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3 Tips to Improve Your Professional Wellbeing

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3 Tips to Improve Your Professional Wellbeing

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I have worked with dozens of expats and accompanying partners over the years, and I don't know a single one who has seamlessly adapted to the new culture's leadership, team work, and communication style. The hiccups may be minor, but there will be hiccups.

To improve your professional wellbeing no matter where you are, start thinking about the tips below. If you're accompanying your partner on assignment, and you don't have a work permit in your new country, you might think about how these apply to your past jobs, or if you can use these for volunteering.

1. Ideally, you love the job you were hired for. Loving your job will help with motivation, getting up on Monday mornings, and persevering through tough times. If you don't love your job, list at least 5 things you like about it, e.g. the commute is short, your office space is comfortable, your colleagues are friendly, the benefits and salary support your family, etc.

We sometimes tend to see only the bad things. Focusing on what you like will help you feel gratitude and satisfaction; integral elements to wellbeing.

If you can't find anything you like about your job, knowing your strengths might help you find a new one.

2. Know your strengths and what you're good at Many of us don't have time to stop and think which parts of the job we love and which ones we don't enjoy. Generally, when we perform tasks that play to our inherent strengths, those tasks are easy for us. They come naturally, we do them well without having to concentrate too hard, and that often makes them enjoyable. If you're someone who loves a challenge, you will find enjoyment in problem-solving or having to work to achieve a level of competence. In that case, you may be good at various things, but after a while stop enjoying them, because maintaining the level of competence you want to show becomes more and more difficult to maintain since you have to keep working at it.

Continually working outside of our comfort zones increases stress. Learn more about yourself and take time to reflect what triggers stress for you. Personality Type instruments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® help you figure out what your inherent strengths are. Armed with that awareness, you will be able to devise strategies on how to bring them into your work more effectively, which will help improve wellbeing.

3. Maintain positive and supportive relationships with your colleagues Very few jobs today operate in complete isolation. You don't have to be in sales to come in contact with other team members, customers, or vendors. To understand the cultural differences of your new colleagues and professional network, you must first become aware of your own cultural preferences. Only after understanding your own programming and framework will you be able to compare what is different to you, and contrast what is different among them. Think of your culture as wearing glasses you were never aware of. Moving to a new country will force you to take those glasses off and see people and things differently.

As with the second point, you have to know yourself before you can start understanding others. Learn about your culture and the one you are now living in. Ask yourself, your friends and family how they would describe your home, and then ask your new colleagues about how they do things. Asking why-questions may be seen as accusatory or condescending, so it is most helpful to come from a place of genuine curiosity and willingness to learn.

Being cut off from your usual cultural cues will be disconcerting and cause anxiety. All of a sudden you're the odd one out. If you start questioning your identity, your wellbeing will suffer.

You don't have to change who you are. But when the way you've always done things back home does not yield the same results, you have to adapt and add new behaviors to the mix. Well - only if you want to be effective, that is. Over time, seeing progress in how successfully you're fitting in will improve your well-being.

Image by tdlucas5000, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

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The comfortable job vs. the fulfilling job

copied from Pinterest Let's say you have a nice job. The commute is not so bad, the offices are in a safe area, your colleagues are real nice troopers, and the pay's good too. Well, obviously it's not as much as you would like to make, but it's enough to pay the bills. It allowed you to get used to a lifestyle you're comfortable with.

Still, every Monday morning you find yourself wishing it was Friday afternoon, you may even take sick leave when you're not really that sick, or play solitaire and chat with your friends while your boss is waiting for that report. You're not feeling fulfilled, and every chance you get you mentally detach as far away from work as possible, distracting yourself with other things.

Been there.

If you're ready to take action, start by asking yourself some serious questions:

  • What do I want to do with my life? What's my contribution?
  • Where do I want to be in five, ten years?
  • Which of my talents could I turn into an occupation?
  • If I knew I'd succeed, what would I be doing?

Personality Type, or more precisely, Essential Motivator™ knowledge can help.

Did you know that every type has an innate skill set? Why not put them to work?

