Posted by: Dave Gallison | July 22, 2014

Anything But Job Search – Minding Distractions

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During my career counseling clients’ follow-up sessions, I usually ask them to share what job search activities they have engaged in and the results if any. Many of these individuals lost jobs involuntarily, and all too often they apologize and report little accomplished with mixed results.

This can be viewed two ways: the career coach in me knows that the amount of focused, evidence-based job search activity is directly correlated with the incidence and quality of job offers. So, if a client is not dedicating sufficient time each week to job search activities like researching targeted employers and making a certain number of face-to-face employer contacts every week, searching for and landing a job will likely be drawn-out.

From a counselor’s view as well as someone who has been “between jobs” more than once, I know that in the challenging quest to get from last employer to that elusive new employer, all too many distractions take us away from productive search activity. And in most cases those distractions aren’t just disrupters to be managed (watching TV, doing the laundry, surfing the internet) but often they function to protect us from having to look at our present state (unemployed), feeling what we feel (depression, shame), and not having to see what we see (I’m at home during the day).

The word “distraction” means to be pulled away. When you are distracted, it is as if something outside of you has captured your attention. Nothing is wrong with the distractions per se. We all suffer lapses in concentration that keep us from getting things done. However, some distractions from productive job search activity are charged with emotion and function to pull us away from the pain of our unemployed circumstances and a hurt ego. Can you relate?   You may notice that once you actually settle on what is bugging you, sometimes the world and its bevy of distractions seems to slow down.

Mastering the discipline of effective job search. Clients may begin their job search with the romantic idea of finding and pursuing a long-neglected ideal job. But as they start the practice of calling strangers for informational interviews or begin to learn an awkward new skill to improve employability, romanticism fades away. They are left with the nitty-gritty of a time-consuming, unsettling, open-ended career transition process. Not surprisingly, this letdown can fuel an increase of distractions.

The emotional factors in a job search can be compounded as the length of the search grows, say beyond three or four months.   Our minds can be endlessly creative to keep us from facing troubling shirtfeelings like disappointment, anger, frustration, or fear about engaging in new job-seeking behaviors. In this way, releasing the hold that major distractions may have on us entails having courage and internal space to accept the pain of what we are being distracted from.   The first step to developing viable strategies to deal with distraction in healthy ways is to recognize the underlying emotions arising in this uncomfortable and shifting state. Often the process of emotional coping is best accomplished by talking with an experienced counselor, confiding in a close friend, journaling, or attending a support group.

One technique to keep littler, less consequential distractions at bay, is have a pad of paper or sticky notes handy, and when a distraction arises—did I pay the electric bill?—simply capture it by jotting it down for later. It may be shocking to realize how much of the time we are distracted during a day, perhaps daydreaming—probably more than when we were employed. Try the “distraction catcher” and see if it helps you get better at taming the little distractions.

Above all, as you notice that you are needlessly checking your smartphone notifications or whatever, STOP, and re-focus your mind on the moment at hand: what is the highest priority search activity on which I can next focus my attention? This is the “job” for the near-future, you are essentially self-employed, and it is critical that you be productive by structuring your weekdays with activities known to give the highest payoff. The workday is for working on your job search; the rest of your life is for enjoyment and taking care of yourself and your family.

To summarize, there are best practices to pursue in job search, distractions can get in the way as with all endeavors, and often it is not merely a matter of managing the distractions, but of coming to terms with what distractions are keeping you from facing about yourself. We have established that the first step in minding distractions is seeing them for what they are. And there is an additional upside: A growing awareness of distractions and learning not to get trapped in them might also open us to a larger experience of life and reality. For further understanding and insight, you might look into the growing body of literature on mindfulness from authors like Jon Kabat-Zinn (Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment–and Your Life) and Thich Nhat Hanh (The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation) among others, as well as try body-mind practices like yoga.

 

latest square crop 48 Dave Gallison, MS, LPC
dave@gallisonconsulting.com
www.gallisonconsulting.com
503-704-7796
Dave specializes in a short term, action-oriented approach to providing career management solutions to clients seeking to choose, change or advance their careers and reach their professional and personal potential. His unique strength as a career counselor is preparing you for informational interviews and directly assisting you in gaining access to employed contacts within desired organizations.

Posted by: Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC | July 8, 2014

What is Social Entrepreneurism?

lightbulb1Career counseling clients looking to work for a values/community-based organization and earn a decent living are often stumped. They think they must choose between a non-profit whose mission they believe in and not make any money, or sell out their values to earn a better wage. When I’ve asked folks over the past few months if they knew about social entrepreneurism, a hybrid of business and non-profit zeal for social, economic and environmental change, all but one said “no.”

