A Strong Handshake

I read a blog yesterday about improving your body language. Since writing my book, I have been working on all my communication skills and it is essential to be aware of your body language. If your message is strong but your body language is weak, the message is lost. The blog said, 

When first introduced to a leader, we immediately and unconsciously assess him or her for warmth and authority…. So the best leadership strategy is to embody both sets of traits—and to do so early and often.

What body language conveys authority? Good posture, taking up space, a firm handshake and a purposeful stride.

The part about the handshake resonated with me. I don't know how it came to me, but when was preparing to do my first panel interview for the Rotary Scholarship, I resolved to stride confidently into the room and greet each person with a firm handshake and a smile. Perhaps because handshakes have always been scary to me (I have sweaty hands), this action took a lot of buildup. It made an excellent impression, however. In every interview since, I have made sure to give a good handshake. 

First impressions matter a lot. Everything from your grammar to your handshake give cues to your audience about your character. If handshakes are scary for you too, try practicing them with a friend. One great way I get to practice is by participating in Toastmasters. Every time you get up to speak, the Toastmaster leading the meeting shakes your hand to welcome you and shakes your hand to finish. It's a way to recognize each other and add formality to the role you are taking on. It's a reminder that you are a professional (in whatever field you practice), and that you should be treated as such. 

Handshakes have become less common in some crowds, but I think it's an important way to bridge generations and reminds you that you should be taken seriously. Give it a try sometime!

Decorate Yourself

I bet you are really good at something. It might take you a minute after reading that sentence to think of what that is, but I know you do something better than most people you know. What is that thing? Have you ever been recognized for it? One of the things that I love about fellowships, scholarships and grants is that you can finally get noticed and congratulated for doing something that you already know how to do. 

Maybe the thing you do is obscure, like some exotic instrument or type of singing. Maybe it's something you can't possibly imagine getting funded for. But after researching literally thousands of grants, I can tell you that you'd be amazed at what types of funds are out there. 

Take a chance, look into finding a fellowship or scholarship that would compliment your unique skillset. You might be surprised. This could be your chance to decorate yourself with an accolade that nobody else can claim. 

What Gets You Down?

This week has been a very emotional week for me. My sensitivity radar has shock off the charts for some reason so all the news and daily interactions that usually pass me by have been getting me very down. As I tell my daughter all the time, everybody has feelings and it's normal to feel ALL of the emotions from joy to anger to fear. It would be really weird to not feel those things. And yet, when I'm feeling like the world is falling apart, I have to remind myself that everybody has ups and downs. 

Sometimes the downs have lasted a long time for me. Months, even close to years, but then the ups come again. So what is good about a down? For one, it makes you appreciate the ups more. Like when you experience a harsh winter, you are so much more grateful for the warmth of summer. But it can also let you tap into motivation. If something gets you so down, perhaps the only way to get out of the sorrow is by doing something about it. Your DOWN could become your UP. 

Brainstorm some things that make you feel down (I know, if you're not in a down spot, thinking about the downs is the last thing you want to do). But just generally jot down some ideas of things that have made you sad or hopeless in the past. Then think about something you can take action to do about it. There may be the seed of something brilliant in those negative feelings, it just takes some investigating!

When You Are Not the BEST

As a parent, I have learned that encouraging kids to have a growth mind-set is more important than outright praise. What do I mean by that? Instead of saying, "you're so smart!" or "you won!" say, "you worked really hard on that, even if you didn't get a good grad." This type of encouragement fosters the belief that a person's most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work (instead of just innately being good at a subject).

Even if you have fostered this belief in yourself, you will usually never be the best at what you strive to do. This can be discouraging, especially when you're trying to convince yourself that you deserve a large fellowship or scholarship. That nagging voice in your mind might try to stop you before you even start, cutting you down by saying, "why even bother when there are so many more qualified people who should get this?" 

But don't let the voice (which you have control over) squander your talents. You may never be the premier scholar or activist or teacher, but you have something unique to offer. 

