Cabernet Coaches: Power of Consistent Connection

ccWBistro7.2014Cabernet Coaches

Power of Consistent Connection

I call them Cabernet Coaches. No, they aren’t highly specialized sommeliers or vineyard strategists—and some of them actually prefer the chardonnay. Rather, these are the loosely gathered and rather eclectic group of women I meet with for weekly Wednesday night happy hours.
It’s not about the drink specials. It’s basic elemental networking without the use of that stifling—and for some, intimidating—buzzword. It’s real grass roots relationship building. And it’s a concerted strike back at a world that would keep us too busy for connection beyond those coworkers, neighbors and team moms lying directly in our paths.

How, and more importantly, why do we do this?

It’s a conscious choice to maintain connection. This means that when one of us gets the big promotion or adds a significant other to her life, we continue to value our friendships by maintaining a regular time slot for them on our calendars. “Disappearing friends”—those who get swept away by a change to relationship status or a bend in the career path—can fade like a mirage in the rearview mirror, so we aim for consistent contact. Frenetic schedules may not allow for regular lunch dates with everyone in our expanding circle—but once a week, we purposefully maintain connection.

It’s a conscious choice to create new connection. We’re completely inclusive. Invites have been extended in groceries, at doctors’ offices and on Facebook. There is something to be gained and given in every encounter. “Loneliness makes fools of us all” (Date Like A Grownup: Anecdotes, Admissions of Guilt & Advice Between Friends, epigraph)—and as we grow connection, we stem isolation. With affirming friends, we are less likely to wither in bad jobs and relationships. We gain momentum from the good choices of others and gain resolve to affect change in our own lives. And, we expand our options by creating a larger pool of friends. Nothing pleases me more than to discover two previous strangers meeting for lunch following a Wednesday night meeting.

It’s a conscious choice to value self. Sometimes, driving across town and traffic to meet with a few friends amidst the pressures of a busy workweek takes significant motivation. Many of our conversations begin with “I should be…” but they always seem to end with gratitude for time well spent. Generally, two hours around a high top table won’t negatively impact the productivity of a week, but it will often reenergize us to better adapt and achieve what is required. And, happy hour appetizers always trump microwaved leftovers as a dinner option.

It’s a conscious choice to build a bigger, better life. Our Wednesdays are more of a flow than a settled gathering—with friends bringing friends, and built around the absences caused by travel, parenting our children and all the normal demands of life. But it’s a repeat calendar entry for many of us—an almost sacred appointment that we strive to keep regardless of changes to relationship status or career. It’s a commitment to growth and a leg up over the status quo. New faces, fresh ideas, divergent careers…our little group is far more intriguing than anything we might be missing on reality TV.

We consciously create opportunity while banishing guilt by utilizing “ish” time—meeting at “5:30ish until 7:30ish”—to minimize time pressures. The demands of careers and kids, along with the havoc divorce can wreak on a life, often lead to stress and isolation. Life can become task-driven—with pleasure buried beneath loads of laundry and sales goals. So no one’s early, no one’s late and any “disappearing friends” are always welcomed back with open arms, tissues if necessary, introductions to the newbies and a toast… Whether we clink water glasses, chocolate martinis or cabernet is irrelevant. What matters is the steady encouragement and affirmation that comes with the table space.

Shared joys are amplified, and empathy can buoy a sinking heart… Has a friendship ever surprised or delighted you? Saved you? How have you navigated the inevitable disappointments, friendship “drift”—or worse, a complete betrayal? How has Connection—or the lack of it—impacted your enjoyment of life? Do your relationships make you a better person—or make you want to be a better person? If you’re interested in contributing your friendship story to the book, please email me via the contact page to set up an interview. Thanks! Heather

 

How to Get Out of a Dead-End Job

Author, Columnist, Speaker, Voiceover & Video Spokesperson

Salary.com Columnist

How to Get Out of a Dead-End Job

If You Want Your Career to Change, You Need to Change

Dear Heather,

I really need to get out of where I’m working. It’s toxic and completely reactionary. My boss (whom I’d worked with elsewhere in happier times) just resigned after only one month in her position! Sandy is known for her skill in improving business infrastructure but couldn’t tolerate what she termed “arrogant” and “immature” behavior from management (they never listen to anyone and think they’re always right). I feel like I have no control over things, especially now that my old boss has left. It’s like I’m on an island all by myself. I’m single—no kids. All I really have to show for my life is my career, and it doesn’t look so great at the moment.

