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How to Take a Vacation without Going Away

This is the time when many of us would be looking forward to a vacation – some time in the sun in a place that does not require hats and gloves and where flip flops are the order of the day.

But not this year. This year we are staying home. Again. It’s alternatively sad, frustrating and exhausting. Not being able to go anywhere is hard for introverts and extroverts. Its a universal pain in the neck.

Here are some things you can do to help deal with the vacation situation.

Plan a trip anyway — get on your favourite travel site and plan a trip for next year. You don’t have to actually buy anything. Just scroll though the hotels, islands, museums and restaurants in the area. Everyone has a list of places they would like to go – just starting building itineraries for each one.

Hop on Youtube and find walking tours of an nice tropical area. With a large screen and some headphones, this can feel quite immersive and refreshing. There are also tours of many museums and galleries on Youtube. You can do this with fancy VR googles for a really far out experience.

Take a day off. Plan ahead and actually book it in your work calendar. Sure, you might glance at your email but no meetings and nothing due. The act of looking forward to the day is, in itself, a little bit uplifting. What you do with the day is up to you. I took Monday off and spent the morning on the couch with coffee and magazines. It was quite delightful.

Change your routine. It can be something small like having breakfast for dinner or something major like rearranging your furniture or something really big like getting a new pet.

In the end, just the act of doing something new will open your eyes and cause you to see things a little differently as you take that short commute to your home office or that longer commute to your corporate office.

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Need a Lift? Make a Grinbox

It’s winter and it’s a pandemic – that’s a terrible double whammy. Many of us would be suffering from “winter fatigue” at this point in a normal February and when you layer a lockdown on top of it, it just gets worse.  We are weary of taking a deep breath and bracing ourselves before we step out into the cold.  We are sick of wearing the same winter coat day after day. The only upside, as my Mom pointed out, is that we have not lost our gloves and mittens because you can’t even think of heading outdoors without making sure we have both of them on our damn hands.

These are the days when it is hard to get motivated to do anything but lie on the couch wrapped in blankets. How, then, do we keep up on a job search?  That takes a lot of energy. Energy that could be used up walking the dog or going to a drive through.

The Grinbox.

Make a new folder in your inbox called  Grins.  Sort through your mail for messages that made you feel great when you got them.  If your inbox is too gargantuan for this, filter by things like “great job” or “thanks” or “congratulations”.  Put all these messages in your Grinbox.

I bet there are more than you think. I’ll also bet when you read through them, you will break your face grinning at least once.

Keep putting those positive messages in there and you will develop quite a collection. Double click on that folder any day that feels crappy, cold, sad, whatever.

If you need a message to get started, let me know. I’d be happy to get you started.

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Help – I have a Panel Interview

It can be common, especially for senior level roles, to have one of the selection stages be a panel interview.

Initially, it can feel intimidating but it can be very constructive and useful. It provides a really efficient way to meet a cross section of people from the organization. You can think of it just like any other meeting where you would research, prepare and present.

Find out as much as you can before the interview. It’s helpful if you know the names and titles of who will be sitting on the panel. That will give you some insight into the types of concerns they may have. You can check on LinkedIn or look for corporate bios.

Make sure you have a strong introduction statement. Once you all get past commenting on the weather, someone will inevitably ask you to talk a bit about yourself. You need a well practiced summary that illustrates two things: what you have done and why you are there.

Usually Zoom windows give you the person’s name. This is handy because it makes it easy to use their name when you respond to a question.

Panel interviews are a great way to see how people inside the organization interact with each other. You can observe if one person takes the lead, who defers to who, if they talk over one another.

It can be tricky to know where to look when there are multiple people on the screen. Try to strike a balance between looking at the monitor and looking directly into the camera. Looking into the camera is roughly the equivalent of eye contact if you were in a room together.

Make sure to pause before you start to answer a question. Take a breath and gather your thoughts. Panels don’t want to hear a blurted answer. They want clear, concise answers and examples.

Make sure to bring questions of your own as well. There probably won’t be time for many but you really seal the impression you have made with a well chosen and thoughtful question.

When the panel members start to shuffle their notes, that’s your cue to start to wrap up as well. Again, look into the camera and thank them for their time.

Sign off and get working on those thank you notes!

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What does Google Say About You?

I have written before about checking on your social media presence but, right now, it is more important than ever to monitor what people see when they google your name.

There was a fascinating and frightening article in the New York Times on Sunday.  A mild mannered, middle-aged guy in the UK got an urgent call from his father.  He had been alerted by his friends about some nasty items on social media that centered on, not just the son, but the whole family.

