In most instances people and situations present themselves at face value. We however ignore the signs. We see what we choose to see. Painting the scene with our biases, expectations, experiences, hopes, dreams and yes fears. After all why not, we want what we want. Our wills are strong. Why let a little thing like reality cloud our persistence? Wouldn’t it be great if people and situations came with warning labels? Narcissistic however funny, introverted nonetheless brilliant, insecure practices sarcasm to cover?
This job will offer great growth opportunity: if you are able to leap small buildings in a single bound, navigate through layers of corporate culture, and be willing to relocate to Peru.
We read the warning labels, see the signs, squint through the fine print, yet we barrel through. Our thought process; this time will be different. I will make it different. I have the magic bullet. Even more tragic, if I hang in there long enough things will change.
News Flash, they won’t.
So what is one to do? How do you learn to read the signs and see the red flashing light from the runway? Learn to be on the alert, not put on the blinders, or look the other way. Here are my tips for reading between the lines to get to fine print:
Open your eyes. Let in the sunlight. Smell the coffee. Take a look around you. Ask yourself what is really going on here? Who are you surrounded by? How do you spend your days? Nights? Weekends? Does your current career make you want to jump out of bed in the morning? Does it make you want to hit the snooze alarm? Are you truly happy? Is this the life that G-D has intended for you?
Then ask yourself the following question:
What happens when you stop hitting your head against the wall?
Answer: It stops hurting
Red Flags/Warning Detonators
What gets your goat? Makes your hair stand up on end? Are like nails on a chalk board? Are you aware of whom or what pushes your buttons? Do you have insight into whom or what installed them? What kind of people and situations make you want to pitch your tent? Conversely, which makes you want to cut and run?
These insights can be so freeing! A roadmap to your psyche. The lyrics to your personal dance of intimacy. This knowledge can be your liberator or your jailer. Either dooming you to repeat your fate, or educating you to freedom and positive choice. Foot on the pedal or foot on the brake, inevitably the road will be long. Right road or wrong? Straight road or curved? I do predict some bumps, potholes, forks and ditches. That’s when the roadmap and insights become so invaluable. Your ladder back to safer ground.
What is real and what is perceived? Your reality? Their reality? The truth?
Limiting Beliefs, Fears & Inner Critics
I’m too old to go back to school. No one is ever going to love me. I am never going to make it to the C- suite. Fill in the Blank!
Today is the day to rise up and fight back. Set up an erase and destroy mission. Slash old tapes mascarading as fears. Talk back to your Self Criticism. Knock out the Inner Critics that haunt us all. I have been introduced to a myriad of Inner Critics in my coaching practice. A menacing and meddling bunch at that. I have personally exorcised, befriended and ultimately locked my own in the closet just to publish this and subsequent blogs. I GET IT!
Truth is you are not terminally unique. We all need to fight past fears to become our authentic selves, and dare to be vulnerable.
I love the song Come As You Are. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could cut to the chase, rip off the mask, wrestle our Inner Critics, mow down the Nay Sayers, and show up as our Authentic Self right from the start? Ultimately that’s who is going to stay for the long haul. Nonetheless, we brush on the war paint, suit ourselves up, strap on the armor and hide our true identity away from the world. We fear that if people truly get to know us that they might not feel the same way.
At work they call it the Imposter Syndrome. We claim our hard earned position and rightful seat at the table only to be riddled with fear. What if our colleagues find out that we are a fraud?
It helps to remember that even superheroes have their strengths and weaknesses. That is what makes them so intriguing.
Don’t Just Listen, Hear
When I do a communication workshop I start with this quote:
“The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply”, Unknown
Pretty powerful stuff! Further, I impart my favorite communication tip, “Listen More, Talk Less”. If I ended my workshop here my audience would have all they need to size up any situation, not to mention ascertain the essence of any individual. G-d gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason! Truth is we get enough intel and gut feelings to size up a person and situation in the first meeting. What we do with that intuition is in question here.
Preferences, Deal Breakers & Would Be Nice
You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you get what you need.
What if we took the time to identify what we did and did not want in advance? Could we get closer? Imagine if we each created a list of the things we ultimately could not live without. Our must haves. Our core values. Our essence. What makes us tick? Bingo! This can work for relationships, jobs, homes, quite frankly anything.
What are your deal breakers? They are different for us all. What compromises will be too deep? What will cause you to break not bend? What is beyond your capacity to look the other way? Keep this list close to your heart because compromise here will bite you in the back later.
My personal favorites are the would be nices! These are the bargaining chips. The icing on the cake. Here you have enough of your wants in place. You are not compromising your deal breakers away. Hoorah, you get to add a few would be nices to sweeten the pot!
Pretty cool system. One must however keep in mind that life is an evolution. This is the ultimate balancing act. We are all a work in progress. As we grow our list and the lists around us will shift as well.