I really want to work in a professional stable “team” environment as opposed to being in a small HR department. I took this job after being unemployed for an extended period. Really needed to replenish my savings and get benefits (this company offers a good package), but I keep wondering if I jumped too soon. I need room for growth and advancement. Not more drama!

I know my life needs change, but I keep hoping it will just happen. I keep dreaming that I get a ridiculous job offer and move to Hawaii and live happily ever after…but Monday comes and I’m still on my imaginary island in a dead-end job. Any suggestions?

~Mandy

Dear Mandy,

It’s a noun/verb issue, Mandy. You want “change” but haven’t changed anything yourself. This isn’t uncommon, but it is usually ineffective. Why not put your future into the hands of the one who most cares about it? This is your chance to make some active choices for yourself—the remote control is in your hand, and you have the power to change the channel.

Reality impacts valuation—and the truth of a situation can be a roller coaster drop from a much higher expectation.

Our jobs impact both financial and mental needs, Mandy. While your current situation fills the bank accounts, it is wedging a sizable emotional gap into your life. At some point, you’ll need to decide whether your contributions to date—and likely long-term payoff—are worth your further investment. If you can’t say, “this will (probably) be worth it in the end,” this job will continue to chafe like ill-fitting shoes.

The ability to self-launch is one of the most valuable skills we can learn. Without it, we float at the mercy of circumstance and other people and are more likely to land—and stay—in depleting situations. When self-launch is enabled, however, we can motorize the drifting and begin a more directed course toward our career dreams.

Toleration is a default position that will invariably entrench us deeper into substandard conditions. One has to hate a “rut” with enough passion to rev on out of it. If status quo seems preferable to taking steps toward change, you must identify the reasons or excuses for inertia in order to motivate forward motion.

1) Is it truly about the job? Dissatisfaction with one area of life will often bleed into the next. You mention being “on an island all by (yourself).” Workplace drama has greater impact when it’s your only regularly scheduled program. More than half of US adults are single per the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and feelings of isolation are a growing problem worldwide. Regardless of your employment satisfaction, creating connection—via friendships and non-work activities—will provide stability, valuable perspective and an excellent counterbalance to typical job stresses.

2) Do you know what you want? Or is this more about what you don’t want? Without a target, you’re only programming your internal GPS to get you away from your current location. An “escape” goal can lead us to teeter on ambivalence—holding on to what we dislike because we’re uncertain of where to reach. What will a “professional, stable ‘team’ environment” look like? Develop this goal into specifics—a recognizable destination.

3) Identify the cost. Outline what you’re willing to sacrifice to gain this opportunity. Are you willing to move to another city, sidestep to another career or accept a pay cut in favor of giving yourself better long-term opportunities? Consider making a lifestyle job choice—aiming for a location (you mentioned Hawaii) or family and friends—that will grow your overall quality of life as well as your career.

4) Choose your next steps. Once you’ve picked a path and oriented your attitude toward a destination (rather than simply “away” from the rut you’re in), you have to start lifting your feet. Identify and address your roadblocks—lack of connection, confidence or up-to-date search tools…so that you can activate change.

5) Set calendar goals. Hold yourself accountable to short-term objectives that will equip you, and then mark goals for your actual job search. Include research and reflection time. Your overall discontentment is a message from you to You. Listen to your own voice.

~Heather

Originally published at Salary.com | Boost Your Work/Life Balance column.

Still Single? Resolve to Wait For the New Year

Christmas_Romance_by_amaya_chibiStill Single? Resolve to Wait For the New Year

“Last call…!”

For many adult singles, November is the cut-off. While most hope to meet someone special in time for mistletoe moments, integrating early dating with family gatherings is an added stress most singles would rather forgo.

We discussed the pursuit of relationship and the upcoming holidays at a recent Cabernet Coaches’ happy hour.

“It’s just awkward. You have to meet the whole family!”

“I’d rather wait until January at this point…”

Clink. Agreement.

If a certain level of intimacy isn’t achieved by the onset of turkey and tinsel, many singles wisely opt for a vacation from dating. Die-hard hopefuls and diversion-seekers may not be so seasonally sensitive. They run the risk, however, of getting a premature overload of personal information—or of being politely excluded from more intimate circles. While some harbor hope of gaining a toehold on love, the capacity for a fast flameout makes holiday “first-dating” a riskier, more pressure-packed venture than relationship starts at other times of the year.

