The Challenge of Behavioral Change
About a year ago, I began driving to and from work on a daily basis. Consequently, I have become an avid audiobook listener. I enjoy reading non-fiction, and I focus on topics including business, management, social science, and health.
I've read a lot of books focused on personal improvement. While the information is always beneficial, here are three books that stood above the rest. They include convincing arguments for making positive life changes, straight talk about personal accountability, and specific steps to take to take needed action. In fact, each of these books was so helpful that I initially listened to them, then bought them in a hard copy to have access to the exercises and as a reference moving forward. Here they are in the order that helped me to take best advantage of the information.
1. Emotional Well-Being: Not Nice
Full book title:
Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty... And Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly, And Unapologetically Being Yourself
Dr Aziz Gazipura
What I expected:
I was looking for a book on being a better conversationalist. After a couple of false starts with other books that focused on rehearsing conversations and strategies for coping with severe social anxiety, I stumbled across this book.
What I got:
This book is about being more authentic as a person, which can increase personal confidence and make it easier to move freely about the world--including having conversations with people you don't know very well. At it's core, it is about our misconceptions about being nice, and how we "nice" ourselves into insecurity, resentment, and unhappiness.
Dr. Aziz's personal stories resonated with me, and encouraged me to reexamine my attitudes and behaviors. The book includes exercises on everything from evaluating your personal "rules" for interacting with others to thinking through alternative ways to handle common situations. After going through these exercises, I am better at prioritizing what matters to me and living more authentically. As an extra added bonus, having a better sense of myself is helping me commit to the life changes I want to make. By giving myself permission to say no to things that don't appeal to me, and feeling more comfortable really committing to what I care about most, I'm making progress towards healthy eating and fitness.
2. Nutrition: How Not to Die
Full book title:
How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease
Michael Greger, MD
What I Expected:
I was looking for a book about nutrition. While I knew the basics, I wanted to eat better, and I thought having more information on nutrition would help. I also thought it had a high probability of being painfully boring.
What I Got:
I got nutritional information formatted in a way that I cared about it and decided to change my whole diet. Given family history of obesity, pain management, and limited mobility, I wanted to take positive steps to position myself for a long, healthy life where I could skip having to take multiple medications, increase my overall level of fitness, and bypass health issues.
This book guides the reader through health conditions and studies showing how healthier eating can minimize chances of getting the disease, or even provide treatment. Using scientific studies, and even acknowledging the shortcomings of some of them, this book lays out the "why" for the way of eating it advocates. The "why" is positioned not as fear mongering or shaming the reader into making positive life changes, but on the benefits of making eating changes that are completely within your control.
The author, Dr Greger, is an advocate for a Whole Foods Plant Based (WFPB) diet, which emphasizes leafy greens and lots of fruits and vegetables. He also mentions that even if people don't become strict in their adherence to this diet, including more fruits and vegetables will have positive results. I would have never seen myself completely change my eating, but this book gave tangible, specific reasons to upgrade my diet for the better and never look back.
I got more than a dry book on nutrition. Instead, I got the motivation and key strategies I needed to make positive, healthy lifestyle changes. As an extra bonus, the Daily Dozen (also available as an app) is a helpful tool to make sure I'm planning my diet around these core requirements.
3. Fitness: The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
Full book title:
The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
What I expected:
I will be completing an inline marathon later on this year, and I am making plans for my workouts leading up to the event. I also know that the last time I signed up for an inline half marathon, I managed to not make a training plan and ended up not even doing the event. I went in looking for motivation (and not even really knowing what I expected that to be). I was also not entirely convinced that I could get motivation from a book, but I was willing to give it a shot.
What I got:
This book is the stern talking to I needed to commit to a goal, take steps to motivate me to achieve it, and the "just do it" mentality to take action towards that goal. The focus is not just on thinking positive thoughts, but on doing the work to make success happen. Like with many books focused on personal improvement, there aren't a lot of new and unusual ideas. It does, however, bring together useful ideas and package them together to motivate action. It includes useful tools and exercises to get from "I should maybe sort of kind of do a thing" to "I'm going to the gym right now, and I'll continue to fine-tune my plan as I go."
There are a few helpful exercises to help empower people to get out of their own way. So often, people sort of, kind of commit to a goal, then find every reason not to follow through. Personally, I think of all the excuses I can come up with for not going to the gym. Using the techniques included in the book, helped me to eliminate many of those lame excuses and motivate myself to go even if I don't totally feel like it on a given day.
What Do You Think?
What books have influenced you to make positive life changes? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Feeling Behind? This Can Help.
