Priyanka Banerjee

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Should you have a personal website?

A personal website is basically your own domain and space on the internet for you to do as you please. Today, it’s cheaper than ever to buy and build such a site (unless you share your name with some really famous person, I suppose) but the question does remain…does everyone need a personal website? While it may be cheap, it does involve some amount of work, since no one would want to associate their name with something that’s subpar, and surely not on the internet, at least.

Since you’re reading this on priyankabanerjee.in, clearly I thought it made sense for me to have such a site. Let me start by talking about why I think personal websites can be handy:

 

You can use to control and consolidate your online presence

Most people usually have little nooks and crannies all across the internet. You have your social media profiles, your LinkedIn profile, perhaps a Quora profile with a good following and maybe a YouTube channel or a blog. A personal website consolidates all of this and becomes the one go-to platform for your online presence. The best part is that you can do with it, what you like. Present your stories, your work, your struggles – anything and everything that makes you you.

You can use it to display your work

A personal website can also be used to showcase your work. Right off the bat it becomes clear that certain professionals would benefit more from such a personal website than others. Designers, artists, writers, developers, musicians and so on can use their sites as portfolios. Plus, since we’re apparently moving to a “gig economy”, which is centered around freelance, consultative, part time and temporary opportunities, a personal website can be useful to get clients interested in working with you. It could also help with potential recruiters – there’s so much more you can add on your site, as compared to your resume. Even students can use it to talk about their projects, research work and so on.

You can merge it with your blog

Right now, this is mainly what I use my site for. Your site can host your blog too! And no matter what you’re doing, whether you’re a student or a professional, and regardless of your field, you can maintain a blog and have that set up on your site. According to me, it does look better than a “.wordpress.com” domain, and just makes everything seem a little more neat and tidy.

You can use it for anything in the future

I would say this is the best part of a personal website. Since I’m in my early twenties, I’m not quite sure what shape my life will take in the next 4-5 decades (I’m not too keen on living beyond that :P). Maybe I’ll start a side project I want to display on my site. Or perhaps I’ll become a professor one day and I want to share my work through my site. Maybe I’ll be a speaker and I’ll use my site to display recordings of my previous talks, to book more sessions! I love this site for the options it provides. :)


Coming to the original question, no, I don’t think everyone needs to have a personal website. However, I do think everyone should at least think about it. If any of the points listed above made you think, “Hmm, that sounds like something that’s relevant for me”, go ahead and get yourself a personal website!


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Resume mistakes by college students

The other day one of my juniors from DU reached out to me and asked me for my opinion on her resume, what with placement season doing the rounds. While going through it, I was reminded of the hundreds of resumes I’ve gone through for positions in DU Beat and the Moksha Foundation, the NGO I used to work for in college. I also remembered how I loved analyzing them; not just for the sake of deciding whom to interview, but also seeing what can be improved, what should have been highlighted and what could have been kept out. For my second and third year in college, I would also hold an informal session with my department juniors extending some tips on resume writing for summer internships.

 

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While I’m obviously no professional on this, and resumes differ largely based on who you are and what you’re applying for, I thought I’d put together a list of some common mistakes I’ve seen on resumes by college students. Of course, I wouldn’t say this can really be attributed to the people writing the resumes – we aren’t exactly taught these things in college! Feel free to agree/disagree (and let me know why) and add to the list in your comments below.

Back to the basics

This has to be on the list because it’s the most overlooked factor. Now, I’m not saying someone will invite you to an interview just because you know where to use a semicolon but small errors can annoy the person reading it. Plus, it shows a lack of attention to detail. I’ve seen all sorts of errors in this category. There was one which had a watermark of a particular DU college, whereas the student was from another college altogether. Then there was another one with a black background and yellow font. And there have been numerous resumes with spelling mistakes, random design elements and inconsistent fonts.

Prioritization – what to keep, what to leave out

You might have a lot of things to list on your resume, but as always, it boils down to prioritization. A resume just needs to get your foot through the door – you don’t need to list everything out in a lot of detail. There are two ways you can prioritize what to add and what to leave out – relevance and recency. If you’re applying for an editorial position for example, make sure previous writing and editing experience is listed on top. If you’re applying for your first job outside college, consider leaving behind your accomplishments from your school years, unless it’s something stellar. Attention spans are short, so keep your resume tight.

If you feel like you’re leaving a lot off, go ahead and add a link to your LinkedIn profile in the details section. (And of course make sure your profile is up to date!)

Set the right context

We all know how “creative” competition and contest names can become in college, what with half the names being in non-English languages, in an effort to be fancy. You can’t possibly expect anyone outside your own college or university to know what the competition was about with its name alone. For example, “Won 1st position in Bad Ass Aficionado MVP competition” means nothing without context. What was this competition about? What was the scale/level? Without knowing these details, it’s hard to say whether there was anything impressive about this sentence. Similarly, if you highlight your grades without mentioning what percentage of your class you stood at or list your scholarship without giving more context on it, no one will know if it’s a big deal or not (unless you’re a Rhode scholar or something).