My friend Kathy remembered a one-date wonder her daughter brought home who lives on as a ghost of Christmas past. While the brand new relationship didn’t last beyond the holiday season, the young man’s ever-present image has achieved family joke status. “I don’t want to be the nameless stranger—the “what was her name again” woman in somebody’s family photos!” Kathy laughed, explaining her decision to take a break from dating for the rest of this year.

It’s wise to wait. Dating a stranger during the holidays can actually amplify those feelings of loneliness—because you’re incongruently sharing significant events with someone who hasn’t yet earned significance in your life. And, even worse, sharing holiday events can unduly extend a space-filler relationship at the expense of maintaining a single’s availability for a “right fit” match.

Resist the urge to accelerate your relationship search when the Halloween candy hits half-price, and hit “pause” instead. If you can use November and December as a “reset” time in which to deepen existing connections to friends, family and to your own self, you’ll be in a better position to find love in the new year.

Originally published in Eyes On News | Lifestyle section.

 

How Can I Stop Hating My Job?

Author, Columnist, Speaker, Voiceover & Video Spokesperson

Salary.com Columnist

How Can I Stop Hating My Job?

Quit, Improve Your Lot, or Get a Hobby

As an advice columnist for Salary.com, I answer letters related to balancing and blending our work and personal lives for better overall living. It is rare that we can successfully relegate an office issue to “office hours,” so effective navigation of these situations is critical to our general well being and productivity. Read on for what happens when ophthalmologists lose sight of office management:

Dear Heather,

I read one of your articles on what to do about hating your job and it moved me to write you a message myself.

Like the woman in the story I too have come to absolutely loathe coming into work. I’ve been in my current line of work for close to five years, and to be honest I really enjoy what I do. In case you were wondering I’m an Ophthalmic Technician for an Ophthalmology office. At first my advice and actions were very respected and the rest of the office seemed to care about them. But as time slipped past the luster started to fade and the true beast began to rear its ugly head. We have two doctors here in the practice and they couldn’t be more opposite one another. One is very old school and is resisting the technological advancements we have to make with everything he has. The other couldn’t embrace it fast enough. Due to the intense nature of this job its imperative that we follow through with all the electronic issues that we face. And since I came from the computer programming/troubleshooting background I have even more knowledge and responsibility in the office.

There are three of us (technicians) in this office and we are all responsible for loading patients into exam rooms, working up their charts, doing the testing required for their exams, and getting them set for the doctor to come see them. However over the last 6 months the others have started slacking off their duties or “specializing” in one area over the other. I’d have no problem with this if the job titles were different. Instead I’m seeing more than my fair share of the load and still getting paid like the underling I was 5 years ago.

To combat this little problem we’re supposed to have weekly staff meetings to address our concerns in a professional manner. Instead weeks, possibly months, go by without said meetings even occurring. And when they do, it’s a blame-fest. No one likes to take responsibility for anything. The phrase “I was told” is used a lot when referring to the wrong way of doing a test, etc.

Basically the problem boils down to this. I’ve lost respect for this position because it doesn’t respect me. Too many times I’ve been walked all over and expected to pick up the pieces like nothing has ever happened. No one wants to man up and take charge, and the authority around here is terrible.

What can I do to stop (or at least limit the amount of) hating my job?

Thanks,
Jason

Dear Jason,

I’m sorry you’re in such a tough and depleting situation. It sounds as if divergent leadership has left your office with no leadership at all. Consequently, guidelines have been blurred and rules have grown fuzzy creating an “every man for himself” environment with lot of the unhealthy brand of competition. It’s no wonder you hate your job. I bet you aren’t the only one.

You have three basic choices in front of you, Jason:

1) You can muscle up your motivation and focus on filling your life outside the office with rewarding endeavors, amp up your business/social networking and simply wait out the current situation. Focus on the parts of the job you enjoy and your interactions with patients. What you’ve described is unlikely to last indefinitely. Either one of the partners will “win,” one will split, co-workers will quit or there will be a leveling process in which the technological advances take hold and positions realign to fit present need. There is no timetable, however, so this is an undefined period of stress. I’ve written elsewhere that the indefinite aspect of limitless stress can be a debilitating energy drain. These situations, whether an unfulfilling job, tenuous relationship or chronic health difficulty, can feel like an ongoing sprint with no finish line —and we need a finish line. So, I’d suggest that if you choose this route, you set a deadline at which point you will move on to option 2 or 3.

