A New Spin on Commuting

In lieu of answering a question today, here’s a Public Service Announcement.

Bike_to_Work_000061401812National Bike to Work Week is May 16-20, 2016, with May 20 designated as Bike to Work Day. The reasons for bicycle commuting are wide-ranging:

  • Lessen your environmental impact – Bike commuting reduces air, water, and noise pollution.
  • Physical fitness and well-being – In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, the release of endorphins can energize you, enabling you to mentally tackle your day. You may even lose weight; here’s a cycling calorie calculator.
  • Reduce health care needs and expenses – A bike ride a day may keep the doctor away, saving health care costs for both employers and employees. Momentum Mag estimates that individuals could save $544 a year.
  • Save (more) money – It costs approximately $350 year to operate a bike vs. $8,700 annually for the average car.
  • Save time – Americans spend about 6.9 billion hours a year stuck in traffic, according to the recent Urban Mobility Scorecard. Whizzing by cars in commuter gridlock feels oh so good.

Bicycle commuting is not without its challenges. You’ll need access to secure bike storage so your two-wheeled vehicle is where you left it for the commute home. For safety’s sake, be sure to obey all traffic rules, use designated bicycle lanes, and wear a helmet. (Combat “helmet head” with some dry shampoo you keep at the office.)

On the subject of appearance, you don’t want to arrive at work looking like a hot mess. For a relatively easy commute, you could wear your work clothes (don’t forget to protect your pants from the bike chain). If you’re not lucky enough to be employed in a workplace with locker room and shower facilities, check nearby health clubs that may offer shower-only memberships.  Alternatively, you can use wet wipes in the bathroom to freshen up so as not to offend your coworkers’ olfactory sensibilities. A bike pannier is useful for lugging your laptop or a change of clothes to and fro (and you avoid that sweat stain under a backpack.)

This video from Go Redmond (in Washington’s “bicycle capital of the northwest”) offers some helpful bike commuting suggestions.

Many public buses have bike racks, so you can get to work fresh as a daisy, and then bicycle home and reward yourself with a hot shower. You’ll still reduce your carbon footprint by half. You may want to make alternate arrangements to get to work in inclement weather (or you could use these tips on biking in the rain).

More and more companies are making it easier for employees to bike to work. As part of its Cool Commute Incentives, Clif Bar offers employees $500 toward the purchase of a bicycle – if they use it to commute at least twice a month. Most of the 70 employees at backpack company Osprey Packs pedal to work and can earn around $500 a year with non-motorized commuting incentives. (The Bicycle Commuter Act allows employers to provide a tax-free reimbursement of up to $20 monthly to its bike commuters.)

Many tech companies, such as Google, Apple, and Facebook, even go so far as to maintain bicycle fleets on their campuses.  Learn more about how your company can be certified as a Bicycle Friendly Business.

Readers, how often – if ever – have you biked to work?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Earthquake Preparedness

Anita,

I recently moved from the Midwest to Los Angeles to take a great management job. As part of my initiation, my new team took me to see that movie “San Andreas.”  I have to admit, it made me nervous! Do you have any earthquake safety tips that will soothe my fears?

Dear, Shaking in Your Boots,

Seismic_Building
Every region has its natural disasters. If you’re from the Midwest, tornadoes were probably your biggest threat. The southeast has hurricanes (the “best” of all natural disasters, in my opinion, because you get plenty of advance notice.) Wherever you live, learn how to prepare for a natural disaster, and then try to stop worrying. As the saying goes, “Most of the stuff people worry about never happens.”

Building_EarthquakeMillions of people worldwide will participate in the Great Shakeout Earthquake Drill on October 15 at 10:15 AM. You can register your company to, as the website says, “have peace of mind that you, your family, your co-workers and millions of others will be better prepared to survive and recover quickly from our next big earthquake.” Go directly to the Resources page to peruse the appropriate manuals, posters and flyers for an earthquake drill.

The most important thing to remember is Drop, Cover, and Hold On if you are indoors during an earthquake.

  • DROP to your hands and knees.
  • COVER your head and neck under a sturdy table or desk.
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops.

In a high-rise building, stay away from windows, and don’t use the elevator. To avoid collapsing windows or building facades, remain inside if you are inside. If you are outdoors, find a safe area clear of buildings, power lines, trees, and signs.

To prepare for any disaster, keep an emergency supply kit on hand. Visit Ready.gov for a list of recommended items.

Readers: Will you be participating in The Great Shakeout?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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I Resolve… to Increase Performance at Work

Dear, Readers,

Let me ask YOU a question for a change. We’re a few weeks into the new year. This is the time when all those good intentions about going to the gym, eating healthier, and reducing debt/spending less seem to go by the wayside. If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to increase productivity on the job, how are you doing?

