Welcome to Business Travel : 3 Tips from a New Road Warrior

I’ve started traveling to client sites on a regular basis which means simultaneous more face time and less face time, one with clients and the other with family. It is an interesting give and take which makes the “work-life balance” definition even more skewed. I love the traveling honestly and can easily switch between “work hard hotel mode” and “lazy at home mode”. Others may have more difficulty so here are some of my mental tricks that might help you if you too travel frequently for business.
  1. Make home, home only
    • I know the first thing you want to do when you get home is relax, but before you do anything else, you should unpack and put away the suitcase. If you leave out the packed clothes and the suitcase, you and your family will see it and be reminded of how often you are gone. You don’t want to have one foot out the door when you are home.
  2. You are on their time
    • In the airport and on the plane, you do not have control over late passengers, the weather, or mechanically delayed flights. The moment I begin the traveling, I go into a zen state in which I practice believing that no matter what happens I don’t care and will wait until the traveling is done when I can control my own time again. Remember it is always better to have arrived late than not at all.
  3. Savor the alone time
    • Hotel rooms can be awkward and quiet, and planes can be stuffy and cramped, but the uncomfortable time you spend in these places is time you are not somewhere else (like with your family). Splurg on the glass of wine, watch that chick flick, take a nap. Do the “me things” in the small spaces you can so when you are home you can dedicate yourself 100% to the people that miss you.

This blog post? Written on my flight home on Southwest. Sharing my thoughts on this blog with you is how I enjoy spending my personal time. I hope it helps give you some insight into how you can mentally relax a bit more when those business trips call you away.

How to Give Better Feedback That Might Actually Be Implemented Next Time

I was given some of the best feedback on my speaking and presentation skills last week during a training program. The feedback giver was able to put into words how the audience perceived me, my ability to react to participant on the fly, and my manner as the expert in the room. I was happy to learn that the things my intentions were coming across! Apparently I am a compassionate and relatable teacher; I probably got that from my Girl Scout days.

If you are like me, you’ve been given good feedback and bad feedback. Some people never want to hurt your feelings and only say “you did great”. Others go into rants because they want you to perform just like them. How can you improve your own feedback giving skills? Here are some ideas:

  1. Stay objective
    • The number one mistake I’ve witnessed in feedback givers is that they are too specific to the situation at hand. They say things like “pause here”, “change this word here”, or “don’t forget to say this on this slide”. These small suggestions are so trivial that they aren’t helpful. Even if I remember those suggestions, it will probably throw off my natural cadence of speaking. Instead, stay objective and suggest “pausing more”, “stay in present tense”, and “go into more detail on this important topic”. These suggestions don’t get caught in the details and allow the individual’s own skills to shine through.
  2. Applicable to all situations
    • Feedback is only as good as its usefulness to apply to your next speech. Just like the specific feedback examples above, poignant improvements are only helpful if you are presenting that exact same speech again with the exact same environment. Instead, keep your feedback related to personality (how you smile, how much you ask the audience for questions, how fast you speak) and poise. These tips can help someone become a better and well-rounded speaker no matter who the audience or what the topic.
  3. Stay positive
    • No one wants a lecture in how they could do better after a stressful experience speaking in front of a crowd. Toastmasters teaches the sandwich method (one good thing, followed by one improvement, followed by a second good thing) but I think this can be taken a step further. If you are recommending someone speaks louder, give an example when the person did project their voice well during the speech. This constructive criticism all of a sudden seems obtainable because it turns a “start doing this” into a “do this more” which doesn’t sound negative at all!
I believe that honesty is always the best policy, especially on feedback. It is the only way you can learn and become better! What do you think? Any feedback on my blog posts? 🙂

3 Tips to Keep Going Past the Scary Parts of Unemployment (My Unemployment Story Part 4)

I hope you enjoyed reading my other posts about my challenges of going through unemployment in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Finally, Part 4 is the logistics of what I did to find that next job.

