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Small Bits to Reduce Burnout

I am burned out from reading articles on being burned out.  The theme is dominating mainstream media and all my social channels.  Frankly, it’s exhausting.  Fixing burn out is not easy but let me offer up some suggestions on how to refresh, even if only for a few minutes.

One of the sources of burn out is not attending to small, personal matters.  You get into bed and realize that you still did not call the dentist or drop off the Amazon package you are returning.  Trying to fall asleep while you are berating yourself is pretty tough.

Pick one of those small tasks.  Only one.  Look at your calendar for tomorrow.  Find 15 minutes.  Make a meeting that includes not just the thing you need to do but also the details.  If the task is calling the dentist, make sure the phone number is in the meeting. 

When that times comes tomorrow, do the task.  Feel accomplished.  Add a task for the next day.  See what you did there?  Getting personal shit done without disrupting your business life. 

The other big contributor to burn out is the loss of random social encounters.  Remember when we could bump into someone at the coffee machine or in the elevator.  Just a 10 minute catch up put a real bounce in my step.  It was out of routine.  It was positive.  It had a great return on investment. 

Think of a couple of people you have not spoken to in a while.  It could be someone you see on Zoom group calls but never get a chance to speak to or maybe the person with the new puppy who works in another department.

Pull up the old calendar and create a meeting. Drop their name in the attendees section and then open the Scheduling Assistant.  Find 30 minutes when you are both free.  Make sure it is not a day when you or the other person have back to back to back meetings.  That is certainly not conducive to a catch-up call.  Use “Catch Up Call” or “Miss You Call” in the subject line.  That way they know there is no agenda and nothing to prepare. 

Maybe you like it so much, you set up a once a month call.  How wonderful would that be?

These two strategies may be small, but they pay big dividends in restoring your mental energy and zhuzhing up to your outlook.

Thank you to my excellent colleague, Nancy Gore, for some great suggestions on this topic.

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Proximity or Performance – how will you manage your career?

There is a lot of talk right now about how work will work as we come out of the pandemic and settle into the new ordinary.  Will we all be together? Will we continue to be remote?  Will we have an office or a communal space?

Most companies are still in the planning stages which means they likely have more questions than answers.  It is stressful for sure.

I have read several articles about companies that are committing to a hybrid model.  Some are going to have employees commit to a permanent schedule of in and out of office days. Others will leave it flexible.

Several companies are going back to the office – everybody, all the time.  One rationale is that remote workers may get passed over for promotions or miss development opportunities because they are not physically present. 

That sounds like a cop out to me.  I just don’t buy it.  It’s no different than people in the old days who worked in branch offices or people who worked late or people who went for smoke breaks together.  Those situations and relationships provided the exposure to people outside their regular circle which can often be the catalyst for a new opportunity. 

There are other ways to get facetime with managers and colleagues outside your immediate group or team.  Working remotely means you aren’t going to bump into someone at the coffee machine or in the elevator.  (You might bump into your spouse at the coffee machine but that’s not likely to lead to a promotion).   You need to cultivate new connections. 

This could mean volunteering for a new project or program.  Many companies are asking for volunteers for diversity initiatives – that would be a great way to connect with new people. 

You want to find a common connection and then reach out for a conversation.  Maybe you are working on the same account but in different regions.  Maybe you are both super users of some software.  Maybe you liked a post that they shared on LinkedIn.  Don’t just punch the “like’” button.  Pick up the phone and give them a call.

This might sound like networking 101.  It is.  Whether you are working in the office or not, you need to connect with new people and nurture your relationships if you wan to keep the opportunities coming. 

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You Still have to Dress for an Interview

I know it’s been a while since most of us dressed up for anything.  Why would we?  In most places, there is nowhere to go, so we might as well be comfortable while we are stuck at home. 

But there are reasons to get dressed; to put on a shirt with buttons and a jacket and maybe even a scarf or tie. 

An interview is one of those reasons. 

A meeting with a hiring manager is the same in person as it is on Zoom.  The handshake may be missing, but the respectful attire should not.  Respect is the guide rail on how to present yourself in a hiring situation.

There are industries that are more mature and have long-standing traditions about how you should present yourself.  If you are interviewing for a banking, real estate or insurance role, a shirt and jacket show that you understand that history and those traditions.  If you are interviewing for a “transformational” position within one of these companies, you can push the traditions and wear a jacket and a plain, neat T-shirt or the ever-popular black turtleneck. 

More modern industries like tech startups and software companies built their traditions on different values, and showing up in a shirt and tie will be just plain awkward.  A t-shirt and a hoodie or jacket might work well in that situation. 

There are places to get clues on how to present yourself. You can look at the company’s website or find company employees on LinkedIn.  Their profiles may give you some tips. You can check Glassdoor but take everything you read with a grain of salt.  Usually, it is people who are super happy or super miserable who post content on Glassdoor.     

The bottom line is that you need to invest time in researching how you want to show up.  Even on video, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

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Stop Apologizing for Your Salary

This week’s recurring theme was the “salary apology”. Time after time, I asked candidates about their salary objective and their responses went like this : “Um…well…I am paid pretty well and I just want you to know that I could be flexible. Money is not that important to me.”

Ack!!!

That is not the way to answer that question – especially when a recruiter asks. You know what we come away with? You are flexible and will take any old, low-ball salary.

You are paid what you are paid. You have done the work and now you earn that much money. The only reason to deviate from this is if you are looking to move to part time work or get into another occupation. That’s really the only time to drop your expectations.

You can offer to be flexible but definitely don’t lead with that. If you really love the sound of the role or if the commute is going to save you a ton of time or money or the company is offering a bunch of non-salary perks (like a car or a house), you can offer a salary range that gives some potential wiggle room.

If there is a big difference in what you are making and what the job is offering, chances are there are other things that will be misaligned as well. The company may be much larger or much smaller or the role might be much broader or much more narrow.

Then there is the perception a weak answer gives to the hiring manager. If they hear you say you would take less money for their role and that is something they would never do themselves, they will wonder what is wrong with a) you or b) your present situation.

Maybe the most important reason to be clear on your salary objectives is this: it is absolutely heart breaking to get through the interview process, learn that you are one that has been selected for the role and then get presented with an offer that is 20% lower that what you make now.

So be clear and honest about your compensation objectives. It’s for your own good.

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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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