Thursday, February 28, 2013

Enthusiasm in the Interview - Your Not So Secret Weapon

Congratulations on your interview! Now one piece of advice: you might be qualified, experienced, competent, recommended, professional, informed AND well spoken; but without enthusiasm you won’t shine in your interview.  Just showing up to the interview isn’t enough.  You need to give the impression that you are excited to be there! 

The stress of an interview can send you into fight-or-flight response.  Your body becomes tense, you become super-alert, and your bloodstream fills with adrenaline.  If you’re one of those lucky people who gets dry mouth, that’s going to happen too (hint: always take water if it’s offered).  The brain no longer focuses on minutia but the big picture, which isn’t helpful when you’re trying to remember the details of your accomplishments at your last job.  This is the reason people freeze up, can’t remember what they wanted to say, and trip over their words.  Someone who freezes silent, or gets tongue-tied and apologetic isn’t selling themselves.  And to the interviewer, this behavior can make someone look disinterested or scatterbrained.  At this point, it’s not practical to focus on calming yourself down.  You’re in this situation and you want to come out the other side with a good interview.  You can do this by embracing your freak-out!

The body has the same physiological response to fear as to excitement.  So just tell yourself you’re just that excited about this position!  Take all that nervous energy and instead of trying to suppress it, let it escape in your responses.  And don’t hide the fact that you are excited about the prospect of doing this job, not just getting it.

There are plenty of other articles on how to be prepared, so I won’t cover this here.  Just keep in mind that doing your research and practicing your talking points gives you something to say when you need to elaborate and your brain freezes up. 

When the interview ends, you want to ensure that you have left the impression that you are not only qualified for the job, but that you actively want to do it!  When you leave, they could be saying “She tripped up that question and she looked like she didn’t want to be here” or “she tripped up that question, but she is clearly excited about this work.”  In this job market, where there plenty of experienced, qualified candidates, your enthusiasm can tip a decision in your favor. 

Joyce Abbott Holds a BA in Anthropology and an MA in Library Science.  She has worked in for-profits, non-profits, and local government everywhere from customer service, to librarianship, to corporate records management.  She believes the point of life is to never stop growing and pushing yourself into something new.  You can connect with Joyce on!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

5 Tips to Revitalize Your Job Search

Hunting, searching, pounding the pavement, and putting out feelers.  Whether you have been laid off or are just searching for a better opportunity, an employment search means having to sell yourself right at the time when you are feeling stuck, low, and craving change.  It can be disheartening, but it doesn’t have to be.  Whatever your motivation to job search, this is the time to revitalize your life, both professionally, and personally.

Each of these tips will keep you energized, updated, connected and motivated during this time when it is so easy to get into a rut and discourage yourself.

Volunteer Your Time – “What time?” you say.  Even volunteering once or twice a month can open doors.  You have skills and experience that can benefit your community.  Whether you donate that time to a non profit, school, or other community organization, you will be getting just as much back in the way of professional contacts, recommendations, and job leads.  You can even use the opportunity to develop skills and gain experience that you don’t yet have; experience that will get you your next job.  Volunteering is also an excellent way to get your foot in the door in a field that you want to try out, or build your skills in.  No matter what you are interested in doing, there is always an organization willing to give you the opportunity.  Advertising, writing, graphic design, teaching, public relations, caregiving….the opportunities are endless.  Try going to to find an organization waiting to partner with you in your next skill building venture!

Get Involved in Some Professional Organizations – If you already have a membership to a professional organization, now is the time to get more involved.  These organizations are there to provide you with networking opportunities, publications to keep you up to date on your industry, and leadership experience.  Get involved in organizing the next conference, or run for a leadership position.  Not ready for that?  Log on to their website and get involved in the online community, posting your own questions and answering others.  You’ll learn more about the job climate in your industry and maybe even make a name for yourself for when you are interested in taking your involvement to the next level.  Don’t have the money to pay dues?  While some organizations have reduced and student rates, you don’t have to pay dues to log onto their website or to get involved in their discussions via LinkedIn.  Staying active in professional organizations shows employers that you care about your work and are at the top of your game.  Check out this exhaustive list of organizations at

