Saturday, March 28, 2015

Soft Skills - Assistant

Many students choose work-study programs to help pay for their education or work full-time during the day and attend post-secondary education in the evenings. 

Mentors can encourage mentees to seek a higher employee skill base during the mentoring relationship. 

8 Soft Skills That Make for a Great Assistant

Posted: Updated: 


If you've ever seen The Devil Wears Prada, you may believe that being an administrative assistant is a stepping stone to something greater. Though it can be a proving ground that opens doors to other positions, being a personal assistant to an executive or middle manager can also be a fulfilling career that is currently totally in vogue. Candidates may not need previous work experience as a receptionist or assistant, there are several crucial soft skills that make a candidate the best person for an administrative or executive assistant position.

Soft skills are those character traits and interpersonal skills. Character traits tend to be ingrained unlike occupational or hard skills, which are learned and honed over time. They're less what we know and more the core of who we are. While experience in similar positions may get you the interview, your ability to showcase these soft skills should get you the job.
Not everyone can be an administrative assistant. It takes a very specific set of skills to assist an executive or manager. The following soft skills make for a great assistant: time management, project management, strong communication, and active listening skills, as well as common sense, a flexible personality, attention to detail, natural curiosity and research ability.

1. Curiosity and Research Ability
An assistant with a natural curiosity and research ability benefits the executive or manager in many ways. The perfect candidate is someone who reads a lot, gathers information and builds bridges between ideas. Executives and managers dream of the kind of assistant who reads trade news, keeps him or her up-to-date, points out networking connections that should be made, and research the boss's new ideas with vigor.

2. Attention to Detail with a Great Sense of Urgency
The great executive assistant must be meticulous in all things. However tiny, details are expected never to go without notice. Assistants must pride themselves on noticing things others do not. All those arguments about work-life balance? A great assistant is the key to helping an executive or manager achieve it. When a great assistant respects his or her boss's need to balance work with their family or private life, he or she approaches the details of the boss's day with urgency and accuracy. Arrive well before the boss does, stay after the boss is gone to prepare for the next day, and work their calendar with proper planning and recommendations.

3. Common Sense
Despite what the name implies, common sense is rare. The great assistant is capable of filling in the gaps and demonstrating initiative. When given incomplete ideas, the assistant uses knowledge of his or her company and boss to round them out, all while keeping the executive informed and in approval along the way.

4. Active Listening Skills with Vision for the Future
Listening leads to learning. While most people are "hard of listening" rather than "hard of hearing," the great assistant processes information quickly and boldly asks questions to fill in his or her understanding. When an assistant understands the direction his or her boss is heading in and the strategy behind every move the executive or manager makes, the assistant will be able to have a greater impact on this growing partnership. Ultimately, the assistant will accurately anticipate what goes next.

5. Flexible Personality
A great assistant must have the ability to interact with all people. Whether you meet in person or over the phone, the assistant must build rapport. With as many unique personalities as an assistant must deal with, he or she must be able to build rapport in a number of ways. An assistant must remain flexible and patient with all people.

6. Strong Communications Skills
Communication is key. Understanding and conveying information between people is absolutely invaluable. There's perhaps nothing in the world more valuable to customers, clients and business partners than understanding and being understood. Strong communications skills could be the difference between your legacy as "The Greatest Assistant Ever" and "What was their name again?"

7. Time Management Skills
A great assistant needs to know how to prioritize and keep things on schedule because the job of assisting an executive or manager includes scheduling his or her meetings, events and other means of spending time. An executive assistant works with his or her boss to understand priorities and help manage daily scheduling so that the executive can spend more of his or her valuable time on long-term goal planning and setting.

8. Project Management Skills
As much as an assistant's ability to manage his or her time and the boss's daily operations so that the boss has time for big-picture thinking, it's incredibly important for an assistant to help bring the boss's big picture thinking to life. That means being able to help manage the projects the executive or manager is working on. Big pictures are made from many little ones. With each project, there are many moving parts and you'll be invaluable to your boss if you can help manage these moving parts. That may mean managing the deliverables assigned to all project team members or just making sure that the boss is working on the right project at the right time. It also means being able to pick up the threads of projects that have been tabled earlier but are now the boss's focus. A great assistant is one who can make his or her boss's job easier by tackling things like comparing expenses on financial statements, analyzing client trends or even simply highlighting a budget. These things make a huge difference in growing the partnership between an executive and an administrative assistant.

