What hot weather? There is an ongoing heat wave, but my family is inside glued to the television during the Olympics.
Yes, most of it is a nice distraction from all the negative things that could be getting my attention these days. However, the Olympics also inspire me to think about the level of success that is possible for me and all people. Success is possible for people whether they are a child on the little league team, an administrative assistant, software developer, middle management, or a CEO.
An Olympic level of success would look different for everyone and it does not necessarily mean appearing in TV commercials; I imagine what would be consistent would be a fair amount of hard work, a winning mindset, and the ability to have fun even under pressure. Perhaps that success does not come with a medal, but hopefully it will come with enough money to afford a good lifestyle, the ability to mingle with other top performers, and the peace of mind in knowing that you gave it everything inside you.
Answer one or a few of the following questions to see if there is an Olympian inside you.
If your job was an Olympic sport, do you think you could be the greatest in the world?
Would you be willing to test yourself against others who believe they could be the best in the world?
When you see the look of exultation on the faces of the Olympic medalists, can you think of and share with us a moment when you felt like that?
Is there any job you can think of doing for which you would sacrifice a social life, momentous family occasions, sleep, junk food, alcohol, etc.?
Would you be willing to move to another country to work with the best coach in the world?
The act of setting goals is not what moves you toward the ultimate reward of landing the job, but people who set goals are 42% more likely to achieve them when they write them down. My students write SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, Time-bound) goals for their career as part of an assignment. When the goals are specifically focused on job search activities, they tend to drastically underestimate the activity needed to create actual momentum. I have created five SMART job search goals that I have found adequately enables clients and students alike to build momentum week after week. This allows them to generate multiple viable opportunities, create demand that increases their market value and self-worth, and makes them feel empowered to make a choice that is best for their career and life.
Spend 80% of your job search activity proactively pursuing leads in target companies. Identify 10 new target companies each week through networking, LinkedIn, business journals, and professional organizations.
Add 25 new LinkedIn contacts each week by searching LinkedIn’s suggested “People You May Know” and exploring various realms and communities with which you engage. Send 10 customized (straight from the contact’s profile) invitations every day, knowing that not all invitations will be accepted.
Have one meal or coffee a day with a contact or friend, even if virtually. In each conversation and correspondence (including LinkedIn invitations) invite the person to reconnect or get better acquainted. Use this time to share personal or professional initiatives or challenges with which you can both use assistance and to introduce each other to people who can move you forward. Procure five new job leads each week this way.
By asking “superconnectors” in your network, leaders in your industry and checking event sites like Meetup.com and Eventbrite.com, identify 10 worthwhile events, and commit to attending six each month that work with your schedule. Share these events with other people to add value to them, and to see if you can partner with someone who can make the other four events. Acquaint each other with the network contacts that would add the most value and network on each other’s behalf. Add new connections from 20 of your target companies and make 20 introductions for your networking partners each month.
Stay at the top of your network connections’ minds and establish thought leadership by posting one thoughtful social media post daily. Follow active LinkedIn group discussions, share and comment on the relevant posts of Influencers, and try something a little more advanced each week, working your way up to Facebook Live videos or Periscope broadcasts, with the intention of increasing followers/fans by 10% each week.
So, if you really want to achieve your goals of landing a great job, write down these SMART goals, or create some other ones for yourself, and share them with someone who can help you stay accountable. Check out our toolkit, designed to help you track, measure, and improve your activities and your results every week.
If you do not want to achieve the goal of landing a job swiftly, consider that the job for which you are looking may not be the right one and get in touch with us so we can help you identify something that excites you more.
When you are in an airplane far above the ground, you often consider that if anything were to go wrong you would most likely plummet to your death. It is very easy to see the risk. It is also easy to understand why some fear traveling by air and yet we know statistically we are far more likely to be hurt or die in a car accident. However, this is everyday life. We do not think about the risks as much, even though they are there all of the time.
Similarly, when we are faced with an offer for a less-than-ideal job while confronting mounting bills and not knowing where the money will come from, the decision seems obvious. Unfortunately, many are unaware of the risk of accepting a bad job. Therefore we do not mitigate the risk of having a job that breaks us.
What do we mean by this? There are two ways a job can break you and often times these ways coincide. One break is spiritual and the other is pragmatic.
If you have been working for a while, you might have had one of those days where you feel broken, where you have had a bad day. A bad day is not the same as having a job that breaks you down bit by bit psychologically and spiritually every day. It is much harder to notice when this happens because it usually happens gradually. Sadly, most people do not recognize how they have changed until they have reached a point of resignation.
Another way a job can break you is by breaking your path to prosperity. I understand that when faced with no income, accepting a lower income seems like a better choice, but please recognize that a setback in your income usually is not temporary; it impacts your trajectory for the rest of your life unless you know how to recover.
Spotting an employer who contributes to breaking you is not easy, even with sites like Glassdoor.com. It requires you to have the confidence to qualify them.
