Most professional women I consult with feel guilty about taking time off work for a variety of reasons. Some of the ones I hear most often are:
“I have so many responsibilities in my job that if I take time off it just means that when I return I have to work a mass amount of hours to get caught up. It makes the time away seem like it’s not even worth it. I end up feeling punished for being away.”
“I don’t want time away from work to hurt my reputation, jeopardize my position or impair my promotional opportunities. I’ve worked too hard to be perceived as not entirely committed or reliable.”
“I love being productive and informed. It feels like when I’m away from work for more than a day or two, I lose out on knowing what’s going on and it makes me feel out of the loop and out of control.”
“I need to save all of my time for the ‘in case of emergency’ or ‘sick parent/kid’ situations.” (Note: most of us need a cushion of time on the books for unforeseen emergencies, but saving all of your time isn’t healthy.)
The problem with this rationale is that we short change ourselves, our careers, and in the long run even our employer. If we neglect to balance our time at work by taking time off, we risk diminishing returns for ourselves and our organization. Here are a few things to consider:
- Stepping away from the day-to-day activities of the job gives your mind an opportunity to dream, create and innovate, providing fresh new ideas for how to tackle your responsibilities when you return.
- Women need to view their jobs from multiple perspectives. Vacation and relaxation is a vantage point that can give a person a whole new sense of self (both professionally and personally).
- Burnout occurs when there is too much of any one thing in a person’s life. All work and no real play contribute to an inability to see beyond the next task at hand. It creates an unhealthy cycle of reactionary behavior (too much work – not enough time – not enough energy – more backed up work, repeat).
- A temporary hiatus from the job is not just a nice-to-have, it’s essential to take time away from work to give your brain and body a break:
-Research shows that being constantly under pressure floods the brain with stress hormones, wearing down the high performance brain function that needs to occur at work to maximize our jobs and performance.
- Recent studies have reaffirmed that leisure time, including vacations, contributed to higher positive emotional levels, better coping skills, less depression and lower blood pressure.
- Women who reported that they vacationed less than once every two years were more likely to suffer from significant episodes of stress than those who took vacations at least twice a year.
So what can a dedicated, hard-driving business woman do?
Simply put, start small. Work your way into taking your vacation time by:
- Try 2 hour vacation slots in the early morning, extended lunches or late afternoons.
- Take half days during lower volume times (e.g. Thursdays and Fridays).
- Build up to extended weekends (Mondays and Fridays).
- Use vacation around the holidays or slow work cycles, when others are out too and business processes slow down a bit.
- Take time off to volunteer with charitable organizations (you likely won’t back out of the commitment and you’ll feel good about yourself for having helped others out).
- If you’re afraid to go cold turkey, then limit yourself to staying connected to your email/phone for certain periods of time while you’re out. Check in every morning and afternoon if you need to, but give yourself the rest of the day to disconnect.
- When you get back in the office, pause long enough to acknowledge that even though there may be additional short term stress, the office survived and so did you.
Set your sights to build up to big:
- Reserve time on the books in advance. Do whatever you can to force yourself to take the time off – buy the plane/train ticket far in advance, book a non-refundable hotel stay, create commitments to friends and family so there is an expectation of follow through.
- If you can’t disconnect on your own, consider visiting a place that has limited technology reception so you are forced to really take the time away, to power off and enjoy. It will reinforce for your body and mind that time away is actually advantageous to your mental health.
- Invite friends and family to your home or city for visits in order to obligate yourself to spend time away from work with additional people you care about (yes, there are so many people at work that we care deeply about, the time off is often for the others that we unintentionally neglect spending quality time with).
- During your time off do activities that really make you happy and excited, or peaceful and rested. This will make the time away seem worth it.
- Anticipate the break from work and routine. Allow yourself to really look forward to the day(s) off. The anticipation will help your brain get accustomed to the idea that time away is fun and healthy.
- Understand that it comes down to this: what you mentally project about your work and time away is a strong component of what becomes your reality. Your personal perception of what you deserve is part of what you will project to your employer. Keep in mind that it’s appropriate to use the time that your employer gave to you as a benefit. Take the time and use it as an investment in your overall health and an investment in your professional self.
The final, and maybe most important piece, is to remember to put it all into perspective. At the end of our lives while many will be satisfied to have had a successful career, our most important reflections will most likely be on the big ticket items: the way we lived, the people we touched, the adventures we had, the friends and family we loved. Spending all of our time at a desk or wired up to others won’t afford us the experiences we need to minimize regret and to feel great about the lives we’ve led.
