Friday, July 30, 2010

When Ambitious People Hit the Brakes

The most dangerous part of a journey can be the last leg. We are tired, our minds practically assume that the trip has ended, and we let our guard down.

There is a related career practice that deserves our attention. Many highly competitive people push themselves right up to almost achieving a goal and then begin to apply the brake. The self-doubt and the second-guessing kick in.

“Do I really want this?” “Will it disrupt my life?” “Will people regard me differently?” “Do I truly deserve this?” “Can I handle the extra responsibility?” “Am I the right person for the job?” The questions and doubts begin to accumulate. In far too many cases, the person backs away from success or sabotages the plan.

These individuals are not slackers. They choose to compete. They are competent and ambitious. Most have managed to succeed in other endeavors. The fact of their past success, however, may keep them from recognizing their efforts to apply the brake. “I’m just being responsible,” they may say. “It only makes sense to consider all factors.”

Those excuses hold enough truth to provide a cover story for self-induced failure. Their foundation is the assumption that the individual is unique and that others do not harbor such doubts. Some (I’m tempted to say most) of the highest positions in any organization are held by people who wonder if they really should be in the job.

What can help is to recognize the self-doubt as a stage and factor it in. Just as a marathoner will know the attitudes to avoid in the last few miles, so too should we be alert for the second-guessing. For many, this stage can be a natural part of competing. Moving through it should also be a standard practice.

Consulting with others can help enormously. Delaying any negative decisions is also important. Regarding the second-guessing as a mere speed bump instead of a brick wall helps to keep up the momentum. We may slow down a bit to recognize the stage, but we’ll know when it is time to hit the accelerator.

By Michael S. Wade

Thursday, July 29, 2010

10 Ways to Make Any Job Healthier

The news earlier this year that prolonged sitting can be deadly seemed to confirm many office workers' sneaking suspicion that they weren't meant to spend all day in a desk chair. Or, more dramatically, that their jobs were slowly killing them. It isn't just the sitting. It's the stress, inflexible schedules, ever increasing pressure to perform, layoffs, and windowless cubicles. It's a recipe for high blood pressure, weight gain, bad posture, and general unhealthiness.

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A recent study from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that chronic job stress is associated with weight gain and obesity. Researchers studied nearly 3,000 workers at an upstate New York manufacturing facility and found that many workers spent their days stressed out and sedentary and spent their nights watching TV. "We found that people were so stressed that by the time they got back home, they didn't feel like doing anything but vegging out," says Diana Fernandez, a URMC epidemiologist and lead author of the study. When layoffs were coming, anxious workers consumed the most unhealthy foods in vending machines first. "People who work in very high-stress jobs seem to do less physical activity and engage in sedentary behaviors," Fernandez says.

But workers are able to make changes for themselves. More and more will be seeking new jobs in the coming months as the job market improves, but many may find that stress is a constant in any job they jump to. While not every change is possible for every worker or something that can be maintained every day, here are 10 moves that could make your job healthier:

Stop eating at your desk: This can get pretty gross. If you let bits of your snacks and lunches and vending machine booty slip into your computer keyboard during the day, don't be surprised to learn that they're luring vermin out a night. According to the Royal Society of Chemistry, workers who sit at dirty desks may be typing on keyboards and touching spaces that have mouse droppings. Get those infested fingers near your mouth and there's a good chance you'll get sick.

Add plants to your area: A Washington State University study measured the effects of indoor plants on students performing a slightly stressful computer-based task in a university computer lab. When researchers decorated the lab with indoor plants, they found that their subjects' reactions were 12 percent quicker on the task, and their systolic blood pressure fell. The students also reported that they felt more attentive when the plants were in the room.

Improve your posture: Bad posture can cause everything from eye strain to lower back pain. A study last year by researchers from the Teesside University School of Health and Social Care in England found that sitting on a stability ball does not provide any benefit to seating posture over sitting on the standard desk chair. A different study on the proper position of your desk chair found that sitting up straight is not ideal—rather, leaning your chair back at an 135 degree angle is best.

Find a way to reduce work pressure: It's easier said than done, but it could save your life. Women in high-pressure jobs are at a higher risk of heart disease. A 15-year Danish study tracked the health of 12,116 nurses ages 45 to 64 in 1993. Those who reported work pressures as being a little too high were 25 percent more likely to have ischaemic heart disease, and those who felt the pressures were much too high were 50 percent more likely to have ischaemic heart disease. Accounting for other lifestyle factors only slightly reduced the risk. Work pressure appears to have the greatest health effects on younger nurses.

Reduce overtime as much as possible: Working three to four hours of overtime a day is bad for your heart, according to a study published on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology. Although some Americans don't have the option of reducing their working hours—they've got to put food on the table, or finish a project—research shows that overtime is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, independent of other factors.

Exercise at lunch: A recent survey by CareerBuilder found that 44 percent of workers report having gained weight while at their current jobs. It lists reasons that make sense: Sitting at a desk nearly all day; stress. Working out during a lunch hour can make a significant difference—although just 11 percent of women and 8 percent of men make that choice.

Don't de-stress with TV at night: Much in the way that adding healthy foods to your diet is only one piece of nutritional health and must be accompanied by reducing unhealthy foods, adding exercise to your lifestyle is only one piece of physical health. You must also reduce the amount of sitting, which is no easy move for someone with a desk job. The authors of a recent editorial for the British Journal of Sports Medicine argue that people should be encouraged not only to workout, but also to stay moving—taking the stairs instead of the elevator or taking a five minute break while doing sedentary work, for example. Too many people work at a desk all day and then head home to watch TV at night. In fact, a study of Australian adults found that a one-hour increase in TV watching increased the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in women by 26 percent—regardless of the amount of exercise those women performed.

Request a flexible work arrangement: In some parts of the world, lawmakers have jumped into the debate over flexible work arrangements. Parents with young kids also have a statutory right to ask for flexible work arrangements in the U.K. The benefits of a controllable work schedule are great, even for non-parents. A recent Cochrane review of 10 studies found that control over one's own work hours yielded health benefits in areas such as blood pressure and sleep.

Keep a clean desk: A 2004 study by NEC-Mitsubishi coined a phrase for this: "irritable desk syndrome." Researchers determined that cluttered desks were among the workplace factors making employees ill. Some 2,000 workers were surveyed and 45 percent reported that it was possible to fix the mess of clutter and paper on their desks that increased their stress at work.

Work on your relationship with your boss: You might not think that nurturing a better relationship with your manager would have much impact on your physical health, but it does. For one thing, when advocating for a lighter workload, a more flexible schedule, or less overtime, you'll have a better shot getting what you want if your boss is in your corner. Also, there's evidence that workers who feel they have good bosses appear to have a lower risk of heart disease.

By Liz Wolgemuth

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How to Turn Volunteering Into a Job

We're a country on a volunteer kick. More than 4 in 10 Americans volunteered their time at some point in the 12 months ending in October—but charity wasn't their only motive. According to a Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund study, nearly a quarter of respondents were also looking to network. For some, it's just a benevolent way to make contacts, but for the nation's 15 million unemployed, the professional value of unpaid work could hardly be greater. Volunteering has offered a path for job seekers to broaden their networks, sharpen their skills, or simply stay busy, and the experience has helped lead some to paid jobs.

