Archive for the ‘work life balance’ Category
We have two months to go before 2011. You might be tempted to ease into the holidays and push into the New Year your work on landing a new job, starting a business, making a career change, or getting a promotion. But there are certain things you should do now to take advantage of the remaining days of 2010.
Prepare for end of year discussions. If your company pays bonuses or determines promotions at year end, this might be the time that decisions are made. Make sure people are aware of your contributions. If you have any emails from colleagues thanking you for a job well done, forward these to your manager. (If you have none of these, you should, so start collecting them for 2011!) If there is no formal review process, schedule a meeting proactively, so you can discuss in detail your contributions and your expectations going forward.
Use the holiday festivities to step up your networking. Many professional associations have holiday mixers, so if you haven’t kept up with your industry colleagues, now is a good time to play catch-up. If you have extra bandwidth, volunteer to assist at the mixer. You will make deeper connections with the group, and it’s a great way to ensure you meet with most of the attendees. Sending holiday cards is an easy but thoughtful way to build in a hello each year.
Plan and organize for next year. Clear out your office files. Mark your 2011 calendar for key meetings and appointments. Look at your company’s training calendar, and sign up now so you prioritize your professional development before your schedule gets too crazy. Think of your big career goals for 2011, and schedule your calendar now for reminders throughout the year. For example, if expanding your network is a goal, then schedule a weekly reminder to reach out to several contacts.
Finally, if there is a career goal you know you want now (e.g., land a new job, start a business, make a career change, or get a promotion), then start now. It’s a myth that hiring stops near the holidays. It’s also dangerous to wait for that perfect time to start. The above checklist of items are still good ideas, but should not displace efforts you make towards bigger career goals.
— Caroline Ceniza-Levine
It started quietly. Rumors of ominous portent spread through the office, spoken in solemn whispers. But you paid no heed. You just kept on working.
The first to go was one of the IT staff. Then another went missing. An executive left with nary a word. One accountant bolted for the door, desperately muttering something about “Grad School.” All that was left were a few dusty outlines on their desks, and some stale, half-eaten cake.
Suddenly, scores of people disappeared. All around you, one after another, coworkers were summoned away from their desks and were gone. A few emerged only for moments, visibly despondent as they tearfully clung to one another, and then never to be seen again.
Now you’re alone. Much of your department has vanished. And, worst of all, you’re saddled with their workload…
The years since 2008’s economic meltdown have been taxing and, at times, bleak for professionals. For those who kept their jobs, the realities of the “Great Recession” meant watching others lose their jobs, taking up overwhelming responsibilities, and facing a discouraging possibility that there may be no end in sight. It can seem like you’ve survived an atomic blast.
But, if you’ve studied thoroughly in preparation for these apocalyptic times, then you know there are ways to survive, even get by comfortably. Here are a few “End of the World” strategies you can apply at work.
Where the living envy the dead
The greatest blow has been to morale. After all, we lost our friends, our neighbors, our collaborators, our happy hour companions. And while the value of your work may have spared you from layoffs, you were perhaps left questioning if your career was still worth it.
Experts call it “Layoff Survivor’s Guilt.” For companies that suffered heavy cuts, human resources departments reported declining company loyalty and esteem. Job stress has since been on the rise, and so too has a sense of inability and remorse.
It’s up to employers to preserve unity amongst remaining staff. Following layoff rounds, employees should demand open communication from leadership about the state of the company and the road ahead. Group activities are also vital to rebuilding camaraderie; for instance, managers can organize outings to roam the desolate streets and scavenge for dry Post-Its and trophies in the abandoned offices of felled competitors. (Remember to wear your radiation suits!)
And for those who regret having survived while others got the ax: Fallen friends are still friends. Stay in touch via Facebook and LinkedIn, maintain contact, and remember them when news of an opening crosses your desk. You can benefit as well—the unemployed are always the first to know about free cupcakes and discounted manicures.
(As a point of etiquette, avoid griping to them about work—you risk prompting bitter retorts of “At least you have a job …” Or perhaps they’ll have gone cannibal, and hunt you for your delicious, employable flesh.)
