Sick Days, Personal Time, Vacation Days Explained

Vacation Days

One of the first things you consider when applying for a job is the benefits package offered, right? If a company is smart, they will offer a competitive benefits package that includes the staples - health insurance, vacation time, 401(k) contributions - but also recent popular additions such as flexible work hours, discounted lunch, reimbursement for childcare, and more. Companies are getting creative because they know benefits are important to job seekers.

Maybe the most important part of a benefits package is vacation days. But lumped in with vacation time is sick days and personal time, which can be confusing. What’s the difference between them and how do you use each?

Vacation Time

Vacation time is just what it sounds like, time off of work to take a vacation! That doesn’t mean you have to actually go on a vacation. You can stay at home and watch TV all day, run errands, or remodel your kitchen. Your company doesn’t care what you do with the time - it’s yours! You’ll likely need to request your days off in advance so that your manager can ensure everyone on your team isn’t taking time off at the same time. Most companies give you a certain number of days or hours as vacation time, and it increases every year that you work. For example, you may start at 10 days per year, and every year you stay with the company, you accrue one additional day. After 5 years, you’ll have 15 vacation days.

Some progressive companies are experimenting with unlimited vacation time, which means you can take off as much as you’d like, as long as you are getting your work done. While this sounds amazing, you do need to be careful with this policy. Some research has shown that people won’t take off as much time if they don’t have a “bank” of days to use up. Make sure you actually take time off, but don’t take advantage and only work 5 days a month. You won’t keep your job long if you do that!

Sick Days

Again, sick days are what the name implies: time off because you are sick so that you can get better quickly and leave the germs at home. It’s common to be given a certain amount of sick days each year. If you have seven sick days and fly through them by June, you’ll likely have to use vacation or personal time for any additional days. You may also be asked to provide a doctor’s note to use sick days (just like in school).

I previously worked at a company where the policy stated, “If you are sick, stay home! Period.” It’s a great policy as you aren’t limited, but when someone was sick a lot at the company, you were contacted by HR for an assessment about what was going on. It’s never a good idea to take advantage of policies like this, but if you are truly sick frequently, then it’s a great workplace perk.

Personal Time

Personal time is the most confusing of the three. Personal time is usually considered to be reserved for time off for work for things other than vacation and sick days. If your company offers it, it’s nice to not have to use vacation time to remodel a kitchen or go to the dentist.

But what happens if you use all of your vacation time and still have personal time? Can you use personal time as vacation time? It’s best to talk to your HR representative for specifics since every company’s policy is different. That said, it’s common for people to lump vacation time and personal time together. After all, “personal” time is all about you, right? A word of caution: if you lump your time together, reserve at least 2-3 days to use in a pinch or at the end of the year. It’s awful when you use all of your time on vacation and then don’t have any days off at the end of the year. You never know what may come up that you need to handle during the workweek.

As you are considering a new position, great questions to ask during an interview are:

  • What does your benefits package include?

  • Do you offer personal time?

  • What is your company’s sick time policy?

  • What are the guidelines for using vacation time, personal time, and sick days?

Posted on August 16, 2017 .

Balancing Back-to-School & Keeping Pace At Work

Back to School

It’s almost that time of year...back-to-school time!

Depending on the personality of your children, this season may solicit feelings of joy or dread. The same goes for parents. Some of you may be elated your children will have structured time outside of the home again, or you may be dreading the shopping, to-do lists, and hussle of the fast-paced schedule that comes with one or more children in classes and extracurriculars. All of that on top of a busy work life can make for a stressful balancing act leading to burnout for you. Unfortunately, work doesn’t stop or slow down just because your personal life gets hectic!

If you are anxious about this time of year, take a deep breath, slow down, and do some pre-planning. It will make a world of difference as you approach the inevitable back-to-school rush.

It’s important to have a game plan to keep a healthy balance between work and the back-to-school rush. Below is a step-by-step list that you can use to make that happen. While you can go through these instructions by yourself, including your family in the plan will not only lessen the burden on you, but will promote healthy communication and teamwork in your home.

Step-by-Step Game Plan to Balance Back-To-School & Work

  • Make a list of everything you need to do for your children to get them ready for back-to-school and the first few weeks after school has started.

  • Make a list of everything you will have going on at work during the same time frame. Ask your partner to do the same.

  • Merge the lists together and highlight any schedule conflicts and the items that will be extra stressful.

  • Brainstorm solutions with your partner to resolve the schedule conflicts.

  • Brainstorm ideas with your partner to lessen the stress of the “big deal” items on the list.

  • Decide on a game plan to tackle these issues and the entire back-to-school season.

  • Set expectations before school starts. If you need everyone to be done with back-to-school shopping before your big project is due at work to eliminate stressful last-minute Target runs, then make it clear now. You may also consider limiting the amount of activities each child may sign up for during the school year to keep the schedule manageable. At work, perhaps you may need to leave early a few days. Whatever you decide, communicate it sooner than later.