About the Author: Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans – Fortune magazine’s 21st best medium workplace and one the fastest growing companies in the United States according to INC magazine. Amanda has led human resource organizations in both public and private sectors. She also has a doctorate in Environment and Behavior, focusing on highly profitable, employee-centric work environments. Connect with Amanda on Google+.
I just returned from a short vacation to Myrtle Beach, SC. Myrtle Beach is a place that I’ve visited many, many times over the years, both with family and friends. It’s one of the first family vacations I went on when I was a little girl, and it has continued to be a place that I’ve returned to over the years, through various stages of my life…as a kid, a teenager, a young adult on my first vacation on my own, and more recently with extended family, including my niece and nephews.
The beauty of returning to somewhere that you’ve visited many times, at various stages of your life, is that it remains a constant – relatively unchanged – no matter how much your life changes from one visit to the next. So I find these periodic visits to be the perfect opportunity to reflect on those life changes. As I walk the shores of the beach that I’ve walked so many times, I have the chance to think about just exactly what is different in my life since my last visit…for the better, for the worse, and for the, well, just different.
But it’s not just an opportunity to reflect on what has changed since the last visit, it’s also an opportunity to speculate about what could be different by the next time. Each time I’m there, before I leave, I take a moment to enjoy a view of the ocean and appreciate where I am at that moment, but also to wonder where exactly my life might be by the next time I return. And each time I do that, I’m often amazed at exactly how much IS different since the last time…the people who have come into or left my life, the losses I’ve experienced, the successes I’ve enjoyed, the opportunities I’ve had both personally and professionally, the direction my life has taken…many of these changes being things I never would have or could have expected. And though many times change is something we can’t necessarily anticipate, moments like these can also serve as a time to reflect on what we KNOW we want to change in the future.
What does this have to do with HR or business?
In the hectic rush of our days, weeks, and years, I wonder how many of us take those moments to reflect on how far we’ve come and where we want to go? To really appreciate exactly how much we’ve accomplished over a finite period of time, and exactly what more we’d like to do over that next finite period of time? Many of us talk about “three year plans” or “five year plans” but do we effectively take time in the midst of those plans to stop for a reality check? To re-calibrate the plan as needed? Or to just stop and appreciate the wonder of the unexpected places that fate sometimes takes us beyond what we had planned?
What about you? Do you stop to reflect? Do you have a constant place where you can go to appreciate where life has taken you and think about the future?
And as HR professionals, do we encourage our employees to do the same? Is reflection, planning, and re-calibration part of our career planning processes?
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
Our cups, plates, and lives are spilling over! Every day I meet with individuals, at every level within an organization, from the CEO to individual contributors, and the one common denominator is their lamentation of being over-stimulated, over-saturated, over-spent, over-extended, and over-scheduled.
Most are over achievers and thus, more often than not they find themselves in this situation by their own doing. Contrary to their initial quest of becoming experts in their respective fields, better educated, and ‘armed with information’, they actually become bogged down with more data and information that they know what to do with. This leads to the tendency of analysis paralysis of their newly accumulated intelligence, continued over-extension to achieve the ‘next rung’ which leads to the next, and the next, and the next! They become overwhelmed and under fulfilled.
This always leads to the proverbial dilemma: For the sake of what am I on this emotional business hamster wheel – and how do I get off? Or in some cases, more appropriately the question becomes: how can I become more in touch with my situation so that I can change my frame on the realities and subsequently manage my responses to them?
The answers are often as simple as the space right in front of our faces…..and within us. The basic premise is this: creating pause in our lives can reconnect us with us. By simply taking brief pauses throughout the day, can and will have a profound impact on your life and work. When we pause – we breathe, we become more aware of ourselves, we become STILL. Breath brings our bodies oxygen, which makes us stronger, clears the cobwebs, and helps us become more cognitively effective. Yet, for some reason, we have a hard time SLOWING DOWN and taking a long, deep breath. Yet, when we do, we become undeniably more centered, aligned, and powerful.
What are a few things we can do to facilitate this state of PAUSE and reflection so that we may change our frame and create a state of alignment or ‘re-alignment’ in our busy lives?
