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Getting Ready to Beat the Winter Blahs

I will be the first person to tell you that I love working from home. It’s not just the commute that makes a difference. I get to control the office temperature (which is really important as a woman of my age). I can work in different areas of my house to add some variety.

But even with all these advantages, I have begun to think about the cold weather that’s coming and what I will do the fend off the monotony of being in the same place all the time as well as the risk of fat-ass-syndrome.

Finding time to exercise was challenging when I went to the office every day but I knew that I could count on getting in some fast steps to and from the train station.

Now, no matter fast I leave my office, it is still only two flights down to the kitchen. With early morning meetings and evening interviews, going to the gym is not likely (if it’s even open)

Here is my winter strategy for moving and fresh air.

I got a little trampoline that leans against the wall of my office. I jump for 3 or 4 minutes when I am waiting for a call to start (or on mute during a less than interesting webinar)

My google home tells me when it’s 10am, 2pm and 4:45 and reminds me to move around and get a glass of water.

When I get lunch, I try to make sure I step outside on the porch or balcony and take a few deep breaths. I have even been known to open the window in my office and press my face against the screen for a few gulps of fresh air.

When I have more than a few minutes, I cue up a walk on YouTube. I just discovered these videos. You can walk in place or use a treadmill if you have one. Yesterday, I walked on the beach in Maui for 15 minutes. I put the ceiling fan high speed on to make it seem more real.

None of these are substitutes for getting together to do fun stuff with your friends but I think they will go far to helping to get thought the cold, dark parts of winter.

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LinkedIn is your Friend

LinkedIn has always been a great tool but during the pandemic, it’s even better.

It’s a first step to researching new opportunities.  You can look at actual job postings.  You can also look up companies that are doing cool things to see if they might have a role for you.

It has a myriad of other uses too.

You can look up old friends, former colleagues and classmates.  It’s fun to see what people are doing now and it is easy to send a note suggesting time to reconnect.  Hearing from an old friend is a great antidote to the loneliness of working at home.

People are posting lots and lots of content on LinkedIn.  It’s not a substitute for actual news but it is a way to see what’s going on in an industry. You can check out the posts by companies, associations and thought leaders.

It’s an easy way to beef up your presence.  You can share stuff that you like  or post your own content.  It can be original – as in an article you wrote yourself or something you found outside LinkedIn that you think other people in your network will find interesting.

Posting content is better than just “liking” an article.  Hitting the like button is pretty lame. It signals that you thought something was good but not good enough to take time out of your super-busy day to make a comment.

LinkedIn is also a great medium for recognizing people.  You can use the @ sign and the person’s name in your comment for a shout-out or to draw their attention to something.  Other people see that you did that and bang!  You have a community conversation going on.

These are all simple ways to increase your profile and your engagement – really important things to do in this extended period of working from home.

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But should you inhale?

The other day, we were walking on Queen Street in downtown Toronto and as we passed one of the many bong shops, I noticed a sign in the window.

It said “Help Wanted. Resumes now being accepted.”

I could not help myself. I burst out laughing right in the middle of the sidewalk.

Exactly what qualities would a bong store manager be looking for in the ideal candidate?

  • Able to take deep breaths with ease?
  • Good at providing late nigh snacks?
  • Highly attuned to fuzzy thinking?
  • Comfortable serving customers without regard to personal morality.

Would previous experience be necessary? If so, how much? Would you need to attach a police rap sheet along with your transcript?
And who would you use for references? Your dealer? Your parole officer?
Would it add credibility if you belong to the Bong of the Month Club?

I wanted to go in to see if they needed help with their search. After all, it’s what I do for a living. (searching, not smoking….) but my husband convinced me that I was seriously lacking in street cred and that getting lunch was a better idea.

If anyone wants to apply, they are located here.

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Small Steps for Tough Times

This is a tough time to be an employee.  It’s tough if you are working on the front lines and it’s tough if you are working behind the scenes from home or from an office.

When we get tired, we feel alone.  It feels like we are facing way higher mountains than anyone else and while that might be true at that moment, I bet if you took a few minutes to hear about a colleague’s challenges, you might feel better about yours.

As managers and colleagues, we have a long way to go in learning how to support each other through these next few months.  A clever woman on a webinar said that we are running a marathon and we don’t even know what mile we are at. We are going to need all the support we can get.

We can start by taking small steps.

A Zoom conversation does not have to start with business – no matter how rushed you are.  You can ask how your colleague or manager is doing and actually listen to the answer.  You can stop the conversation to ask about a piece of art or a cat in the background.  It’s oaky to be human for a few minutes.

It’s okay to block time on your calendar for a walk or a nap. You don’t have to broadcast to the world that that’s what you are doing but it’s okay to take care of yourself.