Accomplishments v/s responsibilities

Some would say getting a position of responsibility on a college society or youth organisation, but it’s actually more important to talk about what you accomplished after getting there. So if you lead a team to the finals of a national competition for example, don’t list it out as “Responsible for collaborating efforts of team members for Business Plan competition”. Instead, say “Lead a team of 5 in XYZ Business Plan competition and came 2nd among 20 teams nationally”. If it’s an internship, talk about the end result of the work you did. For example, “Compiled research papers on the effects of war and international conflict on national GDPs across 5 countries which was published in XYZ journal”.


PS: If you’re a college student, and you’d like me to take a look at yours for some suggestions/inputs, you can send it over at hello@priyankabanerjee.in. :)

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5 ways to feel accomplished in an entry level role

Most people I know right now are working in an entry level role or are going to, very soon. As freshers graduating from colleges and university programs, it’s not shocking that no one’s going to offer us C-suite positions (gasp!). Even if the roles are really good and you do have a lot you can learn from them (which is the case for a lot of people, and certainly for myself) it’s easy to feel bogged down when you compare yourself to other people in your company or when you compare your work to theirs. Suddenly, you start questioning yourself and might feel like you’re not making as much of a difference as you’d hoped to. However, these years are the fundamental years for our careers – careers which are 30-40 year long marathons. And there’s so much to be learned and done! This makes it super important to break free from any negative mindsets holding you back from killing it at your entry level job.

Here are 5 tips to feel accomplished and proficient in an entry level job.

 

Define the scope of your role 

Sure, as an entry level job your role might involve editing reviews on the company’s site, or maybe it’s mostly data entry for reports sent to other companies. But is that all that you can do in the role? Beyond the tasks you were hired for, in most cases it’s up to you to go beyond it – if you want to, that is. You might not be in a position to craft a department-level strategy for the coming quarter, but you can always start small if you’re unsure. Take up team building activities or try to work on a small process to make everyone’s life easier. It’s also great to incorporate aspects of what you love into your role. I highly recommend reading this Harvard Business Review article on “Turning the job you have into the job you want” for some inspiration on this.

This will help you get out of the mindset that your work is just limited to the bullet points in your job description.

 

Don’t downplay your efforts

Okay, so maybe I’m not working on potentially providing internet access to millions of people, or writing code for Google’s next big product launch – but if I start comparing my work to everything out there, I’ll start losing sight of the work I put in. In most entry level roles, it can be easy to dismiss our work as something anyone can do, or as a colleague of mine put it, “Something a smart monkey could also do” but that’s probably not true. Stop downplaying your effort and putting yourself down by comparing yourself to other people higher up in the organization. Take the time to acknowledge the hard work you put in. Keep track of your accomplishments. Make a note of positive comments that come your way – no really, open a blank document right now and start putting down your achievements (both big and small) along with positive comments from other people in your office.

 

Act like you’re already on the next level

This is on similar lines as my first point. Many people are eager to get promoted or move on to bigger roles when they start off in an entry level role. At times, it’s the fuel that keeps people motivated. If that’s what you’re eyeing too, it’s a given that you have to excel in the tasks you were hired for. After that, responsibilities won’t just fall our laps, we have to make it happen. This includes a mindset shift of looking at things from a different perspective. Observe people higher up in your department and organisation. Make mental notes on how they conduct themselves. How do they react when presented with bad news? How do they work on problems? How do they identify problems? What sort of questions do they typically ask in meetings? Try to adopt a similar mindset and talk to them about their work. Incorporate these within your own role or the way you manage yourself in the workplace. It’s a great way to expand your role and also work towards your larger goals.

 

Have a side project that challenges and excites you

If your sense of accomplishment is tied to just one thing in your life (like your job), it becomes quite sensitive. So say you have a bad week at work, where you start questioning your role, why you’re doing what you’re doing and so on. This can make you feel crappy all around. But, if you’re invested in something on the side; something that’s teaching you new skills, or feeding your creative side, you can feel great about it! It can give you a boost of confidence and accomplishment which will seep into your job too.

Want some inspiration? Take a look at my 10 ideas for a side project here.

 

Seek feedback frequently and actively

Reach out to people on your team, your management and your peers and ask them for feedback. How will this help? Well, if it’s positive feedback, then that a boost of motivation for you right there. If it’s constructive criticism or advice for the future, you can come up with a plan to work on it. This will reinforce the fact that you’re in role where you can improve and develop yourself. Just as a heads up though, most people are reluctant to share negative feedback because they might fear a defensive/emotional reaction. That’s why it’s important to use your words and body language to convey that you’re very receptive to whatever they’re going to say. You might want to give them some time to think about it so as not to blindside them.

 

Hope this helps! Do let me know what you think and if you found it useful, please share it with other people in similar situations. :)

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Why I haven’t posted in a while (and what I plan to do about it)

Have you ever started a blog, a YouTube channel or a Facebook page with much enthusiasm and discipline, but found yourself slowly reducing the posts as the weeks go by?

