2014 Goals

Oh I know. Boring. Another post about new years resolutions and goals for the year. Pffffft!

The thing is though if you are going to keep track of your career and where you want it to be, you have to take time to reflect on what you have achieved and what you wished you had done better. Sometimes we don't realise how much we have achieved or how far we have come. A little bit of looking back is a good thing.

I wrote a post here about what I achieved and what I was grateful for in 2013.

I also looked back on my most popular blogs posts. Here they are:
But what of 2014? Nothing better than a new year full of possibilities. A year when you could achieve anything or be anyone, though I recommend working out your purpose and being (the best version of) yourself.

I have set some goals for this blog. I originally started the blog because honestly, I was sick and tired of employees I work with expecting other people to somehow look after their career. My philosophy is that while there are people who will help you with your career and your goals, you have to take responsibility for your own development. This blog is about helping people do that.

I also started this blog to develop my blogging skills in a different content area. I write over at Secret Homes of Glebe but wanted to try my hand at something more in my career area. I also wanted to raise my profile as a HR professional. While I will continue to do this my goals for 2014 for the blog are:
  • Once a month feature a video interview someone interesting about how they are got to where they are in their career..I'm going to learn how to shoot and edit videos!
  • Blog at least once a week. I lost my way in about September last year and never got my blogging grove back.
  • Speak/present at 3 different events during the year, either on improving your career, being a full time working mum who travels a lot or something HR related. I'm open people and I work for free!
What do you want to achieve in 2014?

Travelling for work: 5 tips for surviving and thriving

I was chatting to my hairdresser Steve Corthine this week. He has just arrived home from 10 days at New York Fashion Week, styling hair working with the hair product company OriginalMineral. So jealous! Imagine being behind the scenes during the craziness of fashion shows? He even got to see Fashion royalty Anna Wintour. Sigh. I must have worked in fashion in another life. Anyway. Getting distracted. You can read about his adventures here.

While we were chatting he mentioned that he doesn't know how I do it! Referring, to travelling for work. Well sometimes I'm not sure either, but I have been doing it for a while both before and after kids and have compiled my best tips for you here.

1. Gotta love it!
To travel regularly for work you gotta love your job, and you gotta love travelling because it's very tiring. As an example, you need lots of energy to if you are expected to do this:

Get up at 4.30am, catch taxi to airport at 5am, to board a flight at 6am. Then land in Melbourne around 7.30am and hop in a car or taxi to drive about 45 minutes to the office. Work all day, mainly in meetings. Leave around 5pm to get to the hotel in the city. This trip could take an hour or more. Check in at the hotel and in 15 mins meet work colleagues in the bar for drinks before heading to diner at 7. Dinner may go to 10.30pm and then a drink in one of Melbourne's trendy alley wine bars. Well it would be rude not to, wouldn't it? Go to bed around midnight and be ready to leave the hotel again the next morning at 7.30am having already had breakfast. Repeat. 

This is just domestic travel. I don't do this every week but on average have been doing it every 2-3 weeks for a few days at a time. It's not that glamorous so you gotta love it.

2. Sleep it off!
For this kind of pace it helps if you are good at sleeping on planes, particularly on long haul flights and sleeping in hotels, or both. I am really bad at sleeping on planes but sleep like a log in hotels. On long haul flights, say to the US or to London, I usually don't sleep on the flight and arrive feeling like death warmed up, but a night's sleep in a hotel and I'm good to go. My husband Arran can sleep on planes. He falls asleep before the plane even takes off. If I am travelling with him I have to fight the urge to hit him. Hard.

Rest and sleep is essential when travelling and it helps you manage your energy and your emotions. Travelling for work puts your body through more stress than it does if you are going on holidays, so sleep is really important if you are going to perform well.

My favourite jobs have been the ones where I get to travel overseas. My very first business trip was to London. So. Lucky. Pinched myself the whole time I was there, but the jet lag!! Seriously. That trip I flew business class (so lucky) and arrived into what must be the biggest airport in the world, Heathrow, and had to navigate my way to my hotel, WITH NO SLEEP for more than 36 hours. I had hay-fever the whole trip. Thought I might die from lack of sleep, sneezing and rubbing my nose. 

