Occupational Wellness: Don’t Skip on that Cover Letter

I’ve done it – it’s not required in the job application so I’m just going to submit my resume and call it good. But just because a company doesn’t request a cover letter doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to write one. The cover letter is a place where you can set yourself far apart from the rest of your competition for the job you are applying for. It’s the place where you get to say exactly why you are the ideal candidate for the position and why you would be a great fit with the company. It’s the make or break. And as this article by Levo League points out, it also makes sure that you are serious about this job. That it’s actually a job that you want and that is worth putting the effort in to apply. Quality over quantity. 

If getting a new job in 2016 is on your list of Life Things To Do, check out the article and see how you set yourself apart from others.

Occupational Wellness: Grow, Develop, Change.

I’ll be embarking on my first professional career change this year. E finishes up his PhD this spring and we’ll be moving out of Kansas. Because of this, I’ve started following a few career resources to help me through this process. I’ve been following these for a few weeks now and found them somewhat useful. There are some articles posted that you have to just take with a grain of salt (like an article about how someone paid off $80k of student debt making $30k per year…they got a second job to pay off their debt…so they weren’t making $30k per year). But others give good insight.

Levo is the first one. I’ve explained this as a more in depth LinkedIn. You can follow me here. Levo provides a strong social media presence (I can’t recommend following them on Instagram and Facebook enough) that marries career focused and personal articles very well. They provide tips, lists, and inspirational quotes.

Classy Career Girl is the second one. A co-worker of mine introduced me to this site but I didn’t start using it more until around the holidays. This site is similar to Levo but provides more resources for women navigating their career.

Do you have any resources that you recommend?

Occupational Wellness: How a Marathon Impacted My Work

I’ve done a few of these posts, tying in how my marathon training was impacting different aspects of my life. It’s honestly hard not have a marathon impact your life. Now that my marathon is done, I wanted to take this time to reflect on how it impacted my work.

Pros:

  • If this did nothing else for me, it helped me get used to being the one setting goals and reaching milestones. One of the things I think I have struggled with the most in my professional life is the lack of structure. Gone are the syllabus days of college and grad school where every week was planned out for you by someone else. It is now my responsibility to plan my weeks out and get things accomplished. This marathon definitely helped me feel more confident in doing this task.
  • Helped me dream big. I still have impostor syndrome at work. I almost constantly live in fear for the day they all wake up and realize that I’m not actually who they think they are. I’m not this analytical, data guru. I’m just someone that somehow got this job. Signing up for my marathon made me feel that similar way, but actually accomplishing it and getting it done…man. I don’t feel like I’m a marathoner but I feel like yeah, I’m a runner.
  • Focused yet flexible. I had a focused goal with my marathon. However, as my injuries started to pile on, I need to remain more flexible in my training while still remaining focused on my overall goal. This is definitely something that I have seen myself get more comfortable with at work. I used to be very focused and anything that would throw me off my course would cause me to get distress. Now I’m getting better (I’m not great at it) at being able to be more flexible with my goals and my work that I’m doing.

Cons:

  • Towards the end, I was in physical pain. And being at work while you are in physical pain is not fun and I felt distracted.
  • I spent a lot of time thinking about my marathon and my marathon training
  • I spent a lot of time eating because … well … I was hungrier that usual

Ok, I’ll admit that I was really stretching for those cons but the pros were all heartfelt and honest. I really feel like training for my marathon and completing it was really valuable and useful for me. I’m really glad that I did it. Because there is nothing to give you confidence than knowing that you can push yourself to get up at 5 am every Sunday for 4 1/2 months and run by yourself and be the one pushing yourself to accomplish your goal.

I think my next post should be the impact of my marathon on financial wellness. Spoiler – I spent more money while training for my marathon!

Occupational Wellness: Be a Rockstar Job Seeker

Behind physical wellness, occupational wellness is probably my most blogged wellness topic. I blame it on the fact that I work in a career center so I’m surrounded by, well, job and career stuff. In fact, I also am a blogger over at NACE and wrote a post up a few weeks ago centering on a conference I attended. Which is great Vanessa, but why do I care? Oh you don’t, I’m just telling you about it. And trying to give a little bit of justification behind why I blog on work place stuff so much. Oh, and I have a degree in what is essentially work psych (industrial and organizational psych). Ok, get to the topic at hand!