The last time I posted on this blog was in August. It’s been over a month since I’ve published something, and that’s quite upsetting. About a year and half back, I could churn out at least one article a week. To go from that to this is not something I’m proud of. I mean, sure, I’m busier now since I’m working, but if I’m being honest with myself, I could have easily found out the time to update my blog regularly.

So today I’m trying to acknowledge all the “hurdles” in my way and what I plan to do about them. I believe these are common for any sort of content creator on the internet, so if it helps someone else out too, that’ll be quite a victory for me.

 

So what are the problems? I thought about it a lot and these were the issues I found to be true for myself.

 

  • Not knowing what to write about
  • Not knowing if anyone will like/care about it
  • Actually getting down to it


Here’s what we can do about each of them:

 

Not knowing what to write about: Now, I have a few ideas about this but I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. I’m using a few articles I’ve read to solve this (like this one here and here) but I’d rather revisit this topic a few weeks from now when they’ve been executed fully. Once I nail down a system for this that works for me, I’ll share it with you guys. For now, you can check out some posts by other authors that I found useful.

 

Not knowing if anyone will like/care about it: Well, I don’t actually face this much myself – at least, not anymore. When I initially started blogging circa 2010 I was quite conscious of what I’d write, second guess myself and delete almost-finished drafts. The only tip for this one is to power through. That’s literally it. I’m not saying your writing will be perfect – or that mine is, for that matter. I’m just saying that if we can work past this mental block and keep posting, we’ll get better over time.

 

Actually getting down to it: So there are multiple things involved in posting a blog post. Here are a couple of them:

– Having an idea in mind

– Validating that idea and coming up with all the points falling under it

– Creating an outline for the post

– Writing the post

– Formatting the post

– Selecting an image to go with it

– Sharing it on social media and sending an email to your list


The list of taks can be intimidating at times, and it can seem unreasonable to do it all in one go. I’ve thought of publishing posts on particular days but when I got down to it, everything suddenly seemed to much. The thought of coming up with an idea and writing it and editing it and looking for a good photo was quite tiresome. Plus I had to do this all in time to share it at a decent time on social media.

So how can we make this less overwhelming? By breaking it down, of course. Even after writing hundreds of articles and posts in the past I still find it challenging to do it all in one sitting. And looking back, I’ve always had a system in place. Take DU Beat for example. We had our Monday meetings to come up with ideas for articles. Over the course of the next two days, we’d validate these ideas by contacting sources, figuring out our opinion on topics, gathering facts and so on. We’d then get writing and send it to the copy editors by Thursday evening. That’s when most of the editing was done post which the designers took over and put everything together by Sunday night.

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So clearly, a process helps. I’ve come up with this process for myself –

Monday (evening): Come up with 2 potential topics of the articles
Tuesday (evening): Sketch an outline for the post – heading and main idea for each section
Wednesday: No blog work cause it’s a packed day at work
Thursday (morning): Write the post
Friday (morning): Editing
Saturday (afternoon): Coming up with all the material for the post (image, tweets, FB post and email body)
Sunday:  Hit publish and share

I’ve even calendered myself for these in the coming weeks – if it’s on my calendar, I end up finding a way to do it!

This is my plan. If my experience sounds similar to yours, I’d encourage you to make one of your own. Let me know what hurdles you’ve faced (or overcome) while creating content of your own. I’d love to hear your experiences!

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5 mindsets holding you back

What is it that can hold someone back? What can boost someone’s growth and happiness? They say it’s all in the mind – your attitude and your mindset is what matters. While there’s probably a lot more to it, we can’t ignore the value of one’s thoughts. Over the years I’ve realised that there a few types of mindsets that are particularly harmful and can hold me back if I let them get the best of me. I’ve felt all of these at least once through out my life, and I’m sure many of you have, too. This list is reminder to myself that I must strive to overcome them. I hope it helps you too!

Having a sense of entitlement

The moment you start thinking you’re owed something, you’re setting yourself up for trouble. You’re not entitled to your dream job just because you got into a great college. You’re not entitled to constant career growth and opportunities just because you’re working in an organisation. Sure, there are people who’ll look out for you, and some people might go out of their way for you. But in the end, you need to be the one who makes things happen. If you aren’t going to look out for yourself, why should anyone else?

In my first year of college I was quite convinced my college wasn’t “doing enough” to make sure we all had good summer internships. When I realised that it was my responsibility to make the most of my summer vacation, I was able to get past my sense of entitlement and hustle to get the internship I wanted. I’ve been trying to shake off any sense of entitlement I’ve had, ever since.

Not taking shots. Ever.

You can’t win a race without running in it. If you run, you might not win. But if you don’t run at all, there’s no way you’ll win. Even if you think you barely have a shot at that job, or think it’s highly unlikely your idol on the internet will reply to your email, you should do it anyway. Give it your best shot and then let the chips fall where they may. If nothing else, it’ll be a learning experience.

In school, I let go of quite a few debates and competitions thinking I wouldn’t be good enough to win anyway. By not participating, not only did it automatically mean that I wouldn’t win, I also didn’t allow myself to learn and get to the position needed to win the competition. Thankfully, I know better now and am someone who’ll never lose out again because of lack of trying.

