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Vacations, Staycations & Fake-ations

I learned last summer, that taking vacation can be complicated. Essentially, vacation should be about having a break from your every day routine. Now that we work from home offices and Wi-Fi gives us email access everywhere, taking a break requires a concerted effort to disconnect.

My first week off last summer was not a break. I was planning to use the week as if it were six Saturdays in a row. I was going to catch up on house chores, run errands and gorge on Netflix. Because I was feeling pretty low key about it, I did not plan appropriately.

I didn’t tell my clients or make arrangements to hand over my projects to my capable colleagues. I don’t think I even put my out of office notifier on.

Guess what happened? I worked every day. Not all day, like I usually do, but every day.

Halfway through the week, my husband declared that I was not on a stay-cation but rather a fake-cation. (And in his opinion, I was fooling no one!)

But I learned my lesson.

I am planning for my summer time off now. I am blocking the time on my calendar and sharing it with my colleagues. When the time off gets closer, I will work it into project plans and let my clients know who will be driving while I am doing other (non-work) things.

I will make plans for each day – special stuff that I would not ordinarily do. I’ll leave some flex time so that I could take advantage of any particularly good weather. The only things that will be outlawed will be Zoom, Teams and Slack.

It feels good to make some plans. Go ahead and make some of your own.

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Take a Mini Break

There has been a strong theme in my conversations this week. People are tired. Not tired from lack of sleep but tired as in weary. The novelty of staying home has long since worn off and we are aching for the chance to get out and do at least some of the things we used to do.

So there are no career tips or interview strategies today. Instead, I am gifting you with five minutes. Look straight ahead and close your eyes and if anyone interrupts, tell them you are reading something important and you will be right with them.

Go.

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Pre-Interview Research –

So you have scored an interview….cool.  Now what?

After you make sure that your shirt is pressed and you have plenty of dental floss, you can move on to the research phase.

Research is not just looking up the address and the company’s stock price. It’s more than reading the company’s website.

Research falls into two basic areas: the person you are meeting and the organization for which they work.

Is the hiring manager on LinkedIn?  How long have they worked at the company?  Have they been promoted?  Where did they go to school?  Have they always been in this business?

Is the company public or private?  What does the corporate structure look like?  Where is the headquarters?  Have they won awards or been recognized for special activities?  Are they expanding? Do they have a new product line?

Investing this time will pay big dividends.  It will give you just that bit of extra confidence when you log in and smile at the interviewer.  It will also help you pick the anecdotes from your career that you are going to use as examples in the inevitable behavioral questions.  You can pick stories that are going to really resonate with the hiring team.

The last and maybe the biggest reason to do all this research is to make sure that the organization is aligned with your own values and mission.

There is nothing worse than bragging about your new job offer to your friends and having someone ask how that massive product recall is affecting them or whether the class action lawsuit has been settled.  Sure, it’s never too late to back out but wouldn’t it be better to have known about it from the get go?

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The Final Question

Picture this:  you are in a job interview and it is going really well.  You feel like the conversation has flowed nicely and your answers have been thorough and thoughtful.  The hiring manager has provided a great outline of the job and the expectations.  Then she says, “Do you have any questions for me?”

The answer to this question should always be yes.  This is a chance to continue the conversation and to get some more candid responses from the hiring manager.

It also demonstrates that you are interesting and the type of person to go beyond the typical answers.  A good questions has the potential to get you a few extra checkmarks.

You can ask questions about the manager.

  • What do you like about this firm?
  • How was transition when you joined the company?
  • What are you most proud of?

Or you can ask questions about the organization.

  • Where do you think this company is headed?
  • What does the competition look like?
  • How does this organization innovate?

You want to be mindful of the person’s time.  You won’t have the chance to ask all of the questions so try to pick the best one.

A good interview with comprehensive questions should answer most of your questions about the day to day details of the job. You can finish strong with some juicy questions of your own.

Mic drop.

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Spring Forward

It’s spring and my LinkedIn feed is full of people’s job change announcements. It is refreshing to see so many changes. It takes courage to change jobs during normal times so I thought perhaps people might be reticent to do it during a pandemic.

It just goes to show that we can figure out how do lots of things during challenging times. There are many people who have been successfully hired and onboarded over the last year.