After checking into the hotel I went for a wander for a few hours and then slept for about 20!

I also love travelling. I love getting to the airport and looking around the shops. I love the business lounge if I'm lucky enough to have access to one. I love getting on the plane and getting set up in my seat and I even love the airline food. I LOVE taking off! So sad. I know. But it helps. If you hate all that stuff and you have to travel on planes all the time, give it up. Seriously. Find a 9-5 job where you go to the same office everyday.

2. Manage your calendar
Sometimes you don't have a choice when you have to travel for work. There are times when you are attending a national or global meeting and in these instances you generally have to comply with the timing set by someone else. In my experience though, there are times when you either have a lot of choice or the ability to influence the timing of your trips. Recently I was able to influence the timing of a global HR meeting I am attending in the US because I have to travel the greatest distance (most everyone else is in North America). It was great because I could work with my husband Arran to work out the best timing for him, who would be left with the sole caring responsibility for our 2 small boys for the week. That makes a massive difference to our relationship.

Arran and I manage our lives through our online calendars, both work and home. That might sound a little sad but it seems to work. When I travel domestically I have my flight and hotel details in my calendar and make sure Arran is included in this appointments so he knows where and when I am travelling. We have a fair bit of give and take in our relationship. I travel for work but he travels for his passion, mountain biking. It works most of the time but it's a negotiation and we try not to take each other for granted.

3. Get out and about

This rule applies for domestic and international travel. It's important to exercise when you travel but I firmly believe you need to get outside. Forget the hotel gym or pool. You need to get outside and pound the streets. Breathe in some air. Get some sunshine on your skin. Work out your bearings. Give your mind a break. There are some countries and cities I don't recommend this (India comes to mind) but generally, get out there!

There's lots of research to suggest that sunlight helps reset your body clock to get you into your new destination's time zone. And it feels great. When I travel I spend lots of time in airports, aeroplanes, hire cars/taxis/, the office, hotels and restaurants. All inside. 30 minutes getting out in my sneakers is great. I admit there are times when I pack my sneakers and they don't get out of their shoe bag, but when they do I love it!

This rule also applies to the airport and the plane. Try to move about in the airport. Why sit down when you are about to board a plane when you are going to be sitting for hours? If you are on a long haul flight go for a walk during the stop over. Don't sit or sleep on stopovers less than 4 hours. Walk around, look at the shops. Keep moving. 

On the plane, get up regularly. I drink lots of water on planes which means I have to go to the toilet a lot (I always request an aisle seat). So often I have been sitting next to someone for 8 hours who never got out of their seat, even to go to the toilet. How is that possible?

A great tip I learnt from my friend Jacqui is to have a shower on the stopover on long flights. This makes you feel great. Pack some clean undies, some deodorant and utilise the business lounge facilities. Getting naked and having hot water on your body is so nice when you have been cooped up for hours and hours. You get back on the plane feeing fresh and clean for the next leg.

4.  Listen to your body
I'm not a big proponent of "getting into the time zone", by staying up till your normal bed time in your new location, particularly if your new location is the opposite side of the world. I have been to London a few times for work, which is pretty close to the opposite time zone to Sydney. The flight typically arrives at around 7am London time, arrive at the hotel around 9am. I generally have a shower and go for a walk about have some lunch. By about 2pm I enter into a woozy muddled head-space where I don't know which way is up. I go to bed and generally wake around 9pm and then go back to sleep until morning. that's the way I handle it. I'm much more about listening to your body (if you can). Of course having a little nap in a meeting at 2pm in the afternoon is probably not going to work.

5. Back at home

Get back into your home routine quickly. Unpack your bags and get everything put away. Get some exercise and a coffee from your favourite cafe. It you are tired at 8pm go to bed. If you are too tired to work at night, if you normally would, don't. Get out in the sunshine and air and leave work early for a few days. Connect with friends and family, face to face.

Inspire me

Quick tips you might found helpful but I'm hopeless at!
  • Got to bed early: I'm seriously bad at this. If there is a social situation to be a part of I'm there. Stuff the sleep! I also have lots of energy in the evening. Most nights I could easily stay up to midnight without much effort. The evening is when I get everything done. I exercise, sometimes I work and I blog at night. Even if for some reason I'm back in my hotel room early, I still manage to while away the time and end up going to bed late.
  • Don't drink alcohol: I like wine. I really like wine. Arran and I have been known to organise holidays around wine. If I'm in a new city to country it's a pretty safe bet I want to try the wine. I also have built a reputation in my current role of picking good wine at restaurants. I would have to partake then, wouldn't I?
  • Travel light: actually I'm pretty good at this now. I can travel for a week with a small carry on bag. Plan well and work out a flexible range of clothes that won't need ironing. I find that the bit easy as I don't iron full stop. The hardest part for me is shoes. If I'm being really restrained I can manage with a pair of sneakers, a pair of flats (which I wear on the plane) and a pair of heels. I think there is nothing worse then struggling around an aiport with heavy luggage.
  • Don't eat on planes: I have a good friend who sticks to this rule. It seems like a good idea, I guess. I mean you aren't moving very much to burn up what you are eating. Trouble is I like food. I like airline food. I even "booked the cook" for my next flight to Singapore. And it gives you something to do. Eating fills up some time....
  • Take vitamin supplements: To keep up the pace when your diet may not be the best it's good to get a little help. I pack vitamins but always forget to take them. Hopeless

Develop me

Need more help? Check out Road Warriorette, a blog about travelling for work.

Just for me

One way to make travel for work more enjoyable is to keep doing something you like doing. For example, when I'm away I like to blog and take photos. I generally don't take by digital SLR when travelling for work because I try to travel light, but I take lots of shots with my iphone and post them using instagram. I love taking shots of interiors.

Hard Rock Hotel, Singapore

Hard Rock Hotel, Singapore

Career musings. Who wears the pants?

I have noticed something in my current job. The shock on my male colleagues face when I say I have a nearly 4yr old and a 14 month old. This is often followed by questions and statements:

How do you do it?
How do you cope with everything?
How do you travel? 
How does your husband cope?
Wow! or Whoa!!

It's generally a disbelief and shock and and sometimes a little judgement. Judgement that I could possibly leave the house with such a small child there. I guess. I'm finding the double standard quite surprising but I'm not always offended. It comes from a curious place. Usually. And when it comes from a curious place I am always happy to explain how my husband Arran and I work it. I myself am curious about the double standard I perceive to be there.

It seems to be ok that men work when they have a little baby, but not women. Has anyone else experienced this? That women somehow have that magic ingredient that only they have, which means they are the ones who need to be the primary caregiver. Of course if the baby is being breastfed then it's a little tricky but on all other matters it's not. I think a lot of women promote this too. I have seen men in the relationship with a small child treated as though they are stupid or unworthy to look after their own child because they do things differently with the kids. 

From the very start when Aiden was a new-born, Arran used to defer to me on lots of issues, because he perceived that I somehow knew how to do something for him, because I was the one who gave birth. Complete crap. I didn't automatically get an instruction manual as my milk came in. Nor was I an expert just because I carried him for 9 months. In the end I said to Arran that I only knew about as much as him and that he could make decisions too. Arran took it all on board and probably became a bit of a baby hog. He had as much or as little confidence as me. That's ok. Made both our lives easier.

I don't believe men get the same questions in the workplace. They don't ask each other these questions, and if they do it's about sharing and comparing and showing how proud they are of their beautiful children. There is no judgement. I don't think men consider judging other men about their children because there is an assumption, in my view, that there is a woman somewhere who is carrying the child care and domestic burden. 

The questions I get the most is "how do you work and travel with small children?" I don't think a man in the same circumstance would get this question. I'm not sure Arran ever gets this question when he is away for the weekend, riding his bike in the middle of nowhere. Will any of his mate's acknowledge or even wonder who is looking after his two boys when he does Tour Divide in June this year? Men seem to acknowledge that it's hard at home with small kids and they will have to "pay" when they get home from a work trip. There seems to be a belief that the man will be in a "points" deficit when he gets back but there is no issue with him working long hours or having to travel away from home. It's ok because there is a woman around and she is expected to look after the kids and tend to the home, whether she works outside the home or not.

I get questions like "how does your husband cope?" Firstly, no one asks me that question when Arran goes away! I am just expected to cope. Secondly, I think it's also offensive to Arran and to men, who are completely capable of looking after kids if only women would just let them. 

When I have to travel for work of course I miss Aiden and Charlie, and they miss me. There are lots of "mum, mum, mums..." from Charlie when I'm not there and lots of "Where's Mummy" from Aiden. I try to do a few things to make the days I'm away a little easier for Arran, who has to take the burden of getting them to and from childcare, caring for them if they are sick and feeding them, dressing them, bathing them and generally making sure they are ok. 

But I enjoy the time away too. How shocking! What kind of mother am I? I enjoy hopping on a plane in my freshly dry-cleaned work clothes free of drool and jam. I like having a little time to myself to read a magazine. I enjoy having a hotel bed all to myself without the chance of being woken by a screaming child and having to fling myself out of bed in the small hours of the morning, to replace a dummy before the crying escalates so much that it will take 30 minutes to settle him down. I like just having to do my own hair and get myself dressed. I like eating breakfast alone in the hotel restaurant or a nearby cafe. I like not having to get up and down a hundred times to tend to some small child's need during said breakfast and then rush them to daycare. I'm sure my male colleagues who travel also enjoy such things. And I like coming home again. Actually the time I came home to a vomiting bug wasn't great....anyway you get the point.

I love my work and the company I work for. I also enjoy working with men. I have always worked in more industrial businesses which have tended to be more male dominated. I often find myself as the only woman in the meeting. I like these businesses because they are practical and down to earth, and I feel like what I do can make a difference. That's all very well but driving innovation and creativity in businesses requires diversity of thought and that I believe requires diversity in the employee group. Different ages, different experiences, different cultural and religious backgrounds, different ways of working, and men and women in different roles across the organisation. 

Inspire me

I wanted this post to be an observation of what I experience at work, as a woman and as a woman with children. I wanted it to be thought provoking and a conversation starter. I asked Arran to read the post before I put it live on the blog, mainly because I didn't want the post to be too critical. I love my job and our workplaces are what they are, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be challenged and continue to evolve to be places where every person can contribute and be valued, not matter their personal circumstances.

After reading this post Arran and I had a really good conversation about his experience at work and how his responsibilities looking after our beautiful boys are perceived. It's not just women who are struggling. Men who want to contribute equally to looking after their children find it hard in the workplace as well. He suggested I write a follow up post about this but I had a better idea. Arran is an accomplished writer. He writes his own blog called Musings of a Wannabe Racer and has written articles on mountain bike riding for many print and online magazines.

Arran is going to be a guest writer on this blog next week, giving his view of how people in his organisation view his want and need to care for our children equally. Stay posted!

Develop me

Great TED talk from Hanna Rosin on the crisis for men and the rise of women.

Just for me

If you happen to me a mum, like me, you might like this blog called Fox in Flats. It's a fun and inspiring blog to help you to be stylish. Not everything needs to be serious! Enjoy!


Returning to work after a holiday....

Tugan Beach, Boxing Day 2012
It's so weird but as the holiday day's count down and my thoughts start to return to work and what needs to be achieved, I feel a little like going back to school! I'm getting all prepared. 

