The Office of Tomorrow?

The open-office concept with densely-clustered cubicles was pretty common before the pandemic hit, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see a much different configuration if/when we return to the office. What that’ll actually look like is anyone’s guess, but it could look kind of like what’s pictured here:

This was a concept was created, pre-pandemic, resulting from the collaboration between Susan Cain, author of Quiet, and Steelcase, a workplace design firm. The goal was to create a workspace where introverts could thrive. The really interesting thing is that, if you take a close look, it could potentially address important health and safety issues that organizations will have to put in place. Notice the enclosed workspace, the 1-person lounge area with a glass partition separating socially-distanced desks (facing away from each other). Incidentally, all that natural light coming through is pretty nice bonus. I like working from home, but I have to say coming back to an office that resembles this could possibly tempt me.

Momentum has never been as important as now

The protests that have recently ensued in the wake of George Floyd’s murder have been a source of hope and inspiration for me. It feels that this is sort of a tipping point, not only because of the global protests, but also because of the innumerable conversations now happening everywhere around racial injustice and inequality, and white privilege. This is especially significant since engaging in these kinds of topics is uncomfortable, often painful, but critical to confront nonetheless. As with so many things in life, maintaining momentum is key to positive change. The typical pattern with past tragedies has has been a determined effort to make change followed by political inaction. I often LA_protesttell myself after, for example, a school shooting, an incident of police brutality, or any other act of senseless violence, that surely this will be the thing that effects change. But I’m often left disappointed and disillusioned. One notable exception is the formation of Black Lives Matter as a result of the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer in 2013.

Of course time will tell, but this time it feels different. It feels like the momentum is there, and only getting stronger, to create meaningful and positive change. Peaceful protesting, continued conversations, education, many people speaking out, legislation – these are just a few of the key ingredients to help bring about a fairer and more equitable society. There are thankfully a ton of resources for people to access on the subject. Here’s but one to learn more. 

“Good enough” has never been truer than now

To quote Maya Angelou, “You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” During the pandemic that we’re all trying to navigate, I’ve been seeing too many people on social media, including some career coaches, saying things like, “if you’re not learning a new skill, or taking an online course, or getting certified in this, that or the other, then you’ve been squandering this golden opportunity of “24/7 stay-at-home time”. Judgmental and short-sighted are a couple adjectives that immediately come to mind.

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Our dog, Timmy has “productively unproductive” down pat.

I come from a different school of thought: it’s most important to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves and doing what we need to do to reach that goal? If that includes taking an online course or learning a new skill, great, but if not, equally great. Everyone is on his or her own journey and dealing with the challenges that come with it. Add an extra layer of a global pandemic and the stresses that come with that. There’s no one-size-fits-all advice that can be applied in this situation, and no shame in not conforming to some other person’s definition of being productive.

 And here are 10 more things I don’t need to do, although there are a couple things on the list that I did do, because I wanted to, for me. Some days I want to turn over my to-do list and just focus on the fun stuff totally unrelated to my professional development. I call it being “productively unproductive”. I find that those days are just as important, self-nurturing, and good enough! The bottom line is that happiness and growth mean different things to different people, and the key is to find what works best for you.

Building relationships and social distancing: LinkedIn to the rescue

Using LinkedIn as a career and professional development tool has always been a good idea, but now that we’re in the midst of social distancing and self-quarantining, and relying even more on getting things done remotely, it’s more important then ever to be active on LinkedIn.

Having a profile on LinkedIn is a great start. But it’s just that – a start. Now what? The first step of course is to make sure your profile is complete and current, including a photo (usually professional dress). Also, don’t overlook or underestimate the “About” section: this is a great opportunity to highlight in a concise way relevant work experience, education, skills and accomplishments – in other words, how you can contribute to the success of an employer or solve problems for a client in your target industry. Keep in mind that employers often use your profile as a basis for hiring decisions.

OK, moving on. What’s next, now that you have an awesome profile? Ask for a few recommendations from former supervisors and co-workers, as well as past and present professors, for example – really anyone who can attest to your skills, qualifications, work style, etc. is a potential recommendation for you. But remember we’re still networking here, so it’s important to be willing to reciprocate and offer to write a recommendation for those same individuals when appropriate. SocialDistance

You’re making progress: got your profile up, with a couple recommendations. What now? Get active. Join some of the groups related to your target industry, or perhaps your school’s alumni group. for starters. And now that you’ve joined, what’s the next step? See who the group members are with whom you can potentially connect. Participate in the discussion forums by posting relevant articles and commenting on other members’ posts. This is a great way to increase your overall visibility on LinkedIn.

