Monday, July 15, 2019

Do This One Thing to Ensure You Always Have a Job

Amazon recently announced that it plans to spend $700 million to retrain 100,000 employees in an effort to help its workforce adapt to a world using more automation and new technology.

Retraining will focus on moving more employees into tech-savvy roles. Still, not everyone is offering praise for the move. Critics contend that Amazon is only dealing with a problem that it created in the first place.

For me, the key is that Amazon is sending a message loud and clear that if you want to survive in the working world, then you must always be evolving. Just because you have a good job right now or a rewarding career that you love doesn't mean that it will be there in five years -- or even next year.

The best way to stay ahead of layoffs and job elimination is to always be learning.

"All of us — when we were growing up — made a linear progression from learning at schools to working. We will now have to move to a continuum of lifelong learning, which means we have to be lifelong learners. You have to learn to learn, learn to unlearn, and learn to re-learn. For an individual to imbibe that culture of being on that learning curve for a lifetime is a big switch," says Infosys president Ravi Kumar.

Here are some tips for being a lifelong learner from “Awaken the Genius Within—A Guide to Lifelong Learning Skills” by Samuel A. Malone using the acronym "PRACTICED":
  • Priority. Set aside at least half an hour a day to build up that knowledge or skill in the area of expertise that you need to acquire. Nothing will happen unless you make it happen and put in the effort.
  • Reflect. Think deeply about what you have learned. Build review periods into your learning so you do not forget. Information is quickly forgotten unless reviewed, and skills fall into decay unless practiced. Observe how others learn, and model the behavior of the best learners. Listen to what people have to say, and look for feedback on your performance and behavior. Don’t take criticism personally as it may point to your shortcomings and a way of learning from your mistakes. 
  • Action learning. We learn best by doing things, and we acquire skill by doing things over and over again. Most skills take a considerable amount of time to acquire and perfect. 
  • Curiosity. The secret of genius is to carry the wonderment of childhood into adulthood. We should be inquisitive and ask questions such as how, what, and why all the time. 
  • Teach. A great way of learning is to teach others as it consolidates and reinforces our knowledge. We can do this by showing other people how to do things, and by demonstrating, coaching, and mentoring. Mentoring can be a great source of informal and non-threatening support. 
  • Insight. Discovery consists of looking at the same things as everybody else but seeing something different. People who make great discoveries by chance have the judgment and persistence to pursue the idea to fruition.
  • Concentration. We must develop powers of concentration if we want to learn and excel. Having goals, listening attentively, dealing with distractions effectively, and practicing the technique of mental rehearsal are just some of the ways you can improve your concentration. In addition, good self-belief and a positive attitude will help you stay focused.
  • Exercise and nutrition. Physical exercise induces the body to produce an array of chemicals that the brain and, indeed, the heart love. The brain, as well as the body, thrives on oxygen and proper nutrition. The brain needs a nutritious diet to survive and thrive. 
  • Different learning styles. There are different learning styles, but most of us use a combination of these.  One method is VAT, which stands for visual, audial and tactile, which means we learn by seeing, hearing, and doing. Another classification is activist, reflector, theorist and pragmatist, which means we do something, think about it, understand it, and then based on our understanding, we may do it differently. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Dear Employers: It's Time to Stop Treating Applicants Like Crap

I was not surprised 10 years ago when many job applicants told me of their frustration when employers refused to even acknowledge their applications or let them know where they stood in the interview process.

At that time, there were way more workers than available jobs, and the employers held all the cards. So, many ignored the polite follow-up emails from interviewees, and scoffed at the thought of sending a "thank you for your application" note.

But it seems that such poor behavior is still happening. I know this first hand -- I heard two such stories from job applicants in the last month. My response has always been that perhaps the applicants dodged a bullet. After all, any employer who treats potential employees so poorly would likely not be great to work for, right?

Still, the applicants (they also had interviews) expressed frustration at the process. Why ignore their calls and emails? Would it be so difficult to simply say, "we've chosen someone else," or "we've decided to suspend the process for a few months" ?

A Wall Street Journal story points out that some hiring managers may fear they'll say something wrong to candidates when telling them they didn't get the job, fearing legal consequences.

I may buy this is some rare instances, but couldn't they get a script from the legal department so that they stay out of legal hot water?

It's time employers shaped up. They need to behave professionally to all applicants. After all, they make job seekers jump through so many hoops, it's time they put in the same effort. Here's some suggestions from the WSJ story:

  •  Make sure your job postings accurately describe the openings.
  • Acknowledge applicants’ resumes soon after they’re received.
  • Train hiring managers to treat all applicants well.
  • Keep candidates informed about where they stand.
  • Let applicants know if you change course in the middle of a search.
  • Leave the losers as well as the winners with a positive image of the company.

