better business decisions

Kei Scampa

In Times of Crisis: 5 Strategies That Lead to Better Business Decisions

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our work. The pandemic has changed how we relate with our families. It has also impacted our sense of safety, security, and health. This crisis, coupled with recent burgeoning social unrest, presents unique challenges to leaders. So, how—when we’re consumed by what’s around us—can we make better business decisions? Decisions that could make or break our business?

One answer comes from leaders in the profession at the center of the COVID crisis: expert medical practitioners. In other words, the people who frequently make life-or-death decisions for the people in front of them.

How do they stay focused and keep their decision-making sharp?

Better Business Decisions: The Answer Lies in Metacognition

Dr. Jerome Groopman, chief of experimental medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Recanati chair of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and his wife, Dr. Pamela Hartzband, an attending physician in the Division of Endocrinology at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, shared how they do it.

“Pam developed a simple procedure when she was an intern in medical school many years back,” Groopman told us. “To her, it was like a game she played to stay sharp. She asked herself, ‘What if that other doctor who made the diagnosis is wrong? What else could it possibly be? What am I basing my decisions on?’”

By asking these questions, Hartzband took herself off automatic pilot and became aware of her thinking—a process known as metacognition.

Together, Groopman and Hartzband introduced courses at Harvard Medical School to teach medical school students and practicing physicians these metacognitive “thinking rules,” which foster self-awareness, reveal bias, and increase the diagnoses’ accuracy.

The good news? This approach, often used outside of the medical field, is incredibly potent in the times we now face.

How Metacognition Works in Times of Crisis

Metacognition will help you keep better track of—and help reduce—errors in your thinking. It also helps you be more emotionally balanced and stable. When you metacognate, you act as your own consultant or trainer, giving helpful feedback to better yourself.

Metacognition steers you onto more realistic, thoughtful paths—facilitating critical thinking and putting you more in control. If you observe an emotion or thought that isn’t helpful, flag it, and alter it. If you catch yourself rushing to judgment, slow your thinking process down. Keep a critical eye on the quality of your thinking. By monitoring yourself more frequently, you’ll keep from veering off into irrational thinking, even when the world around us is upside down.

To practice metacognition and think about your thinking, start with these five strategies:

1. Name Your Mental Steps

How did you arrive at your decision? If you can’t name the steps that led to a decision, be suspicious. Ask yourself: Are your information sources reliable?

Always question your decisions and how you make them. Ask yourself: “Did I miss something? What if I’ve been making decisions based on an erroneous starting point or piece of bad information? Are there other ways to approach making this decision? Am I questioning deeply enough?”

2. Learn from Past Mistakes and Misjudgments

Don’t bury prior mistakes. Instead, incorporate these memories into your current thinking to improve your decision-making.

3. Stay Open and Self-aware

Be open to learning from everyone. Also, be an active listener and value many opinions.

Ask yourself:

  • What is my thinking style?
  • What is my personality?
  • Where do my biases surface?
  • Do I hesitate to ask questions because I want to appear competent?
  • How might my ways of thinking and personality influence how I make assessments and also reach conclusions?

4. Don’t Rush

Experienced decision-makers in high-stress environments all emphasize the importance of slowing down.

Taking your time—even when others or circumstances are rushing you—is essential to making accurate decisions.

5. Don’t Get Seduced by Shortcuts

Know when you’re placing too much confidence in preset protocols, computer algorithms, or attractive charts that crisply lay out solutions. Are you accepting someone else’s “frame” of the problem? Are you relying on others to make your decisions for you by accepting their conclusion too readily?

Multiple crises, combined with the uncertainty we face, thwarts our efforts to make sound decisions. So, the next time you sense something happening around you—or within you—that feels rushed, reactive, or not right? Don’t ignore it and reflexively press on.

Instead, exercise the discipline to stop. Pay attention to that signal. If the path you’re on doesn’t seem right? Pause, reflect, and, if necessary, get off that path.

Then put yourself onto a better route. Or create a new one.

As you consistently demonstrate the ability to make better business decisions, others will learn to follow your lead.

 

Editor’s Note

Dr. Anthony Roa, Ph.D.This post was co-authored by Dr. Anthony Rao, Ph.d., a cognitive-behavioral therapist. For over 20 years, he was a pediatric psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Rao has also been an instructor at Harvard Medical School. In 1998, he opened a specialized private practice. He’s been a featured expert in documentaries and also appears regularly as an expert commentator and author.

