Category

Professional Development

Networking From Home: Here’s How

By | Professional Development | No Comments

COVID 19 has put a damper on many activities nonprofits typically use for fundraising. Among them is networking.

How often have you used networking events in the past to connect with new talent, mentors, and potential employees, not to mention donors and others interested in your work? If you’re like the typical nonprofit owner, the answer is “Frequently!”

Now, however, with so many events canceled and local orders to shelter at home to avoid spreading the virus, networking options are limited. But are they really? Or are we looking at networking the wrong way?

Consider Networking Goals

The goals of networking are to increase your circle of business acquaintances and friends so when opportunities arise, you’ll be able to tap into your network. This includes filling staff positions, adding members to your organization, or finding new resources like a local marketing firm to handle your print ad campaign, and so on.

When you look at the goals of networking, it soon becomes clear that you don’t necessarily need to network in person. It’s easier to strike up a conversation with someone stuck in line with you at the bank but it’s not necessarily the only place where you can strike up conversations.

Online Networking Offers Great Possibilities

Many are finding opportunities to network online. Social networks, of course, are the obvious choice. But networking online isn’t limited to LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Many in-person groups have moved their networking online. Zoom, Go2Meeting, and Facebook Live offers opportunities for people to gather from the safety of their homes. Although not as much fun (and the snacks may not be as good) it’s still a great way to meet new people.

To get the most from online networking events, be sure to be a friend to others first before asking for something in return. The more you give, the more people will be receptive to requests you make. Look for opportunities to solve problems. If someone mentions they need a good local designer, offer to connect them to a graphic designer you know. It is these actions that lead to a network you can count on when you need something.

Work Your Social Networks

Social networking remains an excellent place to network with others. Not only can you increase your personal connections, you can join groups to meet new people, learn what’s happening in your industry, and share your knowledge.

To network effectively on social media, share information that is useful to your audience. This may include links to articles, tips, and resources. Like in-person networking, online social networking relies upon give and take. It’s not just broadcasting your message out but listening to what others say, responding, and sharing helpful resources and information.

Virtual Coffee, Anyone?

Coffee is like the oil that runs the business engine—it’s ubiquitous. Meeting new contacts for a coffee used to be part of the typical business day. Now, however, with many eschewing in-person visits for virtual visits, you can still “meet for coffee” via video conferencing.

Extend the invitation to others to gather on your favorite video platform, mug in hand, and socialize at a predetermined time.

Keep in Touch With Past Contacts

Lastly, networking isn’t just about meeting new people. It’s also keeping in touch with your network. Take time each week to go through your contacts and reach out to say hello to others. During these times when people can feel isolated, it’s always a pleasant surprise to hear from someone you worked with a long time ago. Reach out, say hello, and see if it sparks conversation.

Online Networking: Here to Stay?

Networking online probably won’t take the place of in-person networking for good but, for now, it’s helping many people connect and share resources, time, and care. Make time this week for online networking. Which one of these techniques will you try?

 Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Feeling – and Dealing – with Being Overwhelmed

By | Abila, Accounting, Accounting Software, Budget, Cloud, Corporate Culture, Fiscal, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Professional Development, Technology | No Comments

It’s not confined to tax season. A look at why you’re feeling overwhelmed, and how to deal with it.

In the book “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time”, authors Jeff and J.J. Sutherland have an interesting chart on page 91. In this chart, they cite statistics that indicate that as one’s attention is divided, productivity decreases. Working on two projects at once means a 20% loss in productivity due to switching gears; three projects at once, and you lose about 40% due to context switching.

Accountants and financial managers at nonprofits aren’t immune to this loss, due to context switching. In fact, we’re probably more vulnerable to it due to the focused nature of our work. Dealing with financial issues, accounting questions, and understanding complex financial information requires quiet, focused time. The barrage of instant messenger apps, phone calls, emails, texts and myriad information streams in today’s connected world increases the loss due to context switching. Multi-tasking for greater productivity is a myth.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Nearly all professionals are feeling overwhelmed these days. It’s as if the crunch before tax season never ends. Researchers point to the common culprits – instant messengers, instant news, instant everything – as a big part of the problem. The human brain isn’t wired to deal with this level of intensity, and we haven’t had time to adapt to the rapid pace of change that technology has wrought in our personal and business lives.

Although we cannot fully shut the world out and switch off the phones, there are ways to improve productivity. These include avoiding context or task switching, single-tasking instead of multi-tasking, and establishing boundaries around office times.

