Take a Brain-cation!

A reader writes…

“ Dear, Anita,

I have been working my tail off at work trying to keep up with cutbacks and putting strategies in place to increase productivity. I feel drained and worn out. What do you think would help me recharge my batteries and get myself back in the game?”

Many managers and business owners find themselves becoming slaves to their jobs; 24 hours a day, 7  days a week, they constantly are thinking, doing, or worrying about work. Smart phones, tablets, and laptops don’t make things
any easier.

Making mental lists of the things that have to be taken care of Monday morning, putting together proposals in their mind while trying to get some sleep, and skipping out on events with family and friends to accomplish a project may be a little overboard. Don’t get me wrong — drive and dedication to your profession are great traits, but sometimes it is best for you, your team, and your company to give your brain a break.

David Allen, the author of Making It All Work, Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life,  promotes “brain-cations.” He says: “I think productivity is always enhanced when you have the chance to evaluate your life and work from multiple horizons.  Vacations help you from getting too far down in the weeds and provide an opportunity to refresh and restore.

So what can these so called “vital” vacations do for you?

–          Vacations allow us to take a break and help keep burnouts away.

–          Productivity is decreased when workers are overworked, under-rested, and stretched to the limit.

–          Stress levels are lowered when we take time to refresh and rejuvenate.

–          Time to ourselves can promote creativity, giving you an opportunity to freshen up your outlook and come back to work with a new set of eyes to tackle problems that may have been plaguing you.

It may be a difficult task and a terrifying scenario for some… but ladies and gentleman, turn off your business Blackberries, set your email office assistant to “On,” and unplug your brain from business. Keep reminding yourself that the office will not implode or self destruct while you take a little hiatus. Trust in the staff that you have selected and trained to take care of this when you are gone.

For some suggestions of a few places to put your troubles on the back-burner, see U.S. News list of Best Relaxing Getaways in the United States. If an extravagant vacation is not in your future, do something fun close to home. Go camping with friends, book a stay-cation in town, or schedule a spa day or a round of golf with friends.

Where would you want to go on vacation or who out there is taking an interesting trip this year? I would love to hear about them!



Suiting Up for Summer

Hello Readers!

For some of our readers summer has started showing its strength already, while for others, it is just beginning to break through. With the first official day of summer on June 20, 2012, a shift in attire will surely become necessary. With the increased temperatures and humid weather, many pieces in your work wardrobe will need to be retired until next Fall if you plan to survive the next few months. Sure, we would all love to sport our best beachwear or a comfy Maybe the policy on casual summer attire should have been a little clearer!pair of flip-flops and shorts to the office, but unfortunately, for most professional work places, a few poor dressing decisions could land you a permanent vacation from your position.

Here are some standard guidelines to follow when making your summer selections.

–          Tank tops, halter tops, tube tops, or any top for that matter than openly exposes your shoulders or shows off a little too much of your recently bronzed skin are not acceptable. My motto is — when in doubt, take sleeveless out. If you cannot bear to be sleeved to and from the office, bring a sweater to wear while on the job and remove it when away from your workspace.

–          Make sure to wear appropriate footwear to work. I, for one, would much rather don the new rhinestone-embellished flip-flops I picked up last weekend than some stuffy closed-toe shoes. But dress codes are not in place to take the fun out of personal expression; they are there for your safety while on the job. Strappy sandals and flip-flops provide zero protection from the injuries inflicted by a tumbling box or sharp corner. In addition, the noise sandals and flip-flops make while walking down the hall are truly annoying to your coworkers. Save them for the weekend.

–          Shorts are a tricky subject. Some offices allow them, and others strictly forbid them. I suggest steering clear of shorts. Length, style, fit, and fabric can easily take shorts from professional to inappropriate very quickly. For women, shorts should have a minimum of a 5” inseam; for men, cargo shorts and worn-in styles should be taken out of the running.

