Feeling burnt out?

At least once every year, I develop an unforgiving cough and congestion so bad I have trouble hearing. Each time, as I burrow under my favorite blanket and clutch onto Sudafed and Mucinex for dear life, I wonder: Why again? And why always when I have fun weekend plans? It doesn’t take me long to realize—I’m burnt out. True to form, I’ve agreed to too many responsibilities and side gigs on top of my fulltime job, and my body is not happy.

I know I’m not alone. As a reporting and evaluation manager for an employee wellness company, one of my responsibilities is to identify and analyze top health risks for the thousands of individuals our programs serve. And usually, stress ends up in the top three (out of 15).

While it’s true that a little can be good for you, the consistent presence of it is not. “Chronic stress, of course, has been shown over and over to be a bad thing for body and brain,” says Alice G. Walton, a Forbes science and health writer. “It actually seems to suppress the generation of new nerve cells and inhibit memory, not to mention increase one’s risk for being overweight; developing heart disease and possibly cancer; developing addictions; and experiencing depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.”

Well, that sounds exciting (read: horrifying). But minimizing levels of it is easier said than done, as it can be difficult to notice when you’re overdoing it—most likely because you’re so busy you can’t keep tabs on how you’re feeling.

But if you identify with any of the following five signs, it may be time to take a step back.

1. You’re Snapping at Everyone (for No Good Reason)

When your co-worker poses a simple question—“Hey, can you proofread this memo for me?”—and you act like she asked you to read the employee handbook to her. You huff and puff and silently wonder why she’s so very stupid. Instead of calmly responding with a “Sure” or “Give me a few seconds to wrap this up,” you answer with venom-laced words: “Um, I’m kinda busy right now, but sure, whatever.”

Later on, you realize you severely overreacted, and the embarrassment sets in. Christine Porath, a professor at Georgetown University’s business school, explains that a lot of people have no idea they’re being rude to others. And it’s probably “because they’re so stressed and overwhelmed that they don’t have the mental bandwidth to consider other people’s hurt feelings.” (But just because you’re not the only drama queen doesn’t give you the excuse to be Cruella.)

2. You’re Thinking About Work All the Time

Your hours may be nine to five, but your mind is occupied with work 24/7. During your commute, while eating dinner, when you’re trying to fall asleep, in your dreams—you know the drill. It’s the sole topic of conversation when talking with friends and family, and the only thing you can think about when you’re pretending to listen to them (smile, nod, smile, nod).

I’m not saying you should limit every thought about it to specific days and times—you’re not a robot (if you are, though, no judgment here). But as Adrian Granzella Larrsen, Editor-in Chief of The Daily Muse says, “bringing too much work home—even if that work is just rolling around in your head—can quickly make you an anxious, sleep-deprived, pretty boring dinner guest.” And no one wants that!

3. You Can’t Focus Enough to Actually Be Productive

It’s time to get down to it, but you just can’t seem to make any progress (or even get started). Countless thoughts are bouncing around inside your head at lightning speed, and you have no idea how to control them. And so begins the vicious cycle—you’re overwhelmed because you’ve got a lot to do, but you’re fretting about it so much that you can’t accomplish anything.

You can blame this frustrating situation on your body’s response to regular anxiety, which is really helpful when you need survival mode to kick in, but not so helpful when it’s impairing your concentrations.

4. You Aren’t Sleeping Well (or at All)

You’re exhausted at the end of the day, but when you finally retire for the night, you spend hours staring at the ceiling. At last, you drift off (hopefully), but you toss and turn all night. When you wake up the next morning, you’re just as tired as you were before.

“When we’re stressed,” says Lindsay Holmes, Deputy Healthy Living Editor for The Huffington Post, “our minds race with thoughts instead of shutting down at night, inhibiting important functions involved in memory, muscle repair, and mood (yikes).”

It gets worse, says Holmes. It can also lead to persistent insomnia and a malfunctioning immune system (which explains that nagging cold I get each year). Weird dreams are also a common symptom—such as that time my subconscious explored the ins and outs of PowerPoint, which was super riveting and enlightening.