When going back to school I can remember getting a new uniform, new pencils and pens and a new pencil case. New books were covered and sometimes I got a new school bag. Going back to work after the Christmas/New Year holidays feels a little like that. I don't have any new pens and pencils but I have been getting ready:

  • Had my lovely work clothes dry cleaned, and repaired where needed. They are hanging in my cupboard ready to go. I got some new clothes for my new job last year. I hired a stylist for the first time. A good career move. You can read about the process here and here 
  • Had a manicure and pedicure yesterday, as well as an eyebrow wax. It's nice to be a little polished for work, don't you think?
  • Got some new underwear for the New Year!
  • Had the small boy's hair cut (my son's Aiden and Charlie) so they look good when they return to Childcare (and because it's hard to get their haircut at a discount rate on the weekends!)
  • Been working like a mad woman to try and get the house in order for the new year. Beds have been put back in the rooms they normally live in, after the craziness of the end of 2012 and a mass of people coming to stay.
  •  Clothes and toys have been sorted through and either kept, chucked out or given to Vinnies.
  •  We put lot's of rubbish out for council clean up! 
  • Christmas gifts have been put away
  •  All the washing has been done, and will be put away, any moment now! 
  • The grass has been mowed (all 5 square metres) and the weeds have been pulled
Next I need to get out my work laptop and catch up on my email!

Inspire me

I think clothes are pretty important. If you look good in the workplace you will feel confident too. One of my favourite bloggers Nikki Parkinson of "Styling You" is currently doing a great feature called "Unlock your style in 14 days". It's a wardrobe makeover! It started on January 1, so there is lots already to catch up on. I am finding it a great help! She also has this great manifesto:

 Develop me 

 Great little article about a guy who did a different job a week for for 52 weeks last year. Pretty cool. Helped him give direction to what he wanted to do in life

Just for me

What have you done that's creative or cool, or interesting during the holidays? I would love to hear about it! I have just started The 7 Vignettes in 7 days Challenge.

My Top 7 Interview Tips

Source: uv.edu.eg via 윤재중 on Pinterest

To progress your career most of us have to go through job interviews. Pretty much. Few of us are lucky enough to be offered a new job without attending an interview. Even if you are applying for a role internally most companies have a process where you need to interview for the role. The problem with this is that most of us attend job interviews so infrequently, we don't get a chance to get good at them. And often being good at a job interview, has nothing to do with being good at the job. Tricky. I have just been through a job interview process that consisted of 3 different interviews, which I think is fairly standard now-days. My first interview was via Skype, or video conference. The second interview was face-to-face, and the third via phone. They are different types of interviews and you need to consider different things for each. So here are my top 7 tips for any type of interview:

1. Be. On. Time
Yes this is a pretty simple one but lots of people turn up late for job interviews. Being on time for your interview is really the first test. If you can turn up on time for the interview, perhaps you can also be on time if you get the job? For some jobs this is more important than others but its still a good measure of how important you think the interview is. There are times when you can't help but be late. In this circumstance you should ring your contact, aplogise and give an indication of when you will arrive. It's polite. It's not hard.

2. Be focused. 
In the first place, only apply for jobs that interest you in companies and industries you like. Internet job boards such as Seek make it very easy to apply for any job you see, but I encourage you to be picky. For example, I"m not sure I would be a great fit for a Financial Services company. I might be, but I tend to like businesses and industries that are more practical and that do or make things that are tangible. That's just me. Nothing wrong with Financial Services companies. My husband Arran loves working in Financial Services. Whatever floats your boat.

The times I have interviewed at companies who operated in industries that didn't really interest me, was a complete waste of time for all concerned. If I was really honest with myself I didn't really like the company or the role and I didn't enjoy the interview. I felt like I was on the wrong planet and I don't think the interviewers thought I would be a good fit either. On these occasions they didn't even give me the courtesy of letting me know I had been unsuccessful. I knew anyway.

3. Be you.
I'm really rolling out the hard stuff now! I know this sounds simple but sometimes it's hard to accept that you need to be true to you and your purpose, specially when you really just need a job! I know what that's like, but there is nothing more miserable than doing something you hate. It's good to remember that a job interview is not (or should not) be a one way process. A good interview will be a conversation between you and the company representatives. It's an opportunity to find out if the company and the role is going to be a good fit for you and your purpose. For the company, it's an opportunity to learn about you, how you will contribute to the business and how you will fit the culture. You are going to spend a lot of your time with these people if you get the job, so be yourself and ask questions that are important to you.