Furthermore, if you have not acquired the life skill of career transitioning, then you also lack the confidence to know that you can make something better happen. In turn, this makes you susceptible to being a victim of a bad employer.
If you do not think looking for a job sounds like fun or is something you would enjoy, I understand. It is like budgeting, not everyone enjoys it or finds it fun, but if you want to reach your financial goals it is worth doing. Additionally, there are many teachers and products to make the process less painful.
The same applies to your job search. Most people struggle to make something happen in their job search because they are unaware of the best ways to produce results. They make decisions based on fear and wind up in jobs that break them. However, everyone has the ability to learn and the capacity to apply better tools and techniques to produce greater momentum and better job offers. In fact, that is why we are here.
If you have found yourself broken by your job, or you balk at the process of job searching, check out our do-it-yourself tools or fill out a needs assessment form to have a free consultation and to explore one-on-one branding and coaching.
While research shows and some politicians feel that most workers, particularly women and federal employees, have been underpaid for far too long, some have been blessed to be very well paid. If this is you, I hope that you are taking full advantage of it and, rather than increasing your standard of living, are using the money to pay off debts and saving for the future. Experience has proven that being paid above market value puts you on the chopping block if your company ever decides that the money is better spent elsewhere.
To boot, if you are separated from your company it can be that much harder to find a job above market pay or even to convince employers that you are willing to take a pay cut.
Employers have justifiable concerns hiring somebody above market range. You could be asking for more than your boss is earning, which usually does not produce strong rapport to build a good relationship.
As with most situations, this poses a challenge, but is not necessarily an obstacle. There are ways that you can conduct your search and mitigate any potential perceived risk you pose by being someone paid above market.
Know your numbers
If you are someone who excels at managing personal finances, you probably have strong accounts of what your monthly expenses are, and you also probably have very clear-cut savings goals for retirement. Evaluate whether there are areas of your living expenses or entertainment expenses that can be downsized.
If you have not been keeping very clear records of your monthly expenses and do not have clear-cut retirement, or other savings goals, now is the time to meet with a financial advisor. (I know a few great ones, if you need a referral!)
If this task seems daunting to you, I can relate, and it can be tempting to guesstimate, but this is potentially very dangerous for you. If there is something you do not account for, like if you own a home and you are not accounting for an emergency fund for all the unexpected, very expensive repairs that come along with owning a home, you could be underinsured for some acts of God. Another example could be that you need to increase in your life insurance coverage if your standard of living has increased over the years. If you had a 401(k) with your previous company, a financial advisor will help you determine the best way to reinvest that to match your desired level of growth, risk, and future life needs. This is something you want to expert help on. Even if you are an expert at these things, it is wise to obtain a second opinion. Just make sure that, whatever decisions are made and whoever makes them, you are fully educated on the options and apprised of the ongoing status. Always maintain control and awareness.
If you genuinely are able to take a pay cut because you are earning above your means, coming in with specific substantiation of that will show an employer that you are fully prepared, and not guessing. Many employers have personal experience with this that they will trust over your word. You can convince them that you are not a flight risk by taking a salary cut if you write or say something specific, such as, “My house is paid off, my kids’ college is paid for, I have no debt, and I can afford to take a $43,000 pay cut.” You can do this from the get-go in an approach or cover letter, you can empower your recruiter to negotiate this on your behalf, or you can state it upfront in conversation when you have a chance to speak one-on-one with your next potential boss.
By the way, just because you are willing to take a pay cut does not mean you should not try to negotiate your package, especially if in your role you are expected to be a strong negotiator. Focus on some of the perks of a package, like a corporate car or car expenses. Perhaps you already have health care through your spouse. You can either negotiate for them to replace some of the perks they would have offered you with compensation, or where they cannot provide you with compensation, ask for perks. Come in knowing which perks have a monetary value to you.
Know the market
Indeed, Glassdoor, and Salary.com are all places that will give you some good numbers around what the market is paying for particular roles in particular geographies. However, you may bring with you some niche skills or experience that has additional value in the market. A niche recruiter can be a very good resource in these situations. If you are going to ask for a higher salary than what the market seems to be paying generally, you need to bring with you some substantiation of your requests, and know that even if you are able to educate an employer on why you are worth more than the average candidate and are offered what you ask, ultimately if they have not budgeted for such things, you risk the chance of being the first to go should the financial constraints of hiring you prohibit their strategic plans to invest or spend in other areas. You are also going to be held to a higher standard and had better not only deliver the goods, but continue your campaign to promote that you are delivering the goods; do not assume it will be acknowledged. People are usually very skeptical of an “overpaid suit.” You will have the stigma to combat until you earn people’s trust.
Have a Plan B
If you really cannot afford to take a pay cut, or you really do not want to lower your standards of living, you can find other ways to make up the difference in your salary, such as investing in real estate, businesses or other financial products. You could do some consulting or coaching on the side, pending it will not be a conflict of interest with your employer. You could write a book or develop an online course. You could become a paid speaker. Let’s face it: you have managed to earn more than your professional counterparts, others will want to learn how you did it – you have something very valuable to teach.
