Time to Keep up With Your Lawn

As the season’s change from summer to autumn, it’s easy to forget the overall health of your lawn.  What you do, or don’t do, this time of year with your lawn, could have some consequences next spring.

First, the autumn season is a great time of year for seeding your lawn in preparation for next spring.  The cooler temperatures this time of year, mixed in with the morning dew and typical rain fall, helps seedlings take root.  By seeding your lawn now, you are planting the seeds to greener, brighter, fresher lawn next spring.

The fall season is a good time for fertilizing your lawn too.  Although your lawn starts to shut down this time of year, fertilizing now will help strengthen your lawns roots. 

Finally, aerate your lawn in the fall. Aerating your lawn allows a passage for water and nutrients to help reach your grass roots.

Fertilizing, seeding, and aerating your lawn today, will help provide you a healthy, green lawn next spring. 

Training for a 5K

While you can’t train for a marathon overnight, you can make incremental increases to your stamina, conditioning, speed, endurance, strength, and will, to some day run in a marathon.

The same holds true for 5K races.  A 5K race is 3.1 miles.  While that may pale in comparison to the 26.2 miles of a marathon, the truth is, if you haven’t trained for it, you will have challenges running it.

During the fall season, 5K races can be found in just about every town, every weekend.  The weather is set perfectly this time of year for a 5K race, or any type of race for that matter.

If you’ve never raced in an event before, don’t let the mileage of the 5k fool you.  Some may see the 3.1 miles as laughable and easily attainable, until it’s time to actually run the race.  Don’t be the one who walks to the finish line 50 minute after the start time because you took the mileage for granted.

If you’ve never run in a race before, or if you simply have not run in some time, the first thing you need to do is jog for distance.  Get to a track and see how far you can actually jog.  Some may be surprised they can only run a mile or so before they tire out.  No matter the distance you’ve run, you now have your baseline for your training.

Next, set you training schedule.  A training schedule forces you to commit to the rigorous of training to accomplish the task at hand; in which case is to run the 5k.  Whether your training schedule is run every night, every other night, or four nights per week, it needs to be a schedule you follow if you expect to achieve the goals you set for yourself.

Whatever your training schedule is, you need to be sure it is at least four nights per week.  Anything less than four nights and you probably won’t achieve your goals.  You may be able to run the race, but it still may take you in excess of 40 minutes to do so.

Once your training schedule is set, your goal with each run is not to run 3.1 miles the next time out, but to run the distance of your baseline, plus at least another 0.2 of mile.  Slightly increasing your total mileage per run will provide you the incremental adjustments your body needs to compete in a 5k race. 

Attempting to reach 3.1 miles within your first few training runs might not be attainable, especially if you achieved anything less than two miles in your baseline run.  By setting unreasonable expectations on yourself, like running 3.1 miles by end of week, may lead to discouragement.  So continue to only increase your mileage slightly with each run.  Before too long you will be covering the 3.1 mile distance.

Your next training goal, once you have cracked the 3.1 mile mark, is increasing your speed.  Time your start and end time to determine your minute-per-mile rate.  For example, if it takes you 31 minutes to run 3.1 miles, your rate is a 10 minute mile. 

Continue training by running the 3.1 mile distance and track your minute-per-mile rate with each run.  You will not see record time being slashed from your rate; however, you will see incremental increases in your speed.  Continuing to run on a set schedule will continue to help you to increase your speed, as well as increase your endurance, stamina, and conditioning for the race. 

No matter how well you feel, or how much time you are shaving off your minute-per-mile rate, do not increase your total run distance beyond the 3.1 miles however.  The temptation is now that you can run the distance you will want to increase the distance.  Continue on the 3.1 miles mission until your race is complete.  The race is a 5k; continue training for a 5k.

On race day, you probably want to position yourself somewhere in the middle to end of the pack.  The experienced runners, and the runners who want to win the race, will be positioned in the front.  Your goal for this race is to beat the time you set for yourself in your last training run, although don’t be discouraged if you don’t.  Some things you probably didn’t take into account during your training will be presented to you in the race, like running in packs, the terrain, the number of people, etc.

Now that the race is complete, compare your official results to your initial baseline results.  You will see tremendous increases across the board, not to mention the improvement in the way you feel too.

Continue on your training by setting new goals and new milestones; maybe a 5 mile run, then a 10 mile run.  Use the same training methods you used to train yourself for the 5K.  Set goals for yourself and work for incremental and attainable increases. 

Resumes and Linked-In

In today’s world, it’s important to have your resume created, updated, and ready to send out at any moment.  This is not our parent’s job market anymore.  Very rarely are people in the same job or same company for twenty plus years, and very rarely are people afforded the ability to remain with the same company for ten, fifteen, twenty years. 

