The Work-Life Balance Challenge

Over the last few months, I’ve had plenty of friends and family get on my case about my work-life balance. As always, they’ll ask me what’s new in life and I’ll go off on a tangent, telling them all the different things I’ve been involved in or what I’m currently learning. Once I catch my breath and the glazed-over look leaves their eyes, they feel the need to express their concern for my work-life balance. “You need to give yourself a mental break,” my family will say. “You need to get out and have a life,” my friends will add. Of course, this annoys me to no end. It might seem like I’ve dedicated my whole existence to work or networking or blogging or whatever else to help my career, but such is not the case. What they don’t realize is that I can accomplish all of these things easily in a 40-45 hour work week. Therefore, the balance is fine- I’ve just learned how to make the most out of my time.

No, I’m not a superhuman by any means. I’m just a woman with a type A personality and a slight obsession with whiteboard calendars. My whiteboards and my intense scheduling skills are another thing that my friends and family feel the need to critique but these things are what help me accomplish as much as I do within a reasonable time. Maybe not everyone is great at working their lives around a schedule, but here are the things that help me:

  • Determine necessary time for each task: Take a couple weeks to determine the appropriate time each task takes you to do. This can help you regulate how much time you would need to block off.
  • Schedule accordingly: every person has their favorite way to schedule things, such as phone task apps, email calendars, and so on. Although I use those forms of technology, I still like to keep it old school. Writing it down and seeing it in front of my face each day can help reduce any anxiety about potentially forgetting something. It also keeps me on track. I literally have three whiteboards: monthly, weekly, and daily.
  • Set realistic goals: the reason why I put things on a schedule is because it automatically makes it feel like a goal that I need to achieve. Nothing motivates me more than seeing all my “to dos” crossed off on my list. It also makes me feel like I’m making steady progress.
  • Give yourself wiggle room: I usually set my to-dos to be completed at least a couple days in advance. I also try to give myself a few minutes in between each task. Life is crazy and you never know what can happen that could potentially knock you back a bit. Giving yourself some wiggle room can help you still accomplish your things on time without stressing, even if an unexpected situation occurs.

Maybe some of my friends and family don’t get it at this point in time but doing these things have honestly allowed me to progress in my career, professional development, and professional education. I spend less time running around clueless and more time getting things done. And like I said earlier, it might seem like I have a lot going on but setting up my days like this have truly allowed me to be the most efficient that I can possibly be. I work hard but I get things done within the 40-45 hours a week which allows me to have plenty of time to “relax” and “live a little” like I’ve been advised to do. Take these tips and test it out. See if it makes a difference in your life, whether it is for work or your own personal goals.

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Branding Yourself: Paving Your Way in the World of Work

We’ve been getting really involved in different forms of branding during #Tchat for the last few weeks. Last week’s #Tchat focused more on personal branding and what it can mean for those in the “world of work.” I really identify with this topic and feel like my efforts to brand myself eventually became a success story, and a continuing success story at that.  I recall a time when I was a job seeker and struggled to be known for my work experience in human resources and my intentions to continue to work hard to move forward in this career path. For months, I applied to job after job and attempted to land interviews. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. At that time, I realized that I clearly was not standing out in the candidate pool and I needed to do things differently.

A resume wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I realized that I had to work harder to get my name out there. I realized I needed people to connect my name with HR. I needed to be transparent: I wanted people to be able to Google “Ashley Lauren Perez” and see that I was progressively moving forward in my career, even if I didn’t currently have an employer. In no time, I was branding myself and I didn’t even realize it. It happened organically.

Some of the things I learned while going through this process were:

  • Go big or go home: if you are going to be branding yourself, you need to not only be transparent about who you are and what you do, but you also need to be consistent about it. Don’t hold back- be bold.
  • Make time to network and collaborate: I think one of the greatest things I gained from branding myself was the networking opportunities that came from it. I made sure I connected with people and would open up my schedule to speak to them very casually about different topics in regard to HR. Before I knew it, I was learning more than I probably did in relevant college classes. Some of these individuals even helped increase opportunities for collaboration, job opportunities, guest blogging, and work partnerships.
  • Be a human: if you’re branding yourself on social media, you need to remember that the point of this technology is to be SOCIAL. Yes, feel free to post links/blogs/etc. and repost, but make sure you actually engage in conversation with people. Comment on their posts or join in chats/discussion groups. Don’t be a “news feed.” You need to humanize it; otherwise, no one’s going to get to really know you.
  • It’s not all about you: don’t be selfish about your brand. The best brands are the one that add value, which means you need to give back in some form. Be open to help others and you will be sure to receive.

Whether you are a job seeker, a college student, a consultant, or a CEO of a major company- you need to brand yourself. We live in a world where collaboration is essential in order to have a competitive edge in whatever you do. Don’t limit your opportunities.

