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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 (www.alidavies.com) 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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Feb 242010
 
Keep your career on track

Image by graciepoo via Flickr

With the economy still making things tough for job-seekers, and businesses still shedding staff at every turn, now is the time when workers everywhere should be working hard to progress their career goals and prove their worth to their employer. You may feel like sitting tight, keeping your head beneath the parapets and waiting out the economic siege, but its during times of adversity that real talent is tested and true commitment shines through. Standing out for the right reasons during the hard times will not only make your employer want to hold on to you when the chips are down, but will also put you right up on top of the heap in terms of progressing your career when things turn around again

  • Embrace change: many workplaces have changed radically in recent times… and the best workers are those who can adapt readily to those changes. A lot of businesses are having to do more with fewer resources. If you’re open to new ways of working, learning new skills and taking on more responsibility, you’ll be well positioned to progress your career when things improve.
  • Explore new opportunities: just because times are tough it doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities out there… changes in your organisations structure, client base or work processes can give you the chance to change roles, retrain to learn a new skill, volunteer to lead a project, implement a new cost-saving idea… or whatever. Keep a look out for any opportunity that will have a positve impact on your career.

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Nov 022009
 
job hunting

Image by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Looking for work in a suppressed economy can be more than just an uphill struggle… it can be a soul-destroying experience. Unless you approach it with the right attitude, the inevitable knock-backs will chip away at your self-confidence and erode your self belief to dangerously low levels.  It’s a vicious circle… if you don’t believe in yourself, what are the chances of an employer believing that you’re the right person for the job?

Staying strong and maintaining your focus in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds can be difficult. It’s important to remember that not getting a particular job, or even an interview, isn’t the end of the world… nor is it necessarily a negative reflection of your skills, ability or experience relative to the role. There are literally thousands of things that influence an employers decision on who and who not to hire. In an incredibly over-populated labour market employers are inundated with tidal wave of applications for practically every vacancy they advertise. Not getting a job offer at the end of the process is the de-facto standard when it comes to job-hunting, and in a recession it’s ten times worse.

If you’re looking for work, and are starting to lose your enthusiasm, here are a few things you can try to help keep your spirits up when the inevitable knock-backs come.

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Sep 212009
 
James, I think your cover's blown!

Image by laverrue via Flickr

Getting a new boss can be almost as daunting as getting a new job. Depending on how you felt about your old boss you may or may not welcome change, but change, as always, means uncertainty… and that’s uncomfortable.

If you’ve got a new boss starting at work, it always pays to approach the transition professionally, and to manage your relationship with them effectively right from the start.

Apart from yourself, your immediate superior is the person who has the biggest direct impact on your career. It’s your boss who sets the benchmarks against which your work will be measured, your boss who assesses your performance, your boss who communicates your achievements (or otherwise) to others, and your boss who controls the resources you need to do your job effectively. Keeping him or her on-side from the start is generally a good idea. But how do you manage a new boss?

  • Expect and accept change: your incoming boss will almost certainly do things differently to your old one, accept that things are going to change, be proactive. Remember that no matter what sort of relationship you had with your old boss, you’re starting with a clean slate now, and that’s often a good thing. By managing the transition carefully you can help yourself, your new boss and your entire team to get back into the swing of things quickly.
  • First impressions are crucial: that clean slate won’t stay clean for long… so you want to make sure you make a positive first impression. One of the best ways to do that is to make it as easy for your new boss to fit into their new role… remember, while you’re getting a new boss, they’re often starting a brand new job. They’re new, and you know the ropes, so help them to settle in by offering useful pointers and constructive advice where appropriate. Remember to offer suggestions, rather than instruction.

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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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Jun 252009
 

Take a look at the non-fiction shelves of your local bookshop and you’ll find them groaning under the weight of countless self-help manuals. There are books that claim to help you find your inner anything. All you have to do is part with your hard-earned cash, make the author a smidgen richer, and invest a bit of your valuable time to be smarter, wiser, richer, happier, more attractive, better at your job… or whatever else you want.
Self help books are sweeping the world. Millions are printed every year, claiming to do everything from helping you into that “size zero” to catapulting your career into the stratosphere. The hub of this phenomenon is, of course, the United States, where, according to research company Marketdata the self help industry is set to be worth a staggering US$11 billion by 2008.

The idea of self-help books is nothing new. They’ve been around since the mid to late 1800s, when famous titles included William Maher’s “On the Road to Riches” (1874) and Edwin T Freedley’s “The Secret of Success in Life” (1876). But today they’ve gone stratospheric, and it seems we’re not just buying them, we’re also buying into them.

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