You might not have thought being well-paid was such a detriment until you find yourself justifying it, defending it, or even wanting to hide your pay. (I do not recommend hiding your pay. People have their ways of finding out and you pose an even bigger risk as someone who is not forthcoming or even deceitful.) Keep in mind the employer’s perspective. Chances are if you have been on the hiring side you can completely empathize with their concerns, and, if this is so, definitely express that.
You may have to address your salary upfront, which is contrary to other negotiation advice, to get the chance to interview and establish your value, and then, once you have them interested in your value, you will have to address it again when it comes time to design a compensation package that works for all parties. Keep in mind that most employers want you to be a creative problem solver, so think of this as one of the things that you can creatively resolve in partnership with your employer to further demonstrate that you are exactly who they want.
WARNING: This article is chock-full of expert space-saving tips. Shhh. Don’t tell the other professional résumé writers I shared this.
You used to have a whopping seven to ten seconds to grab the attention of the reader and elicit an interview. Tracking studies of recent years suggest that you may only have six seconds, perhaps even less. Whether these studies are scientifically credible or not, my practical experience has taught me that the more time you can save the reader in making a decision about whether you make the short list of candidates or not, the less friction there is between you and sliding into your next job.
The prime real estate of your résumé lives above the fold, in other words, what the reader can see on their computer screen before they have to scroll down. They most likely will take a few extra seconds to scroll down, check through the dates of your work history, and examine your education and training, but it is what they see first that determines if they scroll down with a perception of optimism or skepticism. Your mission throughout the qualification and interview process is to inspire the employer to be more focused on your value and contributions and less focused on any potential risks you pose.
Here is what you can do in the top fold of your resume to compel recruiters to put their hand on the phone to call you for an interview before they even realize they’re making the call.
This may seem very obvious. Of course, you want your future employer to be able to know how to contact you after they excitedly see your resume and understand your value. You also need to know that your contact information should not be stored in a header. Very often, applicant tracking systems do not extract and store data from headers, footers, or tables.
Expert space-saving tips:
Fit all your contact information on one line.
You do not need to include your street address (unless you are filling out a government application that requires it). City, state, and zip are enough.
You do not need to identify a phone number as a phone number or email as an email.
If you have a very long LinkedIn URL (even after customizing it), use a link shortening tool like bit.ly.
What you want do
Let people know what you WANT to do. Employers will not assume that you are automatically going to be pursuing a title that was identical to your last position. In fact, if you were in your last role for three years or more, a company offering strong career development would more likely want to assume that you are ready for the next step. Do not make the reader invest time trying to figure out where you fit in their organization. It is true that titles can vary from company to company, so it is best to find a two to three word phrase that best describes the function, role, or contributions that you AIM to make. Only list your current title if you are hoping for a completely lateral move.
While this may seem obvious, the positions for which you are applying (or, preferably, for which you are getting recommended), have to correlate with the role you identify in your headline. If they do not correlate, you can either not expect a call back, or expect that when they do call back you will spend more time talking about what makes you think you can do this role, and less time on how successfully you can fill this role.
Expert space-saving tips:
Place your role at the very top of the résumé, perhaps even on the very top line across from your name, like below, rather than using an extra line in between your contact information and your summary. Once you identify this role, you can use the first few words of the summary to offer an alternate title, or an even more clever “NounActionVerb” phrase* that visually depicts the impact you make. See the example under the next section.
When you read job descriptions you can see very clearly, usually, how many years of experience an employer wants and what the required skills are needed to succeed in that job. Make sure they know right away that they are getting what they want. Quantify the years of experience that you have or the level of expertise that you possess in the top three to four skills that are required to be successful in the job you are pursuing.
Expert space-saving tips:
Start out with your overall years of experience, and if it is niched to particular industry you are pursuing, say that right away.
E.g. “Profit Optimizer offering 20+ years of pharmaceutical experience.”
When you mention your other skills in the summary, put them into the context of the value they have enabled you to offer throughout your career, and take it EVEN further by depicting the impact of that.
E.g. Utilize vast knowledge of hundreds of financial products to customize packages that meet very specific client needs and cultivate rapport and loyalty among the client base.
You may also want to include a list of three to twelve key skills associated with the job. Instead of tables, (which as I stated may not be stored in an applicant tracking systems) use columns.
Some people use functional breakdowns.
How you do it better/different
You can see from the example above that is very possible to use fewer words and yet paint a compelling picture of what it would look like to have you adding value versus any other equally qualified candidates. Additionally, you can assume that while candidates usually come to the table with a unique blend of experiences, they will not be interviewed if they do not meet the minimum qualifications. In order to move past them, you will need to sell a unique brand. You will receive interviews based on meeting qualifications, but you will receive offers based on how you mesh with the people and culture of the organization. Do not just say you do it better; let the reader know HOW you do it better. What is your unique approach, experience or perspective that enables you to deliver in a way others do not?