Interest in volunteering has picked up at Feeding South Florida, a food bank in Broward County, says volunteer coordinator Jennifer Wescott. "With people who are unemployed or in between work, we've definitely seen an increase," Wescott says. "People just want to keep busy. They just want to keep from going a little crazy." That's no surprise, given the record-high 6.5 million unemployed workers who had been out of work for six months or more in March and the static number of job openings. Many fear that they are losing out on critical skills development, which only prolongs the period of unemployment.

Wescott encourages volunteers to use the experience to network. "You never know what you're going to find or who you're going to meet," she says. "When you learn about what we do, you have an advantage over someone who comes through the door, who has no idea what we do. I could recommend you, or someone else that you volunteered with could recommend you."

A third of professionals under 35 who volunteer are motivated partly by the chance to network, according to the Fidelity survey. And often, the goal for younger job seekers is to fill a frustrating gap on their résumés. When Danielle Zorn, 22, graduated from Gordon College in Massachusetts in May, she first moved into an internship and then, in August, started her job hunt in the District of Columbia. Between job interviews, Zorn volunteered in the museum offices of the journalism-centric Newseum, where she chipped in with administrative tasks: "making copies and odd jobs they need done." The Newseum—a familiar name to D.C.-area hiring managers—went on her résumé.

Zorn started a full-time job in March. "Working in the offices there definitely gave me more learning experiences to prepare me for the setting I'm in currently," she says.

Some volunteers list unpaid efforts on their résumés without mentioning that they were uncompensated. For example, an unemployed marketing specialist might describe her unpaid marketing work for a nonprofit as "consulting." Experts say that's OK so long as the description on the résumé is truthful. "This is not to denigrate volunteer work," says Mary Agnes Williams, a nonprofit executive. "In fact, to me it's exalting it and using it in the same way as paid experience."

Some nonprofits find it tricky when people who express interest in volunteering are much more interested in landing a paying job. Donna Baker, the senior manager of operations staffing and training at the Newseum, says it's rare that a volunteer stint has turned into a full-time position at the museum, but one museum director is a former volunteer who worked his way up. His experience sets an example: "He didn't come in to network," Baker says. "He did what he was tasked to do and just impressed people."

Most important to the unemployed is maximizing the value of volunteering, given the time it takes away from the job search. Small nonprofits can be good choices because they often lack resources and staff, says Mary Lee Gannon, author of Starting Over: 25 Rules When You've Bottomed Out. Gannon recommends that job seekers aim for volunteer opportunities that advance their skill set. "People think of filling water pitchers at hospitals and walking dogs—all valuable things that I do and my children do," she says. "However, if you're looking to be strategic to advance your career, you want to look to acquire skills that you don't have."

During a period of unemployment, Gannon volunteered to write a grant for a local school district. She had no experience in grant writing, so she took a class at a local library to learn the basics. Her unpaid efforts helped land a $68,000 grant. A second successful volunteer effort was for a grant seven times larger. Gannon, who now works as a hospital foundation executive, didn't see those efforts as charity but rather as an opportunity to learn new skills "at someone else's risk," she says.

By Liz Wolgemuth

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to Break Your Addiction to Fear

One of the biggest obstacles to pursuing your dreams in your career—or doing anything great in life, for that matter—is fear. Fear can stop you dead in your tracks. It can make you play small. It can keep you from ever growing into a fraction of your potential.

nd yet, as debilitating as fear can be, most people seem to be addicted to feeding it. We love fear! Everywhere you turn, there’s somebody telling us there’s something to be afraid of, and we eat it up. Take a look at the news. How much fear do you see there? Everywhere you look something bad is happening somewhere. The majority of it has little or nothing to do with our own individual lives, but it shapes how we see the world.

My suggestion? Put your fear on a diet! Stop feeding it so much. Fear has its place, absolutely. But that place is not to keep you stuck and small. That place is to help you make good decisions, and to help you avoid unnecessary pain. As I wrote about—Why Fear is Really Your Career’s Best Friend—the trick is to put it to productive use, rather than letting it be the tail wagging the dog.

Look around you. Where are you inviting fear into your life? How much of the nightly news is really important and relevant to your life? Do you really need to know about the latest disaster? Do you really need to know all the gory details about the latest tragedy? What effect would it have on your life if you stopped watching the news altogether and decided to experiment with just scanning the headlines once a day for news that is personally relevant for you?

While you’re at it, notice the stories you create around the news that does affect you. I’ve noticed some stories I'm creating for myself lately in response to the continued malaise of the economy. They’re all future stories, about bad things that might happen to my business. But they have nothing to do with reality! Reality could just as well go the other direction. If I let myself linger in the negative stories, I’m feeding my fear with a made-up reality. How much sense does that make?

How about the divisiveness and demonization of the “other” that is so rampant in both the media and the ideological silos that so many of us live in? Demonizing people with other opinions or ways of seeing things (how many derogatory names for Republicans or Democrats have you seen in the comments section of any online news site?) is inherently about fear.

I know politics is a touchy subject, but whether you lean to the left or the right or some other direction altogether, try an experiment. Whenever you find your emotions coming up in response to someone or some group who sees the world differently than you do, let it be a flag to stop, step back, and take a deep breath. Instead of anger, try looking at it through the lens of curiosity. Let the emotion subside and ask yourself, why do they think this way? What lens are they looking through? Challenge yourself to build an understanding (and understanding doesn’t have to mean agreeing).

What does all of this have to do with your career? On the surface of it, nothing. But if you dig deeper, everything! The fear you feed yourself shapes and forms your perspective of the world. Is it a safe place, or is it a dangerous place? Is it filled with possibility, or are you one step away from getting smacked down? The way you see the world will define what you are willing to try. And what you are willing to try either limits or expands your potential.

I’m not saying never watch the news. I’m not saying you should hide your head in the sand and pretend that bad things never happen. And I’m not saying never disagree with anyone who has a different view on the world than you. I’m simply saying, be aware. Be aware of just how awash we are in fear, and what effect these things can have. Believe me, you’ll find no shortage of fear-inducing things in your life without actively seeking it out. So ask yourself, “What world view do I really want to feed myself—one of fear, or one of possibility?”

By Curt Rosengren

Monday, July 26, 2010

Best CV Writing Tips.

What is a CV?

  • CV stands for "Curriculum Vitae"
  • Curriculum vitae is Latin for "Life Story"
  • A CV is also often called a "Resume"

What to Include in a CV

A CV should at least include the following:

  • Your personal information
  • Your work experience
  • Your skills
  • Your education
  • Your personal profile and interests
  • Your references

Your Personal Information

Personal information should include name, address, telephone, and email. I will suggest you put this information at the top of your CV and make it look like a letterhead:

John Webber

123 Internet Lane, 4311 North cap, Norway
Tel: 020 7650 555, Mobile: 055 778 8 991, email:

Save other personal details for a later paragraph.

Your Work Experience

List what you have done - most recent work experience first.

Include a short job description and your responsibilities:

Work Experience

Programmer. Northcap IT.


