4 Tips (And A Download!) To Ease Your Anxiety
Recently, I decided to take the first two-week-long vacation of my professional career, and in full transparency, I was terrified.
To be clear, I've taken plenty of vacations before, but I've always strategically taken trips on long weekends or during the holidays where the impact on my team is minimal. There's nothing I hate more than that feeling of doom that sets on the last day of work before vacation, when you start thinking about the work you'll be missing, clients relying on you, or what could go wrong in your absence.
As an individual contributor, leaving was easier. I could literally do all of my work leading up to my days off, putting in long days and even longer nights, and only when I was completely finished could I turn my Slack notifications off and leave for vacation in peace. Of course, this is not healthy behavior for anyone, but I got through it.
As a manager, my work is never "complete." Now, I have even more clients depending on me, a team who relies heavily upon me for decision making and guidance, and company initiatives that are mid-cycle.
At any other company, this scenario probably would have set my anxiety completely over the edge - but not at PowerToFly. I can testify that the process we've developed has made taking a vacation just that - a vacation. For the first time, I left for my trip without the doom cloud following me out the door and I knew my team was adequately prepped for what to do in my absence.
So, how can you implement a vacation process at your organization that actually works? Follow these easy steps, and you'll be enjoying a little R&R at the beach in no time!
1. Make the decision to stay available, or go off the grid, and stick to it.
- It is absolutely crucial to take time off without work distractions, and if you're going off the grid, stick to it. Don't check emails, turn your notifications off, and offer proper escalation pathways for any emerging issues (see below). Many companies have policies in place where at least one week of vacation should be contact-free - that's when the creative magic happens!
2. If you choose to stay available, set clear expectations about your communication method and schedule.
- Decide on a time or cadence for checking in that works best for you. Whether that's one hour every morning, 30 min in the evening, or periodically throughout the day, let your team know when and how it's best to contact you. For example, if you're going out of the country, it may be easier to Slack or WhatsApp as opposed to email or text.
3. Let the team know how to ask for help.
- If a situation does arise that needs to be escalated, be clear with your team about how they should escalate: tell them to be direct, explain the entire situation, and include an ask and when the response is needed. Make it known that there is no need for small talk in these messages, i.e. "I don't want to bother you on your trip, but…". It doesn't hurt to note that logging into different software while away from your desk is a huge pain - if your ask requires a login, don't forget to include a screenshot!
4. Fill out a PTO tracker (Make a copy of ours here!).
- This tracker is your golden ticket to a stress-free vacation and should be shared org-wide. Once filled out in its entirety, everyone has the opportunity to see what's being handled while you are gone, which tasks and projects are assigned to whom, and who to reach out to in case of an escalation.
Want to see it in action? Here's a sample of a great day-before-vacation team email:
Sample Day-Before Vacation Email
Just sending everyone a note, as I am planning to be in Mexico for the next 2 weeks.
Also as we support all of our team members in our work-life balance, I think it is important to share what that means for each one of us. It is OK to take time off and be fully off. It is OK to take time off and work a little to stay on top of your burning priorities. It is OK to sometimes do one and sometimes do the other.
So for that reason, it is very important to set clear expectations with your teammates on what your PTO style is/ or will be this particular time you're going away. To demonstrate this principle, here is what my next 2 weeks off mean:
1) Ask for help, and allow me to triage
Even when I am on PTO, you can always reach me, you're not bugging me. I am extremely good at protecting my time, and making a judgment call whether the issue you're bringing to me needs me to get engaged while I'm away or it can wait. I am good at putting my phone on silent when I need to nap. So don't hesitate to reach out when you need me.
2) How to Ask for Help
For this to be effective don't say things like "Hi are you there?":) that doesn't give me enough intel on whether this can wait or not
Phrase it more like:
"Hi we just heard back from XClient, and their legal department is requesting something that I don't know how to answer" - obviously as much detail you can provide so I can help even without getting on a call is helpful.