Monday, July 8, 2019

5 Ways to Return From Vacation and Not Be Totally Bummed

I've been away from my office for about 10 days for a work conference and some vacation time.

Over the years, I've interviewed many experts on how to return to work from time away without feeling completely overwhelmed and even a little depressed. Combined with my own experience, I put together some suggestions on how you can return from vacation without having a complete meltdown.

Some suggestions:

1. Check in with colleagues. If someone covered for you, immediately send an email or talk to the person directly to offer a sincere thank-you. Ask about any problems or concerns that need to be addressed today. What can wait until tomorrow or even later in the week? Don't try to solve all problems today -- prioritize what can wait or you're quickly going to be overwhelmed.

2. Revisit your calendar. What's on tap for this week? If you've got meetings your first day back, quickly review emails or other notes so that you refresh your memory about key issues. The same thing applies if you've got conference calls or one-on-one time with your boss or team members.

3. Set mini deadlines. The great thing about vacations is the lack of deadlines and the feeling that your time truly is your own. But when you return to work, you're faced with new deadlines that can quickly weigh you down. Instead, set mini-deadlines that won't seem so overwhelming. For example, set a timer for 15 minutes and use that time to go through your emails. This will get you to quickly delete junk mail, file "to read later" items and prioritize critical emails. Once the timer goes off, take a break. Go get a cup or coffee or put on music that reminds you of your vacation. Dividing your day up into smaller chunks will help ease you back into your work demands.

4. Stick with your good habits. If you've always sat at your desk and eaten lunch while watching YouTube or going through emails, that's a habit you probably broke while on vacation. What did you do instead? Perhaps savor your lunch or people watch or just sit quietly and breathe? Those are the things that you should not abandon and will help you strike a better balance in your life. Hang onto those vacation habits.

5. Don't whine. I've noticed that I can start to get a bit cranky when I first return from vacation. The office is too loud. The traffic is horrible. I've learned that instead of whining about such things, I instead try to remember favorite times from my vacation -- that evening by the lake when the sunset was perfect, the time spent laughing with family and even that little diner with great pancakes. When you start whining about your the realities of life, then you push yourself further away from those wonderful vacation memories. Focus on what you gained from your time away, and refuse to let it be diminished by dumb stuff.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

It's Time to Complain

Conscious complaining.

This isn't a term that I was familiar with until I found it in Pamela McLean's new book, "Self as Coach, Self as Leader: Developing the Best in You to Develop the Best in Others."

In the book, she relates how a colleague urged her to do some conscious complaining after McLean was feeling greatly challenged while recovering from a fractured spine.

"For three months, all of my routines had come to an abrupt stop in order to accommodate complete recovery," she writes. "The whole scenario required a dramatically slowed pace."

The colleague suggested it was time that McLean voice her frustrations, so she did. Complaints ranged from only being able to sleep on her back to not being able to drive to not being able to exercise.

"The list was much longer than I realized and I was surprised by how much better I felt when I acknowledged my list of feelings in the form of small complaints," she writes.

Sometimes at work we're supposed to always have a gung-ho attitude, full of energy and enthusiasm. But, honestly, the broken coffee pot, the squeaky office chair of a colleague and the fact that you have to wear a tie to work every day is just wearing you down.

So, get together with a trusted friend or family member and have at it. Whether you want to call it conscious complaining or a good old-fashioned bitch session, get it all out. Like McLean, you may find you feel a whole lot better.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Why Others Consider Your Email Response to Be Rude

"Far too many poor decisions rest on knee-jerk responses. Don't let fast emails become the enemy of good decisions."

This is some of the advice in Dianna Booher's new book, "Faster, Fewer, Better Emails."

Booher addresses how some emails are too long -- and how some are too short. I think we all know the problem with long emails, but can you be too brief?

Booher says yes.

She cites the boss who emails the project team to ask for their input on a problem.

The first person to respond to the message supplies a "half-baked idea" and hits "reply all."

That leads to other busy team members replying with "sounds good to me" or "I'm okay with that."

"And before you know it, the inclination for speed overruns the need for quality thinking," Booher says.

Boohers also points out:

  • Brevity can lead to brusqueness. If the subject is sensitive or negative, or you haven't yet established a "cordial" relationship with the reader, you might want to reconsider your approach.
  • Adding one word or phrase can make a difference. Instead of just responding "No" to a request, add something like, "No, sorry I can't make it."