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It’s no secret that time management is an important part of creating a happier, more successful life overall. Everyone, no matter what their career path, will have a moment where they feel as though their workload is unmanageable or overwhelming. While that moment may be fleeting for some, it could very well be a persistent feeling for others. The key to finding success rests in how one responds to that feeling of inundation at work.
A healthy approach to time management will help workloads feel more manageable, instill a better sense of work-life balance, and ultimately lead to a more successful career overall.
Why is Time Management Important for Your Career?
For one, there’s only so much time in a day. Our time is limited, and it’s important to use available time wisely. Deadlines wait for no one, and superiors will make note of your ability to make deadlines within the allotted time constraints. When time is managed poorly, quality of work may suffer, or worse, work may not be completed at all. It will be difficult to excel in any career path if you’re experiencing difficulty getting work finished.
Time management also allows for you to create a timeline to meet larger career-oriented goals. True success never happens overnight. Rather, success comes from careful planning and small steps that will eventually cumulate to become your end goals. Mastering time management is not only important when it comes to plotting necessary, smaller goals on a timeline, it helps you follow through with those goals in an efficient manner.
So How Does One Get Better at Managing Their Time?
There are innumerable lists of tips and tricks available to increase your ability to manage your time. But the most important thing to understand is that true time management comes from a complete change of perspective. In order to be successful at managing your time, you have to make a promise to yourself to remain committed to the changes you make. It’s about changing your long-term habits, and focusing on making a positive change. Keeping that overall change in mental state in mind, start with these two major steps to better time management:
Start Planning Your Weeks
There are certain things that we will always have to do on a daily (or weekly) basis. On Sunday nights, set aside some time to work on your calendar. Schedule out specific chunks of time for checking your email. (Once in the morning, once before & after lunch, and once around 3:30pm is a schedule that may work for you. Tailor this schedule to your specific job.) By setting aside specific times for your email, you avoid the timesink that can come from being constantly connected to your email. Schedule in lunch, coffee breaks, and any recurring meetings as well. When all of the recurring tasks are blocked in, schedule in all of the tasks that you already know need to be completed that week. This may need to be adjusted based on what happens during the week, and that leads us to our next topic:
Learn to Prioritize
In most work environments, it’s easy to get caught in the revolving door of tasks that land on your desk. It’s important to determine which tasks are the most important, and stick to working on/completing those tasks first. Those crucial projects should never fall to the wayside of the smaller one-off tasks that come your way. Get the tasks with the highest priority checked off of your list of things to do that day, and work your way down to the smaller tasks.
Time Management is hugely important to your overall success. Start with these two steps, and then branch out. Find other tips that work for you, and then, find your success!
In this blog post, I highlighted the importance of mentorship in your career and professional life. Mentors provide much needed support and direction as you navigate within your network and work to establish yourself as an expert in your industry. The question that always comes up after someone determines that a mentor is the vital key that they are missing is, “How do I find a mentor?” Finding a mentor is not as simple as walking up to someone at a networking event, and asking “Will you be my mentor?”. Mentoring is about a relationship; it needs to be organic and should grow out of real interactions between people who are already familiar with one another. Here are a few bits of advice to keep in mind when you’re looking for a mentor:
Make Yourself Mentor-Ready
You will not be able to build a successful relationship with a mentor if you don’t know what you want. You need to take the time to reflect, and create a working outline of your needs and professional goals. This doesn’t have to be a list of things that are set in stone, but you do need to know what you want, so you can seek out a mentor who aligns with your aspirations.
Relatedly, work towards being someone that anyone would want to mentor. Do work to establish yourself as much as possible within your field; know what your strengths and your weaknesses are. Work to associate with the right people, create meaningful work, and be a professional that other professionals want to work with.
As I mentioned earlier, mentoring is born of real relationships. Very few people are willing to invest their time in a stranger. Work to build meaningful connections, both online and in person, and get involved with others through as many different avenues as possible.
- Get active on twitter, and follow people that you admire. Look at who they interact with, and follow them too. Read the content that they produce, and maybe even reach out and comment on something they’ve written. Do the same on Linkedin.
- Go to networking events and make real connections with people. Websites like meetup.com have endless options of meetup groups and events where people are eager to make connections and build up their network as well. Find conferences where people you admire are speaking and don’t be afraid to walk up and start a conversation.
In the beginning, avoid the “I need a mentor”conversation. Instead, work on getting to know these various individuals you’ve brought into your life. Exchange emails, meetup for coffees and lunches, and ask questions. Feel out these interactions, and if over time you think that someone may be a good fit, then ask them if they would be interested in being your mentor. Many believe that the official question will be unnecessary, because the organic relationship that you’re working on will naturally shift into a mentor-mentee relationship on its own.
What is culture? Culture is casually defined as the beliefs, customs, behaviors, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time. So, just like each society has its own culture, each Company has its own culture as well. In each company a culture exists – whether or not it is consciously created. It is created by the way management treats the employees, by the way employees treat each other, and by the way the organization treats its customers. It is created by the behaviors and attitudes that are rewarded and those that are penalized. So, if you want to instill a particular culture within your organization, you need to consciously create it, and the sooner you do so, the better. If you are so fortunate to have come into a blank slate, it is much easier to create a culture from scratch rather than to try and change what already exists.
