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Tips For Adulthood: Five Signs You Need To Change Jobs

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On occasional Wednesdays, I offer tips for adulthood.

I ran into a former colleague at a party recently. He told me that despite having a prestigious and well-paying job in the private sector, he felt that he needed to move on from his current job because he’s been wearing a “costume” to work for the past two years.

I could completely relate. At various points in my professional life, I have felt that I had to don a costume every day when I went to work because my job was not an authentic reflection of who I was or wanted to be.

One of the great things about the “new old age” is that we’re all living longer, offering us many more opportunities to envision mid-life as a time of self-realization, productivity and growth. So if you’re wrestling with whether or not it might be time for you to shift gears, here are five tell-tale signs you might want to act on that instinct:

You feel like you’re wearing a costume to work. See above. Note that this doesn’t mean that you have to hate your job. The first time I experienced the “costume” syndrome – back when I was an academic – there were aspects of my job I loved, including the amazingly talented and intelligent colleagues I worked with on a daily basis. But if it feels increasingly like you are pretending to be someone you aren’t at work – and the energy from that performance is exhausting you – then you need to think about how to channel that energy into a job search that can bring greater meaning and fulfillment.

You envy other people’s jobs. My husband and I have an expression for that feeling you get when you order something at a restaurant and then immediately regret it as soon as your dinner partner’s plate arrives. We call it “order envy.” Order Envy applies in the work world as well. I once ran into a friend who told me that he couldn’t wait for “Monday to start,” because there was so much to look forward to in his work week. At the time, I was experiencing something more like “Sunday Dread” about the five days that were to follow, so his cheerful enthusiasm felt like a knife through my soul. If you feel envy right now rather than relief that you don’t have that “Monday feeling,” you know that you are ready to look for a new job.

You feel suffocated when you get a promotion. A younger friend with whom I used to work invited me to coffee recently. She said that she needed some urgent career advice. Turns out, she’d just been given a promotion. “But isn’t that a good thing?,” I asked, naively. “No, it’s awful. I feel absolutely suffocated. Like because they’ve offered me more money and a better title, I can never leave now.” I, too, have experienced the “golden handcuffs” syndrome at points in my life. It was beautifully rendered in an episode of Friends where Chandler gets a promotion because he’s so good at his job and they want to give him an inducement to stay in the team. But instead of being thrilled, all he wants to do is to run for the door. Pay attention to those feelings; don’t ignore them. It’s a huge sign that you feel stuck in your job and need to emancipate yourself.

You look at job listings, even though you just started your job. Another dead give away. Of course, it’s possible that you only took your current job as a temporary measure. But if you’ve recently started a job that you convinced yourself was right for you, then you should be investing 100% in learning everything you can about that new job: how the company is structured…what’s actually required of your post…getting to know your new colleagues…the technology that’s used…the organizational culture, etc. etc. If, instead, you find yourself still out there wondering “What if?”, you’re doing the wrong thing.

You immediately apply for a short-term assignment outside your department. I work at a large, global organization that invests heavily in its employees’ professional development. Part of this is achieved through what’s called an “attachment scheme,” which is basically a way to enable people from different parts of the organization to work elsewhere on a short-term basis in order to learn new skills or deepen others. It’s a wonderful scheme – and really does facilitate life-long learning inside the workplace. (Other companies do something similar through short-term international assignments.) But I’ve noticed that some of the people who try and take advantage of the attachment scheme in my company have barely been there long enough to learn the job they were hired for in the first place. To me, that is a sign that they really need to change jobs.

How about you? What things have you experienced or observed over the years that told you that it was time to move on?

Image: Mask Carnival Venice Italy by Skeeze via Pixabay

 

Vacations, Paid Leave and the Madness of American Workaholism

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summer vacation LONDON – The hint of an autumn breeze sweeps through my window on an early Sunday morning in August as I work through the annual back-to-school inventory of uniforms and school supplies. My eye graces the “To Do” List I crafted back in late May – still sitting in a corner of my desk, as if beckoning me to “action” it – with the myriad festivals, theater productions and “Top 10 European Budget Holidays” we’d meant to get to with my family before September. And I’m hit – not for the first time in the past three months – with a terrible realization: I never took a summer vacation.

I’m not alone. According to a survey conducted by Skift, a travel intelligence company, last year just 15% of Americans planned to take an actual summer vacation. Those numbers improved slightly in 2015, with figures from the Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index forecasting Americans travelling more this year, but spending less.

Which brings us to economics. Let’s start with the fact that vacations are expensive – the average American vacation cost $8,272, according to Skift – and many people simply can’t afford them. Of the 1,005 Americans polled for that survey, one third of them said that they wouldn’t take a summer vacation because they can’t afford it. Indeed, Americans who earned less than $25,000 per year were the least likely to take vacation days, with almost half of that income bracket taking no days off last year. As an article on CBS Money Watch put it: “Low-wage professions or part-time jobs…are increasingly pricing workers out of taking time off.”