Marci Alboher, author of The Encore Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life says social entrepreneurism is:

 “Loosely defined, it’s when entrepreneurial techniques are used to achieve social change. Social entrepreneurism is a big tent, covering those working on global issues, those starting organizations to solve community problems; and lot’s in between. It includes for-profit businesses with a social mission; innovative nonprofits that use ideas from business to have a bigger impact; and those adopting new business structures to create hybrids that combine aspects of both nonprofit and for-profit organizations.”

Not a novel approach but one that is gaining in popularity culturally and among academic researchers. The phrase “social entrepreneur” was first used in the 1960’s and 1970’s as a part of the discussion on social change. The term came into wider use in the 1980’s and 1990’s promoted by Bill Drayton the founder of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. Another early promoter was Michael Young of the School for Social Entrepreneurs in the UK, Canada and Australia. Although the terms are fairly new, examples can be found through out history.   A few examples; Florence Nightingale, founder of the first nursing school and developer of nursing practices, and Robert Owen founder of the cooperative movement. Thirty years ago, the community mental health services and resource knowledge of The Family Crisis Center in Costa Mesa, CA, re-purposed itself to offer EAP services to industry in addition to the community services offered to families and adolescents.

A multitude of forms, evolving over time are reaching new levels of synthesis. Corporate giving can now look and sound like social investment and community involvement. Businesses such as Paul Newman’s Salad Dressing donate all profits to charity; other businesses a smaller percentage, resulting in helpful relationships and funding resources for the non-profit and beneficial PR for the business. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream pioneered limiting the wage gap between owners and employees. Starbucks recently announced that it will cover the cost of on-line college degrees for it’s employees, helping juniors and seniors obtain their degree. Portland’s Central City Concern, a non-profit working to end homelessness, has a business enterprises arm that offers painting, maintenance, janitorial and pest control services. They advertise changing lives, building communities and creating opportunities in the process. Some folks call it the birth of a fourth sector; a converging of motives and methods beyond the commingling of business, government and nonprofit.

We’re very lucky to have a thriving, social entrepreneur community in Portland, Oregon with leading edge incubators, supportive foundations and educational opportunities for upstarts, as well as great coverage from the Portland Business Journal.mind

“Nonprofits keeping close eyes on the bottom line” reports Wendy Culverwell in Portland Business Journal’s “Non Profit Spotlight” May 9, 2014.   Roundtable participants from Portland’s nonprofit scene declare “earned income matters…(and) are increasingly developing business plans that generate earned income.” Relevant headlines in todays hot discussion of social entrepreneurism.

Then there’s PSU, a wondrous land of resources “for those individuals and organizations committed to fostering economic, social and ecological prosperity through entrepreneurial action.” Quote taken from a description of June 20th’s “Elevating Impact Summit: Lifelong Changemakers” a project of PSU’s network of Impact Entrepreneurs and the Master’s in Business Administration program. (Wish I could have attended, hopefully they’ll do another next year!)

Getting it dialed in? Any immediate responses? Perhaps you’d like to percolate with this information a while. Any next steps you can identify of the exploratory variety? And lastly, who might you want to speak to, or text about any of this?

 

Gail Nicholson Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC
www.gailnicholson.com
503-227-4250
Gail is passionate about working with individuals who want to explore and connect with a more authentic sense of self as a basis for defining their lives, work lives and roles in the larger community. She offers a blend of personal and career counseling, as she has found that attending to personal issues or mental health concerns can reduce barriers to moving forward. Gail works with clients on defining purpose and direction, handling stress and tackling career exploration, job search and small business start-up.

Posted by: Aly Anliker, EdM | June 26, 2014

Is Virtual Career Counseling Right for You?

headWhat comes to mind when you think of virtual career counseling? If you are like me, I imagine a robotic figure programmed to spit out generic answers to my questions. Or a cardboard cutout of a career counselor who, by the silent nature of being an inanimate object, requires me to discover my own answers to the deep career questions vexing me.

The reality is that a significant number of career counselors and counseling professionals are conducting at least semi – virtual coaching sessions to the satisfaction of both parties.