 

The new book by Dr. Napper and Dr. Rao is The Power of Agency: The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms (St. Martin’s Press; 2019). Learn more at PowerofAgency.com.

 

transferable skills

Photo by Hunters Race

Career Corner: 5 Action Steps to Communicate Your Transferable Skills

We’ve all heard the age-old saying, “No time like the present.” Given the uncertain times, these words are feeling more relevant as days go by. Industries are changing daily, and organizations have to shift gears on a moment’s notice, causing many people to self-reflect on their work and personal situations. Whether you’re ready to take the plunge into a new career or industry, or still considering the switch, knowing which direction you want to head and how to communicate your transferable skills is pertinent. But no need to fret. We’ve got you covered.

You may be asking yourself, “Where do I begin?” Or, you may have already conducted countless hours learning about your desired new industry and/or role, and you’re ready to make the jump. No matter where you are in the journey, communicating your transferable skills and share your personal brand presence will set you apart from other candidates, even those currently within the field.  Here are five action items to get you to your dream job and feel confident about your decision to change careers.

Action Item No. 1: Pre-work and Research

The hardest part about changing careers is deciding which direction you want to head. It’s important to take time to self-reflect and learn about the industry and the role you truly want. Think everything through thoroughly. Are you feeling stuck because your role has been affected by Covid-19? If this is a short term fix due to our current environment, that is understandable. However, these steps are for someone who has the clarity and conviction to make a change – and now needs that extra support to cross the bridge from one industry to another.

Here are some questions to ensure you are 100% committed to making this leap!

  • What is most and least fulfilling about your current role? How does your new role interest fill the gaps in your current/previous role?
  • Are there factors in your current industry that are affecting you to pivot now? Is this a long-term or short-term pivot?
  • Does this new role/industry fulfill your passions?
  • How long can you endure this roller coaster ride as you make the transition, both financially and mentally?

A bit of due diligence and pre-work on the front end will give you a competitive advantage as you communicate your motives and worth. Need help with some of the questions above? Here are some recommended resources:

Hire a Coach

Many organizations offer in-house career counseling services to assist with succession planning. Nicole Wagner’s role focuses on in-house career counseling to students entering and starting with Compass Group. If your organization does not, please reach out directly to Rebecca Ahmed as a follow up to this article, or research the plethora of certified coaches through the International Coaching Federation.

Research

Platforms like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Recruiting Daily, and ERE are common sites to check out for advice on organizations, job expectations, culture, interview processes, and compensation. Hear from experts directly through their blogs and reach out to those experts for additional insights and opinions.

Read

Looking for a book to tackle this head-on? Richard N. Bolles is a trailblazer when it comes to the job search front. His book, “What Color Is Your Parachute?” is a tried and true method for anyone looking for direction and pinpointing career paths based on interests. His Flower Exercise will send you on a self-discovery of knowing who you are so you can explore the best path for your next career move.

Action Item No. 2: Identify and Communicate Your Transferable Skills

Your professional success shines through in the stories you share about your past experiences and roles. Here are some questions to help create three elevator pitches that highlight your accomplishments and achievements.

  • What is/was your last role?
  • What problem existed in this role?
  • Exactly what tools did you leverage to address this problem?
  • What solution did you provide to address this problem?
  • How did your solution benefit the organization?

Once you have thought through and answered the above questions, step two is taking these solution-oriented approaches and relating them to your new desired role. Check out our case studies below to see exactly how we did this step by step.

Action Item No. 3: Integrate your transferable skills

Now that you’ve identified your transferable skills, next on the agenda is articulating your career journey and past experiences into your branding. Your resume and LinkedIn profile are the first impressions you are making to potential employers. Think of them as digital advertisements showcasing your talents, accomplishments, and the overall badass you are!  Below are a couple of ingredients to help you integrate your story and stand out in the digital world.

Resumes

On average, recruiters spend less than 10 seconds skimming resumes for keywords. Ten seconds, that’s it! So how do you convey your awesomeness on one single page? Skills-based resumes are the perfect format to highlight your expertise and transferable skills clearly and concisely.