Right then, big surprise that I bookmarked THIS article from LearnVest a while back detailing traits that you find in fearless job hunters. I love that – they aren’t classified as “successful” but rather “fearless”. I won’t harp on the obvious ones, we all know that networking is beneficial. Got it. But I wanted to touch on a few of my favorites, show how maybe I implemented them in my job search and maybe help you job seekers out there implement these as well!

My favorite is actually the last one – learning from each letdown. I’ve said it many times, the job search process is stressful and emotionally draining. And it is painful to get rejected. Multiple times. In a day. And some of those wounds can sting for a long time. I think I just recently got over getting rejected for a wellness position down in Florida and that was 2 years ago. But learning from letdowns does make you better. I learned from my interview in Florida time you are around people, you are being interviewed. And letting your guard down or trying to sneak a yawn in b/c you slept poorly b/c you were so nervous the night before counts against you. And not being able to make small talk at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, can kill the interview for you. Those are hard lessons that I learned and it helped me prepare for the interview I had in Kansas. I didn’t make those mistakes again and I ended up getting the job.

Lesson 3 is also great – having passion and purpose. It draws me back to that TED Talk with Mike Rowe about bringing your passion with you instead of following your passion. And sometimes, especially for new job seekers, you may not always know what your passion is. And it may change as well. I entered my job search passionate as all get out about wellness. I ate, slept, breathed wellness. And now I analyze data for a living…and I love it. But that doesn’t mean that i left behind my passion for wellness. It is still right there with me. I got involved in different groups, I started this blog…have a passion and make sure you have a purpose.

Ok, one more…this blog is getting long….let’s briefly talk about confidence. Now the article is saying to be confident but not arrogant, but what about the people who it is more like be confident and not quiet? I think in my interview in Florida, I held back a lot of my knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs for you I/O-ers) but when I got to my Kansas interview, I was able to present my KSAs in a respectful and humble way that didn’t have me looking like an egotistical maniac. Whatever end of that spectrum you are on, it’s a fine line without a formula but I’ll say this – if you have proof or data of some kind that can back up your statements, that makes it better.

So there it is, a long blog grazing the topic of being a fearless job hunter. Are these types of topics relevant or interesting to you? Is there a certain dimension of wellness that you want to hear more about? Let me know!

Spiritual Wellness: Passion

As I am typing this, a storm is rolling through. I love storms. When I know I’m missing a storm because I’m at work, my whole being just aches. I love the thunder rolling through, the cracks of lightening dancing across the sky, the feel of the air, the smell of rain. It’s weird because it wasn’t until I moved out to Kentucky for grad school that I really fell in love with storms. Sure I went storm chasing in Iowa, but in Kentucky, I fell in love with them. I let go of my fear of storms and started to appreciate the beauty that they bring. Obviously, the have the potential to bring destruction as well…but, I still can’t help but see the beauty in storms. The aftermath, not so much but during…

I’m not always sure how to write “Spiritual Wellness” posts because as I have said time and time again, I’m not religious. But last week at work I was listening to an amazing podcast from NPR:  Ted Radio Hour about success (it’s an old one, so if you are looking for it, you will have to go back a few months). It was amazing. Mike Rowe (the guy from Dirty Jobs) said something in his snippet of the podcast that felt so profound to me, that I wanted to share it, but I wasn’t sure the right context. Perhaps “Occupational Wellness” would have been more fitting…but I digress.

Mike was talking about the workers he meets on Dirty Jobs and that the people who seem the most happy and most successful in their lives aren’t the ones who followed their passions but are the ones that brought their passions with them in their lives. My little story above discusses how much I love storms, but I am never going to follow that love of storms into a career, but I bring my love and passion for storms in every state I live in and town I visit. I think that sometimes, especially for new professionals, it can be hard to land that dream job and so being able to bring your passion with you to your first job/career can help guide you instead of just following your passion.