Leaving things mid way and not following up 

This point ties up with the previous one quite well. It’s so important to close the loop on things! So you didn’t do well at all in your mock CAT paper. Do you just ignore the mistakes you made? Of course not, right? You’re supposed to analyze what you did wrong and get better at it! Follow ups are so important in communication too. There have been so many times where one follow up email, tweet or ping has really helped cement a relationship for me. Did you reach out to your mentor (or say, a senior manager) for advice? Send them a follow up email letting them know you followed it and how that went. Ideas, questions and advice are so common. Following up and closing the loop can help you stand out as someone taking matters seriously and you’ll learn a lot more.

Ignoring the bigger picture and working only on the short term stuff

Do you know the Urgent-Important matrix where you plot a task based on how important and/or urgent it is? If you think about it, our days end up being full of numerous, small tasks which barely hold any meaning in the long run. So why do we do them? Well, because they’re urgent. You have that one email to respond to. And what about that weekly meeting? It’s right there in front of you, or on your calendar, so your mind just automatically responds to it, and actions on it. But will that weekly meeting really matter in the long term? Will it make a significant change to your lifestyle, your income, or your happiness? Probably not.

Hey, I’m not saying that you should ignore emails or be flakey when it comes to meetings. All I’m saying is that along with all these smaller tasks, don’t lose sight of what’s really and truly important for you – whether it’s taking care of your health, or working on your personal development.

Not knowing enough about yourself

You know that feeling when you know someone really well? It often happens with a best friend, a partner or a family member. You know how they’d react to certain situations, what makes them mad and what makes them feel inspired. Now imagine knowing things like that about yourself. But that can take a lot of self reflection and time since the answers aren’t always that easy.

Over the years, I’ve come to realise how important self awareness is. I mean, yes, I’ve always known life was about “discovering yourself” but I was quite out of sync with my own feelings and thoughts in school. As soon as I started thinking about how I perceived situations and interactions, my life became way simpler. There are a lot of things I’ve discovered that I’m completely indifferent about. And then there are things I care deeply about. Knowing this helps because then I can just focus on what I care about and spend much less time on the other stuff; perhaps even letting someone else take the reigns on it, cause I simply don’t want to think much about it. It’s also important to analyze your feelings – like how did that person make you feel during that conversation? Which part of your day do you dread? What do you secretly hope people will ask you about? Thinking about these things help cause then you can engineer your life accordingly.

Have you had a moment in life where you overcame one of these mindsets and that helped you grow? I’d love to hear your story in the comments below! :)

 

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How to help your network out (even if you think you don’t have much to contribute)

It’s no secret that who you know is quite important. And sure, you have met some interesting and important people during your life, but how are you supposed to keep in touch with them? (Hint: Randomly sending “Long time, no see” messages to people is probably not the answer). When it comes to keeping in touch, I think a good idea is to add value to your network instead of making it about you.

not about you

 

But how do you do that? Sometimes it can be quite obvious. Of course you can help a coworker out with their project or your classmate with an assignment. But what about your classmates from the summer school you attended long back? Or that interesting guy you met during a debate competition in college? It’s not that obvious in such cases. That’s why I’ve added ideas on how to help your network below, along with some tips at the bottom.

5 ways to help your network out

 

Send opportunities their way

This is a bit of a no brainer. Everyone wants access to relevant and awesome opportunities. If you keep an eye out for opportunities, not just for yourself, but also for other people, it can be really helpful to your network. For example, during college I used to subscribe to a bunch of newsletters that aggregated news about competitions, internships and fellowships. I’ve passed on information about journalism fellowships, design competitions, travel grant applications to numerous people I know cause I knew they have the talent and interest in those particular fields. They might already know about the opportunity, but that’s not really the point here.

Promote and appreciate their work

If your circuit is anything like mine, there will be people around you doing interesting stuff. There might be someone who’s written a book, or started a funny Facebook page or maybe they came up with a better way to do something at your company. Whatever it is, sharing their work on social media (and offline) is always a nice gesture. I’m not suggesting you should share stuff randomly, but if you think something someone else is doing is cool,  you should definitely consider sharing it with your followers/subscribers/friend’s list. Heck, even if you don’t share it for whatever reason, just pinging them and telling them that what you think they’re doing is awesome, is enough to boost someone’s motivation and confidence levels.

And yes, this is totally a hint that if you like my blog, you should consider sharing it with your people. 😉

Send them content you think you they’d find useful

 

Now, I’m not asking you to bombard people with articles from across the world. It can be as simple as tagging them in a Facebook post you think might be useful for someone you know. I think this is quite a simple way of adding value to your network and not invasive either. Just be mindful of what you’re sharing, and how you’re sharing it (for example, what you tweet to someone and what you email someone can be quite different) and you’re good to go.

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Not sure how to find interesting content to share online with your network? I’ve got you covered here.