  • Set roles and responsibilities for each family member so you aren’t stuck doing everything yourself. For example, if you know you need to be at work by 8 am, make sure your kids know they need to pack their own lunches in the mornings - or even better, the night before!

  • Do the same with your teammates at work. If you could use some help with a specific area of a project to minimize your stress level during this time, ask for assistance.

  • Make a family schedule that is accessible to everyone in your home. It will help family expectations and communication to know where everyone is and when and where they need to be. You should also ensure your work calendar is updated appropriately.

Now that you have a clear game plan, communicate it to everyone in the family and at work. Your plan is no good if no one else knows what’s going on.

Do you have any other tips for families to balance work and the back-to-school season? Leave a comment below!

Posted on August 9, 2017 .

Dissolving Mental Health Stigmas In The Workplace

mental health

Mental health is a tough topic when it comes to the workplace. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), over 43 million adult Americans (about 18% of the total population) suffer from mental health disorders each year. Even though it is extremely common, the stigma associated with mental illness is strong, especially when it comes to employment.

Examples of mental health struggles include, but are not limited to, social phobia, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and depression. Left untreated, these illnesses can cause serious problems in the personal and professional life of an individual. Unfortunately, asking for mental health help or support can come across as weakness for many, which leaves those suffering afraid to seek the assistance they need. And if the workplace environment of those who struggle isn’t one that supports mental health, it can be an incredibly difficult, isolated struggle. As you are conducting a job search or are considering a job change, it’s important to look into mental health policies before you commit.

For example, the ability to take time off, get appropriate health care, and achieve a good work-life balance, are key to promoting mental health. With a great mental health policy in place, the overall work environment of a company will drastically improve and produce happier, healthier, and more productive employees. That is the type of company you want to call home!

This great blog article from the Department of Labor narrates what it’s like to go through mental health issues in the workplace and what is needed to truly promote mental health:

  • Employment itself - giving individuals a chance despite known difficulties
  • The same flexibility to recover from mental health issues as physical health issues
  • Regularly promote mental health support and resources made available to employees

A recent, exciting mental health success story comes from Olark, a web development company. An employee sent a company wide email stating that she needed some time off to care for her mental health. The CEO responded with a ‘thank you’ for being a great example of promoting mental health to the company. What a great workplace environment that must be, where leadership cares for each individual who works there!

If you don’t suffer from a mental illness, chances are you know someone who does, and they may (or will) sit in the cubical, lab, or office next to you. Look for jobs at companies that make this a priority in the workplace culture. If mental health support is a top priority for you, ask questions during your offer negotiation about mental health policies and resources available to employees.

You can also be encouraging, understanding, and flexible when you notice someone dealing with mental health issues. You can make a difference in your workplace by making mental health important for your team and setting an example to dissolve the stigma.


If you are interested in learning more about mental health, MentalHealth.gov and NIHM are great, free resources available to you.

Posted on August 2, 2017 .

How to Plan Your Job Search

It takes the average person 3 months to a year to secure a new job opportunity, so the time to start planning your job search was yesterday. If you are newly unemployed, the thought of being without a job for a year can seem daunting. To help breakdown that time and feel productive, create a schedule and goals. So, what does that look like?

I recently asked one of our unemployed clients how she planned her search when she was laid off. The reality is, she spent the first few days in shock. After the shock wore off, she reviewed her finances, and she calculated that her severance package would last her 2 months. So, did she wait to start her job search? Nope. She started immediately and created a plan for her first month of unemployment. Here’s what she did:

Goals:

  • Set a regular schedule
    • Gym: 6:30 am
    • Job Search/Follow-up: 8:30 am to 10:30 am
    • TBD: 10:30 am to 5:00 pm
    • Dinner with family: 6:00 pm
    • Bedtime: 10:30 pm
  • Plug-in to Networking Groups
  • Workout everyday
  • Take a Lynda.com class
  • Repaint living room
  • Do 3 free things around the city

She started day one of her unemployment by:

  • Updating her resume, LinkedIn profile, and Indeed profile
  • Applying to the most relevant or attractive positions posted
  • Reaching out to her network
  • Creating a list of companies to target
  • Setting up alerts on LinkedIn and Indeed for specific job titles/locations/companies

Day Two through Thirty she continued to follow her regular schedule, but changed what she did from 10:30AM to 5:00PM. For example, one day she went to a free lecture at the local library, the next she started repainting the living room, and then she went to a local networking event she found through her professional association.

At the end of each month, she would reevaluate and set new goals. Because she created a plan, she was able to stay motivated and feel productive.

So, what happens if you are still employed?  While you may not have time to continually update your resume, be sure to keep track of any accomplishments or new skills. Also, regularly benchmark the market. Is there a job that interests you, but you are missing a certification? Is there a new industry standard you do not know? If so, start the process of obtaining those certifications or skills.

