Understand “The Numbers” in Your Job: Part 1

Numbers_GetInformed_August2011_web When crafting a résumé, preparing for a performance review, or reporting in the weekly staff meeting, knowing what key metrics are used to measure the performance of your company and your job is critical. It can be easy to detach yourself from company figures and reports, especially if you don’t see how your job impacts critical measurements. In a changing economy, understanding benchmarks of success and current checkpoint data can help you gauge the future direction of a company. This can be important if you’re evaluating companies to work for, or if you’re curious about the state of your current employer. In this three part series of on understanding the numbers in the workplace we’ll talk about how to tackle the numbers that relate to success in your career.

Get Informed
You’ve likely heard that knowledge is power, and when it comes to knowing your company’s sales figures and production reports, that definitely holds true. Taking time to understand how your company measures success and what records it has achieved will help you see the bigger picture of your organization. This type of information is also good to research before an interview and can be the basis for questions you may want to ask a potential employer. If you are currently employed, try checking out your company intranet or employee newsletter for this type of data. You could also ask your manager about company measurements. Chances are, they’ll be impressed with your desire to better understand the organization. When researching potential employers, check out the media relations section of their corporate website for news or earnings releases.

Find Meaning in the Numbers
For any sort of data to have meaning, you need something to measure it against. For example, if you type 42 words per minute, it’s important to know that the average ratefor transcription typing is 33 words per minute and an average professional typist achieves 50 to 80 words per minute. Without knowing what you’re measuring your skill against, it’s hard to know how good it is. Ask your manager what the standard is in production timelines and what the company is currently averaging. You can seek information about records set in your own company, maybe the highest sales figure for a quarter or largest client order. Those measurements can have additional perspective if, for example, you know your top two competitor companies and what their figures are for highest sales in a quarter. 

Up next in this series we’ll discuss how you measure your own performance and  why it’s important to your career that you celebrate your measured success.

How to Be Punctual

HowtobePunctual_August2011_web We recently showed the benefits of avoiding tardiness. Now that you know why it’s important to be on time, this post will show you some tips and tricks to help keep you on time.

Address The Clock 
In most cases, the first step to overcoming a problem is admitting that it is indeed a problem. In this instance, the problem is being late or missing deadlines. If you find yourself continually rushing, chances are your tardiness is a problem. Take notice of how often you are late and consider the negative implications it can have on your career development.

Be Aware of Your Time
If you don’t already wear a watch, get one. Make sure it is synced with your computer, phone, car, and any other clocks that you’re around. Losing track of time can be one of the biggest reasons you are late. Setting your clocks ahead can be helpful, but be sure you don’t only rely on a clock running early to get you there on time. A true commitment to being on time is required.

Be aware of how long a task will take. When working on a big project consider setting up check points to ensure you will meet the final deadline. If you are working on a deadline driven project this is also the time to conduct research and to seek input to guarantee the best finished product. Keep track of how long it takes you to do tasks like dress for work, walk across your building for a meeting, or drive to a client’s location for future reference.

Be conscious of what you spend your time on. Reading the paper or surfing the Internet can become quick time traps. Just 10 minutes checking emails can quickly turn into half an hour or more. Stick to your allotted times for a given task and move on to the next meeting or project to prevent your day from getting out of control.

Plan Ahead
It’s not a good idea to assume everything will go smoothly. There’s a chance you won’t hit every green light on the way to work, so don’t leave your promptness up to chance. Try adding a 10-minute buffer to allow for the unexpected, along with planning on being 15-minutes early for everything you do. Would it be so bad to be early for things? The benefits outweigh the negatives, and you can always bring paperwork, read a book, or take advantage of your smartphone’s capabilities while you wait.
Plus, if you are working ahead of schedule on your projects, it allows time in your day to help out your co-workers or your boss. An opportunity to help others allows you to build your skills and deepen relationships within the workplace, but you need to make sure you have time to do so without harming your own schedule.

Be Ready To Go
Do not hit the snooze button and drift back to sleep. Have you ever taken a nap only to wake up even more tired than before? The same principle applies. Sit your alarm clock across the room if you have to, but resist the urge to hit snooze. Your body will adjust and get used to the new routine and you’ll begin to reap the benefits of getting adequate rest.

Prepare the night before to make your morning go smooth. If you’ve got children consider choosing clothes, gathering schoolwork, and packing lunches the night before to make getting out the door easier. Check to make sure your own work attire is clean and ready to go. Your peers can tell when you were running late and didn’t have time to iron your clothes or fix your hair. 

The first step in being on time is to admit you have a problem with running behind. From there you can start to take control of your schedule.

