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.

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.

Is Your Hiring Process Scaring Talent Away?

January 17th, 2020

Like it or not, the hiring process is a two-way street. Much like dating, sizing up the other person, and assessing your feelings for them will only get you halfway to the finish line. You’ll also have to win the person over, which may mean treating them with respect, enjoying their company, showing interest and curiosity as you ask them questions, and giving them the benefit of the doubt as they answer.

If you don’t take these steps and you don’t work hard to show what you have to offer, you may decide the candidate is simply perfect… the minute before they wander away. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be more likely to attract talent instead of scaring great candidates off.

Be the first to tackle every task.

Reach out first. Proactively contact great candidates (through a recruiter or search service), and make the interview process easy. Start with a phone call and move from there to an in-person meeting. Keep both short. Pay for the candidate’s travel. Be on time. Greet the candidate warmly. Take responsibility for breaking the ice and keep the conversation flowing. Make them comfortable; don’t expect them to do that for you.

Be polite when it comes to timelines.

There’s no need to rush your decision, but be polite when your candidate asks about it. Never rudely shut down applicants who call for an update, and don’t curtly forbid this behavior from the start. Candidates have a right to plan out their lives. To the best of your ability, give them the information they need. If you can’t tell them anything, say so professionally.

Keep the tone of the interview in context.

Always remember the goals of the interview process and keep the tone in line with those goals. An interview should never be confused with a trial. And it isn’t a cross-examination, either. Don’t try to poke holes in your candidate’s statements as if you’re trying to catch him or her in a lie. Don’t corner or bait candidates (even if you’re doing it politely), and don’t draw details from their background and hold them up as accusations. (“It says here you majored in biology. What does that have to do with a company like ours?”). Even the most subtle antagonistic behavior can push a candidate to accept an offer elsewhere.

Treat the candidate as you would wish to be treated.

Ask if they had trouble finding the venue. Make sure they know how to leave the building after they exit your office. Offer them a comfortable seat. Find an interview area free of distractions, noises, smells, and interruptions. Show off a little by dressing well, preparing in advance, and choosing a venue that showcases the best aspects of your company. Leave a positive impression, even if you don’t ultimately hire the person.

For more on how to form a positive relationship during every interview, reach out to the staffing pros at PSU.

Utilize Your Talent Pool to Save Money

December 13th, 2019

Do you maintain an active “talent pool”? Do your hiring managers know exactly where to turn when they have an open position to fill? Are you proactively pursuing excellent candidates, or are you waiting until your positions open and then accepting a resume from whoever happens to stumble upon your job posts?

Smart employers recognize that recruiting and hiring are not one-time events. Staffing is an ongoing process, so when you think about selecting new candidates, stay focused on “when” not “if.” Maintaining a talent pool can help you come out ahead when it’s time to bring a talented employee on board. Here’s how to take action.

Plan way ahead.

Take a strategic look at your position pipeline. At least a year in advance, recognize who’s retiring, who’s facing a promotion, and who’s about to go and leave a valued position unoccupied. If you know, you’ll need to staff those positions soon, and you don’t see a steady stream of internal candidates who can step comfortably into those roles, be ready to turn to outside contenders.

Value passive talent.

Many of the best outside candidates for the role share one common trait: they aren’t actively seeking new jobs. Their feelers are out, and they’ll consider new opportunities that could advance their careers, but in the meantime, they’re happy where they are. They’re employed and fine. They have all they need. But their Linkedin profile settings may indicate that they’re open to new offers, or they may have resumes posted on job search sites. These are the candidates you want in your talent pool.

Appreciate active talent (and be grateful).

When active applicants submit resumes, show respect and appreciation for their interest, even if you can’t offer them a position right now. Active candidates are those who are between jobs or searching for a new position right now, and for this group, time is a factor. If you can’t hire them, someone else will soon, but that’s no reason to let them disappear. Keep their names on file and deliver a message of goodwill and interest in a long-term positive relationship. Let them know that you’d like to hear from them as soon as they return to the market.

Prepare a plan for talented applicants you can’t hire immediately.

You want Candidate A to work for you. But she has a job, she’s not desperate, and she’s being (or has been) courted by other employers. Also, the position you want her to step into is currently occupied by someone who won’t leave for another six weeks. What to do? Keep her name in your talent pool! When the moment arrives, you’ll be ready to make the call and deliver the offer that will grab her attention.