1. In your car, put down the phone and turn off the radio!
We can create our own solitude and ‘spa’ time while we are barreling down the freeway. I am amazed at how we want to fill every last minute, even the coveted ‘dashboard time’ with calling someone or listening to NPR. I am as guilty as the next person! Yet, if we take that time to simply breathe, process the information we read before we left the office, ‘sit with’ the latest interaction we had with our spouse, our co-worker, or even a difficult client….we give ourselves time to regroup, revitalize, and reframe.
2. Take it one step further…..when in transition (physically or figuratively)….stay present and awake.
Transitions are the bridge periods in life. Whether these are the paces to/from the elevator, to/from the restroom, going through airport security, or as we pack up our offices at the end of the day. During these times, we often are talking on our headset or texting – to get every single ounce of energy out of that moment. My suggestion: STOP DOING THIS!!
Try simply being present. Look around. Engage. Breathe. Observe. BE. Listen to your own thoughts. Heed the callings within your heart and soul. Those are the ‘whispers’ which Oprah has coined as her phrase for your inner voice. By simply pausing and becoming present and awake, you tap into your power rather than spending it on time-wasting distractions.
3. Make time for Pause by creating white space on your calendar.
Despite your best intentions, ‘stuff’ will happen. Road construction, accidents, delayed flights, missed flights…..this is life. We have all been guilty of booking ourselves back to back with little time to even stretch our legs; this creates the perfect storm for chaotic stress. One small mishap, and the house of cards collapses. Yet, if we can build a little ‘white space’ into our calendars – on a daily basis – we enable ourselves the enviable ‘hall pass’ to life’s inevitable travails. This fudge room will become your most prized possession…and the trick is this: we own the power to create that white space. Do it!
4. Finally, get to know YOU…and be willing to let that be enough in this moment.
What brought you to where you are today? Are there patterns and trends from which you can learn? Give yourself freedom to be who you are – and watch, learn, and grow – in this moment. BE and let all things flow from there. Observe yourself – and be curious about what drives your behaviors. This can be such a revealing process. I have personally found my own leadership executive coach to be incredibly supportive, and in many ways indispensable, in holding the mirror for me. Also, consider keeping a journal. This may be a stretch for some – that is okay. Even if you only write down only one or two thoughts you have – when you have them – it is amazing how they will grow and multiply in your mind’s eye. It is a great way to reflect on your day, the lessons learned, the observations of yourself and others and again provide meaningful pause. It is like living it ‘over’ in some ways – which is incredibly powerful.
The net point: Give yourself permission to PAUSE in life. This will provide time and space to ‘align’ with your core soul, which is your greatest source of power. Often, we must slow down to go fast…..so make that choice and then allow this new found energy to manifest into the world through your refreshed contributions.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
Let me begin with saying I’ve very new in my career. I’m 22 and I graduated with a B.A. in English Literature in May of 2013 and started my current job six months ago.
There were some vital things I’ve learned since graduating. Since I’ve graduated, I’ve been laid off from a small internet marketing company, was self-employed for four months and then recruited for my current job. All this, while not entirely knowing what exactly I wanted out of my career.
My current title is SEO Technical Specialist (click on the link if you have no idea what that is, many people I’ve met do not)! I had my first review and first promotion last week. The last six months have been intense and exciting. Also terrifying and frustrating. I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far with starting my career in the corporate world as a young, female millennial.
Perception is Reality
One of the hardest things I’ve learned (in a very hard way) is keeping my cool. Working in the corporate environment, being new and being young, it takes me a little bit more work to have my ideas considered. That can be very frustrating.
The most important thing is to be sure you keep calm, both your voice and face. Take a moment to walk away and think about. Consider bringing up the subject in a different way. How you react will either improve or damage your relationship with the person you are working with.
It’s important to build a “brand” around yourself. Create a professional Twitter account, grow your Linkedin profile and watch your posts on Facebook. Building a brand is one way you can control other’s perception of you.
I work in an industry that changes all of the time. With that, I’m constantly reading industry blogs. Sometimes I’ve even been the first one in my department to share important industry news. This matters. Not only is it important so that you can continue to improve your work, but becoming a person who is clearly knowledgeable will gain you respect and recognition.
Get certification in an aspect of your field. There are lots of options for online learning. I’m currently investigating a Mini MBA in Internet Marketing. I come from a writing background and ended up (happily) in the field of Search Engine Optimization. It’s very exciting but can be challenging because many of my co-workers have more experience in both marketing and the technical side of my field. Want to become a leader in your field? Keep learning!