3) Don't make me log in to different softwares
Most of the time you will be reaching me on mobile, so don't send me salesforce links - send a screengrab of the relevant info instead. If you need me to send an email to a client, draft it for me, with all the relevant attachments, etc
4) Err on the side of over transparent
That is kind of repeating the first point, but I much rather know about an issue you're dealing with, and have the opportunity to get involved (and perhaps decide I won't), then later hear "I didn't want to bother you while you're on PTO". Transparency and over communication always wins.
5) My schedule
July 1-5 - planning to be more deeply off. I will not be taking internal check-ins/ group calls
July 8-12 planning to take customer-facing and sales-related calls. I might need to prioritize the bigger ones. Not taking internal check-ins/ group calls
6) Escalate the medium, not the message.
Feel free to WhatsApp me or text me for anything pending from me if you don't get a response in slack. This is true any day of the week, and some of you use it more effectively than others. Seriously, leverage the escalation points!! If you're texting me too much I will tell you (no one has texted me too much in the past. :) )
Thats it team, you know where to find me.
Templates For In-Office and Remote Interviews
Let's face it, interviews are stressful. Every company has its own way of determining whether or not you're going to be a good fit for their organization. The secret sauce is in their bag of questions.
Another big question that interviewers love to ask is, "What's your ideal work environment?"
Spoiler alert: there is no one 'right' way to answer this question. When an interviewer asks this question, they're looking to see how your personality fits into the current company culture and the new team you will be joining (not what size monitor you prefer). It's not as cut and dry as it appears.
So, how should you prepare for this question?
It's tricky - which is why we've broken the question into three main categories and provided two great examples for both in-office and remote roles. I know it's tempting to tell the interviewer exactly what they want to hear, but you should try to be as genuine as possible when answering this question. The key takeaway is to understand that not every company is going to be a great fit, and after all, as much as this is an interview for you, you're also interviewing them to ensure you can be productive in their environment!
What did you love about your last office, and what did you hate about it? Was it distracting to hear Tiffany on the phone every day thanks to the open floor plan, or did you enjoy having coworkers all around you to bounce ideas off of? What's the company'sSlack policy?
Try to understand how your working style fits into this new company's culture. Check their blog, social channels, and LinkedIn to see if they have employee testimonials or documentation of in-office or remote activities.
"I've done some research on your company's work culture and found a great article about the office layout on your YouTube channel. I was excited to see such an engaged team structure and a really cool open floor plan. In previous roles, I've always had my own quiet space to work from, however, I love the idea of being closer to the action and having the opportunity to collaborate more closely with my team."
"I've never worked in a totally remote position before, but in my previous role, I was able to work from home at least one day a week. This really opened my eyes to how productive I could be without the constant distractions in the office."
When an interviewer asks you what your ideal work environment is, they don't just mean your physical environment. They also mean what kind of working environment you enjoy more generally - a.k.a how you manage and like to be managed. These factors are key in determining compatibility between an applicant and a company, and can be the difference between a positive (or ideal) work environment, and a completely toxic one.
Think about what motivates you to be productive, how you like to be managed, and how you prefer to receive feedback. If you are in the interview process, it's safe to say you will be working with at least one other person, and it's important to know how this new person or team communicates. If you are in cubicles, what's the protocol for relaying information? Are there specific online hours for remote teams? There are so many questions you could ask the hiring manager about relationship management - don't hesitate to fire away!
"I really loved meeting with my manager one-on-one once a month for an in-person feedback session. It really helped me prioritize my workload and understand what areas of my work were successful and where I could devote more time. How often does your team give feedback and what do those feedback sessions look like?"
"I know that working remotely has its perks, and I also know that it can be challenging to engage and thrive with coworkers on a remote team. In one of your blog posts, I read that you use platforms like Slack, Zoom, and Asana to keep engagement and work culture active and balanced - all tools which I've utilized in the past to engage with my fellow remote coworkers while I was in the office. Has your team ever used the donut Slack extension? It's one of my favorites for getting to know your co-workers better!"
Be honest with yourself about work culture expectations meeting your lifestyle needs. If you've found a sweet new remote job that you think will allow you to live it up as a digital nomad, you'll want to first confirm with your employer that they're flexible on time zones and that having a two-monitor, semi-permanent office setup isn't essential to your job.
