Professional Development is Your Project

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The problem with high school is that there’s a lot of people telling you what to do, where to be, and how you need to complete x,y and z in order to get your diploma.

Then in university or college you’ve got a little more freedom to decide how and when you do things, but you still have to meet the prerequisites to graduate, and do more schooling, or become a whatever and by then you’ll have totally figured out how to do things for yourself, right?

Unfortunately, I’ve found this isn’t always the case. Sure, each workplace has a certain set of rules you have to follow, and most jobs have a job description that you have to adhere to. But your job is just you job; your workplace is just where you work. That is, for now. Who helps you to decide when it’s time to move on? Who tells you what to do to gain upward mobility in your company? What the prerequisites for getting promotions? For changing careers? For scaling back?

For some, knowing that your career has the ability to head in whatever direction you want is really freeing. Others might be totally cool with finding a good position and sticking with it, providing it meets their lifestyle needs. If you’re one the latter, congratulations- it sounds like you’re already in the place that you need to be.

I think most of us meet somewhere in the middle (myself included). We crave the autonomy to make our own decisions about when, where and what we work at (exciting!); at the same time, we wish there was someone to guide us where we need to go otherwise how else do we find our way of getting there? (Scary!)

It’s kind of brutal, but it’s the truth: professional development is your project.

Don’t panic; it’s actually pretty liberating. Does it require a certain amount of discipline and motivation on your part? Totally. But you’re in change of when, where and how you want to develop yourself professionally.

The most exciting (and challenging) part is deciding the what:

  • What skills do you want to acquire?
  • Which skills do you want to improve?
  • What contacts do you want to make?
  • What experience do you want to gain?
  • What do you want to get certified in?
  • What do you want to learn?

Once you’ve figured out the what, the how comes so much easier: take a workshop, join a club, go back to school, audit a class, attend a conference, get a membership, volunteer, shadow a mentor.

And read, read, read: books related to finding your ideal career or better yet, find the biography of someone who has achieved success at what you want to do. Read magazines, newspapers, blogs and other industry publications to keep your knowledge current.

You may want to map out what of some of these steps look like on a long-term scale. What are some of your goals? What do you want to accomplish? Where do you want to go? Where do you want to end up?

Or maybe you’ve already found yourself in a good place career-wise and you’re looking to keep the momentum going. Your professional development projects might be more along the lines of expanding your target market, developing a new product, or re-branding your company.

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to change it up, or hate challenging the status quo: professional development is definitely a project we have to take on ourselves. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. In a way careers can mimic- they can be ebb and flow and take us to destinations that we never thought were possible.

The beauty of it, is that you have the freedom to choose how you’ll navigate that flow, and hopefully you’ll end up somewhere wonderful.

At the very least, I hope you enjoy the ride.

KBwB-BFlower-50What are some of the professional skills that you’ve been working on? Share your trials and tribulations below, or email me at keepingbusyb@gmail.com.

For more advice on navigating careers and the workplace, click here.

5 Things to Do Before You Take Time Off Of Work

KBB_flipflops_on_the_sandWhenever I plan a trip for anyone (and considering I don’t travel all that often, you’d be surprised at how often I have done this for other people), I always joke about the extra work involved in taking time off. Vacations are supposed to be restorative, relaxing and fun but it’s easy to get caught up in stressing over the details of planning your holiday. Next thing you know, you’ve spent the first two days of your vacation trying to come down off of the adrenaline rush.

I’m not going to sugar-coat the truth for you and tell you there’s some magical formula that will leave you completely worry-free when planning your vacation. But if you are planning to take time off of work, here are a few ideas to get you from stressed out to stoked.

Do thy research. It’s a good idea to store all of the details concerning your flight, your accommodations, etc. all in one place for easy reference. In doing this, you may find you’ve missed a step (do you know how you’re getting to the hotel from the airport?) It’s also a good idea to check if your passport and any other travel documents are up-to-date, as well as your travel vaccines. If you’re traveling to some place exotic, make sure you read up on the weather, currency and other issues you might feel are of concern to your health and/or safety. A prepared, informed traveler is a safe, happy and healthy one.

Tie up loose ends. There’s nothing worse than trying to pick up a colleague’s project and realize that you have absolutely no idea what’s going on. Leaving someone or something dangling at work is impolite, unprofessional and not a great scene for anyone involved. You don’t want to leave someone with a mess of a project, and let’s face it- you don’t really want to deal with that mess when you come back to work, do you?

Make an action plan for your absence. If you’re taking work with you, make sure you have the appropriate means to get done what you need to get done. If someone else needs to get something done while you’re away and they need your input, let them know how best to get in touch with you, if at all. (Kind of like Number 2).

Plan your vacation before you leave. Too often we expect ourselves to come back from vacation and jump right into the thick of things, which sounds almost as stressful as not having a vacation at all. Do yourself a favor and don’t spend most of your vacation anticipating your return to work. Take an extra day off to unpack, schedule catch-up time, telecommute or do whatever it is you need to do to make sure the stress of transitioning back to the workplace doesn’t counteract the positive, relaxing effects of your vacation.

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Unless you want to be associated with this elusive anti-hero, please inform the appropriate authorities of where you are going- your loved ones, your boss, etc. I once was hired for a job because one of the employees decided she was going to take off to Australia for a month and not tell anyone. It may seem like common sense, but this really, truly did happen and I want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake!

If you know ahead of time where you’re going, what you’ll need and what’s going to happen when you get back you can automatically forget everything else. You’ve done the work already. Now: sit back, relax, and have a margarita. Those are B’s orders.

KBwB-BFlower-50I bet you anything that you travel more than I do (it’s not that difficult) so if you’ve got more travel tips to share, I’d love to hear them! Comment below or drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. I may choose to share them in another travel-related post.

