Tips on Improving Productivity Every Day

November 20th, 2020

You work hard, and over time, your years of hard work seem to slowly pay off. You do the best you can for your employer and gradually, day by day and year by year, you can see increases in your overall productivity. A task that once took three hours now takes two, and you’re better able to put that saved hour to your advantage than you used to be. That’s great. But what if you could find a way to take these steady, gradual productivity increases and speed them up? What if you could make yourself one percent more productive with each passing day? Where would you be in a year?

Try these tips for one year and see what happens.

First, define productivity.

Your definition may vary from someone else’s, so make sure you know exactly what you’re trying to improve. Do you want to process more client transactions per day? Do you want to manage larger accounts? Do you want to finish your work faster so you can go home and spend more hours with your friends and family? Determine what “productivity” means to you and write it down. Then you can get to work.

Look for weaknesses in your current system.

Maybe you really enjoy sleeping till nine and you have a hard time getting your workday started, and maybe that precious hour between eight and nine offers lots of opportunities to get things done. In that case, focus on that hour. How can you get to bed earlier and fall asleep faster? How can you motivate yourself to be on your feet one hour earlier? What steps can you take to shore up this one specific weakness in your current routine?

Look for obstacles and find ways to skate around them.

Maybe your job requires you to get daily approvals from Steve in accounting before you take any critical step forward. And maybe Steve tends to stand in your way for frustrating reasons. Focus on those reasons and find a way to remove—or at least reduce—this productivity-draining roadblock. If you face several of these problems throughout your day, tackle and solve just one at a time. Keep at it until each separate issue has been addressed.

Look inside yourself.

Is there something else holding you back? Not just one frustrating account manager, but something bigger, an obstacle that lies within your own mind or heart? If so, study this problem fearlessly and face it down. There’s a chance it may be simpler than you think. For example, what if you just don’t like this job and you’d rather be somewhere else? What if you’ve outgrown this entire industry and it’s time for a new start? If you look inside and find that your biggest obstacle to productivity is yourself, be bold. Gather your courage and make the moves you need to make in order to turn your life in the right direction. If it’s time for a new employer, or a new job altogether, the experts at PSU can help. Contact our office today.

How a Temporary Job Can Restart Your Career

October 23rd, 2020

When you reach a career crossroad, it can take a while to find a new direction and a new sense of purpose. There’s no point in rushing the process; if you get impatient and leap in the wrong direction, you’ll just wind up at the same crossroads again in a few months (or days). Instead, pause and give yourself some time to make a wise and considered decision—while still maintaining the ability to pay your bills. A job and a career are two different things. In every life, there are times when we need to focus on one or the other.

Here’s how stepping into a temporary job for a while can help you move closer to your next career milestone.

A temporary job means low levels of commitment.

A temporary job is not a life sentence. Far from it. A six-month gig is by no means a full and total career pivot, but it CAN offer many things that can help you find your new purpose, for example, a chance to pause and think about what your last job may have lacked.

A temporary job brings in some fresh air, socially.

Your temp job—no matter where or what—will bring new faces, new friends, and new networking opportunities. Every time you meet a new person, you open a door. Open some doors and find out where they lead.

A temporary job helps you build new skills.

Again, no matter what your temp job entails– even if it doesn’t align with your current career—you’ll learn something new. You’ll learn how to use a new software platform, how to speak a new professional language, or how an unfamiliar business model works. Embrace this chance to learn something and expand the limits of what you know about the world.

A temporary job keeps the clock running.

Employers can sometimes be turned off by employment gaps in your resume, and this isn’t always a sign of narrow-mindedness; sometimes it’s a decision made by non-human algorithms and database management tools. If you stay steadily employed, you increase your options down the road.

For more on why and how to keep (or get) your career in motion with a temp job, contact the staffing team at PSU.

How to Get to Know the Real Candidate in an Interview

October 9th, 2020

If you encourage your candidate to open up during the interview and show his or her true personality, you’ll get a much stronger sense of the person’s fitness for the role. But to do this, you’ll need to set an appropriate tone and help the person relax.

Here’s how to make that happen.

Be friendly.

We all have a natural instinct to smile back when someone smiles at us. Humans are wired to be socially connected to others, and we mirror each other’s moods and feelings in a rapid and unconscious way. If you want to make someone feel guarded or tense, there’s no faster way to do this then by projecting those feelings yourself. And the opposite is also true; if you treat the candidate like a friend and demonstrate goodwill and trust, you’ll get the same in return. Smile, show interest in their comfort and behave as if the meeting is an enjoyable, warm and positive experience for you.

