I guess this is what they mean when they say, “be careful what you wish for.” Here we are working from home, playing from home, schooling from home, and everything else-ing from home. At least there’s no commute. But, working from home isn’t as great when it’s not a choice.
But, let’s try to make the best of it. We may be here for a while. So, what can you do to effectively work at home?
For starters, find a space that you can designate for work. If you’re lucky, you may have an office or an extra bedroom. Or, you may want to designate a space like your dining room table. If you have a house with a garage, you may even want to temporarily turn your garage into an office. This is the time to get creative.
Once you’ve found your space, set it up. At a minimum, you’ll likely need a table, a desk, and your computer. If you have them, a printer and an external monitor can also be very helpful. Keep your office supplies nearby, including paper, pens, headphones, and anything else you may need. Take the time to set up your new home office in a way that is enjoyable to you. You will be spending a lot of time there.
After you setup your home office, it’s time to use it. Start out by creating a schedule for yourself. One of the most important components to successfully working from home is routine. Try to start working at the same time every day. Set aside time to eat lunch, and possibly for breaks. And, finish at a reasonable time. Try not to spend every waking hour sitting and working, as this could lead to burnout.
Look for ways to stay connected to colleagues. One of our biggest hurdles when working from home is how to stay relevant at work without being too much. In other words, without sending too many emails or making too many phone calls. Over time, work to develop a routine. Try to stay in touch with coworkers and management without wasting time, but while still creating a human connection.
Don’t forget to ask how people are really doing. When you open up, you’ll learn that your coworkers are just as stressed and as afraid as you are. They’re also trying to figure out how to keep their spouse, pets, and kids out of their workspace. They’re also worried about their parents. They’re also running low on toilet paper.
Working from home is an adjustment, even under normal circumstances. Virtual companies share that it takes months for working from home to become normal and routine. You’re in good company.
One question I hear often from readers is about military transitions. Many members of the military devote the first twenty years of their career to the US Military. Around age forty, they’ll retire and start entirely new careers in the civilian world. I receive questions about how to successfully make this change.
The number one thing I see that trips up people transitioning is this. They don’t realize just how hard it is. And, neither do those around them. The military will often help people who are transitioning by offering a class about how to get a job. Many of the people I’ve met who have attended this class assume that the transition will be quick, painless, and easy. They also assume that they will be compensated the same or more than they were in the military.
To make matters more complex, their loved ones also believe the transition should be easy. Unfortunately, this is a problem not just with military folks, but with anyone looking for a job. Your family can never understand what’s taking you so long. This can leave the job seeker feeling lonely and deflated, as if they’re the only one who has ever had to work this hard to find a job.
If we can agree that job searching is hard, then what? The people I’ve seen with the smoothest transitions have done three things well. First, they’ve started early. They didn’t wait until they were out of the military to begin looking for something new. Second, they put their fears and limitations on hold. In other words, they were willing to step out of their comfort zones to explore jobs they may not have considered. And, third, they kept their personal expenses low. In the civilian world, a paycheck is not a guarantee. Especially in the beginning, if you can keep your costs down, it will be less stressful if your search takes time.
Beyond that, listen to yourself. When you are job searching, you’d be surprised at how many people come out of the woodwork with advice. Your great uncle Bob who you barely know will suddenly have an opinion on what you should be doing with your life. If you’ve spent your entire career in one field, this guidance can feel good. But, don’t fall into the trap. Great uncle Bob probably has no real experience in the work he’s advising you on.
Start early. Form a support group. Reach out to people who have been through this transition before. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you don’t know through networking site, LinkedIn. And, be on the lookout for companies that specifically recruit transitioning members of the military.
Last, but not least, be patient with yourself. You’re starting an entirely new career. This is hard for anyone – military or civilian. It takes time. It’s going to be hard. But, in the end, it’s worth it.
If you were to look for a new job, where would it be? Very often, when we’re searching for a new job, we look in our immediate area. We look for something within driving distance of our home – in our existing city.
But, every now and again, a big change can be refreshing. A new city can offer new job opportunities. It can open up social doors that didn’t exist before. It can add excitement and variety to life.
If you’ve ever thought of making a big move, the first question is: where? And, frankly – where to even begin? If you’re over thirty-five (or even twenty-five), moving to a new city can feel daunting. Friends are no longer served up on a platter like they were in high school or college. In addition to friends, you’ll have to find new doctors, new restaurants, new everything. You’ll have to get a new driver’s license. The list goes on and on.
Many people never get moves off of the ground because of all of the pieces involved. This is especially true for those who are married and have children.
If you are considering a move, make a list of the things you value in a city. There’s no right or wrong thing that should be on the list.
Your list might include things like the population size. Or, maybe you want to research the average cost to buy a home – or the average income in the area. If you’re single, you may want to look at the number of single people who live in the city. You may want to research the political views in the city, to see how closely you align. You may want to look up the average temperature. And, you may also want to look up the crime rate in the places you’re considering.
