February 29, 2012

how blogging has boosted my career

I wish I had started this career blog earlier. For years I have been reading other popular career blogs in order to stay current and stretch my knowledge. There were always so many handy tips to choose form, that if I read one post per week it made a difference in my performance and/or personal brand at work. 

But then I remembered that I enjoyed writing just as much as reading, I always have.

Many of my friends know that I work in HR and love asking me career related questions, and having a group of employees to service means I can see and hear first-hand what people are frustrated with in their careers. I always aim to help or advise, and so it hit me:  If I can help one person, why can't I help many? 

And then I just started! I asked a motivating mentor of mine for a few blogging tips and she allowed me to feature a guest post on her blog. I have loved every moment since! And even though it hasn't been that long, it has given my career a subtle (but powerful) boost in a few ways:
  • Confidence - When someone gives positive feedback or I see someone sharing a post from my blog I know that the content is relevant and that people can relate. It's great to know that the things I am sharing are worth reading. Sharing your thoughts and getting people's feedback is a great way to measure your own progress.
  • Snowball effect - Because I am more confident of my career knowledge and influence, it comes across when I network with other professionals. I get questions and interviews with people I would never have connected with otherwise.
  • Career ownership - I no longer just have a day-job, I am an HR Professional with a Career Coaching blog on the side. I hold the steering wheel for this part of my career and I can decide the route I want to take with this project, whether it be speaking engagements or individual coaching sessions. So many new things are possible now...

My blog is still pretty new, so even though it hasn't landed me a new job at Forbes, I have discovered a whole community of career bloggers and I consider them all to be peers and mentors. Most of all, it adds a creative/fun aspect to my career that wasn't there before and I love every minute of it!

February 27, 2012

dissing distractions at work

Raise your hand if you never get distracted at work!!?
For this week's performance pointers I collected a few links to help you stay focused and manage the distractions in your work place:

By the time you reach the end of this article you have probably been distracted by other links flashing on the pages I just shared ☺ but don't feel judged! As long as you can establish whether or not your distractions are affecting your productivity in a negative way, you have reached the outcome of this post: self-awareness.

Have a wonderful week at work!

February 24, 2012

top tips for beating burnout

We've all been there - those days or weeks when you can feel how your job is slowly but surely in the process of swallowing you up. I recently went through a couple of weeks where the hours in each day were just not enough to get things done.

We all have natural ways of coping with pressure (some more effective than others), but I found that the simple things make the biggest difference for me:

  1. Schedule me-time everyday: While everything around you is competing for your attention, it helps to schedule a time slot to do ONLY what you enjoy doing. You have to literally slot it in on your calendar and approach it like a meeting you are not allowed to miss. I enjoy sitting in a coffee shop with a book (not work-related of course) or doing some window shopping on my own. What works for you?
  2. Remember to breathe - Sounds simple enough, but when we are hunched over in front of our computers all day we rarely take a moment to take a couple of deep, long breaths and stretch out as far and wide as we can. Not rocket science, not time consuming. More oxygen to your brain means better concentration and less stress.
  3. Switch off you phone: Don't switch it to silent, don't keep it in your pocket. When you have your me-time, make an effort of cutting of that connection to the ever-demanding world of emails and messages. The world will NOT end if you are out of reach for one or two hours every now and then...
  4. Go for a jog: Or a swim. Or whatever gets your heart pumping for a while. I really don't like to exercise, but the effect it has on my mood, concentration, appetite and sleeping patterns is amazing. I do it because it works. When I feel exhausted the last thing I want to do is put on my running shoes, but those 45 minutes on the treadmill is such a great stress-reliever. I am never sorry that I went for a work-out!
  5. Ask someone to check in on you: When I can see that things are about to get tough at work I ask a good friend of mine to keep me accountable. She asks me if I'm sticking to my regular eating/sleeping/exercise routines. I don't know if accountability works for everyone, but you'll only know if you try it at least once. This helps me focus on the bigger picture and reminds me that work is not everything.
  6. Control the things you can: I'm reminded of the scene in Julie & Julia, where Julie Powell says to her husband: “You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure – and when I say nothing, I mean nothing – you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. That’s such a comfort.” What are the things that feel "sure" to you when a day it work has been everything BUT sure?
  7. See your friends: Without a few cheerleaders of our own, life will be a lot harder than it has to be. Knowing that you have friends who accept and enjoy you just the way you are can make any tough time easier. Ensuring that you don't neglect your social calender even though work keeps you busy can really help you prevent burn-out.
That's all from me folks. Have a look at this Forbes article on preventing burn-out and this one on checking yourself for burnout. I'm sure you all have other wonderful tips that have helped you in the past!?

