Jul 22

Strategies for Work-Life Balance

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Although many of us wish things were different, heightened job expectations have forced many vacationers to find new ways to integrate the office into their downtime. In 2013, the American Psychological Association reported that close to half of American workers check work messages as least once a day while on vacation.  Whether we are on the beach with our smart phones, or at the pool with our laptops, vacations now come complete with a little bit of extra work.

Of course, staying plugged in 24/7 can take away from our fun time with family, but it can also lead to ineffective performance at work. Despite the fact that productivity is actually poorer, APA research found that 56% of those studied felt that staying tethered during extended breaks from the office actually allows for greater productivity, while 53% percent feel it improves flexibility.

Regardless of where you stand on the matter, there are always ways that you can improve your work-life blending skills. Take a look at the different strategies that can help to blend your family and your colleagues while you are on vacation:

Give yourself cushion:
For most people, they only consider the actual days that they are vacationing as their days that they are off duty. In reality, building in extra breathing room around your vacation allows you to transition into and out of vacation time and help prevent unnecessary stress. Author of “Personal Productivity Secrets,” Maura Thomas suggests changing your voice mail and email out-of-office messages to say that you are gone one day prior to actually leaving on vacation and that you will return one day after you actually return. Giving yourself an extra day to return back to zero before people expect a response from you can be beneficial and ease the transition back to work.

Pre-delegate top priorities and share schedules:
No one wants to receive the dreaded work call on vacation that an urgent issue has come up and your attention is needed. Before picking up the call, determine if you are the only person capable of fixing the scenario. Pre-delegate by asking a colleague to serve as the first reviewer or input provider in order to ensure work carries on in your absence. Also, be sure to define your availability in advance so that you are not frequently called during your vacation.

Just go on vacation:
When looking at the same APA report, more than half of employees do not check their work email while on vacation. There are a handful of executives who fully agree that in order to get the full value if a vacation, employees should entirely disconnect from all work-related plugins. Instead of fretting over how to get work done while you are on vacation, completely disconnect and enjoy your time away from the office.

Jul 21

5 Lesser-Known Email Etiquette Errors

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It has been two decades since email saturated most American workplaces. As email has grown in popularity, most people have established basic email etiquette rules that guide our use. Though many of us know the basics of email, such as avoiding using all caps or refraining from using the reply-all button, there are some finer points of email etiquette that are not as universally acknowledged. Take a look at the five lesser-known email etiquette errors that you should eliminate in order to make yourself a more effective emailer:

1. Waiting to respond to an email until you know the answer
Often times, when individuals receive an email that requires a specific piece of information, they will wait to respond until they have an answer, even if it takes several days. Setting that email aside until you find the information can create a reputation for yourself that makes you seem slow in getting back to people. Instead, send an email to the sender to let them know the situation, and that you are in the process of figuring out the answer they are looking for. A quick email that says “I should be able to get back to you about this by early next week,” will only take 10 seconds and won’t leave anyone hanging.

2. Assuming that you don’t need to respond if you’re more junior than others receiving the email
In this scenario, it is likely that a co-worker has sent an email to you and your boss, with a question that either of you could answer. Assuming that your boss will answer because he or she is more senior is a mistake on your part. Instead of deferring the question to your superior, your boss will likely appreciate it if you handle the query and save them time.

3. Sending out “gentle reminders”
The phrase “gentle reminder” really comes across as “I think you might be offended by normal workplace interaction so I am approaching carefully.” Don’t tip-toe around an issue and soften a message in order to avoid ticking off coworkers.

4. Responding to a serious or sensitive email with only “OK.”
In some circumstances, answering an email with a quick, “OK” is perfectly fine. But in other circumstances, such as when your manager emails you about a problem with your work and you write back with an “OK,” you will appear flippant or curt. In situations that warrant a longer, more appropriate response take the time to actually respond from a computer versus from your phone.

5. Sending emails that are too long or aren’t clear about what action you are requesting
Chances are you are trying people’s patience if your emails are incredibly long or lack focus. Effective emails at work tend to be short or bulleted. Emails should be crystal clear and avoid burying information deep in the message. If the important elements of an email are buried deep inside the writing, chances are your co-worker won’t even get that far along and see the most important detail.