Goals Matter…Sort of
As I mentioned earlier, I read a lot of articles. Not just in my industry though; I want to learn how to develop my career, not just do my job to the best of my ability. An article I read called “How Millennial Women Are Shaping Our Future” had a statistic that stood out to me, “Eighty-three percent of Millennial women say they believe they are expected to be more successful than women in previous generations.” That’s a lot of pressure.
I’m very guilty of two things, being a procrastinator and a perfectionist. I believe many of my peers can identify with this. Getting this job, I’ve kicked the procrastination aspect but I still put a lot of pressure on myself to do it perfect.
In theory this sounds like a great characteristic for an employee! But in reality the pressure becomes so intense your work ends up suffering in the long run. It’s important to keep the big picture in mind when setting out to accomplish something. Whether a project at work or a promotion you’re aiming for.
With that said, I did not plan to have a career as an SEO Technical Specialist. All I knew was that I wanted a job, and a good one. I let the chips fall in place. This is what I mean by the “sort of” aspect. It’s amazing what can happen if you allow yourself to have loose goals with your career. Allow opportunities to present them to you. This can be the most rewarding and exciting aspect of your career development.
I can’t emphasize this point enough! The most important lesson I have learned is to never be afraid to ask questions. I’m not just talking about questions on projects or about your industry. Ask on ways to you can do something better, how you can improve and how you can help.
Volunteering for projects goes a long way. Asking how you can improve makes an impact. Your supervisors or managers will notice if you ask before the review on what you can improve upon.
I have so much left to learn. When I think about how inexperienced I will consider myself at this point when I look back a year, 2 years, or 10 years from now. But I feel that I’ve made some key discoveries I wanted to share. Both to my peers and to those wondering, “what’s up with those Millennials anyways?” Most of us are working hard. More importantly, most of us are trying to figure it all out.
About the Author: Lauren graduated from the University of South Florida in May of 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She now works in the field of Internet Marketing. She loves to write and learn how to be better at her job. Self-improvement, leadership, marketing, social media and SEO are some of the topics she most enjoys writing about. She also currently publishes her own personal blog sharing gluten-free recipes.
We all know how important it is to navigate and manage our own careers. However, it’s not always easy to know what to do or even when the best timing is to do it. Personal circumstances, boss’s opinions of us, and corporate restructurings all play a pivotal part in impacting the success of our leadership and career trajectory. Our tolerance for these external factors and how they impact our lives varies from time to time, but ultimately I believe we are the only ones who know what’s best; even if we have moments of being unsure of what move to make next.
Years ago when I was a corporate employee and ready to come back to work after maternity leave, I decided coming back part-time might be a good option to help me transition after having a baby. My boss saw my entrance back into the work force differently than I did. She actually told me that she did not think it possible to be both a serious career woman AND be a mother and suggested that I think about choosing which one of these was more important to me. After getting over the shock (and the potential unlawfulness of her comment), my tolerance for her navigating my career in this way was, as you might imagine, ZERO! So, I quit. I had no job, a 3 month old, an 18 month old, and was determined my career would resemble something I wanted and NOT something someone else wanted for me.
After managing through this unfortunate set of circumstances myself (ultimately not as unfortunate, as this conversation was the catalyst for starting my own business!), I learned many things. Here are three that helped me, and might help you as well, as you think about how to navigate your wants and your circumstances most effectively.
Even though we believe our careers are ours to manage, if we work for someone else, we often find ourselves at the affect of our boss’s idea as to what career move is available to us or not. Pay attention to the feedback you receive from your boss and your boss’s boss. You need to start reading between the lines, even if you don’t like what you see. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an executive tell me they gave one of their employees some pretty tough feedback, but when I check in with the employee, they say that nothing unusual or critical in nature was discussed. My conclusion is that most of us really do believe we have spoken straight and clear when giving feedback, but in reality what was said isn’t necessarily heard as we intended. As a result, we have to get better at reading between the lines and asking lots of questions to obtain clarity so we can better plot a course for our next move.
Map out the path to the promotion, job, or title you desire and feel you deserve. No one wants what you want more than you do and no one will take the wheel for you. You are in the driver’s seat, but beware; this journey is not for weenies. You will need to stay alert, read the signs, and stay focused on your destination. It’s OK to take a detour or two as no career progression is traveled in a straight line. Keep your eyes on your destination otherwise it becomes easy to take too many side streets just waiting for “them” to change their minds and see just how talented you really are.