Expert space-saving tips:
Use words that will pack the most visual punch, and you will not have to use as many words. In a little less than two lines in the example above, we qualified this candidate as deeply knowledgeable about financial products, a required skill for the position.
We also DEMONSTRATED rather than STATED this candidate is customer-focused and that she maybe able to bring clients with her. Clichés have little meaning to the reader, but clients have great value!
Your most recent experience
Regardless of what components and sections you include above the fold, do not exceed the fold. Leave room to start your actual professional experience. Some recruiters will even tell you that they do not read your summary at all and to exclude it. That is because summaries are hardly ever compellingly written – TRUST ME. If you are adding value by branding yourself with this section, AND you are providing content that the recruiter can use to write the candidate marketing summary for their client, it is worth including. The point is, though, getting to the point. All of the space-saving tips above are meant to help you utilize as little prime real estate as possible while adding the most value.
The faster you can help the reader complete their agenda, the faster they can pick up the phone. Here are some bonus expert reader-friendliness tips:
Use a font of at least 10.5.
Do not overuse formatting enhancements (bold, italics, underline).
Some studies suggest that color in résumés attract the most attention and many other recruiters will tell you that the content is all they care about (unless you are a graphic designer).
For that reason, do not use pictures– they can visit your LinkedIn profile to see the person behind the résumé.
Put the company and city on one line, the title underneath, and put all dates along the right margin using columns (you may need to go to formatting settings to make sure that the columns are not of equal length and can be adjusted to accommodate longer company names/cities).
Start bullets all the way over at the left margin.
Do not use abbreviations, even for months.
Use numerals whenever possible, but strike a balance and put numbers into context of challenges and skills applied, as well as the impacts. People remember stories, not numbers.
[This is where a role/company summary would go, where you can explain your functions and save the bullets for achievements.]
Remember, if implementing these tips (while designed for the avid do-it-yourselfer) becomes a large investment of your time, consider allowing us to take over. These are not the only tricks up our sleeve. The sooner you get into your next job, the sooner you can bring in income, and our résumés have been known to maximize salary offers, so they are worth the investment.
The promise of a single steady job for life is largely a relic of the past. Not many large companies provide steady employment and constant salary increases until retirement. The only way to gain job security is to generate it for yourself. Careers are not necessarily like soul mates. Having multiple careers is not cheating, but a chance to thrive in a world where job security is no longer a given.
Besides learning (from us) how to successfully and swiftly navigate today’s career transition, microcareers and multi-career paths have emerged as a great way to generate your own job security. Microcareers also called “slash careers,” are hybrid careers where a person takes on a mixed professional identity instead of being beholden to a single profession. This type of professional could be a lawyer by day and a rock star at night, a part-time factory worker and freelance writer, or a web developer and accountant. A microcareer means having simultaneous careers all at once. For instance, I am a business owner, résumé writer, blogger, digital marketer, adjunct professor, beach body coach, and rock star. While many of these professions tie into my larger goal of career management and helping people find jobs they love, not all of my microcareers fit this mold.
Working microcareers is a way to generate multiple streams of income, especially if you are not employed full-time. Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad Poor Dad) and T. Harv Eker (Secrets of the Millionaire Mind) are two businessmen and motivational speakers who believe that having multiple streams of income is the best way to secure your financial freedom.
In addition to generating multiple streams of income, microcareers also allow you to explore multiple passions. Starting your own business on the side or creating the startup you always dreamed about are very real possibilities. David Williams, the founder of CinemaCake, began his professional life in pharmaceutical sales, but had a passion for filmmaking. One day a co-worker asked him to film her wedding, he agreed and landed his first paying gig. Williams then searched for more clients as he continued part-time event filmmaking on the side. Later he won a local filmmaking contest and his win convinced him that filmmaking was his true calling. As he built his client base, Williams stayed in pharmaceutical sales until he went full-time with his business two years later.
Some professionals prefer a multi-career path over having microcareers. Multi-careers are multiple career transitions made within one’s working life. For example, a professional starts their career as a programmer, but later switches to career coaching. Some people find job security by changing careers every few years. This practice is known as career hopping.
Career hopping as a new normal:
Career hopping consists of a series of seemingly unrelated careers. It is not the same as job hopping, where an employee changes employers every few years. A career hop is a complete industry change. Career hopping means making multiple career transitions during one’s working life. For some, their career may no longer be a viable employment option. Others may discover that they no longer enjoy their career and are ready for a change. In my interview with NBC10’s Tracy Davidson, I discussed the possibility of changing careers by applying innate skills and talents to a different role and responsibilities. Many skills are transferable to a variety of situations. Changing careers is a matter of discovering what you like and dislike about your job, applying those skills, and asking your network for help in order to change careers. However, career hopping does come with a major caveat. It is more difficult to brand and market yourself for a single role when you have a multi-career history.