Get Social – You are not alone!  There are others in your community who, like you, are looking to move up and grow professionally.  Frequent some meet up groups in your area. This is a casual, friendly environment in which to learn the inside scoop on your local job market.  You’ll meet contacts; stay aware of who is hiring for what, and who is vacating their position, and what it’s like in other workplaces.  If your professional organizations don’t host local meetups, you can find them on or

Showcase Yourself Online – Google yourself.  Go ahead, do it right now.  What is the first hit for your online presence?  Is it your Facebook?  Not great.  How about your LinkedIn? That’s getting better.  Or is it your professional website/blog? Awesome!  Try starting a blog recording your body of work, and discussing the latest trends in your field.  Show potential employers that you are actively seeking to share in a dialogue about your field, and showcase your enthusiasm and expertise while you’re at it!  There are plenty of free blogging and web hosting platforms, try or .  If professional blogging is new to you, try reading blogs with similar topics, and get a feel for the online community.  And start here for some dos and don’ts: .

Take a Chance on Something New – So you’re busy now making a name for yourself in your professional community.  You’re an up and comer, a mover and shaker.  It’s a lot of work!  Remember that using all these ways to sell yourself, is a job in and of itself.  And if you forget the rest of your life, you’ll burn out.  Try something completely unrelated to what you have been doing.  You could teach yourself a new skill, explore something just for fun.  You might find a fun meet up while you’re looking for a professional one.  You might choose to volunteer somewhere fun.  You can teach yourself anything from carpentry to crafting with YouTube.  Don’t forget, you’re a vibrant person, not “Employ-me-bot 5000”.   You might discover a hidden talent or passion.
Joyce Abbott Holds a BA in Anthropology and an MA in Library Science.  She has worked in for-profits, non-profits, and local government everywhere from customer service, to librarianship, to corporate records management.  She believes the point of life is to never stop growing and pushing yourself into something new.  You can connect with Joyce on!


Make Your Resume Stand Out!

Tips from around the Web

Standing out from a crowd of job applicants is as easy as 1, 2, 3...

1.  Include a compelling cover letter

When writing your cover letter make sure it and your Resume are aesthetically pleasing and consistent with each other.  Take time to select fonts, heading styles, and look at examples of other Resumes to select a layout style that is pleasing to the eye and easy to read.

Remember to use the hiring manager's name in the salutation and create a strong opening paragraph that is dynamic and catches their attention.  A good rule is to reference the position and provide a brief explanation of why you are applying.


2.  Create a Resume website

This is a great way to build your brand and improve your job search.  A well written blog with industry related articles is an excellent way to share your expertise and begin to build a positive reputation within your industry.

Further, it is a great way to build a networking community online.

Remember to include a link to your blog on your Resume.

3.  Include Keywords on your Resume

These days many Resumes end up in databases and Employer Applicant Tracking systems that scan Resumes for keywords relevant to the position.  Using keywords may determine whether or not your Resume is selected.

The first step to ensuring your Resume includes the relevant keywords is to get hold of the Job Description.  Go through this, highlighting nouns and phrases that relate to the job, skills, and experience.  Remember only to include these keywords in your Resume if they are true - don't include skills and experience that you don't actually have!

It is also a good idea to brainstorm nouns and phrases that you would use to describe the job you are going for, and to incoporate these into your Resume.

Good luck!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Interviewing for a Company you used to Work For

Reposted from The Daily Muse

Over time, your career path can take some pretty unexpected twists and turns. Like—when you suddenly find yourself trying to rejoin a company or team you once left behind.

If you’re lucky, you were approached by your old boss or co-workers—and they really want you back. But maybe you realized that you made a mistake by leaving in the first place; or, after spending time elsewhere for a few years, you see a great new opportunity available. No matter what the reason, though, that first step back to reconnecting with your former company is one that needs to be handled carefully.

So, how do you make the initial connection and interview a little less awkward and a lot more productive? In order to get some useful tips, I talked to a few professionals who were once in your very same shoes. And while their “return stories” were all a little different, their suggestions hit on some similar themes.

1. Review Your Resignation Letter and Exit Interview

Hopefully, you left your former job on good terms and had a carefully crafted resignation letter—the last thing you want is HR pulling out your file and remembering your choice words about the company on your last day. (And frankly, if you didn’t leave on a good note, you need to really ask yourself if going back is worth it.)