Improve your email etiquette by eliminating the errors above and successfully communicating professionally. Making your emails short, to the point and effectively responding to various issues can improve workplace communication and make your job easier in the long run.

Jul 18

6 Tips for Professional Social Media Bio

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It is already difficult enough to talk about yourself, but limiting your description to just 160 characters can make it even tougher. Crafting the perfect professional bio for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or other social networks can be difficult. Writing a bio that sets you apart from others, but still accurately reflects your personality takes hard work. A professional bio on a social network serves as an introduction or a foot in the door so your potential audience can evaluate you. Your bio should consist of focus, wit and well-polished language in order to make a strong impression. Follow the six rules for a foolproof bio in order to make the most out of your bio space and professionally portray yourself:

1. Show, don’t tell
This principle of writing means that you should focus on what you do, not who you are by using action verbs. Instead of blatantly saying that you are creative, reference specific products that you have worked on that demonstrate that trait.

2. Tailor your keywords specifically to your audience
According to San Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself, “Your Twitter bio should position you as an expert in your field who serves a specific audience.” Instead of using a generic bio, focus on what you are an expert at by using specific keywords. Social media profiles are searchable, so keywords can make it easier for others to find you based on your position.

3. Keep language fresh and avoid buzzwords
A once loved and useful word can very quickly stop being useful when it is overtaxed. In your bio, make sure that the language you use is fresh and not overused.

4. Answer one question for the reader: “What’s in it for me?”
Followers want to know one thing about you: What’s in it for me? Using your bio you must deliver the promise of value to your audience. Explain to your audience what the can expect from you and the value that you are able to bring.

5. Get personal and hire a stand-up comedian to write your bio
Use you bio to tell a one-of-a-kind story by expressing the hobbies and passions that are uniquely yours. Being funny can be tough, but adding a small quip or personal fact can go a long way.

6. Revisit often
Your bio should evolve with your skills, areas of interest in expertise. Frequent your bio throughout the year to update the information and ensure that it still reflects you the best it can.

Crafting a well tailored social media bio can give potential employers or co-workers insight on who you are as a person and professional. Follow the steps above to create a bio that demonstrates your skills, uses humor and accurately portrays who you are.

Jul 17

Office Party Etiquette

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For any professional, the office party is a scenario that presents a double-edged sword. The gatherings offer an opportunity for employees to get to know one another and managers on a social level, while they also present the risk for workers to damage their personal reputations. Employees who behave innapropriately can find that their standing the office drops several notches.

Candace Murphy, IT manager for the Addison Group, points out that when attending an office party, your goal should be to get to know co-workers socially, while also establishing relationships with those in the company who you haven’t previously met.  Murphy told Business News Daily that “You want to be recognized as someone who everyone enjoyed speaking with at the party, not the employee who misbehaved.” Murphy went further into depth, answering six questions about how employees should handle themselves at company parties:

How many drinks should I have?
Murphy suggests that in the span of one afternoon you should not exceed having more than three drinks. This allows employees to indulge in an open bar, but still maintain intelligent conversation with colleagues and company executives.

What should I wear?
At an office party you should dress to impress while also presenting yourself appropriately. The location and time of a party will help to indicate what kind of dress code you should expect. Murphy reminds workers to keep in mind that they are attending a company party and to leave any tall heels or short, tight, or revealing clothing at home.

Should I be “fashionably late”?
Murphy suggests that you should arrive within the first 30 minutes of an office party. Your co-workers are likely to remember if you stay for just 10 minutes or left early. Although your absence or tardiness won’t ruin your career, your attendance does demonstrate loyalty to your manager and your company.

What if I’m not very social?
It may be tempting to use your phone as a crutch to avoid conversation at an office party, but do your best to avoid it. An office party provides you with the perfect opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and to meet new people. To calm your nerves, try thinking of a few questions or topics prior to the party so that you can initiate conversation with someone new.

Can I bring a “plus one”?
Murphy suggests that instead of bringing a plus one, opt to attend solo or with a work colleague of the same sex.

Should I talk with the senior executives?
It is likely that outside of the office party that you will have few opportunities to make yourself known to the CEO and executive directors. Take advantage of the opportunity and provide a proper introduction, engaging in conversation with the higher-ups.

Before you leave the party be sure to demonstrate your thanks. Attempt to find your boss, CEO and the staff that put the party together to thank them for a great event. When attending an office party, carefully manage your reputation by following the advice provided above and make a great impression.