Accountant. Northcap Auto.


Make sure your work experience is on the first page of your CV. This outlines your skills and selling points. Additional information should be added later.

Your Skills

Skills are best described with a list.

List your skills - most important and relevant first.



PC Skills

Don't forget to include responsibilities. Responsibility is a very important skill.

Your Education

Education is best described with a list.

List what you have studied - most recent education first.


Bachelor degree. Accounting. University of Northcap.

High school degree. Computing. College of Northcap.

Courses & Diplomas

XML Diploma. W3Schools.

Internet Programming Course.

Don't forget subject options, special project, courses, or diplomas.

Your References

List only a few names - like a teacher from your place of study, and a superior from a work situation - and make sure they can easily be reached and are willing to give you a good reference.

Your Personal Profile

Your personal profile should include additional information about your age, status, interests and other relevant information that can produce a positive picture of your character. I will suggest you put this in the last paragraph of your CV.

Personal Profile

My personal interests include fishing, sailing, and cycling. I am currently the secretary of the Northcap cycling club.

  • age 32
  • married, 2 children
  • good health
  • clean driver license for car and lorry

Employers will be interested in this paragraph because it reveals your character, but be careful. Don't overdo the description of your interest and don't describe interests that might distract your job. If you are coaching a football team, don't count the number of wins. Let them ask you about details in a later interview if they are interested.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How Your Boss Can Ruin Your Health

Wellbeing can be profoundly affected by some very surprising elements of life.

When it comes to wellbeing, you probably know it has something to do with eating more vegetables and getting some exercise, but you probably don't know the impact your boss can have on your triglycerides. Or, how important it is to chit-chat with a coworker in the next cubicle, or E-mail back and forth with colleagues who are also working remotely. And you probably didn't know that a job isn't essential to career wellbeing. In his new book Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, Gallup guru and bestselling author Tom Rath, together with coauthor Jim Harter, elucidates those aspects of our lives that have the most critical impact on our career, physical, social, financial, and community wellbeing. Rath recently spoke with U.S. News.

How important is career wellbeing on our overall wellbeing?

We've been tracking employment status and how engaged people are in their jobs. We've looked at the way that affects diagnosis rates of anxiety and depression and the like. Let's say the baseline is a rate of people who not only have a job but who like what they're doing each day, so they're pretty engaged in their jobs—that group has the very lowest rates of subsequent diagnoses of anxiety and depression, as you might expect. But what's interesting is if you're just in a job that you're not engaged in, you don't like what you're doing on a day-to-day basis—that alone doubles the chances of being diagnosed with depression over the next 12 months. If you're unemployed and looking for employment, that triples the chances from that original baseline rate, which is 4 percent. It goes from 4 to about 8 to about 12 in terms of odds of being diagnosed by a clinician with depression over the next year or so.

You note in the book that sustained unemployment is a particular threat to wellbeing.

I guess the scary thing for our economy as a whole is that there may be a lot more damaging psychological implications of the recession than most of us are thinking about today—when you think about the numbers that suggest about half of the people unemployed today have been unemployed for more than six months. Some of the research we look at in the book shows there's really nothing more detrimental in life than a prolonged period of sustained unemployment.

So were you able to see any ways that could be mitigated?

Definitely. That was one of the encouraging things. As long as there's something you can honestly look forward to when you wake up every morning. So when you roll out of bed, you have something you look forward to doing that day, even if that's volunteering or it's time taking care of a grandchild or a niece or a nephew or whatever it might be. That can certainly give you as much career wellbeing as you need, even if you're not getting a paycheck.

Do certain careers have higher rates of wellbeing?

We see slightly different rates based on whether people are employed part-time versus full-time and hourly versus salaried, and we see a little bit lower rates overall when you look at jobs that involve a lot of manual labor. But what's been the most interesting is that we actually see more variance within a single organization than we ever see across industries or across organizations. So, no matter how well-managed you think an organization might be—being engaged in your job is so strongly dependent on the quality and effort that the manager of that work unit puts forward.

Managers have an impact on physical wellbeing as well?

Correct. As a worker's engagement increases, we see that their total cholesterol and triglycerides go down. And some studies have shown how people who have bosses they've really hated over the years are more susceptible to heart attack and stroke. It sounds like a little bit of stretch at first when you hear your manager might impact your physical health, your cholesterol, and your risk of having a stroke. But when you think about the role that stress plays on the physiology of what's going on inside our bodies on a day-to-day basis, and think back to one of the worst managers you've ever had, it starts to make a little bit of sense.

Are there elements of wellbeing more within an employee's control than the quality of a manager?

Figure out what you really love doing and use your strengths on a daily basis. As long as people have an opportunity to do what they do best every day, they're significantly more likely to be engaged in their jobs and satisfied in their lives overall. Also, people who had high levels of career wellbeing had a leader or mentor or someone that they looked up to. One of the interesting findings was that creating close friendships on the job makes quite a difference. People who say they have a best friend at work are seven times as likely to be engaged in what they're doing. And if they don't have a best friend at work, the odds of being engaged are just 1 in 12.

How do you determine what is a best friend? That's kind of an ambiguous term.

When we were first working on this research, we tested a lot of different questions. We tested asking workers if they had a friend at work, if they had a good friend at work. The only item that really differentiated work groups who had higher levels of productivity, less turnover, higher levels of customer satisfaction, and the like were the people who said they had a best friend at work. One of the interesting things we've been drawing into recently is how just the sheer amount of time you spend socializing in a given day has a strong influence on your overall wellbeing. That's the time you spend at work socializing with colleagues, E-mailing back and forth, instant messaging, talking on the phone. When you add all that up, each additional hour you spend in social time each day dramatically increases your odds of having a lot of happy moments and fewer stressful moments in a given day.

E-mail and instant messaging aren't to workers' detriment?

I don't know that it is. We've begun to study the wellbeing levels of a few organizations now and when we segment out their remote workers—or people who work from home—they have wellbeing levels that compare favorably or a little bit better in some cases to the large physical offices where people come in every day.

Did you find that there is an ideal daily schedule for wellbeing?

It is so easy to put things off, but when people exercise in the morning, in many cases they did so because over time they realized that working out in the morning puts you in a better mood and you're more productive and you have more energy throughout the workday. People with high levels of wellbeing have been careful to work out early in the morning and not to have heavy meals throughout the day because you kind of fall off a cliff in terms of your energy by 2 or 3:00 if you have a lunch with a lot of heavy foods.

Were there companies that have done a particularly good job of encouraging wellbeing? For example, Google is famous from providing organic meals to its employees.

I'm sure all the things that Google does are perceived as helpful by employees and nice to have, but our engagement research shows that those more trivial benefits and perks—the doggie daycare and on-site dry-cleaning—don't have anywhere near as much impact as a manager who cares about what's going on with your family. So, I don't think companies can just pile on the benefits and see any real improvement in engagement or wellbeing over time.

In your own life, have you become really conscientious about exercising, eating right, and being engaged at work?