I work at a fast-paced software company that is growing like crazy. That means that no matter how much I accomplish, there are always things left undone, and I feel like I should be able to figure out how to do more. In a meeting with my manager, where I shared this frustration, she told me that needed to remind myself of what I DID get done. She challenged me to take time each week to list out my successes. I've been doing that for about a month now, and it'a amazing what a difference it makes. Instead of focusing on the negatives, taking a moment to appreciate, and be grateful, for all the things I've accomplished really helped.
Applying Work to the Rest of Life
While completing this exercise for my job, I also included a few successes from life in my list. I quickly realized that, as at work, I get way more life things done than I realize. I decided to go bigger with my list. At this time of year--when we so often focus on all of the things we're going to totally change in our lives--I decided to take stock of what all I accomplished this year first. Here are 50 things I did this year.
26. Joined a gym.
27. Made my first smoothie in my very own smoothie maker.
28. Painted the living room walls red and gray (again, mostly my lovely husband).
29. Planned an upcoming vacation to New Orleans.
30. Read 13 audiobooks.
31. Rode the train from Duluth, MN to Two Harbors, MN.
32. Rolled over my old retirement account.
33. Roller skated at US Bank Stadium for the first time.
34. Saved money for retirement in a 401(k) and Roth 401(k).
35. Saw "Singing in the Rain" at the Heights Theater.
36. Shared my employment success story with the White Box Club.
37, Shopped for and bought my first inline skates.
38. Signed up for my first inline marathon.
39. Started a new job as a training department manager at a growing SaaS software start-up.
40. Stood in two states at once – Iowa and Nebraska.
41. Switched banks.
42. Took a foam roller class.
43. Traveled to 13 US states.
44. Treated myself to monthly massages.
45. Visited my mom and had mother/daughter/granddaughter holiday lefse making day.
46. Walked along the beach and watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
47. Watched "Lethal Weapon" at the Parkway Theatre.
48. Went to the gym at least eight times a month from April through December.
49. Won two Step Bets to and increased my overall activity level.
50. Worked my first learning and development contracting gig.
Whoa. I did accomplish a few things. I love that I had milestones including health, adventures, and garden-variety adulting. Seeing this list helped me remind myself of the amazing things I can do. Taking a moment to celebrate, and be grateful for, these successes has me excited to plan for next year's adventures!
What Do You Think?
What did you accomplish this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Just Eat Healthy. Duh.
We all know that we should eat a “healthy” diet. What does that mean? It’s easy to get caught up in the whirl of diets that are popular today—be it Keto, Paleo, DASH, Atkins, Whole 30, or something totally else—and feel like whatever changes you make might be the wrong ones. So now what?
Words of Wisdom on Eating Healthier
Life changes are hard. Everything is new, and everyone has an opinion on what you should or shouldn’t do. We all know that we should move more and eat less, but we often get in our own way when it comes to making a healthier life happen. Here are three mindset tips that helped me stop overthinking and start making better dietary choices.
Tip 1: Never Miss Two in a Row
Over the years, I’ve dieted a ton—including Weight Watchers, Naturally Slim, TOPS, SlimFast and other ridiculous things I have blocked out. While I had success some (but not all) of the time, the effects were short lived. Changing your diet in the short term, but not looking at how to create sustainable changes, leads us right back where we started and leaves us feeling defeated because we succeeded, then failed. Such is the issue with going on a diet with the goal of losing a set amount of weight in a set amount of time.
Instead, it’s better to focus on changing your overall diet, and on a larger scale, your lifestyle. This means the possibility of fewer results right away, but a better chance of real deal, longer term success. Instead of lying to yourself that you’ll never eat [insert thing you absolutely love] again, figure out how to make better overall choices with food that will become just regularly schedule life longer term.
Steve Kamb, founder of Nerd Fitness, has advice to help stop the spiraling before it starts. One of the core tenants of Nerd Fitness is “Never miss two in a row.” Basically, if you miss a workout, or eat a not-so-healthy meal, instead of giving up, consider it the blip that it is and keep on going. Instead of eating a donut at work, deciding you are a horrible person who can’t commit to anything, and make abysmal food choices for the rest of the day—and perhaps forever—commit to not missing two in a row. So you had a donut. Make your next meal or snack better. That’s it. Instead of labeling yourself a “failure”, label yourself “human” and get back to your bigger plan of healthier living.
Tip 2: Get It Right 80% of the Time.