Do you need help knowing where to start your job search plan?  Feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to help.

Posted on May 4, 2017 .

I’ve Had an Interview. Now What?

Someone once told me that interviewing is like a first date. You arrive at the interview nervous to meet the company that could be your next employer. If it’s an amazing interview, you wait at home in anticipation that they will call you for a job offer. When they don’t contact you immediately, you start to question if you should make the first move. The answer is absolutely, but with some boundaries.

First, send a thank you note within 24 hours of the interview to thank them for their time. You can send it over e-mail, but a handwritten note is a nice touch. Keep it short and sweet, like this example:

Dear {First Name},

Thank you for your time on {Day}. I really enjoyed learning more about {Position} and your experience at {Company Name}. I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the {Team Name} team, and I feel that my experience in {experience that aligns with opportunity} would make me a great fit.

I look forward to hearing from you once you make your final decisions. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.

Best,
{Name}
{Contact Information}

After you’ve sent your thank you note, refer to the information you discussed with the hiring manager about when they plan to get back to you. If their “deadline” comes and goes, follow up three days after to check in and see if they need any additional information from you.

How do you follow-up after interviews? Comment below or send us an email with your follow-up  tips.

Posted on March 29, 2017 .

Short and Concise are the Ingredients for a Rockstar Cover Letter

Love them or hate them, cover letters are essential to the job search. With so much information on the internet about cover letters, it doesn’t take long before you start to feel overwhelmed. My advice is to keep it short and concise.

I can hear you shout through the screen, “What does short and concise mean?” Think of your cover letter as the appetizer portion of a meal. It should be just enough information to get the reader hungry for more. You should cover the basics: who am I, and why should you hire me?

Another element in today’s job market is making sure your cover letter stands out from the crowd. Forbes has a great article written by someone who has read over 300 cover letters and gave pointers on the good and the bad:

  1. The Basics: Make sure you double-check for typos and that it doesn't read like a find/replace cover letter. Also, skip the over-effusive thanks and connect your qualifications with the job position.

  2. The Opening Sentence: Recruiters have to read hundreds of cover letters, so you want your opening sentence to stand out. Remove the generic “I am writing to apply for the Copywriter position,” and change it to something like, “My passion is to create ad copy that will engage customers.”

  3. The Examples: Similar to your unique opener, you want to stay away from the generic “my skills include X, Y, and Z.” Adding in an appropriate anecdotal story can add personality to your cover letter.

These are great tips to create a rockstar cover letter and help you land an interview. Do you have any tips to writing an amazing cover letter? We would love to hear from you. Comment below or send us an email.

Posted on March 15, 2017 .

You’ve Been Offered a Job! What Do You Do Next?

Congratulations! You’ve been offered a job! Now what? If you’ve been searching for a while, your first instinct is to immediately accept. We can get so caught up in the excitement of a new job that we can forget the essentials. So, take a step back and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I have it in writing? Most of the time, HR will call to let you know you have a job offer. Before you accept, make sure you have their offer in writing, so you can review the details.

  2. Do you fully understand what the job entails? If you’re not clear on what your day-to-day will look like, ask follow-up questions. Maybe you need to clarify your job title or who you report to.

  3. Is there any additional information you want to know about the company culture? Forbes has a great list of questions that will help you learn more, like, how do they handle after hours communication?

  4. What do you think about your potential boss? Will you thrive under their management style? Remember, most people don’t leave because of the job; they leave because of their manager.

  5. What do the salary and benefits look like? If you were hoping for a higher salary or more benefits, check out this article on negotiation from The Muse to help you get what you want.

  6. Is this job helping you achieve your career goals? How will you and your career goals benefit from this position?

  7. Are you actually excited about the job or the job offer? If you are only excited about receiving a job offer, really consider if you would be excited to go to work everyday.

After you’ve asked yourself these tough questions, and asked HR clarifying questions, you’re now ready to make your decision. Do you have any additional tips for what to do once you receive a job offer? Comment below or shoot us over an email.

Posted on March 8, 2017 .

Questions You Should Ask in Every Job Interview

What is the first thing we do when we finally land a job interview? We start preparing by learning everything about the company and we plan exactly how we will answer the interviewer’s questions. Sometimes we focus so much on our answers, we forget that we’re also interviewing the company. There’s so much you can learn about job expectations and company culture by asking the interviewer the right questions.