Jul 16

Microsoft Expected to Make Job Cuts

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According to Bloomberg, Microsoft Corp is planning its biggest round of job cuts in five years as the company moves to integrate Nokia Oyj’s handset unit. The reductions are excepted to be announced this week and could be in the Nokia unit and the parts of Microsoft that overlap with that business, as well as in marketing and engineering.

This past spring, Microsoft absorbed the handset business of Nokia, leaving it with 127,000 employees, far more than rivals Apple Inc and Google Inc. Wall street is expecting Microsofts’ Chief Executive Satya Nadella to make some cuts, representing Microsofts’ first major layoff since 2009.

The report predicts that the restructuring may cause the biggest change in Microsoft history, topping the 5,000 jobs cut in 2009. Bloomberg reported that some of the job cuts will be in marketing departments for businesses such as the global Xbox team, and among software testers, while other cuts may result from changes Nadella is making to the engineering organization.

Sometime last week, Nadella sent out a memo to employees promising to “flatten the organization and develop leaner business processes” but was unwilling to comment on widely expected job cuts.

Microsoft will report its quarterly results on July 22, and at that time Nadella said he would address detailed organizational and financial issues for the company’s new financial year, which started at the beginning of this month.

Jul 15

4 Tips to Valuable LinkedIn Recommendations

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Whenever a person wants to try something new, like a restaurant or buy a new product, naturally they would first research reviews.  Most people like to make purchasing decisions partly based on the reviews of others and social approval. Think for a moment about Yelp. How many times have you used it before trying a new restaurant, a new hair stylist, or a resume writer? Plenty. You do this because you want to see others opinions and base your judgment at least in part on these reviews.

The same process goes occurs with hiring decisions. The “consumer” in this case is the hiring manager, recruiter, or HR person. Instead of using Yelp to research their “product” or in this case, job candidates, they go to websites such as LinkedIn. LinkedIn recommendations provide you with a prime opportunity to share third party testimonials – or social proof – of your talents with people trying to make the purchase (in this case, hiring) decisions. Don’t throw away this opportunity. Instead, follow these tips to score some valuable LinkedIn recommendations:

Find the “Ask to be Recommended” Page
If you have never asked anyone for a LinkedIn recommendation, you may not even know how to find the page. It’s okay, here’s what to do: Hover over the tiny picture of yourself in the top right corner of the screen, and choose “Privacy & Settings.” From this screen, choose “Manage Your Recommendations” and then “Ask for Recommendations.”

Pick People Thoughtfully
This is no time to be foolish with your requests. Your goal is to secure powerful recommendations that support your professional brand and the skills you want to highlight most. Ideally, you want to approach people who know your work well and can speak intelligently to the capabilities that will matter the most to your future employer.

Approach with Specificity
LinkedIn will default you to a very boring and generic request message if you don’t otherwise personalize it – and you should absolutely get rid of the boring message and customize your own. In your message, you want to share with the person you’re approaching exactly what you would like, and how he or she can help best. Make sure to show gratitude and thankfulness in this note and encourage them to let you know if you may ever return the favor. Reciprocity is a magical thing.

Don’t Ask Everyone
LinkedIn Recommendations are date stamped, is it is important to make sure that you recommendations appear to be coming in organically. You don’t want it to appear like you went out and begged 20 different people for recommendations.  Therefore, space out your requests a little bit and don’t rush. Steadily build up complimentary recommendations that demonstrate your capabilities throughout the course of your professional career.

LinkedIn endorsements may be all the rage, but it’s the recommendations that rise above when it comes to supporting your professional brand and telling the world you’ve got what it takes. Carefully request recommendations from individuals who can support your claim that you are an ideal job candidate.

Jul 14

3 Ways to Leverage Social Media in the Job Search

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As social media continues to change rapidly, job seekers are discovering new ways to leverage it in their job search. Many social media trends focus on visual content, new tools for LinkedIn users and the need for employees to possess basic social media skills. To improve your job search efforts, Career Bliss recommends leveraging three current social media trends in your search by using the following strategies:

Showcase Your Work Visually
Scroll through your Facebook or Twitter feed and you’ll immediately notice that pictures and video are dominating social networks. Social networks such as Pinterest and Instagram were even build around the growing trend of the use of visual content. In creative fields, portfolios have long been a staple. Today, regardless of your career field, presenting your work in a visual manner can be beneficial and can enhance an employer’s impression of you.