For every identified way of eating that could be successful, there is someone who is ready to proclaim that whatever you’re doing is not “right” or in keeping with said established diet. Instead of listening to the voices online, in your family, or simply in your head trying to convince you that you’re not a good enough paleo/vegan/pescatarian, tune out the unhelpful voices out and focus on eating more things that are better for you more often. Other people can pound their tiny fists as much as they want to, but they are not living your lives, and, honestly, they don’t get a say in your choices.
Dr Michael Greger, author of “How Not to Die”, is an advocate of the benefits of a Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) diet, which he backs up with scientific research. However, he also points out that making positive changes can be iterative. For example, if you’ll eat salad greens (which have multiple health benefits), but you need to have Bacos on it (which are processed and not great for you), make that iterative, positive change! More than once, I’ve had a big salad loaded with vegetables and a side order of french fries. In short, improve your diet, don’t beat yourself up for doing things you want to do. That’s the path to self-loathing and general unhappiness, not an overall healthier you.
Over time, as you eat more things that are better for you, your body will start to crave healthier food and not have any time for the Bacos/fast food/whole entire cake that you would have eaten routinely in the past. That 80% gets you where you need to be in spite of a “keeper of the label” making uninvited commentary on your choices.
Tip 3: Sometimes, You Have to Eat Like a Dog.
When you start to look at making a chance in how you eat, everything in life gets harder. If you’re no longer picking up a burger at the drive though, now what the heck do you eat? How much do you have to figure out how to cook? What do you even buy at the grocery store? Where is the grocery store anyway?
Enter my personal trainer, Colin, with the best, most practical advice ever. When I told him that I struggled with meal planning, he simply stated “sometimes, you have to eat like a dog.” He went on to explain that I don’t have to make something elaborate for every meal. Instead, I should pick a few staples and move up from there. He pointed out that we feed our pets the same thing every day for a reason—they need certain health needs met, and we know their food will do that for them. Why not do the same thing for ourselves?
When looking for recipes, we see many options that are colorful and beautiful and elaborate. We also tend to forget that every day is not a holiday, and we don’t have to make the equivalent of an elaborate Thanksgiving Dinner three times a day, every day. Instead, find a few basics that you don’t hate and that have nutritional value, build a routine, and then modify as you have the desire (and mental bandwidth) to do so. For me, I went with the following:
Done! I know I’m getting the nutrition I need, and I’m not spending an inordinate amount of my life trying to figure out what to eat. Problem solved. For others, it may be cooking up a whole bunch of chicken, boiling a dozen eggs then creating meals to take to work each day that include protein, frozen vegetables, an orange, and string cheese as a snack. For me, now that I have basic, go-to meals, I am starting to research additional meals I might want to make. The better you are at having at least a basic game plan for what you’re going to eat, the better set up you will be for success.
What Do You Think?
What are your best go-to pieces of practical advice for healthy eating? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Why Gluten Free?
I've been gluten free for a couple of years now. While it was a struggle at first (hello, donuts), I feel significantly better. Since I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, which sounds awful, but is totally manageable, eliminating gluten is one strategy that can help immensely. I also find that when I have to make special effort to eat things like bread, pasta and baked goods, I make way better food choices consistently since fruits, vegetables and lean protein are all naturally gluten free. Ordering at restaurants is also significantly easier since "salad with chicken" is now my go-to meal.
As a side note, I know people who shudder at the though of being gluten-free--and I get that. I'm not one to foist my diet on others (my daughter and coworkers often call dibs on my gluten, which is all good.) For many, the though of giving up bread is unthinkable. Personally, I also hate being the person who has to pipe up and announce that I have dietary needs. (Can I please call extra attention to myself while also being perceived as difficult? Ugh.) While initially I was also in that camp of both loving cake and not wanting to rock the boat, I now realize that I'm willing to do a great many things if the benefit is that I don't feel terrible all the time.
Sources of Gluten
So what is gluten? In short, "Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, spelt, rye and barley." (See "Learn More" for additional details.) Here are the typical sources of gluten that are commonly present in the grocery store and on restaurant menus everywhere:
Some people suggest that "just this once" I should be able to eat gluten. That seems completely reasonable, but is not so much how it work. Upon the accidental ingestion of cookies and cream ice cream or a wayward crouton, bloating and a general feeling of yuckiness result. In cases where I have eaten something over the course of a few days that I later learned contained gluten, the condition intensifies to what I would ever-so-politely call "severe intestinal distress." It is not pleasant to say the least.
Sneaky Sources of Gluten
I now read labels like crazy. Fortunately, most labels have "contains wheat" at the bottom of the ingredients list. Other items will be labeled as "gluten-free"--sometimes even things like carrots. (Really, carrots? You're bragging about being gluten-free? By that logic, shouldn't you also be bragging about not being made of meat? I'm dissappointed in you, carrots.)
