Monthly Archives: August 2012

Gearing up for the NIW!

It is the unofficial end of summer–I’m exhausted from logging over 3,000 miles visiting various rural libraries as an outreach educator and I can’t wait to get my favorite restaurant cleared of the seemingly endless stream of tourists. What better way to get my groove back than from looking forward to the upcoming National Interpreter’s Workshop (NIW)?

I used to go, back in the days of travel money and staff enrichment–so many times that I have to look at my cheat sheet list of years gone and places visited. I enjoyed meeting new folks as well as friends I saw only at the NIW. I was a regular presenter with a loyal following. Sad to say, I haven’t been since the NIW was in Albuquerque!

I’m happy to report that I’m going this year—thanks to a generous scholarship from the Interpretive Naturalists section. The NIW will be in Hampton, VA, practically in my backyard, so it would be a crime not to make the effort. I’m even presenting!

Since it has been a while, I’ve started making a list of things to bring and stuff to be sure to do—if you are fortunate enough to go and haven’t been in a while or if this if your first time, I hope this list will help you, too!

Be prepared to schlep stuff home:  You are going to have lots of opportunities to collect lots of stuff—from the concurrent sessions, to the exhibitors, to field trip gift shops, to the silent and live auctions. Pack an empty bag or refill the space used to bring auction items (see below).

Showcase your site with auction items:  Both the silent and live auctions need items to sell to raise money for student scholarships. Why not bring items that reflect your site? You can even include entry passes or coupons for events or trips from your place.

Plan to be inspired by the keynote speakers:  Some are well known, some are local folks but all deserve your time and attention. I especially remember an a cappella version of Alaska’s state song that gave me chills!

Don’t forget the folks back home:  If your friend watched your dog, if your spouse soloed with your kids, if your coworkers are holding down the fort while you kick up your heels for the week, why not bring back some token of your esteem? Also remember the different departments within your organization. Could your exhibits staff use some ideas for a new exhibit? How about the gift shop—do they need a fresh line of trinkets to sell? Keep your eyes open for all such gifts and if you heeded the suggestion above, you will have room to bring your treasures home.

Choose concurrent sessions that are not in your job description:  If you are not a manager, take part in a session designed to help managers. If you not tech savvy, find a discussion on the latest app or electronics. If you are into natural history, choose a field trip that is more culturally based. It is never wrong to broaden your perspective!

Don’t blow off the Saturday concurrent sessions:  As a frequent Saturday speaker, we appreciate folks staying to the final bell of the NIW. Some of these late sessions are the best of the week with speakers who are at the top of their game. Besides it is always nice to end the NIW on a high note!

So here’s hoping I see you in November—much inspired and better rested! And if you can’t go this year, start looking for the next opportunity to go—the effort is well worth the work!



Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is your resume ready for the job?

Now that you have found a great job to apply for, it is time to craft a resume that makes you stand out from the pack.  As a manager, it is still surprising to me how many people write out long paragraphs detailing their job history.  On the flip side, not including enough information can be just as detrimental.    The best way is to find a balance between the two and to tell ‘your story’ in a way that makes you the perfect fit for the job.

1)       One size does not fit all.  Many people develop a single resume and send it to each and every job posting they find.  Those who are truly successful, however, take the time to make small changes in wording to emphasize key words from the actual job posting of the job they are applying.  Pepper in key words and phrases from the job posting to accentuate skills and experiences you already possess.

2)      Develop an eye-catching headline.  In larger text below the header of your resume, give yourself a headline such as Experienced Naturalist and Education Coordinator.  This grabs the attention of the person who is sifting through hundreds of resumes immediately and also provides key words for search engines.

3)      Tell your story.  Below your headline, in 3-5 sentences summarize the ‘theme’ of your experience.  If you have coordinated camps, detail that experience including the types of audiences you have worked with and any logistical coordination you have handled.

4)      Areas of expertise.  In 3-6 bullets below your story, list areas you consider yourself an expert.  This will grab the attention of the person reviewing your resume and prompt them to continue reading.  Begin each bullet with an action word such as ‘Coordinated, Designed, Trained, Managed, etc.’  Use this section to sell yourself.

5)      Work History.  In today’s economy, it is not uncommon to have gaps in your work history or even times you did ‘odd’ jobs.  Break up your work history into two sections:  Professional Experience and Other Work Experience.  Don’t discount the times you cleaned animal cages or worked at a grocery store.  Times like that build character, but don’t belong in your Professional Experience section.