But assuming your parting words were complimentary and thoughtful, they can be useful icebreakers when you apply or when you first contact those influential employees who can help you land an interview. For example, did you say that you were leaving to gain management experience at a bigger company, or mention that you would be open to certain kinds of opportunities in the future? Use that as an opener or a segue to more detailed discussion about your future responsibilities.

2. Treat the Interview Seriously

So you’ve landed an interview with the company you once left behind—great! But don’t automatically assume you’re a shoo-in. Sure, your familiarity with the company is a huge plus, but keep in mind that you’re likely one of many other qualified candidates. Any one of them may have expertise that surpasses yours, and some of your company-specific experience may not be relevant anymore.

In addition, consider who you’ll be interviewing with. You may be meeting with newer employees (who will look at you just like any other “fresh” candidate), or interviewers who do know you but may not remember your former contributions. Make sure you not only describe your past accomplishments and responsibilities in detail, but that you also highlight any new skills you’ve gained since you left.

3. Be Prepared for the Tough Questions

Keep in mind that those same interviewers who never knew you from your previous job (and even some who did) may be skeptical of your motives for coming back. There may even be some resentment, especially if you left them in a bind or if they had invested a lot of time and money into your career.

So it’s your job to assure everyone that you’re not a flight risk and convince them that you’re worth the investment once again. Be prepared for lots of questions about your departure, and have specific reasons for why you’re excited to come back. And when in doubt, be honest. If you made a mistake leaving the company in the first place, don’t afraid to admit that.

4. Address Your Concerns

That said, while the interviewers need to be assured that you’ll be the right fit, don’t forget to ask them your questions as well. First, don’t assume that you already know everything about the company and its culture; company dynamics, policies, management, and more may have significantly shifted since you left. And if you were disappointed with the company when you quit, you’ll need reassurance that things have changed. Think back: What were the specific reasons you left? Was your career path limited? Were you unchallenged? Make sure that the interviewers can give you exact details on how these things have evolved so that you don’t run into the same disappointments again.

One last note: Even if the company specifically contacted you and only you for the gig, make sure that you thank your interviewers for the opportunity. Follow up with thank-you letters right after the interview and make sure you’re gracious to the people who believe in you enough to ask you to come back. If you make the right moves, your old company could be the start of a wonderful new chapter in your career.

Jamie's Career Tip for Today

We are getting near the end of Job Search month on and we hope that our career tips have provided inspiration and valuable information to support you in your job search and career development.

Here is one of the last remaining career tips from our very own Jamie Starner...

For an interview, regardless of clothing trends and seasonal styles always dress in neutral colors and wear minimal jewelry. Your attitude, skills and background should get you a job not your outfit! Always dress conservative and you can never go wrong with a suit.

Good luck in your job search!

Monday, February 25, 2013

How to Give a Presentation at a Job Interview

In order to gauge if you are the best person for the job, interviewers may ask you to give a presentation during the interview. Asking top candidates to give presentations as part of the job interview process is common for positions in training and sales, but may also be called upon for other positions.

Typically the first and second interviews are designed to determine if you have the right skills for the position and if you would be a good fit for the company culture. After this initial assessment, they’ll most likely ask you to put on a presentation in order to get an idea of your presentation skills.

Even people who have presented in front of hundreds of people get jittery about giving a presentation in front of a few interviewers. Others are so confident that they can get the job that they put minimal time and effort into preparing for this interview. It’s normal to experience these feelings, but don’t let them get in your way. Yes, you’ve made it far but chances are that they’re still interviewing other people, so it’s important to not let your confidence or lack of confidence get to you.

For the presentation, remember to:

1.       Have an attention-grabber at the beginning. Keep in mind that it’s important that you impress 
          them in the beginning.

2.       Discuss the objectives of the training and what they will learn how to do. Also let them know
          how the information will benefit them.

3.       If you’re using presentation slides such as PowerPoint, don’t overcrowd your slides with text.
          Include a few bullet points and images, but you should not be reading off of your slides.

4.       Don’t tell jokes. If you use humor, keep it appropriate.

5.       Incorporate video and images into your presentation. People are visual learners and they will be
          more likely to remember what you talk about if you include associated images.