To be fully satisfied in your work, you first have to decide what it is that you want, and then commit to having it in a singularly focused kind of way. It does happen, although rarely, that the Universe just guides and glides us along without effort towards our dreams and goals. Most of the time however, we actually have to do stuff to make what we want become a reality. It takes persistence, commitment and acting outside your comfort zone to obtain the brass ring you have your sights on. Have conversations with key stakeholders (bosses, mentors and a coach) as to what’s required to readjust your actions, recalculate a misguided direction you may have made, and to understand clearly the gap between where you are and where you want to ultimately be.
As you navigate your career, no matter how old or young you are, you will either head towards something you want or escape from something that’s not working for you, like in my case with my boss. Giving yourself time to think about your career progression actually allows you to work ON your career and not just be IN it. It is a smart thing to do and will pay off by putting you in the drivers seat over and over again.
About the Author: Wendy Capland is known as one of America’s top women leaders on the topic of leadership development. As Chief Executive Officer of Vision Quest Consulting, Wendy has 25 years of experience working with hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals developing their most important asset, their people. She is the author of Your Next Bold Move for Women: 9 Proven Steps to Everything You Ever Wanted. www.WendyCapland.com
I have a confession to make: I love coming into a new organization and a new team and knowing that I am not the smartest person in the room. It’s the best feeling. It makes me want to do a happy dance and can’t wait to get to work in the morning.
Sure, it can be pretty sweet to always be the best on your team. Everyone comes to you with questions, your manager trusts you, and you always lead the team in performance. But what is good for your ego is not necessarily good for your career.
When you are the best person on your team you’ve hit the ceiling. You’ve done all that can be done, you’ve mastered the role, and you’ve gotten all the accolades. So what is left to push you forward? What is left to challenge you and make you better than you are today? If you aren’t moving forward, you are standing still while the rest of the world is going by.
To me, it is exciting to know that the people I work with are great at what they do. Just simply being surrounded by competent, creative, and dedicated professionals is thrilling. It means that I have to be my best, I have to push myself, and I have to rise the challenge too because I don’t want to be left behind. It means that I have an opportunity to learn, and that is probably the thing that excites me the most
Even better, especially for all us Women of HR, is seeing strong and intelligent women in leadership roles that we can look up to. You don’t have to aspire to leadership yourself to appreciate how awesome that is. I know a lot of brilliant women in leadership roles who everyday inspire me to simply be better than I am. And needless to say, the more amazing women we have leading not only HR but companies in general, the more positive change and equality all women in the workforce will see.
So the next time you start thinking how great it is to be the big fish, maybe start looking for a bigger pond to play in. Just be sure to start any new opportunity with an open mind, open ears, and a little humility. Even your ego will thank you for it later.
About the author: Shauna is an HR professional with a diverse work history, a Master’s degree, and a PHR certification. She is also a huge geek, social media advocate, and infectious giggler. Besides being a co-founder of the Women of HR she also serves as the current Ringmistress of the Carnival of HR, is the former co-host of the HR Happy Hour blogtalk radio show, and blogs at her own site as the HR Minion.
Women in leadership positions have been a hot topic on the global news circuit. In the US, tongues are wagging about whether Hillary still plans to become one of the most powerful people in the world , while in the UK, the government target of 25% female representation on boards by 2015 will likely be smashed since it’s shot up to 20% for the first time ever.
Yet despite the positive changes, a recent report released on Catalyst.org says that female representation on boards in North America has stagnated in the past few years. While women represented 47.3% of the 2011 workforce in Canada, they only made up 22.9% of senior management position s by 2012.
All the data suggests that the playing field is not even quite yet. So how have the women at the top of the global HR and business community climbed the career ladder to the top rung, and how can you do the same? Changeboard turned to seven senior business and HR professionals to get their advice on the problems they’ve faced, and how they’ve overcome them.
Carolyn McCall, CEO of easyjet, on balancing work and home life:
“You can’t be managing director or CEO of a company and not stay completely involved in the business, but it’s about finding a way of making it work. An important ingredient for me was having the right balance between my personal life and career.
It’s now time for women to keep their head above the parapet. Write a letter to your line manager or HR outlining the flexibility you require and present your business case. You may be surprised to find that you’re pushing at an open door.”