Let’s start with the basics. How does virtual career counseling work? In conversations with counseling professionals, I found that virtual counseling or career counseling can occur in different ways. These include:

  • Pure tele-therapy or just talking over the phone.
  • Emailing back and forth. Licensed career professionals are bound by their licensing Boards to pay very strict attention to protecting client confidentiality. Phone counseling offers that confidentiality. Emailing with clients is not considered a confidential form of communication, because it is easily hacked.
  • Tele-therapy with visual aids or using tools like Skype, Webex and other eLearning and virtual meeting platforms. VSee is another Skype-like alternative. It is free to download, no more difficult than Skype to use, but hack-proof. The reasons for this are pretty technical, but with VSee it comes down to no third party handling your private information. VSee may be a better choice for those career counselors who must follow Board guidelines of confidentiality with their career clients.

When polled, clients say they like the time savings provided with remote counseling. You can also combine approaches by meeting in person first to establish a connection, and then move forward virtually.

At times I use a combination approach with clients. Our first meeting is conducted in person to establish a relationship and discuss commitments on each side. Then remaining sessions are a combination of phone and Webex .phone

As you can imagine, there are pluses and minuses for this kind of approach. A clear plus is more availability. A minus can be the connection may not feel personal enough for some.

What are your thoughts on working virtually with a career consultant? Is this something that would work for you? What’s most important to you in the way you connect with a career consultant?

Aly AnlikerAly Anliker, Ed.M
alyanliker@hotmail.com
503-891-1108

Aly is a creative organizational and career consultant with over fifteen years of experience in Training Management, Executive Coaching and Instructional Design. She has a background in Human Resources and Marketing and has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, high technology, manufacturing and non-profit.

 

Posted by: Aubrie De Clerck, CPC | June 9, 2014

Drained?

plug

Ever feel drained after work?

We can get drained for a number of reasons – a frustrating interaction, lack of variety, feeling under-appreciated or unfulfilled.  It can be an isolated incident or a recurring theme.  It happens to all of us.

Let’s think of this as if we are using an electrical plug, and plugging it into a wall outlet.  If a particular job, project, or situation at work is fatiguing us, it’s as if we are consistently plugging into an outlet that shorts out.  This makes it tough to maintain the energy to continue – with our current work, with a search, with our daily lives.

If we can show up at work and contribute and have our energy be sourced from a working outlet, a place that fuels us in the bigger picture, we are in a far better position to enjoy our careers and our lives, as well as get through difficulties at work.

Imagine you’re at an organization that is not a good fit for you.  Going in to work in the morning is dreaded. Interactions are strained.  Any conversation about career shifts to what is wrong with the current situation and the challenging interactions there.  “I will never get a promotion.” “They don’t listen.”  “This project is going nowhere.” “This company doesn’t care about me.”  You are plugged into a power source that keeps you from moving forward.

If you can shift and plug in to an outlet that focuses on why you are choosing to be there, helpful changes can occur right away.  This more positive outlet is defined by what this work situation is giving you – money, stability, and experience to move to another job.  “It’s not ideal, but it is a stepping stone to what I want.” “This project is off track right now, but I can stay in integrity and do the best I can.” “I have a vision for my career that includes but does not revolve around this company.”

To be clear, this does not mean that you stop contributing at work. You continue to do the work – you just source the energy for it from a place that better supports you.

This shift helps with perspective and lessens drain.  From that place, it is much easier to make good decisions about career.

Where are you plugged in?

 

Aubrie De Clerck, CPC
www.coachingforclarity.net
aubrie@coachingforclarity.net
503-810-2907

Aubrie is a Career Development and Transition Coach, with her own private practice in Portland. Her career history spans corporate, non-profit and self employment, giving her wide perspective on the world of work. Aubrie is known for being highly inspirational and deeply practical, and loves bringing these qualities to sessions with groups and individuals. Most of all, she is passionate about helping people of all ages and phases of life get the most out of their work life.

Posted by: Bruce Hazen, MS | May 16, 2014

Defining Professional Identity

As the market place of work continues to both create and destroy jobs, companies and products, there is something that tends to endure in the midst of all of that swirl – professions. This is why I ask my clients to complete an essential but awkward assignment: defining their professional identity.

Definition of Professional Identity: Your persistent, distinguishing essence or character as a worker that makes you not like others. It is different from your personality in that it focuses not on your psychological essence but your occupational essence.

You have a professional identity as a one-person value delivery system. Not as job or title holder. Not as someone with a specific academic degree or credential. Not as a licensed member of a profession. You are a person who persistently delivers certain value to others in a way that is slightly or significantly different from others who are also professionals.