6)      Education.  This is pretty much a given.  You worked hard for those degrees!  Be sure to list them but keep this section fairly short.

7)      Professional Associations and Development.  List any professional organizations you have membership with (NAI) and trainings you have completed.  Be sure to list dates as well.  Some employers need to know certifications and the dates those are effective.

8)      Other information.  You have the option of including information about volunteer work you have done, computer proficiencies, and awards you have received.  Keep this section short and to the point.

Good luck!

Melissa O’Lenick

Categories: Jobs / Professional Development | Leave a comment

The Dreaded Guest Survey

I know, I know, I can hear your groans from my desk! But this is not that kind of how-to. I promise.

I’ve been there, and I’m sure most of you have also found yourself in the same situation – figuring out what the customer wants, and assessing how successful your programming is through the various types of customer surveys. I’m by far not an expert in this realm, but my assistant pointed out something this week that I had never thought of – using what’s already out there via the internet!

I don’t know why I have never considered this in the past. I have even used this hidden treasure trove of information in the past for my own personal use. Travel websites!

After a quick search I found some of the best reviews for my site to be: Trip Advisors, yelp,,, and How many of you have actually checked out your own site here? If you are not listed in these sites, consider establishing a listing.

Now this is definitely not a scientific process of data collection. You cannot get a precise question answered. You have no way of controlling the sample of customers that respond to this type of “survey”. But you also haven’t invested time and money in the development of a survey, administered the survey, nor tabulated the answers!

What you can get from these travel sites are very candid, non-pressured reviews. But as with all surveys, there are some things to consider when looking at these sites. You will have 3 typical types of reviewers – those that were in amazement of your site, those that were really upset, and those that are avid reviews (like on trip advisor) that review everything and every location they visit.

There are nuggets of information that you can gather from the travel reviews if you are fortunate enough to have several (or several hundred!) reviews. Demographical information can be massaged out of the reviews if you look at the reviewers bios. Also, on most of these websites you can see where the reviewers come from. A reoccurring theme I saw in the reviews of my site was that more than 60% of the reviewers were coming from a specific metropolitan area.

But you can also see their opinions of your programs, facilities, and sometimes even specific staff members. Are you meeting their expectations? Exceeding them? Or missing an interpretive opportunity that multiple reviewers wish they had “seen” at your site?

Scientific? No. Informative? Yes! And I also learned that I need to go and give one of my front line interpreters some praise from having been identified in a very positive light in many recent reviews.

Some commentary on the pros and cons of these travel sites and the reviews that are posted on the websites can be read here:

Categories: General, Interpretation tools | Leave a comment

Interpreting through Social Media

Watching the Olympics has been a bit of a challenge for me, between work and being able to receive updates on my phone or read all the articles and notes online totally ignoring the “spoiler alerts”. By the time I get to my TV I know half of the results, this takes half of the excitement of watching volleyball, swimming or track and field knowing the result ahead of time.

London 2012 has proven to be the first olympic games where fans and athletes are sharing on social media every single detail in their lives, from good restaurants, and taxi drivers to rant about the IOC prohibiting athletes to name their sponsors on their walls, or tweets. Fans have also flex their muscle on social media by tweeting about their disappointment with NBC’s delayed broadcast (keeping costumers happy could be an entire different blog post).

It is important to use social media as a communication tool between our resources and the audience, if you plan your wall posts, tweets, pins, etc, properly your audience will be engaged and more likely to engage on a two way communication with you. This is the greatest advantage of social media, being able to not only send messages out but be able to receive messages and listen to our audience automatically.

A few months back a NASCAR race was temporarily stopped because of an accident and race cars stopped on the track for 20 minutes or so. One driver had his smart phone on hand, took a picture from his dashboard and sent it his twitter followers. By the time the race was over he added over 100,000 followers and just as many comments and retweets. If you give your audience what they want they will share with others and “spread the word”.

Twitter / Brad Keslowski

Twitter / Brad Keslowski

Next time you are wondering where your audience is or why they are not getting your “message” whatever that means to you, look at your computer (or smart phone) and hopefully you will share with all the users that can get posts and follow you from their smart phones.

As a side note, in the month of March 2012 the number of smart phone users outnumber basic phone users.

Categories: Interpretation tools | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: