Hack Your Career: Here’s How

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I’ve just read Harvard Business Review’s “Hackathons Aren’t Just for Coders“. Everyone should have the opportunity to let their creative juices flow — in an environment where ideas are considered and taken seriously. Hackathons bring together people and ideas. A rare event in today’s world.

Interestingly, there is another area where a little “hacking” needs to occur: our own career journey. We devote little time to consider work-life “tangents” or non-traditional paths. However, when you sit back to examine what you bring to the table in terms of knowledge, skills and abilities — there could be a number of new avenues you could explore

You may not see all of those paths. So, a method to find them is vital.

Here’s is the rub. On reflection, I’ve met many people who have done something like this successfully. The new paths they pursued were not always radical — however, the changes were vital to work life happiness. In a sense, they threw their skills and hopes into the “blender of career life” and concocted something better suited to their true career identity. (I’ve chatted with a medical assistant that needed to lose “practice politics” and then became a masseuse. I’ve met a happy small town doctor that once found herself in a large, “city” practice.  A nurse with aspirations to use her love of exploration and connection, to become a travel writer.)

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The Career Life Blender

They all embraced one fundamental strategy. They were open to a change that suited who they were, at they very moment. Their evolution (and yes, they were very uncomfortable) demanded a career response.

They “hacked” their career.

But, we don’t have to reach the ends of our rope, to do so.

Here is some advice to hack yours:

  • Don’t listen to you. For a period of time, set aside all of the reasons why a career hack cannot happen. Turn off that inner “naysayer”. Tell it to be absolutely quiet. Only listen to the possibilities
  • Ask the experts. And a I don’t mean career experts. Talk to 5 people who have knowledge of your workplace strengths. Ask them the following: Where do I excel? Do you think my current role accesses those attributes? Where do you see me job-wise? Why? Note their feedback and observe any trends. Get a real read on you.
  • Consider only the facts. When have you been the most productive or successful? When did you feel that your work life was on track? How would you describe that work life experience? What made you feel positive about that experience? What factors played a role?
  • Embrace possibilities. You can’t adjust your path if you don’t imagine your future self. Whether it is a  small pivot in your current role or an entirely different path — imagine yourself there. What do you see? What steps must you take to make your future career a reality? Take that first step.

Have you hacked your career journey? Share your story.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

How About Never–Is Never Good for You?

I love a great cartoon about work life! This post has been re-blogged from Humor in America…

Humor in America

It stems from a conversation that Bob Mankoff had one time while trying to arrange to have lunch with a “friend.”  After several attempts to get together and several “not availables,” in frustration, Mankoff asked, “How about never—is never good for you?”  Luckily, Mankoff is a cartoonist for the New Yorker, and he was able to parlay that conversation into a cartoon that is an oft-repeated question as used by Nancy Pelosi on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show during the 2012 election, and it is listed in The Yale Book of Quotations somewhere between Herman J. Mankiewicz and Mao Tse-Tung.   It is also printed on coffee mugs and thong panties.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, this is the joke that made Bob’s fortune.

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Bob Mankoff has exploited his joke one more time by naming his memoir, How About Never—Is Never Good for You? My Life in CartoonsNever is a…

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The Evolving Brand of “You”

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I’ve just reread Tom Peter’s classic article The Brand Called You.

Revisiting this piece just seemed the right thing to do. I realize that we are not the Coca-Cola logo or an auto nameplate. However, aspects of our contributor brand — do evolve over time.

The trick is to document (and express) that evolution effectively.

I’ve spent the last 3 years exploring my professional options (passions, really) — and this of course, has deeply affected my brand. This probably sounds a little odd coming from me, as I/O Psychology appears at face value to be a fairly narrow realm. However, I’m a brutal realist. I have changed. My orientation toward the work followed suit.

If you’ve ever watched Dan Gilbert’s TED talk (See it below), you’ll get my drift. Life (and work) are never static. You are not either. That’s what we always forget to acknowledge. We are always changing — and how we evolve can be a huge surprise.