5. Your Entire Body Feels Sore

When there’s too much tension in your mind, it’ll manifest itself in your body in several ways, as well—pain and stiffness in your back, neck, hips, and shoulders; headaches; a clenched jaw; and more.

“When the brain senses a threat, it activates the sympathetic nervous system and signals the adrenal glands to pump out adrenaline, cortisol, and other hormones that prime the body for action,” shares Melinda Beck, a health contributor for The Wall Street Journal. “Together, they make the muscles tense up, the digestive tract slow down, blood vessels constrict, and the heart beats faster.”

And when your body has this reaction unnecessarily—like to an overflowing inbox rather than to a saber tooth tiger—your muscles will remain contracted for a prolonged period of time (hence all those knots in your upper back).

Listen—you can’t avoid feeling this way all the time. It’s part of life, and sometimes very important. But when it’s long-term, the effects can be harmful. So, while you can’t eliminate it completely, you can prevent it from spinning out of control and taking over your life. The first step? Being aware of your behavior and how you feel.

And then, figure out the best way to manage your to-do list, remember to take (frequent) breaks, disconnect fully on a regular basis, and when you need to—ask for help. Learning how to successfully manage stress is key to a happy and healthy life. So, go on, conquer it! It’ll pay off big time.

I changed my mind

I changed my mind.

Those sound like dirty little words, don’t they? That sentence is short. But, it holds a lot of meaning—and, if you’re like most of us, likely a lot of shame and regret as well.

Yes, there’s a healthy dose of guilt that comes along with suddenly shifting course—this undeniable feeling that had you just been smarter, better-informed, or more prepared, you’d never be in this mess to begin with. You’re a flip-flopper, a flake, and an undependable person who can’t follow through on even your very best intentions.

We all do it. Whether it’s something as simple as backing out on plans or something as major as completely switching careers, we tend to beat ourselves up over the fact that we’ve had a total change of heart. After all, you laid all of that groundwork only to decide to go in a completely different direction—and that’s worthy of all of the self-loathing you can muster.

But, I’m here to challenge the idea that simply changing your mind is some sort of sin or mistake—that it’s an undesirable behavior or characteristic that immediately qualifies you as unreliable, careless, and indeterminate.

When it comes to describing people who have the guts to change course, I’d actually use different adjectives altogether. What ones, exactly? Well, words like self-aware, brave, and constantly evolving seem to fit the bill.

Allow me to explain. I think there’s this immense pressure on all of us to always have everything all figured out—to have this systematic approach to our lives that leads us to exactly where we want to be (or, at least, where we’re supposed to want to be).

By the time we’re old enough to talk, everyone around us is asking us what we want to be when we grow up. And, while few people likely hold you to the answer you spit out right then and there (thank goodness, considering I wanted to be a bird for most of my childhood), it sets the tone and sends the message that we’re supposed to always be working toward something specific. We’re expected to set the end goal, and then it’s up to us to forge our path and follow the necessary steps to finally reach that objective.

But, what happens when you get your hands on new information and new experiences that tempt you to stray from that path that’s been laid out ahead of you? Well, needless to say, that’s where the guilt comes into play.

However, changing your mind and adjusting your approach isn’t something worthy of shame or remorse. Instead, it’s a natural part of growing. It’s totally understandable (and even recommended) to find out what you like, what you don’t like, and keep making changes from there.

Just think: What if Walt Disney had decided to stick it out as a newspaper editor? What if Albert Einstein convinced himself he needed to remain focused on his career as a patents clerk? What if Buddha had chosen to stay with his cushy life as an Indian prince, rather than venturing out to find his own values and ideas? What if doctors were so stuck in their ways that they refused to tweak their methods with new technologies and tools?

Yes, making big changes can be scary—I won’t even try to deny that. But, I think it’s important to recognize that sticking with something (particularly if you’re craving something totally different) doesn’t make you dedicated, loyal, or committed. No, it really just makes you stuck.

