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Working Parent? A Mentor Can Help.

June 13, 2019

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We’ve touted the benefits of career mentorship over and over again, and you may or may not have jumped on board and found yourself a mentor of your own. But if you’re someone who just welcomed a new addition to your family–hello, baby!–this might be the perfect time to take the plunge and find a mentor–more specifically, a working parent mentor.

A mentor is somehow who guides you along your career path by dishing out advice and feedback that can help you overcome obstacles and identify your strengths. As a new parent, you need that kind of assistance now more than ever. Your mornings just got more complicated, your end of day routine just got more regimented, and you’re dealing with things like daycare, illnesses, and possibly less sleep than you’ve ever experienced. But the workflow doesn’t stop.

A working parent mentor is similar to a professional mentor but more specialized. “This person is your go-to contact with insights to help you navigate your way through the minefields you didn’t even know existed,” says The Muse in an article titled A Working Parent Mentor Can Make All the Difference In Your Career. Ideally you’re looking for someone who’s been through it all before but is still close enough to remember the challenges. Someone with a kid or two a few years older than yours is a great example. And if he or she works in your field or at your company, even better.

This person will hopefully provide guidance in both work and life and won’t be afraid to share the truth behind the curtain. Being a working parent is a physical and mental challenge. There is so much new parents learn in the first few years that you may as well fast track some of that hard-earned knowledge and incorporate the tips and tricks from others into your daily routine. At the very least, set up a coffee or lunch date and glean some hacks from parents in your office.

There are resources online that can be helpful as well:

  • add an insightful website like Fatherly to your daily reading list
  • sign up for The New York Times Parenting newsletter
  • search local Facebook groups like “Engineering Moms” or “St Louis Dads”

How do you balance being a working parent? Comment below!

Image via Tilman Zitzmann/Flickr.

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How Perfectionism is Killing Your Career

June 6, 2019

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You’ve heard it before: “Done is better than perfect.” But if you’re a perfectionist, you likely guffaw at sayings such as this. After all, you’re a step above the rest–done is just good enough, it’s not great. And you are great. That’s how you distinguish yourself and keep your career propelling forward. Right? Well, truthfully, you might be wrong.

Consistently outweighing the expectation of others might seem like a great achievement at first glance. But the problem with perfection lies in the fact that nobody can meet your expectations–not yourself and not your coworkers. It adds an unfair amount of stress to not only yourself but also to your relationship with others.

Perfectionism also blinds you to the strengths and contributions of yourself and others. Compassion, not condemnation, is the name of the game. You’ll be a much more pleasant person to work with–and a happier one too–if you’re not constantly berating your own work or the work of others.

Read more about why you should steer clear of perfectionism over at Forbes

Image via Little Kits/Flickr.

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Selling Yourself with the Present-Past-Future Formula

May 30, 2019

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Whether you’re headed to a networking event or on your way to a job interview, you know you’ll have to talk about yourself. It’s not an easy thing to do. But there is a formula you can follow that demystifies the process and makes you sound extremely prepared and put together.

It’s called the Present-Past-Future Formula. The Muse sums it up well in article called A Simple Formula for Answering, “Tell Me About Yourself”: “First you start with the present—where you are right now. Then, segue into the past—a little bit about the experiences you’ve had and the skills you gained at the previous position. Finally, finish with the future—why you are really excited for this particular opportunity.”

If you’re attending a networking event, start by stating your name and what you do at which company. Follow that with a summary of what your last position was, and finally finish with what you hope to gain out of this networking event or this particular conversation. Perhaps you’re hoping to better familiarize yourself with the industry or you’re looking for new vendors to assist with an upcoming project. It may sound like a lot, but three sentences is the perfect amount to state who you are and what your purpose is.

If you’re on a job interview, this formula becomes even more important. It’s a great way to open up the interview on a great note and direct the conversation in your favor. Again, you’ll seem very prepared and put together. After all, you can never assume that each person who interviews you has memorized your resume but this little pitch gets everyone on the same page. Who are you and what are you looking for? That is the ultimate goal.

What’s your Present-Past-Future pitch? Comment below!