Or you could just tell me stories about your travels, really. My goal is to live vicariously through other people’s vacations.

Operation Crisis Management: How to Work When You’re Depressed

kbb_dead_treeIf you’ve stumbled on this post because you’re feeling depressed and/or suicidal, please know that you’re not alone in feeling this way. It may be hard to wrap your head around this when you feel lonely and isolated, but every day there are millions of people who struggle with similar challenges as you, including myself. However, this story is only reflective of my own experience. If you are in crisis I urge you to stick with me until the bottom of the page, where I’ve included further resources and information on finding support. Overcoming these thoughts and getting through your day may seem impossible, but I’ve made it through 100% of my days so far. You can too. Help is only a click away.

Let’s get one thing straight: depression is not “the blues”. It’s not a contest about the number of sad things going on in your life, and it’s not about an individual’s capability of dealing with life’s ups and downs (although it certainly doesn’t help).

Take me for example- if you knew me in real life you’d know that I sing constantly, I love doing colorful crafts, and when I find something really, really funny I have this loud, braying laugh that the neighbors can hear in the apartment upstairs.

But when I get sad, I get really, really sad. I cry a lot, and often for no good reason. Most days I have to will myself to get out of bed, because even after a full night’s rest I’m sometimes still so tired I swear I can feel it in my bones.

It’s easy to see then why I’m fascinated with productivity and learning more about how other people get through their days. I’m amazed at all of the things that people can achieve when sometimes even taking a shower feels like a battle to me.

It’s not easy for me to talk about this because I’m a perfectionist and I like to get things done. In some ways I think the practice of keeping busy has saved myself from some of my darkest moments. On the other hand, the insane pressure I have put on myself has not always helped with my productivity, or my self-esteem either.

The key is finding a balance.

Slowly I’ve started to learn that part of finding that balance does involve talking about it, about recognizing what brings us down and buoys us back up again. I’m not suggesting a total psychoanalytic breakthrough to help your productivity. But the more you understand yourself and your moods, the better equipped you are at coping.

Because the sucky thing is this: life goes on. You’ve got a job, kids, chores, and other responsibilities that can’t be ignored. But how do you do this when you feel like there’s a giant weight dragging around behind you?

Building a support system that combines non-judgmental mentors, colleagues, friends, family, community members, spiritual leaders and healthcare professionals is very important because it’s so much harder to go it alone, and these people can provide you with an objective perspective when your darker thoughts start getting the better of you. They also may be able to offer you advice on how to spot emotional triggers and develop healthy coping mechanisms. You may choose to have some of these people act as advocates when you are incapable of making rational decisions for yourself. Please don’t shut these people out. They are among the people that love you the most and will hurt the most if they lose you.

Make your coping mechanisms your secret arsenal by keeping running a list, and maybe sharing it with a trusted friend. Some of mine include taking my dog for a walk, having a hot shower and blasting music on my headphones. And baking. Have I ever mentioned baking to you before?

Build coping mechanisms into your routine can be as simple as storing a stress ball in your desk at work, or choosing your outfit the night before to avoid morning freak-outs.

Even paying attention to your emotional triggers and energy levels can help you structure your routine to minimize panic attacks or major mood swings. This could look like opting for a later shift at work if you struggle with getting up in the morning, or putting aside some downtime for yourself after a stressful family event.

If my mood is good and my energy is high I try to make the most of it, and get as much done as I can to help my future self focus on getting through the rough times. Sometimes this involves a little strategic planning on my part- I often don’t schedule anything after events I consider stressful, for example, and I never, ever try to make my day too full.

If you’re equipped with a little more knowledge about what you’re dealing with, and you have support and resources at your fingertips, the better you’ll become at managing your symptoms, and coping through your darker days.

 

KBwB-Flower-50Thanks for sticking with me until the end of this post. I want you to know if you ever need anyone to lend you an ear, I’m here for (anonymously) at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. Please do email me if you have any solutions to share that have worked for you, or comment below for other readers who might be going through something similar. We’re in all this together.

Here’s that list of resources that I promised you. There is help out there if you make the decision you need it. If you have any resources to add to my list, please let me know and I’ll try to include them in an updated post.

If you’re a Canadian (like me), The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention is a great resource for those experiencing suicidal thoughts and loss related to suicide. It also features a crisis center search function if you live within Canada. Similarly, the Canadian Mental Health Association provides information on suicide prevention and where to get help.

If you’re in the United States, SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) provides resources for those who are suicidal, suicide survivor and for the friends and families of the loved ones affected. They also offer a tip sheet for those concerned about a friend or family member in crisis. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers information and research on suicide, and where to get help.

For those who live outside North America, SAVE also provides a list of international resources and the International Association for Suicide Prevention (an NGO associated with the World Health Organization) has information on where to find help anywhere in the world. Suicide Hotlines also offers a comprehensive list of how to find help internationally.

For those of you who are looking for help online, here are some places to start:

  • Metanoia has a great message to read when you’re in a dark place, information on where to get help and advice on choosing what kind of help is right for you.
  • Canadian-based website Mindcheck offers quizzes designed to gauge your moods and offers helpful tips on developing healthy coping mechanisms and practicing self-care.
  • The Bright Side offers positive messages, personal stories and insights as well as resources and information on a variety of mental health issues including depression, anxiety and grief.
  • Although it’s designed with Canadians in mind, The Lifeline app is designed as a guide for those in crisis and connects those in need with a hotline in Canada at the touch of a button.
  • Claiming to be the world’s first-ever public screening measure with risk and response protocols, the Suicide Prevention App acts like a diagnostic tool and connects users with more information and resources.
  • If those weren’t enough resources for you, check out this article I found with 81 different online websites and apps to help people manage symptoms and access resources to help them on their road to recovery.