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.

Three Quick Tips to Bring Employees Out of Their Shell

August 2nd, 2019

Maybe you have a new employee who’s a little shy, and he or she seems unlikely to speak up in meetings, say no to an overloaded schedule, or push back against a bad idea. Maybe you have a whole team of employees who are feeling resentful but they won’t speak up and share their feelings honestly. Or maybe you have some team members who need help with a project or an issue and they don’t feel free to simply ask.

In all three cases, you’re dealing with a version of the same problem: employees who feel locked in a shell and unable or unwilling to express themselves. As a result, you’re also dealing with unaddressed workplace problems, unanswered questions, and employees who can’t get what they need because they won’t share their feelings and won’t ask for support. How can you crack those shells so everyone can move forward? Here are a few tips that can help.

Check your own mannerisms and behavior.

As a manager, do you ever express impatience or a dismissive attitude when employees say something that makes them vulnerable? Do you see weakness or incompetence in every employee who struggles with an issue or asks a question? Do you lose your temper or pout when you’re criticized? If you can say yes to any of these, ever (don’t write off an episode because it only happened once in the past), then the problem lies with you. Before you start trying to manipulate or coerce employees into sharing and speaking, change the qualities in yourself that make them hesitate.

Be warm and direct.

If you wonder why your employee isn’t asking you for something, try a novel move: just ask her. Be the first to break the ice. Don’t just act first when it comes to asking questions; you can also be proactive when it comes to sharing. Want to understand someone’s feelings or learn more about their inner lives? Share your own first. Increase your own level of disclosure and honesty and see what happens. Be generous with your thoughts, experiences, intentions, insecurities, and inner conflicts, and others will often follow your lead.

Respect sharing limits.

You’d like to get to know your new employee and you’d like to find how she really feels about her new job and workplace. So once you manage to get the ball rolling, respect her right to set limits. If she says she struggles with X but enjoys Y, take her at her word. Work on fixing X, and don’t ask any more questions about Y. If she’s not telling you the whole story, she will when she’s ready.

For more on how to encourage a culture of honesty and open communication in your workplace, reach out to the staffing pros at PSU.

Does Your Employer Value a Work-Life Balance?

July 19th, 2019

All else being equal, if most of us find ourselves choosing between an employer who values work-life balance and one who doesn’t, we’re wise to choose the first. If a company genuinely respects its employees, values their skills and contributions, wants to treat them well and honestly searches for goal alignment (instead of viewing employees as opponents, parasites or obstacles), this will show in the company’s attitude toward personal health and well-being.

A company that respects you is one you want to work for. A company that aims to bend you toward its own purposes and give as little as possible in return is one to avoid. After all, you’re likely to spend at least 40 hours with this company each week, and a little mutual regard goes a long way. Here are a few ways to conduct a work-life balance assessment before you sign on.

Listen for the actual word.

Companies that care about work-life balance use the actual term during the staffing process, and the more often and more respectfully they do so, the more likely they are to take the concept seriously. Watch out for infrequent use, and make note if you hear the term, but it’s embedded in finger quotes or subtly dismissive tones.

Scan your interviewer and other employees in the building.

During your interview, look around, and look closely. Is your interviewer truly enjoying this day, this task, and this job? Are employees in the hallways animated, bright-eyed and friendly? Or are they zoned out and beleaguered? If they seem to enjoy each other’s company and they move at a measured pace with straight backs and smiles, that’s great. If they scramble around and seem irritable or sleep deprived, that’s not so great.

Don’t share your lifestyle or family details (and pay attention if you’re asked).

You may be single, married, childless, raising kids, expecting, a grandparent, engaged, caring for a relative or any of the above, and your family status may be what drives your interest in a balanced life. If so, keep that fact to yourself during interviews. You deserve a balanced and healthy life no matter what your status looks like, and your employer does not need to know (and may NOT legally ask) about the details of your household.

Look online.