Kate Chapman, group HR director, PageGroup, on developing your own leadership style:
“I’m the same person I was when I started work, and have stayed true to my core values. I’ve got many great experiences to draw on and plenty of people I can reach out to.”
Leigh Lafever-Ayer, HR director of Enterprise Rent-a-Car, on the importance of mentoring:
“Look for mentors in and out of your organization. They can help you develop your skills and knowledge. Studies show that, despite having proven their talent, lots of women lack confidence in their abilities. A mentor can boost your confidence and could encourage you to go for jobs that you would otherwise pass over. Networking is equally as important. Introducing yourself to a wider community can lead you to untapped opportunities.
In my position, one of the areas of special focus is helping women to grasp the opportunity that is there. Many women readily admit that they are more cautious about putting themselves forward for a role than men. Even when their balanced scorecard is demonstrating ability, they may hesitate and wonder if they really are ready. Our mentoring, networking and development programmes are designed to help women overcome these hurdles.”
Fareda Abdullah, VP, human capital and corporate communications, Majid Al Futtaim Ventures, on what it takes to grow in business:
“I do not accept the common misconception that women have no career ambitions. It’s important to be focused and not give up. You must adapt according to your circumstances.”
Jane Bilcock, executive VP & chief HR officer, Pinstripe & Ochre House, on the key to success:
Do something you feel passionate about. Life’s too short to do something that doesn’t excite you.
Ceri-Anne Connelly, HR director, group functions, Aviva, on the value of hard work:
“Roll up your sleeves and get ‘into the work.’ I wouldn’t ask my team to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. Sitting with employees on the front line is the best possible way of understanding the need for change and defining the most successful people strategy.”
Jeannie Edwards, director of HR, Europe Africa, MWH Global, on being authentic in business for success:
“Don’t try to be anything other than yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t try to fit into a mould. The most successful women I know are comfortable with themselves. The most frustrated are role playing. A very senior woman once told me that I would never be taken seriously if I wore pink. I wear pink a lot, and it doesn’t seem to have done me too much damage.”
About the Author: Katie Richard is the online content editor for Changeboard.com, a global HR careers and content site based in the UK. A Canadian living in London, she’s interested in raising the profile of women in business.
What causes people to gravitate towards their career? We know that there are numerous factors including socio-economic status, location, age, academic inclination, mentors, and parental influence.
For many years, centuries it seems, it was common for children to follow in the footsteps of their parents—daughters following mothers, sons following fathers. Given how we used to learn things and the very nature of old class systems, that careers were family-centric is in no way surprising.
In recent times however, children are less likely to take similar career paths as their parents. In fact, according to recent findings from Ancestry.co.uk, just 7% of children today end up in the same job as their mother or father (as compared to 48% a century ago).
Indeed, from a career perspective, all sorts of things have influenced career gravitation for women, including the Suffrage movement, Title IX, and even technology.
According to Ancestry.com’s studies, children today are three times more likely to choose a different career from their parents.
So let me ask this question of HR Professionals. Was one of your parents an HR Professional, or the earlier derivations such as Personnel Manager or Payroll Administrator? If yes, how much of an influence was this on your own career choice?
In my entire career, I have only met one mother/daughter HR duo, and in reality, the mother was only the HR Professional for a few years before taking over the company from her father. How come there aren’t more mother/daughters like this?
I think it behooves us to ask:
- Are we promoting our career in a sustainable, attractive way?
- Are we happy in our career, and do we project happiness?
- What can we do to promote this field to our children?
Talk amongst yourselves.
About the author: Bonni Titgemeyer is the Managing Director of The Employers’ Choice Inc. She has been in human resources for 20+ years and works in the international HR arena. She is the recipient of the 2012 Toronto Star HR Professional of the Year Award. You can connect with Bonni on Twitter as @BonniToronto, often at the hashtag #TEPHR.
Recently our training manager at Veterans United Home Loans presented management curriculum on Maximizing Value. The focus was on creating added value through customary avenues like time allocation, resource management, efficiency, and process improvement. We also highlighted a critical, yet often neglected area associated with Maximizing Worth. Namely, modeling behaviors that keep your role and team’s contribution an unmistakable ingredient of your organization’s success.
So, how do you become the employee or team that your organization fights to keep? Here are ten behaviors to make yourself more valuable at work.