So we are where we are, and we are with who we are with, now what? Set boundaries. These are the rules of engagement. A game book of what you will and will not allow. Only you know what is truly off base. What will be the final straw? Remember, what sends one person packing is different from the next. What gets one person voted off the island would not even raise an eyebrow for the next. How do you set boundaries, you ask?
This used to be nearly impossible for me, but with practice it can be achieved. In the beginning it was like a scary game of tag, only the stakes were much higher. I would run in, say my piece, close my eyes, hold my breath, hope the world would not crumble around me, and then run out! I would say, “This is how it is. This is how it is going to be. This is how I am going to show up. This is what I am willing to accept. Either you are going to accept me and this, or not. No one is going to die. (I cannot take credit for the last line!)
In the beginning setting boundaries did feel like death; nevertheless, no one died. Some people accepted my boundaries, some people did not. Some people stayed some people went. EVERYONE respected me more.
One of my favorite songs as a teenager was Should I Stay Or Should I Go. It should have been, Time Is On Your Side. Now, I no longer look at life in absolutes. People and situations as good or bad. Right or wrong. Perfect or flawed. (I look at life from Both Sides Now.) I have given myself the gift of imperfection, and I allow others and situations the same courtesy.
My coach gave me the greatest gift, the concept of And. Sometimes we are just not ready to pull the trigger. We might not have all the facts. The bandwidth, strength and gumption. The means to make a truly educated decision. If that is the case you just may need to live in a grey area for a bit longer. All of the pieces will fall into place, eventually.
It is helpful to remember that choices do not always boil down to Either, Or, sometimes life offers you a third choice, the And. A middle ground, a time out, an experimental period, a compromise. It is important to consider what appears life shattering now, might not be all consuming six months down the line.
Compromise, not Cave
There is compromise and there is being taken advantage of. Some folks have a higher pain threshold than others. Many give more than they get. I know this first hand for I am one of them.
One of my core values is to be “of service”. I was taught by my father at a very early age to give of myself, be charitable and not really worry if it is reciprocated. You will get your gifts later.
He could not have been more correct. I have lived my life by this rule. Volunteering and mentoring. Leading my organization emphasizing service and personal growth. Supporting, nurturing and caring for my family and inner circle beyond measure. I now have my clients to add to the queue.
I love to give. I know I am appreciated. Anyone taking advantage, well, that’s on them. My gift is seeing people happy, growing and moving in a positive direction. That’s why I love what I do.
My New Year’s resolution was to make Conscious Connections.
I am a connector at heart and the consummate Networker. THIS IS GOOD THING! Yet here we are talking about connecting at a deeper level. Conscious Connections are the holy grail of connection. They are about trusting our gut instincts to find our Tribe.
Here we put on our mining hats and tunnel past the red flags. We dig deep, and dare to be vulnerable. We get naked, remove our armor, and peel back the layers of our soul. We will finally find the perfect home. Safely we can unpack our steamer trunks, yet they will dare to stay. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. I will pick you up when you fall. You will do the same. I will not care who you are, where you come from or what you do. Nor will you. Time will stand still when we speak and are together. Laughter will come in waves and tears can flow freely.
When you find this rare breed dear reader, rejoice. Nurture, fight for and handle with care. For as hard as they are to seek, is as easy as they are to squander.
Rocking Chair Test
My niece was taught in kindergarten, “You Get What You Get and You Don’t Get Upset”. I think that is utter nonsense and that teacher should be fired! We all have control of our destiny.
We have the free will to choose the people and situations that appear in our lives. Conversely, we have the power to leave the ones that no longer serve us. So what is the litmus test for sorting fact from fiction? Will from reality? Opportunity from Illusion? I use the Rocking Chair Test.
I imagine myself at the end of my days. None of the day to day nonsense created through work, relationships, and difficult choices will matter any longer. As I sit in my Rocking Chair all I will have are days stretched out in front of me. Time will be like a warm blanket safely covering me, so I can slowly and carefully contemplate my life’s choices. I will ask myself; do I want you next to me? Will we have brought each other happiness? Have we become better people having knowing each other? Will this situation have a positive impact on me? Did it add meaning to my life and the lives around me? How did it serve? Did it make the world a better place?
Your answers to these questions are The Truth in Advertising and The Fine Print all wrapped up in one.
Think hard my friend, consider carefully, and then carry on.
About the Author: Joan Axelrod Siegelwax is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the Founder and President of Powerful Possibilities Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture. Through creation of Powerful Possibilities Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specializing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.
When you take off on a flight, the attendant always says the same thing: “In case of an emergency put your oxygen mask on first before helping the people around you.” This includes the ones you love!
As a road warrior I know this mantra better than anyone. I heard these words every Monday morning for 17 years! It was the theme song of my undoing and then the melody of my road back home.
This, my friend, is the single best piece of advice in my tool chest of tricks. We all know I have a treasure trove of good advice, cautionary tales, analogies and tricks up my sleeve. This one should not be ignored!
Recently, one of my favorite members of my Personal Board passed through town. At an impromptu mini board gathering over fish tacos and red wine, she reminded me of another important saying, “Not my circus, not my monkeys!”