Yeah, I've made a lot of changes. The obvious one—that I think a lot of us who have worked on this research have learned—is that even if you have a lot to do in a given day and you have a lot of meetings scheduled, you actually get more done in less time if you start your day with a good workout and if you avoid some of the high loads of a sugars and carbs and fats earlier in the day. We've also seen a lot of people in our organization who rally around to say, "let's go spend time together," whether it's a work baseball team or everybody getting together after work to do one of the couch-to-5k running programs.

I know people who are regular exercisers, healthy eaters, and active in their communities. Sometimes I think these are people who were just born with those inclinations. Are there certain personality types more prone to having wellbeing in multiple areas?

There is certainly some predisposition to wellbeing, based on the research I've looked at. There are people who have a lot more natural disciple. But for most of us, it takes a lot more in terms of social expectations, where, say, we tell people we're going to run a 5k. In my office in D.C., we've hired a lot of young people. Just something as basic as going and getting a paper cup of coffee—people give me dirty looks when I do that now. I know there's a social expectation that I should be using a mug that I wash and reuse each time instead of throwing away a paper cup. That's exactly what happened with smoking. Smokers were essentially just pushed to the outer edges of social networks one at a time. And you could watch the same social patterns with litter 25 years ago or seatbelt use. You can see how those big social changes happened in the context of groups and organizations and communities and neighborhoods.

I've been watching the television show Mad Men lately. Characters on that show go on picnics and leave their litter in the park—they drink while they're driving.

I was saying that to my wife. We watched a few seasons of that recently and it seems like a time capsule to me. I told someone that show makes me a little more optimistic because you can see how much progress society can make in a short period of time.

By Liz Wolgemuth

Friday, July 23, 2010

14 Secrets to Career Change Success

Step 1. Stop Delaying.

Making a career change is challenging in the best of times, so this economy certainly doesn’t help. Many people allow that to keep them frustrated and stuck—not just for now, but for the long haul. They think about making a change, decide they can’t do it, and stick their dissatisfied noses right back down to the same grindstone. But what feels impossible today could be an open door in the future.

Step 2. Prepare to Feel Fear.

You’re 99.9 percent guaranteed to bump up against fear. It just comes with the territory. But it can actually be an enormously valuable asset. Productive fear shines a light on potential dangers so you can assess how to minimize or eliminate them. Ask yourself: Is this fear valid? What warning does this fear have for me? What factors would make this outcome more likely? What could I do about each of those risk factors?

Step 3. Analyze Yourself.

Start with questions like: What do I love doing? Why? When do I feel most energized? Why? What activities do I lose myself in? Why? What work sparks my interest? Why? What feels meaningful? Why?

Step 4. Lay the Groundwork.

Ask yourself, “What is it going to take to make the change? What do I need to put in place?” Maybe you need to start putting aside money for a career change fund. Maybe you need to start developing an expertise or building relationships in your new area of focus.

Step 5. Take Action.

There comes a time when exploring and thinking and noodling cease being productive and become just another way to procrastinate. Action creates opportunity. There are countless doors that will never open to you unless you take the first steps. Action is also a great antidote to fear. Sitting passively and letting life happen to you breeds fear the way still, stagnant water breeds mosquitoes. Stir it up a little.

Step 6. Network.

Once you have clarity about what makes you tick and where you want to go, you can start building a network. The idea is to create a framework that you can tap into when it comes time to make that change. Build your network before you need it.

Step 7. Assume Success.

There’s a well-known self-exploration question that goes, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” It’s a way to help people shine a light on their dreams. Tell yourself: “Success is inevitable. Now prove it.” Assume that the only possible outcome is success, and then challenge yourself to prove how that can happen.

Step 8. Pay Attention.

Make it a habit to pay attention to two things at work: what you love about your job and what you dislike. Your goal is to understand the details of your experience, because that gives you something specific to work with as you pursue positive change. Think of your work as a big research experiment aimed at helping you uncover what energizes you and what drains you.

Step 9. Find Good Company.

When you surround yourself with people who are positive and motivated, who believe in their potential, a funny thing happens. Even if nothing else in your life changes, it starts to rub off on you. It starts to change your paradigm.

Step 10. Get Knowledge Support.

You don’t have all the answers, so don’t pretend you do. Take stock of what you need to learn, and find ways to learn it. Find mentors, interview experts, or take classes. The less you grapple with figuring out the answers, the more energy you’ll have to use them.

Step 11. Help Someone Else.

As you look at your goals, ask the question, “How can I serve?” How can you help someone? Where are your opportunities to give? When you focus on helping and giving, you are often the recipient of helping and giving from some other direction. I can’t tell you the equation that translates your giving actions into benefits for yourself. But almost everything I have been able to accomplish in my own career has been driven in some way by focusing on how I can help others.

Step 12. Deal With Past Failures.

Are there any failures in your past that are keeping you from your future? Are you playing it safe anywhere, not because it’s the wise thing to do but because you’re letting your fear close doors? What one step can you take to start opening those doors again? You can either learn and move on, or let that failure limit your life.

Step 13. Be Sure You're Not Getting in Your Own Way.

Perhaps you find yourself spending too much time watching TV and not enough time working towards what you really want. Or it could be that your diet is so packed with junk food that you have no energy to do anything but come home at the end of the day and collapse.

Step 14. Get Back On Track After A Derailment.

If you ever wind up off track as you pursue your passion, take heart. You’re in good company. It happens a lot. The important thing is not whether or not you get derailed, it’s what you do when you realize that it has happened.

By Curt Rosengren

Thursday, July 22, 2010

7 Ways Not to Use Your Connections to Get a Job

Most of us know by now that using connections is the best way to find a job. Open jobs are simply so hard to find that our best hope often rests in our friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even relatives. They hear about the openings before we do.

Many articles tell you how to use your connections to find a job, but few tell you what not to do. Here are seven ways you shouldn't use your connections to get hired:

1. Don’t assume personal friendship transfers to a professional relationship. Maybe it does, but just because you play softball with someone does not mean he can find you a job at his company or properly present you and your skills to the right person. Sometimes it is better for us to present our own skills to the HR manager than have someone who really doesn't know us in this way present them.

2. Don’t make your job-hunting problems the first time you have ever talked about your career or work. You should be sharing your professional life with your contacts well before.

3. Do not trash your last employer or industry. This might be tempting to do, particularly to someone you know, but it is never a good idea. They may shake their head in agreement during the conversation, but they will leave with a negative impression of you.

4. Realize that appearing too insecure, needy, or desperate could change your connection and friendship. Right now, you are seen as equals, this might diminish you somehow. It is well worth that risk when the conversation is handled appropriately.

5. Don't assume preparation is less important. Just because he or she is a “connection” does not mean you can short circuit the process. Come prepared with a list of companies that interest you. Hopefully, your connection can use this as a starting point. In other words, do not expect your connection to do all the work for you.

6. Don’t guilt him into helping you. Chances are, if your connection is a friend, he will already want to do whatever he can to help you. Don’t make him feel guilty when he takes longer than you think he should to make an introduction or two.

7. Don’t force the issue. Trust your connection to know the right way to help you. If he does not think it makes sense for him to insert himself into the HR system at his company on your behalf, let it go.