Be receptive to their questions

 

I know the premise of this article is that you think you don’t have much to offer to your network, but honestly that’s probably not true. You probably don’t know everything, but I bet you know something that other people in your network don’t… at least not as well. So if you ever find yourself being asked questions about how you landed that particular internship in college, or how you decided which platform to start your blog on, take the time to answer them thoroughly and properly.

Have a question for me? Check out my “How I can help you” page here.

Introduce people to each other

 

So you get to know that your classmate from the tuition center you used to go to is debating between joining TISS for a Human Resources course and SP Jain for a general management course. You know squat about higher education in management sciences but you do know that your neighbour graduated from SP Jain last year and she might have insights to bring to the table. You should totally send your old classmate a private message and offer to introduce them to your neighbour (check with your neighbour, of course) and see how it goes. And there you go! You’re now adding value like a boss.

 

Tips to keep in mind while helping your network

 

You have to know what people want help with: Duh, right? You can’t help someone if you don’t know what they care about, or what they might potentially need help with. So you need to pay attention to people’s posts on social media, or check in with them every now and then to learn what they’re doing and that’s how you’ll know how you can add value to them.

Grow your network this way: The ideas I mentioned are great for people you already know, but can also be used to get to know more people. With platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn which are more open, there might be people you don’t know but based on their posts, you can still add value to the conversation.

Be authentic: This is the most important tip. Be genuine and don’t take people’s time for granted. Don’t use the excuse of helping people around you to promote your own work, even when you know it won’t actually help them. Don’t send someone an article just cause you want to send them a survey for your marketing project the next day.

What’s one thing someone in your network has done for you that you’ve really appreciated? I’d love to hear your story, so be sure to share them in the comments below. Thanks for reading! :)

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How to decide if something is worth your time

I wrote a post recently called “10 ideas for a side project” and after I shared that, a lot of people asked me how they can be sure if something is worth their time or not. I also had a few juniors asking me if they should intern this summer, attend summer school, study for the CAT or do something else altogether. While I’m always in favour of trying new things, I have to say that not every opportunity is worth the time and effort it demands in return. So, how do you calculate the ROI of taking something up? Here are a few questions that might help…

Who will you get to work with? 

Whenever I took something up in college, I almost always learnt more from the people I was working with, than the actual work that I was doing. If you’re taking something up, make sure the people you’ll get to work with are people you can learn from and people you’d like to pick up traits from. For example, when I interned at IIM Ahmedabad, I wasn’t very sure what my day to day work would be like, but I knew I’d get to meet some interesting entrepreneurs from the Indian tech space (and I did!) so I jumped at the opportunity.

What will you learn from it? 

Whether it’s an internship or a society you’re joining, you’ll want to make sure that the skills you pick up from it are the sort you actually want to learn. When you start, you won’t master things right away of course, but you’d want to make sure the time and effort you’re putting into something is actually worth it.  If you don’t actually care all that much about the markets, it makes no sense to join the Finance and Investment Cell of your college, just cause you see a lot of other people joining it.

What are the long term benefits of taking it up?

A lot of things don’t have mind blowing advantages right away. Take blogging as an example; you start out small by sharing your thoughts and maybe your Mom is the only one who religiously follows your posts in the beginning. But think about the long term benefits. You can learn things like SEO and CMS, build a platform you can leverage to meet new people and even make a bit of side income from it.

What could you be doing instead? 

At the end of the day, it’s all about the opportunity cost of doing anything. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, it means “the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen”. Time is a limited resource and you can only do so many things at a time. By taking up an internship over the summer, are you missing out on the opportunity to really and truly work on setting up your freelance web designing path? Does it make sense to squeeze in a Brand Ambassador program (even if they’re giving you coupons 😛 ) while neglecting your academics? If your time is better spent elsewhere, then you might want to think twice before signing up for something.

What factors are “non negotiable” for you? 

These are factors that you don’t want to compromise on. This could be something like wanting to do a paid gig or perhaps joining something that won’t require you to travel across the city (cause who likes traffic and/or public transport, right?) It could also be a requirement like wanting to work with a well known brand. Whatever it is, make your list of non negotiable factors and evaluate the opportunity accordingly.

How easy is it for you get out of it if you don’t like it? 

All said and done, at times you can only find out if something is worth doing when you actually, you know, do it. Some things are easier to get out of than others. Like when I took up a course at the King’s College London Delhi Summer School program, it was a commitment of 3 weeks and Rs.25,000. I couldn’t have tried it for two days and then quit. So I had to be very sure of my decision. If it’s like a passion project, that might be easier to leave if you realise that it really isn’t your cup of tea.

Have you done your research? 

This is pretty much the most important question because it’ll help you answer all the other questions on the list. How will you know who else is involved in this initiative? How will you know what growth and the learning curve looks like? By doing your research, of course. Read up about it thoroughly online. Email people who’ve done the same program before. Read reviews and pay special attention to critical ones. Discuss it with your mentors, seniors, friends, parents or whoever you think can ask you the right questions to get to the right answer.