While the job title and description of an assistant may seem straight-forward, it can be less so in practice. An assistant's job requires the delicate use of dozens of desirable skills that people mostly notice when there's a distinct absence of them. If you've got at least some of these skills, you've got a shot at being a great assistant. 

Ret. 3-17-15

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Model: OK Student Inventors Exposition

All Oklahoma school-age inventors should compete to attend this statewide exposition.

Many school districts, however, are located in sparsely populated areas and/or do not have finances to transports students far. We salute the founders of this 25+-year-old model, which can be adapted regionally, by counties or districts--large, small or cooperatively. 

Every school--public or private--can create its own version of this event. Recruit judges from business, college, military, Career Tech, or others. Eventually, create a pathway to get local winners to the Oklahoma Student Inventors Exposition.                                                                        

The Oklahoma Student Inventors Exposition allows students, 1st through 12th grades, to show their inventions. Winners and their teachers receive money awards, trophies and medals. For example, in 2013, winning students and their teachers were given $150 each. 

The 2015 event, the 26th, was on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 from 9:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. at Rose State College's Hudiburg Chevrolet Center, Midwest City. 

Patent attorneys, parents, the public, and others attend. Proud parents bring folding chairs and sit near the jam-packed display tables where their children show off their inventions. In 2013, 162 students earned the honor of competing. In 2015, over 400 youths from 85 schools displayed their inventions. Each year the expo grows. Some schools represented in 2015 were Bethany, Del City, Guthrie, Moore, Oklahoma City, Poteau, Seminole, and Shawnee. 

The public is encouraged to attend this event, as the young inventors enjoy showing and explaining their creations to visitors. Positive comments from guests also help encourage the students’ creativity and propel them forward to more problem-solving challenges. If someone strolling through does not inquire, the inventors often will engage the onlooker first. "Let me tell you about..."

Each year the enthusiasm, creativity, confidence, and professionalism of even the youngest inventors increases. As we walked, these first graders articulately and professionally with a generous addition of passion discussed their inventions. 'Only first graders? 

Regardless of grade-level, each had a problem to solve. One young inventor's dad drives much, and she was concerned he would fall asleep at the wheel. Her invention was an electronic device that would send a voice warning if the driver's hand was off the steering wheel for three seconds.

Another young man invented a garage attic ladder slide because his mother had difficulty carrying large plastic bins down the attic stairs. 

One young man's friend had a heat stroke so the inventor found a way to insert in a hat, cap or helmet a hot or cold gel mask. In the above photo, the young inventor on the right, a soccer player, used a variation of a hot and cold gel pack, secured inside a cloth cover, to attach with Velcro to his soccer shirts. 'Suitable for all kinds of weather! 

The list is endless as is the creativity, and the sophistication and practicality of the inventions varied. Undoubtedly, some of these students will soon be on ABC's Shark Tank.

Trifold display boards crowded the tables. Young inventors chiefly stationed themselves by their creations. Family members can be seen in the photos as well as some fatigue-clad judges, provided by Tinker Air Force Base. 

Each inventor provided business cards printed with his or her name, invention, school, school address, grade, and teacher. Even the "business" cards varied widely in design.

Judges Cori Fowler, OKAN Americorps volunteer, and Cedric Currin-Moore, STEM coordinator for the Oklahoma Afterschool Network, flank Jesse Chavez, inventor. Jesse envisioned the perfect spy device for everywhere--underwater, in the woods, outside a house, in a planter by an office building, in the snow, etc. His Spy Rock, equipped with a camera and with retractable, mechanical legs like a spider's, could be activated by remote control yet camouflaged for any location. How original is that!

Fowler, Chavez, Currin-Moore
Below are Suzi and Shannon Stephens. Suzi wanted to demonstrate how kids can be creative rather than watch television, play online games, or roam the internet. She wrote a script for a video entitled The Mystic Island, built the set, shot over 200 still photos, moving the action figures in each photo, timed the play sequence so the action appeared like a movie, and posted the finished product on YouTube as an example for others. (Suzi's proud grandmother Summer was also at the expo.)

Suzie & Shannon Stephens
Mystic Island still photos

Betty J.C. Wright is a co-founder and chairperson for the Oklahoma Student Inventors Expo. A truly extraordinary teacher, Betty is a 2014 inductee of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame among a myriad of honors and achievements. A genuine and loving dynamo, who never seeks glory for herself, Betty continues to create or make a way for students.