6.       Be prepared. The more prepared you are, the more confident and less nervous you’ll feel.

7.       Typically there won’t be enough time for you to conduct participant activities. However, you
          should still ask questions or find quick ways to encourage participation.

8.      Include a handout to supplement your training. Remember to make sure that it looks
         professional and include the company logo if you have access to it.
Sheila is a Human Resources / Training Consultant and Career Coach who guides organizations and people in setting and reaching their goals and achieving their definition of success.  She has worked with Fortune 500 companies, medium sized, and small companies including Target, Apollo Group, University of Phoenix, Corporate Psychologists, Knight Transportation and Auckland Museum.
Sheila received her Master’s degree in Human Resources from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and her Bachelor’s degree from Boston University.  Sheila runs her own consulting company MyLeadership Solution LLC and can be contacted at

Jamie's Career Tip of the Day

Jamie's Career Tip for this Monday!


Thinking about career transitioning? Take a look at your transferrable skills: start networking with new professional contacts in different industries, consider using a combination resume, and lastly, see what certifications and skills you can add or refresh.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jamie's Career Tip for Today

Today's Career Tip from Jamie:


Trust in yourself.  YOU are your biggest advocate. It is okay to be assertive in an interview and show the hiring manager you have what the job requires. Be careful not to come across cocky or egotistical but instead confident.

Job Search: Promote Yourself Online

Reposted from Brazen Careerist

Looking to get hired can be a painstaking experience, one full of rejection. But rather than seeing this rejection as another blow to your self-confidence, approach it as an opportunity to market yourself better.

That includes treating your online activity much more seriously. Your reputation on social media now plays an important role in determining whether employers should ask you to join their team. So promote yourself effectively by publishing high-quality and thoughtful posts on your online profiles. This will help you you strengthen your presence on the Web, increasing your chances of getting a job.

Here are three ways to leverage your skills online:

1. Use your real name

It’s understandable that you prefer to hide behind an obscure username and keep your true identity a secret. But consider the advantages of using your real name for your email and social profiles. You’ll add positive branding to your name, which can greatly affect search results when someone searches for you.

Start by customizing your URL on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Using a “vanity” URL helps you remain consistent with your brand name and breed familiarity across all your social media profiles. Always keep this in mind when creating new profiles on different sites.

2. Create an online portfolio and begin blogging

Regardless of your job or industry, developing an online portfolio provides employers and headhunters with quick access to your resume and sample work. Include links to works you have published online for easy reference.

Owning a blog allows you to talk about your expertise and share valuable information with readers interested in your field or industry. Through consistent blogging, you help yourself become an authority in your field of interest, which can greatly affect your chances of getting employed.

Sites where you can create your online portfolio include BrandYourself and Sites like WordPress, Blogger and Weebly can help you set up a free blog to voice your professional opinion.

3. Engage

The online world is not just a place to update your status messages, play the latest Zynga game and stick to your comfort zone. Stop beating around the bush and do something productive online to benefit your professional life.

Here are a few ideas:

·        Browse Q&A sites like Quora or Yahoo! Answers and search for questions related to your expertise. Aside from providing invaluable insight, also ask questions to elicit conversation.

·        Search for blogs and comment on posts related to your industry. This will help you build relationships with bloggers you can talk to about job-related topics. Not sure where to start? Try Topsy, Social Mention and Google Blog Search.

·        Join groups on LinkedIn to share and discuss your latest blog posts, comments and ideas about the industry with like-minded professionals.

The idea here is to stay proactive, even when the chips are down. Unemployment can be a drag, but it will be more so if you let yourself get defeated by another obstacle on your way to getting hired.

By following the tips featured above, you can remain competitive—if not gain an advantage—in the market by keeping your online presence in tip-top shape and refining the edges of your overall portfolio.

Christopher Jan Benitez is the writer for the PrintRunner Blog and swears by print brochures as his choice for promoting himself and his business. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Define Your Purpose

I had the pleasure of attending the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) 2012 Conference held in Denver, Colorado this past year. It was a great conference, but one seminar in particular held my attention.