If you ask me, changing your mind is really the mark of someone who’s brave and self-aware—someone who’s willing to try new things and has the courage to admit when they aren’t exactly working out.

So, the next time you feel the least bit tempted to launch into a spell of self-loathing when you have a change of heart? I hope you remember this message—and I hope that I’ve changed your mind about changing your mind.

What interview questions actually mean

As recruiters, we try our best to help our candidates prepare for every interview. We explain the importance of researching before an interview. Research the company but research why you believe your skill sets would be beneficial for the company! Read below the obvious questions of an interview and what they really mean.

Who inspires you and why?

The job candidate’s answer often gives the interviewer a peek into who the interviewee models him or herself after. The response can also highlight the sorts of behavioral patterns the interviewee respects.

If you were starting a company tomorrow, what would be its top three values?

Every good relationship starts with trust and aligned values. Insight into a person’s priorities — as well as honesty and integrity — can emerge in the candidate’s  answers.

If business priorities change, describe how you would help your team understand and carry out the shifted goals?

Shifting priorities happen in every company, and every job, so look for candidates who are flexible and possess the skills to help carry out change. Hire employees who are self-aware, motivated and display empathy. These skills will help employees better work in teams.

Did you build lasting friendships while working at another job?  

It takes a while for people to build relationships — and being able to do so is a sign of solid emotional intelligence. A lasting friendship tells you that relationships and caring about people are important to the person.

What skill or expertise do you feel like you’re still missing?

Curiosity and the desire to learn are vital signs that a prospective employee wants to get better at something. People who struggle with this question are the people who think they already know it all. These are the people you want to steer away from.

Can you teach me something, as if I’ve never heard of it before? (It can be anything: A skill, a lesson or a puzzle.)

A job candidate’s answer to this question can reveal several qualities:

  • Whether the person is willing to take the time to think before speaking.
  • If the candidate has the technical ability to explain something to a person who is less knowledgeable in the subject.

Every interview is going to be a bit nerve racking. Be confident and be excited. The interview is not only for the interviewer but for you as well. You spend 80% of your life at work – it is important you be yourself and are happy.

Thanks for reading!

How to be successful for yourself

Successful people aren’t the lucky ones. They are the persistent, hard working ones that know that hard work and eagerness go a long way. Here are the six things I found them all to have in common:

1. They Understand Their “Circle of Competence”

In his Getting There essay, legendary investor Warren Buffett explains that it’s essential to understand your strengths and weaknesses. When you’re deciding what to pursue, knowing what to leave out is as important as knowing what to focus on. Buffett quotes Tom Watson (the founder of IBM) who said, “I’m no genius but I’m smart in spots and I stay around those spots.”

Buffett explains, “My brain is not a general-purpose brain that works marvelously in all situations. There are all sorts of things that I’m no good at and there are all kinds of investment opportunities I’m not able to comprehend. I understand some kinds of simple businesses. I can’t understand complicated ones. Coca-Cola, for example, isn’t very complicated. It’s a durable product and the appeal is universal. I try to find businesses I can grasp, where I like the people running them and think the price makes sense in relation to the future economics.”

John Paul DeJoria, billionaire co-founder of the Patrón Spirits Company and John Paul Mitchell Systems, advises, “Do what you do best and try to find others who can fill in by doing the things you are not good at. For instance, I am terrible at details—accounting especially, so I hire accountants to help me. This frees me up to focus on the things I do excel at and I can run a more efficient operation.”

No one is good at everything, but everyone I spoke with became incredibly successful by honing in on what they excel at. So, look for your natural strengths to see where you can stand out.

2. They Harness Their Passions

You’ve probably heard this before—and for good reason! The path to success is almost guaranteed to be arduous, but if you love what you do you’ll thrive on the inevitable challenges and have the stamina to achieve your potential. If you pursue something just for the money or because you “think you should,” it probably won’t end well.

