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.

How to Ask Your Boss for More Responsibility

April 10th, 2020

When you’re ready for a promotion, how do you know? Does someone magically show up at your desk with a stamped certificate? Do you get a phone call from the mayor? Does the CEO of the company send you an email telling you it’s time for the next level? Maybe these types of things happen in movies, but in real life, there’s only one person who truly knows if you’re ready to take on more responsibility, and that’s you. Not your boss; she isn’t watching you as closely as you might think. Just you.

So when you’re ready, how can you let her know? How can you convince her to make your forward transition official? Here are a few tips that can help.

First, gather the evidence.

You might not even need it, but make sure you have it anyway. Create a list or summary of all you’ve learned and all you’ve accomplished since you started working in your current role. Make sure to include projects you’ve completed, ideas you’ve suggested, teams you led, teams you were on, problems you solved, new business you drew to the company, and any process that you learned how to make more efficient. If you did something extra special, like volunteer your time or go the extra mile during a crisis, keep that at the top of the list.

Get her full attention.

It never works out well to follow your boss down a hallway, blurting information in her ear while she scrolls through a tablet. Instead, say only one thing: request an appointment. Make your meeting as formal as your workplace culture indicates. You can either get verbal agreement from her to meet Monday at 2:00, or you can send her an email invitation, or both. But get the meeting first. Then make your case.

Focus on the company first, and start with the positive.

You may need a raise or promotion simply because you want one and you’ve earned it. But your boss will be more interested in her own needs and benefits than yours. Make sure you highlight the value you

bring to the company before you put forth what you want. But don’t take too long to make your point. Get from A to B in just a few minutes.

Anticipate objections and counter them.

Your boss may tell you that the company can’t afford your request, that you aren’t ready, or even that this meeting is the wrong time and place to discuss it. But those things are likely not true, so you’ll need to stand your ground. This can take a little nerve. Don’t be deterred or brushed off.

Don’t whine; just move forward.

If your boss asks for more information, return with it as quickly as possible. If she asks you to wait for a while, get a clear timeline in writing. If she asks you to meet certain milestones, get to work and start meeting them. If she insists on denying your request altogether, start looking for another job. Turn to the experts at PSU to find a position where you’ll be respected and compensated.

How to List Temporary Jobs on Your Resume

February 28th, 2020

If you’ve spent a few years taking on temporary jobs for a few months or weeks at a time, documenting your recent job history in list form may result in a pretty long list. In a similar fashion, if you’ve held one full-time nine to five job at a time for the last few years, but you’ve worked side jobs along the way, this can present some challenges as you try to put together a simple, self-explanatory resume.

How can you format your past jobs in a way that’s easy for employers to read and understand? And most important, how can you make this information most useful for them…and for your own career? Here are a few tips.

Use clear titles.

Create a title or subheading for each section of your resume that clearly explains the content below. For example, title your section “Temporary positions held in 2019.” Separate this section from another called “Full-time positions.” Titles can tell a story and alleviate confusion before it happens.

Prioritize.

No matter what you’ve done in the past or how you’ve worked to pay your bills and advance your career, always prioritize the positions and jobs that best reflect what you’re looking to do next. Place the most relevant and most helpful past roles at the top of the page and/or at the top of each subsection. These are the positions that best reflect what your current target employer is looking for, or what you’re looking for in terms of your next role. Put these jobs at the top, no matter how long you held them. Just be sure to include your employment dates clearly next to your job title.

Don’t be burdened by a long list.

If you’re seeking a marketing role and you’ve held five jobs this past year, you don’t have to list them all. List the ones relevant to your marketing goals. Leave the non-relevant jobs out of the equation. If you worked in manufacturing for a few months and don’t anticipate much interest from employers on that point, don’t dedicate page space to it. There are no rules that say you have to do this. If your

interviewers ask what you were doing during that unexplained period, you can tell them. Meanwhile, devote your resume to highlighting and showing off your marketing experience.

Be careful not to mislead.

If you held one highly relevant job during the past five years of temporary gigs, don’t intentionally lead your employers to believe you held this role longer than you did. Placing dates next to each role will help them greatly, and if you help them, they’re more likely to help you. For more help with your resume and job search process, turn to the experts at PSU.

5 Ways to Make Your Job Feel More Rewarding

January 24th, 2020

You’ve been avoiding the truth for a while now, but it’s time to face facts: Your job just isn’t sparking your interest anymore. You trudge in every day because you have to and because you’re entrenched in your routine (and dependent on your paycheck), but the passion for your work is gone. What now?

Here are five simple things you can do to make your job feel more rewarding on a day-to-day basis.

Start drawing a map to the door.

In 2020, there’s no cultural or societal reason—and usually no personal benefit – involved in keeping the same job for more than five years if the job doesn’t feel rewarding anymore. Studies show that “job hopping,” once considered a negative behavior, actually leads to much higher lifetime salaries and more enjoyable careers. Don’t assume you’re impressing anyone by staying beyond your expiration date. If that date is on the horizon, it’s time to get excited about planning for what comes next.