When I was writing my book, Funded!, I was about two months into the process when I saw on my friend's desk, The Ultimate Guide to Grants (or some such title). My stomach dropped but I asked if I could borrow it. This was pretty much the book I wanted to write, wasn't it? I sat with the book by my computer for a few days, feeling depressed, but one day I jumped into the fear and cracked it open. As I skimmed through the chapter headings, too nervous to actually delve into the info, I realized this wasn't the same book I wanted to write. This was about getting funding for non-profits. I had something different, and unique, to contribute to this field that was not addressed in the tome. 

When you are beginning the process of looking into funding, your nagging mind might unhelpfully present more qualified applicants (I know a few of my outrageously extraordinary friends kept popping into my thoughts as I applied for my Fulbright). But come back to thinking about what makes you special and what combination of experiences give you a different angle than practically anybody else out there. 

You may never be the best person to win a fellowship (or write a book), but something inside you deserves a chance to try. So remember the qualities that you, only you, can offer to the world. 

Goals- Getting Things Done

It's always easier to get things done when you have a goal. And not just any broad goal, but a quantifiable and attainable goal. I'm talking, of course, about getting a fellowship. They are great goals (once you figure out which one to apply for) because you have a task of things that are required to submit and you have a DEADLINE. Deadlines are essential, see my post about time management from earlier this week. So once you have the big goal, what are some things you can do to break it into manageable chunks?

Have a SPECIFIC task for each day

Break your goals down into infinitesimal bites. Like bites that can take you twenty minutes: Make a phone call to a university; revise bullet points in your resume; create outline of application essay. These are the small and manageable tasks that will leave you feeling accomplished and get you well on your way towards a strong application. 

Make your goals MEASURABLE

This is a great lesson for any professional. I myself still have to work on this goal in my city planning work. How does a MEASURABLE goal in an application process look? How about: Write for 15 minutes per day; edit first paragraph of essay; do research for 15 minutes on fellowship website. 

Make sure your goals are ATTAINABLE

This gets back to the infinitesimal point. If your goal is going to take three sessions to complete, that's not an attainable goal. A goal should be something that you can accomplish in one sitting. So if it's too big (and you'll realize which these are because they'll keep weighing down your task list), then break them into smaller parts.

Make mini goals that are RELEVANT to the big goal

Focus, what are you trying to do in the big picture and are the small goals really taking you in that direction? If you find yourself going on a tangent that's unnecessary, scale it back. For example, you get really interested in the research phase of finding a fellowship but you start doing much too much research on what previous fellows did. Is this really necessary? It's good to become familiar with your predecessors' work, but don't waste time here. 

Make sure you are TIME-BOUND

This part is somewhat built in because there is a DEADLINE. But if you have to block off a whole day to accomplish your mini goal, it's not sustainable. You'll work on it for one day and then set it aside for months before you have another whole day free. So set a specific time limit (again see post from earlier this week). You'll find that you can build up momentum from the positive feeling of accomplishing small goals every day. 

Get On A Roll

As one of my favorite happiness and work-life balance researchers likes to say, "Develop good habits; you won't need as much willpower that way." With anything new and difficult (like starting the process of becoming a competitive fellowship applicant), I need to start with the smallest step and practice every single day. When it's a tiny action, it's less intimidating to get done but once I've developed the habit, I get on a roll. 

Where are you in the process of funding your dreams? Are you still in the dreaming phase? Have you figured out the perfect fellowship to apply for but haven't gotten down to writing the essays? Wherever you are, just start doing a little bit of the work every day. You'll find that instead of dreading the task of getting back to work on the application, you'll look forward to it. Where previously you may have had to spend half an hour reviewing where you left off (months ago) before you actually get meaningful work done, now you'll start fresh and current each time you get to work. Your mind will start brainstorming before you even sit down to work and you won't have writers block. 

For me, the best way to make progress is by taking tiny bites each day and committing myself to work consistently (even if its just gradually). 

MY NEW BOOK is available for pre-order!!!