World famous scientist J. Craig Venter (a.k.a., the first person to sequence the human genome) says, “So many people get pushed along in the ‘system,’ and because they don’t really know what they want to do, they practically let their careers be chosen for them. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it’s hard to be successful at it. You can show up and do what’s required, and you can even do your job well, but that’s not where real success is going to come from. Success comes from doing something extraordinary with passion and intensity.”

3. Their Career Paths Are Fluid

Good news, career changers, well-known entrepreneurs demonstrate that it’s OK if your initial plan doesn’t work out! What’s essential is to always keep your eyes open for new opportunities and be open to change. For example:

  • craigslist founder Craig Newmark stumbled upon his businesses while trying to pursue a social goal.
  • Michael Bloomberg only decided to start his own company, Bloomberg LP, after being fired from his job at Salomon Brothers.
  • Jillian Michaels, who runs a health and wellness empire, dedicated herself to that field after being fired as a talent agent.

Les Moonves, the President and CEO of CBS, originally pursued acting, but eventually realized he would be happier on the other side of the camera.

Moonves elaborates, “Things sometimes come at you and hit you in the face. If your path is rigid, you’ll likely miss out on opportunities…I shifted from acting to producing theater and realized it felt great. Before long, I shifted again and got my first job in TV as a development executive at Columbia Pictures Television.”

If you keep coming across obstacles, see if there’s another opportunity you can pursue that might be a better fit.

4. They Create Their Own Opportunities

Successful people don’t just wait around for someone to recognize a talent in them and offer them a “big break.” It would be awesome if the world worked that way, but unfortunately it rarely does. If you want something, you have to figure out a way to make it happen.

For example, Anderson Cooper wanted to be a foreign news correspondent but couldn’t even get an entry-level job at any of the major networks. He ended up working as a fact checker for Channel One, an agency that produces news programs for high schools.

Cooper quickly realized that people tend to pigeonhole you in whatever role you’re in, and sometimes you have to do something drastic in order to change people’s perception of you. So he quit his job, borrowed a friend’s video camera, and went overseas to shoot stories by himself. Living on a mere five dollars a day, Cooper made his videos as interesting and dangerous as possible, then offered them to Channel One for such a low price that they couldn’t refuse. This bold move is what launched his career and enabled him to live his dream.

Don’t put something off indefinitely because you’ve yet to get a green light. Sometimes, the only way to demonstrate you’re ready for a new project is to go out and start it.

5. They Question Everything

Innovators don’t blindly follow others. They think on their own and understand that just because something has been done one way for years doesn’t mean that it’s the best way, or that another way won’t work.

For example, in the mid 1970’s Gary Hirshberg noticed that we were changing the way food was made, for the worse (injecting animals with hormones and antibiotics, spraying fields and produce with toxic pesticides, and using chemical fertilizers, all with no real knowledge of what would happen to kids who grew up on a diet containing these things).

Hirshberg started promoting organic food before most people knew what the word meant. He soon co-founded the organic yogurt company, Stonyfield Farms. He recalls, “When I tried to get retailers to carry Stonyfield yogurt, which was a little more expensive than the nonorganic brands, they’d say, ‘Does organic mean it has dirt in it?’ It was difficult to get stores to carry our products.”

It took Stonyfield nine years to make its first nickel, but it is now the largest organic yogurt company in the world.

Hirshberg says, “Challenging conventional wisdom can be scary, but most major changes happen because someone asked: ‘Why not do it differently?’ If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

6. They’re Resilient

Most people who are well known for their achievements have failed—numerous times. However, they eventually found success because they were able to stand back up and try again, or learn from their mistakes and try something new. The point is: They forced themselves to keep moving forward.

  • Author Jeff Kinney spent eight years writing his first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book only to have it rejected by multiple publishers. Abrams finally gave him a chance and there are now over 115 million Wimpy Kid books in print (not to mention the movies).
  • John Paul DeJoria was fired from three jobs and lived in his car on $2.50 a day. He went on to found John Paul Mitchell Systems and the Patrón Spirits Company.
  • After establishing his own architectural practice, Frank Gehry found himself on the verge of bankruptcy several times before reaching solid ground.
  • Matthew Weiner shopped his TV show around Hollywood, but it was rejected all over town. Mad Men finally made it to the screen seven years after it was written.