  • Ditch the objective. These one-liners tend to be generic and fail to demonstrate your true talents and abilities.
  • Showcase your value and skills at the top of your resume in a “summary of qualifications” or “core competencies” section. Leverage sites such as TopResume to assist with verbiage to beat the bots!
  • Under your work history, list out three to five accomplishments for each role. We recommend using The Ladders formula for effective and concise communication – success verbs and data points to emphasize each role’s accomplishments.
  • Make sure your resume is targeted to the role and company. You will want to update it for every job you apply to, ensuring you speak to each role’s desired experience and company culture.

LinkedIn

Tapping into your LinkedIn community and utilizing all facets of this platform will give you a competitive edge. In addition to showcasing your experience, LinkedIn is a great platform for you to share your passions, connect with various networks, search for jobs, and build your brand!

If you’re new or in need of a refresher, we highly recommend checking out this article on how to leverage your LinkedIn profile. Looking to go more in-depth with their Sales Navigator platform? Check out recommendations from Samantha McKenna.

Action Item No. 4: Leverage Your Resources

You’ve completed your research and determined your next move. You’ve built a resume and designed your LinkedIn profile. Now it’s time to get out there and ensure everyone knows your desired next steps. Have your network work for you. You are only one person, but your network can reach thousands!

How can you ensure your network is working for you? Here are some quick steps to get the ball rolling:

  • Let recruiters know you are actively seeking an opportunity and ensure they know what the opportunity is. There are settings in each social media platform to turn on and ensure you show up in Boolean searches.
  • Leverage your alma mater connections. Even if you don’t know someone from your school, send a private note to connect with them. People naturally want to assist others from their communities, even if they don’t personally know you.
  • Hit the town or hit up zoom! Sign up for networking events that attract leaders in your career field of interest. Attend galas, association events, virtual coffees, wine tastings, etc. Have fun connecting with people in a variety of communities that all align with your desired role. All it takes is one personal interaction that can lead you to your dream job interview! 

Action Item No. 5: Nail the Interview

You leveraged your connections, made it through the bots then landed an interview. This is your time to shine and highlight how you bring value to the new organization.

Most often, companies use behavior-based interview guides to assess how candidates handle certain situations. As you can imagine, these guides ultimately tell them if the candidate is a good fit and also a match for the role. These questions tend to have multiple parts and can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the format. The STAR Interview Method is a fool-proof way to answer and nail these questions every time. Think of it as giving a personal example in a story format.

  • Situation: Briefly set the scene by providing a few short concrete details of your example and how it relates to the question.
  • Task: What was your role in the situation? Be concise and clear.
  • Action: Explain the steps you took to overcome the challenge. How did you bring value to the situation?
  • Results: What was the outcome, and how did your achievements lead to the result?

You’ve now read through our five actions to communicate your transferable skills effectively. No matter where you are in the career change journey, these steps will empower you to communicate your value and worth!

 

Editor’s Note:

This post was co-authored by Rebecca Ahmed, an upcoming TEDx speaker, a certified Energy Leadership Coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF), and a published writer. She has taken her expertise and launched her own business, Laugh Thru Life, where she brings energy and joy to the workplace.

Rebecca AhmedRebecca is a recognized expert in talent acquisition, culture, and diversity and inclusion. During her 10+ years as a leader in Human Resources (HR) in Hospitality, she is most notably recognized for partnering with C-Suite Executives through a 2.8B M&A, overseeing Talent Acquisition, HR Operations, and Technology for up to 16,000+ team members. Rebecca has a bachelor’s in public relations with a double minor in communication design and business from the University of Southern California, and a master’s in hotel administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Flexibility for Freelancers

Open Enrollment: A Flexible Guide to Healthcare Benefits for Freelancers

The global health crisis sparked by the pandemic has shown people, no matter their job status, need effective and reliable healthcare benefits. Employees often have an HR team to help them with healthcare education and to sort through their options. Freelancers, though, know the responsibility to remain informed – and then secure comprehensive coverage – lies entirely with them.

Indeed, during open enrollment freelancers are in a unique situation. True: When it comes to health benefits providers freelancers enjoy a greater amount of choice. However, there is less access to full coverage with comprehensive care and decision support tools. Throw in the changes in healthcare brought about by the pandemic, and it has never been more difficult to make strategic healthcare decisions.

When sick or hurt, we’re often advised not to give in to our worst impulses by Googling our symptoms and searching for medical advice. But when researching insurance coverage, that is where we tend to start. However, we need to modernize our thinking. Because, just as a Google isn’t the best way to obtain medical advice, not all of the best answers about healthcare come from internet searches.