For example, are you the one everybody calls when they need help organizing an event? Do you enjoy keeping track of everything, planning, and coordinating logistics, making sure the right thing gets to the right person at the right time?

Or maybe your favorite work is more extemporaneous. You're a natural fire-putter-outer, jumping to action, seeing what needs to get done, delegating as necessary, and navigating challenging situations with exquisite tactical skill.

I'm sure you also know natural diplomats. That's someone who's able is called, and often volunteers, to mediate between two parties. They are focusing on the good in both approaches, keeping the peace, and looking for ways to help nurture relationships while helping people grow and reach their full potential.

And who could forget the person with the long view. You might be the right guy to talk to for patterns, themes, and future possibilities. You have an ability to see things clearly, objectively, and from a strategic vantage point.

You can learn any skill set you want if you put your mind to it, and you can get really good at them, too. What we find in Type is that using our innate skills simply takes a lot less effort. So, sometimes working in a job that uses our Type strengths can be more fun and enjoyable.

When you're ready to explore your strengths, contact me!

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Thoughts on Job Security

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Thoughts on Job Security

My father is going on early retirement this week, after 37 years in the same industry. He changed specialties once in the early 1990s, but remained in the same field. My mother has been working in the same job for 42 years, changing employers only after the first one folded after about 35 years of service there. Both my parents are still in their 50s (yup, they started young. Oh yeah, and I'm 12.) and have lived in the same town their whole lives. Among most my peers, this kind of job security and local consistency is practically unheard of these days. It's neither the norm nor desired. Can you imagine the discussions we had every time I've changed job? And moved countries? Blame it on the generation gap, but we've had little empathy for one another at first. I'm happy my parents are happy, but I'm super happy that my first job isn't going to be my last.

Companies are looking for people who will bring their varied backgrounds to the job. Diversity breeds innovation. Change is constant. It remains to be seen what taking away employees' flexibility will do for your business. Yahoo will find out after June 1st, when no employee will be allowed to work from home anymore. Seems counter-intuitive for a technologies company to insist on face-to-face collaboration, but then again, establishing lasting relationships through email or Skype has its challenges, too.

Many US American States are "at will" employment states. That means there are no employment contracts - neither party commits to taking care of the other beyond the immediate role. If stock prices fall, I know you'll fire me. When the project is done or I've learned enough, you know I'll move on. The internet never sleeps, and my CV is always up-to-date and available on LinkedIn.

So where's the answer? As always, probably somewhere in the middle.

Nobody should have to stay in the same position for 40 years if they don't like it. Compromising your happiness will eventually affect your physical and mental health, so paycheck shmaycheck - get a coach and get you some happy. If you're afraid of change, consider your attitude to taking risks. Do you perhaps try to avoid uncertainty in other life areas as well? Do you like to plan things and know what's going to happen? What can you do in your job search or career change that will make you feel safe and supported?

If you got laid off before you were ready to go, this might be a good time to re-evaluate your path. Were you truly fulfilled or perhaps dragging yourself to work on Monday mornings? What is it that you really want to be doing? Have you ever thought about what your unique gifts and passions might be? Can you maybe even start your own business?

People move to where the opportunities are. In Europe, thousands of young adults from Spain, Italy, Greece, and Portugal now call Germany their home. In the States, mobility has always been a greater factor. Moving between States is easy thanks to the same currency and no border controls. Perhaps if you widen the net of your search, you'll find your dream job just a few miles away.

Image by Tit Bonac, Flickr, Creative Commons License

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Personality Type and Job Interviews

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Personality Type and Job Interviews

Changing jobs is hard to do and interviewing generally sucks. You're nervous anyway, because you want to make a good impression, and if it's over the phone you don't even know if they're really browsing the web for cartoons while pretending to listen to you.

The ethical use of Type knowledge clearly states that someone's Type doesn't indicate skill or competence. Just because you prefer to use extraverted Thinking doesn't mean you're any good at it, or that you always come to the correct logical conclusions. It is also true that people may be more likely to enjoy professions that stimulate or nurture the inherent talents of their Type preferences, and therefore that Type shows up in greater numbers.