What else? LinkedIn can be a valuable tool when it comes to informational interviews. How does this work? Do a search on an organization you’re interested in, and LinkedIn will show you which of your connections have some sort of association with that organization. Requesting informational interviews from 1st degree connections is usually straightforward, but with 2nd degree connections, try to get an introduction from one of your mutual contacts if possible. As many of us are now seeing in the world of social distancing and mandated work-from-home, online meetings can be just as productive and fruitful as in-person ones, and this is true for informational interviews too.

So this is just a small taste of what you can do with LinkedIn, but hopefully this will get you moving in the right direction if you’ve been wondering about some positive next steps to take with your networking strategy. Final thought: LinkedIn is a very effective tool, but use it as just one of several approaches, especially when we return to “business as usual”. For now, however, I would recommend making it your primary source.

Oh, and what if you’re not on LinkedIn at all? Well there’s no time like the present to start. Contact me at joe@careeroptimum.com to learn more about my career coaching services, including getting the most out of LinkedIn!

Navigating the workplace as an introvert, Part II

 

In Part II of our “Introverts in The Workplace” podcast series, Stephen & I continue the conversation on topics including: the job search for young professionals, workplace collaboration issues, presentations/public speaking, career fairs, and professional events and social engagements.

Note: When we created Part I of this podcast , pre-Covid19, the world of work looked considerably different than it does now. In our next podcast, we’ll discuss how things have changed for each of us personally and the challenges we’re facing, as well uncover the bright side and how we can all make the best of our current circumstances. Oh, and we’ll have a couple special extroverted guests join us for a conversation about the introvert-extrovert dynamic under quarantine!

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Being a non-conformist outside the comfort zone

Just the title of this blog post makes me break out into a cold sweat. Well, not really, but conformity and comfort zones have traditionally been my defaults. But, to quote Jerry Seinfeld, “sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.” I can think of several examples in my life where this proved to be the case. One experience that comes to mind is when, a few years back, I contracted a condition called adhesive capsulitis (a.k.a. frozen shoulder), with a good deal of pain and restricted mobility that came along with it. After much online research (as I tend to do), it seemed like physical therapy was the way to go to resolve the problem. So off I went to PT, twice a week and a daily home regimen of stretching and strength exercises. My shoulder seemed to be very slowly and gradually improving, but I wanted to see what other options there were, something maybe I could do in conjunction with PT.

04 Jun 2001 --- Swimming against the tide --- Image by (C) K.TiedgeMy research turned up a lot of info about the effectiveness of acupuncture in addressing frozen shoulder. Now mind you, needles have to be my least favorite thing in the world, and I avoid them unless absolutely necessary. So it was with great trepidation and anxiety that I went for a consultation. The acupuncturist talked with me at great length that first visit, and we found a way to minimize my anxiety. After just a few more acupuncture treatments, I was noticing a significant decrease in pain and increase in mobility. When I told others about going my acupuncture experience, I was met with both positive and negative reactions. No judgments on my part, but some people just don’t believe in anything that’s not mainstream or traditional. It seemed pretty clear to me, however, that doing PT alongside acupuncture was accelerating my recovery. Fast forward to today, my shoulder is back to 100%, and even more exciting is the fact that I can swing a tennis racquet with no problem (even though my game is far from 100%)!

Being a nonconformist and taking the road less traveled can pay dividends in other parts of our lives too, including career. Earlier in my professional life, I made a cold call to a company to see what job opportunities were available, which was so out of my out of my comfort zone and so “un-introvertlike”. But I did it anyway. I found a contact number on their web site, assuming it was the HR department’s general number. I got connected to voicemail and left a message, briefly introducing myself, summarizing my background, and what I was looking for in my next job. I received a call back later that same day, and an invitation for an in-person interview. What I found out later was that I had called the Vice President of the company, who forwarded my message to the HR Manager. I had unwittingly bypassed HR and directly contacted a senior-level employee, which eventually led me to my next job.

