Always finish what you star…

beautiful blonde woman painter

Unfinished projects. They have a beauty of their own – that half-woven basket with its neat rows giving way to unruly fibres yet to be twisted in… That story draft with its gaps to be filled and character arcs to be realised. The sketched portrait with just white space where the smile will be.

Regulars at our Silver Jewellery Studio – Anne, James and Margaret – each have a box of little works in progress. Each week they dip in and out, pick a project up, work it a bit before setting it aside again… it’s all part of a meandering learning curve that says “I’ll just put that away until I’ve got the skills to go the next step…”

If you are one of the many humans who start things easily but struggle with the follow through to completion, you may feel guilt or frustration at these objects of incomplete beauty. You may feel them mocking you each time you open the bottom drawer or clear out the cupboard.

But we say let’s forgive ourselves for starting things – and celebrate all those unfinished projects for the qualities they have and the lessons they teach.

Because life itself is a work in progress and lifelong learning is never complete.

Start where you are…

Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can… as the saying goes.

No time may feel like the right time to set off down a scary path, but if you wait for it all to be in alignment, you may never take that first step.

“Starting my own business was a fast track to self development”, says SCC student and Alison Gorman. Late last year she attended Build a Side Business to flesh out an idea she’d had brewing for a while. This year she gave up her job to focus full time on Inkling Writing Studio, running children’s creative writing classes.Screen Shot 2019-09-27 at 8.55.02 am

Ready is as ready does

“I didn’t know this (until the course) but I was really ready to get going.” Alison had shopped around for small business courses, but most were “the whole box and dice” she says. Having just a “vague and nebulous idea” for her business, she found Build a Side Business to be perfect. It is “bite sized and focussed” – making the time and cost commitment an easier investment at that early stage.

At the course Alison filled her (now “lucky”) notebook, then launched Inkling Writing Studio right away. “In December I ran my first pop-up workshop…” January saw two classes, and by March she decided to quit her job to invest in the new business. “My primary school classes are now booked out,” she says.

“I felt sick in my stomach starting out”, Alison says, but the course helped her learn how to communicate the value of her business and “it made me really organised”.

A colourful celebrant…

For Peter Conlon, it was all in with the longer How to Start a Business course. Having completed his qualification to become a marriage celebrant in June, he got straight down to learn about creating a business plan to help get “clear vision for the kind of business I want to have”, he says.

Peter Conlon

Births, Deaths and Marriages is a poetic place to be leaving to start a celebrant business. Peter has done some “soul searching” while working there to find his niche market as a celebrant and he’s now ready to work with people at the more human side of these life milestones. His point of difference is the characters he has created for his celebrant work. There’s the drag queen Della Deluxe, a cat lady called Cecily Birman – plus an Aussie type character yet to be fleshed out and named.

“You need to be open to all kinds of celebration” says Peter, and the characters will bring fun, personality and colour to his events.

And it’s not just launching the business where short courses can help. His characters and performance are developing through an Acting course and Standup Comedy for Beginners in the pipeline.

You’d be surprised how ready you can be with just one great idea. So all you need to get started is a duck or two – then work as you go getting them into a row…

Don’t worry, it’s just a stage

Actors on stage

It just never gets old, hearing stories about achievements, connections and life changes that happen following our short courses.

Students at our recent Acting and Playwriting classes have fleshed out their short course experience through involvement at Crash Test Drama – a regular event in Darlinghurst where writers can see their work performed by actors practicing their skills.

Pete Malicki, who teaches a range of courses for SCC – including Acting for Beginners, Writing Short Plays and Creative Industries Business Skills – has run this artist development program for ten years. Original short plays are submitted, with actors given just 90 minutes to rehearse before performing live. It’s an opportunity for writers to test what’s working, while performers stretch their skills in learning lines and interpreting the drama in a very limited time. “It’s great for developing audition skills”, says Pete.

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September’s event saw five students for Sydney Community College join in after completing one of our courses.

Law student Ta-seen Monzoor was in the winning play on the night, the audience’s choice to go through to finals in December. A full time uni student, Ta-seen signed up to learn acting “just for fun” on the side. “It’s a good break from studying,” she says. It uses a different way of thinking.” It’s a practice she says she’ll take into the future, to balance creative activities alongside her working life.