In a good-read Harvard Business Review article, Chris Smith from ARRYVE suggests not to hire entrepreneurs, but look for entrepreneurial spirit. He says:

At the interview, I generally like to discuss our company's philosophy of supporting employees' interests outside their specific role at the firm. When I do, I want to see if the candidate gets more excited about how we can help with those outside interests than with the job at hand. I also ask direct questions like "What motivates you?" and "What makes an individual successful?" Entrepreneurial spirited individuals are motivated by, and can find success in, the everyday activity of the company and the opportunities their role affords to grow the business. The entrepreneur's answers will focus on personal achievement and independence.

Type knowledge can help with the interviewing process.

From the interviewer's perspective

Once you identify which skills or behaviors would be helpful in the position, you can phrase questions in a way that reaches candidates of all types and gets to the heart of the capability.

For example, someone who processes information through iNtuiting and/or Perceiving is going to respond more easily to those open-ended questions like "What motivates you" or "What do our values mean to you". It allows them to move from the broad to the narrow; outline the theme before diving deeper. Questions like "describe an example when you used this particular skill and overcame that particular challenge" may be too specific for them and throw them off their game.

If you have a candidate with Sensing and/or Judging preferences, the blank canvas may unnerve them and the more specific guidance allows them to shine and showcase their expertise more easily. Framing the questions in more narrow terms helps them to move from the detail up to the theme.

From the interviewee's perspective

The idea for this post really came from a friend of mine (INTP preferences) who recently went through a telephone interview for a manager position. He knew he was completely qualified for the position, read everything he could about the company, and was inspired by the information he found. Needless to say, he was really excited about the opportunity.

The interviewer asked precise questions and expected short, concise answers. This was only going to be Round 1; all candidates have to get passed him to speak to the people who actually make the hiring decisions. They spent 45 minutes on examples, case studies, and practical tests.

Here's how the INTP described his experience:

"All the time I was thinking, 'these are questions I ask when I'm interviewing for people to join my team'. And I'm not hiring managers, I'm hiring employees! I was getting more stressed and just trying to say what I thought he wanted to hear, but really, I felt like the interviewer was doubting my competence. The questions were just too simplistic. Why didn't he ask me at a more strategic level? The level that as a manager I would be facing challenges at? I wanted to talk about the general landscape first before going deeper into the issues. He even could have asked what motivated me, or what I would bring to the position, or what value I could add to their company. This was a crap interview, I'd be surprised if I get a call back."

He was right, he didn't.

Knowing your Type preferences can help ground you and recognize when you're getting outside of your comfort zone. When we're stressed, it's difficult to maintain conscious control and keep calm. Telling the interviewer what he thought he wanted to hear in this case came from the 4th (aka inferior/aspirational) Fe function. INTP's don't generally have a lot of practice with- or conscious control over it, so using Fe is draining and not always successful.

Type also gives you a non-judgmental language to describe what's going on, so our INTP could have said something along the lines of, "before I get to the specifics of your question, allow me to paint a general picture to be sure we're on the same page."

Interviews are stressful. Making space for candidates to be themselves may take a little longer, but I'm pretty sure it will result in a better fit in the long run.

Image by vincent desjardins, flickr, Creative Commons License

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Be true to yourself and ace that job interview

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Be true to yourself and ace that job interview

Vulnerability is... worrying if they'll like / hire / marry / call / promote you.

Do you want to ace that job interview?

Here are 5 simple steps, written from my NF perspective:

1. Know yourself

If you're not sure where or how to start thinking about your strengths and skills, there are plenty of assessments that can help. Please please please always talk with a certified professional to debrief the results and don't just believe everything you read black-on-white.

Email me for any of these, investment is about $120 to $150 for extensive material and debrief:

Myers-Briggs MBTI(r)

FIRO-B

FIRO-Business

Thomas Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument TKI

 

or try

StandOut - $15

Strengthsfinder 2.0 - $9.99

Strengthsfinder 2.0 can be analyzed in combination with the MBTI(r) tool, again, email me if you're interested in a thorough conversation.