Wow, how powerful and freeing is that statement? How thought provoking.
“Save yourself first” so you can save the folks around you. Further, “If it is not your circus and not your monkeys” where do your responsibilities start and where do they end? What is yours and what is theirs? What is helping and what is enabling? What is teaching and what is providing answers? Listening and lecturing? Loving and smoothing?
As a parent of grown children, letting go is a tippy ship at best. Mission accomplished, although I type through tears, as my son officially graduates and moves the last box of clothing and mementos to Philadelphia next month to start his new career. Nevertheless, isn’t that the point? If you do it right they should leave the nest! My son put his oxygen mask on first! He found his own circus and his own monkeys! Painful as his parting is, I couldn’t be prouder. The coolest part is that we are going to meet every other week in the middle for a meal (once a foodie always a foodie). I will say that again. WE WILL MEET IN THE MIDDLE! (Hold that thought)
So if we are to put our “Oxygen mask on first,” and if it is “Their circus and their monkeys” how are we to continue to show up for our family, friends, colleagues, society and the world in a caring and meaningful way while still retaining our boundaries? After all, isn’t showing up fully truly the only way we can make an impact? How then will we still help the ones we love and be of service?
Here is my list of tips for putting on your oxygen mask first so you can show up for those around you while continuing to take care of yourself.
We are all a work in progress
Never stop growing, learning, evolving, exploring, asking, stretching, reading, expanding, scaring yourself, stepping out of your comfort zone! Repeat!
I am a life learner! I say that I am done getting certifications and degrees. We all know I am lying. I will never stop learning! I will never stop reading, taking courses and stepping out of my comfort zone. I will never stop reinventing myself! We live, we learn, we grow and should repeat this process again and again and again! Pay it forward by sharing your knowledge.
Be Your Personal Best
Whatever your aspiration, strive to be the best in class. How do you achieve this? Simple, roll up your sleeves and put in the work! Do the research. Do your homework. Network, Network, Network (even when you are exhausted). Stretch further than comfortable. Show up fully. Frankly, when you think you have done your best work possible, take one more pass through. In conjunction, have no expectations of others. You won’t need to, you will be too busy leading by example.
Take Care of Yourself
I never end a coaching session without inquiring about my clients’ self-care rituals. Why? Because at the heart of our work together, no matter what the topic, we can accomplish nothing if we are not taking care of ourselves.
It is the same reason that I watch everything I put in my mouth. Eat organic if possible (even when traveling). Try desperately to get a good night sleep each night, and exercise regularly. I have dragged my yoga mat with me on every trip I have taken for all 17 years of business travel (oh the places we have seen!). It took my limo driver until last year to figure out that I was not a heavy breather and I was meditating on the way to the airport!
Create a healthy routine and stick to it. A healthy life style will lead to productivity. You will become influential, productivity is sticky!
Listen More, Talk Less:
Don’t let the noise cancelling headphones, pile of work, the fact that I am typing, have my eyes closed, am facing the other way, or that I am actually sleeping dissuade you. If I am in your presence (whether I know you or not) you will talk to me and I will listen. You will tell me things you have never told anyone, and I WILL KEEP YOUR CONFIDENCE. I will give you advice, I WILL NEVER JUDGE. Trust me I know things I could have gone my whole life without knowing, but rest assured when you utter the last word it is already forgotten.
When I go on vacation with my family I am instructed not to look up or make eye contact with anyone! (After all, it is their time). All kidding aside this is the best gift you can give someone, empathy and understanding. A safe place to unload, and then let them go on their contemplative way to figure it out.
Energy Zappers/Energy Fillers:
Get in touch with the people, places, and trying that are sapping your energy and GET RID OFF THEM! Okay, so this is not always practical. If it was, I for one would spend my days reading, doing yoga, cooking, gardening, hiking, mountain biking, eating at great restaurants and watching old movies.
We are all intimately in touch with what brings us stress; however, are you aware that there is a positive counter balance?
I am also a bit of a math geek, and a strong believer in that “What gets measured gets done.” In fact if I was to get a tattoo (which I won’t kids, so you can’t) it would have that phrase. As a result, I have invented the “Balancing Act” equation. (AP to follow)
How does it work? Make a list of everything that brings you stress and give it a numerical value. Then, come up with a list of energy fillers and do the same until you reach equilibrium! I challenge you to balance your act! Leave others to do the same.
Speak Your Mind. Don’t over communicate:
No one likes a nag and overstating the same point over and over and over again does not make it so.
Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over again expecting different results. This came up two blogs in a row for a reason! Don’t hold back. Say it once. Hope you are heard. Move on.
Come As You Are
You cannot change anyone but yourself and you should not want to. It is your responsibility to continue to grow and evolve, and it everyone else’s responsibility to do the same. You should always strive to be your personal best and hope that the people around you continue to do the same. At the end of the day you must accept people for where they are regardless of the level. That is their choice. Do not let it deter you from continuing to grow. I repeat, do not let it deter you from continuing to grow. Lead by example.