Check reviews on Glassdoor and other popular sites to find out what employees really think of the company and how they rate their relationship and experience. Read between the lines and look for specific references to long hours or disregard for personal time.

For more on how to find a great employer and build a meaningful career, turn to the staffing team at PSU.

7 Ways to Spot When Someone is Lying During an Interview

July 5th, 2019

Is your candidate blowing smoke or trying to sell you on skills, talents and a work ethic that aren’t quite what they seem? If you think you may be hearing a lot of sizzle but not seeing any steak, here are a few ways to confirm your hunch and move forward.

Implausibility plus urgency

Implausibility alone isn’t necessarily a sign of lying. Plenty of candidates have accomplishments that seem unusual or career-growth timelines that seem very short (personal assistant to senior manager in just five years?) and over-the-top claims are true more often than you might think. Urgency, a desperate demeanor or a rapid, aggressive speech pattern are also not signs of trouble on their own. But if you see all these things at the same time, the claims in question deserve a closer look.

Vague statements with no follow-up

“I led the entire team on that proposal” is a claim that sounds excellent. But then what happened? What were the circumstances? Did the candidate face any special challenges or learn any interesting lessons during that episode? If the claim appears to stand alone and getting more information feels like pulling teeth, something may be wrong.

A seemingly perfect track record or an unwillingness to recognize failure.

Strong candidates embrace their failures and understand how these episodes brought them where they are today. Questionable candidates claim to have unblemished records and see failure as something that only happens to losers—something that has never, ever happened to them. Ironically, “perfection” is a huge red flag.

Inconsistencies.

Feel free to ask questions if you hear claims, timelines or statements that conflict with others you heard earlier.

A one-sided dialogue.

Conversations always feel a bit suspect when the words flow in only one direction. If your candidate can’t change his setting from “transmit” to “receive” and you feel like you’ve been cornered by a relentless guest at a bad party, you may be on the receiving end of misinformation. Does he ever ask you any questions? Does he wait for your answer? Does he really understand and listen to your words as you speak? Or does he seem to be on stage performing a one-man show? Performers, bad conversationalists, and con artists often have one thing in common: issues with believability.

Anger

Don’t trust candidates who show anger or poor emotional control during a job interview.

Thin or ambivalent references

Be suspicious if your candidate offers few references, unreachable references, no references or references who give neutral, unenthusiastic support.

For more on how to get the most out of your candidate interviews and select only the best employees for your team, turn to the pros at PSU.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Temp Job

June 21st, 2019

You’re looking for work, but so far, you’ve avoided any job description or recruiter post that has the words “temporary” or “temp-to-hire” in the text. And you haven’t yet sought out a recruiting agency that can pair you with a position since you assume these pairings won’t involve permanent roles. Here are a few reasons to reconsider your approach. Temporary jobs may not be what you think, and contract or temporary placements aren’t what they were a generation ago. It’s time to take a closer look.

Say goodbye to the typing pool.

You may be held back by an outdated vision of what “temp” jobs really are. Yes, some of these roles may be short-term clerical positions that will have you in and out the door, filing forms for a week and then leaving you back at square one. But most of them are professional positions (programmers, software developers, designers, implementors, market strategists and financial analysts) in which you’ll be carefully reviewed by an employer with eyes toward a long-term relationship. Temps are not just placeholders; they’re candidates for permanent roles.

Don’t be afraid.

Some job seekers avoid temp opportunities because they don’t want to lose control of their career paths. They fear that signing a temporary contract will derail their search, cause them to miss other opportunities and require hard work that leads to a dead end. First, no role is a dead end. A six-month contract role is the best possible networking opportunity, even if it doesn’t lead to a full-time job. And the role WILL likely lead to a full-time job if you like the workplace and develop a productive relationship with your employer.

Stability comes from agility.