By G. L. Hoffman

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to Deal With Depression After Losing a Job

It could happen as soon as you hear the words from your boss that you are losing your job. It could happen days or weeks later. But the truth is that sooner or later you might feel the heavy grip of depression upon becoming unemployed-and in this economy, many people are feeling it. It is perfectly normal to feel this way in such a situation. Luckily, there are ways you can cope with the blues-here are some.


Step 1

Seek professional help if needed. First and foremost is to seek help from those that are trained to do so. Talking to a therapist is nothing to be ashamed about; they are there to help you. You may be able to find low-cost counseling or your previous employer may offer services. If you can't speak with a pro, a good venting session with a friend is always beneficial.

Step 2

Get active. You would be surprised at how a good run around the block helps with anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins and relieves stress. Getting more exercise will also get you in shape. Let's face it; most Americans are out of shape. Why not take your downtime into you own hands and get into shape? This is a wonderful way to use extra time and relieve stress-and make fitness a priority.

Step 3
Be open with your loved ones. Talk to your family. This is not the time to be proud or shoulder the burden. Your loved ones are going to need to know the facts if they are going to help you. Be completely open with your feelings and your family will appreciate you for it.

Step 4
Talk to friends. It's easy to abandon your friends after losing your job, but having your friends around will make it easier for you. Some of them might be in the same boat as you. Hiding in your house doesn't solve the problems. Get out in the world and socialize. This is also a great opportunity to spend time with the pals that you wouldn't normally have time for.

By Kristen Fischer

Monday, July 19, 2010

How You Make Your First Impressions Very Good :: Best Tips For Job Seekers

Life is all about making good first impressions with the people we meet. This article provides tips for making good first impressions in business and networking situations; with business cards, cover letters, and resumes; in job interviews; and when you are starting a new job.

In Business and Networking Situations
When meeting people for the first time, whether for career networking or client meetings, it's essential that you look the part. In other words, you must dress for the specific occasion. Conduct a little research or contact the organization responsible for the event to uncover the proper attire. In a pinch, it's always better to be overdressed than underdressed. And it's not just what you are wearing but how you're wearing it, so make sure your clothing is clean and well-pressed.

Grooming is also an important part of first impressions. Hair should be neat and certainly not the wind-tunnel look. For men, facial hair should be either non-existent or well-maintained. For women, less make-up is always better than too much. A light perfume or cologne is acceptable, but be careful of overwhelming the people in the room. Finally, a minimal amount of tasteful jewelry is best.

A small, but relatively unknown fact about name tags they should be worn on the person's right shoulder area so that when someone approaches to greet and shake his/her hand, the person's eyes follow the arm right up to the name tag, making it much easier to greet the person rather than looking all the way over to the other side of the person or worse, toward the cleavage for a woman.

Next up for first impressions are the handshake and greeting. Handshakes should be simple extend right hand and grasp gently but firmly. No bone-crushers and no four-handed, one-hand over the other shakes. And no sweaty, clammy, or wimpy handshakes. If your nerves cause you to get wet palms, carry a handkerchief in your pocket and wipe your hand before you do the meet and greet. The greeting should be short and simple, making certain you listen for the other person's name. For example, I might greet someone in a business setting as, "Hi. I'm Dr. Randall Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers." Be certain to speak clearly and enunciate.

To nail the good impression you're trying to make, the last tip when you're in this setting is not to make the conversation all about you. You want to engage the other person in conversation, making certain to use his/her name for emphasis. You can, of course, talk about yourself, but don't make the whole conversation about you and keep stories short. Look for common ground with the person you're talking to, and share stories about that common interest. And, of course, avoid talking about controversial subjects, such as religion, politics, and sex. If you're naturally funny, use humor, but nothing off-color, and show your serious side also.

Learn more about the power of networking, how to develop and grow your network, and much more in the Career and Job-Search Networking section.

With Business Cards, Cover Letters, and Resumes
For first impressions, the most important element here is the design and format. Except in very creative professions, colors of the paper and the text should be conservative. The same holds true with the typeface, use normal, readable fonts.

Business or networking cards should be simple and tastefully designed, and include key contact information. For some professions, such as sales, you can use a picture, but make certain it is a good photo.

Keep cover letters to no more than five short paragraphs, though four is better. The letterhead should match your resume, as should the paper and font(s). The way to make the strongest first impression is to address the letter to the recipient by name. The worst thing you can do is misspell the person's name. The second best way to make a good impression is to have a dynamic and powerful first paragraph that explains why you are writing. (Many job-seekers waste the first paragraph by writing a dull first paragraph.)

Your resume format should be original and inviting to the reader. Don't cram every single detail into a resume with no margins and tiny type. Use white space and go to additional pages or cut material. I have a true "rule of thumb." If my thumbs cover parts of your resume when I am holding it, then the margins are too narrow and I immediately have a negative impression of the resume. You should also know what is trendy in resumes and include those things in yours. For example, an accomplishments summary that highlights your 3 to 4 best attributes specific to the job at hand.

In Job Interviews
Because the job interview is usually your first face-to-face with the employers, first impressions are especially crucial. Arrive about 15 minutes early so you have time to find the exact office, perhaps with a stop at a restroom to conduct a final grooming check as well as possibly complete some paperwork before the interview starts. Always be polite to the support staff, as the impression you make with them will often be factored into the hiring decision. Of course, dressing for success and proper grooming are essential. Never arrive with any kind of food in your mouth or on your teeth, and try not to smoke right before the interview. Turn off your cell phone on the way to the interview. In the interview, smiling and making strong eye contact are important elements to establishing a good impression. Answering interview questions with ease (showcasing your interview preparation) and asking questions of the interviewer are vital to making a good impression. A great way to cement a strong first impression is writing a thank-you note after the interview. Visit our 200 Interviewing Questions.

When Starting a New Job
The first impressions you make with your co-workers and supervisor will go a long way to building a solid reputation for yourself. In those first days and weeks, you'll want to arrive a bit early, take no more than your allotted breaks during the day, leave no earlier than when the majority of the others in your area leave, and avoid calling in sick or taking personal days. In terms of actual work, you'll want to show your team spirit by supporting the team, perhaps even offering to take on a bit more than usual if the team needs it. Listen more than talk in those early days, and certainly do not showboat until you have firmly established your reputation as a solid worker and team player. And it should go without saying, but stay clear of all office politics and gossip. Finally, remember to keep your personal communications email, IM, and phone to a minimal while at work.

Final Thoughts
You might think that making a good first impression is really about using common sense and you would be correct. At the same time, we constantly hear horror stories from recruiters and employers about the unfortunate things job-seekers do, resulting in extremely poor first (and often last) impressions. Use your common sense and follow the tips in this article and you will go far in making a good first impression.

by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Best Careers for Women Over Forty

In a nationwide survey, we asked midlife women to define the most important elements of a great job. In addition to a good salary and benefits, you told us you want a profession with a bright future, a high level of control and a flexible schedule.