If you ask, be sure to share (or at least try).

Personal questions are friendly and engaging, and questions that stay within professional boundaries are necessary for a job interview, of course. But the difference between a conversation and a grilling session can come down to one word: balance. Make sure your levels of disclosure are (or at least feel) mutually aligned. If you ask about the candidate’s pets or her summer trip to Spain, offer something about your own pets and travels. (Remember, questions about family are absolutely off-limits in an interview.)

Encourage.

When your candidate shares an accomplishment, praise the accomplishment. When she describes a past struggle, sympathize. When she shares a goal, encourage her and show confidence in her eventual success. None of these will be mistaken for an implied commitment or job offer; they’re just gestures of warmth, interest, and kindness.

Discuss her long-term career goals, not just the goals of the company.

We often advise candidates to keep the focus on the employer’s needs, not on the needs of the interviewee. The opposite also holds true. This is a partnership; each side should emphasize what the other party has to gain if the agreement is to move forward.

Let the candidate be nervous.

Don’t comment on the candidate’s jumpy nerves or shaking, sweaty hands, even to reassure or to make a friendly joke. Be polite and ignore them. Often these physiological responses to stress are involuntary, but as a culture, we associate them with a lack of confidence or sincerity. Don’t do that. Just pretend they aren’t happening and recognize that all of us have been and will be on both sides of the interview table again and again, and you’ll want the same politesse the next time interview palm-sweat happens to you. For more on how to make your candidate feel open and engaged, turn to the interview experts at PSU.

Five Practical Tips for Landing Your First Post Graduate Career

September 28th, 2020

You’ve just walked off the stage with your high school diploma or a college degree and you’re ready to dive into the workforce. Congratulations! So… what’s next? Some of your peers may have jobs waiting for them (due to family connections, unique opportunities or pure luck), but you’re not in that group. You’ll need to rely on your own wits and face the wild, unstructured world for a while before you land your first post-graduate job.

Here are a few tips that can help you bridge the gap from here to there.

Create your resume quickly.

Your resume is important, for sure, and it should be perfectly perfect in every way before employers review it. But here’s a fact: it won’t be. A resume is a living, ongoing document that is NEVER perfect. Even when it’s finally concise, comprehensive, and absolutely typo-free, it will need to be updated, since you’ll probably have held one or two more jobs or volunteer gigs during the time it took to polish your draft to perfection. Don’t wait until you can hang your resume in the Smithsonian before sending it out. Create, edit, send out, keep editing, send again, and again, edit more, keep sending and applying, etc, etc. Perfectionism will never be your friend as you move through your career—not today and not ever.

Keep hustling.

Rejection is a fact of life and a badge of valuable experience. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more rejections you accumulate, the farther you’ve progressed on your career journey. Every single rejection represents an opportunity identified and seized, and every single one makes you stronger, thickens your skin, broadens your perspective and helps you grow. Each one is a new plate in your suit of armor. Those who stay hidden away and afraid to pursue any job that’s less than a perfect match are not going anywhere. That’s not you. Get out there and get shut down! Face the storms of life, don’t hide and wait.

Look everywhere…literally everywhere.

Where can you find great jobs and open positions? Every single place you can imagine. Scour the internet, review job boards, contact companies individually by using the information on their websites, reach out to your contacts by email and phone, ask your friends, mentors, and former professors for

help, use Linkedin, use Facebook, use everything. Keep an eye out for scams (the greater the urgency you feel, the more scammers and con artists can sense that urgency and exploit it), but with that caveat, go forth into every corner of the world—online and off—and just see what you can find there.

Be willing to change course.

You studied accounting because you wanted to be an accountant. That’s great! But don’t let your open door—your degree—become a prison. If you meet someone who inspires you (a teacher, a salesperson, a forklift operator, a dentist, anyone), or a new opportunity opens up that you’d like to pursue, don’t cling to the path you’ve chosen. Let go. Change direction. There will never be an easier point in your career in which to do this.

Keep your bridges intact

A hard fact to accept: Others don’t care about your career as much as you do. If you reach out to someone and they don’t respond, or if you arrange a meeting that falls through, or if you ask someone to help you and they don’t, move on with grace. This is not rudeness or betrayal, it’s just life. Someday you may find yourself on the other end of a similar interaction and you’ll understand that goodwill preserves relationships so you can rely on them later—bad will sours and frays them very quickly. Stay friendly and self-reliant. For more on how to get your foot in the door of a long and rewarding career, contact the experts at PSU.

