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Soft Skills Revolution: Finding Soft Skill Value

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor,  lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come back the first Tuesday of each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

FINDING SOFT SKILL VALUE

I used to have a hard time finding my keys. Then I bought this little plastic disk that my phone can make beep. They’re usually sitting right on the counter, hidden in plain sight.

A recent survey of 2.6 million employers reported that 59% have difficulty finding candidates who are proficient in “soft skills.” I believe that soft skilled people are really not that hard to find. They just need to tag their skills with the equivalent of that beeping disk.

Making your own soft skill set “beep” out begins with understanding why they’re “soft”, what are the skills and the value to employers.

The Soft
Among the most sought-after soft skills are the “4 Cs”: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity.

The term soft skills was originally defined by the Army in 1972 as

“Job functions about which we know a good deal are hard skills and those about which we know very little are soft skills.”

From the beginning soft skills have been associated with misunderstanding.

One of the biggest insights to soft skills is how little we know about them and ourselves. Studies like Sage Journals “Perceived Versus Actual Transparency of Goals in Negotiation” have shown how we believe others see us and what they actually perceive are statistically unrelated. The only accurate way to gauge how you’re being perceived is to ask someone else.

And yet, as Seth Godin points out “what actually separates thriving organizations from struggling ones are the difficult-to-measure attitudes, processes and perceptions of the people who do the work.”

The Skills
In that aptly titled post, “Let’s Stop Calling Them ’Soft Skills,” Godin argues that the term should be avoided:

“We call these skills soft, making it easy for us to move on to something seemingly more urgent. We rarely hire for these attributes because we’ve persuaded ourselves that vocational skills are impersonal and easier to measure.”

He feels that they are more accurately understood as “real skills” because of their impact on businesses:

“…when an employee demoralizes the entire team by undermining a project, or when a team member checks out and doesn’t pull his weight, or when a bully causes future stars to quit the organization — too often, we shrug and point out that this person has tenure, or vocational skills or isn’t so bad. But they’re stealing from us.”

He then goes on to list nearly 100 different skill sets in five categories that make up his first draft of real skills.

The Value
Godin’s argument carries significant weight when you consider how reliant the economy is on soft skills. Three decades ago 83% of the value of an S&P 500 company was in its tangible assets—real estate, equipment, inventory. Today 87% of the value is in intangible assets—ideas, brand, or stories.

Companies that had paid workers to build value with their labor now pay them to create with their minds. The majority of companies’ value can no longer be delivered by trucks. Instead, the majority of worth is created, transmitted and maintained through soft skill mastery.

Developing mastery is also hiding in plain sight. The process is the same one practiced by athletes, artists and entrepreneurs.

More on that later. I have to find my phone.

To be continued….

Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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A Safe Space to Grow

Pew Research Center’s fall 2016 analysis on Internet and Technology finds that “people think that libraries are a major contributor to their communities in providing a safe place to spend time.” There are few public “safe spaces” out there that provide a welcoming, neutral and resource filled environment like libraries. So how does this translate to a space like the James J. Hill Center, where entrepreneurs come to network, research and build their business?

The Hill is historically known as the James J. Hill Reference Library. Regardless of the name change, the heart of the organization has been, is and always will be the library. We are one of those “safe spaces” dedicated to creating a place where business professionals and innovators can make mistakes, test ideas and take risks – a place to grow.

Walk in the door, and you’ll experience the business neutral environment – you don’t need to have an established business to use our resources. We are that safe space for the seed level start-up, and even before then in the exploratory phase. According to Pew Research, there is an increase in the need for those experts or guides (we like to call them librarians!) to identify information that they can trust – in 2016, 37% of people said that libraries play a role in helping to identify this trusted information, up from 24% in 2015. This will only grow, as Google provides a starved environment for data you can bring to a board or potential investor, and boards and potential investors demand more data to support risk taking opportunities.

Starting a business or changing careers can put you in murky territory, but our business librarians at the Hill Center are here to help. Our librarians are on-hand to navigate not only the exclusive databases that can be accessed here for free, but also to help seek out other free resources that can be accessed from anywhere. The Hill is a safe space to try something on for size, reach for your dreams and find your potential – and as your guide we promise to give you our honest, expert opinion.

Written by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Bridging Digital Divides

On May 16th and 17th of 2017 the  James J. Hill Center was happy to house an important conference presented by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.  The conference was on Digital Inclusion.  It was an eye opening experience to understand the full scope of our digital world and the work that needs to be done to ensure all people have access and opportunity to grow in our continually growing digital community. We felt NDIA was an important organization for others to know about and took a few minutes to chat virtually with their Director, Angela Siefer.

