Be Aware Of Your Routine

The last couple of weeks had me off on vacation. I suspect that if you are like me, when you have your own time away from work, your normal bedtime and getting up times change. I also found that my eating times changed – less rigid quite frankly. With a return to work, the routine of when to go to bed, rise, eat etc. have once again changed.

Now routine can be good or bad depending on how you perceive the routine in which you find yourself. I will admit that when my brain first engages in the morning and I shift between sleep and consciousness, there is part of me that knows the reason to get out of bed and commence the day at 5:00 a.m. is because it’s a work day. But really, I don’t begrudge that time to rise. It’s a quiet time from 5:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. which is when I start really getting ready to depart at 6:30 a.m. for work. Writing my blog during this hour and having a cup of tea is a routine that I look forward to almost every morning.

At work, there is a necessity to affix a block of time referred to as, ‘the lunch hour’. While at home, there is no need to eat at a rigid 12 noon or 1 p.m., but at work, where one’s schedule impacts on clients and co-workers alike, having a set and known hour for eating is not only a good idea, it’s mandatory. So  while I’ll eat at home when I’m hungry, I eat at work when the clock says it’s time.

It is routine that many who retire mention in their goodbye speeches that they are looking forward to breaking away from; doing things on their own schedules. It’s also routine that some refer to as being greatly missed by some spouses who have theirs changed with the retirement of their significant other. “Since Harold retired and is around the house all the time, my whole routine has changed.” The next thing you know, Harold’s wife is telling Harold to get a hobby; get a new routine!”

Now routine also has an adverse affect on many who find themselves out of work involuntarily. Whether it’s a layoff, termination or quitting, having one’s daily routine disrupted can be frustrating and annoying. To go from a work routine to no accountability whatsoever sounds great to some, but many aren’t prepared for the responsibility that comes with all this, ‘free time.’

Generally there are two different kinds of behaviour most people engage in when they find themselves out of work involuntarily. Either a person gets immediately into a new job search routine, or they give themselves a short break – a week or two at the most, to mentally adjust and process the change, and then get into a job search routine. There is an inherent danger I must caution you about a third alternative; not job searching seriously beyond 1-2 weeks, as you’re developing a routine whether you realize it or not no matter what you do, and if you put off really looking for work seriously, you may just not get into the routine that is required to be successful.

It may sneak up on you gradually, but months later, you could find you’ve developed a routine of sleeping late, breakfasting late, watching television, playing a video game or reading a book, lunching late, more television and then having dinner. Where did the day go? The discipline that went hand-in-hand with your work routine could well be lost as your home routine doesn’t seem to require it. Job searching when you are unemployed however does require self-discipline and a routine in order to stay motivated and ultimately be successful in getting your next job.

So just like at work, it’s not a bad idea to create your job search zone. It might be an office in your home or just a desk with a phone, computer, paper, pens, calendar and away from distractions like the television. When you go to this area, it’s like going to work; this is where you apply yourself with discipline. Save the couch and the living room for your ‘breaks’, and the kitchen for your eating area.

Here’s an image all too well-known to some; the job seeker who goes about looking for work from home while still in their pyjamas. Believe it or not, you’ll probably be more successful sooner if you don’t do this, and maintain the routine of getting dressed shortly after you rise. Everything you do will be done just a little better if you look and act the part. A phone interview in your pyjamas might cause you to actually take it more casually then you would if you were dressed and your hair brushed, teeth cleaned etc.

If you recognize that your routine is doing you more harm than good, it might be time to make a resolution now to change your routine. It is very empowering to take control of your situation even when you are out of work. Shaking off a poor routine and replacing it with a determined attitude and a designated schedule is a great start to finding your next job. The shift that goes on between your ears as you mentally refocus yourself is one benefit you’ll immediately realize as you change your routine for the better.

Build reward time into your routine, but only after applying yourself to the task at hand.





One Way To View Your Career

Okay, so let’s say you are just starting out on your brand new shiny career. Perhaps you are still in high school, wondering and worrying about making life-long career decisions, feeling pressure to choose a University or College, then a program of study because with no direction, you feel you’re doomed.

Maybe you’re already in post secondary education and looking forward to the end of school and looking around for your first full-time permanent job to apply to. Feeling a lot of pressure to choose wisely because you’re going to be there a long time and want to make sure it’s a good fit?

Relax. My experience in talking with people across a number of different employment sectors is that more and more people are changing jobs and careers often. Now that might sound odd because in an economy where jobs are at a premium, you might suspect that once someone gets a job, they decide to sit tight and stabilize their situation by staying in the job for years and years.

Here’s some advice I think is very wise. Rather than looking for a job that has significant earnings, look for employment that provides you with significant learning. When you take a job, look at it as a chance to learn new skills, form working relationships and gain perspective. Ask the people you end up working with what it is that they find rewarding and challenging in their work. As you go about your work, be aware of what you both like and dislike about what you’re doing.