Read the rest of this post over at The Broad Side

Image via Pixabay.com

Working Moms: Don’t Use Academic Research To Validate You

working mothers

working mothers

Like many out there, I was overjoyed to read the results of a recent study from Harvard University claiming that being a working mother  has tangible benefits to our kids. More specifically, the new research showed that working mothers are good role models for their daughters.

I was on my way to work when I read about the study and entered the office with an extra skip in my step. One of my colleagues, also a mother of two, called out to me before I even got to my desk. “Did you hear?” she said. “Work is actually good for our daughters!” She was positively beaming.

“Yup!” I replied triumphantly. “Already tweeted it!”

We high-fived each other across the cubicle, leaning in (to borrow a phrase) to the nine hour day that lay ahead, a tad less anxious than we’d been the day before and – in my own case – suddenly awash in confidence that missing my daughter’s cross country tournament the week before hadn’t permanently damaged her self-esteem. To the contrary, now she’d be even more confident and motivated because she had me as a model, holed up in an office miles away, toiling away on that final edit to the paper whose deadline took greater precedence over watching her run a race.

Continuing to ride that high, I immediately jumped on Facebook to contact a friend of mine who teaches family and child policy at a prominent American university and is up on all of this research. “Isn’t this great?” I wrote, linking to the study on her Wall. “Because didn’t most of the earlier studies say the opposite? And P.S., Yay!”

Actually,” she wrote back,”this body of research is so hard to interpret because so little of it is well-identified and there are so few plausibly causal estimates. Mostly people seem to conclude what they want from the existing literature. Thus, YAY! indeed for this latest study.

Fffffffffffffttttttttttttttt.

That’s the sound of the air coming out of my Guilt-Free-Mom balloon upon receiving her dispiriting reply.

Read the rest of this post over at The Broad Side

Image: Women in the Workforce via Wikipedia.com

Embrace Your Emma Watson and Become a Mentor

emma watson davos

emma watson davosLONDON – This week, the sublimely gifted Emma Watson has taken to the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos to exhort the corridors of power worldwide to do more to ensure that women are equal participants in the workplace.

As UN Women Goodwill Ambassador – not to mention a star of one the highest grossing film franchises of all time – Watson has the sort of global platform that can enable her latest initiative – IMPACT 10x10x10 to make some real inroads in “encouraging governments, businesses and universities to make concrete commitments to gender equality.” But you don’t need to be Hermione Granger to play a role in advancing women’s status and power in the workplace.

Indeed, we can all do our part – particularly we middle-aged, mid-career female professionals who are close enough to remembering what it was like to be struggling to move up the career ladder but senior enough to have a few years of worthwhile experience under our belt.  Which is why I took the decision in 2015 to start mentoring younger female colleagues in my company to help them both identify and realize their own potential.

Read the rest of this post over at The Broad Side.

Image via watsonfans.com 

Dear Americans: Don’t Work At Home; Work Less

I have no doubt that as I write this column, someone, somewhere in America, is busily stitching together her very own Marissa Mayer voodoo doll. But despite all the furor that has raged since the Yahoo CEO ordered her employees to cease working from hometo improve productivity, that debate has barely caused a ripple on this side of the Atlantic.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to get all sanctimonious on you and remind you of how far the United States lags behind most of the rest of the world in providing workers and their families with supports or protections. Nor am I going to point to the growing body of work suggesting that telecommuting may actually be more efficient for many work-related tasks and help keep employees around.

I’ve got nothing against offices. At heart, I’m actually that annoyingly over-zealous co-worker who rushes to Bagel Fridays and can’t wait to perform at the annual office karaoke night.

But I do think that this entire debate has largely missed the point. To my mind, the problem facing American workers isn’t where they work, it’s how.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog

 

Image: How to Work From Home by pwenzel via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Should Fareed Zakaria Be Forgiven For Plagiarizing?

I’ve always thought that Fareed Zakaria was a bit too slick.

It’s not that I don’t like him. I share the pundit’s broadly liberal internationalist view towards world affairs. And unlike many wonks (the big exception here being the University of Chicago’s Austan Goolsbee), Zakaria’s actually got a sense of humor, which is always a plus.

But there was always something a bit too cute by half about this good-looking, well-spoken darling of the Center-Left with his million dollar smile.

So it didn’t come as a huge surprise when I learned that Zakaria had become embroiled in a plagiarism scandal that has – temporarily, at least – cost him two of his plum platforms: Time and CNN. On Friday, both news outlets suspended Zakaria while they investigated charges that he had lifted passages from an article by New Yorker writer Jill Lepore on gun control. He has since apologized to Lepore and taken full responsibility for the incident, which he described as a “serious lapse.”