February 22, 2012

why you shouldn't stop learning after graduating

I really enjoyed my time at university. Even with the pressure of exams and intense assignments I used to feel so alive when I was studying!  I know reading and studying isn't everyone's cup of tea, but continuous learning can play a big part in your career success! Am I serious, you ask? Yes, here's why:

  1. Showing that you are continuously improving your skill set shows initiative and self-discipline. What do ALL employers love? Initiative and self-discipline!!
  2. Attending a workshop or seminar is an ideal opportunity to network and meet peers or experts in your industry.
  3. If you are up to speed with current trends and breakthroughs in your industry, people around you will start referring to you as an expert on certain topics - serious boost for your personal brand!
  4. If you read or study to grow your skill set you can improve your performance at work as you learn. Any employer will love seeing you apply new knowledge to the benefit of the company.

So some of us have the funds to do a new course or programme every few years, but what about those of us who don't? You may even still be paying off your student loan. Here are the cheap ways to keep up with the experts without paying for a academic qualification:

  • BLOGS: You know it! There are blogs for almost every industry available online. If you have Internet access you can subscribe to regular blog posts and they'll be delivered straight to your inbox. No need to browse for hours, the information comes to you in short relevant chunks - for free!
  • SEMINARS: I follow an HR company that regularly hosts networking breakfasts and seminars for minimal attendance fees. They often feature experts in our industry who share their knowledge and allow time for questions, and I am always motivated to grow after spending time with them even for one morning. 
  • BOOKS: Books aren't expensive. Books are easily accessible. Books can even be more current than old school academic qualifications. Reading will distinguish you among your peers when you can make relevant and valuable contributions to a project at work.
  • MENTORS: Do you have a mentor? This one one of the most powerful free tools to keep you learning at all times. If you do have one, see if you can schedule meetings at regular intervals and come with questions. If you don't have a mentor, here are some tips to help you find one.

Sure, reading books or attending seminars might cost you some of your free time, but it will pay off before you know it! You can also have a look at this post on extended learning beyond your campus years.
Any tips for juggling work and continuous education from my readers?

February 20, 2012

guide to acing interviews

Welcome back readers! hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Today's pointers will give you some cool ideas for job interviews. There is no single set of rules to follow because each potential employer will have a different culture, requirements and interview criteria. But there are definitely trends and basic tools that can help you regardless of the job or employer you are interested in, so let's get to it!

Like I mentioned in a previous post, you can never go wrong with having good manners and respecting the person who is interviewing you. People tend to pick up on your attitude faster than they hear the words coming from your mouth, and even though you might be an excellent candidate this can definitely ruin your chances.

Are there any specific tips you have found helpful in the past?

February 17, 2012

things you should know before starting your career

So, you are still in school and you want to be more than just another average employee someday? Here are a few things that can really affect your career in a negative way before it even starts!

Over confidence: Thinking that you know all you need to know and ignoring advice from people with actual job experience will cost you. Sure you want your independence and you are tired of being told what to do all the time, but being open to advice from experienced professionals will give you a serious boost in your career persuits. I wish I had started asking for advice (or reading career blogs) while I was still studying, I would have made much better career decisions in my early career.

Following the crowd: When choosing your career path or qualification, it's so easy to just do what everyone else is doing. Instead of doing some research and exploring your strengths, odds are you might want to follow your friends in their career dreams. Big no-no! Remember that you will be spending the majority of your life in the career path you choose, so make time to see guidance counsellors or visiting career fairs.

Waiting until it's too late: The earlier you can start asking questions about career choices the better. Even if you're still in school, ask your parents and their friends about their careers. Find out why they like their jobs (or not), and what an average day looks like for them. While studying it's also wise to try out some part-time jobs or job shadowing to give you a head-start. Stepping into your first full-time job with some experience behind you will definitely distinguish you from your inexperienced peers.

Rushing into things: Some of us really don't know very early in life what we want to do for the next 40 years. I was pretty clueless about which career path to choose because I have so many different interests. If you feel like this and it's at all possible, consider taking a gap-year to try different jobs or travel the world. Just because others know from age 5 what they want to do with their lives doesn't mean everyone else should.

For some more tips check out these posts: what I wish I knew before starting my first job AND what I wish I knew before entering the workforce.

February 15, 2012

smart ways to pay off your student loan

You completed your studies, you've landed your first job - congratulations!! But with all the excitement also comes the notion of getting rid of that student loan! So while you may be really excited about your first salary, a big part of it may be going towards your first bills, and your student loan could take forever to pay off - yikes!