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to join #TChat on Twitter: Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More Links:

Empower the Brand “You”

Mindfully Managing Your Personal Brand

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Switching Up to a Career Seeking State of Mind

Alright, the economy really did a number on us as employees. Many of us have lost jobs or were in fear of losing it. We took pay cuts, benefit cuts, and worked extra hard to compensate for being under-staffed. Some of us had to take crummy jobs after crummy jobs just to make sure our mortgages were paid and there was food on the table. Some of us even wondered if we’d ever find a stable job again. I say- enough! I’ve been there before and I know it’s rough. But 2013 is a new year and with last month adding over 100,000 new jobs into the mix, we’re hoping things are looking up. With that being said, it’s time to switch gears and start getting career-minded rather than “job to get by”-minded.

Building yourself up to get ready for your career and achieving your career goals does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process. So, what should you be focusing on to help you get where you need to be? Here are a few ideas:

  • Personal Branding: resumes are becoming redundant and often highlight what you done rather than your career path intentions. It’s time to stand out of the candidate-crowd and get people to know you for what you WANT to be known for. Get involved in activities, groups, or conferences that can help you gain skills and network. Get exposure on social media. Start TALKING about it.
  • Be about it: maybe your personal brand won’t land you the dream job right off the bat, and that’s to be expected. Your relevant skills might be a bit rusty or maybe you need to develop new ones to keep up with the way the industry had changed. Internships, projects, and volunteer work are never below you- remember that. Some people’s pride and ego get in the way from taking on these seemingly innocent projects/roles. But the truth of the matter is; these situations help you build the skills you need to be an attractive candidate.
  • Learning is continuous: so be sure to add to your talking and doing by learning. Think of it as being extremely well-rounded. Your mind needs to be sharp and up to date. Be sure to find learning opportunities, whether it is to take classes, read business books/blogs, or simply join in a discussion relevant to the career/industry you’re targeting. This can keep you fresh and be ready to contribute useful ideas/insight when you have the opportunity to shine.
  • Build your network: doing all of these steps will be pretty useless if no one knows who you are, where you’re located, or what you’re striving for. It will also be useless if you have no idea what feasible options for you are. Build your network of contacts, get to know them and let them get to know you. Simply building and maintaining these contacts can help them reach out to you if opportunity arises or they can even help guide you so you can ensure you’re taking the right steps towards your goal. Your network will be your support, your mentors, your key to opportunity, or just a good conversation.

Your career isn’t a fleeting thing. It is your future, and a long-term future at that. Take care and pride in these steps to help you reach your goal in the most ideal way possible. 2013 will be the year that you will focus in on your potential and strive to be the best version of yourself. Take action!

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to join #Tchat on Twitter on Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More Links:

#Tchat Recap

Storify : Lose job, keep career

5 Powerful Career Drivers for the Future of Work – Forbes article by Meghan M Biro

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Say Yes to Continuing Education

In grammar school and high school, we’re taught to get good grades and participate in extra-curricular activities so we can get into our dream colleges. In college, we are once again told to get good grades, encouraged to take on internships, and asked to join clubs- all to help our chances of landing a great job upon graduation. And once we land those jobs, gain experience, and slowly but surely move along in our career paths- then what? Does education and learning just end there because we achieved the “ultimate goal” of getting a job that offers financial security and benefits? Does it just end there?

It shouldn’t. People should be driven and encouraged to do whatever they can to continue to learn. So many people believe that once they receive that diploma or certificate that they’re done. They paid their dues and finally got their careers in check… and that’s that. When I’ve asked people why they aren’t continuing their education and learning, I often got answers such as this:

  • I’m too old to go back to school
  • I’m too busy with work and home-life to take on anything more
  • I don’t have the money
  • I don’t need it
  • I wouldn’t even know where to start
  • I’m too scared to start something new

All are valid reasons and concerns but the reality of it is, skills are becoming outdated, people are being automated out of jobs, and technology is upgrading/advancing so quickly that most of us can’t keep up. The world of work is evolving in some major ways. So, the “ultimate goal” isn’t about landing a job anymore, but more about keeping up.

Like I said earlier, all those reasons are valid but there are ways to work around it. For example:

  • Online school
  • Certificate classes
  • Work training
  • Informal social groups
  • Reading new industry books/blogs in your free time
  • Networking
  • Stretch projects
  • Work shadowing

Education shouldn’t just be a stepping stone or a distant memory- it should be ongoing. The world has so much to offer and we live in an amazing time where we can easily access this. So take advantage of the things that generations before us could not. Become the ultimate asset and more importantly, do it for yourself.

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Can HR Upgrade to 2.0?