Glassdoor.com created a list of 45 Questions You Should Ask in Every Job Interview. It’s a very extensive list, and I do not recommend asking all 45 in a single job interview. However, you should read through the list and pick several questions that’s important to you in your job search. Maybe you want to know more about management style or you may want to ask the interviewer questions to see if they even enjoy working for the company. Here’s my top picks from the list of questions to ask:

  1. Can you offer specific details about the position’s day-to-day responsibilities?

  2. What do you enjoy most about working here?

  3. What are your views on goals, timelines, and measuring success?

  4. How frequently do employees make themselves available outside of normal working hours?

  5. Why do most employees leave the company?

  6. What’s the next step of this process, and when can I expect to hear from you?

These are all great questions for you to ask an interviewer to find out more information on the company. What questions do you ask in an interview? We would love to hear from you! Just comment on this article or shoot us an email.

Posted on March 3, 2017 .

How to Make your LinkedIn Profile Stand Out From the Crowd

Networking Connected LinkedIn.jpg

Since its launch, employers have become more and more reliant on LinkedIn. It is a great place for companies to see a detailed snapshot of potential hires. Because of this, it’s imperative for job seekers to keep their LinkedIn profile up-to-date.

If you are looking for tips, all you have to do is Google “how to improve my LinkedIn profile.” You’ll find articles like “17 Must-Haves for You LinkedIn Profile,” “5 Things to Change on Your Profile Immediately,” or “14 Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile.” It can be really overwhelming trying to decide where to start. Thankfully, Forbes created a list of 7 Easy Ways to Level Up Your LinkedIn Profile…

  1. Stop living under a rock. Many people will connect with someone they have never met on LinkedIn. Instead, try to meet people in real life to build a real connection before you send them a request on LinkedIn. This can be done internally at your organization's social events, or externally at a professional networking event.

  2. Have a professional profile picture. Hire a friend to take a professional photo of you and make sure you wear professional attire.

  3. Add media into the summary section. Think of it as your “digital trophy “ section. This is a great spot for your portfolio of work.

  4. Don’t be shy. Reach out to past colleagues or clients to write a recommendation for your page.

  5. Customize your LinkedIn url. It will look more professional when you add it to your resume or send it to potential employers.

  6. Publish your own content. Establish your professional brand by writing articles that are helpful for others in your industry.

  7. Share relevant content. If you don’t have time to write original content, share other people’s content. The engagement will drive your visibility and personal branding.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth revision of your LinkedIn profile, we are here to help. We have several levels of services we provide to help you optimize your LinkedIn profile and set you up for success. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Posted on February 22, 2017 .

What to Do When You’ve Made a Career Mistake

I recently spoke with someone who just experienced a career mistake. Jenny had been unemployed for three months when she received an offer she felt like she couldn’t refuse. Throughout the interview process, she had this weird feeling that things were not as they seem. The hiring manager even asked her not to look at the Glassdoor.com reviews of the company (btw… it had 2 stars and very colorful reviews of management). However, they offered Jenny significantly more than her salary requirements. Since she didn’t know when the next job offer would come along, she decided to accept the position. Jenny immediately regretted that decision after the first week.

So, what should you do if you ever find yourself in a similar situation? Well, first you should know that you are not alone. Throughout our careers we all will experience different forms of career mistakes. What is important is how you handle yourself...  

Stay positive: I get it… it’s tough to stay positive when things at work are so negative. Remember that this is a just a season in life, and find ways to help you stay positive during the day.

Stay confident: Figure out different ways to remind yourself that you are a rockstar. Jenny mentioned that a previous employer had created a list of all the reasons her coworkers loved working with her. As cheesy as it seemed, on bad days she would read a reason to boost her confidence.

Reconnect with your network: Not only can your network help give you advice, they can also keep their ear out for a new opportunity.

Remember to continue learning: While you hopefully won’t be in a bad career situation for long, take every opportunity to learn as much as you can. It may be learning a new skill or learning what you do/do not like in a career.

Are you finding yourself in a career mistake and need help deciding your next move? Feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to help.

Posted on February 15, 2017 .

Is Volunteering Important for Your Resume?

Volunteers have the ability to impact the wellbeing of their community. Whether it’s planning a fundraiser, mentoring students, or helping build houses, volunteers leave a positive mark. So, should you add volunteering to your resume? The answer is yes, but with a few parameters.

Let’s start with why volunteering improves your resume. In Deloitte’s 2016 study on volunteerism, they found that respondents only saw volunteering on about 30 percent of the resumes they received. However, 82 percent stated they would be more likely to choose a candidate with volunteer experience. What does that mean? Volunteerism may offer you an advantage over other candidates and show that you are continually developing yourself professionally. Additionally, if you are an entry-level worker, or have a break between career positions, it can highlight skills that you have learned as a volunteer.

Before adding volunteer experience to your resume, determine if it is relevant to the job. If it is, include skills and accomplishments that relate to the position’s qualifications as they relate to your experience. For example, if you are applying for a financial position and your volunteer experience is with your child’s PTA, spell out that you helped with fundraising initiatives or managing budgets.

If it is not directly relevant to the job, include characteristics that show leadership development and commitment. For example, if you are applying for a communications position and your volunteer experience is with a soup kitchen, describe how you mentored new volunteers or took a leadership role.