1. Treat your manager and co-workers as you do your customers.
You know what good customer service is about from your own experience. It’s about being cheerful, flexible, prompt, and reliable. Work at delivering good customer service every day to your manager and co-workers. Give them reasons to want to work with you and not with someone else.
2. Maintain a positive attitude.
Everyone has good and bad days, but the people we appreciate for their consistency and enthusiasm don’t let their bad days ruin ours. They choose their attitude. And they choose to make it positive. You can, too. Here are some ways to accomplish this goal:
- Make a list of the good things in your life or keep a file of accomplishments you’re proud of. Look at it when you start to feel down. Take yourself back to that time of the accomplishment; think about how energized you became, and why. This can help you get back to that positive state of mind. The momentum gained from this exercise should generate further momentum.
- Remind yourself that problems at work aren’t all about you. Look at them as opportunities to fix something, not as criticisms of you. Don’t take it personal.
- Spend time with people who have positive attitudes, both to get an emotional lift from them and to observe how they deal with challenges.
- Make an effort to be pleasant and easy to work with, even when you’re not feeling that way inside.
- Avoid the “blame game.” Instead of finding someone to blame when there’s a problem, focus on ways to fix it.
- Be honest with yourself about what’s causing a negative attitude. Watch for symptoms of stress and think about what is causing it. Get help when you need it.
3. Focus on productivity.
Work at becoming as good as you can be at the most important functions of your job. Produce results that are highly valued. Look for opportunities to do work more efficiently, to improve quality and customer satisfaction, and to save the organization money. Make a point of offering new ideas that could enhance the business. Strive to get more work done by being efficient, overcoming procrastination, and reducing interruptions. Try to understand the work style of your co-workers and of other groups you work with.
4. Be an agent of change, not an obstacle to it.
Employees who embrace positive change and help make changes happen are appreciated and valued by their managers. They also have a head start in learning new work processes and finding out how their skills and talents fit into the changed organization. Be an employee who suggests changes to improve efficiency or quality and who helps to figure out how to make those changes happen. Notice problems at work, but instead of complaining take steps to find a solution. Help co-workers accept changes, too, by drawing their attention to opportunities that change can bring.
5. Build connections.
Make friends at work and with people doing similar work at other organizations. Have fun and help others have fun at work. Make yourself the kind of person others want to work with. Help out when your help is needed, teach valuable skills, and share work-critical information. Let people know about interesting articles or studies that you find. Network to make connections with people who can give you new and different work and teach you valued skills. Volunteer for committees or special events as a way to work with new people. Attend industry functions and trade association meetings when it’s appropriate. Meet experts in your field and ask them for feedback on your work or ideas about problems your organization is facing. Know your employer’s policies about online networking so that, if your organization permits, you can benefit from both “offline” or face-to-face networking and from joining networking sites on the Internet.
6. Communicate clearly and directly.
Being a clear, direct, and thoughtful communicator can help you stand out as a valued employee. Share information that others need to know, and share it efficiently. Use e-mail when discussion isn’t needed. Call or talk in person if an issue truly needs to be discussed. Be prepared when you go to meetings so that you don’t waste people’s time. Get right to the point; eliminate unnecessary details. Always thank people for their time and their help.
7. Keep learning.
If you’re doing the same work in the same way you did it two years ago, chances are you’re being left behind. Take the time (your own time if that’s what’s needed) to learn new skills and to stay current with any areas of special expertise. Keep any licenses or certifications up-to-date even if you’ve moved into a managerial or other job that doesn’t require them. Stay informed about the business you’re in. Consider taking classes or professional development seminars. Commit to reading at least one book or professional journal in your field each quarter. As you gain new skills and knowledge, let your leader know. Find ways to use what you’re learning in your work.
8. Seek and welcome honest feedback.
Understand how your manager and others in your organization see your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you improve your knowledge and skills in the way that would help your employer most. Ask your manager, “What is the most important thing I could do to make myself more valuable to our organization?” Or, “What college classes would help most in my current job?” If you feel uncomfortable talking with your manager, consider requesting a confidential meeting with your human resources (HR) department and asking for clarification. Keep in mind that employers often place a very high value on aspects of performance, such as attendance and punctuality, that employees may see as less important.