What do you want people to know about NDIA and what sets it apart?
NDIA is a unified voice representing digital inclusion programs across the country. This role is unique. It is why we exist. Local digital inclusion programs are doing the incredibly hard work of  increasing home broadband access, running public broadband access labs, teaching digital skills and getting appropriate devices into the hands of the most disadvantaged among us.

NDIA does this through:

  • Developing and empowering a community of practice of digital inclusion programs in our communities.
  • Discussing the full definition of digital inclusion, related challenges and solutions with decision makers and partners.

How did your organization begin?
In the spring of 2015, representatives of local digital inclusion programs and national digital inclusion advocates launched the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA). We did so because federal policy was being discussed that would impact the work of local digital inclusion programs yet the expertise of these programs (even the existence of these programs) was not part of the discussion. NDIA currently represents over 250 affiliates, most of whom are community based organizations, libraries and local government entities with digital inclusion programs.

What do you feel has been NDIA’s biggest impact so far?

  • Developing definitions of digital inclusion and digital equity that have furthered an understanding and increased awareness of programming gaps.
  • Influencing federal policymaking (including the modernization of Lifeline).
  • Influencing local policymaking, particularly through Digital Inclusion Trailblazers.
  • Strengthening programs through information sharing online and at our annual gathering Net Inclusion.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success your organization has faced?
NDIA is a bootstrap startup nonprofit program. Starting with nothing has been both a challenge and a strength.

What advice would you give to businesses and organizations regarding digital inclusion efforts?
Look for potential partners.  The most impactful programs are those that work collaboratively in their communities and have trusted relationships with the individuals they are serving.

What do you see for the future of our digital world?
Technology will keep changing and more digital divides will develop. We as a society can shrug our shoulders or we can work together to create solutions that strengthen our communities.

To read more about NDIA and their continued efforts to increase a unified voice for digital inclusion please visit their website at digitalinclusion.org.  

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Cabinets of Curiosity

With some recent archival projects on our plate an article from MPR News caught the attention of Lindsey Dyer our Director of Library Services. “File this under nostalgia: New book pays tribute to the library card catalog shares information about a new book from the Library of Congress entitled,  “The Card Catalog: Books, Cards and Literary Treasures.”  It celebrates catalogs “as the analog ancestor of the search engine.” Library of Congress author, Peter Deveraux, states that “There’s tens of millions of cards here.  It’s a city block long.” This was a very timely article considering some of the historic catalog items we recently found here at the James J. Hill Center.  Lindsey recently took some time to dig up and share a few iconic treats from the vault.

Lindsey: Card catalogs are indeed “cabinets of curiosities” as are the ways we have kept track of information over time. Librarians worked tirelessly to create calm in the chaos of information, cutting and pasting any relevant facts and tid-bits. Take these snapshots in time from the 1980s – gems of nostalgia for Gen Xers and older millennials. What research paper would be complete without the help of the card catalog?

At the Hill, business librarians had a special task of identifying and capturing industry trends – like how Nike is taking over the sneaker industry, or the rise in fax machine sales. While the methods have certainly changed (we aren’t cutting out and taping facts to cards, though I have to admit that sounds cathartic), we still aim to find the best industry information there is, combing databases (paid and free), and translating that information.

We have been, and always will be, an entrepreneur’s best resource!

Visit the James J. Hill Center and it’s reference library Monday through Thursday 10AM to 5PM and check out all of the current resources.  Also, ask one of our business librarians for some assistance with a database and see what gems of knowledge you can find to build you business success.

 

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Reference Transformation & Relevance

We can’t officially wrap up National Library Week without reflecting on the week’s theme of transformation, and what that means to reference libraries like ours at the Hill Center.

When the value of a cultural institution is in question, it’s really the relevance of the institution that’s at stake. For reference libraries many times their relevance is translated into the number of visitors, number of clicks, and number of positive survey results – but even with this data, the impression of relevance can often times be missed. In order to truly understand relevancy, we need to understand our impact on a case-by-case basis and this is often times qualitative.  We need to ask questions like – have we transformed to meet the real needs of our community? Are we providing an inclusive space to think differently, share ideas and take risks? These questions are hard to measure but at the Hill Center we have begun to see the results.

James J. Hill has played a pivotal role in introducing me to the start-up culture. From presenting at 1 Million Cups and attending its many thought-leader panels, I have richly benefited from the proactive resources and seemingly infinite networking opportunities”  Entrepreneur

“The fact that I have this resource available to me, both the facility and research staff, is an absolute relief.”
Business Owner

According to IBISWorld, the Library industry forecasts a slow and steady growth in the next five years – whereas the online database and print book industries are forecasting a decline. This tells us that the nature of the traditional reference library is already transforming into new arenas. At the Hill, this means that beyond offering key business information, we don’t just rely on what we have – we rely on who we know – and what we can do.

At the Hill Center, we meet our community at every point in their entrepreneurial journey. Whether you’re thinking about starting a business or find yourself needing data to branch out into a new market – we have the “secret sauce” that will get you to the next level. What’s the recipe? We like to think our people make all the difference.