For more on how to build and maintain a staff of the most talented workers in your area, rely on the staffing pros 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.

How to Help Your Employees Set Goals

November 8th, 2019

You want your employees to fulfill their assigned tasks with energy and commitment. But if you’re a great employer, you also want something more: you want your direct reports to look into the future and make moves now that can both help the company and build their careers. The status quo is fine, and it’s okay to simply punch in, complete the day’s work, and go home. But excellent employees want to set long term goals and focus on growth. And excellent employers want to help them do this. Here are a few simple moves that can help you keep their attention on the horizon, not just down at their desks.

Conduct personal check-ins.

At least once a month (ideally much more often), sit down with each of your direct reports individually for an informal chat. Ask them how they feel about their current work. Do they find it appropriately challenging? Can you help with these challenges? And if they’re ready for more responsibility, how can you help them choose a direction and obtain the training and exposure they need to move forward? These chats should give you some insight that can help you connect them to the right mentors and opportunities.

Keep the goals SMART.

Smart coaching leads to smart goal-setting. Which means choosing goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. It’s easy for employees—especially those with minimal work experience—to wander off the rails when it comes to goal setting, and loose, poorly formulated goals can lead to disappointment and discouragement later on. Rein in goals that are not realistic, and shape goals that are not well defined. Help place timelines on vague goals, and keep workplace goals focused on the workplace.

Attain the minimum standard before climbing higher.

Everybody’s human, and it’s common to encounter an employee who sets his or her sites on brilliant achievements (he wants to be the CEO!) before mastering ordinary ones. (His last several reports were subpar, he often shows up late, and he hasn’t earned the trust of his teammates.) This employee needs a clear performance improvement plan that can get him on track to basic competence. Set a two-week, three-month or one-year plan that leads to success with clear consequences for falling short. If he gets where he needs to be, he can start setting his sites on the next level.

Become an advisor and confidante.

If your employees don’t like or trust you, they won’t share their personal information with you, including their personal career goals. To get them to open up honestly, listen before you talk. When they tell you something, commit it to memory. And most important: give them advice and coaching that works in their benefit. Avoid advice that benefits the company at their expense.

For more on how to coach and manage your teams in ways that bring out their best, turn to the staffing experts 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.

Can Unfilled Job Posts Affect Your Business?

October 4th, 2019

A snapshot of the job market in this quarter of 2019 suggests that the competition for talent is still tight, and candidates still perceive a landscape in which their options are wide and there’s no need to settle for a role they don’t like, a company they can’t support, or a salary that doesn’t meet their needs. So what does that mean for company leaders and hiring managers who may be scrambling to fill essential positions? Here are a few key ways you may suffer if you fall behind, and a few simple moves that can prevent this from happening.

Talent Shortages Increase Hiring Costs

Hiring can be an expensive prospect in any job market, but when competition tightens and candidates hold more of the cards, the price tag naturally gets higher. Open jobs stay open longer, which can drain company resources, and the interview and selection process can involve a high number of overall candidates since more are likely to drop out of the running along the way. Employers have to work a little harder and shine a little brighter to entice candidates to apply, and of course, those who receive offers may be less likely to accept them than they would in easier markets. A competitive edge can help your company stand out.

Increased Turnover

Candidates who do respond to posts, apply, and maintain interest throughout the interview and selection process may not accept an offer, and those that do accept may not stay for more than one calendar year. This churn can interrupt the social fabric of the workplace and prevent employers from gaining a return on their investments in hiring and training.

Finding the Right Skills can be Difficult in Tight Markets

If you manage to track down candidates who hold the exact skill sets you need, these candidates are probably receiving plenty of other offers. This increases the temptation to settle and accept a shorter list of required skills, or trade one strong skill set for lesser skills in other areas. You may find yourself with a candidate who can bring some of what you need to the table, but not all.

Salary Negotiations can get Tougher

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll need to pay candidates more (though that may happen). But it does mean that you’ll need to polish your offer and be willing to give a little in order to get a little. If raising salary offers isn’t easy to do, you’ll need to improve your benefits package and take a second look at the perks you can provide that other employers can’t. (Keep in mind that savvy candidates know that free coffee isn’t a perk.)

If you stay focused on the goal, make sure your workplace culture speaks for itself, and get ready to treat your employees fairly and well, you’ll thrive in a tough market. For help, turn to the 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.

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