However, there are a few things I would have never have thought to check to see if they contained gluten. News flash: some of these are not even food.
Food You'd Never Suspect
Vitamins, Medications and Pills
I would have never expected to have to look for gluten in medications. (I'm not sure what I thought "pills" were made of, but it never occurred to me that it might be something I need to check.) Now, when I shop for vitamins or supplements, I make sure that they are listed as gluten-free. At one point, I bought melatonin in chewable form--which I now know not to take since "chewable" often equals "gluten." It's also worth asking your pharmacist to clarify that medications are gluten-free. Who knew?
Makeup and Personal Care Items
Now I feel like the glutens are just out to get me. After doing a bit more reading, even though personal care products (like shampoo, makeup, and lotions) sometimes contain gluten, they probably aren't going to have much of an impact (see "Learn More" for additional details). The main concern is ingestion gluten, not having it absorbed through the skin. Since gluten-free has become a buzz word, I'm sure that putting "Gluten Free" on items enables companies to charge more for them and promote that they are possibly better. Regardless of whether this is a legitimate concern, personal care items like cosmetics, hair care products and lotions may contain gluten. There are also companies, like Jason, who promote their products as Gluten Free.
Personally, I tend to use products that contain less (for lack of a better term) crap, many of which also do not contain gluten. See "learn more" for additional details on what to avoid in cosmetics.
What Do You Think?
Were you surprised by any of the items possibly containing gluten? What other gluten-containing products are available? Include your thoughts in the comments?
Standing on the Corner, Waiting for a Bus
When I moved to Minneapolis, I started working downtown and realized that many people opted to take public transportation rather than driving. A few years later, I also moved not far from the light rail train, so for a solid decade, I took the morning train, worked from 9-5 and then I took the train back home again. As job possibilities presented themselves, one of my ongoing requirements was being able to continue my easy train commute.
On a Downtown Train
After my position was eliminated at the end of last year, I started a new job, and for the first time in 12 years, I am driving daily to and from work. I was reticent to make this change, but I also received an offer for a job that was a perfect fit for me, so driving to and from work seemed a small price to pay for a great career opportunity. The other day, I took the train downtown to meet a friend for coffee. It reminded me of the good, the bad, and the ugly about commuting to work my train.
Why I Usually Loved My Train Commute
For me, taking the train was quicker, safer, cheaper, easier and enabled me to have a smaller carbon footprint. What’s not to love?
Why I Occasionally Disliked My Train Commute
Lower cost? Easier? What's not to like? Well, there are a few things...
What Do You Think?
What are the good and bad parts of commuting to and from work using public transportation? Include your thoughts in the comments.
First, Let's Celebrate!
I have great news! My job search has come to a successful close. As of this week, I have accepted a full-time position as an instructional design manager with a software company. I’m excited about this role and happy to get to change gears from being tastefully boastful about how good I am at working to having a job where I actually get to do some paid work. I’m way pumped up about this opportunity and the fun challenges it will bring. Hooray and woo hoo both!
A Note About My Observations
I’m including several numbers in this article. Keep in mind that while I pride myself in my ability to count and do basic math, I’m dealing with a very small sample size. (See the “Learn More” section for issues that can be caused by having a small sample size when it comes statistical information.) This article can only barely be called “research” and is more appropriately described as me sharing my personal experience. With that disclaimer, on to the numbers!
Now, Let's Look at the Numbers
As a bona fide Excel nerd, and meticulous planner, I have kept detailed records on my job search journey from layoff through my exciting new job. Here are a few statistical highlights of what on earth I did with myself since my position was eliminated oh-so many months ago.
How Long Will This Take: Job Search Length
Please, Please Look At My Resume: Job Applications Submitted
Now We're Talking: Interviews
I Know People: Referrals and Impact on Interview Likelihood
I Will Never Work Again: Low Points During The Job Search
Everything Works Out: Lessons Learned During the Job Search
What Do You Think?
What are your job search insights? What worked well for you? Share your ideas in the comments.
I Am Sooooooo Tired!
In adult life, “I’m so tired” is a common complaint, second only to “I am so busy.” Of course, we are so tired and busy because of how important and in-demand we are, therefore we don’t have time to take on one more thing because, for goodness sake, we don’t even have time to sleep!
#Humblebrags aside, there are certainly many life habits adults have that can mess up the ability to sleep—including our 24/7 culture, using our smart phones late in the evening and that cursed show we’re watching on Netflix that somehow tricks us into watching the next episode. Once you do call it a night, here are three tactics for getting yourself from being physically in bed to actually asleep.