Is your Interview Going South? Turn it Around with These Tips!

August 21st, 2020

Your interview started out strong! Or at least, it started out fine. After brief introductions and small talk, you and your interviewer started getting into the substance of the conversation and at around that point, something went wrong. Maybe you made a joke that fell flat. Or maybe your interviewer pointed out a missing or concerning detail from your resume. Maybe a misunderstanding or miscommunication has left you feeling flustered and off-center. What should you do now? If you really want to be considered for the role, here are a few moves that can help you find your bearings and bring the session back on track.

Clarify, clarify, clarify.

If you aren’t sure what happened or you don’t know exactly why your interviewer’s friendly smile turned into a frosty frown, it’s okay to ask. This is especially true if you’re sure the situation isn’t going to improve on its own. Don’t sit there floundering; just clear the air. It’s perfectly okay to ask questions like “Did I say something confusing?” or “Would you like to know more about that part of my background?” or even, “I can see you’re concerned about that part of my past. Can I answer your questions and put your concerns to rest?” Don’t become defensive; just ask questions and get your bearings.

Don’t make offers or concessions until you’re ready.

If you say you’re not interested in travel and the interviewer tells you this job will require you to be on the road, don’t just assume the interview is over. And don’t trip over yourself rushing to change your position; if you don’t like travel, you don’t like travel. Instead, move past that detail and focus on other skill areas and qualifications you have to offer. The interviewer may be willing to meet you halfway. But to find out, you’ll need to stay calm and self-possessed.

If you flubbed an answer, move on.

Your interviewer asked you a question to assess your industry knowledge, and you fumbled. Your brain and sense of recall just would cooperate, and you faceplanted in a way that made you look underqualified—or worse. This situation is more common than you might think; even experts sometimes flail when they’re on the spot and under pressure. What matters next is how you handle the next several seconds, and you need to rise to the moment. Let the question go. It’s gone. Now focus on your dignity, your self-confidence, and your ability to take yourself lightly. Don’t scramble to explain why you flubbed, or worse, claim you didn’t flub. Don’t inspire pity by dramatically beating yourself up. And certainly don’t attack or belittle the question. Just smile and ask for the next one. We all fall down. What matters is how quickly and gracefully we get back up.

For more on how to sail through a harrowing interview with your professionalism and confidence intact, turn to the career growth experts at PSU.

How to Wrap Up a Dead End Interview

August 14th, 2020

Not every interview leads to a successful connection and a promising new job. In fact, sometimes it becomes clear that the job is a mismatch even before the interview session is over. If your interviewer or would-be employer brings up a non-negotiable deal-breaker or reveals some information that takes the job off your list, what should you do?

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind.

Don’t just head for the door (unless you have a good reason)

You may not want the job, but there’s nothing wrong with maintaining goodwill and positive relationships, especially if your industry is self-contained and you may run into some of these people again someday. Even if you spend another twenty minutes engaged in a go-nowhere conversation, that’s a small price to pay to keep doors open for yourself at some unknown point in the future. If it feels like a polite and appropriate thing to say, explain why you don’t feel inclined to move forward with the role. Maybe the commute is too far or the salary too low. Give the employers a chance to speak if they might be able to raise the offer or allow you to work remotely. If they aren’t interested, politely explain that the job isn’t for you and give them the chance to say goodbye first.

If you have a good reason, leave immediately.

Sometimes a bad interview can be like a bad date; if you aren’t comfortable, just go. Otherwise, things won’t likely get better and they may get much worse. If your interviewer is rude, combative, disrespectful, or seems inclined to poke holes in your background or question your motives or integrity, simply state that you don’t see a future together, say thank you, and leave. Don’t wait for permission. This type of interaction almost never ends in a long and productive employment tenure. You haven’t given or implied any promises yet, and you don’t owe the interviewer another moment of your time.

If you’re on the fence, clear the air before you make a decision.

If your interviewer says something that seems ambiguous or hard to interpret, just ask for clarification. If he says something that implies that the business doesn’t share your values, ask him to explain the statement. If she says something that indicates the job isn’t what was advertised, or the terms of the position or the business model don’t work for you, don’t just run out the door—you might be losing out on an opportunity because of a simple misunderstanding. Get the truth. Then pause for at least five full seconds (literally count them—this will give your employer time to think and react as well). Then you can go.