Athlete Running Through Finish LineIncreasing performance at work is a common goal for professionals and organizations. It may come in the form of raised sales quotas, heightened customer satisfaction, or expanding your company’s reach digitally or through traditional brick and mortar.  But how can you take concrete steps to make these pie-in-the-sky targets a reality? Question everything.

Get Organized. January is a great time to take a look at your operational and project systems already in place, right down to the in-boxes on your team’s desks. Keep in mind that your organizational style may differ from your employees or co-workers. A pristine desk may help you concentrate, but Barry over in accounting can miraculously find any piece of information requested in all those piles on his desk! If you spend way too much time and aggravation trying to find past correspondence in Outlook, spend an hour or two now to organize for the coming year. I like this article, 10 Tips for Organizing Your E-mail, because it doesn’t give a one-size-fits-all answer.  You decide if you’re a searcher, a filer, or a tagger, and it suggests solutions for you.

Work Efficiently. Analyze your workday for inefficiencies. Return phone calls when people are more likely to be in their offices (8:30-9:30 a.m.), rather than in meetings or at lunch (10-2). Set aside blocks of time to check e-mail, deal with paperwork, or your odious task of choice. You’ll get more accomplished if you don’t interrupt yourself by feeling the need to read every e-mail the instant it dings. In fact, turn that alert off! Figure out your most productive times, and schedule your most difficult tasks according to your own circadian rhythms. You may need to let staff and co-workers know when you are not to be interrupted; a closed door is usually a pretty good hint.

Minimize Distractions. A recent survey from Ask.com found that noisy colleagues are the biggest distraction for workers, not Facebook or texting (though they are up there in the top 10)! It may be difficult to get complete peace and quiet in an open office environments. Wearing earbuds or noise cancelling headphones can help. Did you know that room temperature can also affect productivity at work? As one who is perpetually cold, I completely concur! Office environments that are either too chilly or too warm can lead to a loss in performance, so set that thermostat at a nice Goldilocks “just right” temperature.

Productivity keyMaximize Meetings. Industry Week once called meetings “the Great White Collar Crime” and estimated they waste $37 billion a year. While it would be silly to imagine a business environment without meetings, always have an agenda and always start on time (those tardy Teddies will soon get the message). No one likes to spend more time in meetings discussing the work than actually doing the job. If team members have trouble keeping it brief, suggest standing meetings to keep powwows on point!

Fine Tune Communication. Communicate yearly goals clearly to staff and colleagues through verbal as well as written instructions. If there has been a communication problem with a certain coworker, try to figure out how to better reach that person. He or she may have a different learning style (i.e., visual vs. aural), so see if you can tailor your interaction to accommodate.  Set up check-ins with all vested parties to make sure the train is still on the right track and project tasks are being completed on schedule. You don’t want to micromanage, but still want to keep tabs on projects in which you are involved.

By taking a fresh look at the status quo now, you’ll reap the benefits by meeting those end-of-year goals in December.

Readers: How do you plan to be more productive at work this year?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Facebook: Friend or Foe?

Hi. Anita:

I have just started looking for a new job, and recently I have been hearing about employers searching Facebook profiles before even interviewing a candidate. How can my profiles on social media sites impact my chance of finding employment? Thank you!

Dear, Fellow Facebooker:MW_Laptop

Social media and networks have become an extension of our lives. We can catch up with old friends, learn about the latest news,  and even get leads to open positions. But with all the positives that can be enjoyed, take your social experience with a grain of salt. Yes, employers are most definitely looking at the Facebook profiles of their candidates. After reading a post at one of my favorite blogs, TradePost, I was alarmed at how quickly Facebook screening is becoming a big issue in the employment world. For an idea of what I am talking about, read “Asking for Facebook Passwords: Good Screening or Bad Idea?

Here are some of the dos and don’ts to adhere to if you hope make a great first impression.