Using a site such as Slideshare can allow you to showcase project presentations. Another way to demonstrate your work visually is to take screenshots of a successful project that you implemented for an organization or internship. Additionally, job seekers can create their own online portfolios by using services such as WordPress or Weebly. Finally, leveraging LinkedIn’s capabilities to upload visual content directly to your profile can transform it from a simple resume to a dynamic professional tool.

Become a Thought Leader in Your Field
Another great way to leverage social media for your job search is to utilize various publishing platforms, including LinkedIn, to write about topics relevant to your career. Blogging helps to build a professional brand and allows you to share your knowledge and spark conversation among followers. For professional branding purposes, write about topics that are related to your current job and other topics that you find interesting. After writing a blog entry, be sure to share your post across social networks in order to position yourself as a thought leader in your field.

Present “Real” Social Media Skills
Social media is no longer the sole responsibility of a single employee within an organization. Employees are expected to have basic skills in social media and an understanding of how to use various platforms appropriately. Organizations are moving towards having social media policies, and some are even providing social media training to employees. If you already have these skills developed when applying for a job, then you will present yourself as a valuable asset to an organization. Present your “real” social media skills by demonstrating a time in which you managed a social media account for a company or organization, seeking a social media certificate, or attending a professional seminar on social media strategy and management.

In order to boost your job search efforts, leverage social media to demonstrate to an employer that you are a well-qualified candidate. Showcasing your work visually, becoming a thought leader in your field and presenting real social media skills will signal to the employer that you are a valuable asset and ideal applicant for the job.

Jul 11

High Performance Worker vs. Workaholic

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For many working professionals it is difficult to distinguish between being productive and being busy. On the surface the two things can sometimes look like each other, but in reality they are two very different things. The difference is that someone who is productive will be deemed a genuine high performer, or someone who works hard in a sustainable way toward well-defined and important goals. On the other hand, someone who is constantly busy is a workaholic, who is burning himself out running around endlessly without clear focus. In order to determine if the frantic activity of your work day is actually progressive or simply a byproduct of workaholism, ask yourself five questions:

1. What’s Your Goal?
High performers will work plenty of busy, insane days, but there is always a specific reason for doing so. If there is nothing that can get done at the moment, a high performer won’t manufacture busy work for themselves, where a workaholic will. For a high performer, the number one priority is to do business and to generate results that matter. On the opposite hand a workaholic’s number one goal is to be busy by filling any space in their time with busy work.

2. Is There an End Line?
Another question to ask yourself to determine if your work habits are productive is if there is an end line? Do you set goals, attain them, and then determine that the results aren’t enough? If that is the case then you may be a workaholic. Workaholics tend to move deadlines in order to ensure that they are always working and moving forward. They are unable to determine when enough is enough and to be able to step away and be satisfied with a final project. On the opposite spectrum, high performers know success when they see it and savor the accomplishments.

3. Do you Ever Turn it Down?
High performers vary their level of effort depending on various factors including energy, their to-do lists and the importance of a task at hand. Workaholics on the other hand will always run at maximum capacity until they eventually crash and burn. Ask yourself if you ever reach a point in your day where you are able to slow down and work at a comfortable pace in order to determine if you are a workaholic.

4. Are You Proactive or Reactive?
A high performer will be proactive about their time and work, designing their day to get the most important tasks done first, and then allowing other events and projects to fill the rest of their day. High performers also avoid distractions that prevent them from knocking out the large priority items. Instead of being proactive, a workaholic will be reactive about their time and work, allowing other people to interrupt their day and change their schedules. Because they choose to react to emails, or unplanned events, they open themselves up to distractions that prevent them from completing their work efficiently.

5. Who Sets Your Value?
The most fundamental difference between high performers and workaholics is how they set their value. A workaholic will seek validation from outside sources while a high performer is able to know their own worth. High performers have a better sense of interior calm that allows them to self-evaluate and accomplish more in the day. Workaholics live with a constant concern of outside perceptions, leading them to seek validation from others.