In his seminar, The Achievement Addiction, Dr. Jim Loehr, performance psychologist and co-founder of the Human Performance Institute, talked about why there are many people who have a long list of impressive accomplishments yet fail to feel fulfilled.

He used the example of a world-famous tennis star, who was also one of his clients. From the outside looking in, it looked as if this star had all the fixings of the perfect life. However, people who knew him noticed that he had become angry, unhappy, and difficult to work with, which is why he needed help. He had started to actually hate tennis, the sport that had propelled him to be the ultimate sports star who was raking in millions of dollars per year. The problem was that he hadn’t defined his purpose and was instead putting his energy toward a path different from what he really wanted.

After defining his purpose he decided that he wanted to repurpose tennis to help kids be happier and healthier and started charter schools. The anger and unhappiness lifted once he started to work toward his purpose.

These days, people are succeeding, setting records, and producing great results. Now more than ever, stress, depression, and anxiety threaten to take over our lives. It’s as if achieving has become a goal in itself, which we keep chasing, without ever fully reaching the goal.

By no means are these researchers advocating sitting on our butts and having no ambitions. They propose that we first define our purpose. Then we can go after the successes we seek. Take a truly honest look at yourself and your accomplishments. Do you know your purpose? Are your accomplishments aligned with your purpose? If not, here are some steps that may help you.

  • Brainstorm talents and skills that you have. Ask yourself “What do I enjoy doing? What am I good at doing? What will people pay me to do?” Once you have an answer that fits into all 3 questions, pursue it.
  • Define your mission in life and write it down. What do you want people to remember you for?
  • Define your values that you will adhere to while you work toward your mission.
  • Create short-term and long-term goals that tie to your mission.
  • Put together a plan and place it where you can see it.
  • Tell someone about your plan and have that person help hold you accountable.
  • Take action.

Sheila is a Human Resources / Training Consultant and Career Coach who guides organizations and people in setting and reaching their goals and achieving their definition of success.  She has worked with Fortune 500 companies, medium sized, and small companies including Target, Apollo Group, University of Phoenix, Corporate Psychologists, Knight Transportation and Auckland Museum.
Sheila received her Master’s degree in Human Resources from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and her Bachelor’s degree from Boston University.  Sheila runs her own consulting company MyLeadership Solution LLC and can be contacted at

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jamie's Career Tip of the Day

Today's Career Tip from Jamie Starner:


Be conscious of your presence online and be mindful of your pictures on social media sites at all times. Most employers will search for you online.

What to Wear for an Interview

You’ve prepared for this important interview for months. You’ve polished up your resume, researched the company you would like to work for, and have prepared some thoughtful questions to ask of your potential employer. You’ve made certain you have information on employment dates, important phone numbers, and references.

The big day arrives. What do I wear to the interview?
 Keep it Conservative

A good rule of thumb is to always err on the side of being conservative. According to the experts at Jobsearch.about .com, “The first impression you make on a potential employer is the most important one. The first judgment an interviewer makes is going to be based on how you look and what you are wearing. That’s why it’s always important to dress professionally for a job interview even if the work environment is casual.” 

What’s the appropriate dress code for an interview? You’ll want that first impression to be not just a good one, but a great one. The candidate dressed in a dark business suit is going to make much more of an impact than if she showed up wearing khakis and a sweater. Jeans are never acceptable for an interview, even if the corporate culture is extremely casual. Think black, navy, or dark gray. A suit is preferable, but separate pieces such a skirt or slacks with a blazer in the same tone (or say a pin-striped blazer and solid dark slacks) would work well, too. Pair the suit or separates with a white, beige, or light colored (a muted stripe would work as well) dress blouse, ensuring it is neatly pressed. Hosiery or opaque hosiery may be optional when you land the position, but for the interview, it is a must if you choose to wear a skirt or dress (again, the emphasis is on a dark, preferable solid color). Shoes should be polished and free of scuffs. A pump is always a good choice, and there are so many styles to choose from. Stay away from the stiletto-height heels, as not only do they look non-conservative, but they may be difficult to walk in as well. You’re already nervous to begin with; you shouldn’t have to balance yourself as you maneuver through the parking lot, perhaps up stairs, and navigate through the building, only to repeat on your way out.

