Category Archives: Education

My Advice for a Soon-to-Be Marketing Graduate

By Dr. Laura Hills, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com

Online Marketing Key Can Be Blogs Websites Social Media And EmaiThis week, a marketing student from a local university wrote to me to ask for my thoughts about entering the field. Here’s what I told him. See if you agree:

Marketing is a fast moving train — a field that constantly evolves. What worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today and what worked today may not work tomorrow. So to do well as a marketer, you’ve got to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on and be willing and quick to change strategies.

Social media has been a game changer. Not all that long ago you needed loads of money to get people’s attention. Today anyone with an Internet connection who is smart and works at it is in the position to create marketing buzz and scoop up market share. That’s both exciting and scary.

There is creativity in marketing. But marketing relies on being very observant and cool-headed too. Past performance, focus groups, surveys, and other marketing tools can help you predict future outcomes. But these are only predictions. That’s where the creativity comes in. Every now and then someone comes along who breaks all the rules and captures the market. There is science to marketing. But there is also art.

A marketer can never sit on his or her laurels. You’re only as good as your latest effort. Marketing with passion is key to a long and successful career. Care about what you’re marketing, to whom, and why you’re marketing it. Otherwise you’ll spend your life selling more widgets no one needs and not living your passion.

Changing the World 140 Characters at a Time

By Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com

Today marksTwitter Logo two years for me on Twitter – my Twitter-versary, if you will. As I contemplate the relationships I’ve formed, the good ideas I’ve gleaned, and the huge amount of personal and professional development material I’ve written for my Twitter followers, I find myself sincerely grateful to the Twitterverse.

I have 5,000 followers. That’s astounding. And these are real, living, breathing people from all over the world. I see my messages favorited and retweeted all the time. People interact with me daily. And since I began my Twitter career, I’ve received loads of positive feedback from followers who tell me that I am making a difference. For instance, take a look at what just a few have had to say:

Your message is always powerful and convincing. Thank you so much!!  I wish I could have audio Twitter to listen to your voice. Your wealth of information and ideas are inspiring too! Our company needs someone like you to empower women.” – Mana, Japan

Love your tweets. Thanks for the inspiration. They always seem to come at the right time for me, too.” – Michelle, Ohio

Powerful tips, I must tell you. You’re nurturing the seed of leadership in me. When you write, I’m fed.” – Samuel, Nigeria

You have helped me a great deal without even knowing it. I am a new supervisor and your words are like little daily gems.” – Flo, New York City

You have no idea how much your tweets have helped me.” — Roger, Mexico

This is just the tip of the iceberg. In all, more than 100 of my followers have reached out to me in this way – unsolicited – just to tell me how much they appreciate what I’m doing. I’ve treasured each of these comments, so much so that I’ve created a Pinterest board to showcase them: http://pinterest.com/drlaurahills/high-praise-for-my-tweets/

When I began tweeting two years ago, I had selfish reasons. I wanted to promote Blue Pencil Institute. But Twitter has turned into something much more than that for me. Little did I know then that I would find a virtual, global classroom in which I could teach and make a difference in the world every day.

Lifelong Learning — In the Bathroom?

shutterstock_71092255I’ve never been what you would call low maintenance. It takes me about a half-hour or so at the bathroom vanity every morning to turn the head that I wake up with into the head that the world sees every day. To my credit, I think that’s darned impressive when you consider the gazillion steps and products that I go through to transform myself into the person most of the world has come to know.

Recently, a friend gave me some CDs to listen to with interesting interviews on them with great people like Seth Godin, Brian Tracy, and John Maxwell. I was excited to have them but wondered at first when I would have time to listen to them. I don’t drive long distances on a typical day (a good thing, I think), so listening to them in my car wasn’t a good option. Of course, I thought about just sitting down and listening to them, but I couldn’t figure out when I would do that.

The next day, I mulled this over while washing, toning, and moisturizing my face and it hit me; what if I listened to them while I was getting ready in the morning? I’ve listened to music in the bathroom and in fact have both an iHome and a CD player in there for just that purpose. But it never occurred to me that I could listen to an educational or inspiring audio program in there before.

I popped the first CD into my old player and within five minutes I was hooked. I’ve been listening to these programs for a week now and have to admit that I actually look forward to going into the bathroom and listening to them every morning. I’ve already learned so many good ideas and gained tremendous inspiration from these programs. But what I love most of all is that I’ve turned my necessary morning routine into something that’s good not only for my outsides, but for my insides, too. What a great start to my day!

Now, I’m craving more good audio programs that I can listen to each day – ones that will help me stretch and grow as a person and in my career. Readers – do you have any good ones to suggest to me? I welcome your recommendations. – Dr. Laura Hills, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com

How to Get More Bang from Your Next Conference Buck

ConferenceAre you planning to attend a conference or other continuing education program? You’ll get so much more value out of the educational programs you attend if you’re well prepared for them. Here are some tips:

Before You Go:

•    Read up on the subject. Ask yourself, “What do I know now?” and “What would I like to learn or reinforce at the conference or program?”

•    Plan questions to raise and bring relevant materials to share. Also bring helpful study aids – a digital recorder, pens, file folders, etc.

Tip: Don’t assume that the program will provide you with good writing paper for your notes or good pens. Many hotel meeting rooms provide no writing materials or only small pencils and memo pads, which makes note-taking difficult.

•    Wear comfortable yet professional clothing to the program. Bring along a jacket or sweater. Meeting room temperatures are often too hot or cold.

•    Study advance materials provided by the sponsor. Complete any reading assignments, forms, or tests provided.

