Monthly Archives: July 2014

Should We All Just Forget About Work/Life Balance?

Does the quest for a ‘perfect ‘balance’ set us up for failure?

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It’s been hard to ignore the recent debate over the issue of work/life balance. ‘Work/life balance’ previously being viewed as something for all to strive for, has come under fire of late, as a vague buzzword, void of any real meaning. The term was slammed by Kate Hilton in the Huffington Post:  ‘Is there a more over-used and empty phrase in modern life than “work-life balance”? I can’t think of one. Perhaps that’s because I am asked several times a week how I achieve it.’

Others admit that the fabled happy medium is rarely achieved by successfully juggling all areas of life simultaneously, and that placing ‘work/life balance’ on a pedestal only sets us up for unrealistic expectations for our careers and lifestyles. The situation may be even more challenging for working mothers and fathers, who all too often, view a perfect work life balance as a way to cancel out ‘working parent guilt’.

A recent Forbes article by Edmund Ingham told us that entrepreneurs should simply forget about the concept of work life balance altogether: ‘ the curse of it is, the more successful you are, the less downtime you have.’

Even recent graduates are being told that attempting to balance work and life is detrimental to career progression. In this controversial article, the CEO of Backupify Rob May states that in order for graduates to get to the ‘equivalent of the Olympics’ in their career, they must stop trying to master balancing life and work, and instead focus aim to focus their energies on the latter, ‘The rewards in the future will be worth the sacrifices you’re making now” May assures us.

In 21st century employment it appears that work and life are constantly merging closer and closer together. We work from home, we check our emails after clocking off in the evening, and often pick up work from Friday at the weekend.  Now far removed from the 20th century attitudes of our forebears, many of us find ourselves ‘living to work’ rather than the opposite. So is work/life balance a myth? Is it better to cast off the idea as an outdated concept and move on, rather than to continue to strive obsessively for an elusive harmony which continually evades us?

One solution is to stop aiming for a perfect harmony between work and life, instead setting up a system of rough boundaries to limit the crossover between work and life. This might mean refusing to check your email after 7pm, or limiting the amount of time you spend working at the weekends to less than 60 minutes.

Live Well Spokesman Adam Green advocates using the ‘third space’ to improve work/life balance, which he describes as the period of time spent between finishing work at the end of the day and beginning downtime and leisure activities in the evening. He believes that a positive attitude is key to this:

‘Most people tend to dwell on the negative things in their day which can be bad news for your family who have to deal with you when you walk in the door. Try focusing on being positive and what went well in your day, what you achieved and how things will be better tomorrow’

Therefore, when understood as a matter of setting boundaries, work/life balance becomes a more tangible and achievable reality. If you do ‘live to work’ aiming a degree of separation between the two will have a positive effect on both your work and your life.

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5 Textbook CV Mistakes You Need to Fix Today

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Are you tired of sending out the same, uninspiring CV to employers, knowing that your stilted resume is doing you no real favours? All too often the CVs that employers receive are ineffective, in that they reveal nothing about the true capabilities and personality of the candidate behind them.

The time has come to ditch the generic language and start owning your CV and the story it tells. Omit clichés and contrived, old-hat formulas, and you may find that you have more luck with being called in for interviews.

Are you making these CV mistakes? Remedy them now!

Mistake #1 Not injecting personality

Sorting this mistake is key to mastering the rest of these classic CV bugbears. How can you expect an employer to see you as a real, 3D, living and breathing candidate when your CV is lifeless utterly fails in conveying your personality. One thing that you must do is ditch clichés. Do you really think that you will bag the job by telling the employer that you can ‘work well alone and as part of a team’? Ridding your CV of platitudes is the first step to creating a resume with real impact.

 Mistake #2 Not telling a great story

Most of us aim to follow the traditional chronological model when writing a CV. While there is nothing wrong with this, don’t let the traditional format stifle your ability to tell the story of your career so far. Employers will be far more willing to read on if you can tell your career as a tale, rather than as a series of monotonous bullet-points.