2) You can seek to create a resolution yourself. The main issue is the doctors’ opposing views and weak leadership. This has created opportunities for co-workers to basically redefine their own job descriptions. It has also fostered a defensive atmosphere in which office staff is unwilling to shoulder responsibilities. The randomness and combativeness of the staff meetings only magnify these issues and serve to etch those battle lines more deeply. You can’t fix the doctors’ dysfunctional partnership, but you can seek some clarifications. Ask to meet with both doctors (or the office manager if there is one) and share your observations regarding the shift in job responsibilities. Be careful to a) meet with both together (say that you have some ideas that you think could improve staff/patient relations) and b) avoid bad-mouthing co-workers. Instead, explain that responsibilities have become unclear and that you’d hate for there to be an error with a patient that would reflect poorly on their practice. Offer to take notes regarding proper protocol at the next staff meeting —this will at least start a paper trail to refer back to when disputes arise and will possibly provide a means from which to routinize procedures.

3) You can set your sights on greener pastures. You sound like a smart and capable man, Jason. It is to your credit that you have tried to keep your focus on maintaining quality patient care within such turmoil. If you don’t feel you’ll be appreciated or allowed to grow where you are, consider searching out another office. Chances are you can list half a dozen reasons why this is a bad idea: lack of job opportunities, seniority, location or benefits to name a few. But consider the toll that stagnating in a contentious atmosphere will have on your career and mental health. Your present situation is creating drag and wasting a lot of your energy. The mere act of choosing to take control of this area of your life by creating some new possibilities will generate positive energy and be a reminder that your world is bigger than the one you’ve live in these past five years.

It may be that a combination of all three strategies will be your best course, allowing you to take action in the present as you also plan for the future. Best of luck to you, Jason.

~Heather

Originally published at Salary.com.

How Can Busy Parents Get Ahead at Work?

Author, Columnist, Speaker, Voiceover & Video Spokesperson

Salary.com Columnist

How Can Busy Parents Get Ahead at Work?

Climbing the Career Ladder is Difficult With Children in Each Arm

Dear Heather,

Hello, you don’t know me, but I saw your profile on Salary.com. You look so happy in your picture and I would love to see myself so accomplished in the near future! Do you have any advice for a hard working creative woman like me? I’ve been designing and managing at the same stable, but unfulfilling job for the past 8 years. I need a kick in the a** to make a move to senior management ELSEWHERE, but I have little time with a toddler underfoot? Please help!

~Mindy

Heather: What a compliment! Thank you. But make no mistake, that photo was cropped to exclude unfinished laundry, a carry-in dinner and the pile of work sitting in my office! It is hard for working parents –especially in that “it’s a good thing you’re so cute” toddler stage.

The first thing is to identify what is truly holding you back from surging towards a senior management position. Exhaustion? Understandable. Or, is it a lack of time or confidence? It’s time to invest in yourself.

Once you’ve identified your particular barrier, purpose to chip at it until it’s a pile of rubble on your Cheerio-strewn floor. You may or may not be able to combat exhaustion. Your vision of your dream job needs to be tangible enough to wake you up to opportunities even with a standing sleep deficit.

If you’re battling a complete lack of time, you’ll have to break down each necessary task to toddler bite-sized pieces. “Find management job” is overwhelming, particularly with a two-year old eyeing the viability of an applesauce launch. So, write down each step of the process and visibly mark off your progress (I even write things down after I do them for the pure satisfaction of crossing them out). Instead of burdening yourself to “do your resume” when your child has perhaps a ten minute attention span for coloring, plan to tackle a single resume section at a time. Research your job opportunities one company at a time if need be. Dedicate ten minutes on other days to renewing old contacts via email or on a business site such as LinkedIn. Moving forward slowly, ten or twenty minutes at a time, is better than getting comfortable in a rut.

If you want that next job, know you can do the work, have identified the necessary steps and are still hesitating? Encourage yourself. When my energy flags, I send myself a short affirming email, most often with nothing more than a positive quality, quotation or truth as the subject. There is a benefit in both recording and reading such a positive message. Be your own fan. Self-affirmation along with a step-by-step checklist to guide you to your goal will give definition to the dream. Then, it becomes a matter of tackling those details one at a time. Nothing is out of reach for a determined toddler. Tap into some of that focused energy. Good luck, and please keep me posted!

~Heather

Originally published at Salary.com.

8 Reasons You Should Turn Down That Job Offer

8 Reasons You Should Turn Down That Job Offer

Just Because You Were Offered the Job Doesn’t Mean You Should Take It

The good news is you got the job. Which, in this still-reeling economy, is quite an accomplishment. But the bad news is you’re worried you might be settling for a position that isn’t the right fit for you. So where do you go from here?

