more than necessary (unless you caught her with a group of friends - or my friends - where she wouldn't stop talking).

Though my sister never really had much to say, she did surround herself with a group of people who loved her and supported her, even when she decided to pick up with her now husband and move 12 hours from home following graduation from university (she chose to study accounting because she figured she could work for our father and would never have to worry about interviewing for a job).

The guest count at my sister's wedding was close to 50, which is uncommon for a destination wedding.  These guests included our parents, as well as several aunts and uncles; our stepsister (who we've become much closer to in the past few years) with her husband and daughter; several of her friends (some of whom had traveled from all over Canada and even Belgium), as well as her former Tae Kwon Do instructor and a former training partner.

My sister is one of those people who values every relationship she builds, and that was made evident by the group of people who joined us on this trip. Some of these people, such as our family, had known her since birth.  Others she had known since kindergarten. Some were high school or university friends, and a few were colleagues and new friends she has met in the 4 years she has been living out of province.  Her Tae Kwon Do instructor cried as she walked down the aisle, and when my stepfather stated that he looked as though he was marrying off his own daughter, her coach replied that it felt as though he was.

All these people have helped to make my sister into the successful young woman she is today, and I think her fortunate to have been able to keep these relationships so strong despite the years and miles which have separated them.

As I reflect on my own relationships, I would like to recognize everyone who has helped me get to where I am today, and wish to thank each and every one of them, even if I haven't had a chance to do so in person recently. I know sometimes time and distance make it impossible to stay in touch on a regular basis, but I am a product of the relationships I have had, and would not be who I am today were it not for these exceptional people.