Drowning in Work

Is your to-do list turning into a to-do document? Are your unchecked voicemails and emails amounting to an all-day task? Does it seem like you’re being pulled in a million different directions? Relax. You are not alone. Many of us get overwhelmed from time to time. So, how do you knock that mountain of work down to a manageable size? Here are some tips that always help me cope:

Get organized
Start by prioritizing what tasks need immediate attention. It may seem daunting, but making a task list is key. If you have access to scheduling or project management software—like Podio—you can use that to break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. Once you’ve got all your tasks in a row, you can start tackling them one by one.

Be realistic
You are only human. Be honest with yourself and don’t over promise. Most clients and colleagues can relate to having a lot on their plates, so be upfront with what they can expect from you. If you are already spread thin, minimize your commitments or scale back on the ones you already have. This may mean turning down lunch meetings or opting out of employee committees until you are able to handle the additional responsibility.  

Ask for help
Before you burn out, get some help. If deadlines are quickly approaching and inflexible, ask your colleagues and/or supervisor to help out. This may mean hiring some temporary help or shifting some of your responsibilities to others. Find ways to get the job done without dropping the ball.

Now that you know what to do, get to work and pull yourself out of the trenches. I’ll see you on the other side!

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? I’d love to hear your tips.

 

Spring Cleaning

A Clean Sweep

This week, I decided to “spring forward” my spring cleaning by organizing my work space. I was surprised by how therapeutic the process was. From filing away loose papers to cleaning up my desktop – decluttering gave me a sense of relief and pride, which actually made me more productive. Here’s how I cleaned up my act:

1. As someone with a home office, separating my work and personal life is difficult. So, I started my spring cleaning by removing any personal items – like bills, books and even exercise equipment – from my office.

2. Next, I tackled my storage closet. It was only then that I realized how much I had actually accumulated over the years, and how this stuff was “stuffocating” me. I used the Kondo method to toss the things I really didn’t need or like anymore while neatly arranging my essential items in clearly labeled storage containers.

3. Once my closet was tidy, I dug in to my filing system. Again, using Kondo’s minimalist methodology, I kept physical copies of only the essential items – like tax documents and client information – and tossed the rest.

4. My digital files were next. For me, it was easiest to organize files by year so I created folders for each year, subfolders with the year and topic, and file names that were preceded by year and topic. This uniform, hierarchical taxonomy has made finding and storing files so much easier and quicker. Let me give you an example of how this would work:
<folder>2015
<sub-folder>2015-resumes
<file>2015-resumes-jsmith

5.  Finally, my desktop got wiped clean. Again, essential files were archived in appropriate folders while non-essentials got trashed. This LifeHacker article provides some good tips on how to simplify your desktop.

6.  I even managed to go through the dreaded task of cleaning up my email inbox. There are a variety of tools to help you do this if you don’t want to go at it alone. I was able to scrub about 100 emails per minute using Mailstrom. I admit, deleting emails in bulk felt good and was highly addicting. So much, in fact, that I may start and end each work day doing just that.

After the initial mental hurdle of combatting my clutter, it was really easy and I developed a rhythm. Once it was all said and done, I felt like a weight had been lifted that I didn’t even realize was there – freeing my mind and allowing me to sit down and get to work.

Do you have any tips that keep your workspace tidy? I’d love to hear them.

 

Baby boomer

Baby Boomers in the Workforce – What’s Next?

I recently blogged about the Truth about Millennials in the Workforce. I hope that I displaced some of your misconceptions and offered you a new perspective on this misunderstood generation. Now let’s take a look at baby boomers and what lies ahead for this group of workers.

The U.S. Census defines baby boomers as people born during the Post–World War II era between 1946 and 1964. For boomers like myself, our careers are likely winding down. We’re thinking about retirement. Yet, many baby boomers are choosing to stay in the workforce. About 35 percent of workers continue to work past the age of 65. The reasons for staying employed vary—from financial need to wanting to work.

