I currently have a demanding full-time job, and young children. I’d like to get an advanced degree so that I can obtain a better position. Is going back to school while working doable?
Dear, Striving Student,
I applaud your ambition. Furthering your education while working full-time is definitely doable, but is not for the faint of heart!
Explore Your Options. I’m not sure if you have your eyes on a higher position in your current company or if you are looking to jump ship after getting your next degree. Regardless, it’s a good idea to talk to your manager about your educational plans before you enroll. Some companies offer tuition assistance for a work-related graduate degree. Put together a presentation on how your degree would add value to the company. If you are planning to go to a local college or university, you may need to ask your boss if your work schedule can be adjusted for the needed class times. An alternative is to find a grad program that allows you to take some or all of your courses online, greatly increasing a working student’s chances of success.
Expect to Sacrifice. Be prepared to start burning the candle at both ends. Your time management skills will be put to the test. For some helpful hints, check out my recent post Tips for Time Management. Even with a well-planned calendar, you are likely to be more stressed than your co-workers and other full-time grad students who are not working. But don’t expect special treatment on the job, or at school, because you are juggling both at once. Ask for favors, such as project extensions, as infrequently as possible. Your boss and your professor expect your performance to be the same as any other employee or student. Compartmentalize: Make sure you’re not finishing up your paper for school while on the clock at work. You’ll have to make sacrifices in your personal life, whether it is going on fewer social outings, cutting back your volunteer activities, even skipping some household chores. (There – you have my permission not to dust!)
Muster Your Support System. Ask for help from family and friends. Can your neighbor pick up your son from soccer practice on the nights you have to race from work to class? Can your buddy change the oil in your car to save you a half-day getting to and from the mechanic? Be creative. Offer to host study groups at your house, so you won’t have to find a babysitter.
It may take a longer period of time to finish grad school while holding down your current job, but once you get that promotion or better job offer, you’ll have no regrets.
Readers: Have you obtained an advanced degree while working part- or full-time? Can you offer any tips on how to achieve a work-life-school balance?
My business has seen a huge jump in orders and we are firing on all cylinders. I definitely welcome the increase in pace and couldn’t be happier with the pick-up in the economy. But I am worried that before long I will find myself with too many things to do and not enough time to do it. What tips do you have for time management?
Dear, Crunched for Time:
Time management is a great tool for everyone to master. When time begins to vanish right before your eyes, it is good to have a set plan in mind on how to keep your life in order. One thing that always fascinates me about time… when all we have is time, it creeps by, and when we don’t have enough, it seems to fly out the window.
Here a few tips to keep that wily and unruly time of ours under control.
Take the first 30 minutes of your day planning out your day.
Prioritize your tasks. Separate them into those that must be completed today, those due tomorrow, those due next week, and so on. This will give you a good checklist to work from.
Record your daily activities and analyze the time you spend doing each type of task. When you look back after two weeks, you will be able to better understand where you can save 5 minutes here or 10 minutes there.
Don’t be afraid to set aside “Do Not Disturb” time for yourself. Get the most important tasks completed and out of the way during these hours.
Budget time in your day for unanticipated interruptions. Trust me, they come out of nowhere when you least expect them.
Remind yourself that you are only human, and it is impossible to get everything done in a day.
Schedule time about every half hour to respond to emails in your inbox. If something is urgent and needs your immediate attention, instruct your staff to either call or visit you in your office.
Get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. It will help you have more energy and the fuel to stay focused on the tasks at hand.
A good video to watch is below from Dr. Darryl Cross. It is a bit longer than my usual visual entertainment but worth every minute:
Readers, what do you think is the biggest time-waster during your day? Do you have a secret tip you would like to share with the Clew-munity?
I have been working at my current job for about two years. From the time that I started until now, my job responsibilities have grown. Even if I am not planning on leaving my current position, should I keep updating my résumé? If so, how often?
Dear, Résumé Refresher:
Thank you for your question! Keeping your résumé up-to-date is very important to your current and future career success. Creating a résumé that is high quality and worthy of attracting future employers takes a lot of time and effort to produce. Don’t let the cobwebs build up and cover up what made you shine in the first place. Even if you are not planning on making a job change anytime soon, it is important to keep your CV current and include your recent accomplishments and duties. With the way the employment market and economy has been over the past few years, it is always good to be prepared in the unfortunate event that you are laid off.
As a good rule of thumb, everyone should plan on updating his or her résumés at least every six months. Be sure to include recent accomplishments, newly bestowed responsibilities, and anything important that is representative of your current position. If you have joined new professional organizations or become involved in new community groups, be sure to include this as well. It is important to add these as you go along because we all have a tendency to forget important details. What will also be helpful is to make what I like to call a “kudos” file. In this file, you can keep copies of performance reviews, recommendations, or testimonials to show how great of an employee you are!