Your professional identity is you – stripped of all your job titles, awards, certificates, licenses and rank – delivering value to customers or clients in a way that causes them to see you as not like other people. This identity is integral to career management because it is what you pursue and develop regardless of how your work is packaged (job, contract, free-lance, company owner) and how it is titled (Project Manager, Program Manager, Finance Director, Chief Technology Officer, Mom).


You may want to use words related to:

Interests/passions

Abilities

Styles/Roles

Results delivered

Beliefs/Values

Impact on others

Kathleen had been an internal trainer and OD professional at Nike as well as a consultant in the apparel and sustainable materials. She contemplated redesigning her service delivery model and weighed the benefits of going internal or staying as a consultant. Here are a few aspects of her professional identity that she distilled. Notice she didn’t refer to any of her job titles:

  • I have a farmers mind. I am a systems thinker. I see how everything is connected and value the relationships between things.   I can see and track patterns. I prefer to own the whole of an effort to ensure it’s moved forward.
  • I see process as necessary glue that holds things together. Understanding how an effort needs to move and connect with all the pieces is key to its success.
  • I am a tapestry weaver. I naturally look for the threads emerging then weave those threads according to outcome sought which gives rise to an emerging picture of place and direction.
  • I hold a Line of Sight to the efforts aim, helping ensure everyone’s work and focus is moving toward it and ensure all get to the needed end goal.
  • I am a creative collaborator. I do my best work with others and navigate working together in a way that brings out the best from the group.

Now that you’ve seen what it looks like, try it for yourself. Ask yourself, “What makes me unique from other people who do the work or have the same job as I do? What is the coolest observation or feedback I’ve received that surprised me? Focus on the value you deliver rather than the activities you engage in at work.

Your professional identity is that sense of your Self that helps to propel you along your career path toward best work. Being clear and articulate about your professional identity is what allows you to introduce and position yourself in networking situations without using the narrow and limiting terms of a job title. You might want to work on this instead of polishing your resume for the 240th time. It will help you stand out in both networking as well as job interviews.

 

BruceHazenheadshotsmBruce Hazen, MS
Three Questions Consulting
www.threequestionsconsulting.com
bruce@threequestionsconsulting.com
503-280-0151
Bruce is a career and management coach working with professionals who are at career crossroads and wanting answers and action strategies for one or more of The Three Career Questions:

1. When is it time to move up?
2. When is it time to move out?
3. When is it time to adapt my style for greater success?

 

Posted by: Andrea King, MS, NCC, MCC | April 21, 2014

Seven Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

For those of you who are considering the entrepreneurial route, it is important to consider various factors before making a decision. There are a number of traits that successful entrepreneurs share in common. Do a thorough self-assessment either on your own or with the assistance of a career practitioner to determine if you have what it takes to be successful in what can be a very challenging position. Think about the following traits in relation to yourself. Although this is not an exhaustive list, if you do not feel you possess enough of these, you may not want to pursue the role of entrepreneur. If you find yourself described below, consider the option wholeheartedly. (Keep in mind this post is about entrepreneurship vs. solopreneurship.)

  1. Leadership Qualities

Do you find yourself being the go-to person most of the time? Do you find people asking your opinion or to help guide or make decisions for them? Have you been in management roles before or been told you would thrive in this role? Leaders have strong communication skills (oral and written) and the ability to bring together a team of people toward a common goal in a way that the entire team is motivated and works effectively to get there. A leader earns the trust and respect of her/his team by demonstrating positive work qualities and confidence, then fostering an environment that proliferates these values throughout the team.

  1. Tenacity

Successful entrepreneurs are incredibly passionate about their work, highly persistent and able to use the big picture as a frame of reference for the day-to-day duties involved with running a business. Keeping long-term goals in mind allows them to easily shrug off temporary setbacks. They normally possess a competitive spirit and are driven to be the best at whatever they do. They enjoy challenges and are spurred forward by their uncommon clarity of vision.

  1. Adaptability

Successful entrepreneurs are not dead-set in their ways to the point they refuse to learn valuable lessons along the way. While they do their best to plan everything out in advance and make back-up plans for hypothetical situations, they aren’t afraid of failure. If things don’t go exactly as planned, the successful entrepreneur will analyze the situation to see what can be learned from it. The same goes for situations in which a competitor gains an edge in the marketplace.  Rather than resent a rival’s success, those with savvy business sense will work to gain insight into what their competitors are doing right. They might even adapt their competitor’s strategies for their own use, or figure out a way to counteract those strategies.