Drop the Mad
This is one of my personal favorites; however, be cautioned it does not always work! Nothing was ever accomplished through screaming, yelling and or trying to solve the world’s problems in one sitting. Sometimes you just have to take a break from it all and have some fun. If you can put together some peaceful connected moments you can get back to figuring out the world’s problems through a clearer lens.
Step out of the drama! Get out of the ring! Take yourself out of the line of fire! Do it for an hour. Do for a day. Do it for a week. Do it for any amount of time necessary and practical so that you can clear your head and think. Take as much alone time and thinking time required to make the decisions and put the actions in place that are right for you. After all this is yours, not theirs.
Oh how I love a good project! I get that from my Grandma Fanny. She always took in strays, and I am very much the same. I have a 12 foot farm table and none of the chairs match. Neither do the people that often pass through for the home cooked meals on Sunday. My family and I often reminisce and say, “I wonder what ever happened to so and so. I hope it all turned out well”.
I bring this up as a cautionary tale. It is a gift to give, but it can also be trap. Always give and open yourself to others, but remember it is a two way street.
So, in conclusion, what is yours, theirs and ours anyway?
Another favorite saying of mine is really a question. What happens when you stop hitting your head against a wall? Answer, it stops hurting. What is yours and what is theirs anyway? Truth is, it is all yours and it is all theirs. It is our job to be our best, it is their job to strive to do the same. It is our job to take care of ourselves. It is definitely their job to do the same. It is always our job to show up fully. To be kind, caring, helpful (when asked), resourceful and always, always show empathy. It is their job to clean up their side of the street and do the same. Perhaps in time we agree to meet in the middle? Perhaps we don’t? In the end the universe will take care of the rest.
I sleep at night with the security of knowing that there is a box of snowcaps in my night-table. This box of snowcaps has remained in my night-table unopened for over twenty years. It has accompanied me through multiple moves, various trials and tribulations, and a multiple of life changes, players and personal iterations.
For those who know me personally, I live on carrot sticks and hummus. I rarely even eat chocolate. So why the Snow Caps? The answer is quite simple; it’s symbolic and synonymous for comfort. It is for the same reason that when I was preparing for Hurricane Sandy I bought water, gas, flashlights and five boxes of snowcaps. After all, if life was going to become challenging, I wanted to make sure I had my comforts available!
I have spent the past month, as I do the open of each year, cleaning (well organizing), purging, and setting the stage for the upcoming year. While cleaning my night-table I came across this ancient box, smiled, and began to contemplate the other “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” habits I have adopted over the years. Further I pondered how important these survival habits, safe guards and rituals have become to my well-being and survival in today’s crazy, surprise laden, 24-7 world.
Looking back on simpler times, before the age of cell phones and constant internet contact, having an emergency contact list really had meaning. When leaving the house as a pre-teen and young adult one was told to be home before dark and handed a couple of quarters so you could call someone ”In case of an Emergency”. We all instinctively knew just who to call. For me it was my Grandma Fanny. She would get you anywhere, anytime, no questions, no judgment. Who is that person or those people for you? Who will you call when the stakes are high and the chips are down?
It’s wonderful when your children become adults and you can have really honest conversations about what kind of parent you were when they were growing up, and how you continue to support them today. I have come to learn that I am an “In Case of Emergency Break Glass” Mom. What does that mean I asked? Apparently, when it came to the simply day to day stuff like teaching them how to change light bulbs, do laundry, boiling eggs and making beds neatly I failed my kids miserably. After all we were always in survival mode, who could be bothered! Thankfully, everyone turned out great in the end. We skipped egg boiling and went right to omelets. We would be appalled if we got less than A’s in any of our classes, a project (present company included) or showed up late or unprepared to a game or practice! We lived by the golden rule, “Do on to others as you want to be treated yourself”. Most importantly, if you dropped any of us on the set of survivor I am sure we would all make it off the island.
Here are my favorite in case of emergency break glass habits and rituals:
I used to be the queen of running away from my issues. NO MORE!
In fact I was so skilled at the art of self-deception that I have multiple degrees, a wall of certifications, a laundry list of accomplishments and success beyond my humblest comprehension, all to cover up for problems neglected.
Consequently, I have left shipwrecks of astonished people and boat loads of unanswered questions in my wake. Those days are over.
You can mask running with productivity all you want, but in the end you will need to face your demons and issues head on. Today is as good a day as any.
Slow down, dive in and face the music. This too shall pass!
Empty, Not Fill
As an ex-chronic runner, filler, busy making problem avoider, and collector of both people and things, I have actually made this one of my New Year Resolutions!
There is nothing better in times of stress, trial & tribulation, and deep contemplation to go on a Personal Purge.
What does this mean? If you need to ask yourself more than once, “Should I hold on to this? The answer is NO. This includes people places and things!