Read the rest of this post on The Washington Post’s She The People website…

 

Image: Fareed Zakaria at the Newsweek Offices by barthjg via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Huma Abedin At Home

Was Michele Bachmann worried that Sarah Palin was stealing the GOP convention side-show? Bachmann wandered way off the reservation when she improbably accused Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin of trying to infiltrate the American government on behalf of the Muslim brotherhood.

Sen. John McCain and – oh, about half the country – have now leapt to Abedin’s defense.

But a tiny sliver of this publicity is Abedin’s own doing. ln a much-anticipated article that hits newsstands Friday, Abedin and her husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, invited People Magazine into their home to do a profile of their family life.

You remember Rep. Weiner. He’s the guy who sent money shots of himself in his tightie-whities to a selection of ladies who were not his wife, prematurely ending his congressional career last summer.

The article isn’t out yet but from the many leaked tidbits I’ve read so far, the one that really has me shaking my head is Abedin’s assertion that “We’re just a normal family.”

Huma, with all due respect, I beg to differ. You and your husband are many things but I’m afraid that  “normal” ain’t one of them.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog

 

Image: wednesday-metro by azipaybarah via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

The Death of the Summer Job

Amid the many indicators that summer has finally arrived – barbecues…Fourth of July parades…flip-flops and sun block — here’s one signpost you won’t be seeing much of this year: the proverbial summer job. New figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that only one in three teenagersnow holds a summer job.

The decline in teen employment has been precipitous. Whereas in 1978, nearly 60 percent of 16- to 19 year-olds were employed during the summer months, by 2001, that number dropped to slightly over 50 percent. It now hovers just below 30 percent.

In some ways, this trend shouldn’t be all that surprising. Many low-skilled summer jobs — things like mowing lawns, waiting tables and manning cash registers — are now being done by other workers struggling to make ends meet in the current recession: older workers, immigrants or college graduates shouldering massive debts.

And yet, the death of the summer job is troubling all the same. For starters, when you disaggregate the numbers by race and income, you see that the groups least likely to be employed in summer jobs are blacks and Hispanics from lower-income families. These are precisely the individuals for whom early work experience is most closely tied to success in the labor market, largely because they are less likely to attend college. In a country with the highest level of inequality in the advanced, industrialized world, the last thing we need is to exacerbate the income gap between rich and poor.

But there’s also a sociological reason for alarm.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog

 

Image: Old Mower by Cavalier92 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Tips For Adulthood: Managing Your First Week On A New Job

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Well, it’s arrived. My first week in my new job.

After working for myself out of my home for five years, it’s been really strange – and exciting – to re-immerse myself in an office culture. New people! A new building! New snack options!

I’ve spent most of the week in an almost out-of-body state, aided in no small measure by my husband’s business trip on my very first day, one visit to the Emergency Room at 10 pm on my second night and – oh yeah, did I mention that we’re moving in 12 days – (and don’t yet have an address)? But I digress.

So while this is all very fresh, I thought I’d offer a bit of advice on some of the strategies that are helping me ease into this major life transition:

1. Take time to learn your email software.  There’s a tendency when you start any new job to learn the basics of whatever software program your company uses so that you can plunge directly into your job. That’s fine, if you already know said system. But if you aren’t familiar with how your email (or any other communication systems) work, learn them now and learn them well. It will save you tons of time from having to go back later and figure out how you actually reserve a conference room or schedule a meeting electronically with a colleague. Plus, knowing a system – as opposed to faking it  and hoping that you don’t accidentally hit the wrong key – will actually make you feel more confident and like you belong. Which is why – on my very first day – I sat down and took an Online tutorial in Outlook 2010. I’d used Outlook before, but it was two versions ago and a lot has changed. After a couple of days, that “recurring task” command was like an old friend who was dropping in for tea.

2. Take time to study your benefit plan. In a similar vein – if you haven’t done so already – spend some time poring over your benefits plan and any other perks that your company has on offer. Much like office software, we all tend to ignore the initial mound of material HR invariably bombards us with, figuring that we’ll sit down at some later point in time and review this stuff. But we won’t. As a result, you might forget to register for your pension plan (a friend of mine once realized this error two years into his job). You might also fail to realize all the hidden benefits that come with your job. When I actually took the time to read the Online guidance for new employees at my company, I discovered loads of things I’m eligible for, ranging from health club memberships and cycling schemes to fairly substantial discounts on any number of clothing, entertainment and travel purchases. (Teeth whitening is included in the dental plan? Seriously?) So review that stuff now, when you still have a bit of time to yourself and can get away with it.