2. Only apply for jobs you truly want to do

Yes, we all live in the real world and have bills to pay.

It's also true that what the world needs is happy. You'll be a better leader if what you do makes you happy. You'll have more energy at home to care for the people you love when you're happy. If criticizing and gossiping and bad vibes make you happy, give it a couple sessions with a shrink to see if you're not actually compensating your shitty childhood. You can defend your country and protect your community from a balanced happy place without playing into the tough-guy stereotypes. I dare you.

3. Get clear on what you need

Know your expectations for salary, benefits, work environment, team work, and individual freedom, and be prepared to discuss them. Be equally clear on what environment you want to work in. Does your ideal company have community outreach, charity components, a people policy? Does the industry align with your values? Will you be proud to hand over your business card for them? You'll make it easier for the HR rep and hiring manager to say "yes" to you when they get the feeling you know what you're getting into.

4. Research the company

At the very least, know their facts, figures, values, vision, mission, major portfolio and competitors. You'll stand out, because you'll be able to knowledgeably discuss what's happening in the industry and the challenges they're facing. It's not just what they can do for you, it's also what you can do for them. You'll get the vocabulary to describe your skills and contributions in a non-sucky way from Step 1.

5. Be yourself

Go in and have a conversation. By consciously acting and showing them what you think they want to see, telling them what you think they want to hear, you are making yourself vulnerable. You are placing your own worth and value on a lower level - theirs is more important. Don't fall into that trap, no matter how seductive. Show up. Be yourself. Dare greatly! If they hire you based on a show, you'll have to keep performing and risk feeling like a fraud.

OK, that last one is geared towards FJs, those of us who lead with extraverted Feeling, because we tend to adapt to our surroundings and the people we're with. I've done that in jobs and relationships too many times, and am here to share it's not sustainable in the long run.

Other advice you have? Leave a comment!

Image by photologue_np, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

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Career Coaching

work1The job we choose and why we choose it says a lot about ourselves and our attitude toward work in general. We are more likely to accept a fulfilling and deserving position when we believe in ourselves and in our strengths. At the same time, limiting beliefs like “time is money,” “only the early bird catches the worm,” and “hard work never hurt anyone” influence our attitudes.

Career planning, not having a job or wanting a new one are all situations that cause stress. The levels of stress can be significantly reduced by an appropriate coaching process. During coaching, a client has the time and space to explore personal and professional situations in a confidential and respectful environment and analyze them from different angles. The client’s position in various surrounding systems, his own and outside perceptions can be reflected. The client clearly holds the expert position and is solely responsible for the shaping of his future. The coach supports and accompanies the client through the process of identifying needs and wants and making future-oriented decisions. (cf. Richardson, Nussbaumer)

Does this sound like you?

Question: How can I make the best use of my time abroad?

“My spouse has been offered an international assignment and we have decided to keep the family together and move abroad together. I’m giving up a career that I have worked many years to establish, I’m not sure whether I’ll even have a work-permit in the new country, and I’m anxious to find out what not contributing to our family’s income is going to do to my self-confidence. Goal: I want to explore the options I have of applying my skills and strengths in a new environment, find out how to thrive in a new culture, and expand my repertoire so that my career can continue its path in the most suitable direction when we repatriate in three years’ time.”

Question: What is my dream job and how can I get it?

“My job doesn’t make me happy anymore. I don’t feel fulfilled, but I depend on the monthly cheque and am scared to consider a change. A new company would probably turn out to be the same anyway, and I’ll surely find myself stuck in the same rut before long. Goal: I’d love to find out which profession would keep me motivated and looking forward to getting out of bed for in the morning! Isn’t there a way to discover what my passion is, how I can use my strengths, have fun, and make a decent living?”

The focus of a career coaching process depends on the client. Sometimes questions are more future oriented, sometimes they are more reflective of the past, drawing on experience that in turn influences possible development goals. Depending on the age and lifestyle of a client, there are countless different scenarios and priorities. However, it is recommended for all life- and career chapters to define personal development emphases. This is especially the case for the recently laid-off or otherwise unwillingly unemployed.