Sure enough, there was a stream of false and slanderous information targeted at him, his wife, and several other relatives. Investigations by the police and an intrepid reporter revealed that it had been the work of a less-than-stable woman who wanted to get even with the family for something that had happened years ago.

At this point, I thought it was a pretty interesting story but the next victim’s story really hit home.  She did not realize she had been a target until she deliberately changed her name on her resume.  She had been interviewing for jobs for which she was very qualified but not getting called back.  She used her maiden name on her next applications and not only got interviews, but had two offers within a short time.  She googled herself and realized that there was a slew of terrible things associated with her married name and that she had been a target of the same individual.

It seems that with a little bit of knowledge, a lot of time and the right motivation, you can ruin someone’s social presence.

Almost all of my clients are doing background checks that include examining a candidate’s social media presence. 

Most would take it into consideration if the candidate had been the victim of a targeted attack but only if they knew up front.  It would not have the same impact if you explained it later – plus you might have a lot of other things on your mind.

So, stay ahead of it – check google regularly by typing your name into the search bar with quotation marks at the beginning of your first name and the end of your last name.  See what comes up – you might actually surprised in a good way.

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Focus on your Goals – Especially Now

You might not have noticed but we are just about finished with January.   Yep…..that was fast.  Apparently, time flies especially quickly when it is dark and cold outside and we are stuck in our homes.

Did you set some goals for 2021?  It might have been in the fog of New Year’s morning or the marathon of DIY shows over Christmas.  Do you remember those goals?

Once you get into the flurry of everyday life, it can be hard to even remember the special things you wanted to do, let alone focus on getting them done.

I learned a neat trick from one of the great people I volunteer with (yet another reason to put up your hand and volunteer!).  I commented on her aggressive development plans for the year and she said that she learned long ago to use the B-HAG method.

Excuse me?

Was she calling me a hag?  And if so, how did she know?  We had not known each other that long…..IMG_5475

No, not at all.  B-HAG stands for big, hairy, audacious goal.  She said the idea is to make sure you think of it every day and work to make advancements, no matter how small, every day.

She even has a B-HAG pet. (image on right)  It’s a little, furry thing that sits on her desk.  When her eyes fall on it, she is reminded about those goals.  Also, when people come into to her work area and ask her about it, she gets another opportunity to describe the things she is working on.

She said it worked really well last year and so to up the ante and keep it effective, she is going to move it around her office.  A bit like Elf on a Shelf.  It will have eyes on her all the time.

In the end, it does not matter how you do it.  You just need to make sure that you have something or someone that continues to remind you why you need to do just one more thing before lunch, bed or wine.

Good luck!

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Just Say Yes

Life looks pretty messy right now. I am not going to list all the stressors facing us on a daily basis – you know what they are. It can be hard to keep your head up some days. We all face our own anxieties everyday and it is different for everyone.

But there are opportunities. Opportunities to learn, grow and develop. They come in the form of stretch assignments, cross functional project teams, courses and yes, calls from recruiters. It’s easy to shake your head when these things pop up. You just assume that you are too busy to give it the smallest bit of consideration.

I used to think that way too. Then I saw an amazing demonstration of how we can fit things in to our life.

The speaker was a professor and she was sharing the details of a very difficult period in her life and how she got through it. She took an empty glass and dropped a few rocks in it. She said those rocks represented her kids and her parents. Then she added some smaller pebbles. Those were her friends, work colleagues and manager. The glass looked pretty full to me. But there was still room for more. She added sand and it filled in the cracks. The sand was her hobbies – reading, yoga and knitting. Now the glass was really full. She pulled a glass measuring cup filled with water from under the desk. Wouldn’t you know it? There was still room in the glass for water. She said that the water represented helping neighbours and doing things like supporting a charity.

I must have seen that talk about ten years ago and it is still with me. It reminds me to say yes to opportunities instead of deciding that it can’t be done before I even know what it is.

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On-Boarding Starts Before Day One

If you just hired someone, chances are, it will be two or three weeks before they start.  If you don’t communicate with that person until the day they show up at reception, you are missing a big opportunity.

We often just breath a sigh of relief once we get the signed offer of employment. We move on to the other thousand things on our list.

Think about how that makes your new team member feel.

What if you sent them a company newsletter and some company swag the day after they sent in their signed documents?

And what if they were included in some emails for the group they are joining?

And how about if an announcement was made to the team about their impending arrival?  A nice note that gave some background and a nice shout-out.  And how about if the new employee was copied on that note?