With downsizing and jobs efficiently being created offshore by local companies, you need to be able to immediately start searching for a job today if you are faced with the unfortunate event of losing your job.  Your mindset needs to be, if I get laid-off this morning, I can hit the proverbial pavement this afternoon.

Take control of your own career and make yourself more marketable in the job market.  Your resume needs to be a living, breathing document that you can produce to a prospective employer at a moment’s notice. 

Linked-In is another tool in today’s job market that helps you become marketable in the open job market.  If you are not using it, you need to. 

Review some resume tips today. I can provide you with direction and guidance to enable you to update your resume and Linked-In profile and help you proactively take control of your career today.

Contact me and I will help make your resume begin working for you today.

Educating Students on Plagiarism

Educating students against plagiarism might be the most appropriate way to ensure students do not plagiarize.  Today, universities and colleges have plagiarism detection tools.  But an effective teaching strategy on education, policy, and guidelines against plagiarism might ensure its effectiveness more than a technological tool.  

The Purdue Online Writing Lab [3] provides instructors and students a valuable source for understanding plagiarism, citation, evaluating sources, and researching. From an instructor’s perspective, this source provides a strong overview of what plagiarism is, as well as supporting documentation for defining and avoiding plagiarism. More importantly, the reference material and site content does not discuss how to catch students plagiarizing, but instead provides resources in educating students, and instructors, on plagiarism. The Purdue Online Writing Lab not only discusses plagiarism, but also provides safe practices for students in properly crediting sources; when to use citation; and submitting drafts. The pedagogical principles supported are defining and developing best practices, including providing policy and guidelines on plagiarism in the course syllabus. Guidelines on the syllabus will provide students with sources of reference as well as understanding of whether the document or writing is plagiarized or not.

The Council of Writing Program Administrators [1] provides an interesting breakdown not only on plagiarism, but defines shared responsibilities with students and instructors in the education of plagiarism. Of course the responsibility with students lies in properly citing references and sources; understanding research assignments; and seeking guidance from their instructor. From an instructor’s point of view, the responsibility lies upon educating students on plagiarism and sources. Through best practices, the Council of Writing Program Administrators provides instructor’s with a strong foundation of developing clear policies through class discussions and updates to the syllabus. Improving assignments to allow students to work toward assignments and provide targeted completion dates for each sequence of the assignment. As with The Purdue Online Writing Lab, the pedagogical principles supported are defining and developing best practices. Policy and guidelines support this principle, but defining responsibilities between student, instructor, and even administrators provides additional support in this principle.

In reviewing many university websites, there are two common elements while researching citation, source evaluation, and plagiarism: 1.) student responsibility, and 2.) Plagiarism detection tools available to instructors.  Immediate concerns are the potential culture of mistrust the universities are portraying when the primary sources on the subject deal entirely on student responsibility and instructors policing their student’s essays.  Carnegie Mellon University [2] provides a different strategy than other university sites.  Much like the Council of Writing Program Administrators, Carnegie Mellon University provides a clear instructional strategy for instructors to provide to their students.  The instructional strategy supports providing a clear definition of plagiarism in the syllabus as well as verbal communication and discussion with the students in educating them on plagiarism; additional milestones where rough drafts are required for submission and review; and submission of electronic copies through plagiarism detection tools/educational tool such as Turnitin.  The additional point of note with Carnegie Mellon University is the recommendations to instruct students on the value of educational tools such as Turnitin.  Educational tools such as this provide students with valuable information on drafts and allows them to rewrite as needed.  This additional piece of knowledge and teaching instruction on tools such as Turnitin, and referencing them as educational tools as opposed to plagiarism detection tools, supports a pedagogical principle that is aimed at developing best practices and safe practices around citation, source evaluation, and plagiarism.

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Works Cited

  1. Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices. Council of Writing Program Administrators. Web. wpacouncil.org/node/9
  2. Design & Teach a Course. How Can I Prevent Plagiarism?  Carnegie Mellon University. Web. cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/design/instructionalstrategy/writing/preventplagiarism.htm
  3. Overview and Contradictions. Purdue Online Writing Lab. 7 June 2013. Web. owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/01/

Make Your Resume Work for You

When searching for a new job, your resume needs to be a tool that is used to work for you. Whether you are simply looking for a new job or you are out of work, your resume needs to be able to jump off the hiring recruiter’s desktop and scream, “HIRE ME”.

The main goal and intention of your resume needs to be making yourself stand out from the crowd.  In today’s world with open jobs listed on a company’s website and job directories, there is the potential for hundreds of resumes to be transmitted to the recruiter each week.  Your resume needs to stand out from everyone else’s just to get a phone call from the recruiter.