Look at how far you’ve come.

The passion that brought you here a few years ago may not reflect your current personality and goals. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s better than okay; it’s a sign that you’re alive, growing, and evolving as a person. If you swept in the door with stars in your eyes and a genuine desire to (fill in the blank), it’s okay if that desire is no longer part of who you are. Don’t try to relight an old flame. Instead, figure out what lights you up NOW. Embrace the present and get ready to chart a new path.

Help someone else.

Look around at the interns and entry-level coworkers in your workplace and ask yourself if you’d like to become a mentor. Can you help one of these youngsters learn what you know and gain your skill sets? Sometimes just talking and teaching someone else can remind you of the things you once loved about this work.

Ask for a new project.

If you aren’t quite ready to leave the company or the industry just yet, ask your managers if you can take on a new project, ideally an initiative you can shape from the ground up and call your own. A sense of empowerment and ownership may make you feel like you’re regaining control over your days.

Ask for a shift in your tasks and responsibilities.

If there’s some aspect of your job that grinds you down, something you find especially burdensome or tedious, see if there’s a way to cut that aspect out of your life. This may be easier if you’ve paid your dues and dedicated yourself to this task long enough to reasonably hand it off. Speak your mind, explain what you need, and see what happens.

For more on how to retake the steering wheel of your career, and regain your lost passion, talk to the job management experts at PSU.

Reasons Why You Should Stay in Touch with Your Former Employer

November 20th, 2019

The idea of staying in touch with a former boss might seem awkward and daunting (depending on what you think “staying in touch” actually entails), but a little effort to maintain contact can go a long way when it comes to personal gain. Just reaching out now and then via social media can remove the awkwardness when you’d like to have a more in-depth conversation. And doing both—maintaining a social media tie and using that tie to connect and chat periodically—can help you with your long-term career growth. Here’s how.

Guidance

You have a tough question about the future of your industry. Or you have two options in front of you, and you need to choose between them. You can ask your mom or your best friend if you want, but who understands your professional life and your capabilities better than your former boss? If you’re connected on social media, it won’t be hard or strange to send a PM with your question or to request a phone call or lunch date so you can ask in person.

Professional Development

Staying linked to your old boss can help you get a sense of what the future might hold for you. Why? Because seeing where your boss goes can help you understand where you might go as well. Chances are, a few years down the road, your boss will have left the job and the company to move onto the next step and the next rung of the ladder. Watching where she goes and what she does, can help you chart your course.

Opportunities

Your boss can share information, updates, achievements, announcements, and event info through social media that you might miss out on otherwise. And if you manage to stay in her true inner circle as a friend or colleague, you’ll get the same info and access from her first-hand.

References

Nobody finds it odd to be contacted and asked for a reference by a person who worked for them a year ago, or even five years. This is especially normal (and even flattering) if the person has maintained a connection through social media during that time. BUT it can certainly be odd to receive such a request from someone you haven’t worked with, seen or heard from in ten years. If you don’t stay in touch at all, don’t expect to be remembered any longer than you would remember the other person if your roles were reversed. Everyone likes to give references! But it’s easier and more pleasant to grant this favor to someone you know.

For more on the whys and hows of staying in touch with a former boss, contact the career management pros at PSU.

Is Your Resume Costing You Job Opportunities?

October 18th, 2019

You’ve been sending out applications and reaching out to employers for weeks, but so far, you haven’t yet connected with a company or a position that meets your needs. What’s going on? You’re qualified for these roles, or at least you seem to be based on the job posts. Plus you’re nice, hardworking, and ready to roll up your sleeves. So what’s the problem? Could it be your resume?

The short answer: Yes. Your resume may actually be holding you back and preventing you from accessing the best opportunities available. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you give your document another look.

No Typos. Not Even One.

Not sure how to capitalize or punctuate the term “Master’s Degree”? What should you do with the “The” at the beginning of your university’s name? Should these two words be hyphenated? What about those two? Is the correct word “hard-working” or “hardworking”? Look it up and figure it out, because here’s some news: if you’re wrong, your employers will notice.

Be Selective with your Information

You don’t need to include every single workday and every project you’ve ever completed on your resume. You also don’t need to mine your entire life for every single action that can be considered an “accomplishment”. Be selective. Chose only the past jobs, accomplishments, coursework or volunteer projects that are most relevant to the specific job you’re pursuing and most likely to impress your specific target employers. Everything else just comes off as clutter and a distraction. More does not mean better.

Layout Matters.

Don’t crush hundreds of words onto a single page by reducing the font size and creating impenetrable blocks of text. Again, more information won’t take you where you need to go. Instead, reduce all that noise and all of those words to the few items that are the most helpful and relevant to the moment at hand. Then present that pared-down information in a way that’s relaxed and readable on the page. Open up the white space and separate your paragraphs and lines.