We grilled the experts to find careers that deliver. Ready, set, reinvent! (saying Kate Ashford in

1. Community Service Coordinator/Manager

(volunteer coordinator, program director)
Salary: Most earn $42,110 to $73,470
Top 10% Make: $96,000+
Why Now: The field is expected to grow 48% by 2016
What You’ll Need: BA, passion for a cause
Entrepreneur Opportunities: Most in the field work for nonprofits or the government

2. Personal Financial Adviser

(financial planner)
Salary: Most earn $46,390 to $119,290
Top 10% Make: $166,000
Why Now: One of the 10 fastest growing occupations, it’s projected to boom 41% by 2016
What You’ll Need: A solid business background plus education in the field. You’ll probably also need Series 7 and Series 63 or 66 licenses
Entrepreneur Opportunities: 30% are self-employed

3. Environmental Scientist

(hydrologist, environmental ecologist, environmental chemist, ecological modeler)
Salary: Most earn $45,340 to $78,980
Top 10% Make: $103,000+
Why Now: The field is expected to grow 25% by 2016
What You’ll Need: Most positions require a master’s degree in environmental science, hydrology or a related natural science
Entrepreneur Opportunities: About 2% are self-employed

4. Registered Nurse

(critical care, emergency, oncology, clinical)
Salary: Most earn $51,640 to $76,570
Top 10% Make: $92,000+
Why Now: A projected 587,000 new nursing jobs will be created by 2016
What You’ll Need: A BS in nursing (four years), an associate’s degree in nursing (two to three years) or a diploma from an approved nursing program
Entrepreneur Opportunities: Although some nurses provide care as independent contractors or wellness coaches, most are employees

5. Computer and Information Systems Manager

(chief technology officer, management information systems (MIS) director, information technology (IT) director)
Salary: Most earn $88,240 to $141,890
Top 10% Make: $166,000+
Why Now: This field will add 43,000 jobs by 2016
What You’ll Need: A bachelor’s degree and sometimes a master’s degree—consider an MBA with a focus on technology
Entrepreneur Opportunities: These tend to be leadership positions within a company

6. Education Administrator

(principal, assistant principal, provost, dean of students, school district administrator, director of student services)
Salary: Most earn $68,360 to $102,830 (elementary and secondary school)
Top 10% Make: $125,000+
Why Now: Many will retire in the next decade
What You’ll Need: Experience as a teacher or in a field such as recruiting. Some positions require a master’s degree
Entrepreneur Opportunities: Most work for school districts or universities

7. Strategic/Crisis Communication Professional

(crisis manager, strategic communication specialist)
Salary: Most earn $38,400 to $71,670
Top 10% make: $98,000+
Why Now: The field is expected to create 43,000 new jobs by 2016
What You’ll Need: Public relations experience
Entrepreneur Opportunities: With the right expertise, it’s possible to provide this service as an independent contractor

8. Accountant

(public accountant, management accountant, government accountant, internal auditor)
Salary: Most earn $45,900 to $78,210
Top 10% Make: $102,000+
Why Now: The field will grow 18% by 2016, adding 226,000 jobs, and these positions are available in every industry
What You’ll Need: A degree in accounting or a related field. You have to pass an exam to become a CPA
Entrepreneur Opportunities: 10% are self-employed

9. Human Resources Specialist

(job analyst, compensation manager, employee benefits manager, training and development manager, recruiter)
Salary: Most earn $35,020 to $67,730
Top 10% Make: $84,000+
Why Now: There will be 147,000 new specialist jobs created by 2016
What You’ll Need: Depends. To specialize, you may need an MBA with a focus in HR management
Entrepreneur Opportunities: About 2 percent are self-employed

10. Small-Scale Niche Farmer

Salary: Most earn $26,800 to $76,230
Top 10% Make: $97,000+
Why Now: Small farms are growing at a rate of 10,000 a year
What You’ll Need: Nothing—training is done on the job
Entrepreneur Opportunities: 80% are self-employed

Tips for middle-aged job seekers

Numerous middle-aged workers have found themselves unexpectedly back in the job-search mode, which is financially and personally challenging for many workers who've spent a decade or longer in the same career.

One 53-year-old Torrance resident who was terminated in November took time to "recover psychologically, catch up on some leisure reading, and fix everything that was broken in the house." He is now ready to tackle the next stage.

As a manufacturing sales professional, he developed many business and administrative skills. He asks how he should approach a new-career search? His finances are a year's severance pay, and approximately $450,000 in retirement savings, and a home-mortgage balance of $118,000. His health coverage is now through COBRA but must soon be replaced.

It's still very tough looking for work. However, as worker demographics change, so are employer expectations. By 2016, a third of the American work force will be age 50-plus, compared with 28 percent in 2007. Demand for mature, experienced employees is expected to increase, especially in industries like health care.

The Torrance reader should tackle financial issues first, then focus on the searches. He should consult with a fee-only financial advisor to decide when - or if - he should move his 401(k). Internal costs and investment options are also vital considerations.

He also should research health insurance options, looking into plans available through trade/professional associations and individual policies. He'll possibly obtain coverage with a new job.

It's also advisable to get the "health house" in order to the extent possible by getting fit and losing weight, if needed, as it's well known that healthy employees cost employers less in the short and long run.

Numerous resources may help boomers conduct a targeted career search. Following are a few:

U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, at It lists leading occupations providing current information on hiring forecasts and salaries.

U.S. News & World Report, at, runs an annual list of hit jobs and popular (and promising) occupations for boomer workers.

AARP, at, provides a wealth of resources on jobs, careers and retirement planning for the over-50 population.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How to Recruit, Hire, and Retain the Best of Generation Y: 10 Workplace Issues Most Important to Gen Y

Experts have been warning employers for years about the impending brain drain as baby boom workers -- the heart and soul of many organizations over the last three decades -- leave corporate America in droves for retirements and re-careering options.

But with the gloom associated with the baby boomers' exit, comes the hope of a new generation of workers. Roughly the same size as the boomers, Generation Y is the foundation for the next three decades of employment and leadership.

So, what's the problem? It lies with the attitudes that Generation Y has to employment and work. Generation Y has been the most pampered and indulged generation. Growing up with the Internet and various technological gadgets, this generation is also the most tech-savvy and wired (or perhaps wirelessly connected) cohort. Their views of life and work are different from any others -- and if employers want to recruit and retain these people, strategies and policies and procedures will have to change.

There is no question that a paradigm shift is occurring in recruitment and retention -- with the most successful organizations already implementing changes to cater to this new generation of workers.

Besides obvious things such as using social-networking sites to recruit employees and offering a corporate career site that is interactive and engaging (like the Deloitte career site that offers grads videos on life at Deloitte), what else can employers do to help ensure that they will be able to recruit, hire, and retain Generation Y workers?

Here is a list of the 10 workplace issues most important to Gen Y job-seekers and workers:

1. Nurturing corporate culture. Gen Ys view having strong friendships with co-workers and bosses as extremely important to them. There is much anecdotal support of workers staying longer in jobs simply because they loved the people they worked with -- and did not want to leave them. Management styles must be Theory Y for Gen Y. Consider too a formal or informal organization-wide mentoring program.

2. Job flexibility. Gen Ys not only want flexible hours and schedules, but remote work options because of their perception of the never-ending intersection of work and life. They see themselves doing work everywhere -- except in a cubicle. Jobs must be designed to accommodate these workers personal lives -- not the other way around.

