Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Things Every Professional Should Do

I was going to title this "Things Every Cultural Heritage Professional Should Do," then I realized that these really aren't exclusive to our fields. These are things that I have done in my career that have made my career (and life) richer for the doing...and even just for the trying.

1. Start your own business - on the side or full time

Having your own business gives you a sense of self and confidence that I believe cannot be found in an institutional environment where you are an "employee." Your own business is a full reflection of you. It gives you a chance to use your business sense, yes, but it also gives you a chance to reach down and use a creative side. Your own business is more than a "business." It is a chance to put together many diverse parts of you, to display them and share them with the world. Bringing your vision out and offering them up to other people is a very powerful thing.

2. Write a book or article 

Writing a book or article helps you bring up your vision. It helps you realize what is important to you and what your "niche" is in the world. When you write, your brain is thinking on a whole different level from when you speak or even when you sit and think. When you publish, it gives you great feedback about your work and insight into your goals. Working with a publishing company is a good first step. Work your idea out for an article or book, then submit a proposal. When you are rejected (which you probably will be the first time) fine tune your thoughts. Try again and again. When you hit on an idea that connects with the world and learn to articulate it properly, it will be accepted. Go through the process of working with a publisher to learn about the field. Then self-publish for a whole new experience.

3. Work with children (or adults)

Working with people from diverse ages gives you a broader
perspective and enriches your career.
I was just going to say "work with children," but then I realized that those of you who regularly work with children need a fresh perspective too. Kids and adults have very different perspectives on topics, issues, and theories. Kids often have different eye-opening perspective. For those who need to connect with kids, consider volunteering as a coach, offering a local library your expertise to share with kids, or mentoring a high school student. Connecting with children (who are not your own), or with members of the community whom you may not otherwise get to know, makes you think in a different way. It not only opens doors in your own mind, it it helps open doors for others. And that is a great thing.

4. Do public speaking -

Telling people "who I am" 
and "what is important to
me" is a freeing experience.
This one means a lot to me because I was not a good public speaker and I really wanted to be. I had myself pegged as too shy in my early twenties, but quite honestly I didn't let it stop me. I tripped over my words. My voice shook. I even sometimes forgot how to speak. Yet, when I was able to pay attention to the audience's reaction, I realized that some people were connecting with me. Before you speak, carefully plan what you want to say. Make your topic interesting. Give the audience a true piece of you. They want to make a connection to you. If you are uncomfortable, that's okay. Seek a venue that encourages public speaking. The public library is great for this.
Take a class. Practice, practice practice. Just remember, the audience wants you to be good - or why would they take the time out of their day to come see you?

5. Engage on social media

Social media allows you to meet people who you would not otherwise meet. It extends your community in a way that nothing else can. You can meet people in your own town whom you would not just bump into in the street. You can get to know them and their interests. You can meet people from around the world who share your values and ideas. You can build strong collaboratives through social media. There are many smart people with whom you can build a network, discover the world, and influence the world. Most of all, engaging in social media can be a tool to create your own "brand," not just for the world, but for yourself. Social media can help you better understand who you are. It can help you focus in on what's important to you. But don't just sit back and watch when you are on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest etc. You must take part!

The main benefits of doing these 5 things that every professional should do?
Learn more about yourself, share yourself with your community, stretch yourself beyond your imagination.


  1. There is certainly something to be said for exploring the pluses of the experience of becoming a free agent. Melissa, you have certainly "stretched" yourself and faced these five categories. It's interesting to read that you had some hesitance over some of these suggestions, yourself. By stretching, you've certainly added value to others, too, through your blog, book, workshops, and now even your newest venture! An inspiring mentor!

  2. Thank you Jacqi. I do try to highlight my "hesitance" to show others that it is okay. We can't be good at everything, but we can TRY. And, sometimes when we try something out of our comfort zones, we become good at that something ;)