What’s an important decision that you’ve had to make in the recent past? What did you keep in mind while making that decision? I’d love to hear your story, so leave it in the comment section below. Thanks for reading! :)

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How to find interesting content online

I’ve been a book worm pretty much all my life thanks to my mom’s influence, who happens to be a Literature grad and an Editor by profession. I’ve transitioned from fiction to non-fiction over the years, but in the recent past, I’ve been reading a lot of content online. My reading material covers blogs, short ebooks, guides, journals and so on.

I still love reading books, but I find material online to be quite appealing too. For one thing, they’re way easier to digest in one sitting and I can skim through it and then decide if I want to read it properly or not. Plus, not everyone who has something worth saying writes a book on it – maintaining a blog or a podcast is way easier.

I was recently asked how I find interesting content online and I thought I’d share some ideas on that. I’ve started off with my main sources of content, followed by a list of tips that’ll help you find interesting stuff online.

Twitter lists

This is my #1 source of interesting content and articles. Twitter lets you create lists of users (you needn’t be following them) which can be private or public. The list I use most frequently is one I called “Interesting Tweeple” (not the best name in the world, I admit) and I’ve added users whom I consider thought leaders. This includes journalists, CEOs, bloggers, tech people and so on. Other advantages of this list aside, what’s great is that these users share a lot of links and articles on a daily basis. And because I’ve deliberately chosen the people in the list, I know that the content they’ll share will be useful or interesting to me.

Here’s how you can add people to Twitter lists: https://goo.gl/9hzslX

Twitter lists

My “Interesting tweeple” list.

 

Publishers on Facebook

Facebook gets a lot of flack for being a waste of time, but I’ve found it to be quite useful. Publishers across the world get a lot of traffic from platforms like Facebook, which encourages people to share their work here. I make use of this by following interesting pages (ranging from Vox and Reddit to Harvard Business Review and Brain Pickings) and saving links on my feed I find interesting.

Facebook saved links

726 saved/archived links so far!

Subscriptions and Feeds

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time on the internet signing up for different newsletters which send me great content right to my inbox. I’ve subscribed to various sites and blogs, many of which send me a weekly update on the new content posted that week. A lot of them are also bloggers who promote other people’s work so I get to know of even more sites through this.

I also follow some sites using apps like Feedly that helps you to organise and read content from the web. I don’t use this too heavily (since I’m more used to the other methods) but it can be quite useful to keep track of your favourite sites in one place.

Newsletters

I actually look forward to many of these newsletters.

 

That’s pretty much it! All sources combined, I think I go through about 50-80 articles/videos/podcasts every week. As you can imagine, sometimes that can be overwhelming. That’s why I have a few tips to share to keep everything under control and make the most of the content you find online:

 

    1. Unfollow/unsubscribe like it’s nobody’s business: Since I subscribe to a LOT of newsletters, I unsubscribe from things I don’t find relevant anymore, quite often. When I sign up for a new site, I give it about 2-3 emails to see if it’s for me or not. If I don’t do this, my inbox becomes unmanageable and frankly, quite daunting to wade through. So my advice would be to experiment with newsletters, but make it a point to move on if it’s not your cup of tea. If you’re past the point where you can check these manually, you can use Unroll.Me to unsubscribe from multiple sites in one go. The same strategy can be used for Facebook pages and Twitter users.

 

    1. Save for later: When you’re scrolling through your social media lists and feeds, you probably won’t have time to read everything right then and there. Thankfully, we can save articles/links/videos for later on almost any platform. You can favourite links on Twitter to curate them, save links on Facebook and bookmark posts on Medium. You can even use an app like Pocket to “download” articles in one place and read them when you’re offline! (Goodbye, boring Metro rides!)

 

    1. Share good content with your networks: Whenever I come across an article I think other people would enjoy, I make it a point to share it, either to specific people or simply on my social media timelines. It’s a great way to pass interesting content around and also to keep in touch with people. (I don’t know about you, but when someone shares something with me by saying “Hey, this reminded me of you” or “Thought you’d like this link”,  it makes me feel good!)

 

    1. Customise your feed: When it comes to platforms like Facebook or Quora, you might think that the links and articles that show up on your feed are random. Well, you can make it more likely for the feed to contain things that YOU like by saving articles, unfollowing irrelevant pages, muting irrelevant threads, liking/upvoting posts that are interesting and asking Facebook to stop showing you certain types of posts. These deliberate moves will make your feed more customised to what you like.

 

      1. Send a thank you email to the author: When I wrote for DU Beat, one of my favourite moments was when 12 people (complete strangers) emailed me letting me know that they had found my article useful – it made my day! Since then, I’ve made it a point to email the authors of articles I find particularly useful/touching and thank them for writing it. (Tweets work well here too!)

 

 

What are some of your favourite sources of content online? Let me know in the comments below. :)

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10 ideas for a side project

A side project, simply put is a hobby or interest you work on, on the side. It might not be your main gig (like say a full time job or your undergrad course), but it’s a great way to work on what you love and pick up new skills. The best part is you have complete flexibility over what shape you want it to take – there’s no boss or teacher telling you what to do.