In order to effectively manage your time and to determine if  you are a high performance worker or a workaholic, ask yourself the five questions above. Focusing your efforts on effectively completing your work and avoiding unnecessary busy work can help to improve your career and advance your professional life.

Jul 10

Companies Aim to Attract Millennial Talent

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Some of the best companies in the world love young talent who demonstrate purpose and a sense of urgency in their life. In order to attract and retain top talent, businesses are looking for new ways to interest Millennials in employment. Almost 60 percent of Millennials will leave a company they work for within three years because they feel “it’s not a good cultural fit.” In order for companies to effectively achieve, they are analyzing the things that Millennials want most and looking to implement the tools and strategies that consistently attract top-notch talent:

1. Dynamic culture
Companies that have established the right culture don’t spend their time persuading their employees to do anything, because it is already getting done. Millennials seek companies that have something more than just a meaningful mission statement. The young generation is looking to join a company that allows them to become bigger than themselves. An effective company culture requires every employee to know that the company’s purpose and mission is.

2. Community and networking opportunities
Many young professionals also seek out companies that allow them to elevate their networks and join a dynamic community. As networking continues to grow in importance, companies are finding it necessary to make networking a part of their community. By doing so, companies are able to attract people who are driven by purpose instead of money, and create a strong bond.

3. Relevance and innovation
Millennials seek companies that allow them to express their creativity, share their ideas and use the latest technology at their disposal. Companies are finding it necessary to remain relevant in the current economy. For example, Google received 75,000 applications for 6,000 openings, more than twice the 35,000 applications Harvard received in the past year. Companies must provide an environment that encourages innovation and the sharing of ideas in order to attract top talent.

4. Is it a catalyst?
Companies will often retain high caliber millennial talent when they genuinely demonstrate that they have their best interest in mind. Millennials seek companies that provide a catalyst for their future, allowing them to develop and launch themselves further in their careers. Companies must be open to losing talent at some point, and dedicated to continuing to recruit and develop the next generation of workers.

5. Integrity and congruence from the leaders
Finally, Millennials seek companies who they believe they can trust and respect. Millennials have low tolerance for inauthenticity and deception. They seek out a workplace that provides incentives based on results, innovation and work ethic.

As the job market continues to change, companies will aim to recruit talented Millennials to join their team. In order to attract top talent, businesses will invest in meeting the needs of the young generation and providing the perks and benefits that are necessary to retain employees.

Jul 09

Finding the Ideal Work-Life Balance

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In today’s work world it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to achieve and maintain an effective work-life balance. As companies and leaders struggle to promote this way of life and employees continue to strive to find a balance, many are left facing a difficult issue. In order to more effectively strike the right balance, complete these 5 steps to achieve balance in your work and home life:

1. Be open about your needs
Before you attempt to implement an ideal work-life balance, it is important to identify what truly matters most to you and successfully communicate it. Workers shouldn’t hide their wants or expect others to guess what makes them feel balanced and fulfilled. Have an open dialogue with your employer to express what you would like, what works and what is possible. Every job requires a different approach, but an open and honest conversation can help an employer and employee strike an appropriate balance.

2. Respect boundaries
You will never achieve a work- life balance if you disregard the boundaries that you have put in place. After establishing a routine or plan of action, stick to it in order to drive a culture and lifestyle of predictability. Personally respect your boundaries, otherwise others will not and you will find yourself back at work, away from the activities of your life.

3. Understand what matters
Time is an incredibly valuable commodity in life; once it is used it is gone. Don’t waste your time on things that don’t really matter. Scrutinize your day and be sure to effectively use each hour, minute and second. A higher degree of planning and structure will help you to establish your priorities and get the most out of your time.

4. Embrace the off button
In case you had forgotten- every piece of technology has an off button. Use it. As difficult as it may be, attempt to disconnect from your work once you are at home or have left for the day. Don’t bring your phone to the dinner table, or on to the beach. Instead, unplug and step back from your work in order to enjoy your time off.

5. Pace yourself
There will be times in your work life when you will have to kick it into high gear in order to get a big project done and other times where it is appropriate to slow down just a little. In order to have a healthy, productive and happy life and career it is important to understand the value of pace in order to approach each and every day.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to a work-life balance. Each individual person will vary in their desired needs and wants. Practice the 5 steps above in order to find your ideal plan and to begin enjoying the perfect work-life balance for you.