Of course you should hold a little back. One of my favourite interview experiences was with a candidate who threw the most amazing "tanty", because we were having difficulty getting the video conference technology working for his interview with a Manager in India. Anyone who has travelled or worked in India would know that things working there consistently is unusual. While trying desperately to get things working he threw his "tanty" saying that he couldn't be expected to interview under such conditions. Unfortunately the technology working intermittently was a realistic experience of working on the project, for which he was interviewing. He gave a little too much of himself. I couldn't get him out of the building quickly enough.

4. Be prepared.
Most companies are looking for a mix of experience, skills and knowledge as well as cultural fit. Some will weigh in heavily on experience while others will look for cultural fit first. So before you head off to the interview have a think about what they might be looking for. If you are invited for an interview there is obviously some stuff in your resume that is a match, but at interview you will need to articulate your experience in more detail. If the role is a customer service type role you might need to talk about when you have given excellent customer service and use a real example. Or you might need to talk about how you have dealt with conflict or an unhappy customer. 

You should also have done some research about the company. Google is your friend. Use it and have a bit of an idea of why you might like to work there.

5. Be thoughtful
When answering interview questions you can be much more successful with answers that you have given some thought to, and can demonstrate some self awareness. Companies are not looking for perfection. They are looking for honesty, awareness and actions that are consistent with your personal and career goals. Most people will ask you your strengths and development areas. You can really derail an interview here.  I have seen a colleague fail to successfully gain an internal role because she couldn't articulate her development areas. These were development areas that she had been given feedback on in performance reviews for the prior 3 years and had a development plan in place to address them. They were also very evident to the Managers who interviewed her. A little thought before the interview and she should have been able to answer this confidently and have a better chance of securing the role.

An external candidate I once interviewed told me the same development need for every role on his resume.This showed to me he was either stupid, had no self awareness or had learnt nothing during his career. Do you think he got the job?  

6. Be well presented
This is not just about what you are wearing, although that is important. First impressions count, and even though an interview should be about learning about you and what you can offer, if you arrive and you are not dressed to suit the company or the role, you are going to get off to a bad start. This counts for face-to-face interviews and interviews via Skype. I spent some time thinking about what would look good on a computer screen on the other side of the world for my recent Skype interview. I did my hair and make-up and my top half was dressed as if it was a face-to-face interview (only my head and shoulders were going to be seen on the computer screen). I was at home during the interview so the bottom half I had on jeans. I found out later that some of the other applicants for the job looked like they were wearing pajamas during their Skype interview. Didn't make a good impression.

You should be yourself but I would caution against wearing anything too distracting. You don't want to be remembered just for the massive diamonte bow in your hair (which matches your brooche and your belt and your ring and your shoes) , or the VERY VERY BADLY FITTED SUIT you are sporting (yes I have had seen both of these examples).

Being well presented is not just about what what you look like.  It's also about what you say. Completely bad mouthing your previous employers makes you look very bad and is a complete turn off. You know the saying, if you can't say something nice? It applies to job interviews.

It's also not a great idea to attend an interview if you are sick. I went to an interview really early in my career with an awful case of the flu. During the interview I did a massive sneeze and ended up with a handful of ...well...snot. There is no other way to say it. The poor people interviewing me had to scramble to get me a fistful of tissues. I was mortified. I'm guessing they were fairly disgusted. I didn't get the job.

7. Be confident
I haven't met a person who enjoys interviews. Most people find them very nerve wracking and unsettling. My mum was telling me a few weeks ago that she hates them. And then added that she got the job at every interview she has attended. Hmmm...they can't be that bad can they? 

I'll let you in on a secret. Unless the people interviewing you, run interviews all the time (like recruiters and HR people), the interviewees are often very nervous themselves. So just settle in and try to relax. If you prepare and try to be yourself you will perform well. 