  1. Make your profile private. Put the security gates up before you start your job search. You can even hide your profile temporarily or make your name not appear in search results.
  2. Keep your pictures G-rated. This includes your profile picture, pictures you have uploaded, and ones that your friends have tagged you in. Even if your page is blocked to the public, there may be a chance that the hiring manager is a connection with a mutual friend and can see your pictures. As a rule of thumb, steer clear of pictures of drinking activities, illegal drug use, sexually explicit images, and anything that you wouldn’t share with your grandparents.
  3. Restrict wall posting privileges. We all have some friends who haven’t quite figured out what is appropriate (and what’s not) to post to Facebook. Be cautious on how much slack you give to these troublemakers and limit their ability to comment/post on your wall.Facebook_Glasses
  4. Untag yourself from professionally unflattering photos. Yes, we all have some great pictures that bring us back to our college days. Great for reminiscing, bad for business. Again, a G-rating is preferred.
  5. Avoid controversial topic discussion. When it comes to politics, religion, and other social issues, it is best to remain neutral while hunting for a job. You are entitled to your own beliefs, but it is best to keep them under the radar on your Facebook profile.
  6. Accept friend requests and invites of people you know. It isn’t uncommon for people to create fictional profiles to gather privileged information. If you have anything that you wish to hide (hopefully you have gotten an idea of what I am talking about by now), do not give strangers access to your profile.
  7. Whatever you do, do not provide employers with your log-in credentials. It may hurt your chances of getting the job offer, but this a serious breach of privacy – and several states have even made it illegal for employers to ask. I most certainly would not want to work with a company that was comfortable crossing those boundaries.

I hope this will help all of my readers become savvier when it comes to their Facebook profiles. Managers and Supervisors, a must-read for you as well is another post of mine called “Facebook – A Hiring Manager’s Best Friend.”

Readers, what do you think is the most damaging discovery an employer could make through Facebook? What is your #1 Facebook profile no-no?

And if you still don’t believe me, check out this news clip about Facebook privacy and employment:

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Lessons on LinkedIn

Hi, Anita:

I have just joined LinkedIn to aid in my job search. As a novice to the entire site, I was hoping you could offer some advice on how to take advantage of the introduction feature that is available. Some of the lingo is foreign to me and any insight would be great. Thanks for your help!

Dear, Learning LinkedIn:

Linked_In_GlobeCongratulations on joining LinkedIn. It is a great tool that will aid in your job search and help you build a strong professional network. For those of you who are now just hearing about LinkedIn, it is a business-focused social networking website that connects users with other professionals, recruiters, and companies of interest.  The site offers many tools with the basic free service that everyone should take advantage of.

LinkedIn works through connections. These are to LinkedIn as friends are to Facebook. When you have identified another user with whom you’d like to “connect,” you can make a Connection request, which the other user can accept or deny. An accepted connection is considered 1st degree.

Outside of the 1st-degree circle of connections, you have

  • 2nd-degree Connections: Think of these as a friend of a friend. They are directly connected to one of your professional connections. Keep this in mind when I discuss LinkedIn Introductions.
  • 3rd-degree Connections: Consider these as your 2nd-degree connection’s additional connections. To make it simple, think of this as your co-worker’s friend from graduate school’s boss.
  • Out of Your Network: These LinkedIn users are not currently connected to your 1st-, 2nd-, or 3rd-degree connections.

What I think is a great tool available on LinkedIn is Introductions. We all know that having a person on the inside of a company we want to work for is a step in the right direction. One of your professional connections may be willing to facilitate an opportunity for you to meet an insider who can help you land your next job opportunity.Linked_In_Road_Sign

Here is an example. You want to work as an Administrative Assistant at an EmployBridge brand and hope that you can find that opportunity by speaking with the head of Human Resources, who you don’t currently know. Your friend Steve, however, is connected with the head of HR at Select. What better way to catch the HR Director’s eye than by having her trusted friend Steve “introduce” you two?

So how do you find these introduction opportunities? I thought you might ask!

  1. Start by going to Company Search and entering the name of the company for which you want to work. If you need to refine your search, you can choose the following parameters that meet your search needs: location, industry, and/or relationship type (2nd or 3rd connections).
  2. Once you have located the company, look to the fair right of the screen and find the “How You’re Connected” section. Click on 2nd-degree connections.
  3. Here, you will see all the people at the company with whom you share common connections. Select the individual to whom you would like to be introduced and hover over to the right of the “Connect” button. A dropdown menu will appear. Click “Get introduced.”
  4. Select from the list one of your closest, most trusted connections and ask for the introduction.
  5. Enter text into the subject line and why you want to get introduced.
  6. Finally click “Send Request” and wait for a response – and hopefully a foot in the door.

I hope this helps you understand just one of the great tools available on LinkedIn. For more information, LinkedIn has put together a short video on how to make the most of the site for your job search:

Readers, what are the tools you use the most on LinkedIn? Have you found it useful in your Job Search?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Bring Your Own Lunch, Bandit!

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

I always thought people stealing food at the office was just an old wives’ tale…but this morning I was proved wrong! It looks like there is a thief in my office building who has gotten their little stealing hands on my lunch!!!! *Annoyed* What can I do to feel safe about putting my lunch in the company fridge again?