Another fashion mistake some women make is to wear darker hosiery or dress socks with slacks- with lighter toned shoes. As a rule, the shoes should be darker or the same shade.

As I’ve mentioned in prior blogs, great finds can be found at discount retailers, and also your neighborhood Goodwill and thrift stores (look for those that benefit non-profit organizations, too).

Skip the strong cologne, and leave the bling at home

This is not the day to splash on that little ‘extra’ body spray, or to attempt to impress the interviewer with your 7-carat pink cubic zirconium solitaire. A watch, simple necklace or strand of pearls (faux are easy to find and affordable!), small to medium sized hoop or stud earrings (preferably one pair, total!), and one ring per hand is a good general rule.

You’ll want to be sure to make sure that your nails are clean and if polished, no chips present! Again, you are striving for a neutral look. The latest teal polish is a fun look, but an employer could read that as being non-conformist, and read you as a potential ‘rule-bender’!

Any visible tattoos should be covered, and facial or excessive ear piercings removed, if at all possible, for the interviewing process. Companies have differing policies, and you may not initially be aware of what is acceptable. Again, it’s best to keep it conservative, and abide by what you might assume would be a corporate climate. It may well be acceptable, but unless you’re interviewing for a piercing studio, it’s best to be aware of that.

Your make-up should be kept to a minimum that day as well, and by all means, don’t try out a new hair color or style the day before the interview. If the color doesn’t turn out like you had planned, there are usually no simple solutions. It’s best to make any changes well in advance when possible.

Carry a briefcase or dark colored folder to carry two copies of your resume

Ladies, if your handbag is the size of a small suitcase, consider taking a smaller purse for just your wallet and keys, or skipping a ‘purse’ altogether, and slipping your car key into the folder or briefcase you carry to the interview.

Even if the weather is warm, keep in mind that you should wear a blazer for the actual interview. Slip it on before you get into the building. It presents that professional image that you are trying to convey!

So, polish up your resume, your shoes, and your typing skills—and you’ll be set and ready to go for that phone call you’ve been waiting for! 
Diane McLelland has been called a ‘fashionista’ from a young age, acquiring her love of a fashion after enrolling in Sears Charm School as a young girl. After earning her degree in Fashion Merchandising and Business, she gained experience by appearing in movies, commercials, and magazine layouts in the Phoenix area, and worked as a flight attendant for over 15 years. Diane considers herself to be a personal shopper as she shops for family and friends whenever possible. She has written for a travel publication and numerous newsletters and currently works as a Career Services Advisor, assisting students find viable work in their chosen fields. She has two grown sons, and along with dog Cooper and ‘his’ two cats, resides in the Valley of the Sun - Phoenix AZ.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Relax at Work! You'll Be More Productive

Reposted - By Tony Schwartz for The New York Times

THINK for a moment about your typical workday. Do you wake up tired? Check your e-mail before you get out of bed? Skip breakfast or grab something on the run that’s not particularly nutritious? Rarely get away from your desk for lunch? Run from meeting to meeting with no time in between? Find it nearly impossible to keep up with the volume of e-mail you receive? Leave work later than you’d like, and still feel compelled to check e-mail in the evenings?

More and more of us find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a seemingly unsustainable pace. Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less. A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.

“More, bigger, faster.” This, the ethos of the market economies since the Industrial Revolution, is grounded in a mythical and misguided assumption — that our resources are infinite. 

Time is the resource on which we’ve relied to get more accomplished. When there’s more to do, we invest more hours. But time is finite, and many of us feel we’re running out, that we’re investing as many hours as we can while trying to retain some semblance of a life outside work. 

Although many of us can’t increase the working hours in the day, we can measurably increase our energy. Science supplies a useful way to understand the forces at play here. Physicists understand energy as the capacity to do work. Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time, it is renewable. Taking more time off is counterintuitive for most of us. The idea is also at odds with the prevailing work ethic in most companies, where downtime is typically viewed as time wasted. More than one-third of employees, for example, eat lunch at their desks on a regular basis. More than 50 percent assume they’ll work during their vacations.
In most workplaces, rewards still accrue to those who push the hardest and most continuously over time. But that doesn’t mean they’re the most productive. 