This could all just be me. I was known in grad school for reading a theory or concept and just latching on to it and not being able to drop it. Sometimes I get tunnel vision when I read something that I relate to or have an opinion about.

What are your passions? Are you following your passions? Or bringing your passions with you?

Occupational Wellness: My Tips

I had this idea for today’s blog post at work. I thought I would share my tips and my journey with my readers on how to navigate the ever changing path for securing your first job (or any job). Since the 2008 recession, the needs for employers have changed dramatically. I wish I would have known some of these tips before I started searching. But no one told me these things and I had to spend 2 years figuring these out the hard way. A bit of background on me, I graduated with my MS in May 2012. I started my job search in December 2011 and was hired on at my current job September 2012. I moved from Kentucky to Iowa in May 2012 after I graduated and then moved to Kansas for my job in September 2012. During my time in Iowa, I lived in my mom and stepdad’s basement and worked at a previous job while I was applying for jobs.

1.) Brand yourself. Create a website (I have one on a weebly platform that is free). Get business cards made up and carry them on you at all times. Put your website and contact information on the business cards. I suggest getting business cards that have a plain white back to them (no picture or additional information) so that you can write something down of importance to the person you are giving the business card too. It could be mapping out exactly where to find your portfolio on your website or details of how you met that way it will refresh their memory. But I like having the space to be able to add some on the spot customization to my business cards.

2.) Set up an excel document and track every. single. piece. of. correspondence. for job search stuff. If you jump into a twitter chat with a company and you are making connections with the rep who is running the chat, document that information and follow-up. Every resume you send out, follow-up. Every time you get a business card, follow-up. You can customize your excel doc however you would like but I would definitely recommend having a column that gives you the exact date when you should follow-up with someone. Figure out a tracking system that works for you and use it. Don’t let a single resume go without a follow-up if you can help it.

3.) Social media. Your call on this but if you are going to have your tweets/instagram/whatever else be unprotected, know that. I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with having a personal twitter account and not having protected tweets. I like that I get to interact with people that don’t necessarily follow me and I think it’s got some value, but this is a personal decision.

4.) Create a master resume that has absolutely everything you have ever done (and those of you that aren’t job searching, create one anyway and keep it updated. Makes it much easier when you do need a resume if you have been keeping your master resume updated the entire time.) Create a master cover letter that has all the information you could ever want to say in a cover letter. These two documents can be as long and detailed as you want.

5.) Create a resume template and a cover letter template

6.) When you go to apply for a job combine 4 and 5 and send out customized application materials that don’t make you want to poke your eyeballs out and that will get you noticed. Put time into reading the job description and researching the company. It’s about the quality of your application materials, not the quantity.

7.) Network. Oh dear god, grab your business cards and network. I hate this more than anything but networking…is actually good. View networking though as not only how someone can help you but how you can help someone. So I networked with a couple about a year ago in hopes of getting a new job in wellness and part of that was that I offered my services to do freelance consulting for their company. I never got a wellness job but I have established a strong network with this couple and I’m still doing work for them. We both get something out of the deal.

8.) If you have a goal in mind, you need to stay true to that goal. As long as it is a realistic goal. I graduated from grad school and I wanted to work in wellness at a college/university recreation center so bad. It was my guiding light of what I wanted to do. After an absolutely heart breaking rejection from a university for their wellness coordinator position I thought to myself, “if I can get a job at a university, then at least I have my foot in the door for moving towards the wellness job.” And against the complaining I heard daily from people in my life that I didn’t have a job yet, I pursued this. And then I got a job at a university. Which is going to lead me into…

9.) Take an opportunity that may not be the dream but is a place that you can grow. This is what I did and I didn’t always realize it at the time. But what spurred this blog post on was as I was working today and the hours were just clicking by…I realized that I wasn’t sitting at my desk willing the clock to say 5 so I could go home. I was actually engaging in a number of projects that were interesting to me and that I actually…liked my job and the work I was doing. It didn’t start out that way. But I knew that I wanted to work at a university. So I took an opportunity. And in the interview it was very clear to me that the job I was interviewing for flexible to change. I started out as a glorified secretary (which was a very, very difficult pride pill to swallow after busting my ass for years) to now being an analyst and working on meaningful projects. The path to “success” isn’t always clear and there are ups and downs and heartbreaks, but if there is a good opportunity, take it.