The Benefits of Being Punctual

BeingPunctual_August2011_web You can run late or miss a deadline for a variety of reasons. “The alarm didn’t go off,” or “I hit every red light on the way to work.” Whatever the reason, you can take control of being punctual. If you were headed to an important interview, you would probably take traffic into consideration and show up well in advance. But sometimes it’s hard to treat every workday or deadline as if it were an important interview.

Unfortunately, constantly being late can send the wrong message to co-workers and your employer. Some see being late as a disregard for company policy. Others may believe you are late because you are disorganized. These messages can translate into assumptions about your character and work ethic. For example if they think you are late because you are disorganized, you may not be considered for leading a big project with a tight deadline.

Here are a few good reasons to be early or on time that can have a positive impact on your image in the workplace.

Building Respect
Respect is a big thing in the workplace. Being constantly late, whether its to work, to a meeting, or with a project, is rude to your co-workers, manager, and clients. Being late is seen as disrespectful and that image can be difficult to recover from professionally. When you are on time you show your respect for the policies of your employer, as well as the time of peers and leaders. 

Being Reliable
This isn’t high school and your boss is not your teacher, so resist the urge to be the cool kid that comes in late and slacks off. On the flip side, showing up early does not mean that you are trying to show up your co-workers that might struggle with being on time. Try not to get caught up in who is showing up on time for work or returning quick from lunch. Unless you are a manager, all you need to worry about is your own punctuality. Don’t worry, people will notice that you are always on time and that they can count on your dependability. You’ll know your reputation for being on time has had a positive impact when people start to rely on your departure from your desk to signal them its time for the weekly staff meeting.

Relieving Stress
Apart from the normal stressors of a workday, always having to rush because you are running late will compound stress. It can just pile on – being late can mean having to park far away, which causes you to be even later by having to walk further to your building, etc. – and it’s not a good way to start your morning off. Once you get into a routine of being on time you may find the rest of your calendar falling into place. You should be scheduling your day, not reacting to a schedule imposed upon you. 

Clearing Your Mind
When you are running late all the time or pushed up against a deadline, you don’t have time to think. To foster creativity you need to allow yourself time to problem solve and brainstorm. Working ahead of schedule allows you time to develop alternative solutions or try out a few ways of completing a task before having to meet a deadline or turn in something you don’t feel totally finished with.

Staffing Jobs Impact Search for Full-Time Work

TempJob_August2011_2_web When on the job hunt, people can make the mistake of overlooking the benefits of temporary work simply due to the word “temporary.” And, all the while, others are taking full advantage of temporary work and turning the opportunity into full-time jobs.

When looking for work, try to shake the average perception of “temp jobs” and turn them into step towards full-time employment.

Access to Employment
There are numerous benefits to taking a temporary job, but one that sticks out is work. Rather than sitting at home wishing you had a job, a temp job actually puts you to work and is a source of income. Good jobs don’t just appear in front of you. If you narrow your pool of potential employers by eliminating temporary work, you’re also decreasing your chances of getting full-time jobs that may be available via temporary work.

A recent New York Times story highlighted the plight of unemployed workers trying to find jobs, saying the longer you are unemployed the less attractive you are to companies that are hiring. By taking temporary work you are filling a gap on your résumé, versus remaining unemployed as you wait for your ideal opportunity. The average duration of unemployment is currently nine months, which could result in almost a year gap on a résumé. The American Staffing Association (ASA) cites that 88% of staffing employees said temporary and contract work made them more employable.  Also, if you take a temporary job while looking for full-time employment it may give you the financial resources to be more selective in where you apply and which full-time opportunity to accept. 

Bridge to Full-Time Work
Just because you take a temp job doesn’t mean it has to be temporary forever. A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive shows that 70% of those surveyed turned the temporary jobs they had into full-time positions.

Employers want dedicated hard workers, and if you prove yourself to be invaluable, it’ll be hard for them to let you go. If you come to work like it is a full-time job and treat it as such, it can become one. And even if the position is not scheduled to turn into full-time work, you never know if your hard work will impress the right person. Right now, companies are starting to see an increase in demand but may be hesitant to hire someone full-time, however if the economy continues to improve while you are working a temporary assignment, the company may become more secure and ready to hire full-time workers.

A Chance to Build Skills
Whether you’re developing new skills on the job or simply honing the ones you already have, temporary work can build your résumé and experience. According to ASA, “65% of staffing employees said they developed new or improved work skills through their assignments.” Take inventory of the skills you possess that can crossover into other industries, like a proficiency in Microsoft Office, or ones that might be unique to an industry, like knowledge of the RGIS inventory system.

Not only can you build skills with temporary work, you may also discover an industry you want to pursue skill development in. Often, temporary workers are called upon in growing industries, and you may uncover a field that is ripe with career opportunities that you hadn’t considered before. While a company may not hire someone full-time who doesn’t have the perfect skills, a temporary worker may get on the job training that allows them to advance into other roles in a growing industry.