I’ve put together a list of 10 ideas for side projects that I hope comes in handy for anyone out there who’s looking to do just a little bit more with their time. I’ve skipped ideas related to coding and starting business ventures since they’re usually talked about really often.

 

#1 Keep at it: Take up a 30 day challenge

30 day challenges can be fun and engaging – the idea is to stick to one thing for 30 days. It’s not too significant if you do it for a day, but to do it for 30 days in continuation? That could be very interesting. Give up caffeine for a month. Or perhaps commit to writing a letter a day to 30 people in your life. Here are 100 other ideas.


#2 Get to the bottom of it: Explore what interests you

A great idea for a project is to study something that interests you. You can draw inspiration from things that are around you and explore them further. Are you interested in email marketing? How about signing up for 10 different apps and studying the first email these companies send you? You can evaluate them based on various criteria and look out for areas of improvement. Share your “research” as a PDF with the world, or maybe write a guest post on a blog. You could even send it to the companies as feedback.


#3 Keep the momentum going: Start a newsletter

If you have something to share, a newsletter is another great way to do it. It’s like having a blog but better, cause you have more flexibility and you know you have an audience already. (Cause you’re sending it directly to people, you know?) And for most things on this list, any interest can be moulded into a newsletter. If you’re into music, you can send out a bi-weekly newsletter with links to lesser known (but still amazing) songs that launched in that period.

On that note, I’m starting a monthly newsletter that will be focused on careers – how to navigate through the working life and kick ass while doing so. I’ll be putting together information from across the web for this and also get in touch with some cool people who’ve been there, done that. If that sounds interesting to you, please take a minute to sign up for it here. It’ll also be a great way to get to know some awesome folks and expand your network. :)


#4 Teach them how to fish: Become a consultant

Take a minute to answer this: What’s one thing people always ask you for help with?
Are you known for your cooking skills? Pick 5 friends of yours who can’t cook to save their life and teach them to cook one dish. Or five.
Are people always complimenting you for your driving skills? Take up the task of teaching people around you how to parallel park. (The Parallel Parking Project, anyone?)

And of course, you can document this if you wish to – how about a vlog on the journey?

#5 Write, right now: Start a blog of your own

There are just so many perks of blogging and it’s so easy to start a blog that I’ve gotta include it on the list even if it’s a super obvious one. If you’ve been toying with the idea for a while, just go for it already. And if you’ve been having trouble thinking of what to post, maybe you can combine the idea with one of the other side project ideas. Like using a blog to document your 30 day challenge, how you fared, what it taught you, and so on.

#6 Bring people together: Build a community

I personally love this idea for a side project. How exciting would it be to get people together based on one common interest or theme? If you’re a movie buff, start a Facebook page where you and your squad reviews the latest movie each week. Put together a group of people who love history as much as you and visit one place of historical significance each weekend.

Once you have your interest narrowed down on, invite your friends and ask them to invite their friends. Boom.

#7 Pour your heart into it: Write an ebook

A lot of us (myself included) harbour the desire to write a book one day. Till we work on that, an ebook is a relatively less daunting challenge to take up. Pick a topic that interests you and write an ebook of say, 35 pages on it. Or if you’re into fiction, weave a story into your ebook. Self publish it, put it on Amazon, and promote it the way you like.

#8 Don’t stop learning: Pick up a new skill

Say you ARE the friend from point #4 who can’t cook to save their life. Pick up learning how to cook as a side project and maybe  challenge yourself to master one dish from each state in India.  However skilled you consider yourself to be, there’s got to be a ton of things you don’t know (yet). It doesn’t even have to be something huge, like learning a new language. Maybe you can just learn how to play ONE song on the harmonica for starters. (Also there’s a resource out there on the internet for pretty much anything you might want to learn, so you have no excuse!)

#9 Shoot and upload: Start a YouTube channel

Another content centric idea, YouTube channels make for a great side project because you not only get to share ideas with the world through audio/video, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to learn many tools and softwares along the way. You don’t have to be perfect when you start out – a good enough camera, an idea that resonates with you and basic editing skills, are all that’s needed. In fact, YouTube makes this super easy with its YouTube Capture app.

#10 Raise your voice: Start a podcast series

Podcasts have been around for a while now, but I don’t see the playing ground to be too saturated in India. A podcast is basically an audio log of whatever it is that you want to share. They’ve become increasingly popular over the years because you listen to them while traveling, working out and so on. It’s also a great way to build a rapport with an audience!

You could start an interview series talking to one interesting person a week. Or a podcast summarizing and discussing all that happened in a particular sphere that week (for TV shows, maybe?)

You don’t need fancy equipment to begin with, just a recording device and a way for people to subscribe to it, like SoundCloud or iTunes.

 

Did I miss a great idea for a side project? Let me know in the comments below!

PS: I’m starting a monthly newsletter for career driven young professionals and college students. It’ll have a round up of resources from across the web, a way to expand your network and share the cool things you’ve been up to. If you’re game, sign up for it here.