From a 2014 KFOR video and article:

Betty J.C. Wright and Julian Taylor, Co-Founders
Oklahoma Young Student Inventors 

MIDWEST CITY, OKLAHOMA — Too dark to find something in the bottom of your purse?

Reanna Glenn put a light bulb with a cell phone charger.

“Yeah,” she says after illuminating the inside of a large handbag. “There’s a secret pocket inside.”

Got a messy sandwich on your hands and not in your mouth?

How about Abigail Tardibono’s Food Buddy invention?

She says, “It keeps all of your food from spilling everywhere and making a big mess.”

Abigail Tardibono
For answers to these and hundreds of other everyday problems all you have to do is ask imaginative kids like Jared Stewart and Tyler Whitlock who came up with a perfect way to slice pizza.

Their invention is two scissors welded to a triangular sheet of aluminum.

“You put it under the pizza and it makes a perfect slice every time,” says Jared.

“It’s safe for kids,” adds Tyler.

25 years ago there were just a handful of kids who presented ideas for the first Oklahoma Inventors Exposition.

Teacher Betty Wright and inventor Julian Taylor helped organize it.

Betty, now retired, says, “We see even more creativity now.”

Don’t like the taste of dental x-ray slides?

Olivia Atkinson has a spray for that.

“I’ve got a tasty x-ray spray,” she says.

Want to learn to skateboard but don’t want to get hurt?

Gavin Beverly has training wheels for that.

“Have you tried it out,” asks an exposition visitor?

“Yeah,” says Gavin. “Does it work,” is the follow-up question. “Yeah,” says Gavin again.

Caleb Burns has a hearing impaired uncle.

The younger Burns came up with a pillow that doubles as an alarm clock.

“He had a hard time hearing it,” he explains.

Baby brother lost his soothie?

No problem if it’s attached to Tyler David’s Pacifier Positioning System.

“You can find it with the push of a button,” she explains.

So what are kids thinking about?

Moore students Jaden Wattle and Kylie Thompson came up with a safety vest for kids to wear if they’re at school and a tornado hits.

Highlighting one of its many features, Kylie says, “There’s a flashlight that you can shine on one of the reflector strips.”

Kaden Fox from Poteau was thinking about recent school shootings when he came up with his Safe Haven School Desk.

A full scale model would be made of steel and allow single students to lock themselves inside.

He says, “I thought, ‘what can I do to prevent something like that.”

A wealth of ideas and treasure for the best.

Winners in several categories received $150.00 in cash.

Their teachers got the same.

If you’re worried about the future, the solution is probably walking around in here.

Ret. 3-25-15

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Life Lessons from a 12-Year-Old

 22 Life Lessons Written by a 12-Year-Old Boy
March 24, 2015

© image/jpeg Life Lessons From a 12-Year-Old Boy

My little brother Mac is freakishly wise. I don't know if it's because he's a much younger kid hanging around lots of adults or he's just an old soul, but the seventh grader can drop major knowledge. Every so often we'll be sitting around the dinner table or watching TV and he'll blurt out some sagacious comment that will make my jaw drop. 

Sometimes I believe that kids really are more enlightened than adults. Their curiosity of the world and blatant honesty are refreshing. So before Mac hits the teen years, I wanted to sit down with him and ask what he has learned about life so far. A few of his answers were shockingly deep, while others were downright hilarious. These life lessons are direct quotes from Mac himself. Check out what my favorite kid in the whole world had to say:

1.     Don't lie about doing your homework; just do it.

2.     Never eat too much candy. It feels good while you're eating it, but it feels bad later.

3.     If you are always there for your family, they will always be there for you.

4.     Be proud to wear your glasses if you have them. It might just be the reason someone remembers your face.

5.     Be a hard worker, but don't overwork yourself. I learned that from Dad.

6.     When arguing with your parents, give up. You will never win.

7.     Send compliments to girls in texts; it makes them feel good . . . I think.

8.     Don't be afraid to be yourself.

9.     When you get money, don't buy the first thing you see. Look around.

10. Don't let a video game ruin a friendship.

11. Laughter is a good way to make someone feel better.

12. Don't let your friends take advantage of you, and don't take advantage of your friends.

13. Girls don't need to wear all that makeup; they look pretty good the way they are.

14. Patience is a virtue. I heard that in a Thomas the Train episode.

15. Comfort comes before style. I hate pants.

16. When you're at school, never take an Altoid from someone you don't know. It's probably not a mint.

17. Brush your teeth twice a day, 67 percent of the time.

18. Be a leader, not a follower.

19. Always be a team player, but don't be afraid to fend for yourself.

20. Do your fair share of pet care in your family (if you have one).

21. You don't have to use social media to have friends. I have plenty of friends and I have never touched Instagram.

22. Be a lover, not a fighter.

Mac is currently 12 years old and attending middle school in the Bay Area. He loves basketball, video games, and fishing with his dad. He's pretty pumped to show his friends at school this article.