Inspire me

Job interviews are just one style of interview, and as I was writing this blog I thought about interviews you often see on TV with celebrities or public figures. Many of these types of interviews are not that interesting and poorly thought out, on the part of the interviewer. Many are just opportunities to promote something, a movie or a new line of product, and are tightly controlled by Publicists. But there are a couple of excellent interviewers around. My two favourite are Andrew Denton on Enough Rope and James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio.

They have completely different styles but still get the best out of their "subjects". They both start with meticulous preparation and research. Andrew has a gentle, genuine and curious approach that puts people at ease, so they are willing to share more of their story. James Lipton is the opposite. He has a direct and staccato like questioning style but sticks to the actor's history and experience. No gossip and no dirt. 

 You can take some inspiration from both these masters. Be prepared and curious, and focused.

Develop me

Want to learn more? One of Australia's online job boards Career one, has some great resources here.

Just for me

Have you discovered Pinterest yet? So addictive. It's a visual pinboard. Check out this great graphic on job interviews:

Source: visual.ly via Giovanni on Pinterest

When have you had a really good interview? Or do you have a horror story?

Is your career glass half-full?

I have some time on my hands. My role was made redundant recently. Bummer hey? But there are always positive sides to any situation. For example, I get to go to Pilates and Yoga during the day! It's nice I tell ya! I go to Quro Health Studios, which are walking distance from my house. The Yoga class last Wednesday was awesome! I can't say I have been to a bad class there, but this one was different. The instructor had prepared the room. It was warm. The lights were turned way down and candles were lit all around the perimeter. Great start. Then the instructor, who I had only known as the Receptionist until this point, conducted the most beautiful, zen and challenging class I have been to. When I complimented her at the end, she said she was leaving soon, to move back to Canada. Bugger.

This person is so lovely and so positive. She seems to get so much joy out of what she does, which is serving people and helping them to have healthier minds and bodies. She obviously loves her job and choice of career. I would say she understands her purpose.

Have you worked with anyone like this? I worked with "Joe" for around 3 years in one of my jobs. He is flat-out the nicest person I have worked for, and with. When I first met Joe I couldn't believe he was that nice. I was always looking for times when he wasn't this nice person (and I don't think that says great things about me). You know, I never saw it. He operated in a tough and political environment and managed to develop the trust and companionship of each of the Senior Executives. He is genuine, nice and optimistic. Even when I was at my most frustrated, he always took the time to listen and help.

Thinking about these two people got me thinking about positive psychology and the "happiness" movement. Have you heard these terms before? They sound a little "pop", a little naff maybe. But is it really? Don't we all want to be happy, and do things that make us happy? That's what understanding your "why" or your purpose is all about.
After one of my Pilates classes last week, I decided to go through each of the 6 or so very large bags of books, folders and papers I had packed up from my work office and do a clean-out. Cleaning out clutter is supposed to make you feel happy. It did feel good to throw away a whole lot of stuff I was keeping "in-case" I ever needed to refer back to it. I never do. Plus I don't really have anywhere to keep it all! During the clean out I found a booklet from a seminar I attended a few years ago, run by Dr Martin Seligman.  He is a Psychologist and the founder of Positive Psychology.  He is focused on building mental strength and wellness rather than just removing mental illness.

What I really like about Dr Seligman is that his theories are based on strong empirical evidence from rigorous research. He has done a lot of work around understanding and developing your signature strengths, which has excellent application when trying to work out how to be happiest in your career and life. Signature Strengths are things that are inherently part of each of us. By identifying,  developing and using these strengths, we can improve our performance and happiness. If you would like to learn a little more, this article has a good summary of Positive Psychology and Signature Strengths.