Once you have this list, create a list of possible cities. Then, research each city using your list as a guide. When I’ve done this, I have put this data into a spreadsheet, so that I can easily compare the cities.
Another great source of information about cities is the LinkedIn Workforce Report. LinkedIn puts out data each month that will allow you to learn more about the job markets in large cities across the US. It can help you to understand where there are labor shortages, and which cities the most people are moving to.
Glassdoor also recently published a list of the 25 best cities for jobs in 2020. These cities were compared across three categories: hiring opportunity, cost of living and job satisfaction.
Moving is a big decision. It’s one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. And, it shouldn’t be put off. Moving to a new city is much easier when the job market is healthy. If you’d like to make a change, there’s no time like the present. Start your research, and you’ll be on your way.
One of the most frustrating feelings can be a loss of control. There are things you wish you could influence. You try. You go out of your way to plan for everything that could go wrong. This can feel especially true at work, where there are so many things that can impact your ability to succeed.
When you find yourself in a frustrating situation, it’s important to step back for a moment. Ask yourself what’s really in your control, and what’s not. So often, we get caught up in the pieces not in our control. We wish for different outcomes. We play out different scenarios in our minds. We spend a lot of time and mental energy thinking about what went wrong, and what we could do differently.
But, the thing is, you can’t beat yourself up. If you’ve done your best, you have to let the rest go. Now, does that mean you should accept things that you don’t agree with? Absolutely not. You’ve got to take note of them. Write them down in a journal, so you can keep track and remind yourself later. Don’t dismiss your feelings.
Then, when you’re in a better space, reflect on what really went wrong. What was in your control, and what was outside of it? Sometimes, the things outside of your control are related more to company culture than to any one thing. There may have been something you could have done differently. But, there may have also been larger forces at work.
With that said, acknowledging the impact of outside forces on your life is important. For example, if you’re working in a toxic work environment, pay attention. If you’ve done everything within your control and things are still too difficult to feel comfortable, it may be time to move on.
Now, I’m not suggesting you run from job to job. Every job has pros and cons. Simply running from place to place won’t fix the issue. But, sometimes you come across a work culture that’s more than you can bear.
Perhaps you don’t feel safe at work. Or, maybe workplace gossip is intense. Or, you may have an overly negative and critical boss. Whatever the issue is, you have to be honest with yourself. If you’re truly unhappy to outside forces that are impacting you, you have to look for other options. It will allow you to take your control back. It will allow you to find your power.
You don’t have control over the behavior of other people. But, you can control how you react. You can keep a positive attitude in the face of difficult times. You can decide when it’s time to move on. Keep your focus on what is within your control, so that you can move past what isn’t. This will not only allow you to take control, but will prevent what’s outside of your control from controlling you.
Loyalty is an interesting idea. Companies expect it. Many demand it. You must be a loyal employee. You must put the company’s best interest first. Even if you don’t agree, you should toe the company line. Otherwise, your worst fears could happen. You may find yourself without work.
What I find interesting however is this. In the past, companies offered loyalty in return. Companies provided pensions. They provided security. You could work at one company for thirty years and then retire comfortably. You could even work your way up the company ladder. It was reliable.
Unfortunately, companies are no longer able to provide the same level of loyalty to employees. Or, perhaps they choose not to. Whether it’s a more competitive market or different expectations, retiring from one company is much less likely today than it was forty years ago.
But, despite the market changes on the company side, most employers still expect the same level of loyalty from you. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about honesty and integrity. Of course, we should all be honest. Every day, we should do our best work.
Many companies expect you to stick around through thick and thin. They expect you not to look for a new job; not to return the phone calls from recruiters. Honestly, it seems that because most jobs are considered ‘at will’ and you can be fired anytime, loyalty is expected in exchange for a job – now. But, next week, next month, and next year aren’t guaranteed.
So where should your loyalty lie? I would argue that it should lie within ourselves. In today’s job market, you’re the CEO of your own career. Think of yourself like a small business or a consultant. You are in the driver’s seat. You have to be. It’s your job to build your resume over time. It’s your job to seek promotions. And, it’s your job to be sure your training is up to date. With all that said, it’s also your job to protect your reputation by showing up each day – by doing your best and by being honest.
You cannot simply turn over your loyalty to a company. Much like a romantic relationship, loyalty must be earned over time. You cannot blindly give up your power. You cannot assume you’ll be taken care of.
If you think of yourself like a small business, you’ll be off to the right start. Your employer is like your client. Do the best work for them each and every day. In exchange, they’ll compensate you. But, like a small business, you never know when that client will decide to move in a new direction. So, you have to be ready. Small businesses are always looking for their next client. They’re networking. They’re setting up a situation where they are not dependent on any one revenue stream.
Do your best today, but be loyal to your future vision.