Take a Break & De-Stress

29 05 2013


The summer is here.  School is out and your internship or full-time job is getting started.  Or, if you’re like me, the summer means time for some serious strategic thinking and reflection.  A while back, I wrote about how we all should take a vacation.  I stand by that post, but realize that we can only take a vacation every once in a while.  So, here are a few ways you can take a few minutes to center yourself so that you’re more productive, focused, and more creative.

Go for a fifteen minute walk, leaving your smartphone behind.  It’s amazing what you can do with just a few minutes.  That fifteen minute walk should be just enough time to refocus on a problem you’re having trouble solving.  Or, you could use that time to cool off if you’re frustrated.  The key is leaving your stressers (ie: smartphone w/email, texts, etc.) behind.  Tell someone you’re going for a short walk, and then do it.  Believe me, everyone in the office won’t even know you’re gone since the time is so short.

Go for a short run.  This is what helps me break away from everything.  Do I think about work as I run?  Sure, but then magic happens.  Endorphins kick in as I exercise more, clearing my head, putting me in a better mood, and making me just a little bit healthier.  I’m participating in Runner’s World magazine’s “run streak” this year, pledging to run at least one mile every day from Memorial Day through Independence Day.  Want to join me?  Follow me at @runbcuz and use the hashtag #rwrunstreak.  Let’s streak together.  🙂  PS.  I’m training for my second (and last) full marathon and have found several fitness apps to be very beneficial.  Click here for details.

Get up and say hello to a few people around the office.  Ever emailed the person that sits just a few feet from your desk?  Yeah, me neither.  Take a few minutes to stretch and walk around the office.  Say hello to your co-workers.  Smile.  Not only does this help you de-stress, it helps them!  It’s amazing what a smile and simple “hello” can do.  Just be sure to be cognizant of their time and workspace – knowing the difference between popping in for a quick “hi” and starting a full conversation is crucial.  If you need to talk to them beyond pleasantries, schedule the time.

Read a few chapters of a non-work related book.  I’m a big fan of James Patterson and Michael Crichton.  Why?  Both authors take me into a world that is real, yet fictional.  I don’t have to apply business principles or solve a problem.  All I have to do is read the book, escaping for a few minutes into the pageantry of storytelling.  It’s a good “brain break” and only takes a few minutes.  Read a few pages to get your creative juices flowing, and then go back to what you were working on.  You might find that you accomplish what you’re working on much more easily now.

I know there are a LOT more ways to de-stress.  The key is that you actually get away from what it is that has required so much of your focus.  Take a break.  Do it for your health.  Do it for your sanity.  Do it for the sanity and health of those around you.  Do it for you.  You can do it!

Any other ideas on de-stressing?  Let’s hear them!  Please leave a comment below.  As always, thanks for reading.


Get Uncomfortable

21 05 2013


Guest post by Deborah Brown-Volkman

Are you happy in your career or just going through the motions? Do you know it’s time to act, but you don’t want to? Are you pushing yourself to do more, and be more, or are you too comfortable being comfortable?

Making a change in your career involves work, and not everyone likes to do work. Whether it’s a new job, a new career, or a new way of dealing with a problem at work, challenging situations do not change without your active participation.

Maybe making changes in your career used to be easier. Maybe jobs were handed to you, or opportunities came quicker. Because of the nature of today’s workplace and the competitiveness among workers for jobs, those days are long gone. You get change when you work for change. You can wish that the process for change would be different, and they will be different once you put in the effort. (Or, when you keep going past the point where you want to stop.)

Where Do You Begin? Follow These 3 Steps Below.

1. Admit You Are Comfortable

You cannot fix what you cannot admit. So, say it. You are comfortable. Maybe you like being comfortable and that is ok. Why push yourself if you do not have to? The problem is being comfortable keeps you stuck. Rather than having something to look forward to in the future, you are trapped in your day-to-day life and routines. And although being comfortable allows you to not have to push yourself or exert any unnecessary effort, your comfortableness leaves you unfulfilled and unhappy. So ask yourself, what is worse, moving forward or staying where you are? You will choose forward movement once you admit that standing still is your worst option.