The truth is that you are likely in the process of change as we speak.

When I was working toward my Ph.D., I was enamored with quantifying all aspects of my field. I leaned heavily toward job analysis and selection tests. I was fascinated with the notion that a correlation coefficient could describe how an instrument could predict future performance. I sought out more and more techniques that allowed me to differentiate between groups of people statistically. It felt so right — and I was quickly addicted.

When I sat for my qualification exams — the outcome was not at all what I had expected. The professor whom I least identified with (he taught Motivation Theory of all things), let me know that I excelled in the questions designed to evaluate his topic area. I was shocked. “Not what you expected right?”, he happily informed me. I really didn’t know what to say, because I was truly disappointed. I thought that topic was a bit “fluffy” — if you get my meaning. I wanted nothing to do with it. But, I remember every single element of that conversation to this day. His face. His surprise at what he had learned about me.

I promptly dismissed the entire experience as “measurement error”.

Later on, I had to leave the field for a time because of family concerns. When I returned, I slowly began to see that I had changed. My work life goals had changed. My entire “brand” as a psychologist had changed. No longer enamored of numbers alone, I wanted to delve into more of “whys” of behavior in the workplace. What caused contributors to feel safe and do their best work? What must an organization do to facilitate excellence?

I found myself thinking more and more about organizational culture and how that motivates us.

It was unbelievable. I had gravitated — slowly but surely — toward the outcome of my qualification exams. But, I could borrow from my old path to make this path more comfortable. A quantitative focus did have a place. That place just needed to be tempered.

So, I’ll say this. Don’t limit your evolution. Embrace it. Lean into it and explore it. If you feel the need to shift your “brand”— do so. But above all, try not to ignore it.

Getting to know the new you — may simply be your destiny.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

 

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You Might be Overplaying the Competence Card: Here’s Why

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You might be overplaying the “Competence Card” at work — and this may sound completely counter-intuitive. Most of have a tendency to believe that proving our skill set, is the best way to establish ourselves at work.

However, that decision may not be enough to reach solid footing.

As a new manager at a telecommunications company, I was hired based upon both my education and previous experience. However, I would learn that this was not all that mattered when interacting team members. In fact, I learned that my biggest problem was projecting warmth. During a presentation course, I was told repeatedly that I failed to smile during my talks. This in itself, was not a problem. However, this tendency coupled with the type of information I normally presented (customer opinions) could cause me problems. When I saw the video playback, they were absolutely correct. My over-emphasis on appearing professional had essentially backfired.

According to research completed at Harvard, one of our core drivers — safety — may be alerted when we form our initial impressions of others. This, in turn can affect our ability to form needed relationships. Amy Cuddy (and her team) have revealed that there are two criteria that must be answered when making initial impressions:

1.) Can I trust this person?
2.) Can I respect this person?

Interestingly, the notion of “trustworthiness” appears to take precedence over the latter. This can have a tremendous impact on our work lives —including key interactions such as employment interviews, presentations and networking opportunities.

Apparently trust trumps competence.

Who knew?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. Their new tool, The Alliance Diagnostic examines how organizational culture supports entrepreneurial thinking and career growth.

 

2015 in Review: I’m Grateful for the Bumps in the Road

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I could write a long, rambling post about the work life elements that were a healthy challenge in 2015. However, that would really not serve you well. Personally, this was a “growth year” career-wise. I won’t sugar-coat it — offering you a tale that every aspect included a “silver lining”. The path was not that forgiving. I’m going to be honest. I explored and took missteps. I hit a few intersections and became impatient for the “light to change”. There were other moments where I lost my sense of direction, before righting the compass.

However, I am also grateful for much of it.

Progress of any kind — whether for an individual or an organization — is often hard fought.

In everyone’s path there should be a moment when you pause and ask the question: “What is my career mission?” (During the past 12 months I have pressed that question to the limit.) I have looked toward what I would hope to accomplish over the next few years, while balancing what I was willing to give up. These choices were daunting — yet completely career affirming. I’ve experienced first-hand, that if you find nothing in your work day touches that core mission, you’ll likely disengage. Shifting into reverse wasn’t going to “cut it”. Realizing this was an important moment.