You can use Dr Seligman's Signature Strengths questionnaire to identify your inherent strengths, then ask yourself the following questions:
  • Does your current job allow you to use your signature strengths? If yes, how could you use them more? If no, are there opportunities you can identify to start to use your signature strengths?
  • Thinking back to this post on identifying your purpose....does understanding your signature strengths match with what you think your purpose might be? If you are still working out your purpose, does understanding your signature strengths help you move closer to your purpose?

Inspire me  

Want to learn a little more from Martin Seligman on positive psychology? Here is the man himself during a TED talk

Develop me

What did you just love doing as a kid? Do these activities relate to your signature strengths? I bet they do somehow. How can you start doing these again? What do you think my husband Arran loved doing when he was young? Check out his passion here

Just for me

Have you heard about The Happiness Project? Learn about Gretchen Rubin's year, where she test drove all sorts of ways to improve her happiness. You might like to get started on your own happiness project!

Working out your purpose: 3 ways

My last post was all about understanding your "why" or your purpose. Once you can define this and really know  and understand yourself, your career and life choices become much easier.

This is not an easy process and it takes time and reflection. It can be frustrating if you know you are not enjoying where you are at, but don't know how to move forward. I once worked with a lovely colleague, who has now become my friend, even though she lives on the other side of the world. She would often say to me "If only I knew what I wanted to do, then I could work towards that". She is in her fifties and still working it out!I I think its pretty normal to not know your purpose. I received lots of comments about my last post from people who needed help working out their purpose. It seemed to make sense that I should pull together some ways to do this.

You might be fine with the first suggestion below. If you need a little more time and effort to work it out, try the third one.

1. My first suggestion is a good one if you have a fair amount of self awareness already. I have been a participant on leadership programs where I have used this technique. It works well if you take it seriously and take some time out. Find a quiet place and sit with a pen and paper. Writing is a great way to bring clarity to your thoughts. Answer the following questions:
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • When do you feel most alive?
  • What interests you most about yourself?
  • What types of situations do you feel most at ease in?
  • What types of situations do you feel most uncomfortable?
  • What situations stress you?
  • What is your definition of success?
  • What do you love doing in your spare time?
  • What do you do in your current job that you would continue to do, even if you weren't being paid?
You might like to come back to these questions over a few days, or a week. Once you have been able to answer all these questions, review your answers. Can you summarise them? Hopefully this summary will help you understand what you like and don't like, and what your purpose might be.

2. At the Simon Sinek workshop I attended one of the audience asked Simon "How do I work out my why?" and he answered with the following:

Ask this question from some of your good friends, who you respect: "Why do you like being my friend?" Your friends will sqirm and try not to answer. Keep at it. They will say things like "I don't know...um..you are nice....we hang out together....you are funny.....(it's a bit like asking your partner why they love you!) Keep at it! Keep asking. Eventually they will start saying things like "I like myself more when I'm with you" or "You inspire me". This is the good stuff! Ask some more questions like "Tell me more about that" or "How do I inspire you?"

Simon has some great online tools which you can fine here.

3. Sometimes you find great books at the airport. I was recently in Changhi airport in Singapore, waiting for my flight home to Sydney and came across this book Business Model You: A One-Page Method for Reinventing Your Career. It's a comprehensive way to work out who you are and what your career purpose is and it helps you put actions in place to make change. It's well written and thoughtfully set out with great graphics. It includes real life examples of how people have used the Personal Business Model, which is my favourite part of the book. If you are really struggling to work out your purpose you could work through this book over a number of weeks or even months and I think you would have your purpose clearly defined, as well as being inspired by the people featured in the book. There is also a great website that supports the book.
        Business Model You

Inspire me

David Kelley discovered his purpose while sick with a potentially fatal illness. I'm not suggesting you get sick to find your purpose but it often seems this is a catalyst for many people to work out very quickly what matters and what makes them happy. In a TED talk David reveals here that everyone has creativity and that you just need to build confidence to use it.

Develop me

Do you know your purpose? Well what are you waiting for!? Larry Smith knows all the excuses as to why you will fail to have a great career.

Just for me

Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning is a Harvard Business Review blog post about staying focused in a world of distractions and the two lists are easy to implement.