We can be understanding when someone starts a meeting at 10 minutes past the hour – so they can bio break and get a snack.  We can use that time too.

I was on Zoom with a client team and my mobile rang.  I hesitated for a moment.  They both looked at me and said “Answer it! We will just talk while we wait for you.”  I stepped outside the camera window, took the call and came back. They were, in fact, merrily chatting away.

These are not huge life changers, but they will go a long way to increasing our productivity and satisfaction. And that’s what will keep out feet on the ground as we move through these challenging times.

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What’s Your Superpower?

I am re-reading Michelle Obama’s new book, Becoming.  It’s really good.  I am not the only one who thinks so.  It was on  the New York Times bestseller list for more than 20 weeks.

She has had the chance to support, counsel and mentor many, many people.  One of the things she often asks is “what is your super power?”

I know it sounds trite but this is a really important concept when you are looking for your next role, especially when you are employed.

When you have to balance your day job and your outside-work responsibilities, finding time to look for another job is a huge challenge.  You want to make sure you are investing that precious time in the best way possible.

It is essential that you start by figuring out exactly what it is that you do.  I am not talking about your job title or your daily responsibilities but what you actually do.  I don’t mean something vague like “I solve operational problems”.  First of all,  who will understand what you really mean by that and second, doesn’t everyone do that?

I mean the real meat and potatoes of what you do.  Here are some examples.

  • I create and implement policies in a complicated environment.
  • I pull together subject matter experts to solve customer escalations.
  • I hold people accountable in a fast paced organization.

You can add words to make it reflect your own specifics but you get the gist.

This exercise serves two purposes.  It sets you apart from the crowd and also allows people to get a handle on how you might fit into their organization.

Here is how this concept worked for me.  When I describe myself as a Recruiter, people just nod. Everyone knows  a recruiter.  (For better or for worse…..).  But if I say that I find people for strategic and demanding roles in manufacturing and industrial environments, that usually gets a thoughtful eyebrow lift as they process what I have said.

It’s that stop-and-think-about-me thing that you want to create.  That’s how you get noticed and stand apart from the crowd.  And in the job market, that’s the secret sauce.

 

 

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Need to Refresh? Take a Course

It’s fall and its a pandemic and even though things seem almost out-of-control busy, I am going to sign up for a course.  I have not decided what the topic will be but I am going to do it.

I am doing it for three reasons. 

  • One of my new year’s resolutions was to learn more and if I am going to fit it into this calendar year, I better get going.
  • Fitting something in to my schedule will force me to use my time better.
  • I will meet new people.

Pretty powerful stuff right?

There are so many options for learning.  I can go to my local YMCA or community college for an online course.  I can talk with friends and colleagues.  I can also check out LinkedIn Learning.  The site offers a ton of different choices.  You don’t have to take a course on the site; you can just use it for ideas and then find the material delivered by a person in your community.

I have not decided if I will learn something for my business life or my personal life.  In the end, I don’t think it will matter.  The act of doing something new will impact both parts of my routine.

Say I learn to smoke meat and fish in my backyard.  I can deliver delicious smoked brisket to my friends and they will be really impressed with my new culinary skills.  I will login  to work the next day with a new found confidence and generally feeling pretty good about myself.  That will make me more effective in my job.

But if I learn how to ask better interview questions, that will be good too.  I will be able to put forward better quality candidates and my clients will be happier.  I will go home feeling positive and that will make dinner with my family more fun.

So, it doesn’t really matter what I decide to learn.  The important thing is to sign up and see it through.  What will you learn this fall?

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It’s a Funny Story…..

Over the last few weeks I have been asking candidates how they got into their professions. And more than two thirds started their answer with “well, it’s a funny story”.

Then they proceed to talk about the seemingly unrelated series of events that took place and culminated in them landing in their current role.

This gives me great cause for optimism. I read a lot about workplace transformation and AI and jobs disappearing. And I worry. I worry about how people will be able to keep pace with the shifts in the workplace.

But if that many people fall into jobs that they never imagined when they were in school then I guess there is a certain amount of hope that they will continue to follow new paths.

I have read about journalists who are working in digital marketing, an English grad who is working in software development and a music student who ended up being a great project manager.

Many of their initial opportunities came from networking. A former colleague or a former manager reached out or made a key suggestion.

The takeaways:
Keep your network warm. Make sure they know who you are and what you care about. (Not just your title and company).

Be open to listening to ideas and evaluating them as you go. If you are always “way too busy” to consider a new opportunity, they will cease to come your way.

Read a lot. Read about your industry, the tools you use, the news of the day and a bit about the economy. Keep your world broader than your desk.

Basically, if you keep your eyes open for ways to explore and learn about the future, you will be ready when it arrives.