If you are new to volunteering, there are several websites to help connect with an organization in need.

Do you volunteer? If so, have you added your volunteer experience to your resume?

 

Posted on February 8, 2017 .

How to be Efficient at a Career Fair

Career Fairs are a great place to meet potential employers, but it can be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan. To help you out, here’s a list of things to do before and during the career fair to help you be more efficient.

Before you arrive at the career fair…

  1. Make sure you register. Not all career fairs require a registration, but double-check and register before you arrive. This can also save you money if there is a fee.

  2. Research. Discover what employers are attending the career fair and the open positions they offer.

  3. Create a list. Career fairs will be less intimidating if you already know the employers you want to visit. On your list, jot down a few notes (i.e. positions available, company goals, etc.). When you arrive at their table, you’ll be prepared to talk with their representative in a way that makes an impact.

  4. Prepare your elevator speech. Add in something unique about yourself and your experience to help the employer remember you after the fair.

  5. Update your resume. Check to make sure your resume lists your most up-to-date contact information and experience.

  6. Most importantly… Print your resume and have multiple copies ready.

Now that you are prepped and ready, it’s time to suit up and head to the career fair. Once you are there…

  1. Pause and assume the power pose. What’s the power pose? Check out Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on the power pose and why body language is so important.

  2. Get your bearings. Figure out where each employer you want to meet is situated, so you’re not spending time wandering around.

  3. Make a plan. Now that you see the layout of the fair, prioritize who you want to meet, and figure out a plan to see each employer.

Career fairs will be less overwhelming if you follow these tips. What would you add to the list? How do you tackle a career fair and make it more efficient?

Posted on January 27, 2017 .

It’s Peak Hiring Season...Are You Ready?

It’s a new year, a new you, and a new job may be on your horizon. Since January to April is the peak hiring season for most industries, now is the time to apply for a new job or make a career change.

Besides updating your resume and LinkedIn account, Forbes has a useful list of 10 unconventional (but effective) tips for job seekers:

  1. Be vulnerable. Ask for advice before applying for any job, especially if you have a connection with someone inside the company.

  2. Don’t always follow your passion. Passion can develop overtime, and pursuing a career based on your passion can be a rewarding experience. If you’re not confident in your passions, check out the free quiz offered by Clarity on Fire. Still not ready to drop everything and pursue your passion? Look for positions that align with your innate strengths.

  3. Create your position. Study the industry you want to get into, and a company or two. Start tackling solutions to problems they face and make yourself known, with no expectation in return. You’ll impress them and get noticed!

  4. Learn how to listen. Listen carefully, closely, and don’t interrupt. You’ll learn a lot!

  5. Start at the top and move down. HR can be a road block because they aren’t typically the employees making the hiring decision. Network and get your resume to the right person - the decision maker.

  6. Build a relationship with the administrative assistant. They usually hold the respect of the managers and “higher ups.” Be respectful, professional and courteous!

  7. Don’t apply for a job as soon as you find it. Take a day or two to research the company and make connections with its employees first (think LinkedIn). Then apply.

  8. Focus on body language. This is incredibly important. Be confident and professional in your body language. You can also learn how the interview is going by paying attention to the interviewer’s body language.

  9. Don’t focus on finding a job you love now. The “get-your-foot-in-the-door” job may not be glamorous, so you may have to settle for a different job than what you want. Then, you can apply for the other job later.

  10. Become their greatest fan. Becoming a loyal follower and supporter of their brand may lead to you becoming their next employee!

These are all great tips to boost your chances of landing that new job. What tips do you have to help job seekers? We would love to hear from you! Just comment on this article or shoot us an email.

 

Posted on January 11, 2017 .

Starting the Year Off Right with Professional Development Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions aren’t just for fitness - although that is extremely important! You can make professional development goals this year, specifically for keeping your career on track...or maybe getting it back on track. It’s important to set realistic and measurable goals for yourself, or you run the risk of being like most people who make new year’s resolutions who don’t keep them. According to Forbes, here are the most popular career goals set around new year’s resolutions:

  1. Get a raise or promotion.

  2. Reduce stress.

  3. Be more organized.

  4. Quit your job or get a new job.

  5. Improve your work/life balance.

  6. Network more effectively.

  7. Improve your relationship with your boss and/or co-workers.

  8. Enhance your communication skills.

  9. Get a degree.

  10. Be better with email and voicemail.

These goals are all great focal points depending on where you are in your current career situation. Feel free to use this list to start your own, modifying it to meet your needs. To make each goal realistic and measurable, focus on 2-3 resolutions, include a time frame for each, and create sub-bullets that address ways to actually achieve the goal. Here is how one of your career new year’s resolutions might look:

  1. Get a raise or promotion by June of this year.

    1. In January, discuss with my superiors what it will take for me to obtain a raise/promotion (this might be to meet a quota, develop certain skill, secure a new account, etc.);

    2. Check in every 2 months with my superiors to see if I am on track to reach my goal. Request feedback and additional direction.