Here’s another outdated idea: Long-term roles are stable, unshakable paths that lead straight to comfort, security, complacency and a well-funded retirement. The reality: no job is permanent. Nothing is guaranteed forever, and in 2019, the strongest form of stability doesn’t come from a job with the word “full-time” in the description; it comes from staying light on your feet, ready for change and secure in your own skills and adaptability. Modern-day job security isn’t like a building with a deep foundation. It’s more like a boat at sea, well-built, buoyant and ready to roll with the waves.

Move forward, don’t stand still.

Before you pass up a temporary role and hold out for something long term, consider the opportunity costs that come from staying on the market for another few weeks or months. Will your eventual salary be high enough to cover that lost time? Maybe. But you’ll likely be better off if you start working as soon as possible and make real-time decisions and direction changes as you move forward. Temp jobs provide options, opportunities, new skills and new professional connections. But they also provide something even more valuable: a paycheck. Contact the staffing team at PSU to learn more.

Team Builders Don’t Always Have to Involve Alcohol

June 7th, 2019

Here’s a short story about Ed, a department manager at a regional publishing company. Ed worked hard every day to do right by his team, and he tried his best to give them everything he had as a boss, coach, and mentor. In addition to reading every management blog he could find, he arranged fun activities to support bonding outside the workplace, including the creation of a company softball team.

Every spring Saturday, the team hit the field, and Ed brought the balls, bats, and a cooler full of beer, exactly one beer for each participant. Ed worried endlessly about the cooler and its contents. Would each person be sure to have their single beer? Would they like the brand? Would it be cold enough? Would the event be fun without becoming dangerous? Would everyone stay safe and drive sober? If someone got hurt, would the company’s insurance cover it? Would Ed get in trouble with the corporate office? Each time he packed the cooler, he worried and worried.

Each time he hit the field with the team, they all had fun. With all the swinging bats, fly ball catches, laughter, outs and home runs, memories were made. But Ed still worried.

One day, he forgot the cooler and left it at home by accident. He felt terrible! Would the team ever forgive him? Would they mope and sulk?

They didn’t! They played in the sun, joked and shared stories. And not one person mentioned the missing cooler. From that day on, Ed decided to leave the cooler behind every Saturday.

Literally nothing changed.

The lesson: Nobody needed that company-sponsored beer after all. Later, Ed found it easier to plan events for the team, since he stopped making alcohol an essential part of every gathering. After a few months, the savings added up. But nothing else changed. In fact, Ed began to schedule events at places that didn’t involve alcohol at all, like mini-gold courses and ice cream shops. Outing options expanded and the team loved it. They began starting activities on their own, like book clubs and stream clean-ups. And all of them lived—and worked—happily ever after.

Do you really need alcohol at all of your company events? If you aren’t sure, try cutting back or removing booze from a few select events altogether. See what happens. Chances are, your employees will miss this minor detail less than you anticipate. They’ll keep showing up and they’ll keep having a good time, booze or no booze. And the next morning they’ll arrive at the office with clear heads, ready for the day.

Need more encouragement or ideas? Contact the staffing team at PSU!

Why Finding a Job in North Carolina Might Be the Perfect Opportunity for You!

May 24th, 2019

Are you looking for a job and willing to relocate to an exciting state with booming economic opportunities? Of course you are! There’s no need to stay in one place forever, and the more you see of the world, the more chance you’ll have to build strong professional relationships, see new sides of your industry, explore new cultures and make sure you aren’t missing out on exciting chapter of life. Here’s why you may want to consider a job in North Carolina.

The reviews are in.

Why move? Because surveys and reviewers have spent time gathering the data and the numbers don’t lie. US News recently ranked the Raleigh-Durham area as one of the best job markets and best places to live in the United States. Wallet Hub, Zippia and Indeed.com also gave high marks to NC, which makes sense, since our state offers several of the nation’s fastest-growing metro areas.

You’re looking for work in healthcare.

