Are You Looking for Community or Solitude at Work?

Time Magazine recently featured an article about a new trend of communal dining. According to the article, a number of popular restaurants now offer group dining experiences for their patrons. These swanky establishments allow guests to break bread and share an evening getting to know a group of strangers. It seems people are hungry for more than just a good meal – they’re looking for companionship.

What’s behind this trend? Have modern communication tools like e-mail, blogs and social networking sites left people longing for more face-to-face interaction?

At many jobs, workers rarely speak to each other except through e-mail and the occasional phone call. How do you think modern communication has affected workplace relationships? Do you find yourself missing human interaction and seeking ways to interact with your co-workers in a more personal way? Or, do you sit in a cubicle or work closely with others all day and crave more privacy?

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Hours)

There’s a lot of discussion right now about work/life balance. Especially during the summer, when family vacations and relaxing getaways are most popular, the issue becomes particularly hot. People want to spend time relaxing, getting away from the grind, but that isn’t always possible.

Small business owners and entrepreneurs often find work and life colliding during vacation time. Steven Fisher at Startup Spark recently wrote a post about how its critical for entrepreneurs to find time to really get away from the pressures of work. We’ve also written about work/life balance for small business owners and tips for how to take a vacation.

But taking work with them on vacation isn’t just an issue for business owners. Eager workers often find themselves logging in to their e-mail or working on projects from home or the beach. Many others are putting time into their own projects and working on vacation.

Ryan Healy’s post “When working on vacation isn’t work” on Brazen Careerist shares his views as a twentysomething on work, personal time and vacation. He says that for him, he “works” on his own ideas while on vacation because its something he enjoys doing and wants to pursue in his personal time.

Do you feel it’s possible to truly unplug from work and enjoy your time off? Do you think how someone spends their vacation time depends more on their personality, line of work, generation or employer?

Even though you may not take vacation time on the Fourth of July since it’s a national holiday, what will you be doing with your time?

Corporate Culture’s Influence: Simon Says Fit In

How many of your habits and ideas do you think you’ve picked up from the people you work with? Most people pride themselves on being individualistic and independent. We like to think we’re only influenced by the role models we choose, not the everyday Jims and Kates we share a cube with. People may not be lemmings, but we’re not impenetrable brick walls either. Our surroundings and co-workers affect us.

Rebel Dad blogger Brian Reid’s guest post on the Washington Post’s blog On Balance – Juggling Work and Family discusses how the workaholic habits of a former boss rubbed off on the entire organization. Reid used to work for former Bloomberg CEO and current New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and he describes how Bloomberg’s penchant for long hours and limited family time created a company culture that followed his lead.

Sure, Bloomberg was the CEO of the corporation, so it’s logical that his employees would seek to emulate his behavior. But a CEO alone can’t create a potent culture without a majority of employees buying in to it. In a recent post on Ben Yoskovitz’s blog, Instigator, he discussed how upper management can’t control culture, they can only instigate it and then allow it to incubate.

Peer pressure can be much stronger than “CEO pressure.” While supervisors control whether you get a raise or promotion, co-workers determine if you are accepted and respected by the group – something that many people value more than money. 

When a person starts a new job, sometimes they mesh or clash with the culture at their workplace immediately. But more often, over time, they will develop behaviors and attitudes about work that mirror those of their co-workers.

For example, if you start working at a company where the employees rarely use their vacation time and never call in sick, after a while, you’ll probably either adopt these unspoken norms or leave the company. Similarly, if you work at a company where being aggressive and blunt is the way to get noticed, you might find yourself saying “please” and “thank you” less and opting for words like “immediately” and “no offense” instead.

A strong company culture isn’t a bad thing though. Without a united front, a company will struggle to accomplish its mission. But, since we’re all likely to be affected by our environment, it makes sense to work at a company and with people whose values you respect.

How do your co-workers’ values match with your own? How do you think your co-workers have influenced you? Do you feel the influence has been positive or negative?

What Would Keep You at Your Current Job? The Career Advancement Dilemma

Job hopping is a common phenomenon these days, and the average worker stays at any given job about two years, according to career blogger Penelope Trunk. A lot of this is because they’re impatient and frustrated with a lack of opportunity.

A recent Wall Street Journal story highlighted the frustrations of young workers who crave more responsibility. They’re dissatisfied with the work they’re given, the responsibility – or lack thereof – they have, and the feeling that the wait to start climbing the career ladder is too long. Especially for entrepreneurial types.

Blogs like Escape From Cubicle Nation and Employee Evolution highlight the frustration of many workers today. Employee Evolution was founded a few months ago by Ryan Healy and Ryan Paugh as a way for millennials to voice their frustrations about trying to move up the career ladder. They’ve been featured in the Wall Street Journal about their efforts. With all they’ve been able to accomplish blogging about their career frustrations, imagine what these people could do if their employers only gave them more opportunities.

Too many job descriptions these days seem to say “experience required” rather than “experience offered.” Now’s the time for employers to step up to the plate and invest in their young, eager recruits, or they’ll lose them to companies that do, or perhaps, to entrepreneurial ventures.

How Can I Prove My Worth to My Boss?

Are you growing in your career? Hopefully, the answer is yes. As your expertise increases, it’s important to keep track of your achievements. A good way to do this is to keep a detailed list of specific projects, deadlines, timelines and accomplishments as you advance in your job. Also, track how you’ve impacted the budget, company goals and other areas that have directly affected the organization as a whole.

Demonstrating that you’ve helped save your organization time or money, or increased profits is a powerful resource for persuading your boss that you’re an asset to the team.

Career Overload: Making Time for Your Life

Do you have dinner with your family every night? It seems like family dinners, time with friends and actually balancing work and life have gone the way of the Beaver Cleaver. It’s so rare, in fact, that when someone actually makes family a priority, it makes national news headlines.

That’s right – a man named Cameron Stracher decided that for one year he would be at home every night for dinner with his family. He wrote a blog – dinnerwithdad.com – and a book, Dinner with Dad, all about the experience. His story has been featured in USA Today and other major papers. All because he chose to make time for his family – and share about it.

Do you ever feel like making time for your friends and family is so much effort, it might be a newsworthy event if it actually happened?

Cover Letter Tips: Keep Your Cool

Be professional

Above all, show your maturity and professionalism by avoiding these common cover letter vices:

  • Negativity
  • Profanity, slang or inappropriate sayings
  • Overselling, aggressiveness and gimmicky language
  • Using a passive voice and downplaying strengths
  • Making demeaning comments about old employers, co-workers or clients
  • Using the same letter for all job positions

You can stand out by staying positive, brief and relevant. Remember that the employer doesn’t owe you the job; you have to earn the right to be considered for it. By making your letter simple, straightforward and well written, you’ll have a good shot at landing an interview.

The cover letter is simply a tool to market you and your job skills. Presenting a cover letter that gives an accurate picture of your abilities will allow the potential employer to discover your strengths and determine if you’re a good fit for their opening.