Today, LinkedIn is one of the primary resources to help facilitate making those higher-level contacts at our target companies. Many job seekers, however, still rely exclusively on online job boards to find their next job. Incorporating some unconventional, bold, and creative approaches can help us gain an advantage in the job search. For example, joining a relevant industry association is an effective, but underutilized, way to make connections and increase knowledge (and hence our marketability) in a given field.

Incorporating creative and “out of the box” approaches, as well as leveraging the power of LinkedIn when conducting a job search is the way to go. As M. Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled, said, “If we know exactly where we’re going, exactly how to get there, and exactly what we’ll see along the way, we won’t learn anything.”

What’s your “job outlet”?

Our professional lives are indeed important, but life isn’t all about work, after all. No matter how much you like your job, it’s only smart to have something outside of work that you’re passionate about doing. Understandably, however, it can be a challenge, especially in the US, where work-life balance isn’t always built into organizational culture. We end up working long hours and even into the weekend, consumed by our work, needing to meet this or that deadline, easily losing sight of the importance of downtime and personal pursuits. But striking a balance between work and play will help reduce burnout and create longevity on the job front. creativeoutlet

That’s great if you like your job, but what if you don’t? Well, same strategy really. Having some sort of creative, athletic, or social outlet that is completely unrelated to work, can be very beneficial if you’re unhappy in your current job. The idea is that you have something fun or meaningful to look forward to and feed your soul during those less than inspiring work hours. That’s not to say, you should be in a job indefinitely if you’re unhappy there. But while you are there, outlets can help make it a little happier and little more bearable, and maybe even lead to a new job or career.

Check out meetup.com for ways to fulfill those passions and interests, or to discover new ones! Or maybe you lean more introverted and group activities aren’t your favorite thing. Then things like reading, journaling, working out, creative writing, coloring, puzzles, baking, and meditating, just to name a few, are all worthwhile pursuits too, and healthy outlets for everyone!

 

Get your introverted self noticed in 2020

1. Self-promote through writing, the introvert’s preferred means of communication. This might very well include writing your ideas and presenting them after a team meeting/brainstorming session.  But also allow for “face-time” with your manager. This hopefully includes having an open and honest conversation about your innate work style. The goal is to reduce the chance for misperceptions and misunderstandings about the value you bring. 

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2. Take credit for your work. Resist the urge to credit the “team” for results that you produced exclusively and independently. Be sure to highlight your individual contributions.

3. Prepare for the times when you have to step out of your comfort zone. Doing your research and being well-prepared can help you be more focused and comfortable for that big meeting or presentation you might be dreading, and as a result, come across with much more self-confidence.

Incorporating one or more of these approaches can help you get noticed in 2020, and beyond!

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What’s your 2020 vision?

I couldn’t resist the “20/20 vision” references. So reflecting back on this past year (and decade!), I think about, among other things, the goals I set for myself and ones I ultimately met. Some of the goals I set are no longer priorities, and I’ve crossed them off my list, or at least moved them further down the list. It’s not about having a lot of goals, but just ones that are meaningful, achievable, and in certain cases, measurable. One of my goals that I set for myself is to do more personal and professional writing, which I’ve been doing, and plan to keep on my HappyNewYearlist for 2020. For this particular goal of mine, it’s not about writing a specific number of blog posts or journal entries by a certain date. It’s more about my motivation to keep at it when I see the progress I’ve made, the results up to this point, and the benefits I envision in 2020.

What are your goals and vision for 2020?

Throughout the year, check in with that list to see the progress you’ve made, your level of motivation for continuing with a certain goal, any you want to remove, as well as new ones you want to add. Goals are not set in stone and there’s no shame in letting go of certain ones. If you have an important and meaningful goal but lack the motivation to see it through, then find the support through friends, family, a coach, within yourself, to help reach them. Envision the end result and all the benefits associated with it. Take on a little at a time, not all of it at once. Do whatever works best for you, keep reassessing, and make 2020 a great one!

T’is the season to (re)connect

That could mean a holiday card in the mail, a quick phone call, text, email, or LinkedIn message, a coffee chat, or whatever you feel is most appropriate. The important thing, though, is to actually reconnect – the “how” is really secondary. And if we’ve been disconnected a little too long from certain people (we’re talking years), what better time than the holidays to put yourself out there and establish a few new connections!