Image via Hernán Piñera/Flickr.

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How to Leave the Work Stress at Work

May 28, 2019

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If you’re struggling to find that perfect work-life balance (and honestly, who isn’t?) there is one tiny habit that can give you a major step in the right direction. It all comes down to leaving the stress at work so you can enjoy your time at home. Easier said than done though, right? But it’s worth a try.

Here’s the trick: an end-of-the-day routine can send a signal to your brain that a) work is done and b) you are leaving work and c) you will soon be entering a work-free zone. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. According to the Harvard Business Review, a short routine or ritual can “lower our anxiety before we engage in high-stakes performance tasks, increase our enjoyment of the activity at hand, and even help us recover faster when we experience failure or loss.”

Here are some ways you can reclaim your time and retrain your brain to let go:

  • meditate for two minutes in your car before driving home or once you pull into your driveway
  • read a compelling book or listen to a favorite podcast on your commute home
  • scroll through your favorite family photos at the end of each day to signify it’s now family time
  • take a post-work pre-home trip to the gym
  • pull over at a scenic overlook or go for a short walk to decompress for a few minutes before heading home
  • prepare for the following day at the end of today’s workday so you aren’t fearing or dreading what’s to come

How do you “clock out” of work each day?

Image via Ronel Reyes/Flickr.

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Why You Should Never Brush Off Positive Feedback

May 23, 2019

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Are you good at accepting compliments? Or do you tend to brush them off? But when someone gives you negative feedback it can get stuck in your mind forever. Right?! It turns out that there is more than one reason to embrace positive feedback.

According to a popular Harvard Business Review article, “receiving affirmation is a powerful way for us to grow, particularly when it comes in the form of stories describing moments when we are at our best.” It turns out that “people remember criticism, but they respond to praise.” So the next time someone gives you a compliment, dive in. Ask follow-up questions and don’t shy away from trying to better understand the details surrounding the positive feedback. Ruminating in that success may lead you down a path of future successes.

But you don’t have to wait for others to sing your praises. On a personal level, you can analyze and study previous feedback in order to propel your future self onward and upward. A follow-up Harvard Business Review article called To Become Your Best Self, Study Your Successes, outlines some steps for incorporating this practice into your career:

  1. Take inventory of any positive feedback that you have received in both your personal and professional life.
  2. Write down all positive feedback you receive moving forward in both your personal and professional life.
  3. Review this feedback regularly whether it’s in a notebook or digital file. Make it a part of your daily or weekly routine.

What do you do with compliments when you receive them?

Image via Chris Christian/Flickr. 

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One Simple Step That Can Make You Instantly More Productive

May 21, 2019

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We’re eternally searching for ways to be more productive. One of the biggest pitfalls of productivity is that we often do tasks that keep us busy but don’t necessarily accomplish the actions we need to get done each day.

A great example of that is sending emails. We feel like we’re chipping away at our to-do list but did that email really accomplish anything? Is sending a request into the abyss and waiting for a response really that productive? Especially when it just ends in more questions and a drawn out conversation? Or even worse, it gets lost in the shuffle and never read?

The good news is there is a super simple step you can take to avoid this mess: don’t send that email. Instead, step away from the computer and make a face-to-face request. Why? The Harvard Business Review found that a face-to-face request is 34 times more successful than an email. Thirty four times! Can you even imagine how much more productive that is?

As the study found, in-person communication is just more effective than text-based. You can apply this to the workplace by walking over to a coworker or boss to ask a question instead of sending an email. Or setting up a meeting to discuss a bigger request instead of relying on typed words to do the dirty work. You’re more likely to get what you want when you’re sitting face-to-face.

Read more at the Harvard Business Review.

Image via Chase Elliott Clark/Flickr.

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How Rituals Can Increase Your Productivity

May 7, 2019

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Do you really know the difference between ritual and routine? Your routine is basically your daily schedule. The actions you take like wake up, work out, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, commute to work. They are often mundane things that are easy to understand. But the rituals are often more unusual and personal.