Like Ta-seen, IT professional Raef Kandil also took up acting as a creative side pursuit. “I was looking for something to enhance my confidence and push me towards a management role”, he says. But Acting for Beginners 1 led to the level 2 course as well for Raef, when a friendship group formed among the students and they signed up to continue learning. He doesn’t want to be a professional actor, he says, “I’m just exploring. But it’s taken me outside my comfort zone and given me a lot more confidence”.

Actor Lorraine Toweel attended Short Playwriting at SCC. Also taught by Pete Malicki (who’s penned an impressive number of one-act plays as featured in Short & Sweet Festival – but that’s another story), the practical writing course gets students working on single-act and short plays. While Lorraine got to experience her words come to life on stage, her piece “King Kuddlies” took out the Playwright’s Encouragement Award on the night. As acting experience enriches her writing, so writing plays adds skills and understanding to her work as an actor.

20190907_213813Whatever the reason for signing up for a short course – be it a career goal or curiosity, boredom or a need for social contact – a learning experience can take you beyond what you had in mind, and off in a new direction.

Keeping up with the phoneses

It used to be about the Joneses next door: the car, the lawn, the picket fence… But now social pressures are felt through our screens. And it’s not just having the latest phone or fashion, it’s about who’s living their best life, who’s telling the best stories.

All those Citizen Janes and Jamals out there posting, liking and story-ing up a storm. Connecting to their online communities, creating content, sharing news, forming opinions…

And then there’s the shopping. Which, for anyone in business, means not just your personal socials to stay across, there’s the whole colourful, moving and changeable world of social media marketing.

Upset puzzled woman uses mobile phone for online communication, types text messages on cellular, dressed in red sweater and trousers, isolated over purple background. Hmm, what strange notification

A social media marketing strategy is a great place to start, as it defines what you want to say, where, when and to whom. There’s not much point trying to engage teens via Facebook (their numbers are dropping dramatically in this space), and Instagram content or TikTok will be all wrong for your over 65s (though older demographics are increasingly saying yes to Facebook).

Social content by definition should resonate the right voice. Whether marketing for sales or gaining support for a cause, it’s important to stay consistent to your brand’s values and personality. But you should nuance your tone to suit the platform: we’re talking professional for LinkedIn, lighter on the more social platforms.

It won’t have escaped most people’s attention that content is on the move. Even the basic social toolkit and content calendar should now include videos and regular stories. On both Instagram and Facebook, stories are right up the top of the screen, and increasingly competing with the regular feeds for user time, attention and engagement.

And for some years now, social media marketing has also been on the move towards mobile – with the “mobile-responsive” user experience now stepping aside for “mobile only” in many areas. Which brings us back to those phoneses.

According to Think with Google, 90% of millennials have at least one mobile phone and 75% of people say their smartphones help them to be more productive.

So the ever-changing world of social media and marketing brings with it the challenge to constantly adapt and keep up. If you’re feeling overwhelmed you’d be forgiven for wanting to pass it all on to the nearest teenager. But we think it connects rather nicely to the concept of lifelong learning

All that glitters isn’t gold…

There’s silver as well!

Silver linings, silver spoons, silver fox, silver tail. To silver is even an Olympic verb, as they say, “I silvered in Rio” (Ok, this means to come second – but at the highest place you possibly could!)

And then there’s silver the shiny stuff. They say the ancient Egyptians valued it above gold. It’s also the most conductive metal we know, and it’s been used for cloud seeding to make rain… which brings us back to those silver linings.

So here’s to silver and its many uses – not least of all as a very fine way to make sparkle. You can even learn how to “bling” your own!

Our silver jewellery studio in Rozelle has seen many a sparkly project – from beginners just starting on the jewellery making basics, to the weekly studio group that gathers to work on more advanced techniques. The classes have seen adults of all ages and backgrounds, attracted to a creative pursuit away from the screens to work with their hands in fine detail, soldering and forming with metals.

We’ve seen couples and besties attend together to collaborate on the most special of rings. And new friendships form as students gather to learn new skills, creative expression and problem solving.