  1. Schedule your day
    • When you have a job, do you feel tied down to your work with deadlines and meetings? Your calendar and the hour-long blocks of time on it structure your day. If you are your own boss (aka unemployed), stay on track by doing the same thing! Get the most out of Google Calendar and block out time to do important things and silly things. Below is a picture of an example of my weekly to-do list and you can see I even have cleaning the house on there! Every little thing that you do is an accomplishment, so cross it off like you deserve it!
  2. Network everywhere
    • And I mean everywhere. I’m not lying when I say I used 3 of my friends to connect me to the hiring department at a company through their significant other. It may seem weird and like you are “taking advantage” of your friends, family, or acquaintances but really everyone wants to help where they can! Ask if they know anyone! Tell everyone what you are looking for!
  3. Define success for yourself
    • Without a 6-month review cycle and bonuses to work towards, you might feel a wave of “what’s the point” or “where am I going” during your job search. Do some soul searching and make it about you. Set 3-month and 6-month goals that are more than “get a new job”. I began learning a new language, German. I am writing a book so I made goals about how many chapters I’d finish this month. Then, when another month comes and goes you won’t feel so defeated.
Oh, and for heavensakes, get out of the house. Seriously. I loved living in my slippers 24/7 and not doing my hair every morning, but interviews are about your people skills and first impressions. Get out and talk to people and meet new people at least once a week. You don’t want to forget how to hold a conversation during a lull in a phone interview. 🙂 I hope these tips and my experiences helped you understand how unemployment is. Best of luck!
My Week 9 To Do List

The Best and Worst of Recruiters (My Unemployment Story Part 3)

One of the main reasons job seeking when unemployed is so difficult is because it is hard to maintain a positive attitude. Every time a recruiter calls you have to respond in a cheery voice and describe all of the great attributes you have without any self doubt. Many times, the person on the other end, the recruiter, can influence your attitude by testing your patience, forcing you through tough Q&A, or not sharing your enthusiasm. I bet it would be hard to be a recruiter and be verbally excited every day, but that is part of that job; you ARE the first impression a job seeker has of your company. I’ve had some good, interesting, and bad experiences and I think they are worth sharing.

  1. No response
    • After an initial phone screen, sometimes you hear nothing. Seriously, it is the worst. When the same job posting is on a website for 5 months and you thought you were in the running, how often can you repeatedly follow up with a recruiter with no response before it is rude? Once, I got contacted 4 times by 4 different people at a single company about a single position and not one of them followed up a second time. Do I want to work in that disorganization? No. Another time I flat out called asking about the status of the position and finally got the “we decided to pursue other candidates” answer, but the closure was totally worth it. The “we decided to go in another direction” answer is a tough one because you rarely know why but it is better than nothing. Don’t leave us hanging!!
  2. Conversationalist, or not
    • There are many types of recruiters. First are the “formal questions only” type. It is dry and you will get dry responses. I hate doing all of the talking because I want to learn about you as much as you want to learn about me! Two, the tactic of assessing what questions I ask is effective… as long as you have the answers. Third, talking with a recruiter that shows genuine excitement about finding a good fit will turn the interview into a friendly conversation. Thank you! My time and your time is valuable and we both want the same thing so why not talk about things we care about.
  3. Dangling carrot
    • What’s hard is the “we should be opening up a position soon”. Because my unemployment was around the holidays, I got postponed interviews and interesting stories that just dragged out for months. It is frustrating when I could start tomorrow. I know recruiters are trying to be encouraging but unless you get another contact to talk to, you need to move on. Circle back around in another month if you are still unemployed but don’t let them control you with an endless waiting game!

In short, recruiters that are honest is refreshing during the interview process. They can read your reaction to a question and understand your thought process when explaining a scenario. These recruiters return your calls within a week (Hitachi Consulting), send company fact sheets before your next interview (DaVita), and tell you whether you will like the hiring manager or not (Charter). (Yes, I just name dropped). Even though they didn’t hire me, these HR departments turned a headache into an enjoyable experience. (P.S. They should get a raise.) Keep reading for more advice about job hunting in Part 4!