Being relevant isn’t just about having relevant information – it’s about having a welcoming space for ideas to fly. The Hill Center creates a space for meaningful engagement in our business community – and it shows. Come to a 1 Million Cups presentation on a Wednesday morning, and you will see the space transformed into a conduit for idea and talent sharing, and just sometimes that right connection to take your idea to the next level.

What I appreciate most about the Hill Center, is the continued commitment from staff to uphold the entrepreneurial spirit of our “founding father,” James J. Hill. The original entrepreneur, Hill didn’t take hard work for granted, and neither do we. We’re here to make that hard work a little easier for you, forging a path that will make a difference – and hard work is always relevant.

“Work, hard work, intelligent work, and then more work.” – James J. Hill


Composed by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. 
It you have more questions about the Reference Library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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The Hill Reference Roundup

From Georgia to NOVA…

dsc_5025

October at the Hill was buzzing with visitors from as far as Georgia to our own Nova Classical Academy.  They stopped in to build lists, research start ups or just catch a glimpse of history. Another prefect example of the vast array of people our Reference Specialists visit with day to day.

Here are some of the examples of who, what and why people stopped in…  

  • Our reference library staff assisted over 130 researchers in October.
  • Most researchers were from Minnesota, though one researcher this month was visiting all the way from Savannah, Georgia.
  • Several researchers this month came to use our resources to build a list of businesses.
  • It was a great month to build a list of businesses, as we began a subscription to A to Z Databases this month. Come check out this new resource, with the most up-to-date data and a user-friendly interface.
  • The majority of our visitors in October are in the start-up or growth stage of their businesses.
  • One researcher investigated digital strategy and digital disruption using our journal subscriptions to titles like Harvard Business Review, McKinnsey Quarterly and Sloan Management Review.
  • Another researcher explored demographic data related to recreation trends to help develop a marketing plan.
  • A group of about 30 students from Nova Classical Academy stopped in to view our space. As one girl gazed at the second level of the building in awe, she asked our librarians, “What do the people in those offices do?!”

 We look forward to seeing you at the Hill.  Contact a Reference Specialist today!

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The Hill Reference Round-Up

Blue Prints to Business Plans…
building-plans-sept

September at the Hill was buzzing with visitors from students to entrepreneurs researching blue prints to business plans.  It is a prefect example of the vast amount of resources our Reference Specialists have at their fingertips.

Here are some examples of who, what and why people visited us! 

  • Over 110 researchers welcomed in September.
  • Most researchers were from Minnesota, and a few traveled from Wisconsin.
  • Several researchers this month came to use our resources to help them develop their business plans.
  • The majority of our visitors in September self-identify as entrepreneurs.
  • A student from the U of M studying architecture viewed historic building blueprints for a course project.
  • One researcher explored sales data and patent information related to exercise equipment.
  • We often welcome job seekers, but had one unique researcher this month, who works to support individuals with severe mental illness and conducted job searches on behalf of those individuals to locate potential workplaces near their homes to accommodate transportation limitations.

We look forward to seeing you at the Hill.  Contact a Reference Specialist today!

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There Are No Stupid Questions!

Many sticky notes with questions like who, what, when, where, how and why, and a question mark, all posted on an office noteboard to represent confusion in communincation

You can imagine the vast array of questions a resource library gets asked in one day.  In my brief time sitting at the JJ Hill Centers front desk on a Wednesday afternoon I was asked, “Can I look up every address I ever lived at?” and “Do you have a book that would show me where to find all the award emblems that can be given to student in school?” Our reference librarians can almost always find an answer and if not, they can point you in the right direction.  We are a business reference library and we cover every business imaginable, which leaves us with a vast database of facts and details that people quickly discover can connect them to more information than they may have thought.

But, is there ever a question that is too off the chart to answer?  In short, no. In December 2014 the Gothamist reported on a discovery found at the New York City Library.  A reference librarian was cleaning house and found a large box of old reference questions from the 1940s and 50s.  Questions varied from “What is a life span of an eyelash?” to “What percentage of bathtubs in the world are in the US?” to “Where can I rent a beagle for hunting?” Amazingly enough the system back then was the same as today and a reference librarian called them back with an answer.  There were of course question where answers could not be found, but the fact that people asked gives a wonderful nod to the trusted resource a reference library held then and still does today.

Here at the Hill we believe there are no stupid questions.  So, if you can’t find it when you search online and you want to dig deeper, contact us.  As the esteemed and highly respected Carl Sagan once said “There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every questions is a cry to understand the world.” Come learn with us!