“I had so much time…”
On the other hand, some less sociable professionals might welcome the solitude and peace of mind. Like an idyllic beginning of a Twilight Zone episode, just before the ironic twist. Now that all the chit-chat is over, you can go about your work undisturbed.
But not so fast. Without the others, management expects to “do more with less.” The “less” being you, laboring a whole lot more.
Should the increased workload prove too much, take a stand. Make it known that doing the work of two—even three or four!—people should mean being compensated accordingly. Were this truly a post-apocalyptic hellscape, it might entail increased food and gas rations; in reality, it’s worth perhaps a 6 to 8 percent salary hike.
If that can’t be done, or if the promise of greater pay won’t ease the burden, then remember that companies are still hiring. Even with a ratio of 4.6 workers competing for every one job, you have an advantage (albeit an unfair one): You’re a survivor. Employers give greater value to applicants who kept their heads above water throughout the last years’ tumult; some outright shun unemployed candidates like infected mutant hordes.
Of course, these are just a couple of the scenarios to be explored. In the spirit of Halloween, we encourage Vault readers to join in. In the comments below, tell us some of the “apocalyptic” circumstances you’ve encountered since the recession. We’ll mention the best ones on our Facebook page!
— Alex Tuttle, Vault.com
I had the great fortune to spend two days last week in the Bloggers Hub at the World Business Forum in Radio City Music Hall. Speakers of the ilk of Jack Welch, Al Gore, Joseph Stiglitz and James Cameron (yes, that James Cameron) held forth on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the coming years. Fascinating, engaging stuff, but the biggest surprise of the week was that the speaker who elicited the most profound reaction from the audience was a) not one of the headline names and b) didn’t really talk about business.
The mystery presenter was Nando Parrado, a successful businessman in his own right, but someone whose life was defined before he even joined the working world: Parrado was one of 16 survivors of a plane crash in the Andes in 1972. Just 22 years old at the time, he survived 72 days in the mountains without access to food or drinking water. His is one of the stories chronicled in the movie Alive.
Throughout his presentation, Parrado stressed that his experiences have left him in a unique position when it comes to facing challenges in life: he knows that no decision he makes will ever be as difficult—or have as much at stake—as the ones he was forced to make to save his own life. He makes the point with considerable clarity on his own website:
“Making decisions became easier because I knew that the worst thing that could happen would be that I would be wrong.”
Far from being a litany of the leadership or survival skills he learned along the way, the message at the core of Parrado’s presentation was much simpler, and infinitely more important. As he put it: “From the crash, I didn’t learn to be a MacGuyver of the Andes; I learned about love.”
He did so, in part, by losing both his mother and his sister in the same crash, and by having to come to terms with the fact that they were on the plane only because he had invited them to accompany him. And, having been lost in the mountains for so long, he also lived through the trauma of going home and finding that he had been given up for dead: his clothes had been given away and his sister had moved into his room.
All of which has left Parrado with a unique grasp of the importance of life, and the things that we should value. While he confessed to enjoying many of the finer things in life—from fine restaurants to expensive cars—he stressed repeatedly that nothing would stand in the way of his relationship with his family and those he loves. And that adds up to a profound, yet simple outlook on life:
“Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”
Parrado finished his presentation by coming back to tackle the theme of love directly, and to impart one of the few specific, actionable pieces of advice any of the speakers had to offer over the two days of the conference:
“Don’t lose your connections, kiss the ones around you . . .because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Here’s a piece of career advice that you won’t hear too often: spend more time playing video games. Specifically action-oriented games such as “Call of Duty 2.”
According to a recent Bloomberg article, research has found that “[p]laying action video games primes the brain to make quick decisions.”
The study pitted two groups of against each other in a problem-solving exercise: those who had played fast-paced action games versus those who had played slower strategy games such as “The Sims 2.” The results: those who had played the action games “made decisions 25 percent faster than the strategy group, while answering the same number of questions correctly.”
The takeaway, according to the scientist who led the research team: “Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference.”
So now you know: if you want to improve the speed of your decision-making—a key leadership skill—bust out the Xbox and start shooting something. Or at least use this as an excuse the next time you get caught scratching a gaming itch during office hours!