3. Challenging work. Gen Ys, more than any previous college grads, are graduating college with a dynamic mix of academic and work experiences that have them positioned to contribute from day one. They are not interested in "grunt" jobs, or jobs in which they have to "pay their dues;" they seek challenging work from the start.

4. Professional and personal growth opportunities. Gen Ys value lifelong learning. They also tend to get bored easily and seek out new things. They want employers that offer tuition reimbursement, sabbaticals, and other growth opportunities.

5. Volunteering options. Gen Ys have been involved in service most of their lives and have a true commitment to bettering the world around them. Employers should develop organizational volunteering programs and options that allow workers to continue these efforts. Having an organizational culture that supports these values is essential.

6. Competitive salaries. Gen Ys -- especially younger ones fresh out of college -- have more debt (both student loans and credit cards) than any previous generation, and they demand a salary that not only recognizes their contributions, but also helps them pay down the debt. Some employers even have programs in place to help these workers pay off student loans.

7. Advancement opportunities. While Gen Ys are certainly not the most loyal bunch (but don't blame them -- blame those employers that downsized their parents), they do seek out employers that have a plan for their success. Employers should examine and create new ladders to guide younger workers through a steady progression in the organization.

8. Recognition programs. Gen Ys were raised in a bubble of constant praise and recognition from their families, and so this kind of constant reinforcement and recognition is something they expect. But please, no Office Space "flair" programs; instead, implement authentic work recognition programs.

9. Business casual. Gen Ys, as a whole, have more tattoos and piercings than any previous worker cohort -- and that personal style also applies to how they dress and how they want to dress for work. While they can look great in business suits, many prefer a work environment in which they can wear comfortable clothing that expresses their individuality.

10. Intrapreneurship programs. Study after study show that Gen Ys have an extremely strong entrepreneurial focus -- with many planning to start their own businesses (partly so that they can control their own fate). Employers can retain workers longer -- while leveraging that entrepreneurial sprit -- by developing incubator and intrapreneurship programs and opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Just as the work that is completed changes to meet the times, so, too, must the way we perform the work -- and Generation Y workers are some of the most independent-minded and tech-savvy workers employers have seen. Changing the way you do business -- and the way you manage, recognize, and reward your employees (including the mix of benefits and perks you offer) -- is essential not only to your success in recruiting and retaining Generation Y workers, but to the organization's future success as well.

by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Perception vs. Reality: 10 Truths About The Generation Y Workforce

It's important to preface this article by stating that people are individuals and that while it is sometimes efficient for experts to place people into generational groups for analysis, in the end, even with certain common traits and behaviors, individuals must be judged on their own merits.

That said, as a new crop of college graduates hits the workforce, it's important -- both for the job-seekers and for prospective employers -- to read this article. For the college grads, it's helpful to understand how hiring managers and future co-workers may perceive them. For hiring managers, it's useful to cut through stereotypes and misconceptions about this generation.

Generation Y. The Millennials. The Tech/Net/Digital Generation. Boomlets. Echo Boomers. We've given this generation of people -- roughly those born between the late 1970's and the late 1990's and 72 million or so strong -- many names, but none so hurtful as the Entitlement Generation. They've also been called arrogant, self-centered, and possessing a short attention span.

This article, playing off the infamous Rolling Stone campaign, discusses 10 perceptions of Generation Y workers -- and then corrects or adjusts those perceptions with the reality behind each. Also included in each of the 10 misconceptions is advice for both employers and for Gen Y workers and job-seekers.

Perception: Spoiled/Entitled

Reality: To an extent, the folks in this generation do have a sense of entitlement, but it's not an entirely inherent personality flaw but partly the fault of Baby Boomer parents who coddled their children, constantly telling them how special they were and that anything they sought was possible, and rewarding them for every little thing, providing trophies and prizes simply for participating. These parents stunted their children's growth by proactively removing all obstacles and potentially negative experiences.

So, yes, on the surface Generation Y workers appear entitled.

The key for employers is approaching younger workers differently, providing constructive criticism that reflects confidence in them.

Generation Y workers must realize that their bosses are not going to be like theirr parents, and that part of growing as an employee is learning from past mistakes and accepting constructive criticism.

Perception: Lazy

Reality: Technology has allowed this generation to multitask and find shortcuts in achieving tasks. Texting, instant messaging, social networking, and Web surfing have all made Generation Y workers more competent, efficient, and productive (if not sometimes overwhelmed).

The key for employers is to accept that there may be multiple ways for workers to accomplish their tasks.

Generation Y workers may need to demonstrate that they are working just as hard as everyone else, but perhaps simply performing the job more efficiently.

Perception: Poor Work Ethic

Reality: Generation Y is the first generation to expect -- from day one -- employers to realize there is more to life than work. Just as many Baby Boomers are now discovering later in their careers, Generation Y sees work as a means to enjoy life -- and life comes first. They have a strong work ethic -- just not in a 9-5 sort of way. Generation Y wants work to be fun and flexible because the line between work and life is seamless. (In other words, there is no such thing as work-life balance because it's all just one thing.) Generation Y also follows a mantra of working smarter, not harder.

The key for employers is offering flexible work schedules, adjusting the belief that workers need to "put in the hours at the desk" to be effective, and developing a work culture that is pleasant and positive.

Generation Y workers may need to readjust some attitudes about work, especially for entry-level positions in which workers have traditionally been expect to work long hours to earn their due.

Perception: Little Respect for Authority

Reality: While some people refer to this cohort of people as Generation Why for a reason, it is not so much an issue of a lack of respect for authority as much as it is that this group has been raised by their parents to question everything and raise questions when they don't understand something. This generation is very independent and not afraid to challenge the status-quo. Many in Generation Y want a relationship with their boss like the ones they have with their parents. It's not that these folks have little respect for authority; on the contrary, they feel employers do not respect them.

The key for employers is realizing that asking questions can often lead to answers and solutions that are actually more efficient and effective. Unlike with any other set of workers in the past, employers must also provide more autonomy -- and trust Gen Y workers to complete the work.

Generation Y workers should learn to choose battles carefully, not question every single decision made, and give employers a chance to adapt to their style of work.

Perception: Too Self-Centered and Individualistic

Reality: This iPod Generation (named such because iPod commercials focus on individuality while selling the product to every Gen Y) works well in groups and teams -- especially with people their own age -- but they also have been taught the value of individuality and independent thinking. They see themselves as unique individuals -- not tied to any specific labels. And unlike any previous generation, these workers do not plan to let their jobs define who they are.

The key for employers is finding the right mix of individual and team projects that allow these workers to grow professionally.

Generation Y workers need to realize that almost all work will be some combination of individual assignments and teamwork with people of all backgrounds and ages.

Perception: Overinflated/Unrealistic Expectations

Reality: While this generation may be more anxious than others to rise quickly to the top, it's less about unrealistic expectations than it is about being better prepared for work than previous generations -- with perhaps a touch of the need for instant gratification thrown in. This generation also has no interest whatsoever in working in a cubicle -- not because it is beneath them, but because they feel advances in technology should let them be able to choose to work from home, Starbucks, or anywhere there is a Wi-Fi connection.

