Monday, January 16, 2017

The Ten Commandments of LinkedIn

by Mike Shelah
Mike Shelah Consulting
2017 VRPS Management Conference Session Speaker
"The ABC's of LinkedIn"

LinkedIn is THE BEST platform on the planet for developing business contacts, identifying new customers and finding your dream job. What I have seen in my ten+ years of using the platform is, while many people have a profile, only a small percentage of people actually optimize it. Today I will review my top ten for optimizing LinkedIn. I will skip the whole “Thou Shalt” part, for the rest of the post.

I know; it’s a little heavy handed. Yet, I am amazed at the number of people who have an inappropriate picture or worse, no picture at all. I could go into all the examples of what a bad picture looks like, but in the interest of time, I will simply say, make the $100 investment and get a pro to take your pic and be sure to update it every 3-5 years. If you do not know a photographer, LinkedIn is chock full of them, search for one in your area that is well recommended.

If you think of LinkedIn like a search engine (think Google or Bing) then you begin to understand the importance of keywords. By default, LinkedIn will load your latest job title into your headline (which appears right next to your profile picture).  I recommend creating a list of 20 keywords that people would use to find you. Think of it like that gameshow “Family Feud.” The top five answers are on the board and you need to guess what they are. Keywords are so important that I will tell you to use and reuse them throughout your entire profile.

This section is often missed by people creating a LinkedIn profile. First, the more sections you add to your profile, the higher you show up in LinkedIn search rankings. Adding this section will help. Second, this section is a great place to add more keywords. Specifically, it should be written in the first person and should be conversational. It is not meant to read like your resume. Tell the world why you do what you do. And please do not describe yourself as “a seasoned and dynamic professional team player.”

This is another section commonly missed and used incorrectly. Simply put, make it easy for people to contact you. Include an email and a phone number. This is a great spot to use some more keywords. I suggest creating an email address just for LinkedIn (to keep it separate from the rest) and you can get a free phone number from google voice to protect the privacy of your other phone numbers.

If you don’t have some, get some. Find a cause you care about and give them some of your time. It is a great way to network and lets people know a bit about you as a person.

Like the volunteer section, this lets people know the things you care about, that make you a person and not just another name. You can use keywords here. This section should be a mix of personal and professional.

These sections finish telling your story. They give the reader some perspective and scope of who you are as a person. These can apply to personal and professional as well

Regardless of the level of education ( or where it is from) adding this section helps you move up the LinkedIn search rankings and can help convey your expertise in a certain field or industry.

LinkedIn groups are incredibly powerful. They allow you to connect with likeminded people and share content. It also allows you to position yourself as an industry expert by asking and answering question in the “Conversations” section. Most groups will also allow you to post job openings in your company. You can join up to 100 groups.

This is the biggest miss. Once you have built a great profile (which should take 1-2 hours) daily maintenance of your account should only take 15-20 minutes ( and I know you spend at least that much time on Facebook). You want to respond to connection requests, check daily updates ( new job, anniversary, birthday, new blog posts) and respond to any LinkedIn messages you have received.

There is much more we can discuss about LinkedIn and what a powerful tool it is. I wanted to try and keep this brief. If you start doing these things today, you will be amazed at the positive results in just a couple weeks. I love talking about this subject. If you want to contact me about LinkedIn or any of my other subjects including: sales, leadership, public speaking, and training, please contact me directly and ask away or 443-808-1670

Mike Shelah will be speaking at 2017 Virginia Recreation Park Society Management Conference to be held February 26-28.  Learn more here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fraser: 9 Years of Reaching Out and Touching Lives

by Daniel Ronquillo
Animal Therapy Coordinator
Chippenham & Johnston-Willis Hospitals
VRPS Senior Resource Group Past Chair
VRPS Senior Resource Group Annual Conference Committee
VRPS Strategic Planning Committee

It is with deep sorrow that I share with each of you the death of my dear companion, Fraser, CJW Medical Center Therapy Dog.

After a diagnosis of Thyroid Cancer in the spring of 2016, Fraser fought valiantly for several months, during which he continued visiting patients and staff, continuing to reach out to everyone, as always, through his many years of service.  Though it was very emotional, Fraser was at home with the entire family during his final moments, as he passed away late afternoon on January 7, 2017 at the age of 11 years and 8 months.

Fraser was born May 6, 2005, in California, under the care of Canine Companions for Independence (CCI).  Within two to three months of age, he was transported to Richmond, Virginia, where he was assigned to CCI Puppy Raiser, Cindy Morrison.  Over the next year and a half he learned the skills needed, in preparation for his eventual graduate training to become a Service Dog.  He was then sent to New York, on Long Island, to the CCI Northeast Headquarters, in early 2007 for graduate school.  Unable to match him with an individual, Fraser was released and returned to Richmond to Cindy and her family.

During his early years of training, I continued my work, behind the scenes, for what would be the start of the new CJW Medical Center Pet Therapy Program.  During the final stages of initiating the program, Fraser suddenly became available, with little time for preparation.  In the fall of 2007, Fraser officially became the first Therapy Dog for the new CJW Medical Center Pet Therapy Program.