Featured image: Negativespace.co

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Leadership lessons from my time at DU Beat

Featured image: The crazy and lovely team of DU Beat 2014-15

I spent all three of my college life writing for an independent and student-run university newspaper. By the end of my tenure, I’d led a team of around 20 correspondents and copy editors as the Editor of the newspaper. To say these 3 years taught me a lot about myself would be an understatement. I also learned quite a few important things about leading a team and being responsible for the newspaper; lessons that I’ll carry with me throughout my life. I’ve jotted a few of them below!

It’s all about balancing short term and long term goals/plans

In DU Beat, one of my main responsibilities was to ensure the weekly print newspaper was ready in time. For the entire team, this was a week long affair from deciding the content of the paper during a team meeting to the creation of the final design layout at the end of the week. And while some weeks were rough, we always printed on time.

However, if we were to stick to just this, it wouldn’t really be too much of an achievement, since this was the bare minimum that had to be done. That’s why as a team we had to focus on larger projects, which were more long term in nature – like restructuring processes or introducing new sections on our website. On the flip side, concentrating too much on larger projects would mean that the day-to-day work might end up taking a blow.

Check out DU Beat print edition’s page 8 for the events calendar which collates numerous college fests and events happening around the University. Clicked by Nishita Agarwal #DU #dubeat

A photo posted by DU Beat (@du_beat) on

If you’re in charge, it doesn’t mean you get to boss people around. If anything, it makes you answerable to everyone, for everything

When we think of leaders, we usually think of the authority they command. And while you definitely get to make important decisions as a team leader, at the end of the day, you’re answerable for pretty much everything that happens. Needless to say, you’re answerable for your own actions, but as a leader, you’re answerable for your team mate’s actions too. Why? Simply because as a leader you’re responsible for what the team does (or doesn’t do, in some cases). So even if you don’t do something wrong, if something’s or someone messed up under “your watch”, you can definitely by held accountable for it – the buck always stops at you. I realise I may sound like I’m complaining here, but really this is an important lesson because it taught me that by setting the right culture up in the team (both in terms of work and relations within the team) you can minimise such situations. If the leader can take credit for the success, the leader should most definitely take blame for the failures.

There are a LOT of ways to keep a team motivated

At DU Beat, there was a lot we’d expect from the team members what with the number of articles we published everyday and the fact that everything from A-Z was taken care of by the students; students who were heavily involved in other activities on campus and many of whom were very academics driven too. There was no renumeration involved, and of course, we’d want the team members to stay for as long as possible, so it was really important to keep people engaged and motivated.

Over the course of time, we found multiple ways to do that. Beyond being a brand and a place for creative outlet, we tried out the following things to keep people motivated:

1) Ensuring that the work environment wasn’t toxic i.e. removing traces of politics, favouritism and so on.

2) Giving team members more responsibility as and when they showed the interest for it. So even if someone didn’t have a fancy title, they could oversee columns, pages or projects.

3) Team members who wanted to go beyond writing articles were given more work which allowed them to learn about social media marketing, content management systems and even basics of design and coding.

4) We used to often get invites from restaurants, theatre groups and bands to cover their work or review their food. After a while, we started using these platforms as rewards. For example, when we were invited to check out Blu-O, we’d sent members from our team who’d done a really good job covering the student elections that had happened a couple of weeks earlier. From what I heard, they had a blast and we made sure the entire team knew that this was their reward for a job well done!

5)  Leaving writing/photography/design aside, I really believe that everyone joined (or stayed on in) DU Beat for specific reasons – if we could identify the reason, it’d be a lot easier to keep people invested in the work.  For example, there was one member who was looking to expand his vocabulary, while there was another who wanted to build on her confidence through the assignments. So for the latter, I started giving her more work that involved getting  in touch with a lot of people, hoping to push her out of her comfort zone. I for one, am quite nerdy about conferences and talks, and my team was awesome enough to let me cover a lot of them!  

We’re starting off the week after a relaxing team picnic at Lodi Garden yesterday! Hope of all of you have a great week ahead 😀 #DUBTeam A photo posted by DU Beat (@du_beat) on

When it’s time to say goodbye

About 4-5 times during my days as the Editor, I’d have a team member tell me that they wanted to leave DU Beat. After a few instances I learnt that a good practice to follow here was:

1) Have a frank conversation about why they wanted to leave.

2) Ideally, you’d want them to stay or else they should have already been asked to leave the team. So try and come up with possible options to work through the problem. (This has helped me keep a lot of our hardworking members on board.)

Work taking up too much time? Perhaps suggest a temporary reduction in responsibilities.
Not enjoying the work? Try switching it up with new platforms or tasks to work on.
Have to give the CAT/GMAT/GRE? Ask if they’d they like to join the team after a sabbatical.

3) Decide and act on it fast. If they choose to leave, give them their certificate/letter of recommendation and wish them well. Ask them to stay on for a week to finish of any existing commitments.

4) Those who leave the team on good terms can be incredibly valuable in the long run. They can give leads for stories and refer new candidates, so it’s always good to build good alumni relations with such team members.

 

I feel quite lucky to have been able to pick up these lessons through my time at DU Beat. I hope to add to this list with more such experiences in the future!

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