Archive for November, 2011

How To Uncover Blind Spots When Mapping Your Career Path

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(This post originally appeared in FastCompany.)

Do you ever read career advice, especially for new entrants into the job market, and feel like the important qualifiers, “Yes, but…” and “So…” are too often missing? For example, “Yes, do what you love. It may translate into money, but not always or it may take a long time. So what can you do to avoid going broke…?”

Author Alexandra Levit agrees. In her thought-provoking new book Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success, she reintroduces the long-absent and important, “Yes, but…” and “So…” to some of today’s most common career beliefs.

Some of the blind spots that Levit highlights in her book include:

  • Yes, overnight success might happen to the rare person, BUT more likely it will take years of mastery and resilience. SO, here’s how to get started and to deal with inevitable setbacks.
  • Yes, employers recognize and hire you for your unique skills and experiences, BUT they also have an organization to run with rules and guidelines that have to be followed. SO, how do you function professionally and diplomatically in the workplace.
  • Yes, it’s important to perform in order to earn more money, BUT performance isn’t the only factor in determining pay. SO, learn to understand how performance, business realities, HR mandates, and office politics all impact how much you are paid.

And, as an accidental entrepreneur who knows how much work it takes to create, run and grow a successful business, this is my favorite:

  • Yes, leaving corporate America and starting your own business can be the right option for some people, BUT it’s harder than it looks and is not for everyone. SO, how can you evaluate the many often hidden benefits of working for someone else versus entrepreneurship?

I worry that without these well placed reality checks people both miss opportunities and undermine their long-term success. For me, it happened my sophomore year of college. My father responded to the news that I was going to be an English major and become a writer with, “Yes, but…you also want to move away from central Pennsylvania and live with your friends in New York City after graduation. So, you better find a major that will get you a job with a good starting salary and benefits.” That led to my double major in Economics and English and the discovery that I also love business. And today I write books, articles, and blog posts about my work, creating more flexible work environments and helping people use that flexibility to manage their work and life balance.

I’ll confess that it felt good to show my father my first book contract and relish in a moment of, “Ha, I told you so” satisfaction. But then I had to admit to myself (and to him) that moving to New York after college, finding work that I love and being able to write about it wouldn’t have happened if my father hadn’t inserted a valid, albeit painful, dose of reality into my early career decisions. Hopefully, Levit’s book will do the same for others.

What were some of the helpful, and perhaps painful, “Yes, but…” and “So…” qualifiers that helped you along your career path?

For more from Alexandra Levit:

· Buy her book Blind Spots.

· Check out her blog.

I also invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost.

12 Remote Work Trends to Achieve (Not Just Predict)

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(Post originally appeared as part of Microsoft’s “Your Office, Your Term” remote work campaign)

During his closing remarks for the 2011 Society for Human Resources Management’s Strategy Conference, Don Tapscott, the author of the bestseller Wikinomics, said, “I believe that the future is something that must be achieved and not predicted.”

In that spirit, I’m going the share the top trends related to remote work that I believe we need to achieve, not just predict.  If we make these trends happen, then remote work will become a meaningful and accessible strategy for managing our everyday work+life fit.  It will be a win for all; individuals and employers benefit.  Here are the trends that will get us there:

Top Remote Work Trends for Individuals (e.g. You and Me)

  1. We will learn the “skill” of remote working: Successful remote work requires more than a computer and an internet hookup.  It involves higher level of communication and workflow planning skills, as well as flexibility, trustworthiness and discipline.  These skills will become core performance competencies.
  2. We will negotiate remote work and its associated costs into our compensation packages: Once we’ve demonstrated mastery of remote work competencies, the market will value and pay for them.  They will become part of compensation negotiations.
  3. Video will make remote work more personal: As video technology advances and becomes less costly, it will become a main tool in the remote communication and productivity arsenal.
  4. We will look for a separate home office or convenient co-working space before making the decision where to live.  A space separate from the main living area with pre-wired internet access will become a priority for homeowners and renters.  And for those who already know that they don’t like to work from home, but don’t want to have to commute a long distance every day, local co-working space will be an important feature.
  5. As global teams and client coverage increasingly becomes the norm, remote work will allow the coordination across time zones while limiting burnout. As technology advances across global markets, internal and client teams will coordinate and rotates who calls in to meetings remotely from home after hours.

Top Remote Work Trends for Employers (e.g. Your Boss)

  1. Managers will think of remote work, as well as other types of flexibility in how or when work is done, as strategies to seize opportunities and solve problems in the business. No longer viewed as simply a “nice to have, but not imperative perk or benefit,” managers see all types of flexibility as a tool in their toolkit that they can use to run their business smarter and better.
  2. Remote work will be used to improve productivity when intense concentration is required. When a report must be written or a complicated document needs to be analyzed, managers will encourage employees to work remotely in order to avoid distracting office interruptions.
  3. Periodic remote work will allow businesses to stay open in bad weather or during other unexpected events that would otherwise disrupt operations. Prior to an unexpected event, managers and their teams would practice a remote work protocol that would allow people with jobs that can be completed virtually to stay up and running.
  4. More businesses will use remote work to save on the cost of real estate overhead. As more individuals master the skills required for successful remote work and video technology advances, more businesses will decide to manage an increasing percentage of their workforce remotely.
  5. Seeing the impact on employee wellness, especially in areas with long commutes, and the associated decrease in health-related costs, businesses will encourage one or two days of remote work. The hours spent sitting in the car, bus or train can be used to go to the gym, cook a healthy meal, see a friend, or simply not having to rush.  This translates into increased wellness and lower costs.

In terms of public policy, the trends to push for related to legislation and remote work include:

  1. Updating the tax code so it doesn’t penalize remote workers who also regularly commute to an office in another state. This is particularly important in metropolitan areas like New York City where workers regularly commute from four different states: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
  2. Updating the Fair Labor Standards Act which, as it is currently written, makes it very hard for non-exempt, hourly workers to work remotely without creating a large potential liability for their employers.

Those are the top trends that I believe we need to achieve in the way people, the government and law think about and support remote work.  If we make them happen, then remote work, as well as other types of flexibility in how and when we work, will finally become an accepted part of our everyday work+life fit.  What do you see happening?  Are you ready?

For more, I invite you to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost. And check out Microsoft’s “Your Office, Your Terms” campaign for the month of November.

Role of HR and Flexibility– What Do You Think?

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Later this week, I facilitate a session at the FWI/SHRM Work-Life Focus: 2012 and Beyond Conference entitled “HR and the Business: Strategic, Co-Owners of Flexibility.”

My goal is to help each participant answer the question, “What role does/should HR play in making flexibility in the way work is done part of the culture and business strategy of an organization?”

But I’d also like to know what you think, so please take a minute to answer the question below (once you’ve made your choice, scroll down to enter):

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Please forward this post and survey to anyone you might think would want to weigh in and answer the question. This is an important and often confusing issue inside organizations, so the more votes…the better!

I will report the results of this survey and the outcomes from my session in a blog post after the conference. Follow Twitter hashtags #workflex11 and #SHRM for conference updates which begin Tuesday 11/8 and ends Thursday 11/10.

And if you are in DC at the conference be sure to find me a say “hi.” Thank you!