Single-Tasking for Greater Productivity

Multi-tasking does not improve productivity. Instead, it diminishes productivity because the mind needs time to acclimate to the second task. As we focus on one task, our attention is fixed on that task; switching to a second task takes brain power to establish focus, change direction, and process new information.

Don’t buy into the myth of multi-tasking. Instead, turn off the music or the television while you work. Shut the door to your office. Switch off the instant messages and turn your cell phone to mute while you work on a project. Allow yourself the space to focus, rather than trying to cram as many tasks as you can into the same amount of time.

Set Office Rules

Another tip to improve productivity and avoid feeling overwhelmed is to set some basic ground rules around your time in the office. While many managers prefer an ‘open door’ policy and make themselves available to their staff at any time, you may need to establish some basic policies around availability.

Some managers have ‘office hours’ when they leave their door open as a clear signal to their teams that they can drop in and ask any questions they wish. Others block out time on their calendar for quiet, focused work. Either method works fine. The point is to ensure that you have adequate quiet time for focused work and additional time blocked out for your teams.

Switch Off the Mobile Phone

 Cellphones are a great convenience, but their buzzing, shrilling, vibrating presence has ruined many a meeting, family dinner, or quiet time. Shut off the mobile phone when you aren’t at work or when you need some space. Texts are rarely as urgent as we make them out to be, and your brain needs a break from the constant stream of messages and information it’s trying to process.

Give Yourself Permission to Rest

 Lastly, give yourself permission to rest on the weekends, vacations and holidays. When you’re behind schedule on projects, it is tempting to trying to bring work home or devote a few extra hours in the evening to finishing up a project. Occasionally burning the midnight oil doesn’t hurt  but making it a habit can cut into your overall productivity. Ensuring balance in all things takes time, practice and effort, but it helps your overall productivity.

Everyone feels overwhelmed at times by work. If it becomes chronic, however, it’s time to take steps to safeguard your time. Burnout happens in all professions, including accounting and finance, nonprofit and for-profit companies.

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.


 

Personalized Training Plans Offer More Meaningful Professional Development

By | Abila, Accounting, Government, Grant Management, HR, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Professional Development, Training | No Comments

CPAs, like other professionals, need an additional 40 hours of continuing education units annually to maintain their certification. Even if your industry does not require taking continuing education courses, everyone benefits from refresher courses and keeping abreast of changes and developments in their industry.

There is great value to designing a personalized plan for continuing professional development. These plans build a customized training roadmap for individuals, so that instead of taking a prescribed set of courses to meet your continuing education requirements, you create your own curriculum. Here’s why they work.

The Benefits of Personalized Professional Development Plans

  1. Relevant: Personalized course plans are highly relevant. They take into consideration your currently level of skills, interests, and needs, as well as those of your employer or company. You can choose the courses that are right for you and fit your personal learning goals.
  2. Flexible: You choose when you wish to take the courses, creating a plan that lets you take courses on the weekends, at night, or even during your lunch hour. You aren’t locked into a set schedule.
  3. Higher completion rate: Because the courses in your personalized plan are relevant and on a schedule that meets your needs, they tend to have a higher completion rate than other courses.
  4. More feedback and interaction: Some personal development plans include interaction with a mentor or trainer, providing more personalized feedback and interaction from the one to one mentoring.
  5. Noticeable difference: Personal plans offer you the added bonus of being able to identify specific goals to work towards. You can document progress toward your goals through milestones and checkpoints. Not only does this help you achieve them, it also helps you see both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture. You can see just how far you’ve come.

Does Personalized Professional Development Stand Alone?

Most companies blend both personalized development with general professional development activities,  offering both the benefits of personalization and group interaction that’s valuable for team building and shared knowledge.

Why Professional Development Matters

Lifelong learning is important for all professions. While we tend to think of professional development for teachers, accountants, financial managers, others benefit from continually sharpening their skills.

Professions change over time. New governmental and IRS regulations, for example, may change how accountants and financial planners manage specific tasks and functions. Yes, you can read about these changes in professional journals or online bulletins from the managing organizations, but in some cases, in-depth professional development through workshops, conferences, or classes may be the best way to completely understand something new.

Technology is changing how CPAs manage data, how sales and marketing professionals do their jobs, and how human resources managers organize their files. By taking additional professional development courses in technology-enhanced areas, you’ll be able to maximize the use of such  developments to create a stronger, better organization.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.