Look, the honest truth is there are times when you’ll have to take any job you can get, even if you know it’s a bad fit. Maybe your house is about to be foreclosed on, you can’t make rent, or you have a family depending on you for income. We completely understand there will be times when finding ANY job is a priority over the PERFECT job.

But then there’s the flip side of that coin, which is taking a job just for the sake of having a job even if you have the luxury of holding out for something better. Maybe you’re frustrated because your job search has taken far longer than expected, or you graduated college and you’re the last of your friends to find steady employment. Those situations aren’t ideal, but neither is taking a “filler” job that won’t really benefit your career.

To help guide you, here are some very valid reasons to reject a job offer.

8. It’s a Dead End, Not a Detour
Sometimes we travel a broken career road, but that’s not all bad. Many success stories include colorful chapters where the hero bravely works his way up to corporate glory. But what about the sad dramas where the heroine ends up pausing her career indefinitely in a so-so job that moves her off-target and out-of-sight of her hopes and dreams?

Consider: Will the circuitous route still allow some sort of progress in your chosen direction? Or will the filler job effectively block the path to your desired destination? The best filler job will still allow you to grow skills and experiences that are resume-worthy, and easily applied at your next position. The worst ones can spiral you into a black hole from which you gain no additional skills or experience, essentially trapping you with no hope of escape.

7. When It Costs You Opportunities
Most jobs are found through networking. A job organizing office supplies in a backroom or basement will offer you few opportunities to rub elbows with anyone save the occasional lost soul seeking a restroom. On the other hand, a retail job selling business apparel might give you the inside scoop on unposted job listings. Remember, the clear majority of today’s employment opportunities are unadvertised.

Consider: If volunteer work or community service puts you in touch with a growing number of business contacts, it might be worth fueling that momentum rather than cutting yourself off with a short-term, bill-paying position. Obviously, if you’re in debt and behind on your bills, you may not have the luxury of timing. However, be certain that wherever you spend your 9 to 5, you remain in the vicinity of connections to your chosen career goals.

6. When It Hurts Your Professional Reputation
On the other hand, while assembling sandwiches in a company cafeteria will likely put you in contact with key decision-makers (even CEOs have to eat lunch), do you want to be remembered for a cheddar cheese mishap when you finally land that interview?

Consider: It’s one thing to wait tables as a new college graduate in search of that elusive first job. However, a displaced IT manager refilling iced teas is doing nothing to enhance that image of technical prowess. There is nothing wrong with honest labor. But aim for labor that won’t contradict your status and reputation as a professional. To wit, waiting tables would be consistent with a hospitality manager looking for her next gig. Web design work might be a better fit for the on-hold IT manager.

5. When It’s Soul-Crushing
How tough is your spirit? Can you retain essential hope and focus while working in the potential filler job? Some people own the sort of resilience that will not be trampled by janitorial duties or irate customers at a fast food establishment. Others have a tendency to link identity to work and their self-worth will deflate like a leaky balloon.

Consider: Know thyself. The purpose of a temporary job is to equip you — financially and possibly experientially — for the real deal. If a filler job is likely to grind down your self-image, perhaps you need to look a little longer. Find employment that will pay your bills without costing you your confidence and breaking your spirit.

4. When It Goes Against Your Morals & Values
The nature of your temporary work shouldn’t make you feel like you’re compromising who you are or your beliefs. Obviously you should avoid anything illegal, but beyond that black and white is a lot of grey. For instance, a vegetarian meat-packer, an environmentalist working for big oil, or a personal privacy advocate making telemarketing calls. These are scenarios that will pit self against self.

Consider: You will be ineffective and personally miserable in any position that requires you to ignore core values. Selling something that is personally disagreeable is a blow to your integrity. How will you sell the professionalism of someone willing to turn a blind eye to his own convictions?

3. When It Costs You Your Family
A great paycheck that takes you out-of-town — or out of family life by nature of the sheer number of hours required — may be a risk to your family connections. Yes, getting behind on your mortgage payment could strain family loyalties as well, but be sure you and your spouse (or significant other) are on the same page regarding expectations.

Consider: How “temporary” will temporary be? Are there other options that might provide a better balance to the financial vs. family stability equation? An indefinitely timed strain on familial relationships (and connections to your support system) should be approached with caution. Do you work to live or live to work? Just remember, no one on a deathbed ever wished they spent more time at work.

2. When the Money Isn’t Good Enough
Sometimes, it really is all about the money.

Most of us work to live. We have mortgages, rent, utilities, car payments, daycare and more to pay for, and we’re working to foot the bills. So if you’re presented with a job that doesn’t even come close to making all the ends meet, it might be worth holding out for something more lucrative if that’s feasible.