The rest is history, as Fraser began his long career of reaching out, and touching the lives of countless patients on both campuses of Chippenham and Johnston-Willis Hospital.  Not only reaching out to patients, Fraser also touched the lives of many staff, and family, and had the opportunity to reach out to the entire Richmond Community through the local media.  Though every therapy dog will be honored for their service, in touching the lives of many, it has often been described by those who knew Fraser the best, that his soul was truly unique in its ability and intuitive nature, and that there will never be a therapy dog in comparison to Fraser.  As he approached his final days, Fraser selflessly served CJW Medical Center and his community for over nine years.  Fraser was a true companion to all who crossed his path, touching each of their lives through his empathy and selfless, enduring love.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2017 VRPS Senior Resource Group - Blog Number 1!

by Adriana Carr
Senior Center Director
Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation
2017 VRPS Senior Resource Group Chair-Elect

Welcome to the first Senior Resource Group post in the VRPS blog.  Whether you work in a recreational, residential or social service setting there are a myriad of older adult related topics and issues that connect all of us in our professional lives.  In addition to the newsletter, our annual conference and the VRPS conference we hope this blog adds another layer to the conversation of working with seniors in a recreation setting.

Some of the topics we would like to explore (and this by means not a definitive list) include:
  1. Depression/Mental Illness – For example what information do we have about our participants? Which programs among our memberships do intakes? Do we try to address it through our programming?  Are we professionally equipped to take on that role?
  2. Prioritizing services to Older Adults to increase funding.  At this most recent SRG conference in Virginia Beach we were inspired by several experts in the field.  The keynote speaker Denise Scruggs asked how many of us felt we were competing for funding our programs versus that of teens (for example).  Pretty much all of us raised our hands. Does this mean we need better ways of collecting data to help the decision makers we work for support our programs?  Are we telling the stories of our programs and constituents effectively enough to ensure they are included in local policies? Is that something we should think about doing?
  3. Who do we serve?   Dr.E. Ayn Welleford cautioned us to think carefully about the words we use to describe our constituents.  It is a diverse demographic.  Between the boomers and the silent generation, we are already essentially doing intergenerational programming.  So what about that intergenerational programming?   I always have the intention of creating great programs that mix seniors and youngsters with limited success.  What is the best approach?
  4. Finally, how do we find ways to connect outside of the usual conferences, newsletter and blogs?  One idea that has been floating around is to organize a state-wide line dance event.  Chanda Nixon, Program Leader with Hampton’s Park, Recreation & Leisure Services, has been thinking about how it would look and when she suggested it at the last conference, many of you were enthusiastic about it.  So that’s one of the projects we hope to develop over the next year.  Do you have other ideas?

That’s just a few very general topics.  What are you thinking about these days as you work with your customers?  Let me or any of the other SRG board members know and we’ll talk about it here.  

Left to right:  Hope Lomax-Jones, Janice Myrick, Karen Brutsche, Adriana Carr, Cheryl Wheeler, Aaron Clay, June Snead

Monday, December 19, 2016

Management by Christmas Garland

by Sandy Kellogg

Aquatic Operations Supervisor, Mount Vernon RECenter
Fairfax County Park Authority
VRPS Aquatics Resource Group 2016 Chair
VRPS 2016 Awards Co-Chair

I have kind of a goofy tradition at Christmas time.  I have long hair, always up in a ponytail, and I’m usually lucky if I can find a real hair tie instead of a pen, rubber band or even piece of string.  At Christmas, however, my love for the sparkles and glitter gets put in my hair.  No Christmas decorations are safe.  I’ve been known to put tinsel, garland and even ornaments on my head.  I’ve never tried Christmas lights, but there is a mini set powered by batteries at Target that I have my eye on.  It’s rarely the same twice, and at night when I take them out the decorations go right back on the tree. 

This has become a tradition at work, as well.  While I always just thought it was something kind of silly, it has had some interesting outcomes.  When I walk around the facility, people smile!  A lot of times I forget that I have an enormous candy cane bow on my head, and just smile back.  Customers have started looking for it, seeking me out to check out today’s decoration, suggesting things and even occasionally bringing in fancy stuff that goes right into my hair.

There is one more outcome to this silly tradition. It helps me remember the fun that should be at the heart of our profession.  No one joins Parks and Recreation because we love spreadsheets and budgets, meetings and strategic planning.  We are called to it through a love of the outdoors, the water, fitness, children, our community - whatever speaks to us.  When we forget the fun, our staff and facility feels it.  We get too busy drilling down pivot tables to have fun, and fun is at the heart of why we do what we do.  Whether you put garland in your hair, goofy costumes on for Halloween or bunny ears for Easter, just remember to keep the fun in your day.  Your staff and customers will smile and your facility will be a little brighter.  Not bad for a cheap decoration!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Perspective from the Awards Committee

by Mark Furlo, CPRP

Director, Portsmouth Parks, Recreation, & Leisure Services
VRPS 2016 Awards Committee
Immediate Past Chair, VRPS Eastern Service Area

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the Awards and Citations Committee. Awards and Citations is a Committee of the VRPS Board of Directors. The work of the committee culminates at the Awards Banquet at the Annual Conference where we showcase our best and brightest!  This year marks the third year I have had the honor of serving. I first served in 2007, again in 2014, and now 2016. The Chair or Co-Chairs are appointed by the President of the Board every year. The rest of the Committee is comprised of one representative from each of the Service Areas and Resource Groups. The Service Areas and Resource Group are allowed to determine the manner in which they select their representative. In the Eastern Service Area, the area of my representation, the Immediate Past Chairs represents the Service Area on the Committee. Over the past ten years, I have seen a lot of change in how the Committee operates to make the process easier.