Spending more hours at work often leads to less time for sleep and insufficient sleep takes a substantial toll on performance. In a study of nearly 400 employees, published last year, researchers found that sleeping too little — defined as less than six hours each night — was one of the best predictors of on-the-job burn-out. A recent Harvard study estimated that sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity. 

The Stanford researcher Cheri D. Mah found that when she got male basketball players to sleep 10 hours a night, their performances in practice dramatically improved: free-throw and three-point shooting each increased by an average of 9 percent. 

Daytime naps have a similar effect on performance. When night shift air traffic controllers were given 40 minutes to nap — and slept an average of 19 minutes — they performed much better on tests that measured vigilance and reaction time. 

Longer naps have an even more profound impact than shorter ones. Sara C. Mednick, a sleep researcher at the University of California, Riverside, found that a 60- to 90-minute nap improved memory test results as fully as did eight hours of sleep. 

MORE vacations are similarly beneficial. In 2006, the accounting firm Ernst & Young did an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors (on a scale of one to five) improved by 8 percent. Frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm. 

As athletes understand especially well, the greater the performance demand, the greater the need for renewal. When we’re under pressure, however, most of us experience the opposite impulse: to push harder rather than rest. This may explain why a recent survey by Harris Interactive found that Americans left an average of 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012 — up from 6.2 days in 2011. 

The importance of restoration is rooted in our physiology. Human beings aren’t designed to expend energy continuously. Rather, we’re meant to pulse between spending and recovering energy. 

In the 1950s, the researchers William Dement and Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that we sleep in cycles of roughly 90 minutes, moving from light to deep sleep and back out again. They named this pattern the Basic-Rest Activity Cycle or BRAC. A decade later, Professor Kleitman discovered that this cycle recapitulates itself during our waking lives. 

The difference is that during the day we move from a state of alertness progressively into physiological fatigue approximately every 90 minutes. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves — the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. 

Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University have studied elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players. In each of these fields, Dr. Ericsson found that the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day. 

“To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”
I’ve systematically built these principles into the way I write. For my first three books, I sat at my desk for up 10 hours a day. Each of the books took me at least a year to write. For my two most recent books, I wrote in three uninterrupted 90-minute sessions — beginning first thing in the morning, when my energy was highest — and took a break after each one. 

Along the way, I learned that it’s not how long, but how well, you renew that matters most in terms of performance. Even renewal requires practice. The more rapidly and deeply I learned to quiet my mind and relax my body, the more restored I felt afterward. For one of the breaks, I ran. This generated mental and emotional renewal, but also turned out to be a time in which some of my best ideas came to me, unbidden. Writing just four and half hours a day, I completed both books in less than six months and spent my afternoons on less demanding work. 

The power of renewal was so compelling to me that I’ve created a business around it that helps a range of companies including Google, Coca-Cola, Green Mountain Coffee, the Los Angeles Police Department, Cleveland Clinic and Genentech. 

Our own offices are a laboratory for the principles we teach. Renewal is central to how we work. We dedicated space to a “renewal” room in which employees can nap, meditate or relax. We have a spacious lounge where employees hang out together and snack on healthy foods we provide. We encourage workers to take renewal breaks throughout the day, and to leave the office for lunch, which we often do together. We allow people to work from home several days a week, in part so they can avoid debilitating rush-hour commutes. Our workdays end at 6 p.m. and we don’t expect anyone to answer e-mail in the evenings or on the weekends. Employees receive four weeks of vacation from their first year. 

Our basic idea is that the energy employees bring to their jobs is far more important in terms of the value of their work than is the number of hours they work. By managing energy more skillfully, it’s possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably. In a decade, no one has ever chosen to leave the company. Our secret is simple — and generally applicable. When we’re renewing, we’re truly renewing, so when we’re working, we can really work. 

Tony Schwartz is the chief executive officer of The Energy Project and the author, most recently, of “Be Excellent at Anything.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

Why I Started A Company

Eva Werk's interview with Pattie Simone of Women Centric

Reposted from Daily Muse website

I first heard of WomenCentric attending an American Express OpenForum Small Business Conference, when the company’s brochure showed up in my swag bag. While I had no interest in the other things I was given, I purposely held onto the brochure, curious to learn more about this women’s professional organization.

