Moving From a Small Town Job to a Big City Career

Smalltownbigcity_sept2011_webDeciding to relocate for work can be a very tough choice with many factors to consider. For some, choosing to pack up life and head for more opportunity could mean moving from a small town of several thousand people to a major metropolitan area with a population in the millions.

Preparing for a new job is tough enough with new policies, procedures, and supervisors to consider. Adding in the stress and headache of relocating to a new city can make it all very overwhelming.

There’s a strange paradox newcomers often feel when living in a major city. They are constantly surrounded by people, but can feel isolated and alone at the same time. People from a small town culture are inclined to have a more leisurely and open approach with each other. In larger cities, many are rushed with where they need to be and don’t have time for interruptions.

Adjusting to the culture shock can take a long time, especially if you move to an area without family or friends. Here are some tips to help you cope with adapting to your brave new world.

Do Your Research

Don’t go into things blindly. Find a place to live before you move. If renting, some tenants in large cities need at least two weeks to process your information and ready the rooms before allowing someone to move in. Get settled in before you start your new job to help make the transition smoother.

Calculate the cost of living, taxes, insurance, and other expenses before you make the leap, but also take time to look into the little things like parking, weather, public transportation options, laws, school systems, and population.

Once you’ve decided on the area to live in, figure out how it works. Being prepared for the culture of your new area will make things go much smoother. Find out the distance between your home and the office so you know how long it will take you to get to work.

Explore

It’s your city now, so get out there and meet it. Try to find a detailed map of your newcity and take some time to see it first hand. Make sure you’re aware of important things like local grocery stores, fire stations, hospitals, police departments, and banks that are closest to where you live. Also, take the extra step and introduce yourself to your neighbors. Many of them can have insights to the many perks the city has to offer.

Exploring the city will also help you figure out the shortest and easiest routes to work, as well as find the busiest and longest routes to avoid, giving you the best commute possible. Just remember to add in extra time for morning traffic. And, don’t be afraid to get lost. Finding your way back will only help you familiarize yourself with the area.

Get Involved

Making friends and acquaintances is one of the best ways to make the adjustment time shorter. That’s why it’s important to get involved with local clubs and organizations. It’s a lot easier to meet people outside of work if you get involved with something that happens regularly on a weekly or monthly basis. Whether you’re interested in sports or the arts, big cities will have a group getting together no matter what your interest may be. A good place to start is with your local chamber of commerce. Many chambers now have monthly professional gatherings.

Go ahead and challenge yourself to try something new. There is a lot big cities offer that small towns just don’t have. There are several charities and organizations that need volunteers, so use your free time to serve the less fortunate and meet new and interesting people at the same time.

Check with your company to see what community projects they’re involved in. Spending a Saturday building a house, helping out at a local shelter, or even running in a 5K that benefits a nonprofit is a great way to get to know your co-workers.

Escape

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of city life can be too much. It’s OK to occasionally take a break from the concrete and skyscrapers, and search out some flowers and fields. Many big cities have suburbs with a smaller-town feel, beautiful outdoor scenery, and less crowds.  So if you start to feel overwhelmed, spend a weekend or even just an evening out of town. 

If leaving the city is impossible, finding shops or stores that remind you of homecan help escape without leaving. Many coffee shops and cafés can provide a warm feeling of home when sitting inside their four walls, allowing you to relax and recharge for the next day at the job.

There are also many places in the big city that can provide sanctuary to the rush of city life. Find a park and spend some free time there. Being in nature can help expand your horizon and help you recover from the stress of the cluttered city.

Relocating may be a big decision, but there are several benefits to relocating for work. If the job is right and you’re in need of a good challenge, go ahead and take a chance on the big city.

For those who have already relocated, what have you done to adjust to big city life?

 

By Jared Cole

3 Tricks to Relieving Workplace Tension

WorkplaceTension_August2011_web With the fast pace of the work environment and the desire to succeed, stressful situations can come up between you and your peers. Whether it’s a misunderstanding regarding a deadline, a conflict over limited resources, or a debate over the direction of a project, a tense environment among co-workers can create roadblocks in the workplace. Here are a few tips for an open and relaxed environment that fosters conflict resolution.

1. Have a Real Conversation
If you’re dealing with a co-worker conflict or know a subject might be touchy, skip email or phone conversations when possible in favor of a face-to-face conversation. A casual, impromptu conversation can set the stage for a relaxed discussion in which all parties are open to the idea of focusing on resolving the problem instead of focusing on their own agendas. If you must schedule a meeting to talk, versus just stopping by, make sure your email, phone message, or conversation regarding the scheduled meeting is clear and open. Don’t overstate the conflict, instead request a time to talk about resolving the challenge. The quicker you can meet the better, since leaving time to dwell on the upcoming meeting can create unnecessary anxiety.