  1. Highly Self-Motivated

Nobody makes progress by sitting back and waiting for it to find them. Successful people go out into the world and invoke change through their actions. Leaders enjoy challenges and will work tirelessly to solve problems that confront them. As mentioned above, they adapt well to changing situations without unraveling and are usually the expert in helping their teams change with them by motivating them toward new goals and opportunities. Successful entrepreneurs are driven by a more complete vision or goal than simply the task at hand and are able to think on a more universal level. They are very passionate about the ideas that drive them toward these ultimate goals and are notoriously difficult to steer off course.

  1. Strong Sense of Ethics and Integrity

Business is sustainable because there’s an understood code of ethics that universally underpins the very fabric upon which commerce is conducted. While cheaters may win in the short term, they invariably lose out in the long run. Successful, sustainable business people maintain the highest standards of integrity because if you cannot prove yourself a credible business person, people will lose interest in doing business with you. In working with clients or leading a team, effective leaders admit to error and offer solutions to correct them, rather than lie, blame others, and dwell on the problem.

  1. Creation and Innovation

Entrepreneurs constantly create new ideas and implement and improve existing processes through creative endeavors. In fact, that’s how most of them got into business in the first place. Many business concepts rely on improving products, services and processes in order to win/retain business. Have you been called highly creative and innovative by a good number of superiors, peers, family, and/or friends?

  1. Strong Networking

Entrepreneurs don’t succeed alone. They understand it takes a fixed and evolving network of contacts, business and financial partners, peers and resources to succeed. Successful leaders can easily nurture these relationships and surround themselves with people who can help make them more effective. They are not afraid to step out of their comfort zone. Any good leader is only as good as those who support her/him.

Are you ready to learn about starting your own business? Consider taking classes through the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses. Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States. In addition, there are entrepreneur related Meetup groups in the area you may consider joining. Also, check out the Small Business Development Center.

 

Andrea KingAndrea King, MS, NCC, MCC
Careerful Counseling Services
aking@careerful.com
www.careerful.com
503-997-9506
Andrea specializes in assisting clients achieve rewarding employment. She works with adult clients from all industries and stages who are either unemployed or employed (or somewhere in between). Whether you are looking for work, trying to figure out what career to pursue, or unsure whether to stay in your current position, Andrea can assist you with these issues and more.

Do you feel trapped in a job where you are surrounded by people whose work ethic, management style, or poor communication is causing you stress? Have you been either laid off or fired under these circumstances? Over the past thirty years I have worked with hundreds of clients who have been burned by what is commonly called a “bad fit.” Although some of them express relief when their jobs have ended, they often have strong and sometimes crippling emotions: hurt, anger, fear of getting in to another toxic work place.

In her 3/10/2014 blog Your Toxic Workplace, my colleague Gail Nicholson aptly stated, “People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.” Maybe it’s not your boss that is driving you crazy, but rather co-workers who are chronically late or don’t do their share of the team’s work. In a perfect world these examples would be managers’ problems, solved by a manager. However, in the real world, the supervisor may be personal friends with your co-workers or fighting other battles with his/her own manager. You might actually get in trouble for complaining. In this type of toxic work environment, my clients may end up silently seething, applying unenforceable rules based on their own sense of justice, and feel more and more stressed out, with a noticeable bad attitude. So, what else can an employee do?

Whenever you are faced with a bad situation, you have three choices:

  • Try to put up with it.
  • Try to change it.
  • Move on.

Whichever way you choose, first you might start with yourself and your internal dialogue. This is where Emotional Intelligence comes in. “Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.”

In order to improve our emotional intelligence, this article suggests there are five key abilities to develop:

  • The ability to quickly reduce stress in the moment in a variety of settings
  • The ability to recognize your emotions and keep them from overwhelming you
  • The ability to connect emotionally with others by using nonverbal communication
  • The ability to use humor and play to stay connected in challenging situations
  • The ability to resolve conflicts positively and with confidence

Although we can’t do much to change our IQ, we can always use what intelligence, imagination, and curiosity we have to continue to learn new skills. The good news about EQ is that it is based on learned and practiced skills and behaviors, so any one of us can increase our EQ. If these abilities are cultivated while you are in the midst of coping with a toxic work situation, regardless of how it resolves, you will be much less likely to carry emotional baggage with you in to your next job search or new job.

