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May 182010
Get the Balance Right

Image by Marquette La via Flickr

    Are you struggling to balance the demands of a busy career with a hectic personal life? Does it feel like you’re constantly juggling your commitments in a desperate attempt to squeeze everything into an impossibly short day?

    If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Trying to find the perfect work-life balance is something that countless employees around the world wrestle with every day… but for many it simply isn’t working.

    The concept of work-life balance first entered the recruitment lexicon in the 1970s in an attempt to describe the issues faced by employees looking to divide their attention between their work commitments and their personal life. It’s since gained popularity among industry commentators, recruitment and careers experts, employees, and most recently with employers, who have started to view the panacea of work-life balance as a magic-bullet solution to employee dissatisfaction, absenteeism, and boosting productivity in the workplace.

    One of the main reasons that work-life-balance has become such a buzzword is that it resonates with so many people. Almost all of us know that overwhelming feeling of desperately trying to divide our finite attention between all of the things that matter to us. But although the work-life-balance concept has been around for nearly four decades, many of us are still struggling to manage our disparate commitments effectively; we fail in our quest for "balance", and ultimately everything suffers.

    According to business and lifestyle coach Ali Davies ( the main reason so many of us haven’t nailed the work-life balance conundrum is that the whole concept is fundamentally flawed.

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Jul 272009
Soccer goal

Image by ewiemann via Flickr

Don’t forget to check out 10 Potentially Fatal Career Traits – Part 1.

Last week we took a look at some of the pitfalls to look out for as you plot your course along your chosen career path. In this second article we take a closer look at another five obstacles that could spell trouble, and ways you can navigate your way around them.

  • Not setting clear goals: if you don’t have a destination in mind before you leave, you have practically no chance of ending up where you want to be. Set yourself measurable, achievable objectives and plan your daily activities around reaching them. Manage your priorities and focus on tasks that move you towards your defined goals.
  • Fear of failure: a "can-do" attitude and a willingness to take risks is a must if you want to get ahead with your career. Sitting quietly at your desk, well within your comfort zone won’t get you noticed, and will soon bore you to tears. Challenge yourself, believe in your own ability and embrace opportunities to stretch yourself at work. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes — mistakes are an opportunity to learn, and remember that being risk-averse can be much more damaging to your career than the occasional error.

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Jul 212009
Hourglass Shadow

Image by Brooks Elliott via Flickr

Time is an elusive commodity. Making effective use of your time can have a profound effect on your career and on your life in general, but unless you manage it carefully time can slip away almost without you noticing.

Consequently, time management is one of the biggest challenges in today’s workplace. Taking control of your time really could be the catalyst that will help you to achieve what you want in life, and you’ll find countless books, courses, systems and strategies out there to help you. Meanwhile, try these simple suggestions to start you on the road to increased personal productivity and success.

  • Plan your work: spending ten to fifteen minutes at the start or end of each day planning your work will help you to focus on what’s important.
    Deal with routine more effectively: examine the routine tasks you do every day with a critical eye. Can they be streamlined at all? Could some be minimised, or even eliminated altogether? You’ll be amazed how much cumulative time you can save by shaving a few precious minutes off your routine tasks.
  • Don’t waste time waiting: we all spend time waiting – waiting for appointments, waiting for the train or bus, waiting in traffic. Use that time constructively to catch up with some reading, or to work out how to move things forward on an important project.

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Jul 202009
The Lone Ranger

Image via Wikipedia

It’s great reading about all the things you should be doing to move your career in the right direction… but every now and then it can be useful to look at the flip side too. Finding the right job can take months, working your way up the career ladder takes years… but get things wrong and you’ll find sliding down that same ladder can happen much more quickly.

To avoid that, it’s important to stay aware of, and to steer a course around the many pitfalls that can trip you as you progress down your chosen career path. Keeping an eye on some of the main workplace faux pas, and actively working to avoid them, can help you to keep our career on track through challenging times.

  • Lone ranger: being self confident and self reliant are positive traits, but beware of crossing the line into arrogance and alienating your co-workers. Being a team player is every bit as important as excelling in your discipline. It’s the performance of the team, and ultimately the business, rather than the individual, that counts. If your personal brilliance disrupts that team environment, and results in a negative impact on team performance, you won’t last long, no matter how good you are.
  • Poor People Skills: it’s important to make a conscious effort to be affable and get on with people at work. Studies by respected bodies like the Harvard Business Review show that people prefer to work with likeable, less-skilled individuals than with highly competent but less friendly co-workers. According to researchers if an employee is generally disliked, it almost doesn’t matter that they’re good at what they do, because other people won’t work effectively with them.
  • Personal business at work: strictly speaking company e-mail and company phones should be reserved for company business. A few short personal phone calls is obviously OK, but limit their number and keep them brief. Similarly with e-mail, try to avoid using your business account for personal e-mail, never type anything in a business e-mail that you wouldn’t want your boss to read and steer clear of distributing chain-letters and jokes to company mailing lists.
  • Missing deadlines: if you commit to meeting a particular deadline, you need to make sure you meet it. Missing deadlines is unprofessional, has a knock-on impact on other people’s schedules and makes your boss look bad… which is never a good career move. Live by the maxim of "under-promise and over-deliver". That said, occasionally changing circumstances will mean you’re never going to make a deadline. In that case make sure you communicate effectively: tell everyone it’s likely to affect that you’re going to miss the deadline, and why, and let them know when you’ll get the work finished.
  • Isolation: being isolated makes you less effective. Work to develop your relationships within your organisation and your profession. Effective networking will give you the inside track when it comes to getting information and securing the resources you need to do your job efficiently.

With companies looking to cut costs (which often means jobs) at every opportunity, how you’re perceived at work, and making a positive impression is more important than ever. Check back next week for another five pitfalls to look out for.

Don’t forget to check out 10 Potentially Fatal Career Traits – Part 2.

Got more suggestions? Let us know by leaving a comment….

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Jun 092009
The Career Coach is Open

Image by Dave Jones – one of many via Flickr

Coaching has been well established in the USA for years now. American businesses and individuals routinely engage coaching services to help them make crucial decisions about their careers and their personal lives.

Now coaching is catching on here in Ireland, and you can find Irish coaching services covering everything from getting fit to running your own business to a holistic coaching that encompasses every facet of your life.

One coaching discipline that’s really taking off here is career coaching. When you think about it it’s little wonder. We spend most of our lives at work, and yet reports indicate that up to 70% of the Irish workforce are unhappy in their current job.

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