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Water Cooler

Information and insight about your career and the workplace at large
November 2005

News and Views

Macintosh-style menu- and command-based interaction design has reached its limits, says Jakob Nielsen, well-known expert in Web usability. A new paradigm, called results-oriented UI, is on the horizon. The new paradigm departs from WYSIWIG (What You See Is What You Get) in favor of What You Get Is What You See, or WYGIWYS. The next version of Microsoft Office ("Office 12") will be based on this paradigm. Users will now select a design result-for example, an organizational chart, or an annual report-from a formatting gallery. Details

MBAs no longer rule. In fact, creative thinkers are in demand for their flexibility. Here, Fast Company presents five leaders who have parlayed their "useless" academic degrees into business success. Read more

Have management myths kept you from having a good laugh at the office? It's time to debunk the myths, because research shows that a fun-filled workplace builds enthusiasm. And enthusiasm leads to increased productivity, better customer service, a positive attitude about the company, and higher odds that talent will stay. Six myths, busted

And to add to that fun quotient, here's Business 2.0's list of the 101 dumbest moments in business -and, at the end of the article, a list of the smartest moves, too. Show me


Trying to land an interview? Use a two-column cover letter. Label the left column, "Your Requirements," and list the company's specifications. Label the right column, "My Qualifications," and list how you meet each requirement. "It's the most effective way I've seen to get in the door," says human resources expert Sharon Armstrong. Want more info? Contact Sharon at Human Resources 9-1-1.

NEW: WaterCooler Professional—The Miniseries

In 2005, "Making It Work for You" evolves to "WC Professional," a miniseries of action steps to being your own mentor. Follow this 12-month plan and by January of 2006, you'll have taken a big step towards being your own best advocate in the workplace.

November: Become a Lifelong Learner

Lifelong learning is a must in today's workplace, because it's an insurance policy against obsolescence. Half of an employee's skills become obsolete within three to five years. If you refuse to upgrade your skills, you rob yourself of potential opportunities.

What skills would allow you to do your current job better and make you more valuable to your employer? Answering this question gives you a sense of your "ideal self"-and identifies any gaps that exist between your real and ideal selves.

It's the first step to becoming a lifelong learner-regularly comparing the real to the ideal, and then setting your learning agenda.

Setting a learning agenda (rather than a performance agenda) is critical, says Richard Boyatzis, Daniel Goleman's coauthor on the book Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Whereas a performance agenda focuses on something you must prove, a learning agenda helps you focus on who or what you want to become rather than someone's idea of what you should be.

Taking an active role in your own professional development by regularly taking stock of yourself and setting a learning agenda creates an unexpected bonus: you begin to hone your own leadership abilities-and you get concrete experience making decisions not just about tasks but about the larger strategic issues around your own career development.

WaterCooler (WC) Personal: Creating a Learning Agenda That Works for You

Your learning agenda can be as flexible and experiential as you want to make it. It can include learning resources like self-assessment activities, readings from newspapers and trade journals, study groups with colleagues, formal training, assignments to special projects, or even a formal mentoring relationship.

Here's how to align your real and the ideal selves so that you can use the information you find out to create a personal learning plan that makes sense for you.

    1. Define the kind of employee (or leader) you want to be.

    2. Identify and accept the "real self."

    3. Start identifying learning resources that resonate with your dreams and bring you closer to the kind of employee you want to be.

    4. Learn, experiment with, and practice the new behaviors.

    5. Rely on trusted confidantes to provide feedback about your performance.

Below are some examples of how people like you set their own learning agendas and reaped big payoffs:

Karen, an association professional, created a learning plan to keep herself "current" in her career. She eventually transitioned to senior management.

Claire acquired "beyond the job" training in budgeting, managing a program, and leading program committees from her supervisor. This training enabled her to move from a support to a management position.

Rich made "stealth learning"-learning under the radar-his stock in trade. He now heads an international health care association.

Linda enrolled in a training certification program and expanded her technical training business.

Kitty created a formal mentoring relationship outside her immediate "chain of command," which led to a promotion and then an excellent job in a different office within her agency.

Read more stories of people like you who changed their lives and careers by mentoring themselves in Mentor Me. Get your copy today.