Career hopping is more of a normal lifestyle for most millennials, but not as natural for other generations. Until the Great Recession, it was normal to expect to have career in a single profession and with a single employer. In fact, it has been a complete paradigm shift for older generations who were taught by their parents that hard work and loyalty are often rewarded with stable employment, health benefits, and a pension that will take care of you in retirement. Unfortunately (or fortunately), most of us live in a different reality. For example, baby boomers were hit hard after being at a single job for years and then being forced to find new lines of work. The new reality might not be easy to embrace, but if you can adapt and learn how to successfully navigate and execute a career transition, you will be able to benefit greatly in terms of job satisfaction and increased income from this new work environment.
Work/life integration with microcareers:
People used to strive for work/life balance, but work/life integration is the new goal. With work/life balance, people attempt to leave their work at work, and their home activities at home as they seek to give both facets of their life equal weight. Work/life integration seeks to manage work alongside personal needs and both facets of life bleed together. Work and life are not at conflict with each other. You may have the freedom during the normal 9-5 hours to go to your child’s ballet practice, but you will be logging in from home after the kids go to bed. This means working late, not because you have to, but because you are passionate and energized about your work. Microcareers allow for this type of work/life integration because work does not often feel like work.
Making the leap to microcareers or multiple careers:
In both cases landing a job still depends highly on networking. You can expand your network and venture into multiple circles. Peter Diamandis, an engineer, physician and entrepreneur best known for founding the X Prize Foundation, firmly believes that having multiple projects equals multiple successes. In fact, it is the third law he created in the Creed of the Persistent and Passionate Mind. Think of microcareers as the ultimate in multiple projects.
Microcareers and career hopping are the new normal in today’s working environment. Having multiple careers is a way to achieve satisfaction, especially if you have a dynamic personality and multiple passions. You are not bound by a single position for your job security and you are free to explore your passions. If you are one of the 70% disengaged from your job, this could be the ticket to reinvigorating your career. Just imagine the creativity, freedom and variety that multiple careers can bring to your life.
Wouldn’t it be marvelous if you had more time in the day to accomplish all of your tasks so you could enjoy life more often? Procrastination is one major roadblock to completing tasks. About 20% of adults reported being chronic procrastinators, while 95% of people admit to being occasional procrastinators. The causes of procrastination are complex and numerous. The time hacks shared here are a way to overcome procrastination and will allow you to accomplish the important tasks in your life, so you can spend more time doing the things you love. The weight of putting off important tasks robs you of energy as you stress over the inability to focus on completing those tasks.
Micro-movements: Author Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, better known as SARK, coined the term in her book Make Your Creative Dreams Real. According to SARK, micro-movements are a way to break down overwhelming tasks into much smaller tasks that take as little as five seconds or up to five minutes. Breaking down a daunting task into smaller steps makes it easier to accomplish.
Author Allyson Lewis suggests a similar approach in her book, The Seven Minute Difference. Lewis argues that spending seven minutes on small actions, or micro-actions, can lead to amazing changes. In short, small movements serve as a way to accomplish large tasks bit by bit and to build momentum.
Activation energy: Activation energy is a term Mel Robbins, an author and motivational speaker, described in her TED Talk. It is the force or effort required to switch from auto-pilot, driven by your habits, to doing something new so that you can create something new in your life. According to Robbins, change does not come naturally, so you must force yourself to change. It is taking action within five seconds of an impulse. If you do not act within five seconds, your mind ultimately “screws you,” and the motivation to do something is lost. By practicing the five-second rule and tapping into activation energy, you will discover the motivation to accomplish more tasks.
Time expansion: Time expansion is completing the things that weigh on your mind, recur in your thoughts, and rob you of energy first. Many experts talk about the benefits of doing this first in order to raise your energy to complete the rest of your daily list. Completing unwanted tasks first make you more effective because this “energy vampire” will no longer intrude on your thoughts. Mark Twain famously referred to this action as “eating a frog.”
Batching time: When you batch tasks together, you to get into a grove and accomplish more in less time. Batching time is a favorite method of author Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Work Week). Ferris also proposes that when we allocate less time to a task, we take less time to complete the task. The reverse is also true. An effective strategy is to give yourself an early deadline. For example, if you have a project due on Friday, make Thursday your personal deadline. Bill Walsh, America’s Small Business Coach, recommends you make a list of the ten things that will move you forward faster toward your goal every night to complete the next morning before 10 AM. This list consists of strategic (important, non-urgent) items. Then wake up as early as needed to complete these ten items before 10 AM.
The Four Quadrants of Time Management: Stephen Covey, a self-help and business literature author, famous for his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, introduced the idea of using four quadrants to determine the priority of a task. The tasks within the quadrant allow you to determine if a task needs to be completed immediately or scheduled for later. The quadrants allow you to question if doing an activity will bring you closer to your goals and how to prioritize your time.