They networked, heard about an opening, went through phone calls and Zoom interviews. They did case studies and presentations and aptitude tests on line. They lined up their references. They resigned on Team, had virtual going-away beers and promised to stay in touch.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Modifications to the process? Yes. Does it continue? Of course it does.

If you are feeling blue or stuck or bored or lonely, take a look at a few jobs. Find some that look interesting. Find other people who do that work – do they seem like your people? If you met them at a virtual conference, would you have enough to talk about?

Take the next step.  Zhuzh up your resume and put it out there. Connect with new people on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or Clubhouse. Talk about your interests and your challenges and listen to theirs. Spend time thinking about you learn. Carefully evaluate the opportunities that come your way (and they will). Are they better that what you have today? If not, that’s okay.

You may not end up with a new job but you will certainly end up with a fresh perspective on what you are doing today.

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Floss More – Video Meeting Pro Tips

My team has conducted hundreds and hundreds of video interviews over the last year and we have learned a thing or two about what it takes to be successful in this new-ish virtual world.

Floss more – we are up close and personal all the time.  Where I used to advise people to check their buttons and zippers before a meeting, now my advice is to check your teeth for errant kale or bagel seeds.

Pants less – we all joke about not wearing pants anymore but a word of caution: when you jump up to close your door, we will all know that you are not wearing pants.

Check your mug – I was talking to my straight-laced colleague, Stephen, yesterday and he kept staring at something and moving closer to the camera.  Finally, he asked me what my mug said.  I realized I was using a gift from my sister-in-law with some colourful language that seemed appropriate for women our age but not really for a Zoom call.  We both turned all kinds of red but had a good laugh about it.

Find a phone stand – do not hold your phone in your hand.  Get a phone holder or lean it against something.  A moving phone is nausea inducing for your audience.  Trust me on this one. Your hand is never as still as you think it is and if you sneeze, all bets are off.

Watch the angle – people don’t want to be looking up your nose or at the side of your face.  Pay attention to what your audience will see.

Check your background.  Sure, it’s fun to check out each other’s home office set up but you don’t have to share that if you don’t want to.  Here’s how you can change your Zoom background (link) and blur the background in MS Teams (link)

Video calls on one of the best tools we have to keep ourselves together and connected.  Use them well and often.

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Who would you recommend?

Let’s start a movement. Let’s make tomorrow an official LinkedIn recommendation day.

Today, when you are in those mind wandering moments that we all have, think about someone you would recommend.

  • Perhaps a former colleague or manager
  • Someone who provided great service like a vendor webinar host
  • A fellow volunteer

To make a recommendation, go to your contact list, find the person and click recommend beside their name.  Choose the relationship that you have/had and then go crazy.  Remember that this will be seen by the world.  This is not Facebook.  Drunkface comments are not welcome.   Be clear about how you know the person, what they did and how well they did it.

Think how great it will be when they open their inbox to find an out of the blue recommendation. It will surely make their day. It’s like sending a thank you card without the hassle of the envelope or stamp.

Of course we make recommendations for altruistic reasons but imagine if you are one of the recipients. Remember, it is a bit of a traditional that one recommendation deserves another.

So give it some thought and mark your calendar. Let’s start a wave in the big LinkedIn stadium.

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Spring Cleaning for your Resume

Pandemic or not, the warm breezes of spring will arrive over the next few weeks and if you are like me, you will spend some time working on projects around the house.  Maybe switching your clothes around.  Moving the golf shirts and flower printed yoga pants to the front and shoving all the black yoga pants into a box in the garage .  Maybe cleaning up the back yard.  Those are the kinds of things we like to do in spring.

It is not just your home that should be sorted and updated.  Your resume should be refreshed too.

It may not be as important as your changing the batteries in your smoke detector, but in terms of your career, it should be right up near the top of the list.

Here are the things to consider:

Has your title changed?shirt

Has the scope of your role  changed?

Did you take any courses or workshops over the winter?

How about any special projects?

Any new volunteer committees or fund raising initiatives?

Once your resume is refreshed make sure it is stored in a place that’s easily retrievable, like Dropbox.   Once that’s done, you might want to apply the same logic to your LinkedIn profile.  Make sure it is a really good reflection of where you are and what you are doing.

And if you have a few minutes at work, find all those emails that say “thank you” and “you’re a star”.  Email them to your personal account and then print them and take them home.  You just never know when you are going to need a little pick-me-up or evidence of your great work.

So put on your favourite spring shirt and get to it!

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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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