Chances are if you run, you also hide. Waiting till you feel better to contact your friends make no sense and defeats the purpose of having them?
Misery does require company. There are others that have walked in your shoes, find them and they will comfort you. Open up to the people you trust. You will be amazed to learn you are not as unique as you think.
Know When To Let Go
Knowing when to let go is always a challenge and often what brings us to our “In Case of Emergency” state.
It is helpful to remember that
“Some people and circumstances present themselves for a reason, some for a season and some to stay.”
I have used this phrase to comfort myself, my clients, my children, and many a saddened friend when they did not get or lost their job, gone through a horrible break up, divorce or life just did not live up to their expectation.
Should I stay or go? Hold on or cut bait?
Knowing the difference is crucial and knowing when to let go is critical!
It helps to remember that life and relationships are dynamic, cyclical and fluid. Be open to all possibilities, and keep your eyes open and learn to read the signs. The right people will actually seem to appear out of thin air.
Trying to make a situation work when it shouldn’t is futile, staying too long may be counterproductive and often destructive. Trust and move on.
The people and things that are supposed to be there will. The ones that aren’t won’t.
Definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results!
Break the Rules
I am a definite do gooder, non-corner cutter, live by the golden rule type of girl, but desperate times may call for desperate measures. In times of emergencies you just might be forced to cut a corner or two. Step out of your comfort zone or just push boundaries a bit to experiment with what is possible. Hey you never know? You could stumble into something positive. Just be mindful that you don’t push too far and that you can live with the consequences of your actions.
Sweat the Big Stuff!
I am a firm believer that there isn’t an issue or problem that cannot be worked out through with good old fashion sweat and a pair of sneakers, bicycle, yoga mat, weights or whatever physical activity floats your boat. Once a gym rat always a gym rat. I started my Entrepreneurial track as a personal trainer 25 years ago and have always kept a gym membership since, even though I prefer outside workouts (even in the dead of winter). I suggest you do the same. The point is not to isolate. Get up, get out, sweat and start your day right. If you prefer working out at night then go straight to the gym not to your couch. Not to sound unoriginal…JUST DO IT!
I have recently developed a love hate relationship with Hot Yoga. Seriously, who comes up with these things? As if balancing all of your body weight on one leg while holding perfectly still for 60 seconds is not bad enough, now add the element of 104 degrees. Sheer insanity! Yet I show up every Sunday. Why you ask? Discipline? It’s good for me? I’m nuts? My logic, it is mental conditioning. If I can do an hour of yoga each week while being roasted alive, everything else that is going to happen to me will be uphill from there.
Along with my gym rat mentality is my zest for adventure. I am a definite adrenalin junkie and know this has served me well to help me through many rough patches. For me stepping out of my comfort zone is most often around trying new kinds of physical activity. Parachute Yoga (I know who thinks of these things, but my favorite!), Mountain Biking (15 years ago before it was cool), Rollerblading (when they first came out) to name a few. My son is still traumatized from when I would blade past his bus in middle school and people would say, “Isn’t that your mom?” He would say no, as if there were many other rollerblading moms in the neighborhood.
Bottom line is pick your poison. Live on the edge just long enough to get out of your head for a bit of a break.
Fun & Laughter
As hard as I work is as hard as I play. If you read my blogs, or perhaps know me personally, you know that I find the humor in even the most awful situations and topics.
I am a survivor but aren’t we all, we could not have gotten to where we are today without a few bumps or bruises.
I have surrounded myself with some of the best people in the world. Trust me; we have had no shortage of fun. I have laughed at myself, we have laughed at each other, but most importantly we have never stopped showing up for life, and having fun, fun, fun.
I recently described a best friend of mine as a “Party in a Bag”. This is such a great description of many of my closest friendships. Many of us don’t live in the same state. Our relationships take extra work. So we put in the time and the effort, schedule phone calls, we drive in traffic to see each other, we get on planes and when we arrive we make it count! We laugh, we cry (if necessary) and we have FUN.
LAUGHTER, FUN, CONNECTION are truly the best medicine.
Calling All Contacts
This will sound like such a contradiction to so much of what I have preached, but I used to be in the habit of waiting till I fixed my problems and then reporting my progress back to my friends. This is absurd!
I am happy to report that I am over this. I will admit that I have had to call myself out to my friends on this habit and they know to reach out if they do not hear from me.
I recommend having regularly scheduled times to speak to out of town friends and specific times you meet your local friends and actually put it in your calendar. This way it actually happens!!
Surrounding yourself with creature comforts in times of trouble is a great thing to do, but remember when you popped that last snowcap, finished the bag of potato chips, and drowned your sorrows in a pint of rocky road you will feel no better about yourself the next day. News flash, your problems are still going to be there.
Remember Rome was not built on Fast Food and French Fries! Think “Brain Fuel” and make healthy choices especially when the chips are down. My rules of thumb, “If it does not fly, swim, grow or have a mother, don’t eat it.” In other words, stay away from anything processed if you want to think clearly to work through your rough patches.