If you can’t have a face-to-face conversation, schedule a conference call where all involved parties can speak together, rather than separate calls with each individual. Having individual calls, and then later referencing each conversation, will not develop the same trust and open communication as a shared call. 

2. Gather Perspective
While you may only think there are two options in resolving a problem, either your own or the other party’s, talk with non-involved peers to get some perspective and brainstorm alternative answers. Keep in mind, a solution that isn’t from either party involved in the tense circumstances may be the best starting point for a resolution. Don’t get others involved just to gossip about the problem or recruit peers into seeing things your way. Have private and respectful conversations with the goal of seeing things from another point of view.

Try researching how competitors are handling similar challenges to help you think of additional ideas. Speak with your mentor and ask for direction or how they have handled a similar problem. By keeping an open mind, you may uncover a way out that wasn’t on the table, and your first discussion may just be starting points to the best resolution.

3. Take a Break
Rather than reacting quickly to a tense problem, if time allows, take a break. At first blush, a challenge can seem much worse than it actually is. We’ve all heard the saying “when one door closes a window opens,” and in the heat of the moment it can be hard to see the opportunities offered through that window. Another saying that holds true in conflict resolutions is “it’s best to sleep on it.” Letting emotions cool down and giving your brain time to focus on an answer rather than the frustration of the challenge can set the stage for a more relaxed resolution.

Resist getting caught up in the heat of the moment. Keeping your cool, considering alternative solutions, and working toward a mutual answer will be the most productive resolution.

By Rachel Rudisill

Understand “The Numbers” in Your Job: Part 3

Numbers_Celebrate_August2011_web In this series of blog posts, we’ve addressed why it’s important to be informed about the numbers used to measure performance in your organization and job, and how to measure your own job performance. The best part about tracking key metrics is that you have clear defined points for celebration when goals are met.

Tip #3: Celebrate Winning Scores
If you aren’t keeping score then you don’t know who wins. While it can seem intimidating to measure your key performance indicators, the satisfaction you get when you hit your goals will overshadow any anxiety the process may have caused. And, when you notice a new trend in your numbers, let your manager know. You demonstrate your initiative and commitment to your job when you celebrate and take notice of increases in your performance.

By keeping an an eye on company goals and measurement, you’ll have a better idea of what’s up next and where the organization is headed. This will also give you a chance to congratulate co-workers when you notice they’ve hit a milestone, helping you build rapport within your organization. Knowing where the company stands in respect to its goals can help you understand why funding may be directed to a specific initiative or when is the best time to ask for additional resources.

While you may not consider yourself an accountant, defining and tracking your performance and goals will help guide your activities and let you know where to invest your time. Be sure to check out the other two posts in this series,  
Part 1: Get Informed and Part 2: Measure Your Performance to help you understand why knowing the numbers can be fun and how it impacts your career.

Understand “The Numbers” in Your Job: Part 2

Numbers_Performance_August2011_web In part one of “The Numbers” series, we focused on how you become informed about the numbers that matter in your company. The next step in understanding the metrics that impact your career is evaluating your own performance and how it can be measured.

Let the Numbers Add to Your Job Search
When stating your abilities, whether it’s on your résumé or your LinkedIn profile, it’s best to focus on achievements and give qualifying information as often as possible. For your résumé, state how many boxes per hour you can build or how many new clients you brought into the company per month instead of just stating your skills. When you are pursuing a new job, understand that potential employers are comparing your skills against other candidates. Presenting your abilities in a way that demonstrates the value you would add to their team can help you stand out as the best candidate for the job. This type of information will also give you a good point to elaborate on during interviews.

It can also be helpful to measure your performance during a job search. When searching for a job, take a look at what your activity is yielding. Do you schedule one interview for every 10 applications or is it one interview per every 25 applications? Understanding what to expect can help motivate your job search activity.

Tracking Your Productivity 
In a current position, make sure your goals are measurable and that you understand how they are being tracked, who is tracking them, and how often your performance will be reviewed. When you are negotiating a raise or asking for help in managing your workload, you’ll need to be able to clearly demonstrate your job performance.

While taking the time to analyze your job performance can seem counter productive to getting work done, it is time well-invested.  By understanding the number of hours a project took, the number of phone calls it took to make a sale, or rate of return on an investment, you’ll be able to forecast what it will take to meet your goals and where resources should be allocated. Make sure you talk with your manager about areas of concern where your resource investment is not yielding the best results and what measurements are most important to your job.

Now that we’ve covered how to become informed about the metrics that matter and how to measure your own performance, next we’ll cover why tracking your job activity can result in a celebration.

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.