And here’s what I discovered: WomenCentric aims to “build a better LinkedIn as a business networking hub, an inspiration, and an education resource for working women around the world,” says founder Pattie Simone. While it initially launched in 2005 as a group of speakers and training professionals who wanted to learn from and support one another, the company has since become so much more, offering a platform where women worldwide can share resources, list their services or products, and connect with other like-minded and ambitious women.

But WomenCentric wasn’t Pattie’s first entrepreneurial venture. After leaving a career in textile production, she dove head first into starting a retail business from scratch with her sister-in-law partner. While she had hoped the home furnishing and gift shop was her ultimate dream job, it turned out it was the beginning of her entrepreneurial adventure. After seven years the store closed because it was not able to provide a real income for the sister-in-laws and their growing families.

Luckily, by this time, Pattie had learned plenty of lessons from her first venture to help her out as she began her second. Read on for what she’s learned along the way.

How did you find the courage to start your own business?

Earlier in my career I had a bunch of different jobs, including working in advertising, customer service, and production. When I was pregnant with my second child, I started dreaming about other possibilities and feeling that there was more to life than what I was doing. My situation at the time was not allowing me to expand my skill sets, and I knew that I was capable of more—even though I wasn’t yet sure what that “more” was.
After my second child was born, I tried going back to work at my production job. And I really gave it a good shot, but I was miserable. Finally, I thought I needed to try something new, to be closer to home and to my children, so I opened up a retail shop with my sister-in-law. Initially, we had no idea what we were doing but—because we didn’t know what we didn’t know—we went for it anyways. I thought, we’re young enough, let’s give it a try. Our families were behind us as well, which was critical.

How do you think you’ve grown as a person since becoming an entrepreneur?

As time goes by, you evolve naturally. I don’t believe I’m “reinventing” myself, it’s more about discovering what’s beneath the layers. We all have layers of our lives, but we get caught up in our daily routines, our own expectations, the expectations of people around us, so a lot of stuff gets buried. I don’t think it’s “reinventing,” I think it’s tapping into talents and interests that are already there. If you take a step out of the hubbub of your life, then you have a better chance of outlining what you’re good at and, more importantly, what you love to do. That was part of my journey.

For example, I realized how important it is for me to be able to quickly make decisions and implement them. When I worked for other companies, there was nothing more frustrating than having to talk about something, table it, revisit it, and get more people’s feedback on it. I say, let’s act! It’s such a thrill to me to make these decisions and be totally responsible for whatever the outcome is.
I’ve taken risks that have allowed me to realize dreams or develop valuable skill sets, but I’ve also made some really big mistakes—and learned from them. To be able to meet challenges you don’t expect and navigate through them is a real “wow” moment. Plus, you learn that failing is part of winning.

What advice would you give to other women who have always wanted to start their own business, but are scared to make the leap?

First, it’s important to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. My sister-and-law and I were jumping without a parachute when we first started out—and while sometimes that can work out okay, I wouldn’t advise it. You ultimately don’t want to put yourself or your family in jeopardy in terms of financial hardship. Take small steps. We can all achieve our huge dreams, but it’s better to think of it as a journey, rather than a leap. Think realistically about what you can accomplish, think about it in a bigger context, and take it one step at a time.

Second, don’t be afraid to ask other people for their opinions, advice, or help. You don’t have to go through it alone. I found my calling by attending networking events, where I met groups of vibrant and intelligent women. I realized we could get further faster by collaborating. If we had a way to band together and share our skill sets we’d all win. And so the idea for WomenCentric was born. There are many organizations—WomenCentric, chambers of commerce, women’s entrepreneurship networks such as Savor the Success—that can help you and give you sensible feedback, tips, and resources. Don’t think it makes you any less strong if you ask for help. It makes you stronger, and it leads to many great relationships that can foster better success for you, your business, your peers, and new strategic partners.

Finally, think of the “no’s” and the failures as fuel to move forward. When you hit a brick wall, know there’s a reason. One week I was CEO of a retail store, but my big dreams of success were dashed when we had to close. The next week I was helping out a friend as a waitress in a pizzeria. That was a big shock, but there was a reason for it happening—it ultimately led to a much more exciting and fulfilling path.