You’ll have other new year’s resolutions to focus on, but if you make category buckets for your goals, that will help you stay organized and on-track. It’s best to keep 3-4 category buckets (such as health/fitness, career development and academic) with 2-3 goals in each bucket. Once you’ve made your list, share it with someone close to you who can hold you accountable. Offer to be his or her accountability partner as well.

When you decide on your career development goals, we’d love to hear them! Share them with us by commenting on this article or shooting us an email. Good luck!

Posted on January 4, 2017 .

Is Career Coaching Right For You?

There are lots of ways people save money with do-it-yourself projects and by declining services that seem like an unnecessary luxury. It seems everyone is on a tight budget these days, from large companies to mom-and-pop shops to individuals just shopping for groceries. I’m certainly included in this budget-minded group and my guess is that you are too.

So, how do you determine what’s worth paying for and what isn’t? What resources and services have value that can’t be found by doing it yourself? Sometimes it’s really hard to tell. I found out the hard way that buying natural peanut butter is worth the cost instead of making it myself. In the long run, it ended up being more expensive, took a ton of time and left my kitchen looking like a (very dirty) peanut factory. The same can be said for career coaching services. It may seem like you can save money by planning, preparing, and refining your career strategy by yourself, but the long term result will likely not be as you desire. You’ll spend time, energy and money that exceed the cost of a few career coaching sessions without actually achieving your goals. In other words, you’ll be left exhausted with a dirty kitchen and no peanut butter.

It’s a funny analogy, but it works! There are some things we should just leave to the experts. Jif makes peanut butter better than I ever will. Career coaches will have higher success rates at achieving career goals than someone trying to find solid footing in the workplace.  

Career coaches know what they are doing. They’ve likely consulted dozens, if not hundreds, of clients and will be efficient in getting you up and running with what you need to achieve your career goals. The experience you will benefit from by consulting a career coach is invaluable. They know both sides of the story - employers and job seekers - and how you fit in.

We offer face-to-face and virtual career coaching that have proven results from clients across the country. Learn more about our variety of packages available and contact us to realize your career goals today!

Posted on December 28, 2016 .

New Year, New Career - Getting out of your career rut

Have you reflected on your career this past year and decided that you aren’t where you want to be? There is no better time than the New Year to make changes in your professional life. Lots of people have new year resolutions, so grab an accountability partner and decide what you need to do to get out of your career rut. Then do it!

 

The key to getting out of a career rut is to determine what needs to be done to move forward and how you can realistically make it happen. Here’s a great goal setting method for getting started.

  1. Make a list of five things that you want to change or improve. This could be finding a new job, adding a new skill, or getting that promotion you’ve been wanting.

  2. Decide if each item is within your power to influence. If you want a new boss, for example, you likely don’t have the the power to replace him or her but if you’d like to improve your team’s morale, that’s doable.

  3. If you can influence an item, add one or two realistic steps you can take to change it and make it as measurable as possible. If an item isn’t within your control to change, add an idea for how you can change your attitude, perspective, or other ways to improve your outlook.

  4. Prioritize your list. The most important items go at the top and will be tackled first.

  5. Put a realistic deadline on each item.

  6. Share your list with someone you trust and ask for input. Maybe something that seems realistic to you needs a more manageable timeframe for implementation, for example.

One of your goals might look something like this:

“Priority #1: In the next 6 months, I want to be promoted to manager. I will take 2 leadership courses and learn the company’s management software program in order to be qualified. Then, I’ll apply!”

To be clear, your career rut might be because of a toxic work environment, bad boss or less than encouraging team. Unfortunately, these scenarios are faced by most of us at one point or another during our professional careers. You have to decide what is best for you, both short and long term. Do you stick it out knowing/hoping it’s only for a season or do you take more drastic measures to eliminate yourself from the situation? Before you make your decision, list your options, contemplate the pros and cons of each and consult wise counsel. Making rash decisions may harm your career, so be as thoughtful and contemplative as possible throughout this process.

Posted on December 21, 2016 .

End of Year Career Reflections - Are you where you want to be in your career?

Are you happy with the present?

Are you excited about your future?

What is your strategy to maximize your career objectives?

If you’ve never asked yourself these questions, now is a great time to do so. The end of the year is a great time to reflect on your current situation and to determine what you want your future to look like. It’s a little cliche, but New Year’s resolutions are a great way to improve the things in your life that are lackluster and your career is no exception. Don’t wait until January 1 to start thinking about what changes you’d like to make. Make a plan now so that when the year refreshes itself on New Year’s Day, you can hit the ground running with your resolutions, feel great about yourself and be fueled by your momentum.

So, the big question is, what do you do with the answers to these three questions?