Another thing to do is to review job postings that are similar to your field and pick out the important buzzwords. With the high number of companies using keywords to filter out unqualified applicants, it is an important step to add a few to your résumé. In the chance that your dream job comes knocking at your door, you won’t find yourself scrambling to have a strong and relevant résumé.
By staying on top of your CV now, you will be in better shape later, prepared for anything that may come your way! If you need more advice on how to make sure your résumé stands out from the crowd, see my post Reasons for No Résumé Responses for tips.
Here is a great video about how to update your résumé effectively!
Readers, how often do you update your résumé? What tips do you have for making your résumé the leader of the pack?
I took a new job a few months ago in an industry that I am unfamiliar with. I am very eager to learn as much as I possibly can about this new area and want to find a mentor to help guide me through this transition. What should I look for in a mentor and how do I find one that is best suited for me?
Hi, Mentor Wanted:
Mentors are great resources to help build your knowledge in a new industry. I strongly believe that everyone should have a mentor and develop a strong relationship during their career. Good mentors provide a source of inspiration, understanding, motivation, and knowledge. Their guidance and perspective can help shape your decision-making and help you become the best professional you can be.
When looking for a mentor, it is important to understand what you want out of mentor-mentee relationship. Before you begin inquiring about mentee opportunities, be sure you have the answers to the questions:
What are your career goals?
How do you hope to benefit from a mentor?
How do you think you can contribute to the relationship?
How often do you wish to meet or communicate?
What are the expectations for each person involved?
Once you have a clear understanding of what you would like from your mentee experience, it is time to do some digging and find your new mentor. I found a great article called The Wealth of Mentoring from one of my favorite resources, TradePost, that spells out some great tips for finding a mentor that will mesh with you. Coupled with a few of my own, these suggestions are great to keep in mind during your search:
Similar Career Goals: Find a mentor who is not only accomplished in your field but who has career goals that match your own.
Be Selective: Find someone who you think will be the best fit to help you in your career.
Personality Match: Find a mentor whose personality complements your own.
Referrals: Ask your human resources department, colleagues, and friends for good ideas of possible mentors.
Look outside of your office: Finding a mentor that is not directly related to your company can be great. Look to associations, business groups, and even family friends
Your new mentor may be younger: Don’t discriminate because of age. I am a full supporter of teaching old dogs (like me) new tricks!
Don’t limit yourself: Have a variety of mentors to help strike a balance in all areas of your profession.
Keep in mind that finding a great mentor is not a race. Select carefully and spend time developing the relationship. The mentor you decide to work with may become your next business best friend and ally.
Readers: What qualities do you look for when selecting a mentor? What is the most important must-have trait you want in your mentors?
I have been unemployed for 2 months and try as I may, I still am having trouble finding employment. I am starting to get extremely bored and the excess hours of the day are beginning to get to me. With the large amount of free time on my hands, what can I do to during the day that will have a positive impact on my job search and my day-to-day life?
Dear, Stuck With Too Much Spare Time,
Being unemployed and having nothing to do are not as much fun as many people make it out to be. I bet for the first week or two, it feels like a nice vacation full of sleeping in, leisurely breakfasts, watching television all day, and kicking up your feet. But after a short while, those things you wished you could do while you were working are becoming unbearable and boring. If you are starting to feel down about yourself or feeling like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, I ask you to turn that frown upside down. It is time to start being proactive and getting your life back on track.
The first thing you need to do is set a schedule out for yourself. No more sleeping in until noon and watching television until the wee hours of the morning. Most people who are employed are up and out the door in time to be at work by 8 a.m. Now that you do not have a job, what do you think your full-time position is? You guessed it, JOB HUNTING! Immediately, go see my friends at Select Staffing and fill out an application. Chances are they will be able to enter you in their database and offer you advice on how to proceed with your search. You must dedicate at least 6 hours a day to searching for a job. That doesn’t mean just scouring the Internet; get out there and sell yourself. For tips and tricks on becoming a very successful networker, check out my post Networking Know-How.
Try to find a class in your area that will build your résumé and your skills. If you work in a warehouse, look into getting your certification in forklift driving. If you are in administrative or executive support, brush up your grammar and proofreading skills. Do something that will benefit you in the long run and help keep your brain from turning to mush.