A recent Fast Company article says, “Days have a funny way of slipping past without us even realizing it. And while routines help us feel in control of our time, rituals make sure we stick to our plans.” Rituals are part of your routine, sure, but they can serve a specific purpose: to signify to you that it is time to do something. It can help you transition from one activity to another more smoothly. For example, during your commute to work, you may listen to your favorite podcast. It calms you down from the chaos of commuting and mentally prepares you to tackle the work day feeling refreshed.

As Brainpickings points out, ritual can make the mundane feel magical. Rituals are different for everyone. Maybe you do five jumping jacks before presenting at a meeting. Or you set a fresh cup of coffee just so on your desk each morning before opening your email. Or you go for a walk after lunch which helps you recharge for the rest of your afternoon. How do you make your days a little more magical?

Image via Andreas Hein/Flickr. 

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Why You Need to Create a Bubble in Order to Get Things Done

May 2, 2019

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Productivity seems like a constant uphill battle. We can start our day or week with the best intentions but somehow our master plan gets derailed. Major goals might get overcome by more pressing to-dos and me-time might get pushed to the side as we try to satisfy the requests and needs of others. By the end of the week, it’s easy to feel frustrated, not in control, and overwhelmed. You may often utter the phrase, “There’s just not enough time.”

One way to overcome this hamster wheel is to take better control of your time. You must create a bubble–a distraction-free zone for which you can accomplish those major goals you have for today or this week. We’re talking about ZERO distractions. Set yourself up for success. In order to create this bubble you might:

  • close or log out of your email
  • turn of your phone notifications
  • shut off the internet
  • block off time on your calendar
  • close your office door
  • put on headphones so coworkers won’t distract you
  • grab a coffee, a water, and a snack so you have everything you need
  • go to the bathroom first
  • set a timer on your phone or watch

Then…get to to work! When you’re in your bubble, it’s go-time. Time to focus on YOUR goals, YOUR priorities, and what matters to YOU today and this week in order to feel productive and happy. How do you create a distraction-free zone? Comment below!

Image via Rhett Maxwell/Flickr.

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5 Ways to Brighten Your Workspace

April 25, 2019

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You spend a lot of time at your desk. So ask yourself this one question: is it a happy space? If the answer isn’t a resounding YES then you have some work to do. Here are a handful of ways you can brighten up your workspace and make it a more welcoming, productive place.

  1. Add a plant: A little bit of greenery can be calming and clarifying, especially when you’re stuck inside all day. Try a snake plant, an aloe plant, or one of these workspace friendly plants.
  2. Get the tunes flowing: A good set of headphones and a cheery playlist can make or break any day. Dedicate some time to curating the perfect streaming station with music that will keep you energized but not distracted.
  3. Frame some photos: Surround yourself with a few of your favorite pics of friends and family or from your favorite travels. These days we’re so used to seeing photos only on our phones. Don’t let some of those favorite memories go forgotten.
  4. Make a vision board: Stay motivated and on track with a few images that keep you focused on your dreams and goals.
  5. Bring a lamp: The right lighting can make a workspace feel totally different. The soft glow of a small lamp can make your workspace feel more homey.

Image via kris krüg/Flickr. 

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3 Bad Work Habits You Need to Break Right Now

April 23, 2019

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The excitement of new year’s resolutions have probably worn off by now, but it’s never too late to make a few micro-improvements that can make a big impact on your day, as well as your overall career access. Here are three changes you can focus on this week.

  1. Don’t skip a lunch break. If you’re suffering from burn-out, overwhelm, or an extreme case of stress, a mid-day lunch break can be a sanity saver. Even thought it feels like you don’t have time for a break, a break is exactly what your mind and body needs. You’ll likely be more productive after a moment of recharging.
  2. Don’t start the week off on a whim. We’ve already talked about the importance of Mondays. It can really start your week off on a super productive note which can set the tone for the rest of your week. It may  even be able to help you squash the Sunday Scaries since you’ll feel better prepared.
  3. Don’t let others run your day. Instead of being reactive, be proactive. Take control of your social media habit, your daily schedule, your inbox, and any other external distractions. When you have a more rigid approach to your priorities, no one will be able to derail your day.

Image via Ryan McGilchrist/Flickr.

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