A key to improving how you handle your own stress and uncomfortable emotions, as well as how you handle conflict with others lies in Non-Violent Communication (NVC). According to the Center for Non-Violent Communication, founded by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D., NVC is based on “the natural state of compassion when no violence is present in the heart.” Having empathy for yourself as well as others is equally important. I have noticed that when my clients are struggling, there is often a very harsh, merciless tone to their self-talk. In the aftermath of a toxic workplace conflict, they may be full of self-recriminations as well as negative feelings towards others who behaved unprofessionally. My first clue is hearing “would have, could have, should have.” It is so difficult to move beyond a toxic event or bad ending of a job and muster enough hope and energy to pursue new career options when you can’t stop ruminating over what happened.

A gifted local therapist and certified NVC trainer, LaShelle Lowe-Chardé, offers both therapy and training for individuals, couples, and organizations by “helping people express their deepest values in their relationships and creating clarity and connection with self and others.” Her website and trainings help people recognize, accept, and name universal needs and feelings, both internally and in others. She teaches a new perspective on how to become more clear and compassionate and to bring that to all kinds of difficult situations, whether at work or in an intimate relationship. NVC offers kinder alternatives to aggressive, passive-aggressive, and/or withdrawing behaviors in attempts to resolve conflicts.

Sometimes either men or women may believe that empathy or compassion, which is a key component of emotional intelligence and at the heart of NVC, is essentially a feminine trait or characteristic. In a patriarchal society, some may hold a belief that demonstrating compassion is a sign of weakness, especially in a competitive work place. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist monk nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967, has this to say: “Compassion protects us more than guns, bombs, and money.” If you are feeling trapped in a toxic work situation or the aftermath of one, stuck with ruminations and recriminations, and/or find it hard to move forward, you may want to look for ways to enhance your emotional intelligence or experience NVC training.

 

Anne Bryant, MA, LPC
www.annebryantcounseling.com
abccounseling@pobox.com
503-442-6392
Anne has thirty years of experience offering practical skills and support to people experiencing transitions in their careers and personal lives. Openings available for individual and group sessions.

Posted by: Dave Gallison | March 26, 2014

Work-Life Balance: Making it Real

When career counseling clients identify their work values, there is one value that invariably finds itself in everyone’s top 5 – Work-Life Balance. Makes sense, though lately I’ve begun to wonder if there is more to this “balance” than what meets the eye. Have you pondered what exactly does work-life balance mean and how is it even attainable?

To further unpack this term, one perspective is Wikipedia, which defines Work-Life Balance as, “a concept including proper prioritizing between ‘work’ (career and ambition) and ‘lifestyle’ (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).” It further says this concept was only first used in the US in 1986!

So, in the last few decades we have become increasingly aware that “proper prioritizing” can help us prevent an unhealthy, im-balance, where work takes over our lives. This may be evidenced both in time spent—more than 40 hours a week at the jobsite plus commuting, then added work “at home” such as checking work email and voicemail–and in the lingering symptoms of stress. The hallmark of such burnout that I hear as a counselor is the dread and depression that clients begin feeling on Sunday in anticipation of returning to work on Monday.

Sometimes images help:

The first Venn diagram shows there is some overlap, a healthy balance perhaps where work does not reach too far in and overtake one’s life and enjoyment of it. Likewise, the overlap suggests a healthy integration between you, your identity as a person, and your work life.

worklife.jpg worklife2.jpg

In contrast, the second image demonstrates how it appears when there’s too much overlap—our “life” becomes blurred by and seemingly taken over by our work demands. Quite simply, the more people work, the less time they have to spend on other activities that constitute overall well-being, such as personal care, leisure or time with others.

Symptoms of this imbalance besides Sunday dread include daily anxiety, fatigue, overwhelming pressure, depression, and stress-related physical symptoms—all interfering with the enjoyment of life. Near the apex of being stressed-out is when struggling employees may reach out to career counselors in desperation—Help, my work is not only not enjoyable any more, it is taking over my life! I need help getting out and finding something better ASAP!

As such, Work-Life Balance, and the tipping point where imbalance takes over, is highly individualized – coworkers in the same role and conditions that have different priorities and lives have different lines of balance. Further differences are evident through diverse upbringings, countries of origin, attitudes, coping strategies, physiological susceptibility to stress, etc. And, for everyone, the American culture of hard work is deeply ingrained (let alone our expectations of material attainment).

FACT: The US continues to be in the top 10 of the list of countries in hours worked and gives on average only half the number of vacation days (10 vs. 20 days a year) and is the only major country without a national paid parental leave policy.

