Labor Day was designed to both honor and recognize the American labor movement. It’s a nod to the works and contributions of workers in the United States. But, let’s face it. This Labor Day, can you confidently say that you love your work?
If the pandemic has given us nothing else, it’s provided perspective. In particular, it’s been a huge reminder of what’s most important. I’ve said that more than once lately. But, the theme of pursuing happiness persists.
I recently made a new friend. This person is smart and accomplished. He has a long career made up jobs that would impress anyone. We’re the same age. But, there is one thing that’s very different between us. This friend is dying of terminal cancer. He hasn’t known about it for long, and he wasn’t given much time.
We spend most of our lives waiting for a future point in time. We’re waiting until our work gets better. We’re waiting for another time to travel. We’re waiting to take risks. We’re waiting for a promotion. We’re unhappily trudging through life, waiting for a future. The pandemic has made that trudging a little harder and a little heavier.
And, unfortunately, that future we’re patiently waiting for is not guaranteed.
Although the story of my friend is sad, it’s also inspirational. He is using his time to pursue the things he loves. He’s traveling, surfing, and spending time with friends. He’s living without fear, and he’s no longer doing the things he hates. There’s no more time for an unhappy job, or an unhappy life. He is pursuing his happiness.
If you don’t love your work, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate what you’re doing. Companies are being more flexible than ever. Many jobs are remote. And, some companies are adding in new perks to help their employees with work-life balance. If you’ve ever wanted to work for a company that’s not located near your home (but you don’t want to move), this is the time. If you’ve ever wanted to move (but haven’t been able to because of your job), this is also the time.
Steve Jobs famously said, “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
This is a simple, yet important concept. We’re all going through a period that feels out of control, and like there are fewer choices available to us than we would like. We may feel stuck. But don’t lose hope. In the same way that the pandemic has closed doors, it has opened new ones. Look for those new doors, and redesign your life so that you can pursue your own happiness.
Working from home has been a benefit that has developed over the last year and a half. It has allowed us to see that we can work outside of the normal work building and still be productive. This situation has encouraged companies to rethink forcing employees to come back in person. In order to be more competitive at recruiting job applicants, many companies are hiring employees from all over the country. But, they aren’t forcing them to relocate. The new employees can work from wherever they are today.
This higher level of flexibility is creating a new normal. It’s a normal that allows employees to have a better work life balance. It allows them to be near family if they choose. It is creating an entirely new lifestyle for many people. There’s less time spent commuting and more time for family and life. Many people have taken up hobbies and have started to work out.
Unfortunately, this trend only goes so far. As we have observed, there are many people who cannot work from home. This is the case for people who work in grocery stores, restaurants, and any other essential service industry. And sadly, it is often these workers who are paid the least.
This year, another important topic is also on our minds: equality. Discussions around important topics such as race, gender, and social class are more part of our everyday dialogues than they have been for many years. We are talking about systemic issues, and what we can do to change them.
As I think about work from home, I wonder if it may present challenges along with the benefits. Will lower paid workers have the same opportunities to work from home? Is a healthy work life balance going to be even more of a luxury than it is today? Will services like childcare become more exclusive and expensive?
One upside to working from home is that white collar workers will have the ability to redistribute and live in lower cost cities around the country. This shift may create more jobs in the markets where they move. If the population of a city increases, that city will be able to support more restaurants, for example.
Will we look back and be glad that work from home became so common, and brought families together? Or, will we wonder if it created a wider gap between people?
There is no clear answer to these questions. But, the more options we have on social media, and the more media choices we have, the more divided we have become over the years. We’re able to tune into our little corner of the world.
Whatever the future holds for remote work, we should take the time to consider it through the lens of equality. How can we create a better work life balance for everyone, rather than just those fortunate enough to be able to have more choices?
As a job applicant, there are many social rules that are necessary to follow. These help to increase your chances of being taken seriously as a candidate. On the flip side, there are also rules the company should follow when they interview candidates. These give the company the best chances of attracting the best candidates.
Let’s start with the rules job seekers must follow. The list is long because so much riding on first impressions.
Your communication must be quick, concise and clear. You should dress appropriately. You should be on time to the job interview. If you don’t keep your commitment to the time of the interview, chances are high that you will be immediately dropped from the consideration set. If you’ve been given homework during the interview process, you should return it promptly. And, after the interview, you should follow up with thank you notes or emails quickly.
Any misstep in these social rules and the company will drop you in favor of another candidate.
The problem is, companies often forget that this is a dance. It involves two parties. But, in a job market like the one today, job seekers have more choices. They can also walk away when the company doesn’t follow social rules.
For companies, the social rules are fewer, but they are equally important. The company should follow up with candidates promptly to schedule interviews and to provide feedback during the process.