The most popular and highest-paying opportunities in North Carolina cover the standard spectrum (CEOs and marketing managers do well here, as they do everywhere). But the true hot button industry in the state appears to be healthcare. Internists, OBGYNs, surgeons, psychiatrists and dentists thrive in the state, and prospects for these roles seem to be growing as the population expands.

A reasonable cost of living.

Charlotte and Raleigh both have populations of about a half million people (400,000 and 800,000 respectively), which means they have culture, history, events, art and plenty to see and do. But they’re also both surprisingly livable. To get by comfortably in either city, a Huffington Post study recommends a household income of about $53,000 per year. If you’re targeting a position in any of NC’s booming industries, from healthcare to the arts, you should be able to thrive here and save a little for your retirement.

The landscape is beautiful.

North Carolina offers the natural beauty of the coast, plus history, architecture and old-world charm. If you don’t like winter and you’d rather enjoy the beach than shovel snow, this is the state for you!

You have plenty of help.

If you’re heading to North Carolina in search of job opportunities and a fun, active lifestyle, you won’t have to navigate the transition alone. Contact the team at PSU and we’ll connect you to an employer in your chosen field and help you start working your way up the ladder.

Four Reasons to Have Employee Reviews More Than Once Per Year

May 10th, 2019

If you’ve been holding formal employee performance evaluations once every year, usually in early January, then you’re not alone. This traditional review cycle has been the standard for a long time, and plenty of businesses still manage employees using this strategy.

But it may be time for an upgrade, one that better reflects the realities of modern work life and effective employee coaching. Here are a few reasons to drop the old model and embrace a review schedule with more flexibility and frequency.

It’s more memorable.

If you sit with your employee in January and give a directive, for example, “Here’s how to handle a crisis that’s likely to surface once a year, if ever”, you can’t expect your instructions to be remembered when the moment arrives and it’s time to apply them. That’s just not reasonable. But if you deliver you guidance, mentoring, tips, directives, and coaching prescriptions once every quarter or so, they’re more likely to stick.

It’s more actionable and fair.

The same way you wouldn’t issue a directive six months in advance, you can’t reasonably deliver correction and coaching six months after the fact. Watching an employee make a mistake in June and waiting until January to lecture her about it won’t fly. She’ll resent this treatment, and rightly so. Instead, stop her at the moment and deliver your feedback and coaching informally—On the spot if possible. An extra bonus: she won’t keep repeating the mistake over and over for the next six months while you check the calendar and wait.

It gives you an opportunity to observe and praise improvements.

If you had to scold or criticize someone during their once-annual formal evaluation, the moment may have been awkward for both of you. Such moments can be so uncomfortable or discouraging that they often start the wheels in motion that eventually push the employee to seek work elsewhere. Here’s how the old model works: In January, you shine a light on a performance issue. By May the employee is struggling to correct it and simultaneously keeping an eye out for new job opportunities. By June she gets an offer and by July she’s gone. Here’s the new model: In January you deliver your critique. By May you see clear improvements and deliver a new evaluation with a very different tone. By July the employee is fully back on track, up to speed, and thriving.

It helps you reap the benefits of positive feedback.

Positive feedback oils the gears of the employee-employer relationship. If your team is like a garden of plants, your encouragement falls on them like fresh rain. So don’t put it off! Water those plants as often as possible. Formally, informally, in quick meetings or drawn-out sessions, if they’re doing well, let them know!

For more on how to coach and evaluate your teams, turn to the pros at PSU.

Top YouTubers to Subscribe to for Great Career Advice

April 19th, 2019

Sometimes great advice comes at a premium, and you get what you pay for. But sometimes, thanks to the internet age, truly valuable wisdom can flow onto our screens and into our ears for free.