Do treat yourself but make healthy choices. Like one glass of heart healthy Red Wine (good red wine of course!), or a square or two of dark chocolate.
Times of trouble are no times to let yourself go. In fact you should step up your game even more. My sister-in-law and I have a running joke. She will always say to me in my darkest hours. “You look fabulous, how can I help”?
If you are a girl, don’t leave the house without make up, if you are a guy shave for heaven sake.
Keep up with manicures and pedicures, dye and cut your hair, schedule a massage, update your wardrobe.
This too shall pass and the last thing you are going to want to do when the dust settles is personal triage, nor should you require a full make-over once things have settled down.
Your grandmother was only partly right. You should never leave the house without a nice clean pair of matching underwear. Only you shouldn’t do this in case you get in an accident, you should do this because it makes you feel good about yourself!
Spoil Yourself With a Little Retail Therapy
For me there isn’t a problem in the world that cannot be solved when I have found the perfect pair of new boots and a matching handbag. This I know might not work for everyone. I also don’t recommend retail therapy if your problem is in relation to finances!
Retail therapy comes in all forms and defined is purchasing anything large or small that makes you feel good about yourself, if even for a moment.
Truth be told my favorite retail therapy is gift giving. I love buying gifts and sending my friends random things in the mail spontaneously. No occasion required. I do this out of the blue when I come across something I think will be helpful, or just because it reminds me of them. I do this a lot so they no longer think it’s strange. I highly recommend it. It definitely gets you out of negative thinking for a while.
Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude
Every night before I go to sleep I write down at least three good things that happened to me that day and/or three things that I have to be grateful for. It does not matter what is going on in your life, there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for at the end of the day. As you start doing this, the positive things will out way the negative things and before your know it the tide will turn.
“What brings me to the mat can most often be worked out on the mat”
For those of you who have not read my blog the “Is the Finish Line Really a Dotted Line” please do.
Your face down in the ring moment is when your face is on the mat and you are down for the count. The crowd is waiting. What are you going to do? Stay down or get up? Let the other win or claim your rightful victory? This moment is golden; however, it is important to remember this moment is yours to claim and choose alone.
That is where the other mat has always come in for me, the yoga mat that is. Here I can strip down the noise, adrenalin, anxiety, outside influences, and conventional wisdom to decide what I really want.
Find your means of peaceful contemplation. Then ask yourself what you really want? What is your gut telling you? It is in those quite moments of peaceful contemplation that the healing takes place and the answers come. Follow your voice. Don’t the next right thing.
So in conclusion dear reader I wish you neither malice nor harm. I do hope that you read this blog and file it someplace safe and never need to use this list of “In Case of Emergency” tactics. My list is safely nestled next to my snowcaps as you conclude. It is however an uncertain world and life will continue to throw us surprises and curve balls. Today I do hope you wake up emergency free; nevertheless, just “In Case of Emergency” my list of tactics is my gift to you as you never know, “Maybe one will come up?”
About the Author: Joan Axelrod Siegelwax, a previous guest contributor to Women of HR, is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the Founder and President of Powerful Possibilities Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture. Through creation of Powerful Possibilities Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specializing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.
It seems rather obvious, yet year after year, many people feel compelled to greet the start of a new year with grand ideas about losing weight, travelling more, catching up on their reading or spending more time with their loved ones.
I read this the other day and it begs sharing here :
“Most people like the idea of being exceptional, but not enough to do what it takes to get there… everybody says they want to be slim, healthy, attractive, and rich, but few people are willing to do what it takes to attain those things, which suggests they don’t really want those things as much as they say or think.
Paul Arden, former creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, sums this up nicely by explaining that typically when we say we “want” something, we actually just mean we want to have it, but with no implicit assumption that we’re willing to do any work to get there. In reality, wanting something should equate with being prepared to take the necessary steps to achieve it. If you are serious about your goals, then you will do whatever it takes to attain them; your confidence is secondary. What matters is the desire you have to attempt to achieve your goals.”
– Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at University College London and author of the outstanding book “Confidence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, and Doubt
I agree that it is about how strongly we desire something. Oftentimes, it seems easier to just say that we want that something. You could look at a given situation, and realise that person has been very clear about her desires thus far and yet, failed to achieve them. It would be easy to conclude that their desire was simply not strong enough.
The problem with such analysis, though, is that it’s based on what is perceived, on what is on the outside. We see the successful tennis champion and their runaway success but we don’t see behind the scenes – their struggles, their passion and what they do on a daily basis.
What do you do with the person with real desire, who keeps failing yet keeps trying over and over? What do you make of that person, from the outside looking in?
While it is important, and I cannot stress this enough, to be clear about what we desire and to be relentless about it, I think there are two other critical aspects we need to consider if we are to make our desires real.