3. Ask questions. There’s a limited period of time in a new job where you can get away with asking dumb questions. So take advantage of it. Ask people their names. Ask again. Make people tell you what obscure acronyms stand for. Don’t be afraid to have someone walk you to the cafeteria…several times. On substantive work issues, asking questions also makes you appear interested and curious – as if you really do want to learn on the job, rather than coming off as an arrogant know-it-all. But there’s another reason to be honest  about what you don’t know in your new job. People get into routines when they’ve been working in the same environment for a long time. It’s only when an outsider comes in – who doesn’t know the system – that they are forced to question their own assumptions or at the very least to justify them out loud in explicit terms. And that’s useful for everyone. Recent research suggests that asking good questions is a crucial life skill. Try it!

4. Make lists. I’m a big fan of lists. If you don’t want to bombard your colleagues with questions, make lists for yourself: questions about office supplies…questions about travel reimbursement…questions about policy documents. Most people would rather get an email with ten questions than be interrupted ten different times in an hour to answer basic questions about how to install a printer. So be polite and organized, but be inquisitive. Remember: your colleagues were new once too!

5. Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable. The hardest part of starting a new job is feeling OK about the fact that you have no idea what you’re doing. You don’t know where the bathroom is. You can’t remember the name of the head of the research division. You have no earthly idea what you’re meant to be doing at an upcoming meeting or what your boss means when he tells you that you’ll be in charge of a given project. But you do know one thing, unless this is your very first job: in a few months time, this will all be second nature. So write with the wrong hand for awhile. It’s exciting. It’s challenging. And it’s the only way to learn.

 

Image: New job by sarah0s via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

 

Tips For Adulthood: Five Things To Do Before You Start A New Job

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

On Monday I start a new job.

Alongside the relief that comes with accepting a job offer, there are inevitably a whole new set of concerns that crop up as well. In particular – at least if you’re like me – you fear that once you embark upon this new phase of life, you’ll never have time to shower any more, let alone make it to the post office to buy stamps.

That’s not true. But it is true that the priorities on your To-Do list will become all the more clearer, as things like “sort out religion” invariably take second fiddle to “buy new bras.”

To that end, here are five things you might want to take care of before you start a new job:

1. Childcare. Obviously, this applies only to those of us with kids, but within that subset of working parents, this is probably the single biggest stress-or. I am lucky in that I am going to start this new job part-time for the first couple of months before ramping up to full time. And because my husband is going to cover pick-ups during camp season in August (I find myself once again grateful for the much shorter summer vacation we endure here in England), we have some time to sort out the sitter situation. Hiring someone to look after your kids is no day at the beach, as I’ve documented before. So the sooner you get this ball rolling – use your networks!! – the better.

2. Buy Work Clothes. One of the joys of working freelance lo’ these past six years has been going to work (and school runs!) in some version of my pajamas. But that’s all come to an end, as I must now project some measure of gravitas and respectability in my new position. I’m happy about this, although knowing what to wear is not one of my fortés. Fortunately, my husband has an almost uncanny knack for knowing what looks good on women. Several years ago, he bought me a book entitled Does This Make Me Look Fat?, which is all about what clothes work for different body shapes and sizes. I spent 45 minutes yesterday perusing it, got some great tips for my body type (short-waisted, in case you’re interested) and then went over to ASOS, an Online, affordable but chic fashion company here in the UK to select a few staples for my new work wardrobe. I also plan on scanning Amid Privilege to get some more ideas, as Lisa has a way of making shopping seem fun and easy. Done and dusted, as they say round’ here.

3. Buy new makeup. I’m told that it’s wise to change your mascara every three months, partly to avoid eye infections. This is one of those rules of thumb – like replacing your running shoes every six months – that I’ve blithely chosen to ignore, partly because it seems expensive and mostly because I don’t wear eye make-up on a regular basis. But I will be now, at least to start off, and who wants to have pink-eye during their first week of work? I’ve also noticed that the eyeliner I bought recently – to replace the one I bought…oh, you don’t want to know how long ago – is actually an eyebrow pencil. Hmmm. Vidal Sassoon, where are you when I need you?

4. Go to the dentist. Let’s face it. Most of us hate going to the dentist. This is true, even for those of us who aren’t in a perpetual state of denial that it’s probably a good idea to do this every six months. (Hello, England! I’m looking at you!) And once you start working, this is one of those things that can move down your priority list very rapidly. Which is why I’ll be seeing my dentist tomorrow, even though it hasn’t been exactly six months. Among other things, I think she needs to pull one of my teeth and while I don’t look forward to the pain, I’d rather do it now than let it fester for another six months.

5. Break up with your therapist. Like going to the dentist (but hopefully more enjoyable?), therapy can also be a difficult thing to work into your schedule when you’re working full time. I’ve been with my life coach for five years now, and as much as I’m a huge fan of therapy, we both agreed during our last visit that I had “graduated” and that it was time for me to move on. We didn’t hug and I didn’t “accidentally” leave my coat behind. But I did get some closure, which actually felt good.

What am I leaving out?

Image: mascara wand by herbrm via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.