Build your résumé while doing something good for others. Locate a charity whose cause is near and dear to your heart and start volunteering. This will give you satisfaction and look great to potential employers. Here you can gain professional and life skills, meet people that could help introduce you to new job openings, and also earn a great recommendation from your supervisor that can only shed a better light on your unemployment. I once volunteered at a local charity and after a few months of dedicated service, I was offered a paid position in their Career Center.
Surround yourself with positive EMPLOYED people. This is a very important piece of advice to follow. Typically, people who are unemployed will not be happy with their situations and will inevitably bring you down. They will be more likely to engage you in activities that do not mesh well with job hunting activities. People with jobs will be able to share advice and connect with other professionals, possibly resulting in your next job lead.
Cut out the junk food and take some time to get your body moving. Exercise is a great way to spend an hour of your day. Getting your blood pumping will increase your energy level and spread those happy endorphins through your body. It is proven to relieve stress and ward off depression. Healthy foods will give you more energy and make you feel much better, both physically and mentally. Remember if you put good in, you will get good out.
As tempting as it maybe, try to avoid reading the bad news about the job market and the economy; it will only bring you down. Switch over to reading uplifting books and inspiring stories to keep you in a chipper mood. Go by yourself to see movies that bring a smile to your face. It actually gives you a greater sense of independence. I definitely suggest you give it a try.
Set daily and weekly goals for yourself. These do not need to be huge or intricate. Day one can be as simple as waking up at 8 a.m. and apply to 3 viable jobs. If you do that every day for a week, you have 15 job applications and résumés out in the world. Now that is an accomplishment! As you achieve more, you will begin to feel better and more confident in your abilities. Just remember you won’t get anywhere without putting one foot in front of the other.
Now that I have given a few tips, I want to hear from my readers what they find to be the most important advice for keeping your sanity while seeking employment. What things did you do while you were searching for a job?
After working as a Sales Associate at a high-end interior store for 4 years, I have finally received word that I am being promoted to Store Manager. I am very excited to have this opportunity and to have reached my goals. What are some tips you have for new managers in transition and just starting out?
Dear, Proud to Be Promoted,
Congratulations on your promotion! This is a wonderful accomplishment that you should be extremely proud off. The hard work you have been putting in has certainly paid of!
Becoming a manager comes with a large new set of responsibilities and tasks that must be executed to keep your store or business running on a
day-to-day basis. Not only are you responsible for your own work and performance, but you must manage those who now are under your supervision too. It may seem overwhelming at first, but from the looks of things, I think you are on the right track.
Before you begin your first day as the new manager, schedule some time with your new boss to discuss expectations and roles they expect you to fill. Ask questions about how they feel about the team you are directing and what issues they feel need to be resolved first. Once you have a list, I suggest formulating a plan that you can submit to your boss before you assume your managerial role. This shows responsibility and initiative and confirms with your boss that they made the right decision by selecting you for the position.
Take some time to reflect on your past and figure out the managers in your life that you look up to. Ask yourself what these individuals did or did not do to make their office a great or terrible place to work. Find the key elements that you admire most in your mentors and implement these into your management strategy. Remember that this strategy is not set in stone. It will need to be shaped and molded to fit you and your team appropriately.
First off and most importantly, you have to refrain from letting the ego boost go straight to your head. Sometimes, as people are given more power in the workplace, they can be more aggressive and demanding. Do your best to maintain an even keel. On the flip side, don’t be a pushover and forget that you ARE the manager now. Be confident in providing direction, offering constructive criticism and feedback, and monitoring and managing performance/attitude issues.
If you haven’t already, get to know the people you will be working with and allow them to get to know you. Staff meetings are a great way to come together as a team and learn from one another. I think hosting staff meeting about once a week is ideal, but schedule according to what your work requires. It helps build team strength and confidence. Next, take the time to meet with each employee individually. This will help build a one-on-one professional relationship and an open forum for questions and concerns. It will give you the opportunity to learn about their work style, what they need from you as a boss, and what you want from them as an employee. The collaborations help you and your team members get on the same page.
Once you have gone through the above steps, take out the management plan that you had created at the beginning of assuming your new role. With all the information gathered from your employees, bosses, other managers, and your own insights, make a few final tweaks and fine-tune your course of action. This is another good time to sit down with your boss to get any advice or suggestions from him or her. Once you are given the green light, grab the bull by the horns and take on your responsibilities full force.
And before I sign off, whatever you do, do not become this guy!
Have you been promoted to a managerial position recently? What did you find the most useful in making the transition?
I have been at my current job for about 6 months. I absolutely love working here and want to be the best employee for the company. As much as I try, I have trouble getting to work by 8:00 a.m., and my boss has pulled me aside to discuss the issue. I do not want to lose my job and disappoint my manager and the team. Please help!!