The first is that any desire or goal needs to be backed by a plan. I know firsthand, how easily your desires crumble by the wayside when there is no plan in place. A plan is simply a framework for how you will achieve what you so desire. The mere intent is simply not enough, you need to do. But thoughtless, rudder-less action is not the way to go. Your plan need not be cumbersome or overly complex – all you need to be clear about is a direction and a method for achieving what you seek.
Where applicable, I base my plans on the Five Ws and One H, or the Six Ws. I need a clear guide as to who this is for, what that involves, when I plan to start and when I expect to finish, in what areas this will apply and importantly, how I will put all of this together. If you wanted to take this a step further, a SWOT analysis would also be useful.
Granted, this may seem to make the whole exercise a tad theoretical and arduous. But if you go through the motions here, you will achieve clarity about what you’re doing and strengthen (or otherwise) your resolve for doing so. Either way, you know where you really stand.
If you decide that :
- the idea is not worth the time and effort to do so;
- it’s a lot of work, perhaps a tad unnecessary; or
- you’ll get to it later
then, the idea just remains an idea. It stays in your mind, cluttered with the other big picture goals or ideas you have, and it runs alongside the daily stream of to-do lists, emails, pings and emotional weather you sustain. Over time, the idea loses focus and it becomes a hazy option, one that will slowly but surely fade into the recesses only to resurface at the start of another year.
And the second thing you need to do is, quite simply, to act. Yes, you start with an idea, you back it up with a plan but things only start moving, when you do. There’s only so much you can understand and absorb on a theoretical level. There’s only so many days and weeks you can delay the onset of action while you prepare to ramp up before you begin to lose the momentum so needed to get started on your journey.
When you put all this together – an idea, the desire, a plan and action – you have a powerful combination of factors that can help you get closer to what you want. In isolation, each serves some purpose but lacks the strong foundation, if you will, to make progress.
I can’t help but agree with the powerful words of Seth Godin, who is a huge proponent of getting things done and of taking action:
“Ship often. Ship lousy stuff, but ship. Ship constantly.”
When you make the conscious decision to do what it is that you need to do, you wait for no one to tell you the things you need to hear. You don’t let the failures get in the way of your journey. You just keep moving, getting stronger, getting more focused, getting more traction.
So, why not take that next step you know you should be taking? Why not make that idea more real, to yourself, by embracing that desire, crafting a plan and just going for it? You will be glad you did.
Abou the Author: Rowena Morais is the Editor of VerticalDistinct.com, helping individuals develop their professional abilities and career to the fullest in either Human Resources or Technology. She is also Editor of the quarterly human resource magazine, Accelerate. She graduated from the University of Glamorgan, Wales with an LL.B (Hons) and is a regular blogger on personal growth.
There is such a prevalence of negative messages in today’s world. The media is chock full of ‘if it bleeds it leads’ coverage…and in some ways we have become conditioned to not only expect the icky news, we feed on it. Yes, I get that it is important that we stay in tune with what is going on (the reality of world affairs) whether this be the Ebola virus, the school shootings, or the imminent threat of a terrorist attack. Yet, this morbid expectation and, at best, the placid tolerance of negativity has the potential to leak into every aspect of our lives.
Of late, there has been heightened attention around the study of increased ‘negative bias’. The New York Times and other notable institutions have published many articles on this phenomenon and how it can (and does) impact our personal and professional lives. These studies of our brain and how we deal with negativity are fascinating. Some of the epiphanies are frankly anything but new! For those of us who have followed the science of positivity as far back as Norman Vincent Peale and his Power of Positive Thinking will shake our heads knowingly in the true power that our thoughts have over our lives. Yet, we are only human and the realities of our world can bleed into our daily routines and lives.
So – what habits can we try to adopt to help keep the realities at bay and not impact what we ultimately create in our businesses, our lives, and in our world?
Three simple things to consider:
- Keep the good stuff front and center. I have been told for every negative thought or image we have, we need to combat it with 6 positive thoughts. The negative stuff is 6 times MORE powerful than the positive stuff – so we have to squash it out with zealous positivity. This takes a rewiring of our brains – no question about it. It takes a conscious effort. The good ole amygdala is there to protect us – and it is wired through years of learned behavior. So to rewire our thought processes, we have to consciously REPLACE those trained pathways with new pathways. It may sound Pollyanna; however, I know through my own experiences that when I meet someone who gets the power of positive thought and who is consciously feeding the positive energy – it shows AND it absolutely is manifesting in his/her lives. Period.
- Say thanks – for even the most simple things. You may have heard that the most powerful energy is the energy of gratitude. The gratitude journal concept took our culture by storm when Oprah endorsed it several years ago. It is super simple. It costs NO money, yet the ROI is amazing. By simply appreciating the simple things in life – whether this is the harvest moon over a lake, the sounds of a tree frog, or the smell of freshly ground coffee. It could be ANYTHING and by simply being grateful – consciously – we change the energy in the room and in our lives.