What keeps us off balance? Let’s look at how these family and cultural influences are reflected in individual attitudes that tip the balance toward work. Like you, I know there are many pre-requisites that effectively put off keeping work in balance, and they include such conditions as:

  • once I complete this mega project at work
  • as soon as I get a promotion and raise I deserve
  • when I can pay off my credit card debt or retire my home mortgage
  • after I bank the mother lode of investments that I will need for retirement (or children’s college)
  • and so on

Perhaps these “priorities” raise a larger question of “Why?” As Anna Coote challenges us in Time on Our Side: Why We All Need a Shorter Working Week, “Why do we work? What do we do with the money we earn? Can we begin to think differently about how much we need—to get out of the fast lane and live life at a more sustainable pace, to do things that are better for the planet, better for ourselves?”

To answer Coote’s leading questions requires that one think and act counter culture, against the prevailing American over-work ethic. Is it any wonder we had to adopt the term Work-Life Balance!

Towards achieving balance, daily. I admit that I seem to be better at recognizing when I am stressed and out of balance than I am at consistently practicing the behaviors to keep in-balance. So the operative question may first be, how do you prevent work from overwhelming you? Then, swinging to the positive experience of balance, how do you engage in work in a way that energizes and feels fulfilling – complements your lifestyle in other ways besides monetary?

Clearly this is not a balance you attain once and for all, but must cultivate the ongoing practice of both self-protective and positive behaviors. Indeed, there is a fair amount of inner change involved. For instance, you must learn to focus on your priorities and execute them, and set boundaries for when you work.

And, balance also necessitates that we consistently build in lifestyle activities that bring pleasure and relaxation—I recharge through hiking and skiing in the mountains, watching and smelling the ocean surf, playing pickup basketball, reading, going to church occasionally, volunteering, and watching comedies.  What activities help you recharge your batteries?

Finally, reducing it down to essences, perhaps the term is superfluous:  “There is no life-work balance,” says Janis Marturano of the Institute for Mindful Leadership.  “We have one life.  What’s important is that you be awake for it.”  One delightful reminder to stay “awake” is this recently-spotted bumper sticker: “Enjoy Being.”

It comes down to this: at work it’s possible to create your own healthiest Work-Life Balance by making sure you not only have meaningful achievements (you add value) but also experience value as you enjoy the job, enjoy life, every day.

 

dave481Dave Gallison, MS, LPC
dave@gallisonconsulting.com
www.gallisonconsulting.com
503-704-7796
Dave specializes in a short term, action-oriented approach to providing career management solutions to clients seeking to choose, change or advance their careers and reach their professional and personal potential. His unique strength as a career counselor is preparing you for informational interviews and directly assisting you in gaining access to employed contacts within desired organizations.

Posted by: Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC | March 10, 2014

Your Toxic Workplace

Executives at a company decided to outsource a technical department, but didn’t want to incur the cost of severance pay.  Managers were instructed to give their staff poor performance reviews in the hope that they would resign.  Several people did leave their jobs, some in tears, immediately after their annual review.

Other toxic workplace experiences are subtler but equally powerful, like your boss marking you down for a lack of teamwork because you didn’t participate in after work get-togethers.  Being denied time off when you’ve earned a break, and not being given the full responsibility of your job because your boss is threatened by your talent are other examples.

If you yourself are currently experiencing workplace toxicity, how would you define your version?  How is your ability to do your job and do it well interfered with by the cultural dynamic in your workplace? The goal of this blog is to raise awareness of this problem and hopefully begin a dialogue as readers – you? – write in about your own experiences and post them with us.

In my experience as a personal and career counselor for over 30 years I have heard a variety of stories.  As I’ve listened and reflected, several themes have emerged that also reveal trends in a changing workplace:

  • The company no longer feels like a family.
  • Managers are increasingly farther apart and more detached from those they supervise.
  • Bad managers can inflict emotional harm and lead to attrition.

A common theme is that of the company that used to feel like a family and then, sometimes quickly, the feeling faded as people became numbers and were now responsible for other numbers.  Enter the bean counters. Beginning in the late 70’s and early 80’s, MBA’s began to infiltrate the business scene in unprecedented numbers, counting and measuring things they thought related to generating short-term profits for corporate stockholders.

The mantra became, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” This trend marched across health care, manufacturing, the music industry and all sectors of corporate America.  While wide gains in productivity are a clear result, employees in every industry now express feeling pushed, harried, stressed and not sleeping along with out-right anxiety, hopelessness and depression over some aspect of their job.

Another theme – now that everything important is defined by a number – is the distance between managers and workers on the ground.  Top management may be located across the country without being able to put a face to the names of many of their employees, including supervisors and low-level managers.  A higher level of detachment or objectification is now possible, even inevitable, given that everyone is so far apart.