    The End of Unemployment: My Story and Tips (My Unemployment Story Part 1)

    It is finally here! I have a job! I start next week and I couldn’t be happier to be contributing to society again. It wasn’t easy and I’m sure I’m not the only person that has (or will have to) go through this. So I want to share my experience and write a few posts about what I went through and how I got through it. Being unemployed is exhausting on many levels: emotionally, professionally, physically, and personally, and the only way to survive it is to believe you are constantly on the cusp of that next great opportunity.

    A few facts:

    • 25 weeks without a job
    • 150 job applications
    • 14 networking events
    • 10 personal contacts
    • 4 career fairs
    • 17 phone interviews
    • 5 in-person interviews
    • 2 emotional breakdowns

    What can you gather from this? Three things:

    1. I have these numbers
      • I know what these numbers are. Period. That means I kept track of what I did for each of those 175 days. Writing down your accomplishments as you go is important! It helps you know when to remind that recruiter again or check that top 3 company career page again. In case you didn’t know, in order to receive unemployment checks you do have to complete the minimum number of job submissions (for me it was 5) each week (and yes, I got audited and had to prove it).
    2. It is not easy
      • The hardest thing without a doubt is staying positive. I did go through tough money conversations, weight gain, avoiding old work friends, and more. Don’t feel guilty for feeling however you do. I felt it was impossible to find energy or fully relax. I even tried to have fun by trying T’ai Chi (bucket list, check!). It is a constant roller coaster with interview invites and rejections. You need to force yourself into some sort of balance in which can reward yourself and manage yourself. Visit family and friends out of town that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Sleep in and cry when you need it. Do whatever you want as long as your want to join the workforce again is the strongest desire and you actively work towards finding a new job all the time.
    3. Finding a job IS a job
      • You can definitely spend 40 hours a week applying to jobs. The truth is that you have nothing to show for it until it is all over. I didn’t laze around “happily living off the government’s dime”. I bet people surf Facebook on the job more than I did the past few months. Because no one has a manager when unemployed, active job seekers actually have 2 jobs to do: strategize as the boss AND do the work like an individual contributor. Oh, and you also need to be your own HR department for benefits and job satisfaction (self motivation).
    For more on my story, check out Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4! I blog about what to do if you know someone unemployed, what I found entertaining about HR, and what I did to earn that next job. And my first post with my reaction that very first week is here. I hope my experience can help you if ever face the trials of unemployment.

    A Book Review of Half the Sky

    Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
    by: Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

    What is the greatest untapped resource? Women. Did you know that the US is 68th in the world for the number of women that hold political seats? Want to know which country is #1? Rwanda – at 56%. This book is filled with personal gut-wrenching stories of the oppression of women and the terrible health and education conditions that these cultures face: gender discrimination, sex trafficking, forced prostitution, honor killings, child marriages, etc. I honestly almost stopped reading after the first chapter, and then again hearing about fistulas, but I found myself mesmerized by the passion these women have. Each story is about how one woman fights for her basic human rights and goes to school, learns to read and write, meets with other village women, starts a business, and begins changing village culture.

    The reason I like this book is because it argues that the number one way to solve poverty in these struggling nations is education, specifically girls’ education. By educating women, they gain the confidence to become acting member of society and they start handling family finances, practicing family planning, putting children’s health first, and increasing the GOP by contributing to the economy. Success comes more from these internal grassroots movements and by getting involved in small ways like funding micro-finance programs, writing your congressman, or get inspired and read (or listen to the audiobook) Half the Sky, or to watch the PBS special including testimonials of Hilary Clinton, Eva Mendes, Meg Ryan, and more.

    What can you do in the next 10 minutes to help? Click here to see about how you can travel, donate, volunteer, or simply spread the word!

    Oh, and make sure to take advantage of your own rights and VOTE!