For example, at 54 years old, and I still vividly remember spending a single day in a plastics factory, filling in for an ill friend of mine at the time – something employers would never allow today. I hated that exceedingly oppressive and hot plastics factory. I knew after that single day that I wasn’t cut out for a career in factory work. I also worked in Eaton’s toy department and the tie around my neck and top buttoned shirt drove me insane. I learned that I had a strong preference for a job that would not require a shirt and tie on a daily basis. To this day, they drive me nuts.

However, working at Eaton’s as a Salesman, and Direct Film as a Photography and Print Salesperson, I got exposure to providing customer service excellence. Throughout my career, I’ve built on that, and know now that selling film and photography gear, or toys requires a similar skill set to sell myself to an employer. It’s like this: you have to identify your skills, and research the skills needed by the employer, then compare how you match up. This is like listen to the customer, identifying their needs, and determining how you can serve them best based on your inventory.

In my own situation, which I grant isn’t right for everyone, I had this general philosophy starting out in my career: year one of a job was entirely a learning phase, year two was the year I’d add creativity to improve performance, year three I’d evaluate whether to stay or move on. What I didn’t know is that my working life would be blocks of three-year in length jobs. The work as it turns out was in Retail, Recreation, Social Services, and I worked for our Provincial government, Municipal government, the non-profit and for profit sectors, ran my own business, and worked for others.

This diversified experience is now my key selling point, my unique benefit I offer employers. I come at issues wearing many different hats and bring all those collective experiences to bear in my daily work. In my own time, I’ve volunteered on Boards, acted in community theatre and musicals and I’ve coached youth sports teams. All of these experiences brought me in contact with people I’d otherwise not know. Why even the blog you are reading is bringing me into contact with others around the globe who comment and dialogue with me.

All these people, these experiences…they all add up to an enriched and valued life. Now that’s me personally. What about you? You can’t know where life will take you, what opportunities will present themselves, and what choices you will make. If you did, life would be incredibly predictable and boring. It’s the uncertainty and the windows of change that present themselves throughout life that will make the sum total amazing. You will make errors in judgement and some of those will be hard to stomach at the time but hopefully you will find things to learn and grow from in the experiences. May them not be too catastrophic.

By working in many different jobs, you will find what you like and dislike. Examine the people not the tasks of the job. What kind of people does the work attract? Connect with the people involved and both contribute and take away whatever you can.

It’s a long life…don’t be impatient for it all to be revealed to you. Savour all the experiences you can!

Finding Small Things Throughout A Day That Make You Smile

Hey listen it doesn’t matter whether you are out of work, looking for work, working like a dog, or just coasting along nicely in your career; every now and then you’re going to have those times when things are rushed or when you’ll feel under pressure. If enough of those moments are not interrupted with moments of joy and pleasure, you’ll end up at some point feeling tense, intense and perhaps unhappy.

So how to counter the preceding and make your daily life more enjoyable? Well it may be as simple as looking micro instead of macro. Okay so in practice, if you only have major long-term goals, then your reward and the happiness it will bring is delayed. You will go day after day keeping your eyes and energy focused on some two or three-year plan such as finishing a degree, or landing that major promotion. But thinking micro is good at the same time.

So what do I mean by micro? Well it’s about having a series of very small things to look forward throughout your day. If you can connect many of these things together, at the end of the day you may find yourself feeling immensely pleased and satisfied even though no major goal was reached. What may have happened however along the way is that you were more productive overall, attracted positive people to you, found enjoyment in activities that previously were mundane, and got along better with your co-workers.

Examples? Sure. Pack along a CD or MP3 full of your favourite tunes, and you’re walking or driving with a smile on your face and maybe singing along releasing all kinds of physical chemicals that reduce your stress. Even getting into a clean car because you washed it on the way home the night before, gives you something to look forward to when you enter the garage instead of that dirty, mud-caked beast you were driving two days ago. Do you enjoy taking a shower and look forward to the hot steamy water pulsating on your upper or lower back? Something very small but invigorating to look forward to as you start your day.

Along your drive or commute, pick a development or favourite landmark or building. Check it out daily and watch it grow or change throughout the seasons. If you have a rural commute, watch the fields of a farmer and see how it’s tilled, planted, grows, matures and is harvested. Look forward to a sunrise and watch that orange orb ascend into a glorious morning sky. At work, look forward to greeting that Secretary or Support staff and tell them how much you appreciate all they do for you. Not only will you make them feel appreciated, but your mood will be enhanced to. Find things to laugh about, share a story you heard on radio that made you laugh with a co-worker.

And if you are unfortunate enough to be out of work, it doesn’t mean you cannot find small things along your day to take enjoyment in. As you are passing by a florist to drop off some resumes, pause a moment and go in and just smell some flowers. The bright colours in a dreary winter may please you. Kids have a natural charm about them when they are toddlers, find one on a bus, smile and wave or play peek-a-boo. It can distract you nicely on the way to your job interview and get you in a smiling frame of mind. And if you’ve prepped for the interview, relax and enjoy that moment.