I read way more non-fiction than fiction. I read books on time management, making better business decisions and promoting positive behavior change. While I love these books because they help me improve my work skills and excel in life, reading non-fiction activates me. I usually take notes, make observations and think of all of the things I should DO. While this a helpful mindset for overall life success, it’s not going to do my sleep any favors.
Now, I read non-fiction during the day, and fiction at night. I read stories that are entertaining and engaging, but help my mind wind down. So far, my teenage daughter (a voracious reader) has gotten me hooked on dystopian young adult fiction trilogies including Hunger Games, Divergent, Matched, Uglies and more. They are quick reads that are well paced with interesting plots. They also serve as entertainment that helps me transition from awake, functioning adult to ready to go lights-out adult.
Not sure what to read? Grab something from an area little free library, grab a book at the local coffee shop’s free shelf or get thee to the library. Check out what friends and family are reading and get recommendations. Pick something and start. If it’s not your thing, pick something else.
Write It Down
Admittedly, the world “journaling” makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth. These days, journaling is often the go-to remedy for everything from being more grateful for what we have to figuring out why we do the crazy things we do. Do you know why journaling is recommended so much? Because it works. Getting information out of your head and on paper has huge value. It helps you not only process your ideas, thoughts and feelings, but it enables you to take part in the process of taking a thought your mind is stuck on and physically put it somewhere else. Offloading that thought—at least until morning—frees up our minds to get some damn sleep.
When I’m supposed to try to sleep, my brain liked to occupy itself by rehashing every dumb thing I’ve ever said, revisiting movie trivia I can’t quite remember and stewing on problems I can’t quite solve. Keeping those thoughts inside my head (or trying to will them away) only results in more tossing and turning and less actual sleep.
The answer? Write it down. Next to your bed, keep a pen and a writing surface—no matter if it’s a proper journal, half used notebook or the back of an envelope. Trying to pinpoint why that project failed? Write it down. Finally remember the name of your coworker three jobs ago? Write it down. Finally figure out the right way to word that paragraph? Write it down. Instead of either stewing on a topic (and not sleeping) or trying to hold on to that thought until morning (which I never manage to do), you guessed it—WRITE IT DOWN! It also frees up your mind to wander and dream and sleep instead of turning a problem over and over in your head until morning, when you’re thinking even less clearly due to lack of sleep.
If I’m having a tough time sleeping, or even dealing with a stressful situation, I will often take deep breaths. Recently, I attended a training session about resilience. The presenter referenced 4-4-8 breathing and mentioned this technique helped soldiers in the special forces handle stressful situations. As an extra added bonus, it also works as a way to get your mind to calm down and get to sleep.
Here’s how it works:
Variations on this idea abound—including 4-4-8 breathing, 4-4-4 breathing or Circle 7 Breathing (7-7-7). Regardless of the numbers you use, the whole point is to help your mind focus, pay attention to your breathing and calm yourself down. If you’re in a stressful situation, using this exercise can help clear your head so you can deal with the task at hand. If it’s bedtime, tactical breathing can push you from pre-bedtime routine to sound asleep.
What Do You Think?
What are your tried and true tips for getting to sleep? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Welcome To The Suck
The process of being "in transition" is like no other. Not only do you have no outwardly dictated plans on any given weekday, but you don't really know how long your unstructured time off will last (another week, another month, a few months?) or what your day to day life will look like once the transition is over. There's also the issue of figuring out what to do with yourself when you're not job searching--in addition to feeling guilty because you're not doing more job searching, that is. As an extra added bonus, there are the occasional freak outs about money, nervousness about career prospects and the once in a great while "I will never be employed ever again!" full-on panic.
Suffice it to say that job searching can be full of obstacles that make the process hard to manage. Knowing the possible issues is the first step towards figuring out how to mitigate each challenge and move forward. Here are five unfortunate truths I have discovered about dealing with an unexpected career transition and a few coping strategies for dealing with each.
1. You won't always get an interview for THE PERFECT JOB.
Congratulations! You just found THE PERFECT JOB! You have all of the required and preferred qualifications! It's at the right level, with your dream company, and you even know someone who works there who will say great things about you! Surely your days of job searching are coming to a close because you are the purple squirrel for THE PERFECT JOB!
Enter reality. I'm sorry to say that you may not even manage to get so much as an initial phone screen for this position. Even when you feel like the job was tailor made for you, someone in a decision making position may not agree. Why might that happen?