Open Enrollment 101: Benefits Plan Customization for Freelancers

To help us begin to look at insurance coverage options differently, let’s use the choosing of a cable television plan as an example. In the recent past, we would purchase a basic cable subscription, then pay for additional add-ons and special channels. But today, the right combination of streaming subscriptions offers similar content and more on-demand convenience than basic cable service. Those streaming services also provide solid recommendations based upon our preferences and behaviors. For many subscribers, this customization ultimately means more options, better value and better service.

Freelancers can apply a similar line of thinking when securing healthcare benefits. Traditional plans, like a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) or high-deductible health plans (HDHP), may not be the best option for freelancers. Instead, look for ways to tailor coverage through products and resources like a HealthSherpa and Transamerica. These highly regarded providers can help you create a benefits plan that best fits your needs – at the best price and at the highest possible level of service.

Building Your Benefits Plan

When building your benefits plan, start with the core components: medical, dental, and vision. Next, perform a self-assessment of specific health care needs. For example, consider any chronic conditions that might be considered pre-existing or medication prescriptions that require a comprehensive pharmacy benefit option. Your goal: Determine the factors driving your plan and where more coverage or voluntary benefits are needed.

Next, determine your budget (and appetite for financial risk) by asking yourself three questions:

  1. How much coverage is my plan going to provide?
  2. Within the plan as designed, how much must I pay in out-of-pocket expenses when receiving care?
  3. What is the amount of your total monthly payments or premiums?

With the answers to these questions, you’ll know how much you’ll be paying – and for what combination of services.

Should You Add Voluntary or Supplementary Benefits?

What voluntary benefits should you take advantage of when personalizing benefits?

Typically, those are the supplemental insurance plans that provide a financial safety net. This is especially true in the event of a critical illness, accident, or hospital stay. Also, freelancers – just like everyone else – should look into enrolling in other lifestyle benefits such as personal protection plans. After all, as we continue to live online, it is important to protect yourself from the growing threat of fraud and identity theft.

On the positive side of supplemental benefits, consider joining those who have leveraged virtual wellness options. Also, with more and more people working from home, we’re likely to see an increase in off-the-shelf voluntary benefits that meet the unique needs of freelancers. Those plans include coverage of ongoing education, childcare options, and set-up of in-home office ergonomics.

Community and Freelancing: Find Your Emotional Support System

While most everyone is experiencing feelings of isolation and disconnection, freelancers – without an organization to call home base – might be feeling it just that much more.

To combat these feelings, consider getting involved in industry-focused communities. Today, there are thousands of options available online to connect. Social media groups and online communities often organize virtual coffee breaks and happy hours. During these events, they cover various topics and based on shared interests and hobbies. So, find like-minded solidarity that serves an important source of support throughout your career. Those groups also foster a a greater sense of wellbeing through emotional engagement.

Freelancers: Take Control of Your Open Enrollment

At a time when all aspects of our health, wealth, and wellbeing need protection, there are more resources and support available than you may have previously realized. And you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.

The realities of our new world of work will continue to impact our lives. But freelancers can meet those challenges head on by being strategic and thoughtful about their benefits plan designs. Ultimately, the key to success during this open enrollment period means careful evaluation and proactive planning for future life events – both expected and unexpected.

We will eventually move forward to a post-pandemic world.

Between now and then, set yourself – and your freelance business – up for success.

 

Keep Dreaming

Photo: Free To Use Sounds

My Job Search During COVID-19: Keep Dreaming

Hey, all. 2019 graduates. Recent 2020 graduates. Early-hires. Young professionals. Those who have been laid off. Those in furlough. Those on unemployment. I know it feels like everyone is looking for a full-time job (or any job right now). As a recent graduate from SUNY New Paltz, who majored in journalism and minored in Spanish — and experienced the job market during a pandemic, I’ve learned this: don’t let a virus dash your hopes for a dream job.  I’ll share some of my own takeaways to keep your dreams alive during this time. 

1. Start with introspection. 

Did I solely want to be a reporter/journalist, or was I open to ideas where I could potentially use my journalism skills in other fields? I encourage you to ask yourself what skills you want to keep building on. That will lead you to answering what other roles you’re open to exploring. And it led me to understand that writing, reading and researching have been in all the jobs I’ve ever loved and grew from. Those skills and passions needed to be integrated in the job I chose for the future too. Then I asked myself: Did I solely want a full-time job or was I interested in part-time or freelance work to get my foot in the door? Keeping the answers to these questions in mind helped me widen my search, and apply to jobs more focused on the quality of work than the quantity of jobs. That way I’d still be able to make a stable living even if the full-time jobs weren’t coming. 