Mistake #3 Third-person narrative

You are the protagonist of your life, not the omniscient narrator. Stop talking about yourself in the third person! While you may feel that this will give your CV a more professional tone, writing in the first-person will give your CV a sense of life and authenticity that becomes lost when you start referring to yourself as ‘the candidate’.

Mistake #4 Not Identifying the problem you aim to solve

Perhaps the most significant factor in distinguishing yourself from the rest of the crowd is the ability to effectively identify and summarise how you will be of benefit. There is a reason why the employer is advertising for new staff. Think of the problems that they need you to solve for their business and make it clear that you are equipped and willing to deal with this pain.

Mistake #5 Not including a ‘high points’ montage

It’s easy to write  a list of the tasks that have fallen into your remit in previous roles, but it might be more difficult to identify high points or achievements that will impress prospective employers. Have a brainstorming session and think of all the things you have done that you are most proud of. This will distinguish you as  results-oriented candidate, and again, will help to tell your unique story.

How to Open Up Your Career and find Greater Fulfillment

Is it possible to turn your current job into the job of your dreams?

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Are you stressing yourself out over a job which is offering you little in way of way of personal fulfillment? Perhaps you have good reason to be looking for new opportunities, but maybe it’s the case that you’d rather focus your energies on improving the career you have!

It’s only natural to sometimes feel stuck in a dead end, and if you start to think about this a lot then you know it’s time to think about looking for a new role. However, it’s important to understand the difference between wanting a new job, and simply wanting a more fulfilling role which offers more scope for career fulfillment and personal development.

Only you can know how best to improve your career, but here are some points that you should consider when transforming  your current role into your dream role!

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What is good?

There are good and bad aspects of every job out there, regardless of how soul-destroying you believe your current role to be! Make a list of every good point of you current job, as this will enable you to see clearly the aspects of your job that you value and would like to maintain as your career progresses

What could be better?

If you are reading this article then there must be some aspects of your current role that you dislike. You have not failed, as a career is just one long learning curve, and being able to figure out  your career likes and dislikes is key to working out what you actually want to do. It’s more than okay to realise that your job is not all it cracked up to be- as long as you take positive steps forward to improve the situation!

Do you crave more flexibility?

Many people are envious of those who work from home, but perhaps you feel as though your career is genuinely too ridgid and stifling. You can now request flexible working thanks to recent legislative changes. Alternatively, you could use Flexiworkforce to search for flexible opportunities in your field which will allow you to cast off ‘presenteeism’ and gain opportunities with companies that are progressive and forward-thinking in their approach to working hours. Making the jump to freelancing may also be an effective solution to shaking up your current career and gaining more control over your work life.

What would happen if…

You told your employer that you wanted to change either your hours or the remit of your current position. Would your request be met with scorn or indifference, or would your employer be willing to accommodate your request in order to help you progress in your career?

Could you do more?

Maybe it’s the case that you’re simply not making the most of your current role. Explore the potential for training and professional development within your organisation. If you have an idea for a new project, bring it up with your boss and gauge their reaction to your proactive attitude. If they encourage you then you may find it easy to find greater fulfillment by expanding your current role. However, if your employer tells you that it’s not feasible, perhaps it’s time to look for new opportunities.

What would get you onto the right path?

It’s essential to identify what you need to do in order to change your attitude to work. Whether you want to find greater fulfillment by gaining new skills, or desire a more flexible working schedule, only after you’ve identified the issue can you begin to move on in search of what you really want.

9 Ways to Stay Sane while Job Hunting

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1. Make job hunting your job 

It’s common advice, but getting up and working like you would on a regular day may help you feel more focused and productive than you would if you stayed in bed until 1pm! Try to maintain a routine that feels normal for you. That involves getting out of the pyjamas before lunchtime!

2. Alternatively, limit your job hunting to a few hours here and there

While it is good to maintain a regular routine, devoting an entire day to job hunting may feel soul destroying when there are not too many jobs that you are interested in applying for. If you are in this situation, focus on quality, not quantity, and concentrate on getting an interview for the opportunities you really want rather than firing off CVs to every advertisement you see online.