Stephen Covey’s Four Quadrants of Time Management
Our Time and Resource Allocation Tool: There is a saying in corporate America—you can’t manage what you can’t measure; you can’t measure what you don’t track. You might have heard to treat your job search like your job, which some people interpret to mean wake up at the same time as your work day and search for 40 hours per week, but that is not really the best application of that advice. How we advise you to apply that advice it is to make sure that your performance is producing results. Manage your time to become increasingly efficient because once you start to build momentum, you are busy meeting with more people who are able to open doors of opportunity. There are a lot of people and follow up actions you will want to stay on top of to maintain and leverage that momentum.
The Pareto principle (the 80/20 rule) is a theory maintaining that 80% of the output from a given system is determined by 20% of the input. This principle is always at work, and we have found it true with job searches as well. 80% of job seekers are spending 80% of their time on the resources that produce 20% of the results, IF THAT! Our tool helps you flip the results so that you spend 80% of your time on the resources that produce 80% of the results. Not only are job seekers who use our tool producing better momentum, they are cutting their “job search work week” down, enjoying more of their time, which as a by-product actually helps steamroll momentum even further. Within two weeks of learning how to use the tool, they are realizing much better time management and starting to form better habits. Their confidence soars, they feel more in control of their destiny, they perform better in interviews, they can afford to hold out for the RIGHT offer, and feel bold enough to negotiate an even higher offer.
Just imagine what overcoming procrastination and effectively managing your time looks like. It is a sense of accomplishment, a feeling that you have done enough, that you are successful enough to allow yourself to REALLY enjoy your life. The truth is we are never really DONE with our to-dos. However, time hacks help manage the most significant tasks, so they do not completely absorb your time and energy, allowing you more room for joy and fun.
When we are little, we all dream big. We start as blank slates with open minds and imagine grand futures. For most of us, somewhere along the way we learn limits disguised as realism. Our dreams evolve, and we often trade-in big dreams for seemingly more obtainable ones. Thankfully, Brian Quinn did not. In our first Epic Career Tale of 2016, Brian describes how it feels to be pulled to your destiny by your passion. In his case, his destiny was to be a rockstar, and is now touring and writing an album with Candlebox, a band that was very influential to him in his youth.
Growing up I remember being inspired and intrigued by The Jetsons, which had an idealistic idea of the future American working culture. The Jetsons boldly proclaimed that in the 21st Century, Americans would work fewer hours and have more leisure time each week. In fact, the biggest crisis on the horizon would be the lack of working time and people not knowing what to do with all of their free time. The leisure-filled utopia predicted by those living in the 1950s and 60s never came to pass. Instead of a predicted 16-to-20 hour work week, Americans now work an average of 47 hours per week.
Working longer hours in America
When compared to other cultures, Americans tend to work longer hours and take shorter vacations. The US is also the most overworked developed nation in the world and has recently overtaken Japan in the number of hours worked per year. Working longer hours has had an interesting effect on the economy. The United States is much richer than Europe and has created more wealth because America has a higher population than Europe, and that population works longer hours. Individually, longer hours do not equal more productivity, especially if the number of hours worked extends beyond 50 hours per week. According to a CNBC article, employee output falls drastically after 55 hours per week, and around the 70-hour mark nothing more is produced. Additionally, many salaried employees putting in extra hours at work aren’t paid overtime: those extra hours are essentially “free” for the employer. The downside to employers is employee burnout, absenteeism, and higher turnover rates.
According to a DIT (Dublin Institute of Technology) research report, 1-in-6 US employees now work more than 60 hours per week. The number of American men who regularly work 48 hours per week or more has risen by 20% in the last 25 years. A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development stated that Americans are working 20% longer than they did in 1970, while the numbers of hours worked per week has fallen in other industrialized countries. The United States is the only developed country in the world that is not required to provide families with mandatory paid maternity leave, and the Family and Medical Leave Act only covers employees if they’re eligible. When compared with other countries, the situation is so bad that even comedians such as Jon Stewart can’t help but mock it. The Newsroom also addressed the issue, among many others, in a stunning response that debunks the myth of America being the greatest country in the world.
President Obama commented on America’s working culture in late June. “Too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve.” As a result, upcoming changes to federal overtime rules may curb the number of hours salaried employees can work if they make $50,440 or less per year. Either employers will have to pay overtime, or employees will work fewer hours. The changes are expected to affect 5 million workers. The Vanguard Group has already implemented these changes by reclassifying 2,100 of its salaried U.S. employees to hourly employees and the results have been mixed.
Americans and vacations
When it comes to days reserved for vacations, American culture falls behind the rest of the developed world. Compared to other countries, Americans receive an average of 14 paid vacation days per year, while France tops out at 39, the UK receives 24 days, and even Canada enjoys an average of 19 days. In some countries vacation days are mandated by law. So why do Americans work so hard and take so few vacations? The reasons are numerous and complex. A Wharton article points out that despite employees’ willingness to accept less pay for more vacation time, hours have been creeping higher for salaried workers. Employees are being asked to work longer hours because it’s cheaper than hiring new workers and unions aren’t instituted in many sectors to protest this practice. People also refuse vacations because they want to get ahead in the workplace and fear being replaced if they take all of their time off. Others fear that work won’t function without them.