There is also a concerted effort by employers to keep skilled professionals in the workforce, creating more of a phased approach for the exit of those within retirement age. Businesses are trying to Stave off the Brain Drain, because there are not as many qualified professionals ready to assume the positions of those retiring. Companies are creating flexible work hours, additional benefits and more opportunities for those reaching retirement. Anything to keep older workers engaged so they can train and mentor younger employees.

However, this trend will surely have a ripple effect down the road. The prolonged rate at which people are retiring will certainly impact opportunities for younger generations, who will now have to wait longer to gain seniority.

But what I find most interesting is some of the commonalities between the two generational spectrums—millennials and baby boomers. While the millennials make demands for life/work balance and company authenticity, baby boomers are looking for much of the same. I think both groups can find common ground on many things, learn from one another’s experiences and work together to create a more skilled and happier workforce.

Are you baby boomer who is choosing to retire later? What would be your advice to millennials and vice versa? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Truth about Millennials in the Workforce

We’ve all heard of the plight of the Millennial. The child that was over indulged in her youth, treated as if he was extraordinarily “special,” and is now looking for affirmation and adoration wherever they may land. In the workforce, some consider them more of an Achilles heel rather than an asset.

At Kaczmar & Associates, we completely disagree. We’ve had the pleasure of placing millennials in promising positions where they are thriving and employers are benefiting from the not-so-new kid on the block. Here’s the truth about what we’ve seen from this misunderstood generation of workers:

Authenticity – After living through the public collapse of Enron, it is refreshing to see a generation demanding transparency from corporations. This transparency makes everyone more accountable, even the employee. This also speaks to the fact that Millennials have been at the root of social media and authenticity is social media’s core value.

Family First – It was once customary to show your commitment to a company by staying late, working weekends and putting your job first before anything else. Millennials feel quite the opposite—they demand quality time with their family. This doesn’t mean they aren’t hard workers, or that they work less. Quite the contrary, they manage their time and use technology as their tool to make them more efficient. And ultimately this makes them happier people, which result in happier employees.

Power in Collaboration – Millennials thrive in a collaborative setting. This not only comes from their ability to multitask but also from confidence. They don’t see their boss as an expert but more of a mentor/coach. They value their superior’s opinion but also have the resources and tools to develop their own. We often forget that there is amazing value in collaboration because an individual usually takes the credit for his/her masterpiece. But take a closer look, because behind every figurehead there is most likely a very powerful collaborator.

Purpose – What is most refreshing about millennials is that they don’t work for the paycheck; they work for a purpose. This reminds me of my father’s generation, who took such pride in the company that they worked for and the values it held. There wasn’t conversation of big salaries and bonuses, but why their work mattered. Companies that are looking to make a difference and do right by the employees and the world – whether it is environmental or social – and will capture the hearts and careers of millennials.

Before you pigeonhole that millennial sitting across from you at an interview, I hope you’ll remember some of the finer points of this generation. We certainly do.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What’s your take on millennials in the workforce?

New Year, New Trends

As we say goodbye to 2014, we look ahead to the New Year and its anticipated innovations. In 2014 we saw the rise of marketing automation and big data. While I anticipate similar trends next year, there are three that stick out.

Security
With the recent Sony hack, I predict that security will be top of mind for companies and governmental organizations. Whether being attacked for political or financial gain, the vulnerabilities are the same. Cyber security firms will likely have a busy 2015, equipping against and monitoring for impending attacks. Organizations will also need to step up their internal processes, educating their employees so they don’t inadvertently put their company’s systems at risk. It’s not a matter of if there will be future hacks, it’s when.

Collaboration
Technology giants are not going at it alone. More and more are partnering to create innovations. Apple and IBM announced they are joining forces to make intuitive enterprise software apps. IBM also teamed up with Cisco recently to offer VersaStack, an integrated infrastructure bundle that pairs IBM storage with Cisco servers. I expect more collaborations such as these to be announced in the coming months.