I have come to compare life to a game of Whack-A-Mole. (You know that arcade game in which players use a mallet to hit toy moles back into their holes?) Well, life seems to whack us all over the head from time-to-time—in big ways and in small ways. In ways that have to do with our career and ways that have to do with our personal lives. They all intermingle.

The people I interviewed are where they are today because, even after getting whacked multiple times, they found a way to lick their wounds then pop back up with a smile. This is what you must do in this world. So, the next time you get a whack, recall a specific story that inspires you, then figure out a way to pop yourself out of whatever hole you happen to be in.

10 Habits That Will Ensure Career Success

Whether we like it or not, we spend much of our time working.  Most of us spend over 2,000 hours a year at work. So if you aren’t happy with your present career or if you are trying to break into a new field, here are 10 essential habits for getting the job you want:

1. Know your career mission statement

Make sure you are clear about what you want to accomplish with your career.  Say it out loud and claim it. Write down exactly what your mission statement is and post it where you can see it every day.

2. Audit your time

If you go to work every day, write down how you spend your time. Look for things that distract you or keep you from meeting your goals. Take out things that aren’t productive. If you are looking for employment, take a serious look at how you spend your time. How much time do you want to spend each day going to appointments or on the phone? How much do you need to devote to research for job interviews? Being accountable for your time helps you get the most from each minute.

3. Make sure your online brand is accurate

In today’s world, prospective employers, as well as current management, use the internet and social media to track you. So make sure you do the work first. Google your name, make sure your profile and your brand are on point. Delete anything that doesn’t represent who you are in the best possible light.

4. Daily gratitude

Whether you are struggling with a “not so great” job or are looking for that career break, take time for daily gratitude. You can find things that you are thankful for, no matter what the circumstances. This habit will change your attitude about yourself and your career. It is humbling to acknowledge all that you do have.

5. Be flexible

Employers are always looking for team members who will go with the flow and not complain when schedules or duties change. These types of employees are soon on the boss’s radar because they make him or her look good. People who accept changes cheerfully often find they are asked to work more projects and move up faster in the workplace.

6. Do not just seek approval

It is easy to adjust our actions or beliefs as employees if we are looking for the support of management. You may find yourself tempted to give in to particular demands of a prospective employer just to get the job. However, instead of seeking approval, you should focus on the impact your actions make. Will it enhance service for the customer? Do you go the extra mile to meet requirements? Approval is fleeting, but impact shapes policy. So, instead of asking yourself if the boss liked your performance, ask yourself if you did your best. Did you make a lasting impact on some part of the job? If you can say that, you are successful.

7. Arrive 30 minutes early 

Like many employees, you may slide into the office just in time, with a minute to spare. Or maybe you plan your commute so that you just make it into your office before the boss. Here’s an easy habit to form: Get to the office 30 minutes before you begin your day. Have time to sit and reflect on your goals for the day. Take inventory of what you need to accomplish and prioritize. You will find that your day will be less chaotic, and employers see this as you taking initiative, to be ready on time and prepared.

8. Reach out often

Even if you already have a job, never stop networking with business friends and contacts. New opportunities are found quicker through word of mouth than any search engine. Keep an accurate, current list of contacts and use all of the social media to reach out and network.

9. Don’t underestimate the benefits of a mentor  

You can never go wrong by seeking guidance from someone who has been working in the field longer than you. Finding someone who can counsel you through challenging aspects of your career is invaluable. Don’t reinvent the wheel, just find out how others in your position have handled situations.

10. You will never finish

There is no perfect pinnacle to any career. There is always room to grow and expand. A career is about a journey,not reaching a certain destination. There will be another opportunity on the horizon. Always remain a student of your chosen field and be ready to grow.

What are you doing to help your career? Are you doing what you love?

 

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