10.) PUT MONEY IN THE BANK. Especially if you are looking to move away for a job. Not all companies will pay for your travel or reimburse you for your travel. Not all have a moving allocation to help you get to the job. If you aren’t working while you are job searching, you still have bills to pay and need to buy food and gas and whatnot. Save money, put money aside, do whatever you have to do so that if you get to the point where you are job searching and no longer employed, you aren’t struggling.

I have more tips, so if this is something that you enjoy, let me know and I can do a part 2 of this or make a series or something.

Occupational Wellness: How to Attend a Conference

I just got back from a conference in San Antonio and this being my 4th professional conference, I thought I would share some of my tips for attending a conference. Now, per usual, I’m no expert at attending conferences but I think I have picked up some good tips.

1.) Bring business cards. It makes networking so much easier and follow-up a breeze.

2.) Prepare icebreakers, especially if you are introvert. Prepare an elevator speech of what you do and where your interests are. Remember that networking isn’t all about you, try to figure out how you could help out the person you are networking with.

3.) Break out of your comfort zone but know when you need to revert back to your comfort zone or “reset”. For example, at my last conference I just hit a wall of meeting too many people and having too many interactions so I went up to my room and hit the hotel gym, did a quick workout and a quick shower. It was exactly what I needed to make the most out of the rest of the day. I missed a session, yes, but I wouldn’t have been able to make the most out of my other two sessions had I not “reset”.

These are just a few tips, basic tips for making the most of a conference. There are some things that are beyond your control, you can’t control the content of the conference (unless you are one of the presenters), you can’t control the location or the weather…but you can control how you attend the conference and what you get out of the conference.

Occupational Wellness: 40 Hours?

I had this conversation with a friend over lunch one day about how it’s not necessarily the quantity of hours that you work, it’s about the quality of work that you do during those hours. Well, I recently stumbled on this article. Go ahead, click the link and at the very least skim through the article. I’ll wait.

Ok, back? Aaaaand? Thoughts? Comments?

I can say from grad school that sprints are fantastic. When I was writing papers, I would do writing sprints and just write for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. Obviously I would have to adjust that time to allow for editing my paper, coffee breaks, etc. But it kept me focused on writing my paper and I had an attainable end goal. A whaaaaa? Attainable end goal? Yeah, those are fan-freaking-tastic. I use attainable end goals all day. Ride my bike in and have to go up a hill? If I can make it to this drive way, then I’m good, I can do that. There are programs that you can install (at least through Chrome you can) that can time your day out this way.

I also found the “Results Only Work Environment” fascinating, absolutely fascinating. But that is partly because I find different work environments/cultures interesting.

What are your thoughts? How would you feel about your employer not caring how many hours you worked and just caring about the results? Do you work in a company like this already?

Occupational Wellness: Transferable Skills, The New It Thing?

Actually, nope, it’s always been an it thing. But I wanted to start a conversation on this. On transferable skills. On the skills that you learn in the classroom, in the office, on your run. And how you apply those skills in your professional life. (Clearly creating full sentences isn’t a skill that I have.) Why are transferable skills important?

Well, they are important because there are basic skills that everyone needs to walk, talk, and function at work. Things like getting along with others, problem solving, decision making, time management. But then there are specific skill sets that each position that you have with each company that you work for that you will need. Things like the software that the company uses, the specific job skills, etc. It is important to hone in on those job specific skills, but it is also important to think broadly and work on your transferable skills.

These transferable skills are important for everyone but even more important for all you graduating seniors/grad students out there entering the real world for the first time. I read an article in the New York Times recently about how someone didn’t realize that work isn’t school and that you have to take initiative to get things done at work versus at school when you got assigned projects and deadlines. I can definitely relate to that – it’s weird when you just get thrown a project with no real due date and you are just thinking, “ok, so … I will just do this then …”. I think some employers forget when they hire students, that they are hiring people who have been in school since they were 4 or 5 and no one really talks about how to make the transition from your academic world to real life, professional world. That’s were these transferable skills come to play.