Wearables
Fitbits were a popular gift item this holiday season which leads to the rise of wearable technology next year. Apple Watch is sure to stir frenzy when it is released in early 2015. And more devices from other competitors are sure to follow. But these devices will heavily depend on apps so the marriage of mobile and wearables is one that will be strengthened as their popularity rises.

What continues to hold true is that with these trends and emerging technologies, companies will be investing in people. So if you are looking for a new career path or the next step in your career, being aware of the trends and the companies that lead will keep you ahead of the pack!

I’m looking forward to seeing how these trends play out in 2015. What do you think we’ll see next year?

Happy New Year!

Tis The Season . . . to find a new job

Just because your office may be winding down for the holidays doesn’t mean your job hunt should. In fact, the holidays are a great time to ramp up your job search.

Here’s why:

Party Time: Although your crazy uncle’s holiday party may not always be the highlight of the season, he’s the most connected man in town. Be the first to arrive, wear your best suit and your biggest smile. Most conversations start with “what do you do?” Happy hunting!

Down Time: After you’ve finished wrapping gifts and partying with the best of them, you may actually have some down time. Instead of watching A Christmas Story for the 100th time, beef up your resume, peruse LinkedIn, contact your recruiter and if you feel really inspired, start preparing for your Killer Interview.

New Jobs in the New Year: With budgets approved and a solid hiring strategy in place for the New Year, many companies start their employee search in November and December. Schedules also open up during the holiday season, so getting face time with the executive team may be a reality. Don’t forget to get your power suit pressed for all of your interviews!

While everyone is sipping on egg nog and recovering from the holiday haze, you’ll be sending out thank you cards to your new connections from your crazy uncle’s holiday party and inviting them to connect on LinkedIn. With any luck, your efforts will be rewarded and you’ll start the New Year off with a bang as the newest hire at your dream job!

Share your holiday hire successes with us below!

Kick Back and Relax Y’all!

In one of my first blog posts, I wrote about the importance of working hard and playing hard. I spoke about the importance of making time for you. So I took my own advice and headed to Montana, where I had the opportunity to completely unplug. It was absolutely invigorating. I enjoyed some of the most beautiful scenery while horseback riding, ate exquisite food and spent some much needed down time with my lovely wife. Ultimately, I returned to work with a clear head and recharged.

Whether your travel plans include Montana or Miami or your own backyard, you need to take the opportunity to unwind from the work grind. Not only can a vacation (or staycation) reinvigorate you mentally but it can help you physically too. A study of 13,000 middle-aged men at risk for heart disease revealed those who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week off each year.

Who wouldn’t want to take time off? It’s not just workaholics. According to this article by the Huffington Post, many workers are actually afraid to take time off. Whether the fear is self-imposed or part of your employer’s culture, you need to take the initiative, not make excuses and take your PTO.

Remember, Labor Day was established for everyone in the workforce. So kick back, relax and enjoy your holiday.

5 Ways to Make Working From Home Work for You

Global Workplace Analytics estimates over 3 million American workers telecommute at least part-time. The high-tech sector is no stranger to this trend. In fact, I’m part of that statistic. While there are some obvious benefits (Who misses rush hour traffic?), there are some challenges. Here’s how I make my home office work for me.

1. Make room and reduce clutter

Designate an area in your home for work-related duties only. Whether it’s an entire bedroom or a desk in the corner of your apartment – consider this area your own office. Remove distractions – like piles of laundry and unopened mail – and simplify your space. Check out this creative way to keep pesky cords out of sight. Consider cleaning up your virtual workspace too. De-cluttering your desktop and organizing folders will help you work more efficiently.

2. Get comfortable but not too much

Working from home allows you to get in your comfort zone, but make sure to rein it in sometimes. Get out of your pajamas and into some comfortable day clothes. Sit in an ergonomic chair and position your monitor and keyboard to promote good posture. Let in natural light whenever possible to brighten the room – and your mood.