To a large degree, this is the fortunate position we have found ourselves in. We are hiring a large group of people over a short period of time and have the opportunity to instill our culture from the ground up, at least in the corporate office. To quote a popular and excellent author, Simon Sinek, we started with WHY. Why does our company exist? There are many versions of this; some call it a vision or mission statement, which some use interchangeably although they are different. Others call it Go-To statement, but it is, basically, all driving toward the same outcome. How do we all align toward a common goal at the highest level. Once the common purpose is hammered out and disseminated throughout the organization, which is an article in and of itself, it becomes time to figure out how you will put that purpose in place. This is a good time to involve the rest of the organization, especially if you are working toward a more collaborative culture. Create cross functional focus groups, brainstorm ideas on whiteboards or through interactive AV technology. Work with them until they feel right, like they echo the essence of what you are trying to achieve. There may be as few as five or as many as a dozen. From there the real work starts because now each organization has to grapple with what they need to do in order to bring this cultural initiative to light. These will become the performance metrics used to drive not only your culture, but the performance of your organization.
As a side note, culture can and should be drive by initiatives, performance metrics, goals and other measures, but culture also needs to be driven by the less tangible, kindness, compassion and empathy. Cultures are driven by the words used and the deeds carried out every day. They are driven by doing what is right for your employees as human beings. By bringing in flowers on Mother’s Day, by handing out Good Gotcha’s, by taking the time to listen and to genuinely care.
Next time we’ll talk more about tying Performance Management in an organization to the cultural initiatives and then about metrics and measurements tied to the performance management core competencies and goals.
No matter what industry you are in, finding a mentor will be one of the most valuable career moves you can make. It’s almost difficult to drive home the importance of finding an individual to act as your mentor (no matter what stage you are in, in your career). A mentor-mentee relationship is one of trust and mutual respect, and a (good) mentor will be able to create opportunities that the mentee would never have had access to otherwise. Almost all successful entrepreneurs and business moguls have had mentors to help grow them into the powerhouses that they are today.
Mentors Will Have the Experience to Challenge You
Mentors will often have several more years of industry experience than you do. All that they’ve seen and learned in those years is invaluable information that you now have access to. Mentors have likely experienced situations that you haven’t even dreamed of yet, and they will be able to prepare you for them preemptively. A good mentor will also use their experience to push you beyond what you think you’re capable of. They will be able to guide you through situations that may be out of your comfort zone, simply because they have experience that you have not gained yet.
Mentors Have Extensive Networks
One of the most important things in terms of career growth is increasing your network. Yes, you should absolutely be learning to network on your own; having your own network of contacts is hugely important. But the truth of the matter is that a mentor will likely have a more extensive and better established network than you, simply because they have had more time to curate their connections. A good mentor will be able to connect you to people you wouldn’t otherwise be able to interact with, and set you up with opportunities that wouldn’t be available outside of their personal network.
Mentors Will Be Able to Provide the Insight & Advice That You Need
It’s important to have someone to bounce ideas off of. A valuable mentor will be able to provide you with advice that is backed with actual experience and information. Good advice is invaluable, and if you can look past your own ego and pride to listen to someone else, your mentor will be able to provide you with exactly what you need to hear. (Note: Make sure your mentor has the ability to provide constructive criticism and feedback. You’ll need to know when you’re wrong.) This doesn’t mean your mentor will know all; but it is likely that they will have insight far beyond your years, and that’s wildly important when trying to establish yourself in any career path.
Landing a job interview is always cause for a celebration. But, once that initial endorphin high wears off, it’s time to start getting ready for the big day. As a human resources professional, I’ve been a part of countless interviews, and have witnessed interviewees with a wide range of interviewing aptitudes. I like to tell people that interviewing is like taking a test. You would never go into a final exam without studying, and you should never show up to an interview without taking some time to prep. Use this post as a study guide, and ace your next interview.
Research, Research, Research
The one mistake that I see time and time again is a candidate forgetting to do their research. Research everything that you possibly can, but at the very least learn about the person interviewing you, the position you are interviewing for, and the company that you are trying to work for. The internet truly holds the answers to everything that you need to know. Search LinkedIn for your interviewer, and learn a little bit about their background. Jot down some talking points about a project they’ve worked on, or the school they went to; everyone loves the opportunity to make a human connection in such a professional setting. Browse through the company’s webpage, and determine what their mission statement is. Be sure that you will be able to come up with insightful and educated answers to any questions you may be asked about the company.
Practice Makes Perfect
Everyone knows that interviews are nerve wracking experiences. One way to ease nerves and guarantee that you won’t blank when asked a question is to practice your answers. Again, look to the internet to find common interview questions, and practice answering them with a friend, or by yourself in front of a mirror.
ProTip: Craft your story. Don’t memorize cookie cutter answers. Instead, remember some key talking points and work to become comfortable with telling your interview exactly how and why you would be perfect for the job.
Find The Right Outfit
First impressions truly are everything, and a poor outfit choice could be detrimental to your chances. The rule of thumb is to be as professional as possible, and it’s generally always better to be overdressed than underdressed. But, on the same note, be sure to research the company culture. Many industries want to be sure that you’re a culture fit, and wearing a full suit to a startup where everyone wears sweatpants could also hurt your chances of getting the job. No matter what the wardrobe situation is, always make sure that your clothing is clean, well tailored, and ironed.
Be sure to check back next month for Part 2 of Interview Like A Pro!