Sure look forward to quitting time at work, but not because you get to run away from work, but rather because you get to go TO your home. Look forward to a television show, going to a movie, a dinner date, a trip to a museum or art showing. Even in the middle of a boring meeting at work, if you momentarily think of something to look forward to that same evening, you might just find something to smile about and it could show on your face; and lucky for you it might be interpreted as, “good to see so-and-so is engaged in this meeting!”

Stringing together a series of small individual moments and thoughts that bring you pleasure and are things to look forward to won’t get you that next job, or mean you get that big promotion. Let’s be realistic here. However, this very easy to do strategy can and does make your day more enjoyable, brings you more happiness than not, and relieves what otherwise might be a very long period of uninterrupted stress. What makes you happy and brings you cause to smile might be different from the next person. Nobody knows you better than yourself and therefore the things that bring you the most happiness are well within your control to bring into your daily existence. In other words, in a job search where you might feel such a profound lack of control, you can start on a micro level to take charge and bring into your daily experience small things to find joy and happiness in.

May you find happiness in many ways this day.

Questions To Ask Of Yourself

One of the key ways people learn is by asking questions. Children are asking questions all the time, not so much to be annoying, but rather to learn and define their own world. Following this idea, it’s important to re-visit some questions you may have asked yourself at some point along your career path, or if you are just setting out, consider some questions posed here to get you going. No matter the point of your career, I invite you to ponder your own response to the following:

“What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”

Unless the rest of your life is a year or two, or you own a crystal ball, throw this question out. Too many times it’s the wrong question to ask. It suggests you can foresee future events and thus set yourself on a career path that will bring you everything you want. Events along your life path will spring up and provide forks in the road. How dull if your entire life was mapped out at 19 so avoid the stress of this question by refusing to get trapped in having to have an answer.

“What would make me happy in the next couple of years?”

Great question to ask yourself. If you think just a couple of years – three at the very most – down the road, you might find the answer is re-training, education, a job rather than a career, or even time to raise a family. Feeling good about yourself, enjoying life and enjoying things that later on will give you experience or further your education will set you up for future career possibilities.

“Better to have many jobs or just one career?”

You’ll get a different answer to this depending on who you are and who you ask if you ask someone else for an opinion. There is tremendous benefit later on in your career if you have diversity of experience. It will give you perspective that only doing one thing your entire career will not; and that will be your strength. On the other hand, doing only one thing much of your life will make you the Specialist, and you’ll have unique insights and wisdom that others with less experience in your field will admire.

“How do I know what career will be right for me?”

Truth is you don’t. Realize that this is a blessing not a curse. Try things out by volunteering, talking with people in those jobs now, do career research, look at the characteristics of people who succeed, and just as important, those who are miserable. Learn from all this, and if you take a job that makes you unhappy, you’re in control of your life and can change your career path at any time.

“Should I stay for the benefits or make a career change now?”

The trap that way too many people fall into is becoming financially dependent on jobs and careers they no longer find interesting and fulfilling. The commitment to mortgages, families, car loans and the like get people thinking their happiness at work is forfeit moving forward when they no longer are happy at work. So talk with your spouse, keep your car longer after the payments are made, downsize the house etc.; it’s all on the table if your priorities are your happiness. Do you own your house, or does your house own you?

“How can I justify the debt of more education?”

Isn’t it ironic that people will sooner go into a bank and borrow $300,000.00 and buy a house, but the thought of going into debt for say, $20,000.00 and improving their education that will last them a lifetime worries them more financially? You are THE only person you can guarantee you will be with at all times while on this planet. Others will enter and exit your life daily. Why not improve your imagination, your knowledge, your experience and expose yourself to thinkers and other learners?

“How long should I stay in one job or field?”

The answer is really as long as you continue to enjoy it. Some jobs I caution take time to fully appreciate and too many are looking for immediate gratification. Be prepared to work hard, struggle a little to get a hang of a career or job, but always evaluate your overall happiness. Few people rise in companies because they were handed everything. Appreciate the determination and work that others put in to get where they are.

“How do I get ahead?”

Define success and happiness for you on a personal level. If your answer is a promotion, sit down with HR or you Supervisor and talk about the skills you have and the skills you need to acquire to be considered for upward progression or lateral movement. Find out what you need to learn and start today while you love the job you have instead of waiting until it grows stagnant or you come to resent your current job. Look at the turnover rate of those above you and find out how often those jobs come open; this is positioning yourself.

“Is there something wrong with me if I don’t want to change careers?”

NO! You might find work that provides life-long satisfaction. Why should it matter if others change jobs from time-to-time and wonder how you can do the same thing day after day? If your work brings you contentment, challenge, happiness and is financially rewarding enough to house and feed you, then good for you. There is no one-size-fits-all career or job path that works for everyone!