I remain committed to my core career mission: “To help build healthy, sustainable workplaces.” I take this mission very personally. As a psychologist, I view the “engagement crisis” as a very personal failure.

The upside:

  • I see the challenge more clearly. For years, we all have been reading about the engagement crisis within organizations today. We’ve measured and re-measured our pain. However, we may be neglecting core elements that halt our progress forward. One issue: Developing organizational programs that once deployed, do not fight engagement. This isn’t entirely into focus. However, I’m glimpsing patterns that may solve the puzzle. I’m grateful for this.
  • Risk is central. I’m learning every day, that measured risk is a part of a meaningful career path. I didn’t always believe this. However, in the 21st century, we all have to re-calibrate our paths more frequently. Because we (and our workplaces) evolve, we find ourselves at inflection points that require decisions that are inherently risky. This happens to most of us. (Do I share that I am unhappy? Is sharing my idea going to help or hurt my path? Should I turn down a role that will not align with my career mission?)
  • Perfection is not the standard to create impact. We all harbor doubt. When launching into a new role, project or task — confidence can become the stumbling block that feels much like a brick wall. Remember that while you may feel unprepared — it’s likely that what you know is enough to impact the situation. Perfection is not the standard. Moving the needle is. I’m grateful, that I can help move that needle.

Growth is never a smooth process. More likely, it arrives unannounced.

In fact, sometimes it is not apparent — until you take that long look back.

When you look back on 2015, what do you see?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. Their new tool, The Alliance Diagnostic examines how organizational culture supports entrepreneurial thinking and career growth.

What Just Happened? Decoding the Job Interview

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There is plenty of advice out there concerning what to say (and do) during an employment interview. However, there is little written about how to sort out the jumbled mess of emotions and observations that you are left with.  Even with the best of intentions and lists of smartly designed questions — interviewing is not (and never will be) a perfect process.

In some situations, you are not really sure what has actually transpired. In fact, you may leave feeling you know less about your potential future there, than when you began.

Over the years, I’ve sat in many job interviews. Interestingly, even with my background, I was a poor bet to predict the outcome. However, looking back I could have nailed down the “gestalt” of the interview. This might have offered a clue as to what was about to transpire next.

To be blunt, many organizations still do not have a clear structured interview process — and even if they do — the conversation could ramble “off the grid”. Paying close attention to these moments may offer needed clarity. I’m like to share a few of my interview experiences; including what was said and how I felt after initially reflecting on the interview. I’ll also let you know if I landed the role.

#1 – The Interview as a “Call for Help”
In many situations, organizations are not really sure what they need. You may have responded to a specific job posting, however when you arrive it’s clear the situation is quite fluid. Ultimately, their actual needs become cloudier as the conversation continues. My read: They are in flux — but at the same time the prospect of challenge and growth increases. Truth: If the interview smacks of this, inquire about what they likely need to accomplish right now. Size up whether or not you fill that need — and if you’d still like to pursue the relationship. Assess alignment and evaluate your chances from there. My scorecard with this scenario: Interviews 2; Adequate fit 0; Job Offers 0. (Quite satisfied with this outcome.)

#2 – Playing Close to the Cuff
Many interviewers present as so professional, it is difficult to get a read on them as a “human-being”. There is little feedback or emotion and you have absolutely no idea where you stand. My read: This a no-nonsense interaction. Chances are you wouldn’t be there if you were not qualified. If this is your potential boss, you’ll likely need to be a self-starter. Truth: You won’t know, until you know. (I left the interview thinking this, “I’m never going to step foot in here again.”) My scorecard with this scenario: Interviews 1; Job Offers 1. (Surprise.)

