Monday, August 17, 2009

Re-Engaging after Summer Vacation

If you’re anything like me, you look forward to the warm, sunny days of summer. It’s a great time to plan that special holiday and leave all your worries behind. Upon returning to work I feel refreshed, reenergized, and ready to get back to my work duties. Sometimes getting back into the swing of things can take some time, but I always focus on re-engaging in my work.

So, just how can you re-engage yourself? Be sure to ease your holiday-to-work transition by following some of the tips included below (adapted from
  • Give yourself time to settle back into your “normal” routine. If you’ve traveled to an exotic destination, give yourself a day or two to get your land legs and overcome any jet lag.
  • Reflect on your positive holiday experiences and achievements.
  • Stay positive about your work and reflect on the things that you enjoy doing.
  • Avoid in-box overload. If you can, consider looking through your emails the night before returning to work or have a colleague respond to urgent items while you are away.
  • Try to stick to your regular sleep schedule at least a few days before returning to work
I’d also suggest the following
  • Give yourself time to settle back into the groove of things.
  • Be sure to review any meeting notes, memos, or other updates
  • Organize yourself by creating a checklist. This will give you a sense of accomplishment getting through all the smaller tasks.
  • Take what you’ve learned/experienced during your holidays and apply it to your work.

Monday, August 10, 2009

How to Maximize Your Talents at Work

Maximizing your talents and showing your employer your diverse set of skills can help to put you and your career in the spotlight. To maximize your talents you must recognize your own strengths. If you’re not sure what your strengths are, try asking friends and family “What do you think I’m good at?” You may also want to reflect on skills that you been complimented on. Next transfer the skills you identified to the realm of work.

Once you have identified your strengths and how they are applicable to work, it’s time to put these talents into action. Start by volunteering for projects or take initiative to help others when needed. Don’t be afraid to talk about your accomplishments with others in a non-boastful way. At staff meetings you could mention how much you enjoyed working on a certain aspect of a project. Or when offering to assist with certain projects, make note of your skills “I’m great at__________, and could really help with_________.”[1]

The potential benefits of maximizing your talents could result in focusing more on projects and job duties that are a better fit for you, in turn making work more enjoyable. Your willingness to volunteer for projects may be noted by your employer, who in turn may begin sending you the work you enjoy more often.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Finding Flow...

I'm currrently just finishing my contributions to a book on "Career Flow" (co-authored with Norm Amundson and Spencer Niles). Csikszentmihalyi has previously written about "Flow" as "optimal experience" - those wonderful moments when you are so throoughly engaged in an enjoyable activity that you lose all track of time as things click along perfectly for you.

In an entry in our own blog last month, Fiona talked about how the variety of projects she's working on contributed to flow. Krista, in her recent blog entry, spoke of the joys and challenges of working on virtual teams. As I reflect on my own work, the time races by when I'm teaching in a classroom, but minutes seem like hours when I'm grading a mountain of papers according to detailed criteria. As a consultant and manager, I love seeing "aha" moments; I hate wasting time.

Csikszentmihaly found that flow occurs more often at work than in any other life roles. He observed that balancing the degree of challenge to the level of one's skills contributes to flow (i.e., if you take on too much of a challenge for your current skill level, you'll likely be worried or anxious; however, too little challenge may result in boredom instead of flow).

I believe that it's not just about skills; rather the resources available to you (i.e., your overall capacity to get the task done) make a difference as well. Sometimes a job can be highly enjoyable until a co-worker calls in sick, leaving you with double the work with the same amount of resources. Your skills haven't changed, but it may no longer be a flow experience if you were already challenged by the work to be done. On the other hand, a job could be boring until an emergency arises - the unexpected challenge bumps you back into flow.

As you reflect on your own career, when do you find yourself in flow?
  • What types of activities, under which specific circumstances, do you find particularly engaging?
  • How can you create more of them at work?
  • How can you adjust the activities that drag you down so that they'll be more meaningful? Less tedious?
"Hope" is at the centre of the model explaining "career flow" in our latest book. In my previous research on what contributes to job success and career satisfaction, optimism was the single best predictor of both. Therefore, as you strive for more "flow" in your work (i.e., as you become more engaged), nurture hopefulness or optimism. Ask yourself,
  • Why are you doing what you do?
  • What difference does it make?
  • Who needs the product or service you provide?
  • Is the demand growing or declining?
  • What other meaningful projects can you contribute to?
Finding flow doesn't have to be accidental. Intentionally create opportunities that are challenging but not overwhelming. Make meaningful contributions. Recognize how your work helps make the world a better place.