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The Hill’s Guide for Job Searchers

By Leah Kodner, Business Reference Librarian


 

Are you looking for a new job or even thinking about switching careers entirely? At the James J. Hill Center, our librarians help people every day with the job search and career exploration process. We have a number of databases that can help you make the transition much easier and help you find your next job sooner.

Selecting an Industry

If you’re thinking of switching careers, you’ll want to do a little research first. You want to make sure that, whatever industry you choose to work in, there are going to be job opportunities. Looking up potential industries in our IBISWorld database is a good place to start. IBIS can tell you about the industry’s performance over the past few years and can give you its outlook for the coming years.

Another source for industry research is the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. The Business Journal publishes articles about industries every week. After learning about the state of your industry across the entire country in IBISWorld, you can use the Business Journal to learn how the industry is performing locally.

current performance

 The “Current Performance” section of IBISWorld’s report on Libraries and Archives in the U.S.

 

Performing Industry Research

When you’re researching your new industry, there are a few things you’ll want to know. You’ll want to know what products or services the industry provides, what trends it’s been experiencing, and who it serves. IBISWorld, again, is a good place to go for that information.

To learn about all the recent developments within your industry, EBSCO is a useful tool. The EBSCO database is an article conglomerator, gathering articles from industry journals, news sources, and trade publications. It can keep you up to date on all the latest news within your industry.

Finally, you will want to learn what companies operate in your industry. It will be especially important to discover which companies are located near where you live, so you can begin to look for jobs within the industry. Luckily, we have some great sources for finding companies!

ebsco articles

EBSCO articles about trends in the library industry

 

Finding Companies in Your Industry

The best way to find companies in your industry is to use Gale DemographicsNow. Gale allows users to build targeted lists of companies based on either the SIC or NAICS code for your industry. You can search for companies in any area of the country, choosing from states, counties, cities, Zip codes, or even a mileage radius from a specific address. Gale can also help you limit the size of companies you search for, using number of employees or annual revenue. You can narrow your search to companies with minority ownership, search for only company headquarters, and more. Clearly, Gale DemographicsNow is the most comprehensive way to build lists of companies.

Another way to find companies in your industry is the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal’s Book of Lists. The Book of Lists contains “best of” lists that have been published in the Business Journal over the past year. These lists provide the top players in a given industry within the Twin Cities metro area. If you are looking to find a list of the local big players in your industry, this is the place to go.

We have a number of other databases that can find companies in your industry. PrivCo can find large private companies, Guidestar can find nonprofits, and Uniworld can find companies with branches in foreign countries. Between all these sources, you can find all the companies you want in your industry.

gale list

Gale DemographicsNow list of libraries in St. Paul

 

Company Research

If you are interested in working for a specific company, it’s important to research them in-depth. Good sources for individual company research include EBSCO, Gale DemographicsNow, and PrivCo. EBSCO can give you all the latest news updates about the company. Gale DemographicsNow can tell you its size, year established, the number of branches, and its competitors. If the company is private, PrivCo can provide more information than you’ll find anywhere else. With our databases, you’ll learn all there is to know about the company you’re researching.

 privco profile

Part of PrivCo’s profile of The Library Corporation, a private company in the U.S.

 

Stop by The Hill today and let our librarians help you with your research! The James J. Hill Center is open Monday-Thursday from 10-5.

 

 

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4 Tips for Finding Startup Funding

We’ve all heard you need to spend money to make money, but when you’re starting a new business you might not have that luxury. Entrepreneurs need to promote themselves and their ideas any which way they can. Here are 4 free things you can do to find startup funding.

1. Do a grant search – Grants are extremely competitive, but the rewards are great. Many grants are available specifically for women and minority business owners. SBA.gov and The Foundation Directory Online (available at the James J. Hill Center – see description here, along with a list of our other databases) are good places to start.

2. Network and pitch – There are many business networking groups in which you can share your ideas and get feedback from peers. Practice pitching your business so that you’ll be great at it when the time comes to pitch to an investor! 1 Million Cups St. Paul at the James J. Hill Center is a good opportunity to meet fellow entrepreneurs, hear pitches, and pitch your own business.

3. Take out a loan – We know, we know, you might be paying off student loans and the idea of owing even more in the future isn’t appealing. But a small business loan can be a great help, as many of these loans are low-interest or designed for disaster recovery. Check out some opportunities at SBA.gov.

4. Buddy up – Having a great business partner can be key to funding your startup. Work with people whose strengths complement yours – maybe you’re more of an “ideas” person but don’t have impressive sales skills when it comes to pitching those idea to potential investors. This is where a business partnership can be beneficial. In entrepreneurship, you may feel like a pioneer, but it may not be best to go it alone.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

We are pleased to announce the completion of our elevator renovation at the James J. Hill Center. This project was financed in part with funds provided by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society and the F. R. Bigelow Foundation. It will greatly increase our ability to serve patrons with accessibility needs.

Please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit our brand new elevator!

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