2. Decide To Be Uncomfortable

I am a big believer in deciding, because without decision nothing happens. So, decide to be uncomfortable. Not because someone else thinks you should, but because you want to. Not because you are being forced to, but because you know it’s time. Decide to be uncomfortable because you miss the old you and are tired of being unhappy. Decide because you do not want to complain anymore, and have realized that your complaints are unproductive and are not taking you anywhere productive. Change happens when you decide to change. And once you’ve decided, then you are can move forward.

3. Get Uncomfortable

What was the last risk you took? It probably has been a while. If you are not ready to take a big risk, start with something smaller. Little risks build your confidence and inner belief that you can handle bigger ones. For example, if you don’t usually speak up in meetings, contribute something this week. If you do not usually call people to follow up or ask for something that you need in your career, make one call this week. Something that will shake things up a bit and get you ready for something bigger.

If you want something different in your career, you have to do something different. The world around you may not change or even want to change, but this is not about them, it’s about you. Change is possible once you start making changes. Small steps over time produce great results. You just have to begin.

So, what do you say? You only have one life to live, so it might as well be a life you love!


About the author: Deborah Brown-Volkman, PCC, is the President of Surpass Your Dreams, Inc. a successful career, life, and mentor coaching company that works with Senior Executives, Vice Presidents, and Managers who are looking for new career opportunities or seek to become more productive in their current role. She is the author of “Coach Yourself To A New Career”, “Don’t Blow It! The Right Words For The Right Job” and “How To Feel Great At Work Everyday.” Deborah can be reached at http://www.surpassyourdreams.com or at (631) 874-2877.

How to Lose a Job Before the Interview: Facebook No-No’s

14 05 2013


Guest post by Jeri Johansen

Facebook.  People either love it or hate it.  One thing’s for sure, its popularity can’t be beat – Facebook has now surpassed Google as the most visited site in the U.S. with over a billion users.  It didn’t take long for employers to understand that a lot of information can be learned about prospective employees from their Facebook page.   While those pictures of you doing a keg stand provide a great memory of a great party, job recruiters are not usually amused by this activity.

Effective January 1st, 2013, new state laws make it illegal for some employers to demand access to their worker’s Facebook accounts, although that does not mean they won’t try to view them.  It’s hard to believe that employers had been taking it upon themselves to demand employee’s social media passwords!  This tactic just screams Title VII violation.  Just think of the type of information an employer could possibly learn from your social media page: gender, race, religion, sexual orientation; the list goes on and on.

Whether or not hiring managers should use social media for employment screening, recent surveys show that about 37% do check Facebook before making a hiring decision.  Below is some information to help you clean up your Facebook page before embarking on your post-graduate career search.

Privacy settings

Take the time to set up your privacy settings so that only “friends” can view your timeline.  This may seem like a no brainer, but if you restrict a lurker’s access to your information, it makes it all the more difficult to not only find you, but to dig up dirt on you.


Quite possibly the biggest indication of a person’s “social media maturity” is their pictures. Would you be interested in going into business with someone whose first impression of themselves is a picture of them chugging a 40-ounce beer and making an explicit hand gesture? Yeah, neither would your future employer.

Status Updates

What you choose to share about yourself on a wide-spread social platform says more about yourself than what you actually say. Constantly complaining about your life, putting other people down or stating controversial opinions with disregard to other’s feelings are all sure-fire ways to have strangers judge your personality before actually getting to know you. So you had a bad day at work? Posting about it on Facebook makes it seem like you hate your job and could concern employers that you would bad mouth them as well.

Proper grammar/spelling

Not being an English major is no excuse for improper grammar or spelling errors.  Profanity is another huge turnoff for employers, with 61% saying that they view the use of profanity on social media sites negatively.  Maybe you have great things to say but you can lose your credibility if your spelling or grammar is off.   Let’s review the following post:  “Im so exsited for there company to schedule my inter-view”.   Although you may mean well, this post could be viewed by the interviewer who may become “not so ecxsited” to schedule your interview.

Your Likes

Your “likes” on Facebook can be extremely telling.  While you may well be a fan of “Tattoos by Deviants”, it may come off as unappealing to some more conservative employers.