For one, the position may not actually available. Some organizations post job openings to gauge interest in the position even though they have no plans to hire anytime soon. Conversely, the role may have been open for a while and the selection process may be well under way. There could also be an internal person who will take the job without additional people being considered. In some cases, companies may have a policy that they need to post positions externally for a given length of time even though they already have a candidate in mind. Still other organizations may decide part way through the hiring process to leave a position unfilled, but not remove it from their posted jobs.
Assuming the job is really and for true accepting applicants, there may still be issues. For one, key stakeholders in an organization may have a lack of common agreement on what a job role will do and what constitutes being a well-qualified candidate. Decision makers may also each have their own non-negotiable requirements for the qualifications for the potential hire--which may or may not relate to the person's ability to do the job. Remember that, no matter what the issue is, it seldom has anything to do with you personally. It's just the life of recruiting for and trying to fill positions with the best candidates they can find--sometimes with people who are (unfortunately) not you.
2. People who aren't good at their jobs will make your life harder.
Remember a time at your last job when you had to deal with someone who was not good at what they did for a living? Like the salesperson who was rude, never did their paperwork right and missed deadlines? Or the recruiter who didn't keep good notes and forgot who they had phone screened? During your job search, you'll realize those people exist in other organizations, too, and they sometimes stand between you and the job you want.
It could come in the form of an administrative assistant who is supposed to coordinate your travel for an in-person interview--who didn't make reservations then went on vacation leaving you scrambling to find someone else to help. It may be the recruiter who doesn't realize that a learning management system and a learning content management system are roughly the same thing and wrongly screens you out early on in the process. It may be the hiring manager that is overly concerned with your lack of knowledge of their industry and doesn't believe that anyone could just LEARN what they now know. It might be an insecure possible future coworker who doesn't want to hire someone who might outshine them. Just like in the rest of life, things are not always "fair" and you may not get a job, even if you are a strong candidate. Such is life.
3. Along the way, someone will dislike you.
I don't know about you, but I am friggin' delightful. I'm also able to connect and get along well with most people. However, during the interview process, no matter who I am or am not, it's not going to match what someone else thinks the candidate for the position should be. Whether they thought I should have smiled more, made a different outfit choice or given more detailed examples, someone's negative reaction to who I am may take me out of the running for a job.
People often have their own pet theories about what they'd like in a coworker, manager or direct report. They may be convinced that having the title "account manager" is pivotal for success, that all candidates must have a master's degree, or that people who ride horses are pretentious. You might also have the misfortune of reminding them of the mean girl in high school and BOOM--instant dislike. Again, life isn't necessarily "fair."
4. The interview process may be extensive and/or disorganized.
The job interview process can be anything from one interview to many, many, many interviews depending on the organization and the role. Typically, I expect to have a phone screen with an entry level HR person to confirm that I can speak in sentences, an in-person interview with the manager and potential coworkers and a final interview to either demonstrate skills and/or meet with my potential boss's boss. In addition, a given employer may want to have you do more to demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to do the job. You might be asked to pass written assessments, submit work samples, present to a group or complete a project. They may even have you come into the office for the day and "work" as if you are already in the position for which you are applying.
Interviews could take place over the phone, via web conference, through email, in-person or (more likely) a combination of all of the above. Some companies will have a pre-defined, structured process for the pacing and format of interviews. Other organizations will appear to be making it up as they go along. You may inadvertently skip steps and realize near the end of the process that you missed talking about a basic topic like salary range or work location. You may have interviews one-on-one with many people who you might work with going forward including coworkers, people with whom you'd collaborate with and executives. Sometimes, it may seem that the interview process is never-ending because you have not yet talked with every single person in the organization.
5. Time passes more slowly when you're waiting.
I remember being a child, and how LONG the year seemed. It always took forever to get from my birthday at the end of August to Christmas. Enter adulthood. I find myself consistently marveling that it's already whatever day/month/season it is because it seems that it was just that other day/month/season. In this scenario, your employer is the adult, and you are the child.
Some companies will be motivated to fill a position and move things pretty quickly, while others might have days, weeks or even months between your contacts with them--all because something that wasn't filling that position became a priority.
What about that two days that the employer estimated it would take them to contact you? It may easily turn into a week, or two. Since they're busy addressing customer issues, traveling to client sites and doing their expense reports, they didn't even realize it took that long. Meanwhile, you're stocking your pantry awaiting the unemployment apocalypse because you will never get a job ever, ever again. (Except not really because, well, reality.)
I have also had cases where I've had one or more interviews that went well, and then not heard from the company for a week or two. I'll send a follow up message, which sometimes gets the process going again, but at least makes me feel like I've taken the action I can take to let them know I'm still a potential candidate. Keep in mind that holidays, summer, natural disasters, other company events and a host of other valid reasons may keep people from following up with you.