The hiring manager should be on time to interviews. They should arrive prepared, having read the candidate’s resume. They should be attentive and respectful. The company should avoid making the interview process too long or too time consuming. They should work not to ask questions that are too personal (and illegal). The company should be honest.
But most of all, they should be respectful of a candidate’s time. When a candidate chooses to interview with a company, they’re putting a lot on the line. It takes time to prepare for an interview. The candidate must take off work, or find a quiet time to take an interview during work hours.
The thing that seems quite shocking is just what a one-way street the interview process often is. Companies treat candidates as if their own behavior doesn’t influence the candidate. The interviewer will often show up late. They’ll ask to reschedule at the last moment. When the interview does happen, they’re often unprepared. They will ask questions that are illegal, forcing the candidate to play along in order to be considered. They keep the candidate in the dark for months about the status of the job interview. And, in the end, if they extend an offer, they expect the candidate to be excited to work for them.
In a bad job market, this may work because people are desperate. In today’s market, companies need to spend as much time being respectful to candidates as candidates spend being respectful to them.
Just when we thought we were out of the woods, the COVID-19 pandemic is evolving. Every day, the news is talking about variants. We’re crossing our fingers, hoping that a full shutdown doesn’t happen again. In the meantime, businesses are trying to figure out how to get back to normal. And, employees are weighing their thoughts on it all.
Glassdoor.com recently released the results of another survey. Glassdoor focused on employee attitudes around going back to the office in the midst of a pandemic. They found that 96 percent of employees plan to return to the office in some capacity, and 66 percent of those surveyed are eager to go. 27 percent of employees said they felt less connected to their coworkers and 26 percent felt less connected to their company’s culture.
Employees also felt working from home might impact their future career path. 30 percent of those surveyed worried that working from home long term could impact their ability to get a promotion.
All of this said, 89 percent of employees surveyed have concerns about returning to the office. In particular, 35 percent of people said they are concerned about contracting COVID-19 if they go back in person. 70 percent of employees surveyed feel that employees should be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to work. And, 23 percent said they would consider quitting if they were required to return to the office before all employees were vaccinated.
17 percent also said they would consider quitting their job if they were required to go back to the office five days a week, regardless of COVID or the vaccine.
It’s hard to believe we’re still having to think about the pandemic, and this new world of work. By now, we would have assumed things would have been back to normal. When you think about the results shared, it would be interesting to talk to these employees in more detail. It’s unfortunate that 27 percent of people felt less connected to coworkers. But, how did the other 73 percent feel? It would also be interesting to know how many people felt disconnected from their company when we were still at work in person.
One thing we’ve learned is that not all work is really work. Work can be talk around the watercooler. It’s lunches together. It’s relationship building. The question I keep wondering is this. Will work evolve along with work from home? Will we find ways to connect around a virtual watercooler? We’ve been doing this for almost a year and a half.
It’s interesting that 17 percent of people said they would consider quitting if they have to go back in person – regardless of COVID. This shows a shift in work culture. At first, it sounds irresponsible, but employees have this opinion because remote work is now offered by more companies.
How do the Glassdoor findings compare to your opinions of returning to the workplace?
Getting an interview can be exciting, especially if it goes well. If you’ve wanted to leave your company for some time, the hope that a new job presents can leave you feeling on top of the world. And, the more interviews with one company, the surer you are you’ll get the job, right?
Some of the reasons I’ve heard for sharing this secret include, “I know this person is my friend, so it’s okay.” “My boss and I are close friends; they won’t mind.” “My company needs to know I’m looking, so they’ll be prepared if I do leave.” “I want to see if my company will give me a higher salary to stay.”
None of these reasons provide you any personal benefit. They give away your power and put your current job at risk.
When it comes to interviewing, nothing is a sure bet. Even if a company has talked to you ten times and is in love with you, the position may be put on hold for budget reasons. The hiring manager may leave, and the process may halt. The company could reorganize and the job may no longer be needed.
Until your offer is in writing and in your hands, there’s no offer. It could take you as long as a year or more to find a job. In the meantime, you still have bills to pay and a family to feed. Why put that in jeopardy?
Often, a boss you perceived to be your friend feels an obligation to let their boss know you have disclosed this information to them. Even if they like you, your search may be perceived as being disloyal to the company. In the worst-case scenario, you may be fired and asked to leave immediately.
Keep this in mind when it comes to asking for more money. If you don’t have a written job offer, what incentive does your company have to give you a raise? They don’t. There’s no good reason they should offer you any more money just because you’ve been interviewing.
If you tell colleagues about your search, don’t be surprised if the news gets around. People love to find something, or someone, to talk about. If you share information about your search, you’re setting yourself up to become next. The last thing you want is for word to get back to your boss before you’ve actually found a job.
As exciting as it is to share information about your job search, it’s 100 percent unwise to do so. You set yourself up for failure and disappointment on multiple levels that can be difficult to repair. When it comes to job searching, there’s no better alternative than to keep yours secret.