Temporary work can offer quick access to positions, the opportunity to build skills, a flexible work schedule, and the chance to make additional professional connections.  So, if you’re looking for a full-time job, don’t close the door on temporary work, it might just be a foot in the door to your next career.

Living at Your Desk

Cubicle_August2011_webFor most of us, we spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else. During the recession, positions may have been consolidated, and now with workloads peaking in some industries, the workweek is getting longer. So what do you need in your desk to survive at the office?

The Grooming Kit
You don’t want your 2 p.m. client meeting to know you had onions in your salad at lunch, so keeping items like breath mints, a toothbrush and toothpaste, dental floss, or mouthwash in your desk drawer isn’t a bad idea.  A small comb and hairspray may be handy for days when it’s windy or rainy and you have to lead a meeting. Your appearance creates a first impression, and you wouldn’t want that tainted by a bad hair day. For emergencies, keep pain relievers, antacids, and other medications on hand. You should also consider keeping deodorant or perfume on hand, just in case.

The Stationery Drawer
We’ve all heard that networking is key to professional development and a well-stocked stationery drawer can help with that. To foster deeper relationships, have blank or personalized notecards you can use for congratulatory or thank-you notes. When a peer is promoted or a co-worker chips in on a project, being able to write a quick personal note is a great way to show you care. And with the rarity of handwritten notes, you’ll really stand out. You may also want to stock up on inexpensive birthday, retirement, get well and sympathy cards so you can respond promptly to those occasions.

In line with stationery, make sure you have business cards and a portfolio with a notepad ready for last minute meetings. It will help keep you organized and looking professional in meetings. Have a system for storing business cards you receive into your electronic address book to make it easier to retrieve for correspondence.

The Kitchen Cabinet
While you don’t want a desk drawer full of rotting fruit, keeping a couple granola bars, packages of mixed nuts or crackers, or instant oatmeal on hand isn’t a bad idea to help you keep up your energy for a productive day. Having healthy snacks can offer you the right choice for crashing blood sugar or a growling stomach on a busy day. And if you want to win over your co-workers, you might consider stashing an emergency chocolate supply to celebrate hitting a deadline.

While you need to keep your desk and cubicle space clutter free, having some life essentials on hand can make “living” at the office a bit easier.

6 Tips To Foster Creativity

Creativity. I wish it were something that could be easily turned on. At the flip of a switch, life and work could become so much easier. But in the real world, working at fast pace day in and day out can be a challenge. Even for the most creative employees, the flow of ideas dries up sometimes.

How can you stay creative when your mind just doesn’t want to cooperate? Here are a few ideas that might help you shrug off the monotony of the daily grind and open your mind for innovation.

Identify Your Work Patterns
You know yourself better than anyone. When you’re faced with a challenge that needs a creative solution, take a look at your work. Is your mind fresh and ready to go as soon as you step foot in the office or do you need to go through your emails first? Make sure you slot time when your mind is at its best and your energy level is high to tackle a tough project.

Morning Routine
A bad routine can stop your productivity before the workday even starts. While creativity needs freedom and room to breath, having a morning routine can help harness and reel in those creative juices and put them to work. If you need a cup of coffee and to peruse through emails to jumpstart your brain, just be sure to allocate your time wisely. There’s work to be done and procrastination can add stress and hinder your creativity.

Don’t Be Distracted
Allowing yourself to lose focus can slam the brakes on your creativity. Instant gratification is the way we do business, and with the power of the Internet at our fingertips, distractions can be a mouse click away. Social networking, viral videos, news, and games can quickly take your attention away from work. If you’re easily tempted to check what’s going on in the Twitter world, try disabling your Internet to be more effective with your time managemet.

Get Feedback From Others
Listen to criticism about your work with an open mind. Critics with valid points can take your idea and help mold it into creative genius. Plus, as you learn to grow from criticism, you won’t be afraid to put your ideas out there and start proposing new solutions.

Allow Yourself to Be Inspired
Look for inspiration all around. Creativity can cease when you’ve been focused on the same thing for too long making it hard to think outside the box. You might find movies or listening to music a good way to get your creative juices flowing. Not all of us can pop in a movie when trying to approach a new project, but when you are out and find inspiration, jot down your ideas or leave yourself a voicemail at work to check into something further.

Take a Break
Sometimes all the tips and tricks cannot prevent the momentary loss of your creativity. There are times when the only cure is taking a breather in the form of a day off from work, taking a vacation, or using a weekend to rejuvenate, can help your mind recover. Rather than calling in sick, call in well. It’s best to plan this type of time off a bit in advance to prevent the stress of an unexpected absence. Taking a step back and allowing your mind to relax can help revitalize your creativity.

Being continuously creative and working at a high-level during the daily grind can be difficult. But by implementing a few tips, you can keep productive and generate creative ideas.