Getting yourself moving in the morning can be a difficult task for the non-morning types. It is far too easy to reach over and snooze your alarm 4 times or to stand in the shower for an extra 10 minutes while you wake up. These and other time-takers can cause serious delays. It is very important that if you are required to be at work by 8 a.m., that you are. In fact, I’d say it’s important that you be at your desk ready to work by 8 am; nothing impresses a manager more than someone who’s reliable and eager! Punctuality and time management are ranked very highly by employers and your peers.
Before we get started, I want to hear from you!
So what are some tips to stop sneaking into the office 10-15 minutes late? Here are a few that I have found helpful in the past.
Prepare at Night for the Day Ahead
Before you settle down for the evening, make plans to organize a few things for the next day. If you bring a lunch to work, go ahead and get it ready for the quick grab-and-go on your way out for the day. Check the weather and select the clothing that you want to wear the next day. Have your shoes and jacket by the door, along with your car keys and briefcase/purse, so you won’t be searching frantically for them when the morning minutes begin to disappear. If you can, shower at night to save yourself about 10-20 minutes for other things that may come up.
Set an Alarm or Two
It is sometimes as difficult as raising the dead to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes, the only thing that would get us out a slumber would be an atomic bomb or the smell of crackling bacon and fresh chocolate donuts. Do yourself a favor and set two alarms. Just in case the first one fails (or you subconsciously give it the silence smack), you will be sure to wake up.
Make and Maintain a Routine
If you make a plan for your pre-work mornings, you are more apt to anticipate and adapt to changes and upsets that may occur. When a plan is place, you can be more certain that you are not forgetting your cell phone on the kitchen table, or to let the family dog back in the house, or leave with two different shoes on. The more established your routine is, the easier and quicker it will become second nature.
Be Aware of Other Routes to Work
We all know that accidents happen and hope that it isn’t while we’re on the way to work. Hitting traffic is a common occurrence with commuters but can happen unexpectedly and put a damper on your daily drive. If a traffic jam rears its ugly head, be prepared to take an alternative route to work. Navigate these roads and clock how long it takes you. One day, it maybe your saving grace between being on time and arriving past the opening bell.
Plan to be Ahead of Schedule
My final piece of advice is to always plan your morning schedule around arriving at work 15 minutes before you are supposed to be there. If you need to be at your office by 8, plan your morning around being there at 7:45. It will make your morning less hectic, and if you have some time to spare, you can enjoy a cup of coffee at your desk or take some time to unwind before the day gets moving.
A Few Additional Tips
If you just can’t get the above changes going, trick yourself by setting your clocks ahead 15 minutes.
Also, if you are going to be late, let your boss know rather than trying to sneak in behind his or her back. Trust me, bosses know when you’re not there on time – and if you lie about being on time or try to hide your lateness (or worse – give a different excuse every day), it just makes matters worse.
Readers – What do you do to streamline your morning routines? I’d love to hear about them!
I have been on a mission to revamp my office space from one filled with distractions to one that encourages productivity. I am having difficulty clearing out and organizing my desk and removing clutter off of my desktop. Do you have any suggestions or tips that may help?”
Thanks for your question. For many of us, we are bound to our desks 8+ hours out of the day, 5 days a week. The typical American has a little more than 16 waking hours per day, meaning that 50% of our workdays we spend at a desk. It is important that this space be a work environment that harbors and promotes productivity so we can get the most work done in the time we have. Here are some tips for making your space as functional and productivity-friendly as possible:
There is almost nothing more difficult than trying to streamline your thoughts when your desk is a cluttered mess. Have you ever tried running through waist-high mud? Neither have I, but I assume it would be much more difficult than running through air. Discard any memos, Post-its, or other unnecessary items, and develop a system for organizing incoming papers and papers for current, future, and completed projects.
With the usage of electronics in our lives and work place, we are beginning to have our desk overrun by power cords, phone chargers, USB cords, etc. It is becoming a wired jungle! To keep these wire weeds at bay, start by rearranging your desk so that the appropriate cords are closest to the electronic they are paired with. It doesn’t make much sense to run your phone cord across your desk when you could just move the phone closer and save the cord space.
Set aside some dedicated work time where distractions and interruptions are kept to a minimum. I suggest taking about 2 hours per day to strictly focus on work. Inform your employees that you are not to be disturbed unless it is an emergency or an urgent matter.
Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment with different work station arrangements. Many people have tried and raved about swapping out their office chair for an exercise ball a few days a week. Try working from a different side of your office every few months to change your outlook. Brighten up the color palette in your space to breathe new life into your surroundings. Bring in pictures of your friends and family, or a few shots from a recent trip you just took.