While changing or updating your Facebook profile is a good practice for job searching, it’s important to remember that nothing you post on the internet is ever completely hidden.  I can still find pictures of myself that I posted during my “only cool people post self-timer shots of them alone in the bathroom” phase in high school.  If in 10 years from now you think you could be embarrassed by the stuff on your social media page, don’t post it!  You wouldn’t want a profile picture or status update to be the determining factor between you and a competing candidate!

Jeri pic


About the author: This post was written by Jeri Johansen, PHR –HR Blogger and Manager of Human Resources at Crimcheck.com and Co-Chair of the 2013 Northern Ohio Human Resource Conference (www.nohrc.org).  Crimcheck.com specializes in employment screening and background checks. You can follow Crimcheck.com on Facebook and Twitter also.”

Let’s Hear It for the Teachers!

7 05 2013

w teacher quote black

This week, we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really wonderful teachers throughout my life.  I know that you have as well.  So, this week, I’m saying thank you.  It’s the least I can do.  These people have taught me so much!

As I’m thinking about people who pay it forward, teachers always come to mind.  Some of the best advice I have ever received came from a teacher.  In your job search, seek out the teachers and learn from them.  Teachers give so much, asking only for their students to be the best they can be.  The doctors, lawyers, astronauts, politicians (yes, even the President had great teachers), educators…basically everyone has a teacher to thank for where they are in life.  Here are a few teachers that made me into the person I am today:

Ms. Bridgers – My Kindergarten teacher.  As a youngster, I was quite the handful.  In between keeping me from jumping off the tables with my friends, chasing the girls and sending me to the Principal’s office (which was often), she encouraged creative problem-solving.  My favorite part of class was the “listening skills” portion.  She’d read from a lesson and we would have to apply our listening ears to solve the problem.  I have used this every day in my life.  Thank you, Ms. Bridgers.

Mom  – Mom recently retired after serving over 20 years as a Family & Consumer Sciences (previously known as Home Economics) teacher.  She taught subjects that range from Parenting to Psychology.  She has taught me a lot of things from how to cook and bake (there IS a difference) to how to change a baby’s diaper, even how to sew.  All of these lessons that have proven to be very useful throughout my life.  She and my dad taught me that “if I fail to plan, I plan to fail.”  That’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way, but hey – that happens.  Thanks, Mom.

Dad – Dad never taught a formal class, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t learned anything from him.  I can attribute my knowledge of the outdoors to him.  He inspired me to join the Boy Scouts.  I never became an Eagle Scout, but that doesn’t mean I failed.  In fact, Dad taught me that failure is just part of life.  He taught me to pick myself up, dust off, and move on. He has also taught me that life is easier when you have a sense of humor.  Sometimes, all you can do is laugh.  That includes laughing at yourself.  Thanks, Dad.

Ms. Welker – My junior high English teacher who opened my eyes to the world of classic literature, writing, speech and debate.  Perhaps even the inspiration for starting (and continuing) my blog, Ms. Welker continues to encourage me to use my talents to help others.  We still keep up on Facebook.  Whether that’s by inciting laughter, inspiration, motivation or just a little silliness by my arsenal of voices (from Kermit the Frog to Hank Hill), she taught me to be true to myself.  This is written just as it was in my first post on teachers.  Ms. Welker – you still inspire me!

My wife – She is finishing her first year as a 3rd grade teacher and has a true passion for this field.  Every day she comes home with new excitement from her classroom that inspires me.  In fact, she’s the very source of inspiration for many of my blog posts.  The education system needs people like her: people who truly care about their students, who are there for the right reasons, not just the paycheck and summer vacation.  She has great potential and I’m excited to walk hand in hand with her as we embark on the journey together.  A little horn-toot for her: She was recently named as one of Missouri’s Association of Colleges & Teacher Education’s (MACTE) Outstanding Beginner Teachers for 2013! So proud of her. Jamie, THANK YOU!!

These people are only a sample of the amazing teachers in my life.  There are so many more and new ones are added regularly!

Think:  Is there someone in your life that has taught you a lesson you’ll never forget?  It may not be a formal teacher in the education system.  It doesn’t have to be.  In fact, some of the best teachers are those that you encounter every day like friends, parents, grandparents, mentors, etc.

Don’t underestimate the power of learning.  One last challenge:  Strive to be a teacher in life.  Lead.  Help someone in need.  Pay it forward.