This past Wednesday’s #TChat was quite an interesting one. Of course, I loved it because it dealt with Human Resources, technology, and keeping up with the fast-paced business changes. Apparently, though, I wasn’t the only one who found this topic thought-provoking. 340 contributors on Twitter had taken the time to participate in our hour long chat which had resulted in 2,100 tweets and 11.7 million impressions. I definitely want to say thank you to those who contributed- your offerings made the chat one of the most enjoyable ones to date. And of course, you have helped spark ideas for today’s blog posting: why HR sometimes seems to lag during fast business changes.

Can HR be agile like the rest of business? Sure they can be, but their purpose is much more complex than that and being agile could potentially prevent them from doing their proper due diligence. Human Resources are there to protect the company and also the employees. They must edit their plan of action to not only protect them presently, but also in the future. This involves careful planning. With every organizational change, HR needs to consider and update the following:

  • Job descriptions: sometimes these organizational changes can also change the roles of the employees. This means HR needs to reconsider the descriptions, duties, and expectations for these new roles.
  • Compensation Benchmarking: HR now needs to consider and compare the new roles against others in the industry. They must ensure that they are now compensating employees properly to be competitive.
  • Career path planning: HR may need to restructure some of the paths that these new roles will lead up to. After all, they wouldn’t want to create a job that ends there with no room to move upwards or laterally. That could ruin their efforts of retaining talent.
  • Performance reviews: new criterion and expectations need to be created to ensure that employees are meeting the requirements satisfactorily. This means that management and HR need to create new objectives to ensure that the role is progressing appropriately for business needs.
  • Recruitment efforts and assessments: recruiters will now need to know what the new profile and basic requirements are to help them discover the best talent. New assessments will have to be created to help recruiters determine that candidates have the appropriate skills and knowledge to perform well at the new role.
  • Employer branding: HR needs to determine what marketing and branding efforts will need to be restructured to ensure they are presenting the company in a way that is aligned with the new changes. These efforts need to be carefully thought out to appropriately attract new talent and retain current talent.

Some individuals may question why HR can’t keep up with “the speed of business”, especially with new technology emerging. Yes- technology has helped HR exponentially. However, a lot of the functions above require a “human” touch to review, plan, and consider long-term effects. HR is the department that keeps the organization and workforce ecosystem steady. Therefore, their role in organizational changes may be a little bit slower, but overall, their efforts make more of a difference than some may realize.

If you like topics like this, be sure to join #TChat on Twitter – Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More links to this week’s chat:

HR Shifts to the Fast Lane by Kathleen Kruse

#TChat Storify by Sean Charles

5 Ways to Rock Star HR Leadership by Meghan M. Biro

Talent Culture

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How to Promote Social Learning

#TChat has done it again! Another wonderful chat last Wednesday has given me some really great information for today’s blog post. Last week we discussed the importance of promoting a learning culture in the workplace. Many participants chimed in and let us know what they suggested in order to create in an environment where social learning could succeed. As usual, the chat is comprised with some really fantastic people that had some great input on the topic.

An environment and workplace culture that promotes continuous learning is key in aiding a company towards a constant, successful future. Here are some ways you can encourage learning within your workplace:

  • Don’t hand out answers: If someone comes to you looking for help or an answer, make them think.  Ask them questions that could help them learn where to look for a useful resource, or ask them questions to help them critically think and potentially come up with the answer on their own. Sometimes people know the answer, they just need a question to help them lead to it.
  • Create a safe environment: Allow people to feel like they can freely voice their thoughts, feelings, suggestions, and concerns without being judged.
  • Encourage people to challenge the status-quo: Things change because people question if what’s currently in place is relevant. Allow people to challenge what is currently there so they can investigate new trends and resources and hopefully come up with a better solution that will work presently or in the future. This can allow business progression.
  • Encourage people to share: Allow people to come to you and openly share new resources for learning and information. Sometimes people can find new things that the L&D or HR department may have never stumbled upon.
  • Be adaptable: Things change fast, so be sure to keep up. Don’t teach things or use methods that are out of date, otherwise you may have reversed learning and growth rather than helped.
  • Be open to different learning options: Many people think that learning is only conducive in classrooms and workshops but technology has opened up other outlets for learning. For example, I learned so much from different professionals that I networked with via Twitter chats and LinkedIn discussions. I never thought those social media sites would be as useful as it truly was.

Learning is important for your employees’ personal and professional growth. When your employees grow, they are able to bring more to the table and help your company reach new heights. Promote learning in your company- it can benefit all that are involved.

For more information about this topic, check out Meghan Biro’s article in Forbes and the #TChat Slideshow that Sean Charles created.

Also, be sure to join #TChat on Wednesdays at 7PM EST