Or, as any job seeker really doesn't want to hear, you may not be getting the job. Responding to a candidate quickly usually shows that the potential employer is interested. In many cases, taking longer to respond may indicate lagging interest. Such is how the whole process works.
What do you think?
What unfortunate truths about the job search process have you found? Share your thoughts in the comments.
You Can Do The Thing!
Adulting is hard. I think we all know that we need to make an effort to do things that will help our future selves to be successful. We all know that eating better, exercising more, not procrastinating and getting some sleep will make us better in the long run. Unfortunately, laziness pays off now. Who can bother to get motivated and actually do stuff when there are 10+ seasons of Doctor Who available for the watching at any time, day or night?
So how do you motivate to do all of that pesky adulting you need to do? Here are three videos that may serve as the kick in the tail you need to get up and do something that doesn't involve guarding the living room couch.
If you just need a general affirmation of how awesome you are and how you need to just go do the thing, skip to video 3 because YOU ARE MAGNIFICENT! Otherwise, check out these videos and the articles at the end for even more motivation. I also realized that what I find motivating often includes some straight talk and a bit of adult language. Proceed with appropriate caution.
9 Life Lessons from Comedian Tim Minchin
Comedian Tim Minchin shares his comedic insights and 9 valuable life lessons. This is motivating on a greater level to live a good, meaningful life while also not taking yourself too seriously. It's also witty and amazing. (NSFW because adult themes and a wee bit of language.)
Daily Inspiration - David Goggins Find Your Drive
This video is inspiring on many levels from Navy Seal and overall badass human David Goggins. He talks about his upbringing and his firm belief that motivation is fleeting, but being driven gets you where you need to be. (FYI--he uses some offensive language, partly because he talks about being called the N word every day when he was in school.)
You Are Magnificent!
Are you lacking confidence? Feeling bad about yourself? Worried that you're not good enough? Let this woman set you straight. The core message of this video is that you need to just get up and do the thing. If you need a pep talk, here it is in it's intermittently foul-mouthed glory. You are magnificent! (NSFW because, swearing.)
What Do You Think?
What motivates you? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Some Days You Go To Work and Come Home With a White Box
Recently, I was laid off from my job. It is the fourth time I’ve been laid off over the course of my 20+ year career in corporate training and development. It’s also the third job I’ve had in a row where the company, not me, decided when my tenure at the organization was complete. I have not actively decided to switch jobs in 13 years. Given my field of choice, training, and my penchant for working for companies that are acquired, struggling, startups or reorganizing, this is a part of my professional life (and also why I moved to a larger job market after layoff number 2). Given my track record, I know how to handle a layoff.
Even though I know the drill, it still sucks each and every time. There’s the loss of a daily routine, the changing of work friendships to acquaintances or regular friends, the excitement (and terror) of getting to find a new job, and the highs and lows of not knowing whether you’ll be unemployed for a week or for a year. It also comes with a new unpaid full-time job—which is finding a new full-time job.
Each layoff has also been a little different. My tenure ranged between 4 months and 8 years. My severance ranged from 2 weeks to 16 weeks. Twice, I could rely on my husband’s income and benefits, and once I was mid-divorce with nearly everything falling apart at once. Regardless of circumstances surrounding a layoff, there are a few good next steps to take.
1. Process Your Emotions
Curse you, feelings!
Losing your job, even through no fault of your own, is an emotional roller coaster. Given how much of your life you spend at work, suddenly not having the same job is a huge change. In fact, it’s the same level of change as things like getting divorced, having close friend die or having to go to prison. You may feel fine one moment, angry the next, then ecstatic, then in tears. Realize this is completely normal.
Just like dealing with a death in the family, you’re dealing with the death of the future you thought you had. Losing that imagined future, regardless of the role that your job plays in your life, is a big loss that needs to be addressed. Figure out how you will cope with these changes. You might choose positive ways (exercise, reconnecting with friends, journaling) or negative (overeating, overthinking, or a good old-fashioned bender). Find your emotional support people and confide in them. Talk to your partner, family and friends. Find a support group (in-person, or online, or both) to help you work through it.
As much as you may want to jump over the part where you have to admit you have feelings that influence how you live your day-to-day life, you need to address them—whether it happens now or later. Personally, two layoffs ago, I was going through a whole bunch of new and exciting (read "stressful”) life changes all at once. Then, I compartmentalized and focused on the business of moving and finding a new job. Once I was in my new job, I pretty much worked during the day and went through the process of dealing with all of the life changes at night. Do what works for you.