Consider: Be clear about pay structures and costs of employment — especially for commission-based work — before grabbing a temporary position. The word “temporary” can ascribe less value to the details tied to these jobs. These details should matter, however, because you are making a trade of your job search time. Be sure it’s a worthwhile exchange.

1. When the Money Is TOO Good
Whoosh. That’s the soul-sucking sound of a lucrative paycheck pulling talent from a long-term goal. It happens. The pay is so good you stay on a little longer. And a little longer after that. Next thing you know you’re completely hooked on your fat paycheck, 10 years have gone by, and you’ve forgotten you used to have other dreams.

Consider: If you’re a “work to live” personality with a goal of retirement, this may not be a deal-breaker. But if your goals are for professional achievement, be wary of temporary jobs that could lull you into career complacency. “Umm, I got busy and forgot” isn’t going to sit well with a bored, stagnated version of yourself, wondering about the untapped potential of your youth.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize. “Any” job is often better than no job, but not necessarily. Measure “filler” jobs against your overall career plan. Be wary of any side gig that holds the power to hamstring you into a permanent sideline position.

Our career paths are rarely straight lines. Sometimes the route to a coveted sales position goes through the mailroom. And there are times that outside pressures and financial considerations force us to pause professional progress completely. These challenges are surmountable and may even provide valuable perspective, as long as hitting the pause button doesn’t cause our motivation to idle as well.

Originally published at Salary.com.

Resolutions for Building a Bigger Life


Resolutions for Building a Bigger Life

Psst…It’s About Connection.

A bigger life. No, this isn’t a reference to carbo-loading before your next triathlon. Nor is it a call to upsize your house, number of dependents or credit card bill. Towards the end of holiday grazing season, it’s easy to focus on dress sizes over life sizes. But a bigger life, one that is rich in connection, will enable traction on long term goals such as legacy-building and dream achievement, creating credible paths to fulfillment and success.

People generally trek into one of two camps as January approaches: either methodically listing their New Year’s resolutions or categorically shaking their heads at such unmeasured optimism. But the majority of us will at least pause for a brief moment of reflection as we cross the border into a new year. For it’s a marker. A roadside sign that shows how far we’ve traveled and how far we’ve yet to go.

Every other “put your best foot forward” article is going to tell you to set goals for your health, finances and career —which is great advice. So do that. But consider that most of these laudable choices will be more effectively achieved with a powerful interpersonal support system.

So pause and measure. How connected are you? Forget the obligatory work comrades, neighbors with whom you have a nodding acquaintance and those sideline parents who are more of a “familiar face” than functional friend. Consider whom you interact with as opposed to those you stand or sit alongside. A life webbed with strong interpersonal connections holds more opportunities and is worthy of your time and effort to build. If you have a lengthy list of “should call” and “should do lunch” names buried under good intentions —it’s grow time.

Clear Space.

Who has the time? None of us. And yet making strong connections will actually save time in the long run. Your more fully developed network will provide you with recommendations for mechanics, accountants and new hires. It will be your backup when you have a sick child or no way to pick up your dog from the kennel. Your network will be both your sounding board and your fan club. Admit it. You need this. So it is well worth devoting calendar space to some connection time.

Choose Your Connections.

If all your friends work in HR or have matching company logo coffee mugs, you need to diversify your friendships. This is like having a team of quarterbacks. Who’s going to catch the ball? Surround yourself with women with varied careers and pursuits. You aren’t going to learn anything new from a high-heeled clone of yourself. And if you don’t know how to throw a decent dinner party —and hang out with similarly stunted friends— you aren’t going to eat very well on the weekends. Seek passion, conviction and commitment. Encircle yourself with accomplished or motivated-to-accomplish women. Energy sparks energy, so look for inner momentum. Solid positive connections will create bridges to anywhere you want to go.

Keep Your Eye on the Glass Ball.

Juggling too much? That sounds about normal. Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, once described multi-tasked living as a process of keeping rubber and glass balls in the air. While our tasks will differ, prioritizing our families requires that we designate them as one of the glass “do not drop” balls. Redesigning your kitchen is a rubber ball that will bounce. You may even be able to double dribble some of your lower priority social connections as well. But bubble-wrap your spouse/significant other and children and keep an attentive eye on that ball.

Find Two-fers.