Here are a few ideas that might just cut the time in half:

  • Prioritize - Try to focus on private student loans first as they tend to have high interest rates and might take very long to pay off if you don't tackle it aggressively. Also try to cut down on luxuries even when you may be dazzled by your first real paycheck. The sooner you are debt-free the sooner you can start investing in other things, so distinguish between luxuries and necessities whenever you hit the shops..
  • Stay calm - Before you even begin worrying about the mountain before you, remember that thousands of other first-timers have been in your position and it's not as impossible as it might seem. If others can successfully eliminate study loans, so can you!
  • Keep track - Be sure to keep correspondence and statements, and set goals for how much you would like to pay off each year. Work out a budget to keep you from overspending on other things - it's NEVER too early to start using a budget.
  • Communicate - If you ever struggle to keep up with payments try swallowing your pride and giving your lender a call. Instead of disappearing off the face off the earth and ending up blacklisted, own up and see if there are alternative arrangements or extensions available.
  • Synchronize - If you tend to forget to make payments, why not set monthly reminders or schedule automatic deductions from your bank account?
  • Big bursts - If you can afford to pay bigger installments, do it! You'll save lots of interest and cover the whole amount much sooner. Any additional income you receive during the year can also go straight to your loan in order to speed up the process as much as possible.
  • Eyes on the prize - Remember your goals. As soon as you've paid off your debt you can start investing in other things. Regardless of what your goals are, set some sort of reward for yourself to keep you motivated until you make your last payment.

Self discipline and patience are crucial skills you will need to learn during the process so remember to keep your eyes on the prize. You can also have a look at this post where college grads share their student loan horror stories!

February 13, 2012

the ultimate resume

There are so many thoughts and ideas on what a resume should look like. I am no expert but I do believe that the industry you are in will play a big role and that there is no one set of rules to follow for everyone.

Here are some thoughts from the online experts:

So there you have it! Have you identified some of those common mistakes on your own resume? Are you applying social media tools and networking effectively?

I hope you found these tools helpful, I have learned so much! Time to head on over to the drawing board for my new resume strategy!

February 10, 2012

whatever your job title, own it!

Many of us do our jobs because we need the cash... or because we're expected to... or because we want something to keep us busy between 9-5. The problem with these reasons is that any manager with a relative amount of people skills can spot them from a mile. They know if you're lazy or just another clock-watcher despite your efforts to look interested in your job. Have you ever thought of the reason you really do your job?

The truth is - if you do your job, JUST your job, people will say that about you: "He always did what was expected of him"... But that just doesn't cut it for me. I would like to apply myself (skills, education, personality & ideas) to my job and really show my employer that they should be happy they hired me! Here are a few ways you can adjust your attitude in a similar way:

  • PROACTIVE vs REACTIVE: Instead of waiting for orders everyday, see where you have something unique to add and suggest it. Anticipate what you may need to do later and do it now, employers can't get enough of employees who take ownership and take initiative.
  • TIK-TOK - Have a look at how you're spending your time at work. If you have some free time between tasks, why not do things in advance even if they aren't due yet. Or read up on literature specific to your job or organisation?
  • IT MUST BE LOVE - Identify things about your job that you really love so that your work becomes an extension of who you are as a person. Someone said to me the other day : "Kobie, you're a real career junkie!" and it's the truth - I love becoming better at my job and being able to help others succeed! There are parts of my job I don't enjoy as much, but I try to really sink my teeth into the parts I like and it works.

I can remember very clearly the day I decided to take ownership of my job and to do more than what is expected of me, and I have enjoyed every single day since. I wanted my work to really say something about my character, and I would definitely want to be missed when I leave.

Any boss will love an employee who really applies himself to the job and takes initiative. Have a look at these posts on how every employer wants a problem solver with a can-do attitude and taking ownership of your job.

February 8, 2012

how to prep for your first day at a new job

So you have made it through the screening and interviewing, and it's the first day at your new job! The stress of getting the position is over and now it's time to brace yourself for what lies ahead. Maybe it's your first REAL job and you have no idea what to expect?

Here are a few basics to help you prep for the first day:

  1. Get loads of sleep - Before I start a new job it's usually hard to fall asleep the night before, but try to hit your pillow as early as possible! It's very important that you arrive sharp and focused as you'll most likely receive tons of information to process. Remember that your first day is what most colleagues will use to create their impression of you!
  2. Test drive your route - Take a drive by your new office a day or two before hand. Visualisation helps many people prep for important events! If you want to do it just to see how long it takes you to arrive, that's also a good idea.
  3. Pack a lunch just in case - You don't always know how busy your first day will be. Maybe there's a shop close by to get a sandwich from, but just to eliminate one more uncertainty for the day it's wise to bring a lunch box just in case. Some companies take new employees to a first-day-lunch (lucky lucky!!) but don't bet on it.
  4. Do some homework - Have you had a good look at the company's website? The more you know beforehand, the more of the information you receive will fall into place. You'll also be able to ask sensible questions and score some first-impression-points!
  5. Time for a trim - Why not go for a brand new haircut!? There will be a lot of eyes on you when you arrive, so why not give your personal brand a boost from the get-go? While colleagues don't know you yet, your appearance will play a big role in their impression of you (and your abilities).
  6. Prepare to take notes - Have your smart phone or note book handy. Odds are that there will be a lot of rambling going on and by lunchtime you will have forgotten what was covered in the first orientation session. You want to avoid asking your new employer to repeat themselves. I tend to forget a lot of facts if I don't make notes.
  7. Say "cheese!" - Try to be pleasant and accommodating. Usually your new employer will go out of their way to make your first day welcoming, so remember to say please and thank you. Try to smile and make eye-contact to cement relationships from the start, and avoid frowning too much when you're concentrating.