If your answers are ‘yes’, ‘yes’ and ‘[insert your plan here]’ - you are on a great career track and should keep up the great work!

Most answers are not so self assured or positive, however. If your answers are along the lines of ‘no’, ‘the future scares me’ and ‘what strategy?’ you aren’t alone. 70% of American workers are unhappy in their current careers according to one Gallup Report. It’s a sad truth, especially considering that a goal-achieving career strategy isn’t as difficult to implement as many think.

The hardest part is finding a place to start, and that’s where career coaching can help. Strategic career planning, search strategy and execution, networking, interview preparation and practice, resume and CV refinement are all areas that need addressed when thinking critically about career and possible changes. A career coach can come alongside you and ensure you are hitting the success factors for each of these areas to achieve your goals. It will take some work, and maybe even some difficult decisions on your behalf - but the long term, end result will be way better than your current situation. It could even lead to your dream job!

If this has hit a chord with you, we’d love to serve as your career coach and help you realize your career dreams. Learn more about our offerings, pricing and contact us here.

Posted on December 14, 2016 .

Balancing Work Around the Holidays

Holiday festivals! Gift giving! Cookies, pies, cakes! Christmas feasts! Decorations! Christmas trees!

Do these words inspire holiday cheer or Ebenezer’s ‘bah humbug’? As festive and cheery as the holidays are, the most wonderful time of the year is not so wonderful for many people. Work stress can pile on top of family obligations, financial strains and time constraints that may have been mounting for months. If you’re dreading the holidays, take an hour in your day - right now - to make a plan for the rest of this year. The goal is to balance your work responsibilities and holiday happenings so that you don’t usher in the new year frazzled and exhausted. Here are some tips and ideas to think through as you make your plan:

  • Decide what your best case scenario work schedule is around the holidays and brainstorm ways to make it possible. That may be leaving the office at 4:30pm every day instead of working late. Or, maybe you are OK with putting in extra hours each day if that means you can take off a few extra days after Christmas. Whatever it is, jot down a plan, discuss it with your team and communicate it to those that would be affected.

  • Is travel an absolute necessity, either professionally or personally? Are there alternatives to travel that would make your life less stressful right now? For example, if you have family out to town but know your have deadlines at work, maybe it makes more sense to travel early in the new year to visit instead. Or perhaps a work trip can be eliminated with some virtual meetings and creative team collaboration. Limiting the amount travel during this time of year is sure to lessen the stress level (and will save you or your company money).

  • Use the word “NO.” Can you take on that extra project? ‘Not this time.’ Can you add that extra holiday party to your calendar? ‘No, I already have a full schedule.’ Can you organize this year’s office Christmas party? ‘Not this year.’ Soften your ‘no’ to be polite and gracious for the opportunities, but understand that you aren’t a bad guy for turning them down. Less “stuff” on the calendar and on your list means more time to relax and enjoy the season.

  • Assign priorities to your responsibilities and stick with them. Tackle the big things and let the smaller things go if you can. Some things may be able to wait until after the holidays if you are honest with yourself.

  • Don’t sacrifice fitness, healthy eating or sleep in order to be a superhero. Yes, you can eliminate or reduce these things to make room for your to do list, but it won’t make you happy. It will make you feel sluggish, tired, and both physically and emotionally drained. Take care of yourself!

What would you add to the list for balancing work around the holidays? We’d love to hear from you! Comment on the blog or shoot us an email at info@WilbanksConsulting.com. 

Posted on December 12, 2016 .

New Year, New Wardrobe? Not So Fast.

I recently worked with Houston-based stylist Emily Elliott to spruce up my work wardrobe in time for the new year. Emily is the picture of fashion at it’s best whether it’s professional, casual, or special events. Her Facebook page exudes confidence, radiance, and of course, style. She works with some seriously cool people in Houston, and I was about to let her see the (wo)man behind the curtain. To say that this experience would be intimidating is an understatement. My challenge for her was to work with what I had, not shop for a new wardrobe. While I thought this might be challenging, Emily is clearly a pro. In less than 2 hours, I felt like I had a whole new work wardrobe, and a new appreciation for the future of my personal fashion.

Disclaimers:

I did not purchase anything new for this experience. I am also not a model. Fair warning. 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Ask for a free consultation. Stylists specialize in various areas of wardrobe and fashion. Make sure they can work with your gender, goals, budget, and timing before investing.

  2. A good stylist will not push you to buy his/her idea of fashion. They will work with your style. I shop at a lot of national retailers that carry petites, as I’m small, and I’m too impatient for tailoring. She said I could continue to shop at those stores, and didn’t make me feel like I needed to hop on the next flight to New York to get with it.

  3. You don’t need to buy an entire new wardrobe to work with a stylist. She worked with what I have to create new outfits that work for my professional settings. She did give me a list of 5 staples to purchase that I’m missing: a solid black top; black flats; 2 belts; and black pants. I can handle that.