We recommend expanding the coaching process to include cross cultural topics whenever an international or even cross-country move is involved. Like with any Coaching process, the client defines the scope of the assignment, gives continuous feedback about the effectiveness of the Coaching, and takes sole responsibility for his decisions. The Coach places all of her available resources at the disposal of the client to ensure the goal can be reached as soon as possible.

Contact me today to find out how I can help you find the answers to your questions!

Til next week, have a good one! Thanks to Timur for the free pic.

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Opportunity for change No. 3 - the work-life balance

Over time, you find that those after-work habits have taken their toll on your waistline, and one morning you wake up and that suit you put on is pinching you in the side. You vow to start eating better tonight and rush off to work. After that most embarrassing rip while you bent down to pick up the pen your customer has dropped, you make your way hurriedly and crimson-faced to the next department store, buying the trousers in one size bigger. Once again thinking, "tonight I'll get the salad instead of the deep-fried meal", which you've forgotten by the time the youngster asks you what your order is, because those new pants fit so well and they're even a bit loose, so what could it hurt... add a dessert, too.
Over the last fortnight we've concentrated on issues that may arise in a work setting. Time to get to that other part of you - your life! Although admittedly, it's hard to draw a clear line between the two, because they're really quite connected, aren't they.

I bet you never really got it when your grandparents were talking about the good old days until you became an adult. Just imagine what those old times must have been like! No computers, no faxes, no mobile phones, little or no airtravel - hard to imagine, isn't it? True, they didn't have the mod cons we have today, but I guess they didn't have the need for them either. What I'm trying to say, is that so many inventions were born out of the necessity to save time at home so you can spend more time at work.

So, in the old days, the world was turning a lot slower, but nonetheless it was turning. People were not reachable 100 % of the time, and still the work got done. People did not receive instantaneous replies to their inquiries, they had to wait for the mail to arrive, but they didn't die in anticipation and still the work got done. People did not used to travel as much, but somehow everybody knew each other and still the work got done. Yes, they all worked long hours and probably weekends, and surely there were a number of premature, stress-related heart attacks, but I'll wager there were less than today.

Enter the digital revolution. In my imagination, back then people were conscientious and hard-working, but they knew how to relax, too. The office was left at the office, because there was no blackberry to take it home with. Nowadays, with the fast-paced and ever-changing environment all the business magazines talk about, I think real breaks are more difficult to take. How many of us have felt guilty for leaving the office at 6 pm although that's the official end of the working day? How many of us take the laptop home over the weekend just to catch up on the emails we didn't get a chance to read during the week? And, well, while we're at it, we may as well prepare that presentation for next Wednesday? It's commendable to be so devoted to one's profession, but it is dangerous to forget about one's need to rest in the process.

"Mens sana in corpore sano" - a healthy mind lives in a healthy body. A body that works 60+ hours a week and whose diet consists of fast food, coffee, and - dare I say it - cigarettes and other drugs isn't healthy. No wonder the mind goes downhill too, then. You have to be healthy in order to function; painkillers can only take care of the symptoms for so long. Ask yourself what could be the reason, what's the cause, why is your body reacting the way it does? Are you experiencing frequent headaches or migraines? Is your digestive system on the temperamental side? Do you feel irritable, emotional, or tired more than you think is normal? How about bouts of anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia or depression? Could it be that you'd be happier if you worried less about the job or what other people thought of you and spent more time with your family or friends? What are your hobbies? When did you last laugh out loud?

As you can tell, this is a wide field indeed, and there are plenty of opportunities for change simply thinking about how to handle stress, how to manage your emotions, and how to treat your body. For starters, you could take a couple of deep breaths, get that oxygen into every last one of your cells, make an effort to blink more often when you sit in front of a computer screen for long periods, and try to get more water, fruit and veg in. And drop me a line if there's any specific area you'd like to change and find out more about. Requests for post-topics are also welcome.