#3 – The Passive Aggressive Interview
These interviews feel like a boxing match. The interviewer seems determined to show you every “wart” of the organization and wait to see if you will call their bluff. It’s almost as if you are running a race — and with each successive hurdle you sustain an injury. Truth: I feel the interviewer(s) want you to be willing to endure, what they have endured. My read: The organization is likely unhealthy — so figure this into any decision. My scorecard: Interviews 3; Invitations to return for follow-up interviews 2 (Both respectfully declined.); Job Offers 0.

#4 – The “Non-Interview”
This is really an endorsement for considering shorter-term projects, that may set you up nicely to land a longer-term role. There have been times during my path that could have been described as either “in transition”, tied to a particular geographic location or faced with a job market that was simply very challenging. My read: Part-time or project-based roles are great realistic job previews for you and the employer. Every workplace situation is essentially an interview, so gather as much information as possible. Truth: Your built network is vital to finding these gems. My scorecard: “Interviews” 3 ; Job Offers 2 (Both a great fit).

What scenarios have you encountered? What were your strategies to “decode” the interview? Share them here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have also appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

 

You Had the Power All Along — Utilizing Listening Techniques to Strengthen Process

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Taming the chaos of everyday work life can appear impossible.

“Re-mastering” how we work is often indicated. However, to make forward progress we must pause to listen to the heartbeat of the organization — then speak about problems openly. What is impeding the completion of your mission effectively? Are you deploying the needed changes to make that mission a reality?

In may cases, increased transparency can improve the strength of your process —  and this is dependent on one key skill — listening.

In the examination rooms at the Harbor-UCLA eye clinic, an organization “serving the under-served” , time was a precious commodity that couldn’t be tamed.  Backlogs of patients in dire need of surgical intervention were growing – and doctors were spending more time in the hallways of the hospital sifting through paperwork, than with the patients that needed their help.

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Patients were literally losing their sight, awaiting intervention. For many, it would seem that the help would arrive too late. (See the story here: http://toyota.us/1JAs28d.)

Harbor-UCLA partnered with Toyota to help them listen more closely to their own environment (and employees) to identify process solutions. Toyota’s process, called the Toyota Production System (TPS), empowers employees who work in a specific environment to identify problems and quickly work towards solutions — so improvement is within their grasp. In essence, employees can serve as the innovators, unlocking needed potential

Developed in the 1940s, Toyota’s socio-technical system involves harnessing small, continuous improvements to shape high quality work. It works with what is already “right” within an organization — and involves employees to refine how the work is completed. It is a process that allows built foundations to be respected, yet allows for needed change. In my career, I began to notice that active listening often held the key to helping organizations improve. As a consultant, I was required to pay close attention to what was happening on a daily basis. But, the organization also needed to listen to their own environment. In this way, employees and their realm of expertise could facilitate unlocking untapped potential.

I found many organizations were already on board with this — listening to employees concerning both customers and processes — and acting swiftly regarding what they heard. Those that didn’t place value on this knowledge base, would likely continue to struggle.

Listening to the pulse of your own environment is critical — examining its processes and the ultimate effect upon the clients you serve. Does the way the work unfolds maximize talent or hand-cuff progress? Are obstacles being thrown in the path of employees attempting to contribute?

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Value an open, multi-functional conversation. There isn’t a single team that works in a vacuum. The quality of your work depends on the quality of communication among the teams that serve your clients, patients or customers. Ensure that the channels are wide-open.
  • Watch “hand-offs”. Delivery success often rests at the point where customers or processes move on to be served by another function. Examine how your team can make these transitions smoother. The strength of a relay rests on these moments.
  • LBWA. (Leadership by walking around) I’ve found that leadership can often inadvertently undermine progress once changes are instituted. The more leaders are removed from the work, the slower the progress. So — leaders must stay connected to employees and offer support.

Harbor-UCLA worked with Toyota and tamed time. They implemented simple, yet practical systems to help the clinic improve dramatically — allowing their dedicated staff to help more patients.

They made the commitment to listen to their own environment and improve.

With that, something precious has been saved.