The key for employers is to redesign and rebuild some of the old career ladders that were destroyed with the flattening of organizations and greatly expand telecommuting and remote working arrangements. Gen Y workers need to see a progressive promotion path or they will move on to the next employer.

Generation Y workers should learn to pace themselves and gain the necessary experience and skills before expecting a promotion to the next level.

Perception: Not Committed to Work

Reality: This generation is the most educated workforce ever, and partly because of this level of education, Generation Y workers believe their work should have meaning. These folks quote from Office Space and have a mistrust of management. More than ever, these workers are seeking greater fulfillment and are only willing to work hard at jobs that provide it.

The key for employers is changing the way they view work and employees -- and it may also mean that to keep Gen Y workers, they may need to not only develop better jobs, but also consider strong corporate values and corporate volunteering programs. Employers also need to clearly show how the work Gen Ys complete directly impacts the organization's success.

Generation Y workers should conduct more research on prospective employers to find organizations that not only have meaningful career paths, but also share some of the same values.

Perception: No Loyalty to Employers

Reality: Because of more work experiences and greater education, Gen Y workers are simply more mobile, making it easier to move from one employer to another if they are unhappy with the work. They were also raised during a period of great downsizing and rightsizing, and many witnessed the grief and frustration their parents felt when being laid off -- and they do not want to experience that emotion. These are also some of the reasons why many Gen Y workers are diligently planning to start their own businesses.

The key for employers is to develop a stronger commitment to keeping employees -- even in bad economic times -- and also to do a better job in training and retaining workers, possibly including such benefits as sabbaticals, professional development opportunities, and other options for Gen Y workers seeking deeper fulfillment.

Generation Y workers should try to not be so skeptical about the motives of employers and learn to trust them more while continuing their professional development as a hedge against any downturns.

Perception: Lacking in Social Skills

Reality: Generation Y are some of the most social of any generational cohort; it's just that they communicate and socialize much differently from the rest of us.

The key for employers is to realize and accept that people communicate differently and to embrace the new techniques while also teaching the Gen Y workers that business sometimes still needs to use traditional methods of communication.

Generation Y workers need to use those excellent communications and diversity skills to learn to socialize and communicate with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Perception: Needy

Reality: Okay. The reality here is that Millennials are indeed pretty needy. Again, though, it's not really their fault as their parents basically trained them that mom or dad is just a phone call away. In fact, there are stories of Generation Y job-seekers taking a parent along for the job interview or to help negotiate the job offer.

The key for employers is to realize that this generation -- at least when they are new to the workforce -- need a bit of special care and handling. There's no way they can go months without a review; they need constant (and not too critical) feedback.

Generation Y workers need to realize that the reality of the workplace is that it's not like home or college -- and that they are expected to do an excellent job without always wanting praise and being told that how good their work is. Finally, Generation Y workers need to tell mom or dad that it's time to stay home so they can learn to fight their own battles.

Final Thoughts
In the end, of course, every person -- every worker -- is judged on his or her merits, not on generalities or misconceptions. Still, based on the research and anecdotal evidence, it may be a bumpy ride for both employers and Generation Y workers in the years ahead.

by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Are Your Work Friends Bringing You Down?

Guidelines for Workplace Friendships
Many studies over the past few years have shown that workplace friendships increase productivity, team morale and workers' overall job satisfaction; and since friends provide us with support, comic relief and a sense of belonging, it seems only natural that having friends at the office makes work more pleasant. Yet despite the many benefits, experts advise that workplace friendships should be handled with care, given that they combine workers' personal and professional lives.

"Workplace friendships can be a double-edged sword," says Irene Levine, a professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and author of "Whether they are good or bad depends on the individuals and their roles. While relationships with colleagues can enhance creativity and job satisfaction, they should be approached with some caution. Some friendships fall apart and can make it very difficult to face your ex-friend each time you pass in the hall."

Who you associate yourself with in the workplace will also affect how your superiors and co-workers perceive you, says Helen Cooke, owner of Cooke Consulting, a human resources and organizational development firm. "We're all judged by the company we keep for better or worse," Cooke says.

Yet despite any potential pitfalls, it is possible to reap the benefits of having friends at work without wreaking havoc on your career. Here's how to set boundaries for your workplace friendships:

1. Keep your guard up, at least in the beginning

Though you may form an instant bond with a co-worker, resist the urge to share too much personal information right off the bat. "Approach a new friendship on the job slowly, being cautious to not get too involved too soon," Levine says. "You want to give yourself sufficient time to build trust and really get to know your co-worker before you spill intimate details of your life. So, for example, you might want to start out sharing coffee breaks or lunches before you spend a long weekend prowling bars together. Or you may want to talk about sports and politics before you talk about your personal life."

Levine also cautions workers who are new to a job: "This is a time when you need to keep up your guard up a little bit, because you may be getting too cozy with the office buffoon," she says. "While you should be friendly, keep your relationships on a superficial level until you get to know the workplace and the cast of characters."

2. Keep the in-office socializing to a minimum

It's fine for the two of you to take lunch breaks together, sit together in a meeting, or go for mid-afternoon coffee once in a while, but don't spend an hour a day sitting on each other's desks and rehashing the weekend gossip.

"If friends get too involved in workplace dramas -- for example, an office crush, a mean boss, ganging up on a co-worker -- this can undermine productivity," says Susan Shapiro Barash, author of "Toxic Friends: The Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Friendships."

Indeed, says career and etiquette expert Sandra Lamb. "Office friendships are a balancing act. To properly maintain them, it's best to keep them fairly low-profile, and agree with your work friend to do most of your get-togethers outside the work environment," she says. "That prevents the accusation that you're involved in too much socializing at work--a reflection on your productivity. My advice is to keep [the friendship] primarily out of the office."

3. Be careful with reporting relationships

If you count your boss as one of your best friends, take note: "When there's a reporting relationship between two individuals, it's particularly important to build in agreed-upon boundaries so that others don't feel there's any unfairness or preferential treatment," says Helen Cooke, owner of Cooke Consulting, a human resources and organizational development firm.

Even if your boss was the best man at your wedding, try not to flaunt your close relationship in the office. When it comes time for recognition or a promotion of your own, you don't want your co-workers thinking it was all due to your friendship with the higher-ups.

Additionally, says Cooke, if you and a work friend started out as peers and one of you gets promoted, new boundaries must be set that reflect the reporting relationship. "For example," she says "You and I were peers on a team of five and known to be 'tight.' Now you've been promoted. While you can still be yourself with me and we can talk about our hobbies and weekends, you need to not complain to me about another member of the team -- even if that IS how you would have behaved in the past. While we're all entitled to having a trusted colleague with whom we can vent, if that trusted colleague is one of your direct reports that is unfair and dysfunctional."

The bottom line, Levine says, is to "never forget that you're primary focus has to be on your work, which means you may need to set boundaries with your co-workers about how much time you can spend schmoozing. Just as importantly," she says, "You need to respect the boundaries drawn by your co-workers, even if they aren't explicit. For example, if you see someone turning to their computer or looking at her watch while you are talking about your date last night, they may be signaling that they really want to get back to work and you've outworn your welcome."

By Kaitlin Madden

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