•    Plan a sensible bedtime and stick to it. If you have an 8:00 a.m. seminar, get to bed early. As a rule of thumb, it usually takes 10 hours of rest in a hotel to equal seven hours in your own bed.

•    Free your mind of current tasks and problems that someone else can handle while you’re gone. Limit phone calls from home, except after the program or for emergencies. Leave your problems and worries outside the room and let your sense of adventure take over. Suspend your resistance and be open to the ideas and information you’re about to receive. Treat your learning experience like a mini-vacation. Be willing to encounter the unexpected.

•    Bring a good supply of your business cards. Keep them handy and also prepare a good way to keep the many business cards you will collect while at the program.

At the Program:

•    Walk into the seminar room early and with the attitude of wanting to participate. Choose a seat near the front of the room and away from distractions. Make sure you’ll be able to see and hear what’s going on.

•    Listen actively and well.  Work hard to understand and absorb the speaker’s messages. Be on the lookout for information that will help you.

•    Be responsible for what happens in the classroom. Do you realize, for instance, that you can help the facilitator do a better job? By nodding, smiling, responding, and speaking up with enthusiasm, you can encourage or discourage the person leading the seminar. Likewise, if you frown or appear indifferent, you may have a negative impact on the person leading the course. By supporting the teacher, you’ll get a better class.

•    Take two sets of notes. Make one set factual (important points given in the program) and another of action ideas that you get during the program. Look for ways to apply ideas immediately and commit to them.

•    Discuss seminar topics with other participants during the breaks and meals. Stay fully present in your learning.

Tip: Eat sensible meals and avoid alcohol during the program. Heavy meals and drinking may make you sluggish.

– Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com

Pressing My Nose Against the Glass of Higher Education: Why I Went Back to School

2012 091In my last blog post, I described my 11-year graduate school odyssey from my bachelor’s degree to my doctorate. One of my friends who read the post asked me what motivated me to undertake such a huge goal – why, in my 40s, I decided that a doctorate was something so important to me. This is what I told her:

I wanted to earn a doctorate for as long as I can remember. My childhood hero was Dr. Joyce Brothers, a popular TV personality back in the 60s. Seeing Dr. Brothers on the game and talk shows that aired in my childhood provided me with a different model of a woman than I had ever seen on TV or even, in my life: one who was beautiful but known for being smart. Dr. Brothers was treated with great respect and was called doctor, always, no matter where she was or who was speaking to her. I decided before the age of 10 that when I grew up, I wanted to be just like Dr. Joyce Brothers — beautiful, well-spoken, classy, smart, respected — and doctor.

My decision to return to graduate school in midlife was motivated by a significant life event: my first marriage was unraveling. My former husband is a professor and I spent all of my adult life living in the shadow of one university or another. We married young – two months after I graduated from college – and from the beginning of our marriage I made the decision to work while he completed his doctoral degree and post-doctoral work. I kept working and enjoyed success first as a teacher, then as a writer, consultant, and speaker. However, I always wanted to go on with my studies and I had shown great promise as a scholar in my undergraduate work.  As an academic wife, I always felt that I had my nose pressed against the glass of higher education, looking in from the outside but not being part of it myself.

When the marriage began to falter, I realized how much I regretted not having had the chance to go to graduate school. The old childhood dream of being like Dr. Brothers was still there and I felt I’d missed a wonderful experience by not going to grad school. I knew, however, that starting in my 40s that I could not go to grad school the way I would have when I was younger. At that life point, I could afford to go only to the local state university, a fine school but not necessarily the one I would have chosen if any choice was possible. And, I could take only one course at a time. That’s all I could handle on top of my many other responsibilities – parenting, writing, homemaking, etc. (Even that pace proved to be pretty challenging at times.) My studies would have to fit into my existing life and somehow, I was going to have to find a way to keep all the balls in the air. But, I decided I was going to embark on this long path and make it work.

That’s my story. And since I posted my last blog post about my graduate studies, I have heard from several readers who have told me that they, too, would like to return to school – or, that they are already underway in their studies . Have you ever thought of going back to school or of pursuing another ambitious lifelong dream? I’ve shared my story. Please tell us — what’s yours? – Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com

How I Ate My Elephant

ForkQuestion: How do you eat an elephant?  Answer: One bite at a time.

In the late 1990s, I told a friend that I was planning to go to graduate school and she told me that I’d obviously lost my mind. She said it was insanity to undertake my plan to take one course at a time while I worked and raised my children so that I could go from bachelor’s degree to doctorate. Instead, she suggested that I join a book club. My friend told me, too, that I’d be in my 50s by the time I’d be done, as though that would be a tragedy. Well, she was right about that much. I graduated 11 years later with my doctorate at the age of 53. But you know what? I was hoping to be 53 that year either way. I figured that if I was going to live to be 53 that I’d rather be 53 with a doctorate than to be 53 without one. And of course, I was right.

You can’t imagine the pride I felt when I walked into my graduation ceremony in May of 2010. There I was, decked out in my academic robes from head to toe, marching before my children and husband to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance, to take a seat in the front row of a huge graduation. More than 8,000 people packed the arena. My children witnessed their mother being called to the stage. They heard my name announced. And they watched me as I was hooded and as I accepted my diploma. Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat.

They say that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. After 11 years of graduate school, I can say that this is true. The key for me was not to put all of my focus on the enormity of my elephant. If I’d done that, I’d have probably given up along the way, or, as my friend suggested, I might have joined a book club instead. Focus on the bites that you can manage, just as I focused on one course at a time. If you stick with it, you’ll find a way to eat your elephant just as I did mine — trunk, tail, and all. – Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com