One terrific strategy for creating connection time is to incorporate another tangent goal. You plan to hit the ground running in January? Literally? Then seek out a running buddy. But don’t stop there. Regular gym workouts with weight work will make the difference between getting older and aging gracefully, and may actually hold the process at bay for a while. Do your weight sets with a female friend to build in accountability and connection. Split the cost of a trainer and you’re making a more economical financial choice as well —all while growing a relationship with a like-minded friend.

Face-to-face.

Phone calls don’t count unless they’re punctuated by actual face-to-face communication. Choosing to create time for someone establishes esteem for both the individual and the relationship. Value your friendships, old and new, by scheduling regular coffees, lunches or happy hours. Aim to create at least two one-on-one friend spaces in each calendar week. And be open to spontaneous opportunities. Maintain growth by seeking out potential friends and business contacts and following through with at least an initial coffee. A certain number of relationships will fade through job, life or location changes —so continue planting seeds to maintain a continuous season of connection.

Grow Group Gigs.

Growing your connections can be as easy as setting up a regular, open-to-all happy hour meeting. Encourage friends to bring friends to multiply new mutually beneficial links. This low pressure, two-hour commitment will allow you to sift through “contacts” to choose “connections.” And by encouraging an inclusive atmosphere in which all are invited to invite, you create an infinity pool of professional and social possibilities.

Maintain an Inflow.

Yawn. Yes, sometimes. But it is difficult to grow a diverse network from an insulated workspace where time constraints force most of us to focus more on culling the flow into inbox, voicemail and calendar than on expanding our sources. Filtering is a necessity, but closing off the stream will eventually dry up the pond, so aim to schedule regular business/ social networking events. Remember that you don’t have to score a direct association at an event for it to be construed a success. Contacts have contacts (who have contacts) who could become a connection.

Be the Mentor.

Remember those early job interviews when you agonized over resume wording and sending the right message via your choice of pumps? There are women —on this very day— laying out conservative earrings and practicing a firm-gripped handshake and friendly greeting for tomorrow morning. Help them. You’ve earned your confidence. Share it with another. What’s in it for you? Connection to someone who will birth new ideas and improve what you’ve begun. And chances are quite good that you will learn something in the teaching of another.

Resist Connect-the-Dot Thinking.

It’s tempting to view connection as a connect-the-dot sort of endeavor, achieved by working a room with a fistful of business cards augmented by quick phone call “check-ins” between appointments to fan the flame of friendships. But it can —and should— be so much more. Instead of doing the time saving, quick tie knot —”Here’s my card. Let’s connect on LinkedIn”— focus on weaving connection into the fabric of your life. People themselves are the discoveries that lead to innovative ideas and solutions. Your key connections, male and female, will provide valuable support, provide affirmation, spark ideas and help you along the path to being your best self. Having reliable connections —ones you can occasionally lean on and, often, laugh with— is that valuable extra layer that will enable you to weather personal and professional squalls with dignity, grace and assurance. Building a bigger life through connection will perpetuate a better one.

What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Need the Money

Author, Columnist, Speaker, Voiceover & Video Spokesperson

Salary.com Columnist

 

What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Need the Money

Choosing Change.

Dear Heather,

I hate my job. Ten years ago, it was fun and challenging. Even two years ago, I felt like my opinion was of value, and that I was having a positive impact on the company’s direction. At this point, however, after some unfortunate corporate choices at the upper levels, I have more responsibility than actual power. I’ve been forced to implement decisions I disagree with as if they were my own. My heart races when I walk into the office, and I actually cried during my commute this morning. My husband is doing OK at his job, but my income has factored heavily into the family budget. We have two young boys headed for college someday. How can I know what to do and how to do it? I have a history of depression, and my job isn’t helping me stay in a positive zone.

~Linda

Dear Linda,

Your body is already telling you what to do. The racing heart, the tears — these are emphatic indications that you are treating yourself in an unacceptable manner. Even if you began this current path with starry-eyed “happily ever after” in your heart, the relationship has changed. You don’t feel valued and are going through the motions. Your present inability to match action and principle has compromised your personal integrity. Your body is saying “no.” Yes, something does have to change because this is a dysfunctional situation.

You can wait for management to have an epiphany, but do you really want to loiter in the lobby waiting for a happy ending? You’re missing the show, waiting for someone else to lead you to your seat. Unless there are clear signs that change is in motion, there simply isn’t enough popcorn in the bucket to make that worthwhile. So, this next step is up to you.