2. Use all the job boards.

I looked for jobs in my field via Linkedin, Twitter, Indeed, Glassdoor, PND: Philanthropy News Digest, and Idealist because as aggregators, all the potential jobs were in one place. Generally, Linkedin and Twitter are great social media tools to follow the company for job posting updates and connect with potential employers. Indeed allows you to customize job alerts that land in your inbox and provides resources about all-things career-related. Glassdoor is useful for learning about company culture, salary, and benefits offered. PND and Idealist make reaching out to the employer and applying abundantly clear: who to email, who to address your cover letter to, and how/where to submit. 

3. Go long and go hard.

I applied for dozens of writing jobs in a total of 10 months since graduating. A Google Sheet titled, “Dynahlee Padilla Job Shopping,” was my BFF (thanks to an alumna and friend who tipped me). This sheet included the company name, title of the role, date I applied, compensation if stated, the name of the contact/hiring manager, and link to the original job posting. This structure helped me keep track of who I needed to follow up with, who I should be connecting with on social media, and the types of jobs I was looking for. It served as my timeline of progress.

4. Find a good fit.

Yes, we all need to be working for a company that’s a good fit. Can you see yourself enjoying the role based on the job posting and any interviews you’ve participated in? Can you see yourself doing the responsibilities asked of you well and with passion? Do you agree 110 % with every part of the company’s mission statement and values? Can you see yourself grow with the company now and later? I once went all the way to D.C.  to interview — for a Booking Producer role at a media company with an extremely conservative perspective, and I knew right away it wasn’t right for me. So, don’t compromise your values to fit in. You can choose to be a part of the company, the same way it can choose and consider you to join the company. 

5. Keep your resume, your professional and personal story on paper, crystal clear. 

Maintain a resume that’s up-to-par: education, succinct summary, publications/achievements, language skills, and relevant experiences that relay your skills in chronological order from the most-recent. Include keywords that target the roles you are looking for. When I worked at ABC’s “7 on Your Side” as an intern (post-grad), I learned that data journalists were trending in the media industry, so I tagged the word “data” and “producing” onto experiences that included those skills to stay on potential media companies and employers’ radar. Also, update your resume (and your LinkedIn) as soon as you begin a new role. Always proofread, and have editors in your trusted circle review for you. And for recent grads, add a “Professional Experience” headline — because now you are a professional — still learning but not a student.

6. Cover letter

A cover letter should never be optional. Job postings often say that, but as I’ve learned on TalentCulture, sometimes job postings are poorly written or generic or do not meet the needs of the company. Include a compelling signature with contact info. Use this piece of writing and ready-to-go clips/samples as your power tools to stand out! 

7. You’re not done yet.

Getting a callback or interview doesn’t mean the work is done. Continue to apply for other jobs, because in this particular economy and market, we never know where these opportunities might take us. 

8. You’re really never done.

Remember: job hunt is like dating. Brace yourself for rejection. Many times, we’ll get ghosted. Sometimes we’ll get led on — to nothing. So keep applying, and keep dreaming. And don’t stop. Ever. Check in with your own network and build on it — colleagues, friends, alumni, professors, family members. I reach out to my network often, especially during these times, because cultivating relationships are important to me — and not only when you need or want something. I usually ask: How are you doing? What are you working on? And then include, by the way — “I am working on this, and still looking for this. I’d love to get your thoughts. And keep in touch.” 

9. Have faith and focus. 

Make sure you check LinkedIn and job portals like you check Instagram, or any other platform you are obsessed with. Be obsessed. Your dreams will come true if you put in the time and energy to stay focused and follow through. 

10. Landed a remote job? Here’s how to shine. 

Let’s say you’ve got a job — but you’re not going anywhere but home. You can shine anyway. Be vocal with those you live with about the space, time, and tools you need in your home to work productively — not just busily. Natural lighting, a comfy chair, and privacy works for me.

Talk with your employer about your needs. I moved out-of-state amid the health crisis, which wasn’t easy. I spoke to my immediate supervisor and others I work with and got a few extra days off to get settled. 