Til next time!

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Opportunity for change No. 2 - pleasing others vs. pleasing yourself

You're probably still pretty good at your job though, at least good enough for your boss and colleagues to know that they can't live without you. Combine that with your helpful attitude and friendly demeanor, and you find yourself swamped with little bits and pieces clogging your schedule that may not even be in your job description! But, not wanting to appear rude and desperate to prove you're a team-player, you do them anyway. As a result you're stressed and busy, sometimes feeling like a headless chicken, and every evening you come home you're too tired to do anything more than kick off your shoes, grab a glass of wine, munch on fast or microwaveable food and plonk down on the couch in front of the television. Again, I've experienced that, and probably so have you. The keyword here is boundaries. Yes, you're a nice person. Yes, you're helpful. Yes, it'd be quicker if you did it all yourself instead of explaining it to someone else, with the added benefit of you knowing it's been done right. Can you tell there's a "but" just around the corner? Here it is: Continuously helping out others to the point of neglecting your actual responsibilities and health will not necessarily make them like, respect or value you more than they do or do not do already. "This'll just take a minute..." is fine and well, but is is a minute that you most likely had already set aside doing something else. Now, who should be in charge of deciding which minute and which task is more important? This is your time we're talking about!

Nobody's saying anything against helping out a colleague when they're in a tight spot and you have some time to spare. There's a lot to be said for guarding yourself against the office-slackers who make it their business to seek out colleagues they can exploit and regularly roll off some of their workload on though. It is likely they will play on your kindness and be indeed grateful ("You're the best, thanks ever so much"), or appeal to your ego ("You're really so much better at this than I am"). Alright, those phrases have been uttered sincerely too, so you'll just have to go with your gut-feeling if you're being used or truly appreciated.

If you're not sure about what that gut-feeling is, think it through a little. When approached for help you rarely have to answer yes or no on the spot. Take a moment and ask yourself some questions to find out how you feel about entering that commitment (and it is a commitment, assuming you're not likely to say you'll help and then eventually turn around and say you didn't have time after all). For example, is this a reasonable request? Does the colleague genuinely need help because they cannot perform the task at hand? Are you the best person they could ask for help or would somebody else be more suited? Does your schedule permit you taking out the time you would need to help the other out, or would it put you under pressure regarding your deadlines? If this is a recurring issue, would it be possible to speak to a superior about re-distributing responsibilities? Why do you think you should help them? What do you get out of it? What is

your motivation?

If you're new to the position or the company, don't dismiss enquiring colleagues too quickly, but do be wary. If the same people come to you repeatedly, make the time to sit them down and explain exactly how you do the thing they admire so much, in order for them to learn to do it themselves.

Your position comes with its own set of responsibilities, make sure you see to them accordingly. After all, you are the one who will have to answer for them to your boss eventually. How will the boss react when you tell them you couldn't finish your project because you were busy helping out someone else with their tasks? "Hmm, we have a great team-player here" or more along the lines of "What a pity, that sounds like a distinct lack of prioritising and time management skills."

Putting your responsibilities first is a sign of the respect you have for your position and for yourself. All of us need help sometimes, and we should not be afraid to ask for it. But if you have the feeling someone is taking advantage, don't be afraid to say "No, I'm sorry, I'm busy." This way you will avoid unnecessary stress caused by too many open issues that are not even yours to worry about in the first place. Contrary to popular belief, saying "no" to something or someone does not make you a bad person. It makes you an aware person who knows their limits, and that is a very good quality to have.

I invite you to think about all the people in your life, not only in your job, as this powerful concept of boundaries applies to family members and friends as well. Who do you feel comfortable being around? Who would you rather not spend time with? Are there some who take more of your energy than they give? Is there anyone who you feel doesn't respect you? In what way are they behaving? Is there anything you can do about that?

Who says that a nice glass of wine after work is only reserved to the overly stressed-out, by the way. You still deserve to decompress in any way that works for you! Come back next week for more articles on opportunity for change, and have a look at your work-life balance.

Til next time!

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