A Note About Social Media
As you process your feelings, be cautious about sharing too much on social media. Remember, the things that you share on social media are somewhere at least somewhat publicly available, forever. Even if you post things only to friends on the Facebooks, there is no guarantee that other people won’t see it given Facebook's ever-changing privacy parameters. Process those feelings in private, not in public on social media. You are not a Kardashian. You don't want prospective employers--or everyone ever--to see the dirty details of your process.
2. Manage Your Finances
Disclaimer: (You know there has to be one of these now that we're talking about topics like money and health insurance.) While I know stuff, I'm not a currently licensed, authorized anything. Feel free to take my advice, but double check my facts (and everyone's facts for that matter). This is your life, and you will care more about your finances and health care than anyone else does. With that, read on.
Whew! I'm glad we got THAT out of the way.
Most of us work because we have expensive habits to support—like living indoors and eating on a regular basis. When a job ends, there are financial concerns that need to be addressed right away. While you won’t have the income from your job, you will receive your final paycheck, possibly vacation time that you have earned and, hopefully, severance. You may also have additional sources of income (from a spouse, partner, or additional work). If you receive severance, realize that it may be less money than you think because taxes are taken out of that sum. Depending on your severance package, and the length of your unemployment you may also be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. While this may not be a lot, it will help to cushion the blow.
You also need to revisit your budget. Prioritize paying things like your housing and transportation, and plan to spend less on discretionary expenses like entertainment, shopping and eating at restaurants. If you have an emergency fund, this might be the time you start using that. If not, you may end up accruing a little debt. For most people, this isn't the time to buy a new car or build on to your house. This is the time to scale back and get through the yuck until you're gainfully employed again.
A Note About The Joy That Is Health Insurance
Since many people rely on their employer for health insurance coverage, figuring out this aspect can be tricky. If you are fortunate enough to have a spouse/domestic partner/parent who can bring you onto their health insurance, check that out right away. In general, if you were covered by an employer's plan, and lose that coverage, you will be eligible to switch to another employer sponsored plan. At least ask that question.
If that's not an option, you have a few more decisions to make. If you do receive a severance package, health insurance coverage for some period of time may be included. Find out if your previously employer sponsored health insurance coverage is paid for by the employer, or if you will receive money to cover the cost of coverage. (These are two very different things.) You may also be eligible for COBRA coverage, which means that you would continue your previously employer paid health insurance, but pay for it yourself. Be sure to brace yourself when you see the amount that you will now be charged for that coverage--because it is usually A LOT more than you paid as an employee.
If you are not willing and/or able to continue with your previous employer's health plan, you may be able to go on the insurance exchanges to find coverage. Depending on your situation, you may also opt for the “be careful” health plan (no health coverage, but no sky diving either). Figure out what makes the most sense to you, and how to mitigate any risks you take.
3. Start Your Job Search
Now that you are without a job, you need to figure out how to get a new job—which is no small effort. Think about what kind of a job you want and write it down. Take time to think about the job titles, possible employers and salary range you want to target. It’s hard to find what you want until you actually know what you want to find. Get your resume updated (if you haven’t already). You may even need a couple of different basic resumes if you’ll be applying for different types of jobs. (Personally, I have an instructional designer resume, a training manager resume and a program manager resume.) Figure out how to highlight your unique skill set and showcase what problems you can help your potential employer solve.
From here, start letting people know about your new status of being “in transition” (not unemployed) and ask people for help. Many times, people offer help. Letting them know specifics on how they can help will do wonders. Perhaps they can introduce you to people who work at one of your target companies. Perhaps they know about a position that has not yet been advertised. Perhaps they know someone who knows someone who you should talk to. Maybe they have a lead on an up and coming company who needs someone just like you. Rely on those working relationships that you have built and put them to work. (Also remember that this is a two-way street. Be sure to help your fellow job seekers, or people who are trying to fill positions. Creating mutually beneficial relationships helps everyone.)
Keep in mind there are additional resources beyond your current network. Just like with emotional support, there are groups that can help with job searching. Check out LinkedIn groups, in-person meetups and seminars on how to network. Find a professional group and meet those people. The more people you meet, the better chance you will have to find a new position that is right for you.
Through my many, many layoffs, one thing has remained true. I have always ended up in a better place, both personally and professionally, than I would have expected. I learned new skills, met new people and made life changes that I probably needed to make, but I only did when life gave me the shove I needed.
I learn for a living. I distill my research into useful blog entries. Geek, parent, knitter, yogi, writer, educator, businessperson, health advocate, & skating nerd.