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Anne, James and Margaret – regulars at our weekly studio session – say they enjoy the opportunity to work together with a teacher to develop their skills and use the tools. “It’s a chance to commit the time”, says Margaret, “it’s a lovely space” (that’s James), while Anne who lives in an apartment, appreciates the “opportunity to use the workshop without investing in all the equipment”.

Click here for a peek at the workshop…

A different kind of date night …

Meet the Ottoman Engineers

We recently had the pleasure of teaching two engineers how to stuff an Ottoman!

Sydney couple Ellen and Will were looking for a new kind of date night when they signed up to learn Woodworking & Upholstery. The course was a Christmas gift from Ellen, inspired by Will’s reputation for being “not so good with the tools”. And like much of what they learn together, it became a little competitive – as Will’s “measure twice” approach was pitted against Ellen’s “keepin’ it creative”.

Ellen and Will
Image: @renewedbyannette

“He’s all about correct measurements and colour coordination”, says Ellen, “while I take a more creative approach.” After the first class, teacher Annette quipped on Instagram “What do you get when an engineer couple attend a night class? Precision measuring and a spot of friendly competition. It’s going to be fun watching these ottomans come together… By the end of the course she was impressed to say “they even put down their rulers and ‘freestyled’ the placement of their decorative upholstery tacks as a finishing touch”.

Environmental engineer Ellen said she and her chemical engineer husband really enjoyed the experience and looked forward to every Monday night class. “It’s a different approach to date night” says Ellen. “I loved every aspect, with (the Bower’s) ethos on repair.”

Ellen and Will 2
Ta-dah! Image: @renewedbyannette

This couple are not alone in seeking out things they can learn together. Many Sydney Community College enrolments come in twos, as couples, friends and family members look for creative ways to spend time together. It’s a night out, but not focussed around eating and drinking, and when you’re focussed on a project together, the conversation can flow more easily.

But it’s not always BYO friend, as many also attend solo but make new acquaintances along the way – and you know you’re going to have at least one thing in common with someone you meet at a class.

And as for our couple Ellen and Will, perhaps they’ll turn up next at “Interior Decoration Made Simple” to learn how to make those Ottomans not compete with each other back at home.

Manage Time Like a Pro

Do you dream of being an organised person?
The definition of Time Management according to the Collins Dictionary is the process of deciding on the order in which you will do tasks, and making sure that they are done on schedule. So what is good time management? Using an effective time management strategy to get the very most out of your day.

Does this sound like you?
• You never seem to be able to check off all the items on your to-do list.
• It seems like there’s an endless number of tasks and never enough time.
• You dream of a work-life balance.
• You are stressed at work.
• You may miss deadlines.

If you answered yes to any of these, perhaps some effective Time Management Techniques could be the answer you have been looking for. These can include setting goals.

Goal setting is key to any good time management strategy. Their job is to Goals keep you on task and on track. You need to define goals that are clear and attainable. Once you’ve set your goals and determined the individual tasks you need to complete to achieve them, it’s time to prioritise.

The idea is that you work through a to-do list based on importance and urgency. As you complete each one, cross it off your to-do list. This is going to provide you with a sense of achievement and can motivate you to keep pushing through the rest of your list. Basically getting stuff done. Revisit you list often and add new items as soon as they appear to keep on top of your day.

The better you are at maintaining focus and managing your time, the more you will achieve, and the easier it will be for you to leave the office on time. Not only does effective time management allow you to get better results at work, it also helps you deal with stress and achieve that desired work-life balance. You’ll be surprised at how much more efficient you can be.

It may just be that you need to learn to just say no. Be your own work boss. If you have to decline a call for help from a colleague in order to attend to what’s truly important and urgent, perhaps you need to say no, or if more palatable, “sure I’ll help when my work is done”.

First and foremost though, make a plan ahead. One of the worst things common mistake you can do is jump into your workday with no clear idea about what needs to be done. While it might seem like wasting more time to think ahead rather than getting straight down to business, if you plan your time wisely, it helps you work smarter, not harder.

Anyone can efficiently manage their time as long as they get organised first.
Many surveys confirm that employees believe up to 30% of their day is wasted. Time is our most precious resource. Create your own time management strategy that works for you at our Effective Time Management course. Ideal for Employees with time pressures at all levels and for all business types and sizes.

You can be a time management pro, sign up for the next Sydney Community College Effective Time Management class here.