Want to learn more about The Toyota Effect? Check out other videos in the Toyota Effect series here: http://toyota.us/1JAs28d. The stories they tell are quite remarkable. Toyota works with all kinds of organizations, including non-profits — see the  TSSC site for more information.

I have written this post in partnership with Toyota. The opinions that lie within are my own.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is the Director of organizational Development at Allied Talent.  Their new tool, The Alliance Diagnostic examines how organizational culture supports entrepreneurial thinking and career growth.

Another Soft Skill We Forget: Self-Development Strategies

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I’m deep into the current season of The Voice. It is the only television show that I watch on an actual television. (NetFlix and my computer screen usually win my attention. See one my favorite Voice contestants perform below.)

What fascinates me most about The Voice is how these individuals have managed to invest their energy toward a path that emphasizes their strengths. It’s a risky road for sure — especially in the capricious entertainment industry. However, the rewards are there. The most common outcome, especially in younger participants, seems to be an increased level of confidence in their own skills as a performer. (Winning is not the only valued outcome that emerges.) The mentoring relationship, critical to The Voice, of course — hones the strengths these individuals possess.

Ultimately, however, they must recognize their own gifts and seek a path to pursue those gifts. In the case of budding performers, it may have translated into seeking mentors in an established choir or building skills in a focused training experience of some kind. (Camps, singing at smaller events.)

Without this step, the journey cannot begin. As we are learning, developing “soft skills” can be a game changer for both work and career. Self-development ranks up there with a “chosen few”.

When we educate students or less established employees about the world of work, techniques to stoke self-development strategies are commonly neglected. Yet, another “soft skill” that could change the course of an individual’s career.

Becoming your own advocate — and owning this process — can be a huge advantage.

Here are a few ideas to rectify this situation:

  • Encourage Self-Discovery. This involves reflecting on key experiences to unearth perceived strengths, as they complete their courses or begin to amass organizational experiences. Often the signs of an emerging strength are subtle and overlooked.
  • Teach “conversation”. Handling important, yet difficult, conversations is a needed workplace skill. When broaching development needs/desires, less established employees may feel insecure to move forward and open the channel.
  • Discuss the range of options. Ultimately, taking responsibility for development is personal. However, if you are unaware of the range of development possibilities, this all becomes moot.
  • Encourage balance. We must balance our need to drive self development with the needs of the organizations. However, both are vital to a healthy career.

What are you doing to develop your own career? Share your ideas here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She serves as Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent, bringing the principles of The Alliance to organizations worldwide.

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The Everyday Guide to Workplace Confidence: Work Hard & Yes, Feel a Little Entitled

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Confidence — one very tough customer to master.

If you’ve ever stood tentatively in front of an audience or felt like an impostor after being praised or promoted — I would place a wager those nagging feelings were rooted in your level of confidence.

When you consider confidence in the workplace, there are many platitudes, but few ring true. How do you truly “believe” in yourself when faced with the moments that matter most to your career?Those situations simply cannot be scaled by rehearsed advice.

So…how do we really build confidence?

Well, I’ve stumbled upon one perspective that may hit a nerve (reading it stopped me cold).

I don’t often find time for magazines. Yet, when I visit my corner hair salon, I leave my phone at home and unplug. I thumb through Glamour, Vogue, Allure — and they all offer their own brand of career advice. One career column in particular in Glamour was authored by Mindy Kaling. (I do realize that she is not a traditional career writer (as she’s an actress. However, she has managed to accomplish career-wise what few have in her industry.)

Here is her thoughtful response to this question (posed by a nervous young girl at a speaking engagement) — which she admittedly got all wrong in the moment:

“How did you build your confidence?”

Her revised response was direct and unapologetic. It went something like this (So sorry for the choice of words, they were hers and would lose something with an edit.): Work very hard. Know your $hit. Show your $hit. Then feel entitled.

I absolutely agree 100% that confidence is rooted in mastery. In experiences. In owning what you bring to the table.

Confidence comes from building feelings of self-efficacy in a wide range of situations. It requires challenge, a fair amount of balanced exploration and failure, mentorship, guidance and exposure. True confidence includes the notion that we are not entitled to rewards, simply because we desire them. Rewards come with time and work.