Whether you are a twenty year professional, or a recent college graduate, you need to be able to portray yourself to a recruiter or hiring manager immediately that you are the person for the job.  To get that phone call from the recruiter, your resume needs to say that about you, because if it doesn’t, you will not have the chance to say it for yourself because you won’t be brought in for an interview. 

Here are five tips to get your resume in condition to get that initial phone call from the recruiter of hiring manager.

Tip #1: Statement Summary

A statement summary is your introduction to the hiring manager or recruiter.  In two to three quick sentences, you need to be able to effectively communicate to the hiring manager why they should continue reading your resume.

The statement summary is not intended to be your professional life story.  If it is too long, or worse, if it is too long-winded, your resume will quickly be filed in the deleted folder of the hiring manager’s email. 

Also avoid uses clichés or jargons in your statement summary.  Don’t use a sentence describing yourself as “Confident in my skills and in my eagerness to succeed”, or “I would be a tremendous asset to your company”.  These sentences are just hollow phrases that tell a prospective employer nothing about you, or more importantly how you will be a tremendous asset: what is it that you bring to the table?

Tip #2: Effectively Communicating Experience

This may be the biggest downfall for most people when updating or creating a resume.  Many believe that providing their job experience simply means listing their previous jobs and bulleting out the tasks that were associated with that particular job.

A prospective hiring manager is not concerned about the day-to-day functions of your job.  A prospective manager wants to know what you successfully accomplished at your previous employment and how that will translate to success in their company.  If a prospective employer wanted to know what your day-to-day job functions were, they would just do a job search of your job title.

It’s important for your resume to attract the recruiter’s eye with your accomplishments, awards, or promotions you attained while in your previous positions.  What were your achievements in your role that helped you exceed within your team?  What accomplishments did you achieve to receive the promotion?  What improvement did you create within your team or department to make it more efficient?  These are the highlights in your resume that will make you more marketable and more probable to receive a phone interview than the person who simply provided bulleted job tasks on their resume.

Tip #3 Proper Formatting

It’s important to educate yourself on proper resume formatting.  If your resume does not have a professional flow, or if it’s is all over the place, your experience and qualifications won’t matter.  Resumes need to be specifically formatted to include job history, tools or certifications required for the job, and education. 

Sometimes, a recruiter or hiring manager doesn’t have the time to review every detail of a resume at first cut.  If they cannot easily view your resume as they weed through candidates for an initial interview vs. the not interested pile, you might find yourself in the not interested pile because the hiring manager couldn’t easily find your qualifications.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference.  Paying attention to the details, specifically with your resume content and format, could be the difference on whether you get a phone call or not.

Be aware of the length of your resume too.  Depending on your experience, a one to two page resume will suffice.  Anything more than two pages will quickly find your resume in the trash folder.  The more you move on in your career, the less relevant your oldest experience becomes.  Don’t remove that experience from your resume, but you need to learn to trim the fat from the bottom of your resume.

Tip #4: Your Resume Must Look Professional

It doesn’t matter how many accomplishments, achievements, or promotions you add to your resume if it doesn’t look professional.  There is nothing that screams out more that your resume should be deleted than if it is littered with spelling mistakes and basic inaccuracies. 

There is absolutely no reason for a resume to have spelling and grammatical mistakes on it.  Nothing looks more unprofessional than receiving an electronic version of a resume that has the squiggle spelling and grammar mistakes highlighted across the page. 

Take time to proofread your resume.  Be sure it is readable and understandable.  Have a family member or friend proofread it.  Often times, when you write your own resume, you read what you intended to write, not what you actually wrote.  Having a fresh set of eyes review your resume will ensure that someone with a fresh perspective has reviewed it and can give you helpful guidance and advice.

To give your resume that ultimate professional look save it as a pdf.  Just about every resume that comes across a recruiter or hiring manager’s inbox is saved in a Word document.  Saving it as a pdf gives yourself just that little extra boost to put yourself over the top from the hundred other resumes emailed this past week.  Of course, it tips 1-3 weren’t followed, pdf or not, your resume will still find itself in the trash folder.

Tip #5 Cover Letter

This may seem a little old school to a few, but the cover letter is a lost art.  In today’s world, it is very simple to go to a company website, find three or four jobs that interest you and post your resume.  If it’s that easy for you, that means it’ that easy for everyone else.  Why simply do what everyone else is doing?

Going the extra mile and submit a cover letter along with your resume.  A cover letter should be no more than one page.  It should effectively articulate you, your experience, and why you are the best person for the job.  The resume provides the prospective employer your qualifications; the cover letter is your sales pitch. 

Getting your resume up to snuff can be time a consuming process and does require a lot of work.  Invest those hours into your resume upfront and the dividends will be paid to you through interviews and job opportunities you receive later.

Often times, it is the little things that sets you apart from the competition.  Your resume is no exception to this rule.