It’s OK to feel overwhelmed. There are various crises happening while our lives are still happening. So, take actual breaks. Step away from the screen. Do breathing exercises, stretches, therapy coloring, a walk/run — whatever works for you. Take the time to process what you are feeling and become recharged. And keep dreaming! New goals await. 

The IT Job Market Is Booming and It’s Easier To Get a Job in the Industry Than You Think

The IT Job Market Is Booming and It’s Easier To Get a Job in the Industry Than You Think

Do you speak IT?

The information technology job market is as strong as it’s ever been, with tens of thousands of highly lucrative and unfilled IT jobs available throughout the country.

And the barriers to entry in IT are lower than most people think — even for professionals already established in other fields, according to the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), a leading destination for training, certification and ultimately a career in technology.

“A commitment to learning, self-growth and finding a job that lets you capitalize on your innate strengths are some of the most important factors involved in switching careers into IT,” CompTIA says in its guide for shifting into an IT career.

Interested in working in IT or spreading the word about IT jobs? Here’s a look at the state of the IT job market and how professionals of all types can take advantages of these job opportunities.

The IT Boom Continues

The IT industry, already growing rapidly, is expected to outpace the overall economy’s growth in the coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics has projected that computer and information technology occupations will grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, well above the average growth rate for all occupations. Demand for these workers will be driven in part by a greater emphasis on cloud computing, big data and information security.

Recent trends indicate the boom is underway. U.S. IT sector employment expanded by an estimated 11,700 jobs in October, the strongest showing since this spring, according to an analysis by CompTIA. Hiring for tech jobs across the entire economy also bounced back in October, as employers added about 107,000 positions, CompTIA’s analysis of the latest BLS Employment Situation report says.

“The data confirms software, data and emerging tech skills continue to be hot commodities in the job market, which often overshadows the fact that employers are also in hiring mode for many core positions, such as networking, IT support and cybersecurity,” says Tim Herbert, senior vice president for research and market intelligence at CompTIA.

Switching Is Surprisingly Easy

Switching to a career in IT is well within reach for many professionals, even if it may seem daunting, CompTIA says. The group says anyone with the desire to get an IT job can find one that suits their unique skills, talents and interests. In fact, there’s a good chance that many of the soft skills you already have can be leveraged for a career in IT.

When considering a switch, CompTIA suggests first determining what you want out of an IT career. Start by asking yourself what you’re passionate about. How much money do you want to be earning? What makes you happy in a professional sense? Helping people? Solving problems? Being able to show off your creative side? These are questions you should work through as you begin to research possible career options.

Next you’ll need to research and compare training options such as CompTIA’s CertMaster Practice for IT Fundamentals+. It’s also important to identify any applicable certification options. CompTIA’s 4 Steps to Certification guide and its Get into IT digital brochure are good places to start exploring certifications and how they can help make you a more marketable job candidate.

It also makes sense to read IT job descriptions and talk to IT professionals to determine which technology jobs best meet your skills and interests. This could involve watching day-in-the-life videos on YouTube and on the CompTIA website, or attending informational webinars about IT careers and technology trends.

CompTIA also offers a free career quiz to see if you’re well-suited for a career in IT.

Emerging Technologies in Demand

Data indicates that emerging technologies are going to play an even larger role in the IT job market moving forward, powered by advances in AI, blockchain, big data and machine learning.

A recent CompTIA analysis of employer job data found that companies had advertised for more than 282,000 positions in emerging technologies year-to-date, an increase of 65 percent over the same period in 2017. In comparison, overall IT job postings recorded a 30 percent increase year-over-year.

Employer demand for cybersecurity professionals across the U.S. also continues to accelerate, CompTIA says. U.S. employers posted about 314,000 job openings for cybersecurity workers between September 2017 and August 2018. That’s in addition to the 715,000-plus cybersecurity workers currently employed around the country.

“Efforts to address the shortage of cybersecurity workers are underway on many fronts, but progress has been frustratingly slow,” says Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA. “The threats are real and growing, with the potential to impact the livelihood of any organization. Our current cybersecurity workforce is doing what it can to keep us protected. It’s critical for private-sector companies and public-sector agencies to take the actions necessary to bring more people into the cybersecurity workforce, and to equip them with the appropriate education, training and certifications.”

This post is sponsored by CompTIA.