  • Confidence comes from working hard and learning from those around you.
  • It requires patience and the belief that you can learn something from every person and every scenario.
  • It requires adequate feedback and reflection.
  • It is the deeper realization that you can handle the problems (and people) that stand before you.
  • Confidence is earned.

When you practice your craft — confidence is your entitlement.
So:

  • Seek broad experiences and “challenge assignments”.
  • Develop a deep knowledge of your industry and its current experts.
  • Push yourself. Get up when you fall. Alter your course. Rebound.
  • Find a mentor who helps you recognize and invest in your talent.
  • Be aware of the competencies you may require ahead of the “disruption curve“.
  • Continue to learn.
  • Grow.

And then — yes — feel entitled to some measure of success.

Through all this, I suspect that confidence arrives unannounced — with little fanfare.

It takes hold and lives in your workplace soul and cannot be measured by the sum of your individual experiences.

It’s more akin to letting a gorgeous, glistening wave roll over you.

Thanks Mindy.

That clears things up.

What are your thoughts about building confidence? Share them.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She holds the role of Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent, bringing the principles of The Alliance to organizations worldwide.

I Didn’t Take That Vacation: Here’s What Happened

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I didn’t have the opportunity to take a vacation this year. For some reason, the stars never aligned to make it happen. A few things contributed to the situation. I have a new role (along with my other commitments), and we are also renovating an older home. As you might expect, our resources have been diverted to goals such as staircases and a functional HVAC system. Then we just couldn’t agree on when and where to go. “Re-charging” just was not in the cards.

The outcome of my neglect feels very real. A little like pulling an all-nighter — with no desire to sit for the exam.

This is not a “good thing” — as Martha would say.

The research has shown that many of us fail to take time off, even when we have earned vacation days to do so. For some odd reason, we don’t like to admit that time off is necessary — or we fear we’ll look weak — or uncommitted to our work. This lack of attention to rest is costly in so many ways. I can only say, that if I’m representative of what it is like to not have a break, no one should skimp.

Sustaining “us” — is in part our own responsibility. We shouldn’t need to be reminded that we are important.

Here’s what has happened:

  • I’m observing signs of burn-out. Yes, I lack my usual level of enthusiasm for the tasks I normally love. I’ve coached myself to care, as the “Joy Factor” has taken a dip. That’s a sad commentary.
  • I’m losing my sense of humor, especially where work is concerned. I don’t laugh nearly enough — and laughing is vastly under-rated. We need these moments to off-set stress.
  • I’m a bit of a pain in the a##. I’m sure it has to do with the above. No further explanation needed. Sorry for the language.
  • Inspiration is waning. I require new sources of stimulation to stay at the top of my game. A change of scenery always does great things for me. We really shouldn’t expect to be at our best, after completing a year-long mental marathon.
  • I’m starting to fantasize about a new line of work. Now, this is simply ridiculous. However, I can easily see why many of us take these feelings as a sign that our roles are the problem. It’s not.

Here is what I’m doing:

  • I’m exploring my local environment. I’m unchaining myself from my desk and getting out there (cell phone muted). I’m stopping by the Farmer’s Market, and checking out the museums and gardens. Inspiration is really all around us.
  • I’m aiming to meet more people face-to-face.  I’m completely inspired by the career journeys of others. I’m making a point to visit college campuses this fall, to talk to students about their future work lives. (let me know if you’d like me to visit yours.)
  • I’m taking a series of shorter weekend trips. Nothing works like the real deal. Michigan is beautiful in the fall and I’m determined to see it.
  • I’m telling founders, managers and leaders to take their vacations (and to let everyone know). Nothing cements a needed change more completely, than a strong message that time off is a respected practice.

What are your strategies to take a break when vacations are impossible to schedule? Share your thoughts.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She holds the role of Senior Consultant at Allied Talent, bringing the principles of The Alliance to organizations worldwide.