If you don’t want the job, save yourself some time and trouble and head for the door. But do so politely and professionally, and you’ll walk out with no regrets. Turn to the experts at PSU for guidance.

How to Make Mondays More Productive

July 30th, 2020

Mondays are tough. Everybody knows this. And for the most part, everybody knows why. We all just recognize and accept that transitions are difficult and the shift in rhythm from unstructured to structured time can be jarring. The alarm clock sounds more harsh and unbearable when you haven’t heard its ring in a few days, and the same can be said of your boss’s voice. But that’s no reason to let Mondays get your down. And it’s certainly no reason to write the day off and simply accept that you’re unlikely to get much done.

Here are a few ways to make your uncomfortable day a little more productive.

Do your Monday self a few favors on Friday.

Friday-You can make life easier for Monday-You with a few kind gestures that go a long way. Tidy up your workspace before you leave, so you can come in fresh. Create a to-do list for your Monday self so she has a road map throughout the day and doesn’t have to start out in a fog. You can even use post-its (or your own personal system) to visually prepare her for the tasks ahead and minimize her cognitive load as much as possible. She’ll thank you for it, I promise.

Avoid sleeping in…too much.

Of course there’s no need to bolt out of bed on a sub-zero Saturday morning for no reason. But if you try, at least a little, to gently bring yourself into a waking state at about the same time on weekends as you do on weekdays, the transition back and forth will be easier on your mental health.

Don’t give in.

Mondays (unsurprisingly) are the day people most often contemplate quitting their jobs. That’s fine, and if you don’t like your job, you certainly SHOULD quit (try to have another one lined up when you do). But don’t quit, or contemplate it, just because it’s hard to get up and get busy after the weekend. Remind yourself of all of the reasons why you like working here and take some time to have a Monday chat with the coworkers you enjoy the most.

For more on how to stay on track and focused, no matter the day of the week, turn to the career management team at PSU.

Six Steps to Achieve Work-Life Balance

June 26th, 2020

We all know that in order to live our best lives, we need to find a sweet spot between the demands of our jobs and the demands of…everything else. These days, we have a name for this sweet spot: Work-life balance. But coining a phrase hasn’t helped most of us reach this sought-after place of contentment. And we don’t all agree on what the term means, or what perfect work-life balance actually looks like. Most of us just assume we’ll recognize it when we get there.

Here are a few ways to stop pining for balance and move closer to actually achieving it.

Decide what balance looks like to YOU.

What do you want your day to look like? Realistically? (Many of us would like to lie on the beach all afternoon, but that doesn’t pay the bills). What do you need most that you don’t currently have? An additional hour to yourself each day? Three more hours? Higher pay? More sleep? More time for your children or parents? More bandwidth for side projects? More status at work? List what you want in order of most urgent to least. Work-life balance does not look the same for everyone.

Get mad.

It’s okay to stand your ground. When you find an unmet need on the list above, you don’t have to internalize the problem or decide that you should just be a better worker, a better parent, etc, etc. It’s okay to look outward as you seek the source of the problem, so you can solve it. For example, maybe you leave work each day at a time that pleases nobody; your boss resents you for leaving at 5:01 (too early!) and the daycare center resents you for picking up your child at 4:59 (too late!). Get mad. Turn your problem-solving energy outward and claim the time that’s rightfully yours, not theirs. Leave at 5:00. Don’t apologize.

Shift responsibility to your spouse.

Make sure your husband or wife does their share at home, and be fair but consistent. The other spouse is an adult who should know how—and when—to brush a child’s teeth, fix a meal, service the car, mow the lawn, wash a pot, schedule an appointment or plan a birthday. These are small tasks, and they should not fall disproportionately to you. Communicate your definition of “balance” so the other person knows what you’re seeking. Listen when they share their definition as well. You may be surprised to find that your visions align perfectly, harmonize, or don’t align at all.

Put your plan in action.

Move toward your version of balance, and don’t be derailed by early stumbles. Just keep going. Change what doesn’t work. Stay in motion. Otherwise, your poorly balanced status quo will simply be your life.

Enjoy your success.