3. Make a schedule and stick to it

One of the pitfalls of working from home is that you will end up working around the clock. Stop the madness! Make your own business hours, factoring in breaks, and don’t allow personal distractions to keep you from your tasks. Resist the temptation of checking work emails or making client calls outside of those hours. When you’re off the clock, you’re off the clock.

4. Take a break or two or three

Periodic breaks keep your mind fresh and actually make you more productive. Go out for lunch; pause for a cup of Joe; take a walk. Just be sure not to go over your allotted break time so that you can still remain on schedule.

5. Change it up when you need to

We’re creatures of habit, so a change of scenery from time to time may be what you need to get in gear. If you feel like you’re in a rut, get out of the house and work from your local coffee shop or library. Find an office space you can share with other telecommuters. Even just moving your home office furniture around can provide the inspiration you need to make it through the workweek.

Do you work remotely? Tell us how you make the most of your home office.

 

The Perfect Match

In all my years placing high-tech talent, I’ve found pairing the right candidate with the right job is a lot like dating. There are certain qualities you look for in a partner and when it’s a good match – you know it! Here are a couple of ways to tell if you’ve got a keeper:

The First Impression

When meeting a candidate if you’re immediately put off by his scraggly beard, chances are your clients will too. As superficial as it sounds, physical appearances matter. Bottom line is, you know the level of professionalism expected to get the job done. And if the person walking through the door is anything less, there’s no reason to move forward.

On the flipside, it’s a turnoff to candidates if they’re not shown the professional courtesy they expect. A bad impression could send a potentially good candidate running for the door or worse yet, garner your company a bad reputation among peers.

Good Conversation

Sure, it’s an interview. There are going to be questions that need answering. The tricky part is making the exchange interesting. The conversation needs to flow, not seem forced or have awkward silences. Find something in common – could be your alma mater, hometown, hobbies – and build on that. An engaging dialogue is a two-way street. Your attitude will either set the stage for a great conversation or an awful interrogation. If time seems to fly during the interview, chances are, it’s a good sign.

Common Ground

Travel, telecommuting, work/life balance – these are just some of the things to consider when finding a good fit. Is the company all buttoned up but you’re more comfortable working in jeans? Are weekends out of the question? As an employer, be upfront about what the corporate culture is like. As a candidate, be honest with yourself and the interviewer. If you want to come home for dinner every night but the job calls for extensive travel, it’s probably not for you.

Future Plans

Are you looking for a committed relationship or a temporary solution? Make sure your short and long-term goals are aligned. Is your ideal candidate one who can grow with the company? Are you looking to advance your career? Do you need someone for one project for only a brief period of time? These are questions you should ask yourself and your counterpart to ensure both parties are happy with the end result.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

A New Years Resolution Worth Keeping – Work Less, Play More

Every year at this time most of us put together a lengthy list of resolutions, some highly attainable but many far from our reach. Why do we do this? For good reason, we all desire to be and have more, that’s basic human nature. There is one resolution however that I would like to challenge you all to keep – Working Less and Playing More. I know this seems ironic coming from a man who places professionals in technology – one of the most highly competitive and fast-paced fields out there. But I do believe that if you work smarter and set attainable goals, you can make working less a reality. Being in sales, goals are set and met every day. Yet the most successful individuals I have seen in sales, set personal goals to inspire their sales goals. A lot of these goals have nothing to do with the “job.” For one of my clients, it is about taking a day off to have a special outing with her 16-year old daughter. For others it may be  a round of golf, a noon time yoga class, a long lunch with a close friend. What I can assure you is these little gifts to yourself will refuel you and inspire amazing performance. I am going to resolve to work less and play more this year and I look forward to reporting back to you with my success.

I’d love to hear what you inspires you and how you’ve achieved working less and playing more! Share your ideas and thoughts in the comment below.