SO EXCITED!! I discovered last week that my book, Funded!, is available for pre-order on Amazon already!! It's about how to get money to pursue your passion, regardless of age, academic status, or previous history of fellowships. Pre-ordering books is important in the book publishing business, a metric which helps indicate the level of interest in the soon-to-be-published title. If you could do me a favor and pre-order a copy, I would be very grateful. Even if you just put it on your "wish list" in Amazon, it helps my book. Thank you to everyone for your support!!

How I Won a $700 Scholarship in 1.5 Hours

I opened my email today to find a congratulatory note from the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals (APBP). I won a $700 scholarship to cover the registration fee for the Professional Development Seminar (PDS) this September in St. Louis. "Lucy, congratulations! This year's scholarship fundraising efforts have been successful and APBP would like to offer you the Susie Stephens Scholarship to attend the PDS." Excellent news! Especially considering that I only spent an hour and a half on the application. How did I do this, you ask? By following these simple steps.


1. Find the Right Match

I am a City and Regional Planner by profession, therefore I keep an eye out for conferences, scholarships, and opportunities related to my field. My specialty is cycling and trails, so the APBP conference is the perfect type of professional development forum for me. In poking around the conference website, I happened upon the scholarships information to cover the pricey registration fee. According to the guidelines, I am just the scholarship candidate they look for: young professional, aspiring to work in pedestrian and cycling, and in need of financial assistance. Check, check, check. 


2. Do the Research

Before actually starting the application, I read about APBP. Their mission, how long they've been around, and the purpose of this conference. Then I read about the scholarship in question. Named for a cycling advocate who was killed when a car hit her on her bike, the Susie Stephens Scholarship has helped young professionals continue her work since 2008. Finally, I read through the application questions: How can you demonstrate your financial need? How will you use the training gained at the conference? What are your professional accomplishments? What are your professional goals? and How are you active in transportation reform/How will you further Susie Stephens' legacy? I read over these questions a couple weeks before I sat down to write in order to formulate my response and be ready to write. 


3. Sit Down and Write

After doing the research and thinking about my responses, the application only took an hour and a half to write and revise. So maybe the leg-work took more than an hour and a half, but reading over the APBP website and the questions only took a couple of minutes in the weeks leading up to actually writing. I did this "research" while taking a break from my more pressing work, substituting some unnecessary FB time or online shopping with something productive. In my book, I call this my "Research Shopping Cart."


So that's it, a couple of hours of work for a $700 payoff. Very worth it. I find myself addicted to getting free money in the form of scholarships because it's a relatively small investment of my time. Has anyone else experienced the rush of getting a scholarship? Please share your own stories if you feel so inclined!

Fellowships are Everwhere

Once you know about fellowships, they seem to pop up everywhere. I found my very first fellowship when I was browsing for ways to work or volunteer in Senegal. I happened to come upon a post written by a microfinance fellow in Senegal who was working with "Hmm, a fellowship to do microfinance in Senegal that would simultaneously allow me to study dance . . . AWESOME!" It turned out I didn't get to go to Senegal on that fellowship (instead I was stationed in Cameroon which is where I met my husband, a sweet story for another post), but that started me off on the fellowships track. Keep an eye out for fellowships because they pop up in unlikely places. 

I was just searching for Jaclyn Friedman's quote, "After this game, everyone better start calling it 'soccer' and 'men's soccer.'" when I came upon a Global Health Corps blog written by a 2014-15 Fellow. Global Health Corps Fellowships look awesome!! If I were in this sector, I would be onto something big. If this describes you, check it out!! 

All Global Health Corps fellows are motivated, intelligent, and believe health is a human right. They come from diverse backgrounds, and vary in educational experience, professional expertise, and personal story. Whether they have a background in management, education, research, technology or another field, each fellow brings a unique perspective to their Placement Organization and the GHC community. Fellows have meaningful impact on their Placement Organization during the fellowship year, while developing leadership skills and relationships within a supportive community that will prepare them for deepened impact on global health over the course of their careers.
— Global Health Corps Fellows - What's a fellow?

Apply HERE