Perfect balance on Tuesday can fall to pieces on Wednesday and fall back into order by Friday. Celebrate Tuesday and Friday. You had a perfect work-life balance! For two days! That’s a big deal. And the more healthy, happy days you have, the more you’re likely to have as time goes by. Each balanced day is a victory, and they only happen one at a time. Respect and appreciate them—and yourself—as they pass. For more on how to advance your career AND your life, turn to the workplace pros at PSU.

2020 Goal Check-In: What If I’m Not on Track?

June 12th, 2020

It’s July, and as you look back at the written goals you established for yourself in early January, you aren’t encouraged by what you see. Half of the year has moved into the past, and on the road to your chosen milestones, you’ve gotten nowhere. Or at least, you’re not where you thought you would be by now.

So what’s next? Should you give up and toss out the list? Should you revise it slightly in order to meet reality halfway? Or should you buckle down and keep on going as planned? Here’s how to find your answer.

First, reexamine your finish line.

Take a look at the end of your list, at the lofty, epic finish lines you broke down into subgoals and then into baby steps. Your big items might include things like “promotion to senior management” or “land Broadway role” or “write a novel” or “open new business”. Take a hard look at your big goal (or goals) and ask yourself: “Do I still want this?” Your circumstances have changed. If you’re a growing, evolving person, your personality may have changed as well. A lot can change in three months. If you still want that big whopper, move to the next tip. If not, toss your list and start again.

Revise your road map.

You still have your eyes on the same prize that attracted you in January. The road in front of you has twisted, as roads do, and you’ve encountered some distractions and obstacles, but you haven’t been deterred. So now it’s time to look at the map from above and redraw it. Mark out a new route, or a new list of subgoals and baby steps, that can get you to the same destination in six months instead of 12.

Chart a course around your obstacles.

Maybe there are some large boulders in the road, and you can’t easily scramble over them. Serious obstructions need to be respected; ignoring them won’t make them disappear. Maybe you’ve lost your job. Maybe you live in the wrong city. Maybe you’ve been injured. Maybe you’ve parted ways with a friend, mentor, or loved one. Maybe you didn’t have the tools and resources that you thought you had. Get out a pencil and calculator and engage your problem-solving skills.

Lighten your load.

The heaviest thing in your bag might be your expectations— for your circumstances and for yourself. If you’re carrying a perfect, flawless vision of success and you don’t want to settle for anything else, your perfectionism may be holding you back. Toss it out. While you’re rifling around in there, toss out the expectations of others (useless weight) and all the fear and drama that come from focusing on the past and future. Focus on the present, since it’s all you can control.

When your bag is repacked, hit the road and start again! For help, contact the career management experts at PSU.

Spring Clean Your Resume with These Tips

May 15th, 2020

Spring is here, and it’s time to step outside and feel the sun! It’s also time to clear out the clutter and dust in our homes AND our careers. If you’ve been putting up with too much for too long from a suffocating boss or a dead-end job, now is the time to break free. And if you’re out of work and looking for something new, now is the time to shake some of the dust and outdated dead weight from your resume.

Here are a few tips that can help you tighten and streamline your document for the season that lies ahead.

First, read your resume over and have someone else do the same.

Read your resume with the eyes of a hiring manager, and as you do so, hand it off to a trusted friend or family member who can help you with your overhaul. If anything stands out in a negative or confusing way, mark that section or phrase and come back to it later.

Get rid of outdated claims.

Any job you held more than ten years ago should probably drop off your resume at this point, with just a few exceptions: If your outdated job is unusually relevant to the one you’re seeking or unusually beneficial (for example, if you and your target hiring manager worked together for an old employer and she may not remember), it can stay. Otherwise, jobs over ten years old just take up space you could be using for fresher and more relevant information.

Tighten your education section.

If you graduated more than 15 years ago, take your graduation dates off your resume. At this point, those dates don’t help you much and they may subject you to age discrimination. If you graduated more than three years ago, remove your GPA. If you’ve graduated from college, remove your high school name and credentials altogether.

Elevate your goals and tighten your credentials to help you reach them.

Maybe the last time you examined your resume, you were searching for a junior-level position that could help you get a foot in the door. But now six years have passed and you’re not targeting the junior level anymore. Claims that once helped you stand out have become par for the course (like “served customers daily”). And accomplishments that made you proud six years ago can leave you aiming too low if you keep them in your resume. Toss them out. Replace them with more recent accomplishments that can help you grasp a higher rung of the career ladder. For more tips and resume-freshening moves, turn to the up-to-date job search experts at PSU.

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