Perhaps you're a working mom, taking care of a parent, or living with PTSD or another mental illness and need flexible hours.
Whatever your situation, it's important to understand whether or not this new organization will be supportive of your personal AND professional needs.
"When I think about my ideal work environment, I know that I want to be part of an organization that encourages its employees to stay true to themselves. I'm really passionate when I am able to bring my full self to work each day, that's when I am at my best. So I value transparency and encouragement from my team to be authentic and uber-productive.
"Working remotely takes a lot of integrity and responsibility. I like to push my productivity level to the limit, but working in my home office can make it difficult to draw the line between work hours and the rest of my day. So it's important for me to be able to set boundaries around time management in order to be at the height of my productivity. I like to divide my workday up in order to make any online team meetings and prioritize my to-do list effectively. Time management is key for me to be able to maintain a work-life balance."
Remember to take some time before the interview to review your previous job's work culture. Be honest with yourself and make a list of what worked for you and what did not work. Next, think of how to create an ideal work environment knowing there is potential to enhance your previous job's work environment. This question can be a stepping stone for many follow-up questions and is also a good way to dive into how their particular organization works. Your response can fall between your past experience and your ideal vision, but it should always be a true reflection on you as an individual!
4 Tips From A Successful Career Pivoter
Making a career change is not uncommon. In fact, oftentimes it's totally necessary to pivot careers in order to continue developing your skillset.
However, what's more terrifying than making a career change itself? How about writing a cover letter that convinces a hiring manager that you're actually capable of making the change and being successful...
This idea doesn't scare Aurora Meneghello, founder of "Repurpose Your Purpose," an organization helping career pivoters find their professional purpose. She too made a huge career pivot from photographer to marketer, and understands what is needed to make a cover letter stand out among a sea of applicants.
We chatted w/ Aurora of Repurpose Your Purpose, who gave us 4 tips to keep in mind when writing your career change cover letter.
1. Reconnect with yourself and your core values.
"The most common reason to pivot careers is a result of one of the following being violated: Your sense of self, your relationships, your values or your resources."
Maybe you're making a change because you're not using the skills you'd like to, or the people you work with are very cold? Maybe you are required to do something that is in direct conflict with your values, or you'd just like more time with your family? Perhaps you flat out aren't being paid enough.
The more you reflect on the motivator(s) of your unhappiness in your previous role and reconnect with yourself in the present moment, the more confident you will be in mastering your career change cover letter. It will shine through in your voice as you speak about yourself and your goals.
2. Speak their language.
"More than likely, you have a ton of transferable skills. Reclaiming what you're good at and talking about it with different target words is key. Let language change the way you talk about it."
Ask yourself if you know what this new company values most. When you know what's important to them, you'll be able to link your values and experience with their objectives.
Reading articles, books, or listening to podcasts that are related to the new field will help you develop that new lingo for you to inject into your cover letter.
3. Think positive.
"Avoid negative language. Don't talk about what you did not like in your previous career. Instead, use that space to go positive! Talk about what you're excited to contribute to the new role.
Ok, but what if you don't have much experience in this new field? Don't let that get you stuck. Sometimes career pivoters get blinded by their talents and forget the many skills they've picked up along the way. Talk about your successes and highlight any skill that may relate to the new role.
4. Own your story.
"If you don't intentionally decide how to talk about yourself, how to put together the thread that links your career change, potential employers will fill the gap for you."
The magic is inside of the story you tell. Tell a story that will show how you're such a valuable asset to the team. Don't leave room for them to try to guess for you. Make sure you're being very clear of what your value is and what you bring to the table. A compelling story that links your experiences with this new role can make or break your career change cover letter.
---In this Chat & Learn, Aurora breaks down the core of why career change happens and how to transition successfully. The cover letter is the precipice of the pivot. It's an opportunity to show your truth, excitement, and expertise on paper as you make the big jump. In order to do this, you must reconnect with yourself and your core values, learn how to speak their language, and own your story
Oh, and have fun while you're at it!
Congratulations on making the choice to pivot.