 3. Create a bank of information about yourself

Many job applications involve answering questions set by the employer in order to test your skills, attitude and suitability for the role. However, the ‘Groundhog Day’ feeling of answering the same questions over and over again is enough to drive you mad! Keep a word document consisting of chunks of information that can easily be copied and pasted to form a cover letter. Similarly, Include answers to commonly recurring job application question to save you countless frustrating hours of typing.

4. Stay grounded (most of the time)

That means, spend the majority of your job hunting hours applying for jobs that you have a reasonable shot of getting an interview for. Aim for jobs that fit your skills and expertise, rather than applying for jobs that you are overqualified for.

5.Occasionally, shoot for the stars 

That being said, there really is no harm in sending out a maverick application for the job of your dreams! You might be underqualified right now, but look carefully at the candidate requirements as they may give you clues on how you can progress your career to eventually snag that dream job.

6. Keep a diary of any job you apply for

This is a great tip which will help you to stay on track with your jobsearch and take stock of every role you have applied for. This will be especially helpful when you are following up on opportunities you have applied for or been interviewed for.

 7. Give yourself credit where credit is due

Reward yourself for applying to new roles, especially when it involves stepping out of your comfort zone. Job hunting is hard, so don’t be down on yourself when you’re knocked back from a couple of opportunities.

8. Learn to deal with rejection in a positive way

A great way of dealing with rejection is to channel negative emotion into a positive outlet. Every time you get a rejection email, use the anger and frustration you feel to fuel positive action. This could mean firing out more applications, or altering your CV or cover letter to present your skills and expertise in the best possible light.

9. Remember that good news is just around the corner

It’s vital to always remember that you will not be unemployed forever! It really is only a matter of time until a new opportunity comes knocking. Though the wait can be frustrating, your efforts will eventually be worthwhile.

Easy Ways You Can Supercharge Your Productivity While Working From Home

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Read our guide to successful homeworking!

Anyone who works from home regularly will know that working from home has some definite advantages…. But when your home is your office there can be downsides to working remotely.

Homeworkers might get to spend all day in their pyjamas, while slashing valuable time usually spent commuting. However, those who work from home may also admit to feeling their energy and motivation flagging as the day goes on.

When you work from home it is easy to lose track of your progress. This can lead to feeling more disorganised and out of control than you would in a regular office environment.

However, when done right, home working can be more productive than working in a conventional communal office. Here are are top tips for getting it right!

1. Make sure your kitchen is well stocked the night before! 

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There’s nothing more distracting than having to make an impromptu trip to the shops while trying to get stuck into the day’s tasks! The night before, check to make sure that you have food for the next day, including snacks, biscuits and supplies for making tea and coffee. Sounds simple but this will save you a lot of time, and will give you more time to be productive!

2.Take some time to think after waking up

It’s oh so tempting when working from home to sleep in as late as possible, only rising to grab the laptop before snuggling back into your duvet to start work. However, you’ll find that you are far more productive when you give yourself time to think about the day ahead. Practice mindfulness and do some gentle stretching before commencing your work.

3. Write a threefold list of tasks and rank in order of importance.

This is the best method for us, and you may find it helpful too. Divide a piece of paper into three sections, one section for tasks that are urgent, one for tasks that are important, and a third for tasks that need to be done but that can wait another day. Then fill the columns with your tasks as appropriate.

4. Never have nothing to do!

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This is crucial. The moment you feel as though you aren’t busy, your motivation levels will drop, and instead of spending time being productive you will end up spending time trying to invent things to do. To counter this, create a list of tasks that always need doing, for example, filing, organising, or writing ‘evergreen content that you can use at any point.

5. Keep a log of everything you do 

By keeping a record of all the tasks you have accomplished, you are less likely to feel as though you are losing focus. Choose the hardest tasks first and tackle them early in the morning so your stress levels decrease in the afternoon.

6. Consider relocating to a ‘Coffice’ in the afternoon 

A change of location can do wonders for your productivity, and after a morning of hard work you deserve to treat yourself to a coffee and a cake! Use this time to catch up on admin, update your social media accounts and take stock of what you have achieved, and what you mean to achieve the next day

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