The Wharton article also states that Americans’ self-worth is tied to being able to earn more and to spend more. This means bigger homes, more vacation homes, and bigger cars than European counterparts. Additionally, workaholism is a point of pride in our culture, and even while on vacation, workers still engage with the office thanks to technology.
In an attempt to retain a happier, more productive workforce, some companies have recognized the importance of making quality-of-life improvements. These employers have instituted unlimited vacation policies. As long as people are on top of their work schedules at these companies, they are able to take time off whenever they need. Seer Interactive and the Brownstein Group are two local companies with such policies. When voluntary vacation days don’t work, other employers have been known to either force or entice their employees to take time off. Some companies, such as Evernote, give employees $1000 or more to leave work for a week, while other companies require their employees to take at least two weeks of vacation a year.
Working culture in Europe
In comparison, Europeans tend to value the ability to take long vacations and disengaging from work. When a European goes on vacation, it is not uncommon for an employee to not answer phone calls or e-mail until they return. France is famous for shutting down every August as the majority of the country goes on vacation. The ability to take and enjoy leisure time is seen as a badge of pride. When I was honeymooning in New Zealand, all of the other couples on our excursions were Europeans and were on eight-week “holidays.”
Even as Americans are working longer hours, some employers have been experimenting with other ways to boost productivity. One such method is the inclusion of naps in the workplace. These employers see it as a way to counteract sleep deprivation, lost productivity, and to reduce sick time taken. Companies such as Google, Nike, and the Huffington Post are known for allowing employees to take naps when needed. In fact, Arianna Huffington had her own revelation about sleep and productivity when she collapsed after working long hours with very little sleep. Allowing for naps can also boost an employee’s productivity in the short-term with improved performance and alertness.
Working culture in Asia
There are countries with longer working hours than the United States, namely in Asia. In many Asian countries working long hours, sometimes 12 hours per day, is considered normal. In Japan, this type of workaholism is known as “karoshi” or “death by overwork.” It causes 1000 deaths per year. The country also has one of the highest suicide rates in the world as more than 25,000 people took their own lives due to stress from work, depression, isolation, and financial problems. (Fortunately, the rate of suicide has been on the decline in Japan.) In many Asian cultures, people are expected to live to work and to sacrifice their personal lives for the sake of a company. In terms of vacations, workers are reluctant to take time off. In China over 70% of workers don’t take their paid vacation time, and some workers haven’t taken a vacation in years.
Why time off matters
The implications for health and personal well-being are numerous. In my previous article, “Is Work Killing You?” I wrote about how not taking time off is detrimental to health and productivity. Long hours do not equal more productivity, and ultimately cost employers down the line with absenteeism, sick time, and high turnover. Workaholism and the fear of being seen as unproductive may have become normalized, but the quest for an ideal work-life balance is higher than ever. There are countless articles that offer advice on how to balance a working life with a personal life. If you have your own work-life struggles, these articles are great resources.
Even as forward-thinking employers seek to address the lack of vacation time in American culture with generous perks and benefits, nothing will change unless the culture changes from the top. Americans can look to other countries for ways to structure their own vacation time, but cultural issues around vacations are deep-seeded. As long as people see long work hours as a point of pride, and others fear getting behind in productivity, or being fired, change will remain sporadic and slow because leaders determine the culture and set the example. If more leaders are willing to take more vacations, it shows employees that it’s okay to take and enjoy vacation time.
In the 1950s and 60s, labor experts were certain that Americans would be working fewer hours by the 21st Century. The Jetsons, inspired by the sentiment of the time, had George Jetson working nine hours per week. The idea of working less than 20 hours a week may not have become reality (and probably never will), but a 40-hour work week is definitely a more realistic approach. After all, working more than 50 hours per week certainly doesn’t increase productivity and leads to future problems. The utopia promised by The Jetsons doesn’t have to be a nine-hour work week, but the promise of more leisure time is obtainable. Just imagine what work and leisure time would look like if more Americans worked closer to 40 hours per week and used their allotted vacation time.
Yoshinori Ono is a producer for Capcom, a Japanese video game development company. After a long and grueling work schedule, Ono suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized for a week. He remembers the morning of his hospitalization very well. Ono woke up to use the bathroom and saw steam everywhere. There was so much steam in the air that it seemed to choke him. He then collapsed on the bathroom floor. Hearing the crash, his wife called for an ambulance and Ono was rushed to the hospital. When Ono regained consciousness, the doctor informed him that his blood acidity level was extremely high. He had the same level of acidity as someone who had just run a marathon. Ono joked he was just using the bathroom, but his wife noted there was never any steam in the room. In reality, the long hours he put in at Capcom had taken a toll on his health. Even though Ono would go on to recover from his illness, he still puts in long hours at work.
Reading Yoshinori Ono’s story may cause you to wince, but have you ever assessed your own employment situation? You may be a workaholic without realizing it. Ask yourself a few questions:
When you are with your friends or family, are you thinking about work?