  4. Make sure all of your clothes are available. I made two mistakes: 1. I had an entire winter wardrobe in another closet that I forgot to show her. We’re headed into what Houston considers “winter”, which is another way of saying “not summer.” I should have incorporated those clothes. 2. I also had a nice batch of favorites at the dry cleaners. SMH.

  5. Be open to new ideas. I would have never put together some of the combos Emily created for me, yet they were perfect. I also learned a thing or two about my rigid view of fashion, and the way it looks on my body. Fashion is actually more flexible and forgiving than regular folk like me might imagine.

Here are some select looks from our experience.

My mother-in-law bought me this blouse, and I didn’t like the way the way the sleeves hit my shoulders. Emily made me see this fear was all in my head. Here, she appealed to my desire to cover them up, and paired it with slacks and a jacket.

My mother-in-law bought me this blouse, and I didn’t like the way the way the sleeves hit my shoulders. Emily made me see this fear was all in my head. Here, she appealed to my desire to cover them up, and paired it with slacks and a jacket.

Same blouse, over my fear! Also, never would have put it with this skirt and belt. Point for Emily.

Same blouse, over my fear! Also, never would have put it with this skirt and belt. Point for Emily.

This suit is OLD... I believe I bought it right before I moved to London, circa 2007. Emily's response? Don't get rid of it. Tailor the skirt to mimic the contemporary pencil skirts in fashion now. Also pair this crazy blouse with it. I never would have put a blouse with such bright colors with this neutral skirt, and I LOVE it.

This suit is OLD... I believe I bought it right before I moved to London, circa 2007. Emily's response? Don't get rid of it. Tailor the skirt to mimic the contemporary pencil skirts in fashion now. Also pair this crazy blouse with it. I never would have put a blouse with such bright colors with this neutral skirt, and I LOVE it.

Polka dots with polka dots? Mind blown. Another combo I would not have put together, Also, cardigans are cute and professional; why am I not wearing them?!

Polka dots with polka dots? Mind blown. Another combo I would not have put together, Also, cardigans are cute and professional; why am I not wearing them?!

Polka dots with pinstripes? Now we're really getting crazy! I was not pairing this blouse with skirts; only pants. Another win for Emily.

Polka dots with pinstripes? Now we're really getting crazy! I was not pairing this blouse with skirts; only pants. Another win for Emily.

Same top, with pants, tucked in. I never tuck in shirts with pants. Clearly a mistake, as it doesn't look bad the way it did in my head.

Same top, with pants, tucked in. I never tuck in shirts with pants. Clearly a mistake, as it doesn't look bad the way it did in my head.

My next step is to hire Emily to go shopping with me. I’d love to know how I’m limiting myself in the decision making process at the store, before I’m stuck with it forever. In general, my wardrobe probably needs a stylist every couple of years, unless I experience major changes like weight gain/loss, move to a different climate, etc.

How do you makeover your look? Let us know! We’d love to hear your suggestions.

Posted on December 5, 2016 .

When Career Stress Hits Around the Holidays

Family, hosting, traveling, cooking, shopping, routine shifting - the holidays can leave you with a lot of stress. While everyone wants to enjoy the holidays, the stress of the season can be made even worse when everything is not going well for you at work or if you’re on the job hunt. Handling the stress is important for many reasons - you want to be pleasant to be around for the sake of your friends and family, you want to enjoy the holidays, you don’t want anything on your list to fall through the cracks, and most importantly you want your health!

Here are some tips to help manage the stress through the end of the year craziness:

  • Manage expectations at work and at home. Don’t commit to projects that will put your already overflowing to do list over the edge. Make sure your family and friends are clear on when, how, and for how long you’ll be participating in the holidays. If you make your plan clear, there won’t be surprises for anyone.

  • Set realistic goals. You might want to do it all and impress the socks off of, well, everyone, but that’s not healthy or effective when stress is mounting. Plan as much as you can around the holidays and make sure your goals are achievable.

  • Get help. Too much on your plate? Ask a colleague for assistance or to take on a task from your list. Ask your family to allow you to skip cooking this year so you can focus on your resume or job search. Explain your situation and they’ll likely be happy to help.

  • Try time management techniques. These can help you break down your tasks into smaller chunks which makes them more manageable. The can also make you feel a little more at ease knowing that you have allocated time for everything on your list! The Pomodoro technique is a great one to try.

  • Balance work and play. Don’t procrastinate and leave everything on your to do list until the last minute. That is NEVER a good idea. On the other hand, you don’t need to skip all of the fun stuff because of your massive list. Figure out what needs done now, and leave the other stuff for later. It will still be waiting for you after you’ve enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with family.What are the best ways you’ve found to deal with stress around the holidays? We’d love to hear from you - leave a comment below!

 

Posted on December 1, 2016 .