 

summer productivity

How to Stay Productive, Even During the Summer

Research shows that kids experience a “summer slump.” When they’re out of school, they’re not actively focused on learning, and their brains check out. But they’re not the only ones susceptible to summer slumps. Adults seem to channel their inner child during the summer, making it hard for them to be productive at work.

A 2012 study by Captivate Network reveals that workplace productivity drops 20%, workers are 45% more distracted, and it takes 13% longer to complete projects in the summer. Also, 53% of workers who leave early on Friday report a decline in productivity. People often work longer Monday through Thursday to make up for leaving early on Friday, and 23% of them believe that schedule causes an increase in stress.

So how can you stay productive during the summer and throughout the year? We asked Dana Brownlee, the creator of the New Time Management Model. She’s the president of Professionalism Matters and a corporate trainer and speaker..

According to Brownlee, the New Time Management Model involves four questions:

  1. Should I do this?
  2. How should I do this?
  3. What’s the right level of effort?
  4. How can I increase my efficiency?

Should I Do This?

Brownlee recommends starting every week by assessing the most important activities for the week. Then, every day, do a reassessment. “Resist the temptation to just add a task to your to- do list because someone asked you to do it,” she says. “There must be a mental ‘vetting process’ to determine if any activity should be on your list.” Her own to-do-list only includes five items for each day.

“Another technique that I sometimes use in my classes is to ask each person to write down each of their tasks for the next day on a small slip of paper.” Then she tells them that one of those items can’t be completed – and they have to decide which one it will be. The participants have to throw away that sheet of paper and start over with a shortened list. They continue the process, until the list is down to five items. “These types of activities are just meant to reinforce the mental process that you’d go through weekly and daily to identify your truly important activities,” Brownlee says.

She also recommends using the 80/20 rule. “Figure out which 20% of your efforts will yield 80% of the results.” For example, you may need to determine which clients or client types are providing most of your revenue, and then adjust your business model or activities accordingly.

How Should I Do This?

This is a strategic step that encourages you to work smarter, not harder. Should you do it alone or with a group? Should you do it yourself or delegate or outsource it? Could the task be automated or streamlined in some way?

“As a small business owner, I often resisted outsourcing because I didn’t think I could afford to pay someone else to do things for me,” Brownlee says. “However, when I started using assistants, freelancers, and other specialists, I quickly realized that I couldn’t afford not to outsource (particularly those time-consuming tasks where I had little expertise — like website updating and newsletter formatting).”

She says that pausing to answer the “how” question can save a lot of time later. “For example, if you’re developing a client list, consider putting the information into a simple database so that it’s easily retrievable, sortable, and exportable later (and you’re inputting the information only once).” Next to each task, Brownlee recommends making a note of how you can work smart to complete the task.

What’s the Right Level of Effort?

When deciding how much energy to expend, consider assigning a percentage (from 0% to 100%). Another option is to set a time limit for each task. Brownlee uses this method with her assistant. “Instead of using vague terms like ‘don’t spend too much time on it,’ I’ll often say, ‘don’t exceed 90 minutes.’ Those limits can be helpful for us as well.”

It’s also helpful to add the times together to see if your daily plans are realistic. “If you add up your to-do-list tasks and it adds up to 4 hours of tasks (to be completed outside working hours) and you have a 1.5 hour round-trip commute, that list probably isn’t realistic.”

How Can I Increase My Efficiency?

Brownlee has several personal productivity tips to help increase your level of efficiency:

  • Only schedule about 75% of your day, to leave room for the unexpected items that pop up daily.
  • Schedule work time (for example, schedule one time block in the morning and one in the afternoon to do your work, instead of running from back-to-back meetings all day and starting your work at 5 p.m.).
  • Turn off the chime on your email announcing incoming messages — usually the email isn’t that important anyway.
  • Instead of being distracted by constantly checking emails throughout the day, schedule specific times during the day to read and respond to them.
  • Have a running list of items that can completed when you’re waiting to see the dentist or waiting for a webinar to start.
  • Complete small tasks when you think of them. If you need to do something that only takes 3-5 minutes, instead of scribbling a note, just stop and do it.
  • Develop checklists or templates for repetitive tasks like preparing for a meeting, coordinating an event, or conducting employee appraisals.
  • Set time limits for escape activities. Daily escape time is important, but don’t let a quick check of Facebook turn into spending two hours on social media.