- Turn it off! Yes – I mean turn it ALL off. Radio, TV, iPhone, iPad, etc. When we turn off the noise of our world, we allow peace to fill that void. This is super hard for most of us – I know many who check their iPhones before they even get out of bed! Yet, what would happen if we just turned if ALL off even if only for a night or a day? You know what? The world WILL keep spinning and the icky stuff WILL still be there when we log back on. So – give some thought to just flipping the off switch and allowing our psyches to rest.
Please offer your tips to help keep the ‘half full’ mentality. Please share…we all need all the help and support we can get!!
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.
Achieving successful work-life balance can very often seem like mission impossible. Busy work schedules often dictate lives of most people so much so that your personal time gets affected and can become limited. For many of us we don’t even realise that we are not finding the time for ourselves and this can have an impact on us, mentally and within your overall health.
You are probably thinking that it is easier said than done, which is correct. We all have different lives, schedules and responsibilities – from the young professional working extra hours to secure the promotion, to becoming a senior manager who has mouths to feed and KPI’s to secure. Nevertheless we can all try and dedicate some valuable ‘me’ time for ourselves in order to see some great improvements when it comes to our work-life balance.
Incorporating any one of these seven tips listed below will bring you a step closer to achieving a healthy work life balance you so desire:
Introduce Skype meetings
Important business meetings can require a lot of travel, which could equate to multiple days away from home and the office. Today’s technology has made it possible for you to reach clients that are states and even countries away, all from the comfort of your home or office. Skype and conference calls are both ideal ways to communicating with clients, whilst saving you and your business time and hassle of travelling.
If a business trip is a must then using Skype would allow you keeping in touch with your colleagues back in the office and maintaining office relationships. Even more you will also find Skype reducing your business’s travel costs, meaning the money could then be invested elsewhere.
Treat yourself regularly
Treating yourself regularly is really important for your sanity and health. Choosing to do something you enjoy will make you feel more grounded and relaxed. Allow yourself a 30 minute window each day where you do something for yourself. Things you truly enjoy, such as read a book, have a bath or cook a nice meal.
If you are a busy city worker, go into the local salon and treat yourself to an express facial. Alternatively you could always have a girl’s night in a nice restaurant or have a date night with your partner. These easy things will definitely make you feel happier and more relaxed.
Work from home
If you have a lunchtime client meeting you must attend, consider traveling to the venue from your home, as commuting directly will be help you cut down on travel costs. Another benefit of the many innovative technologies we have today is the ability to share documents and other information online. This allows you the great opportunity of working from home, yet still be connected to your office. Therefore, by utilizing this tool, you can cut down on the days you have to go into the office. This will also help you out on days when you are not able to make it into the office due to weather or child care, and will become a perfect solution to being able to access all your documents.
Set realistic expectations
It is a good idea to set your expectations for your life reasonably. For example, it is a realistic goal to aim to climb the ladder at work, become a good cook and keep your home running efficiently. However, it is not realistic to be working 70 + hours a week, whilst becoming a gourmet chef and keeping your home spotless – it just won’t happen. Therefore, to avoid becoming discouraged, it is smart to set manageable goals and not expecting yourself accomplishing superhuman tasks.
Remember you are just a human and it is not a crime to ask for help!
Be willing to alter your definition of success
Different stages of life call for different definitions of success. For example, if you have young children, you can feel successful if you get your kids off to day-care, get yourself to work on time and get at least a portion of your duties accomplished on any given day. However, if you don’t have children, of course you can expect more from yourself in regards to your job and your personal goals. In other words, your definition of success will likely change throughout various stages of your life, and that is okay.
Exercise on lunch break
According to John Ratey, Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, exercise is the best thing you could do for you brain in regards to learning, memory and mood. Since exercising also leads to a fit body, incorporating it into your working day just makes sense. If you are not lucky enough to have a gym in your office building then fear not. Most fitness suites offer express classes during lunch times that are high intensity workouts lasting 30 minutes. If you would rather prefer a low impact workout, then try going for a swim.
Getting up and moving, somewhere away from your computer, will give you some fresh air during a hectic day, allowing you to concentrate, which will lead to a more productive workday.
Make sure your career choice fits your strengths
For whatever reason, many people end up in a career that is completely wrong for them. A person who hates numbers ends up working at a bank, or a person who doesn’t care for children has a career as a teacher. This career choice just doesn’t make sense. Therefore, if you have ever felt like your career choice just doesn’t match your strengths or personality, do something about it and find a career that fits you better.
If it is impossible due to financial reasons, consider utilizing your personality and skills taking part in volunteering activities outside of work. Helping others will allow you utilizing your gifts and give you a sense of greater purpose as you will be giving back to others.
By following the seven tips listed above, you will be on your way to a healthier work-life balance. Be careful not to set your goals too high, just half an hour to an hour a day can really make a difference.
About the Author: As a young entrepreneur and business blogger, Lucinda Smith has developed a passion for helping small and medium sized businesses grow. She likes to particularly focus on using technology and software solutions to save businesses time and money. She also contributes to the DNS managed print services blog.
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+.
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