Have you been turning down invitations to social events to work more hours?
Do you rarely take vacations or find yourself working through your vacation?
Do you have trouble delegating work?
Do you feel your identity is your work?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be a workaholic. A workaholic is defined as a person who works compulsively. Some people work long hours because they LOVE their career. Other people work long hours because they are motivated by fear, anxiety, or pressure. Whether you work long hours because you love your job, or you’re motivated by pressure, long hours at work can cause an imbalance and negatively impact your health.
Dr. Travis Bradberry noted in his article “Is Your Boss Worse Than Cigarettes?” that a bad boss can have serious health effects on workers. While having a bad boss isn’t the sole cause of workaholism, the effects are similar. Worrying about losing your job can make you 50% more likely to experience poor health, while having an overly demanding job makes you 35% more likely to have a physician-diagnosed illness. These illnesses can include depression, heart disease, heart attack, sleep deprivation, strained relationships with family and even death. In the long run, the quality of your work may suffer because of mental exhaustion and burnout.
A visual of the statistics from Dr. Travis Bradberry’s LinkedIn article.
Other studies have concluded that working too many hours can even impair your cognitive functions. In a five-year study conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology, participants who worked 55 hours per week performed worse than the participants who worked 40 hours per week. Compared to many other cultures, Americans tend to work longer hours and take shorter vacations. People who worked long hours did worse in terms of intelligence, reasoning and verbal recall. In short, working longer hours has a negative impact on productivity, and the overall returns are diminished. Working long hours can also lead to major regrets later in life. Game Designer Jane McGonigal mentions in TED Talk about regrets of the dying that remorse over working long hours and not enjoying life is the first regret of many people.
Admitting you may be a workaholic is the first step in tackling the problem. You may be deep in denial, as many people are. However, the idea of not spending your waking hours being productive, or seeing leisure time as wasteful are big warning signs. If you find yourself working too many hours, stepping back from work is a good way to help combat workaholism.
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your complete attention to the present moment. It is being fully aware of yourself and your surroundings. You live in and meditate in the moment, instead of thinking about the past, or the future. Mindfulness is also a great way to relax, and can help relieve stress and anxiety. Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher, is famous for his timeless nuggets of wisdom. On anxiety Tzu stated, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
Find ways to lighten your workload
If you have a heavy work schedule, you may need to let go of some of your work.
Don’t accept more work than you can handle.
By juggling more tasks, you may feel more productive, but in reality you may not be accomplishing much more. Marcus Buckingham revealed some great research about multi-tasking and the detriments of doing so in his book, Find Your Strongest Life.
Manage your energy by completing the most urgent tasks first in your day.
Learn to delegate some of your tasks to others, as you may not need to complete each and every task yourself.
Learn to stop being a perfectionist and a multi-tasker.
Taking on too many tasks at once can cause you to lose focus on what’s important and your work may never seem to end.
Take your breaks. If you’re fond of not taking lunch breaks, or eating at your desk, it’s time to kill that bad habit.
Take your entire lunch hour and try going for a walk during your breaks.
Exercise before you work. Brent Phillips, MIT-trained engineer and founder of Awakening Dynamics- The Formula for Miracles, promotes exercise for increasing blood flow to your brain, increasing your productivity, and your IQ.
A few small changes to your day can go a long way.
Businessman and author Tom Peters has stated, “Leaders don’t create more followers, they create more leaders.”
Lao Tzu also has a few words of wisdom on leadership, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim is fulfilled, they will say: ‘we did it ourselves.’”
A heavy work schedule may also be a matter of the work being allocated to you unfairly. If this is the case, don’t allow this practice to continue. You can do better! Sometimes people take on more because they can’t say “no.” Is this you? There are a ton of articles that teach people how to say “no.” However, we also TRAIN people how to treat us. We think that people “always” treat us unfairly, but really they have learned from us how to treat us, and we condition them, by reinforcing that we will accept and complete the work.
Leave work at work
You are more than your job. You are allowed to relax and to enjoy your free time. Think of it this way- anything that runs at 100% all of the time will eventually burnout. The same applies to you. Schedule free time into your day and heed that schedule. During your free time, ignore the temptation to squeeze more work into your day. If you’re with your family, whether it is the weekend or a vacation, dedicate your free time to them. Don’t run to your phone every time it beeps with a new message or e-mail. Save those matters for your working hours, unless it is an emergency. Taking the time to rest and to enjoy that rest will ensure you return to work refreshed and recharged.
Think about your future and the legacy you may leave behind. You may enjoy working long hours at work because you love what you do, or you may be fearful of not working hard enough. The short-term bursts of productivity are negated by the long-term detrimental tolls overworking can exact on your mind and body. Learning to let go of long hours can improve your health, your productivity, and your relationships with your family and friends. In the long-term, you will look at your career and smile as you’re able to say you worked hard, but took time to take care of yourself and your family.
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