We love some of the career advice we find on YouTube (Though not all of it. “Buyer beware” still applies, even when the cost is nothing). Some of our favorite YouTubers include Marie Forelo (https://www.youtube.com/user/marieforleo), Linda Raynier (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXUyg1vYSupswhi0zNeD-5w), Glennon Doyle Melton (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=BpBnGHjda14), Angela Davis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=BZ-d1FrEoE4), and Aileen Xu (https://www.youtube.com/user/Lavendaire). Click on any of their links and you’ll see for yourself what they have to offer: tips; wisdom; personal examples; personal stories; warmth; compassion; statistics; and hard realities for working people looking for ways to get ahead. Want to find your own trusted internet resources? Look for these, plus the qualities below:

Significance beyond the speaker’s own life.

Captivating speakers and YouTubers can grab your attention by talking about themselves … but do they ever move beyond their personal narratives and shift gears to a universal plane? Do they process and share what they’ve learned in ways that can help others? Can they speak to your life as well as their own?

Does the speaker have what you want?

A 22-year-old expert on career growth and workplace management may have some smart tips to share. But based on their age and timeline alone, how much practical help have they really gained from these tips? It’s one thing to carefully curate tidbits collected from the world at large, but it’s something else altogether to apply these tips, test them, discard the myths and fluff and keep the truths and lessons. This takes years of trial, error, mistakes and faith, and if the speaker hasn’t gotten there yet, take their words with a grain of salt.

Does the speaker share more than just one thing?

Some speakers on YouTube give excellent career advice—but the more you listen, the more you realize you’re hearing the same recommendation over and over, packaged in different words. For example, a speaker who constantly repackages the message that “goal setting is important” is definitely not wrong. It is! But not always. And it’s not the MOST important thing. And every piece of advice comes with context and nuance.

Is the speaker answering your questions?

Say you’re dealing with a difficult boss who may be biased against your identity group. In this case, you need practical advice and legal guidance, maybe some information that can get you out of that job and into something better. Don’t spend your time listening to a speaker who tells you to work harder or please your boss by changing yourself. That’s not the answer. Don’t let a YouTube video make you question your own reality. There are plenty of gurus out there—when one isn’t helping, turn to another.

For more on how to find and process career advice, turn to the experts (for real!) at PSU.

3 Things You Can Do to Ensure a Smooth Onboarding Process

April 5th, 2019

The selection process is over, and you’ve chosen your final candidate and convinced her to accept your offer. Her first day will take place two weeks from now, so you have 14 days to arrange an onboarding process that’s efficient, smooth and most important, enjoyable for your new employee.

First impressions mean everything, and your new hire’s introduction to her tasks, her teammates and her work station can leave her feeling satisfied with her decision … or counting the days until she can walk out the door. Make sure she’s happy at the start and you’ll pave the way for a long and productive relationship. These moves can help.

Build some hype.

Before she arrives, make sure your existing employees are prepared. They should know her name, her role and at least little bit about her background and accomplishments before her first day. A warm welcome from peers and co-workers can generate memories that last forever. If she gets a few upward glances and a lukewarm “hey” before each new face turns back to a screen, she’ll feel like she’s having a solitary adventure that begins when she chooses and ends when she finds something better. A warm welcome means she’s now part of a team. Consider arranging lunch invitations for her during each of her first five days.

Avoid hassles and hang-ups.

Welcoming a new employee is a bit like planning a party or an event. Be optimistic but think a few steps ahead and anticipate what might go wrong. If she can’t connect to the network, if there’s an HR holdup with her paperwork or if she has to spend the whole morning standing in the lobby while someone scrambles to find her a desk, that doesn’t look very good. Besides, every hour she spends not integrating, learning and working is a loss for the company.

Be clear about your expectations.

You expect great things from your new employee! But what are those things, exactly? And have you given her the resources to deliver them? How long will her training period be? Does she have a schedule in hand that breaks down who, when and how that training will be delivered? Does she have a clear employee handbook that covers regulations and policies she might otherwise not know about? Does she know exactly who to turn to if she has questions? Get these issues settled as early as possible, ideally a few weeks before she walks in the door.

For more on how to provide your employee with a positive and meaningful experience starting on day one, talk to the hiring and onboarding experts at PSU.

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