Get Help.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a friend or mentor (even better, a professional resume editor) take a close look at your document before you send it out. During the course of your career, you’ll rely on others for help over and over again; if you don’t, you won’t get very far. Get over your pride and reach out so you can make sure your resume is creating a positive impression.

For more help with your resume, job search, and career development, turn to the staffing experts at PSU.

What Does Your Handshake Say About You?

September 20th, 2019

At some point in the post-war 1950s, an age that left us with much of what we recognize today as “office” culture, handshakes evolved from a simple way of saying hello into a deeply nuanced and presumably meaningful form of communication.

It may have been JFK who initially infused the handshake with extra significance, or it may have been any number of self-appointed gurus who promised their audience a host of easy moves that could rocket them to top of the business ladder. But however it happened, a “firm handshake” came roaring into style. If you clutched your associate’s hand in a death grip, he or she would see you as a confident, commanding winner, an important person. Someone to be taken seriously.

But in the generations since then, we’ve all come to recognize handshakes as a form of performance and a transparent attempt to come off as winners, and we’ve all been trained to grasp tightly, just like Lee Iacocca (or whoever) told us to.

Because we’ve been taught to overthink and overperform our handshakes, there’s really only one rule for shaking hands in 2019: Don’t. If your handshake is noticeable, that’s no good. Keep your shake easy, breezy, and over. Here are a few simple ways to remove the focus from your hand and keep it on your face and voice, where it belongs.

Don’t clutch.

Pressure may have once conveyed confidence, but now it just conveys that you’re thinking really hard about the pressure of your handshake. Grip the person’s hand about as hard as you would grip the knob of a door that you’re about to open. Then release and move on.

Eye contact matters most.

Keep your eyes on the person’s eyes and smile. Repeat their name back to them as you squeeze their hand. Tell them it’s nice to see them.

A single shake and let go.

Shake once with warmth and eye contact, then let go. Don’t comment on the handshake. Don’t act impressed with its firmness. Don’t make a joke about the shake being limp or sweaty. Don’t apologize for your shake and don’t apologize for not shaking if you prefer not to shake. Don’t assume that a gentle handshake means a weak person, and don’t assume that a firm handshake means a reliable person. Assumptions like these are always wrong, and they rarely support clear communication; they only cloud it. The less said (and thought) about the shake, the better.

Don’t wipe your hand on your pants.

The reflex may be strong, especially if you’re nervous as you enter the encounter. But even if your hand comes away as clammy as a Florida swamp, wait five seconds before you attend to it.

Your associate should notice you, not your shake. Focus on the person and your relationship, not your hands. For more on how to stay cool and stay ahead, talk to the career pros at PSU.

Can’t Seem to Focus? Here’s How to Refocus Your Energy at the Office

August 16th, 2019

The summer is here, and the weather is sunny and beautiful…outside of your office window. Everyone seems to be having fun except for you, and all the fun and inspiration seem to be happening somewhere outside of your cubicle. In fact, what may have started as a mild tendency toward daydreaming and distraction have now become genuinely concerning, since you’re staring to space on your deadlines and you sometimes complete two solid hours of work in an eight-hour day. What should you do? Try these small but helpful moves.

Get up and walk away, literally.

Forcing yourself to stay in the chair and stare at your work won’t do the trick. It may actually have the opposite effect. Why? Because the mind is just like a person, and if you force it to do something it doesn’t want to do, it will stiffen and rebel. And when this happens, if you’re a healthy, well-rounded person like most of us, the contest will not be equal. The mind will win. Decisively. So don’t go to war with it; instead, meet it halfway. Show your restless mind some respect and consideration, and later it will show the same consideration to you. Tell your boss or teammate (or whoever needs to know) that you are getting up for a while. Then get up. Don’t come back for 30 minutes.

Don’t worry about wasting time.

If you walk away from your desk for 30 minutes to make peace with your restless mind, you may fear you’re “wasting” those 30 minutes. But you aren’t. If you sat there for a half hour, glued idly to your chair, determined to engage in a losing internal wrestling match, you would truly have wasted the time. A short walk will return you to your seat rested and ready to actually do some work, for real.

Try to remember the big picture.

Let’s say you have to complete and file 30 tedious forms before the day ends. You’re unfocused and you’ve lost interest in this task, but it needs to be done. Try backing up and remembering what these forms are really for, who needs them processed, and why. Do they affect real people’s lives in a meaningful way? Recalling that meaning can help you focus and commit to the task until it’s over.

Break your big task down into smaller tasks.

When your chores seem overwhelming and your heart has punched its time card and headed home for the day (but your body still has to stay for five more hours), make this challenge a little easier by breaking it down into baby steps. Get through three of those baby steps, then stop and assess. Then go for three more. Then stop again. Keep doing this until the work is behind you.

For more on how to move forward with your day even when you’re struggling to focus, contact the workplace and career management experts at PSU.

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