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Talk Time – Chat your way through the Pandemic

It’s now two days after Labour Day and no one cares if we are wearing white pants or really, pants at all.  There is too much going on for us to even care about pants.  I am not sure what I was expecting, but I thought after Labour Day, things would feel different.  The mornings are cooler and the school buses are on the road but everything feels just as tentative and unsure as it did in the spring and summer.

As we face another season of limited entertainment and travel options, we have to make sure we stay connected and attached to our family, friends and community.  It’s not just good for your career.  It’s good for the rest of your life too.

I am lucky.  My husband and I worked together and then became friends, friends with benefits and then old married people.  We each have our own work space and we have lunch and snacks together most days.  And even though it works well, he will be the first to tell you that I need to interact with other people every day and I mean, EVERY day.

I have weekly video calls with people from my volunteer group, my family, my neighbours and former colleagues.   These conversations have proven to be essential for helping balance the stress and loneliness.  I go into each conversation with no expectations – just open and in the moment to hear what’s going on in people’s lives.  I am continuously surprised and inspired (a big thank you to those of you who hang out with me every week!).  I have a new found appreciation for the circles of the Venn Diagram that intersect in my Zoom room.

The other thing that has been satisfying (besides sour dough bread and smoking meat) has been participating in virtual services at a synagogue in Manhattan.  By participating, I mean singing along with the music and prayers at the top of my lungs.  Talk about satisfying!

I can’t say what will work for you but I can suggest that you start getting some conversations with new people going.  Call a friend.  If you are enjoying it, ask if they mind making it a recurring get together.  Send out Zoom invites that go until Christmas.   Ask if they think someone else should be included.

Get deliberate with your communications.  Waiting for random things to happen may not be enough to keep your energy up over the next few months of this Covid shit.

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How to Ace the Phone Interview

Picture this: your phone pings with a personal email.  You take a look.  It’s a recruiter asking to talk with you about a job.  You send a note back with a time and then sit back to try to figure out what you are going to say.

Before the Call

  • Read about the opportunity.
  • Think about what you would find appealing in a new role or a new manager or a new company.
  • Plan where you want to be for the call.  Your home office is great.  If your house gets loud (and who’s doesn’t?), head out to the car.  Its quiet and chances are, no one will find you to ask where to find the snacks or the dental floss.
  • Be ready to talk about your responsibilities and career path.
  • Make sure your phone is charged.
  • Have a list of questions ready to ask.
  • Take a few deep breaths and wait for the phone to ring.

During the Call

  • Wait for the full question to be asked.  Resist the temptation to jump on the answer before you actually know  the question.
  • Speak as clearly as possible.  Slow down a little. Pause often, even for just a moment.
  • Keep your answers concise.
  • Make sure to ask about the next steps in the process so you can be prepared.

After the Call

  • Send a note acknowledging the conversation.
  • Write some notes about what you learned.
  • Think about what you want to do about the opportunity.
  • If you are not going to pursue it, maybe there is someone you know who might find it appealing.  Passing on this sort of information to a friend or former colleague is always very appreciated.
  • You can turn what was a luke warm conversation into big pile of good karma.

Way After the Call

If you have not heard anything after a week, you can send a note.  If a few more days pass without any news, you can leave a voice mail.  After that, move on.  The company may just have a long process or someone may be away.  They will contact you if they want you and then it will be your choice to pursue or not.

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Need Some Accountability? Join the 10:11 Club

I have not used my alarm clock since March.  I don’t have to catch at train at the crack of dawn and I don’t miss it all.  That is not to say I have been sleeping in.  Nope, as the chief dog walker, I get up when the canine bladder demands it (and he has no snooze button…..)

This week, for a reason I don’t know, the canine slept in. It was delightful until I realized that I had not gotten out of my sleep pajamas and into my work pajamas and it was well past noon.

Without things like commutes and coffee with colleagues, the days can just fly by.  We do the stuff that must be done but other not-so-urgent tasks just kind of stay on the list.

It’s a bit embarrassing when you boss asks about a thing you were working on and your only response is, “oh yeah….about that….”

I heard about a really great idea on how to solve for this.  It’s called the 10:11 Club and it’s a concept invented by Kara Cutruzzula. (You can read more about her ideas here.)  Every morning before 10:11, you declare what you are going to work on and then you work on that thing until noon.  It can be a bike ride, a piece of work, a clean up – really anything that has been hanging around on your task list too long.

You can broadcast it on Twitter or stick a note to your computer or your fridge but it’s more effective if you have a buddy. Kara said that it started with just her and her brother but now they have a few more people in the circle.  She said its cool to see what others are working on but mostly she said it’s been good to have an accountability built into her day.

So simple it’s genius.  Join the 10:11 club and see what you can accomplish.

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