Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Seven Creative Ways to Fill Your Downtime at Work

If you have been employed for more than three years, you have probably experienced a period of time at work that was really slow. Translation: You have absolutely no work to do. Now, one could only hope this type of slowdown at work does not take place too often. Why, you say? I like being paid to do nothing. The reason you don’t want the slow period to last, is because a slow period could quickly turn into a layoff period. And we all know that layoff is simply another word for being fired. Having been employed a number of years at various types of jobs, I have experienced quite a few slow periods and even a layoff. As a result, I have come up with this handy dandy list of Seven Creative Ways to Fill Your Downtime. Be careful, depending on your job situation, some of these may not be appropriate for you to do in your workplace.
  1. Read a Book
  2. Reading a book is always seen as a productive endeavor because it strengthens your brain and allows you to appear intellectual, as long as it is the right type of book. Please refrain from reading the wrong type of material at work. We are trying to get you through a temporary slow period- not get you fired. The best types of book to read at work are those that are related to your job or the business of your employer. If you are not able to find a book related to your business, then select a book that is relative to business in general. Any type of leadership, management, or career enhancement book should suffice. If you are unable to find a business related book, then a self-help book is the next best thing. Find a book on being organized, improving your writing skills, or enhancing communication. If you can’t think of a book, post a request and I’ll name a few.

  3. Reorganize
  4. One of the tried and true ways to fill any type of downtime at work is to organize your office. Since you have probably already done that a few times, how about reorganizing your office. Move the file cabinet to the other side of the room. Switch the phone to the left side of your desk. Switch your photos to a different wall. Change your computer desktop or background. Give yourself a new view of the world!

  5. Learn a New Language
  6. Learning a new language is almost always on a list of things we would like to do. Well, now is the time to try it. If you have access to the Internet at work via your personal tablet or phone, you can sign up for an online course. If you are not a fan of taking online courses, you could always pick up a How to Speak___ book from your local library or bookstore. If you’d rather, I am sure you could purchase language DVDs for just about any language you would want to learn. When it comes time for your yearly review, you can include learning a new language as something you did for improvement. This really comes in handy if you work at a place where there is a large contingent of non-native English speakers.

  7. Start a Blog
  8. Most often the reason given for not starting a blog is that there is not enough time. Well, that excuse is no longer valid, since we are in a slump at work. This is a prime opportunity to put your writing skills and maybe sense of humor to use. Take some time to learn about writing a blog and then get to it. There are quite a few websites that give you hints and tips on starting a blog.

  9. Write a Book
  10. Remember that book you always wanted to write? Here is your chance to at least get started writing it. There is a writer screaming to get out of most people. If you at any time in your life felt like you might want to become an author, now is the time to do it. Just start writing about anything. Write a story about what happened yesterday on your way home from work. Write about what happened at yesterday’s staff meeting. The most important thing is to write. Author J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame had boxes filled with her writings. She didn’t write Harry Potter in one fell swoop and neither do most authors. Most authors simply write whenever and wherever they can. You should write about anything and everything. You never know when that little note about the incident at the restaurant will come in handy.

  11. Take Up a New Hobby
  12. Have you always wanted to learn how to program computers? Maybe you want to learn how to bake or cook or sew. Slow time at work is a great time to embrace a new challenge. Even if you cannot actually do the hobby at work, you can certainly read about it or watch videos about it in order to learn how to do it. There are online videos that will teach you how to do just about anything. If you have no idea what a good hobby for you would be, there are web pages listing the best hobbies for men, women, young, and old. If you are like most of us today, you have a cell phone that can access the Internet. You don’t have to concern yourself with using company resources to view things on the web.

  13. Take an Extended Lunch Break
  14. I am not advocating anything sinister. Ask your manager if it would be okay to take an extended lunch, perhaps later in the afternoon, and not return to work. You won’t believe how rejuvenated you will feel by taking off a couple of extra hours. You can use those hours to get in some much needed reading, go to the park and have a nice leisurely lunch or go home and take a nap. However you use the time, it will be time well spent. Of course, you cannot do this every day, but perhaps your management is nice enough to allow it once a week during the slow time.
Whatever you decide to do with your extra time, make it count. Do something that will build you up and make you a happier person. Don’t just sit around and whine that you don’t have any work to do. Quite frankly, we spend enough of our time in servitude to someone else, doing something we would not do, if we were not being paid. When this opportunity of downtime presents itself, view it as a present. Unwrap that present and celebrate! Get creative! Do something fun! Do something for you! How do you spend your downtime?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Job Hunting for Stay-At-Home Moms

Recently, one of my former clients, Sharon W., contacted me to create a couple of new resumes for her. Sharon is a stay-at-home mom who recently separated from her husband. Due to her new change in status, she realized it would be necessary for her to get back into the workforce. Surprisingly, unlike many people in her situation (out of the workforce for 5+ years, never finished college, two children to raise, etc.), Sharon was not feeling at all hopeless. She seemed to be invigorated by this new challenge. You are probably thinking, “That’s a healthy outlook!” and you are right. It is a healthy outlook, but despite how healthy the outlook, it is not the view that most of us would have in her situation. Typically, we would be in search of company with whom we could share our misery. After all, “What am I going to do with 2 kids, no job, no education, and limited experience?”

What made Sharon view this new life as a challenge that she could overcome? Why wasn’t she falling apart at the thought of having to start all over? I’ll tell you what and why knowledge. As I mentioned before, Sharon was a former client. Over the years, she had taken a couple of my workshops and also participated in my group career coaching sessions. As a participant in those programs, Sharon was well aware that her value as an employee was more about how she packaged herself in alignment with the needs of her future employer. She realized that as a stay-at-home mom, she was developing and sharpening skills that would be useful in any field (transferable skills). Additionally, she knew that networking was her best path to a new job and had already begun reaching out to friends and former colleagues. Sharon was not about to sell herself short, because she made the choice to be a SAHM.

Here are a few examples of the skills I was able to extract from Sharon’s years as a stay-at-home mom:
  • Sharon had started a non-profit organization for girls, which made use of leadership, fundraising, communication, researching, organizational, and event planning skills.
  • As a mom of two, Sharon was tasked with finding appropriate educational curriculum for her children, one of whom was special needs. This increased her knowledge of educating special needs children and strengthened her research skills. It also required a lot of networking, since she had to reach out to other parents and suppliers to obtain needed information.
  • Another hat worn by Sharon was that of field trip organizer. As a field trip organizer, she had to adhere to deadlines, manage funds, negotiate costs, and ensure appropriate human resources were available.

Those are just a few examples of what I was able to glean from Sharon’s years as a SAHM. If you decide to use some of these examples, please remember that these are to be listed under your skills section or if you have a sufficient quantity of items, you could create a section in your resume that contains volunteer and/or leadership experience. Please do NOT list your time as a stay-at-home mom as a job. Most employers would not take it seriously and your goal here is to get a job not to give potential employers a few laughs.

Hopefully, this has got you thinking about how you can package yourself for your new job. Be strong, be confident and have faith in your abilities. By the way, I mentioned earlier that Sharon needed a couple of resumes. The reason for that will be saved for another blog posting. Until then… Peace and Blessings to you!