Management jobs on the ground have become highly demanding, complex and potentially stressful, as a response to the demand for leaner local management structures.  Management styles and attitudes have become more objectified than in my grandfather’s time (remember those numbers). They now tend to be promoted to their positions because of their technical ability and business savvy, not necessarily their people skills.

As a result, corporate America is losing its way, says Daniel Goleman in his book, Working with Emotional Intelligence.  My clients agree that the best managers are those that can effectively balance people skills and the technical portion of their job.  They do come along once in a while and when they do, a good manager and management is often a major factor in a person deciding to stay in their job.

Back to our toxic workplace, another top narrative is the story of the bad manager.  People don’t leave bad jobs they leave bad bosses.  Technical folks that get promoted, without training in how to manage people, (bless your heart if you are one) can create messes. This perpetuates the growing frustration and alienation of their peers and those they are responsible for managing.

Poor decision-making, communication and disorganization, extreme rudeness and hostility – does this sound like your work environment?  If so, let us hear your story.  The first step toward healthy change is building awareness; then it’s time to decide if you want to and can adapt, or need to get out.

Across the spectrum, people tolerating toxic workplace experiences from workplace bullying to eating alone in the lunchroom for some weird reason, number in the hundreds of thousands in the US and globally.  Where are the healthy places to work?

There are alternatives, healthier corporations, small and medium sized businesses, non-profits, individual and social entrepreneurs looking to grow and measure multiple lines of business including profit, although adding an emphasis on measuring long-term profits. Other measures seen today show organizations interested not only in their clients and customers, but also in their employees and facilities, the broader community and our natural world.  Family friendly and flextime policies as well as work from home options are a growing trend.  An increasing number of people working in the US now work from home and report getting more done due to fewer workplace disruptions.

Toxic workplaces have our attention and are being monitored. Check out somebody you’re thinking of working for at www.glassdoor.com, a website with the inside scoop on a company’s culture from employees who’ve worked there.  And send us your story; we’d love to hear from you.

 

Gail Nicholson Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC
www.gailnicholson.com
503-227-4250
Gail is passionate about working with individuals who want to explore and connect with a more authentic sense of self as a basis for defining their lives, work lives and roles in the larger community. She offers a blend of personal and career counseling, as she has found that attending to personal issues or mental health concerns can reduce barriers to moving forward. Gail works with clients on defining purpose and direction, handling stress and tackling career exploration, job search and small business start-up.

Posted by: Aly Anliker, EdM | February 26, 2014

Covering the Cover Letter

Of all the things you will do when looking for a job, writing the Cover Letter should be one of the easiest. Even so, it ends up being very stressful for many people. I’ve been writing cover letters since the late 70’s and as a career coach, I know these tips will help you reduce the stress.

It’s true that many employers and resume reviewers do not read the Cover Letter.  If they do look at it, they may simply scan it rather than read it.  However, there is a smaller percentage of people who will actually take the time to read your cover letter.  If they read it, they are doing so to find out more about you and check for grammar and spelling errors.


Cover Letter Basics

The Cover Letter contains parts and should be no more than four paragraphs in length.

  1. The first section contains the title of the job you are interested in and a brief statement about why you are applying. You could also mention in this paragraph something which demonstrates that you have researched the company, or you have done your homework.
  2. The second section contains highlights of your background as it pertains to the requirements of the position, how you are a good fit for the position.  This can be in the form of bulleted accomplishment statements, though watch the length. More than 4 and it can get too long.
  3. The third paragraph, if you choose to include it, can contain more information about you and why you are interested in the company, the industry and the position.  Companies like to hear why you are interested in them.
  4. Finally, your closing paragraph should state your availability; include the number to reach you and a statement that leaves the door open for further contact.  Something like, “I will call in a week to make sure you have received my resume and see if you have any questions about my background”.

Questions to Ask Yourself

What experiences have you had with writing Cover Letters?  If you are an employer, do you read them?  If so, what helps them stand out?

Remember; always include a Cover Letter with your resume. You won’t necessarily know if it will be read or not.  Why lose out on the opportunity to make your case?

 

Aly AnlikerAly Anliker, Ed.M
alyanliker@hotmail.com
503-891-1108

Aly is a creative organizational and career consultant with over fifteen years of experience in Training Management, Executive Coaching and Instructional Design. She has a background in Human Resources and Marketing and has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, high technology, manufacturing and non-profit.

 

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