9. Make your value visible to others.
“Market” yourself to make sure that your value is noticed. Make sure your manager knows what you do, and especially what you do well. Your performance review is an appropriate forum for listing your accomplishments and explaining the challenges you’ve overcome. Regular one-on-one meetings with your manager are another. Make your value more visible by volunteering for high-profile projects, where your contribution will be noticed as part of an important effort. Offer to be a coach or mentor to new employees. Ask to represent your team or department on cross-functional teams. As you learn new skills, teach your co-workers. They’ll appreciate the help in solving the work problems they face, and it will give you a reputation both as a source of expertise and as a valued team member.
10. Be flexible.
In an up-and-down economy, employers may place a higher value on employees who have the skills and mental flexibility to do more than one job. Be ready and willing to take on some or all of the tasks of a co-worker who is absent or on leave or who has been laid off or furloughed. If your current skills or knowledge wouldn’t allow you to do this, make it a top priority to gain a few new ones.
We know that in today’s workplace, hard work and effort are no longer enough to assure success or even to guarantee continued employment. Advances in technology, innovations from competitors, and changing customer needs have pushed organizations to be adept at changing focus and direction. This almost always means changing requirements for employees. Accomplishment at work is no longer just about working harder. It’s about working differently, and ensuring your continued value. Modeling these ten behaviors is a great way to build your workplace security and team’s success.
If you’re interested in reading more on this subject check out a book called, “Getting the Job You Want” by David Roper.
About the Author: Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans – Fortune magazine’s 21st best medium workplace and one the fastest growing companies in the United States according to INC magazine. Amanda has led human resource organizations in both public and private sectors. She also has a doctorate in Environment and Behavior, focusing on highly profitable, employee-centric work environments. Connect with Amanda on Google+.
One of the many effects of our improving economy is a noticeable uptick in workers changing jobs. As recession-era fears subside, employees become more confident in their ability to find better opportunities. Whether they are seeking higher pay, more robust benefits packages that meet their personal needs, or intangibles such as feeling appreciated, many workers will be moving on in 2014. For those with thoughts of making a change, and even for those with no immediate plans to leave their jobs, now is a great time to take a career inventory incorporating the following guidelines:
Don’t Quit Networking Once You Get a Job: People are usually vigilant about networking when looking for a job but stop once they’re hired. Your long term career success is dependent on your ability to continue to build strong business connections as well as nurture current relationships.
Put More Focus on Benefits: When looking for a job, weighing the options is about much more than base pay. The role, manager and compensation are all important factors in deciding whether to join a company, but benefit programs (such as work-hour flexibility, health and wellness programs and family leave policies) and company culture are critical factors as well. More than ever, the gap between work and home-life is closing, and working for a company that understands that can save you a lot of stress and money.
Be the Driver of Your Own Destiny: Too many people depend on their manager or boss to set the tone for their career path. Your career success is dependent on being the driver of your own destiny. Be proactive in the assignments and responsibilities you take on. Talk to your manager/boss about what you want and where you see your career path going with the company.
Keep Social Media Profiles Professional: The lines between personal and professional are more blurred than ever before. Even if you have a personal profile page on Facebook or Twitter that you intend for your friends’ eyes only, keep it professional. Never post something that you wouldn’t want your boss or prospective employer to see. In today’s digital age it’s easy for employers and prospective employers to find you online.
Keep Your Skills Sharp: No matter what industry you are in, it’s important to keep building on your skill set. It’s not enough to graduate from college and call it a day. Education is an ongoing process and it is important to stay sharp and keep up with the latest industry trends if you want to be a key player at your company.
Create a Five Year Plan: When you started out in your career you likely had a five year plan. It’s important to keep this plan alive! Update it every year. Re-evaluate what you wanted to achieve last year, where you are now and how you would like to see the next five years go. It’s a lot easier to make career decisions when you have a solid plan laid out.
By following these tips, you will be in a much better position to meet your career goals, whether they be an immediate job change, a future move, or even a promotion within your current place of employment. Just remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and those willing to consistently put in the work are more likely to come out ahead.
About the Author: A previous guest writer for Women of HR, Chris Duchesne has more than 15 years of experience in HR technology. In his role as VP of Global Workplace Solutions for Care.com, Chris oversees Care.com’s suite of services offered to institutional and corporate clients, their employees and families. Under his leadership, the program has grown to serve 150 organizations representing more than 600,000 employees. A father of three small children, Chris also knows first-hand the challenges working parents face. An in-demand expert on work-life integration, he has been featured in The New York Times, Real Simple, CIO, Yahoo! Small Business and Employee Benefit News.