I presented my first webinar this week.
I talked about risk management for the Association for Experiential Education. I based my presentation on the online training that I developed last year (RM101), which is essentially my summary of a framework regularly presented by risk management industry GIANTS at the Wilderness Risk Management Conference. I have given a lot of thought to the way I describe this framework and how it can be applied to outdoor education programs, but I’m relatively new to the risk management community. Because this was my first webinar and some of the GIANTS were listening in, I was nervous.
Based on a few measures of success, I think my webinar went pretty well: participants engaged in polls, they asked thoughtful questions, and they stayed with me until the end.
I also felt appreciated and respected when several of the GIANTS went out of their way to give me feedback right after the webinar. The folks who reached out to me have clearly given very difficult feedback in situations with far more at stake than my webinar, such as talking with instructors who made mistakes that led to injuries or death.
I want to share my experience with you so you can learn what the communication from these feedback masters had in common:
In addition, they drew on their experience as risk management GIANTS to educate me about what I needed to learn rather than scolding me for not knowing better. The result is that I feel like my webinar was appreciated and I am being welcomed into the risk management community. I realize that I have a lot to learn about incident databases, industry standards, and the legal underpinnings of managing risk, but I also believe that I also have a lot to offer in terms of the way we talk and think about risks on field programs. I also know that the industry GIANTS have my back – and yours – because they are committed to creating a supportive risk management community that deeply values learning from mistakes
My only regret with the webinar? That didn’t ask the giants for feedback sooner.
When I started working for Colorado Outward Bound my biggest worry was that one of my students would get hurt on a backpacking trip. I lay awake at night imagining nightmare scenarios: rock fall, lightning, stream crossings, careless students, sprained ankles, broken femurs, helicopter evacuations. I worried constantly between the time I was hired and the day I arrived for training.
I felt like a little kid worrying about unseen monsters under my bed. I didn’t know what they looked like or when they would attack or what they would do, but I knew that dangerous, scary monsters were there – and they were coming to get my students in the Colorado wilderness.
Looking back, my fears were completely normal because I did not yet have a framework to define and manage risk. The monsters I imagined were big and scary and – worst of all – unknown.
Then I learned to identify specific hazards. Once I learned the hazards, I could assess the risks. Once I understood risks, my co-instructors and I could manage them. Risks that can be defined and managed are not nearly as scary as the imaginary monster risks under your bed.
It is worth developing risk management systems to improve your program and calm your mind – and this is an excellent time of year to do just that because risk management learning opportunities abound:
I can say from experience that risk management monsters are scariest when you ignore them during the day and worry about them at night. Shine some light on your monsters this month.
What are you afraid of? Share your risk management monsters in the comments below this post for a chance to win FREE enrollment in RM101* ($95 value).
* If you’re already enrolled in the course, think of what a great holiday gift it would be for your boss. I’ll draw the winner on Tuesday, November 29th- the day right before the world’s greatest risk management webinar trilogy.
I asked people at the Association for Experiential Education conference a question: how do you find meaningful work – make a thoughtful plan or let it magically unfold?
(Full disclosure: as an incentive to answer the question, I held a drawing and gave away prizes. If you keep reading, you will see that I am giving away more prizes at the end of this post.)
Nearly everyone answered my question with a question: how do I find meaningful work or how should I find it?
How do you prefer to find it? I replied.
Seventy percent of the people I surveyed said that they would prefer to let their careers magically unfold. Seventy percent!
The message that we get from society is that successful people have a plan. Successful people know from a very young age what they want to do when they grow up. They use the knowledge of their perfect-match dream career to motivate them to get good grades in high school, use those grades to get into a good college, and land a satisfying, high-paying job as soon as they graduate. I think society is perpetuating a myth AND I think it is freaking people out.
I recently interviewed more than a dozen successful professionals in the fields of experiential education and conservation science to learn about their career paths. Not a single one of the people I interviewed said that they were aiming for this career from a young age. Several of them mentioned an aha moment when they knew what they wanted to do, but that moment was typically sometime in their twenties and more of a vague idea than a concrete plan. A few of the people I talked to had several different aha moments on several different career paths.
So, should you make a thoughtful plan or let your career magically unfold? You should probably do a little bit of both. Regardless of your path, you should take the time to study the profession once you have your “a ha” moment and you know what you want to do with your life. You owe it to yourself to do some research for two reasons. First, you’ll know what you are getting yourself into. Second, you will gain a leg up on the competition for your dream job because you’ll probably know more than they do. Do your homework by asking: who is working in jobs that appeal to you and how did they get there? What do they like and dislike about their job? Could you follow their path to a similar career? My previous post has suggestions for personal professional development (specifically see ideas see #4, #5, and #6).
What if you haven’t had your aha moment yet? I have a few ideas for that too. I developed a career mapping workshop that facilitates the career brainstorming, visioning, and professional research process. You can see an overview video here and the handout here. You will also be able to sign up for the online version of the workshop in December at www.educatewild.com.
Now I ask you, engaged reader, how do you find meaningful work – make a thoughtful plan or let it magically unfold? And when has that worked or not worked for you?
As a thank you for commenting on this post, I will send an Educate Wild! Outdoor Educator’s Tiny Bag of Tricks to one randomly selected person who comments on this post by noon PST on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 (Micah, this is your chance!).
The case for personal professional development
Teaching in the field can be so time-consuming (and energy consuming) that practitioners forget to take time for themselves. You might have a daily yoga practice and get out regularly to run, but what are you doing for your professional self? How are you paving the path to your next career move? How have you made yourself indispensable in your current position – or how are you building your skills to shift your career path?
These questions can feel overwhelming if you are already working 12-hour days, looking at an email inbox with 136 unanswered emails, and feeling guilty about not revising your incident response plan. How could you possibly take on one more thing? I argue: how could you not?
Professional development sometimes feels like something that you do for your employer – attending the state-mandated food handler training, keeping your Wilderness First Responder certification current, clicking through the slides for the online driver training – but I’m talking about enriching your professional skills, taking time to connect with people who are passionate about outdoor programs, and dreaming about your future.
Here are seven ideas to keep your skills fresh, your professional network growing, and your next move on the horizon:
Dr. Angie Moline is the founder of Educate Wild! and an adjunct faculty member in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability at Northern Arizona University.
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