My first year on the Committee in 2007, agencies were required to mail multiple paper copies of their applications, descriptions, CDs with photos, and promotional items to the VRPS central office. From there, the VRPS staff had to split all the materials into large boxes and distributed throughout the state to each committee member to review. Now all committee members are emailed one excel spreadsheet that contain the descriptions and links to the PDFs for supporting documentation. Saving time and resources.

While some things changed, many remain constant, the most important thing that remains constant? The NOMINEES, the wonderfully creative, and innovative programs, facilities, and promotional efforts, and the dedicated volunteers, and professionals that show the excellent work they are doing. My favorite part of serving on the Committee is reading through all of the inspiring submissions. Another constant is the tremendous volume of materials that has to be reviewed by the Committee. About 100 applications were submitted for awards this year. It takes a very dedicated group of people to read through the applications for awards. Every Committee member that I have served with has taken this responsibility very seriously. Members understand the time and effort that each Department puts into the preparation of these awards.

The Committee gathers at the VRPS central office before the annual conference every year. They examine each category and discuss the merits of each application. Winners are selected by a majority vote of the committee and in cases of ties the Chair casts the tie breaking vote. Sometimes there is a clear choice for an award, but more often tough decisions have to be made regarding winners. At times, the committee chooses not to give an award in a category even if there were submissions. If in the opinion of the Committee, the application does not demonstrate significant elements of the criteria an award will not be given.

As someone who has been a part of an agency that has won VRPS Awards and someone that has served on the selection committee, I offer the following advice when submitting for awards:

  • Carefully put together a team to work on the applications at minimum the team should include:
    • Someone that is familiar with the subject being submitted
    • Someone that can tell a story and writes well (not good)
    • Someone that can proofread for grammar
    • Someone that manages time well and can keep people on task
  • Make sure the individual, program, or facility meet all of the eligibility requirements
  • Show how the individual, program, or facility demonstrated the selection criteria
  • Tell a story in your narrative that will help it stand out among the others

Remember the judges are your peers, we are people, and we sometimes make mistakes. We do our best to evaluate the submissions based on the criteria, but the evaluation is the opinion of the judges. If your program doesn’t win a VRPS award it does not take away from the merit of your project or the  individual you submitted, nor does it take away the love and appreciation your community has for your recreation center, pool, trail, staff persons, or volunteer. Good luck and I look forward to reading about new programs and recreation centers, should I be given the opportunity to serve again.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Be Thankful

by Sandy Kellogg

Aquatic Operations Supervisor, Mount Vernon RECenter
Fairfax County Park Authority
VRPS Aquatics Resource Group 2016 Chair
VRPS 2016 Awards Co-Chair

It’s been a long fall for my family.  On October 2nd my condo, River Towers in Alexandria, started to collapse.  32 families were evacuated, and our part of the building was officially condemned pending repairs.  I have been homeless ever since.  Technically I’m an Internally Displaced Person, with a Red Cross Case number and everything.  My husband, son and I were allowed to have a 10-minute ‘gather what you can’ run through the house, and that was it.  Optimistically it will be at least 6 months before we are allowed back in.

Before everyone starts a telethon or fundraiser, this is going to be the BEST Thanksgiving ever.   My children are all coming home, and there’s actually a home for them to come to!  A good friend has a cottage on his property and offered it to us.  We rely on electric heaters, and I’m reminded why commuting in NOVA is miserable, but we have a home, good friends, family coming, and a place to go every night.  Best Thanksgiving ever.

This experience has made me look at what we do.  Many Parks and Rec professionals run large buildings with good facilities.  Are we prepared to open our doors for a community emergency?   New facilities should be built with emergency response in mind.  A washer and dryer hookup would add a very small expense to a design or remodel, but it changes us from a recreation center to a possible emergency shelter.  We can provide activities for children, warming areas, even staging areas for emergency response, all just by opening our doors and becoming part of the solution.   Our neighbors depend on us, let’s not leave them out in the cold.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Can You Dig It?

by Milada Weaver

Volunteer Program Manager
Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation

Parks, recreation, admin, sports, development...basically every corner of the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) worked together to make things better on Monday, October 17. There was sweat, there was dirt, there was laughter, there was sun, there was a lot of great work done!  This is the second year that DPR “Digs In”  pulled together staff to beautify our parks and build team spirit.