That means the week before they start, they are already getting nice, warm, welcoming notes from their new work family.

Sure, this takes a few minutes and you are busy.  Don’t underestimate the impact of that warm feeling carrying into their first few days of work.

This may sound cynical but it also has the added benefit of reducing the cold feet that might creep in over the next two weeks  and will really help to firmly turn off any other opportunities they were looking at.  It is pretty hard to ghost a manager who just send you a great note and a company hoodie.

Once you get the offer back from the candidate, start thinking of them as an employee and treat them as such. Get some reminders in your calendar and make the most of it. It will be so worth it.

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Light for the Holidays

Chanukah starts tonight.  It’s the Festival of Lights.  We celebrate that magical combination of oil and potato: the latke.  In truth, we are celebrating a small army’s successful rebellion and the oil lamp in the temple that should have lasted for one day but instead, lasted for eight days.  So we celebrate by eating fried foods. 

In the Jewish calendar, it is not really that big a deal compared to other holidays but this year, I am getting out all the holiday stuff we have gathered over the years, especially the menorahs and we are going to light every single one of them.

I figure we need all the light we can get. It’s been a tough year for everyone.  Even people who put on brave faces and always seem to find the bright side, are tired and longing for the thing, person or activity that is missing this year.

My personal mission over this next eight days is to call someone each day who is not one of my regular connections.  It’s not that I am any particular flash of sunshine but I know, from experience, how nice it is when someone reaches out to me.

Here is my call list:

  • Someone who is looking for work
  • Relative I only see once a year and won’t see at all this year
  • Friend from high school
  • Former colleague
  • Student
  • Colleague that I have not seen since March
  • The president of my company
  • That friend who used to go to yoga with me

I am excited about this. It feels like something real that I can do in the face of all the rest of the crap which is totally out of my control.

Zoom calls and latkes with sour cream and applesauce – it’s going to be a good week.

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Gifts for Pandemic Job Seekers

It’s that time of year again – the time of year when we fill the malls looking for the perfect gifts.  Is there a job seeker on your list?  It’s unlikely you can find them a job to wrap up and put under the tree but here are some gifts that they might really appreciate.

  • A new dress shirt and scarf/tie – these are things that are bound to make them feel better as they log into the next Zoom interview
  • A month of LinkedIn Premium – you can read about that here.gift
  • A couple of hours with a career coach
  • A compilation of the best career podcasts or TED Talks
  • A gift subscription to a magazine. A real magazine that comes in the mail.  That way when they go to the mailbox, there will be something good to look at instead of just bills.
  • A gift certificate from Vistaprint for business cards or personalized thank you notes
  • Resume review with an experienced resume editor
  • Send a Skip the Dishes gift certificate. They can use it for coffee on a crappy day or a meal for their family.  It is sure to be appreciated.

Have fun shopping!

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Hiring Does Not Stop for the Holidays

Every year, I remind people that hiring does not stop for the holidays.  It’s a perceived notion that no one makes hiring decisions after Dec 10th.  This is not true most years and it will not be true this year.

The thing that typically gets in the way of hiring in December is decision maker’s travel and vacation itineraries and  frankly, holiday obligations.  Wining, dining and corporate parties all take time on the calendar.  This year, there will still be holiday parties but they will be shorter and require no travel time.  They also will probably not induce the same kinds of hangovers as the usual in person soirees.

As leaders recognize that our current work patterns will continue into next year, hiring decisions that they have been putting off, are going to become more pressing. 

There are quite a few industries that are hiring vigrourously – you just have to look for them.

  • Software companies that provide anything to do with office communications
  • Online Retailers like Amazon and Wayfair
  • Food manufacturing and grocers
  • Home exercise equipment and online exercise classes and nutrition coaching
  • Household products that clean and beautify
  • Gaming/Streaming/Online Entertainment

As the companies in theses spaces grow, they need people in all areas of the business.  Grocers don’t just hire cashiers.  They also need people in product development, distribution, finance, HR and all the other departments. 

Don’t assume that because you are not a gamer or an engineer, that there would not be a place for you in a gaming organization.  I am sure there are plenty of people who can’t drive who work at Uber and overweight people who work at Peleton.

These can be great places to take your career right now.  The skills and experiences you gain in a fast growth company are amazing and often come with lucrative pay, perks and bonuses.

So, if you need or want a new role to be in your future, roll up your sleeves and take off the blinders.  There is lots going on.  You just have to find it.

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