Thursday, June 25, 2009

Professional Development

In any field there are opportunities for engaging in professional development in some shape or form. This might include taking part in an educational course, attending a short presentation/workshop, or going to a conference. I’ve been lucky enough to take part in all of these forms of professional development through Life Strategies. This has allowed me to not only further develop my skills but also keep me engaged in my work.

Educational courses can be the most time consuming option for professional development and may require time away from work. This might not always be an option and many would not dedicate their vacation to study. However, with online learning, correspondence/independent study, and/or night class options, it’s easier than ever to continue your education by working your studies in and around your work/life commitments.

There are a variety of reasons why an employer may host a presentation or workshop internally (e.g., to introduce new policies/procedures, to train workers on new technologies/practices, to strengthen team functioning) and workers may or may not be required to attend. Externally you can access an endless choice of topics – anything from improving your editing skills to managing conflict. Conferences are a great way to attend numerous presentations/workshops over the course of few days. They also provide invaluable networking opportunities for you to connect with others in your field.

Some organizations invest in professional development and others unfortunately do not. Professional development is a great way to not only ensure employees have the skills necessary to do the job but also to let them know that the company is willing to invest in them. If your organization offers professional development opportunities or funding for them I really encourage you to take advantage of this. Even without funding from your organization, developing your skills is a great way to keep engaged. Learning something new could help you perform your job better and maintain an energetic and enthusiastic approach to your work.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


When you hear about employee engagement, you likely think about how to ensure you increase and maintain high levels of engagement in the workplace...after all, studies show that engaged employees are more productive. However, do you ever think about whether your employees are over-engaged and the problems which may arise from over-engagement?

In reading a recent article about job loss and subsequent identity loss for some people, it became clear that it is possible for employees to become over-engaged in their work and over-identifying with their jobs. Workers with a great passion and interest in their work may be at risk for over-engagement.

The upside of over-engagement is that a job may not feel like work if the employee feels a personal connection and passion for the work. It may in fact feel like a dream job if personal and work interests are interconnected. On the surface these are likely attributes employers feel make positive contributions to their work sites.

Unfortunately, over-engaged workers may:
  • Identify strongly with their jobs thereby losing personal identity
  • Have unclear boundaries between work and personal life
  • Find it easy to sacrifice family, friends, and health for the sake of their jobs
In a turbulent economy, over-engaged individuals may be at risk of experiencing personal collapse if they lose their jobs. They may be more likely to experience workplace stress and burnout and the resulting stress-related illnesses can be incredibly costly to already over-burdened employees.

Here are some tips for ensuring employees aren’t over-engaged
• Make vacation mandatory
• Don’t make “busy a badge of honour”
  • Avoid rewarding those who work constant overtime and penalizing those who don’t
  • Employers should model valuing personal time by taking vacation, leaving early/on-time
  • Reward quality not quantity
  • Encourage volunteer work or involvement in community-based projects
  • Support health and wellness initiatives in the workplace
Life Strategies Ltd. offers a range of training opportunities, workshops, and services related to work-life sustainability, managing stress in the workplace, and healthy workplaces. For more information, visit:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Best Job in the World Competition

You may have heard of the recent competition to be the caretaker of an island in Australia. The “gruelling” position (please note sarcasm) has earned the winning candidate a 6 month contract worth $150,000. The successful candidate’s job duties are to explore the island (e.g., lie on the beach, go snorkelling), complete some minor tasks, and blog about his experiences.

This contest attracted well-over 34,000 candidates. However, only one lucky candidate, Ben Southall, beat out the competition.
[1] Yes, it is easy to see why this would be such a brilliant job, but what can you do in your position to make it your own “Best Job in the World?” Now you may be thinking “I certainly cannot go lie on a beach and get paid for it,” which may be reality for most of us; but what about spreading out your vacation time? Perhaps taking a day here and a day there to go do the things that you really enjoy would make your job more of a “dream job.” Try planning your vacation days around work milestones, for instance after completing a major project take a day to explore your city like a tourist, going to events or attractions you wouldn’t normally visit. If taking vacation days isn’t appealing, perhaps working in some flex time would be. Is it an option to work 4, 10 hour shifts Monday through Thursday one week to take the Friday off? Your employer may be very open to such options as a refreshed and relaxed employee is likely to be an engaged and productive employee.

Time off or holiday days may not be the component you need for your “dream job.” Take some time to write out a list. Title the list “If I Could Do Any Job in the World I Would…” Next compare your list to your current position, what on the list could you try and incorporate? Even if you think something is farfetched, it is always worth speaking to your supervisor or HR department to see what is feasible. Another idea is to list all of your current duties, ranking each duty with a 1, 2, or a 3 (1 = very satisfied, 2 = neutral, and 3 = not very satisfied). Next take a look at all the duties you ranked with a 1, is there any way to be doing more of those in replacement of the duties you ranked with a 3?

Have fun in creating your “dream job,” get together with friends or co-workers to brainstorm “dream job” scenarios. However, be sure to move it forward, don’t stop at creating the list; look up workplace policies, speak with your supervisor, HR department, or other co-workers to see what is possible.