Ret. 3-25-15

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Soft Skills

Preparing for the 21st Century: Soft Skills

Posted: Updated: 

"In a gentle way, you can shake the world."
Are you prepared for a career in the 21st century?
If you're not sure, you might want to rethink your next steps.
Most of us are still operating under a 20th-century paradigm. We were taught that learning all we can about a specific profession is the key to moving up to our goal rung on the socioeconomic ladder. Even "digital natives" learned this flawed premise; like the generations before them, they still think that hard skills are the key to advancement.
In a study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, there was a remarkable difference between the perceptions of college students and their potential employers. While the vast majority of employers thought that oral communication, organizing and evaluating information, and solving complex problems were critically important, fewer than 30 percent of college students realized that these soft skills are essential to their success.
Hard skills are easily defined and obviously measurable. They include technical mastery and vocational qualifications. For an executive a hard skill might be the ability to navigate complex proprietary software.
Soft skills are intangible and difficult to measure; while they greatly impact an individual's chances for success, they are not normally taught through traditional education. Soft skills include practices that were once in the backgrounds of all our lives. Team building, eye contact, analysis of body language, and conflict resolution were constantly demanded from us as we moved through our days. We had to learn to answer the family phone, speak politely to a clerk, and deal with the boredom of children on a long car ride.
Now we can text silently and privately in our family homes, ignore the clerk as we scroll through social media, and hand our children instant entertainment on a portable screen. In business we can negotiate contracts and form relationships through email and texting, with no person-to-person interactions. There is no firm handshake practice or eye contact involved in many of our day-to-day negotiations.
Many of us aren't getting enough experience with personal feedback and group interactions, the building blocks of basic soft skills. At the same time, we are constantly challenged to master the new soft skills involved with the ever-changing methods of communication. It's difficult to master courtesy in texting. It's easy to be abrupt in an email.
The most important soft skills are not likely to be developed through silent communication, unless we are engaging in person-to-person contact. An abrasive person can write a popular blog post, but she won't get very far in negotiating a speaking engagement or a book deal. A shy introvert can send a compelling text message, but he might not be able to maintain eye contact during an interview.
Of course hard skills are important. Hard skills build résumés. In the St. Louis workforce study employers reported that hard skills are very important for getting a job offer. But hard skills alone don't provide for significant advancement opportunities.
As careers develop, hard skills, which can be delegated, matter less and less, while soft skills continue to play the biggest role in determining your chances of achieving success. In fact, the more we constrain ourselves with hard-skill development, the less chance we have at achieving the goal of delegating our work to others so that we can advance to the next level.
Let's face it: We're in the middle of a worldwide social experiment. It doesn't matter what age you are. All of us have to engage in this precarious blending process. We have to keep up with the latest and greatest technological advances without losing our human edge.
There is not an easy answer to this dilemma, and the gap between our ideas and our actions needs to close.
While more than 85 percent of the executives and recruiters surveyed in the Gallup-Lumina Foundation report thought that businesses and universities should work closely together to develop career paths for students, fewer than 22 percent of these businesses had an internship or student advancement program in place.
When the effort is made to add feedback and practical experience to the educational track, the results speak for themselves. With an emphasis on the soft skills of networking, study habits and résumé building, the charitable foundation of One Million Degrees works with community colleges and employers to achieve a graduation rate of 84 percent, more than three times the national average.
We all need to continually relearn our communication skills and reconsider our self-perceptions.
We can build a bridge between the best of the past and the miracle of the new with a simple shift in our thinking; the past, the present, and the future all have valuable lessons and tools for us.
In this new worldview the fresh, bright light of new ideas and technologies can be used to illuminate, rather than outshine, a pathway for the wisdom of the ages.
"With hard skills, you can manage your boss; and with soft skills, you can lead your boss."
--Professor M.S. Rao, leadership specialist 
Ret. 3-17-15