For more great tips on rocking your first day at a new job, have a look at these tips and this video!

February 6, 2012

working on your writing skills

Welcome back in the office!

This week's performance pointers will give you some guidelines to improve the quality of your written communication. Whether you work with emails, meeting minutes or other business documents, your writing skills is sure to affect people's professional impression of you.

Here are some posts I've selected to get you writing better at work:

There is no law against writing an email the way you feel like doing it, but how you structure and word your communications at work has a huge impact on your personal brand, so this is a skill you always want to keep improving!

Happy writing and have a wonderful week at work!

February 3, 2012

2012 goals: any progress yet?

I was ecstatic to see my post 2012 Goals: out with the old, in with the new mentioned on Brazen Careerist the other day - have a look! In the meantime January has flown by at the speed of light and the holidays are nothing but a vague memory. Many of us have set some goals for the new year and hopefully they haven't been forgotten already?

February is a very good time to check if you are actually on track. Here are a few things that may help you focus on your goals throughout the year:

  • Make sure they are realistic: By selecting goals that you know are within your grasp you actually believe that you can reach them - I am not very athetic so my goals would obviously not include becoming a pro-athlete. But even though they should be within your grasp, ensure that they will stretch your capacity and efforts.
  • Assign action items: For each goal, assign yourself some action items to break the goal up into smaller parts. Think about what you can do this week, and then this coming month to reach your goal by the end of the year.
  • Find an accountability buddy: Having others around you who remind you of your goals and who are interested in your progress is one of the best ways to feed your efforts towards success.
  • Track and celebrate progress: Schedule a monthly reminder for yourself to assess your progress. If you can see you've made some progress, celebrate with a friend or two (what are accountability buddies there for!?)
  • Eliminate distractions: Identify the stumbling blocks that trip or distract you. If I want to spend less money on clothes each month, walking around the mall every afternoon is something I need to consider eliminating ☺.
  • Keep the end goal in mind: Even if you lose a battle or two, remember the bigger picture and the ultimate goal you want to reach. Most people known for their success can tell you a bunch of stories of all the battles they lost along the way, so don't let them discourage you.

For more ideas on sticking to your guns goals, have a look at these posts on tricks to make habits stick and simple tips to help you stick to your goals.

Have a great weekend everyone!

February 1, 2012

soundtrack to success

I don’t know about you but I tend to have a song in the back of my mind while I'm working. Sometimes I pick one up from the radio or TV, or I hear someone humming a tune and BAM! it’s stuck in my head J. But other times someone at work does something (either good or bad) to trigger a song in my mind and these have providied me with a few giggles!

So I thought it would be fun hearing from some readers what their work-related theme songs are. Here are a few nominations from Wannabe|Employee readers:

  • I believe I can fly (R Kelly) ¯ “Because positive self-talk at work is never a bad idea J
  • River deep, mountain high (Celine Dion) ¯ "This pops up in my head when my boss expects me to move mountains for him and I wonder why I’m doing this job”
  • Take a chance on me (ABBA) ¯ “I always think of this song when I’m hoping for a promotion!”
  • Another day in paradise (Phil Collins) ¯ “When I walk into our office filled with frowns and no hope of a smile from anyone this song tends to pop into my mind”
  • A beautiful mess (Jason Mraz) ¯ “The moment I realise I've made a big mistake in my work”
  • Every little thing she does is magic (The Police) ¯ “I always think of this when my boss claims she is the one who came up with the bright solution to a problem when I know it was one of our team members”
  • The only way out is through (Alanis Morissette) ¯ “For obvious reasons!”
  • You're simply the best (Tina Turner) ¯ "When my manager gives me the afternoon off"
  • I need a hero! (Bonnie Tyler) ¯ “There are days when I just don’t see how I’ll make it through my mountains of work on  time, but when I think of this song I can laugh a little and then bite down to get it done!”
  • Viva la Vida (Coldplay) ¯ “The song just gets my blood pumping every morning and it makes me feel like I can take over the world”
  • What’s love got to do with it (Tina Turner) ¯ “When I remind myself that I don’t need to like my boss in order to do a good job”

Thanks so much for your feedback! You guys are very original! For those of you who missed the poll on twitter, any other nominations?