For an example of an office redesign, check out this video on Feng Shui for the Office:
The opportunities to create just the right space for your productivity are endless. Take the time to put your own personal touches on your space, dedicate time to yourself and your projects, and free yourself from wire entrapments and cubicle clutter.
Do you have an interesting work space, or are you trying out any new unconventional office furniture arrangements? Post them in the comments!
I have been working my tail off at work trying to keep up with cutbacks and putting strategies in place to increase productivity. I feel drained and worn out. What do you think would help me recharge my batteries and get myself back in the game?”
Many managers and business owners find themselves becoming slaves to their jobs; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, they constantly are thinking, doing, or worrying about work. Smart phones, tablets, and laptops don’t make things
Making mental lists of the things that have to be taken care of Monday morning, putting together proposals in their mind while trying to get some sleep, and skipping out on events with family and friends to accomplish a project may be a little overboard. Don’t get me wrong — drive and dedication to your profession are great traits, but sometimes it is best for you, your team, and your company to give your brain a break.
David Allen, the author of Making It All Work, Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life, promotes “brain-cations.” He says: “I think productivity is always enhanced when you have the chance to evaluate your life and work from multiple horizons. Vacations help you from getting too far down in the weeds and provide an opportunity to refresh and restore.
So what can these so called “vital” vacations do for you?
– Vacations allow us to take a break and help keep burnouts away.
– Productivity is decreased when workers are overworked, under-rested, and stretched to the limit.
– Stress levels are lowered when we take time to refresh and rejuvenate.
– Time to ourselves can promote creativity, giving you an opportunity to freshen up your outlook and come back to work with a new set of eyes to tackle problems that may have been plaguing you.
It may be a difficult task and a terrifying scenario for some… but ladies and gentleman, turn off your business Blackberries, set your email office assistant to “On,” and unplug your brain from business. Keep reminding yourself that the office will not implode or self destruct while you take a little hiatus. Trust in the staff that you have selected and trained to take care of this when you are gone.
For some suggestions of a few places to put your troubles on the back-burner, see U.S. News list of Best Relaxing Getaways in the United States. If an extravagant vacation is not in your future, do something fun close to home. Go camping with friends, book a stay-cation in town, or schedule a spa day or a round of golf with friends.
Where would you want to go on vacation or who out there is taking an interesting trip this year? I would love to hear about them!
Over the past few years, I have seen a huge increase in the presence of cell phones in the work place. It has become so huge that it seems to be impacting my co-workers’ productivity and attention to detail and is causing a huge distraction in our office. How can I make a cell phone policy that tapers cell phone use but does not fully restrict my employees’ technical freedom?
Now that 9 out of every 10 adults owns and uses a cell phone, it is probably about time that someone asked this question. Smart phones and other handheld devices have become a necessity in today’s world. For both business and personal use, it is hard to find a time that a cell phone wouldn’t come in handy. With all the fun games, time-saving apps, email, and communication capabilities, it is easy to see how such a small device has the ability to control massive amounts of our time — time when we perhaps should be working. And that’s not to mention the noise that is emitted from these little guys. Ring tones, text message notifications, Facebook dings, and voices on either end chatting back and forth — it can cause quite a bit of professional noise pollution.
First off, you should establish a set of standards that everyone in the office must abide by. These standards should be posted in all break rooms, employee communal areas, bathrooms, and should be included in company policy documents or on company intranet sites. Some positions that require a cell phone and are a necessity to perform an employee’s job function can be exempt under certain circumstances.
Here are some simple guidelines to help get you started.
Cell phones that are not issued by the company or used for company business should be placed in silent or vibrate mode during work hours.
During meetings, employees should refrain from using their cell phones unless an emergency arises or a client is requiring assistance.
If non-emergency personal calls come in during work, let them go to voicemail and return the call on your personal breaks.
If it is important, please leave your office space and continue a brief call. Do not distract or involve other co-workers with your personal calls. Standing away from your desk but outside another’s workspace is not appropriate or acceptable.
When taking a phone call, remember to use a low tone – or inside voice.
Remember you are in a professional environment; be aware of your language, choice of words, and subject matter when having conversations. You never know who could be listening in or taking offense to your call.
You will want to personalize your cell phone policy to reflect the type of work that you do. If you are working with large construction equipment and heavy machinery, a “No Cell Phone” policy may be necessary.
Does your company have a cell phone policy? If so, what is it?
Thanks for the great questions, and I look forward to hearing from my readers out there!
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.