Rash choices can generate a string of reactionary responses, so it’s good to thoughtfully consider your options and act rather than react. But you do need to act. If placing yourself on the bar graph helps, five years is the outside edge of the average job tenure, and you’ve doubled the math on this. Instead of being miserable, why not recognize this chance to launch toward your next opportunity?

Here’s how: Sit down with that husband of yours after the kids are settled in for the night and start dreaming. There’s something better out there that might make your heart pump with excitement rather than race with dread. It might be with another company. It might lie within a whole new career direction. Can you get excited about this? If not, I can be excited for you until your brain catches up to the possibilities.

So, you might have to cut a few expenses and live with a curtained future for a while as you map out your new career path. Try to envision it as a well-wrapped gift, yet to be opened. Isn’t that better than living within a reality that is completely unreal to you? Psst. Yes, it is. Trust me on this.

~Heather

Stuck in “launch” mode? Unsure of your best option in navigating a workplace issue? Looking for perspective on a critical relationship? Or maybe you’re one of the new—often isolated—single majority seeking next steps for this next stage of life… Send an email and your question may be answered in one of Heather’s columns.

Originally published at Salary.com.

I Was A Gym Class Wallflower

Date Like A Grownup book coverI Was A Gym Class Wallflower

It’s Never Too Late to Add Fitness to Your Life.

It’s true. Pressed against the cafeteria wall, hoping to camouflage my lack of athletic experience and skill as blasé disinterest—that was me. This surprises all those who missed my mandatory sixth grade gymnastics routine—heavy on dramatic spins and arm flourishes that did little to hide the fact that my abilities were limited to somersaults, ballet-style cartwheels and half of a back walk-over. As I recall it, half of my three minute routine was spent ineffectively attempting to kick my way out of a backbend—riveting humiliation back when “Reality TV” required nothing more than a video player outside the school cafeteria during the high traffic lunch hour.

I’m a fairly fit well over-40ish woman now, but the truth is, I sort of stumbled into personal fitness.

My first foray into team sports came my senior year of high school. Lacrosse. How good was I? Good enough to be my coach’s gift to an opposing team when they were short a couple of players for our game. My team won—that is, the team I arrived with, not the team I guest-played for, but I chose to call it a victory. And it was. I’d shown up and put my feet on the field.

I began running towards the end of college, primarily for the opportunity it provided my friends and me to pass a local fraternity on a regular basis. Running didn’t require great amounts of coordination (right left, right left…I could do that), and once I got past the whole “do I look silly” question, I found I enjoyed it.

The running habit stuck. My folks didn’t really know what to make of it when I returned home for summer break. We’d hiked and biked in the course of our travels, but with a regular exercise routine, I’d now swung far out of “normal” for my family. I kept at it anyways, because I was already noticing some remarkable benefits: less stress, more confidence, focused “thinking time”—and best of all, my “skinny” body now had runner’s legs.

Above the waist, however, I had the same willowy rag doll physique I’d always had. It lacked a certain something, but I just didn’t know what. Yet…

Years later, after prolonged manual labor on a landscaping project followed by an unfortunate stint on crutches, a neighbor commented favorably on my muscular “definition.” I confess that I had no idea what she meant. I looked in the mirror that evening, however, and discovered that I’d somehow grown baby arm muscles. I made an instant connection between my recent increases in strength and energy and decided to keep them.

Worth noting: These new muscles were “born” in my very late 30s making them younger than my three children! In the beginning, it was as simple as incorporating a few push-ups and crunches into my mornings. I advanced to trying pull-ups and chin-ups at playgrounds while playing with my kids. My method was simply to try and do at least as much as I did the last time. Nothing set in stone, but it became another positive habit to build upon. Eventually, I added free weights and began looking at how to further improve—rather than simply maintain, my accidental fitness. My “stumble” into physical fitness had taken me to a good place, and I was hooked.

That’s it! I use a gym now and find that the variety helps me keep my work-outs fresh and interesting. I lack the time for perfection but surge ahead on the theory that something is always better than nothing at all. I view my gym and outdoor running time as 1) my best investments in my future health, and 2) a sure way to keep positive about the present!

So, when a young lady stopped me at the gym a few months ago to ask what I did and if she was too late, I smiled. I told her that she was so far ahead of me already and gave her the basics of my routine along with a couple words of encouragement.

We’re all made so differently, and the same regimens will look completely different on the bodies of two different women. But, we can all do something to maximize what we’ve been given. And most importantly, it’s more fun to be out on the gym floor instead of leaning against a padded wall (or sitting on a sofa).

Take if from a former gym class wallflower.

Originally published by Her Fitness Hut.

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