Dear, Hurt and Hungry,

Thanks for the question and so sorry to hear about your snatched snacks! It is hard to believe that in this day and age, people (much less, adults) have not yet learned the principle of what’s mine is not yours. I always thought it was just a formality at the workplace to remind everyone that food theft was not to be tolerated and against the rules.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why people continue to feel entitled to the things that are not theirs. As much as I would like to become Anita Clew, the caped crusader out to defeat the Lunch Sack Snackers of the world, I can’t. But what I can do is give you a few tips to discourage thievery and bring peace back to the lunch room.Lunch Bag

One way to deter those who are eyeballing your next meal is to go with a frozen entrée or a self-stable meal, like soup, for your lunch selection. These foods are not easily concealed and require a microwave to make them edible again. I would think, hopefully, that the culprit would know that it would be a risky move to wait at the scene of the crime to heat up their booty. Just the scent of the food while it cooks and is being enjoyed would be a dead giveaway.

Another option is to bring your lunch disassembled. If, for instance, you bring a sandwich every day, take the time to separate out the meat and cheeses, the bread, the vegetables, and the condiments. It may seem like a lot of work to do, but that is the whole point. As mentioned above, most thieves are looking for a quick and easy escape to cover their tTuna Sandwich Named Kevinracks. Assembling your afternoon masterpiece will probably not fit into their busy schedule.

Bring your lunch in clearly labeled non-disposable containers and in a reusable bag. Not only is this
earth-friendly, but they are easily recognizable. You will be cutting down on the cost (financially and environmentally) in the process and make your delicious lunchtime treats distinguishable. This will rule out any excuse that someone had “mistaken” your lunch for theirs and be harder to conceal while someone is unlawfully devouring it.

Give these tips a try and if you still have no success, maybe you could convince your boss to let you move your desk to the lunch room or install a “Mission Impossible”-esque, thievery deterrent system to keep robbers at bay! Well…that may be a little extreme, but it can’t hurt to dream!

For a few laughs, check out this video from Westaff about the things bad employees do by viewing below or clicking here.

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Best,

Anita Clew

Networking Know-How

A reader writes:

Hi Anita! I am new to the area and in search of a new job. I have heard and learned from reading your blog that networking is one of the most important aspects of job hunting. Can you offer any advice to help break the ice and get the most out of professional networking?

Dear, Need-to-Network,

Thank you so much for the great question. I have said time and time again that networking is extremely important when it comes to finding your next position. The more people you know, the more likely you are to bridge the gap between Business Man with Cardbeing a stranger or being the candidate that comes highly recommended. Getting your foot in the door and your résumé to the top of the pile is an incredible advantage in today’s world.

First off, get yourself a professional set of business cards with your contact information on them. Even if you are not currently employed, you should still be prepared. Being able to exchange business cards is networking gold! Think about it. How embarrassing is it to be empty-handed when you finally meet the CEO of the company you are dying to work for and he/she asks for your info. You just blew that first impression. Companies like Vista Print offer deals where you get 250 business cards FREE! All you pay is shipping and processing. Now you have no excuse not to have them! Include your name, address, telephone number, email, and other vital contact information.

One of the big No-Nos in networking is focusing your attention elsewhere, as in playing with your phone or carrying on a text messaging conversation. It makes you look Thumbs up from Womandisinterested, unapproachable, and worst of all, unprofessional. Do yourself a huge favor and leave your phone in the car or keep it in your pocket on silent. You are networking to meet new people, not to catch up with old ones.

Many of us, including me (I know, HARD TO BELIEVE), can find ourselves at a loss for words when placed under pressure or in a new social setting. Before you go to an event, prepare and arm yourself with what we call an “elevator speech.” When a hiring manager or person of interest asks you “what do you do?” or “what are you future career goals?” you will be ready to give them a response with a punch. You will leave them with an impression that you are smart, confident, and maybe even their next star employee!

Keep your spiel short, sweet, and strong for the most impact. Also be ready with follow-up questions to keep the conversation moving. (Check out my “Sell Yourself… Quickly” post for more tips.)

Finally, don’t be afraid to speak up and talk to others. This is probably the most difficult part of networking. It would probably be easier to be a wallflower and blend in with the crowd, but that is exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. If you see a group of people talking, pick up your head, perk up your posture, and stroll over and introduce yourself. The more you do it, the less awkward it gets. Before interrupting their conversation, however, do be sure you read their body language; if they’re having a serious and intense discussion, wait a bit before going over.

Check out this video on Networking’s Golden Rule for one final tip:

Readers, what tips and tricks have you found helpful during networking opportunities?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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