I will be taking a job with Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) as their IT Coordinator. My last working day with NC Cooperative Extension will be November 15, 2013.
For my final TechTalk post, I'd get on my soapbox one last time and share some advice I'd like to give to every Extension professional out there.
Build your own "Personal Learning Network"
- You can't rely on others (or the organization) to identify what or how you need to learn or who you need to learn it from. You have to take responsibility for your own learning.
- Find and follow your mentors and those you can mentor.
- Encourage them both by sharing information and responding to what they share. Social media tools like Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. are excellent tools for this.
- Find someone you want to learn with who is at the same level as you and learn together.
- The extension professional associations are a great place to do this. I've made lots of friends, learned a lot and have had the the opportunity to help many through them. I would encourage you to join your professional association and become active!
- I have learned as much if not more from those I've taught as those I looked to as my mentors and teachers.
- Take charge of your learning - be self directed.
- When you get to the point that you feel "I'm done learning", then it is time for you to retire. Extension doesn't need you any more.
- Don't be afraid of change - embrace it!
- Invest your time in becoming more efficient and effective. (see: Two Time Management Tips)
- Try new things and ways of doing old things.
- Try different ways of communicating. If you don't have a camera for your computer, get one and use it for communicating with others!
- Think of the possibilities and opportunities - not the negatives and drawbacks. There will always be reasons for not doing great things or new things. Find ways to overcome those reasons.
- When it comes to learning computers and technology my only piece of advice is to learn the concepts and not the steps.
- The concepts for the first word processor I used (on computers with no mouse or hard drive) apply to the latest version of MS Word and even editing HTML for web pages. The same goes for the spreadsheets and databases programs I used on those first computers. The concepts have not changed. The steps change with every version of the program.
- Everyone who uses the internet should be 'literate' and have the following skills from the Web Literacy Standard
- This also ties in with building your personal learning network.
- Others can't help you if they don't know what you are doing. You'll be amazed at how much your colleagues are willing and able to help you. You just have to let them know how they can help.
- Share the draft version of your presentations within your circles. Share early! Even before you start.. Someone may already have created the same presentation and you can start from their ending point rather than creating the same thing again.
- Share what you are doing.
- Think about what you would have liked someone to have told you when you were starting out in your career.
- What did you learn today?
- What was the most interesting or difficult call you had today? Or the one you've answered 20 times this week.
- Share your work calendar - I've shared mine with everyone at NCSU. At least share it with everyone in your office, those you communicate with often and the people up and down your chain of command. It can save everyone time. Before I call someone, I'll check their calendar to see if they are busy. If I see they are in a meeting, I'll send an email or wait and not worry about going through their voicemail and playing phone tag with them.
- Use Google Drive for your documents. Think about how many documents, spreadsheets and presentations you create that you don't share with someone else. Give them the access they need to be able to help you. No email attachments and everyone is working on the current version. The advantages of being able to see who made which changes from the first edit, access your files from any computer and sharing make this a tool everyone should be using. Google Drive can change the way you work with others - for the better!
- Share early and often!
- Ask for help and be willing to give help when you can.