–           As far as short-sleeved shirts go, try to stick with button-down styles. Polo shirts and golf shirts should be avoided.

–          Women should avoid casual sundresses. No matter how cute they may be for a weekend getaway, they may not be appropriate for an office setting.

The rules around summer dress code can be expansive and never-ending. Each office and human resources department will have their own set of guidelines and ideas on what office attire is included and excluded from their culture. When in doubt, consult your HR manager if you have any questions and BEFORE wearing an outfit to the office. The last thing you would want to have happen is that you are sent home for inappropriate wardrobe choices.

Check out these links to get more tips and visuals on what to wear in the summer heat!

The New Power Suit for Summer

How to Dress for Success in Warm Weather

How to Dress Business Casual During a Blistering Hot Summer – For Women

Smart Girls Guide to Business Casual This Summer

What are your summer work style suggestions?

Look forward to your comments!



Dress For Success

A reader writes:

Hi Anita,

I have just recently graduated from college and have been on the hunt for employment since moving to back to my hometown. After sending out a slew of resumes and following up with prospective employers, I have been contacted by some and have several interviews scheduled for next week. What are some suggestions and guidelines that I should follow when choosing what to wear to the appointments?

Thanks for the great question. I am sure many of our readers have been plagued by the same question of “what do I wear?”

Remember, you only have one shot to make a GREAT first impression! Being dressed appropriately for an interview or job fair is a key component of landing your next position. Follow these simple guidelines to make sure you fit the part.

  • Be sure you look clean. Shower before your interview. For women, your hair, make-up, and overall appearance should be on the conservative side. For men, be sure you are clean shaven and hair is well groomed.
  • Cover all visible tattoos and remove excessive piercings. As a general rule, earrings are acceptable, but any oversized or loud jewelry could be off-putting.
  • Clean, iron, and press the clothing you will be interviewing in. Stains, wrinkles, and creases can deter employers from selecting you as their next candidate. If you look sloppy and careless, how much will you care about your work performance and professionalism in the workplace?
  • Stay away from see-through or low-cut blouses, jeans, sandals, and t-shirts during an interview. Men should wear long-sleeved, button-down shirts and preferably a tie. Women should not have bare shoulders or skin-tight clothing. You want to show your interviewer that you are taking this opportunity seriously and have dressed up for the occasion.
  • Make sure your clothing also fits you properly. Shirts are the right size (not too big or too small); pants and coat sleeves are hemmed to the appropriate length.
  • Skirts should be no shorter than 3 inches above the knee. Cropped pants for both men and women should be avoided.
  • Avoid or limit the use of perfume and cologne. You want them to remember you for your professional demeanor and ability to communicate, not your new fragrance. Some people may also be allergic or turned away by certain scents.
  • Wash and clean under your finger nails before the interview. Avoid brightly colored nail polish, chipped or distracting manicures, and dirty fingernails.
  • Both men and women should wear closed-toe shoes. Men: if you wear a black belt, wear black shoes. Same with a brown belt; wear brown shoes to match.
  • Women: Make sure your heel is an appropriate height, shoes are not worn or in bad shape, and that your footwear is not distracting. Choose simple conservative colors, patterns, shapes, and styles.
  • Remember what position you are applying or interviewing for. What you would wear to the neighborhood hangout or newest night spot is NOT okay for an interview. Stay away from brightly colored fabrics, shiny or sparkly materials, and embellished shirts.
  • Handbags and briefcases should be neutral in color and style. This is not an opportunity to flaunt or show off your eclectic taste.
  • Turn off your cell phones and other electronics. Even on vibrate, they can be distracting.

Check out this nifty video I found. It has some great pointers with a few laughs along the way. Enjoy!

Best Wishes,



Handling A Layoff

A reader writes,

Dear Anita,

I have just recently been let go from my job. I did not see this coming, and I am starting to get really worried about what is going to happen next. What can I do to keep myself sane and organized in such a difficult time?

Dear Fish out of Water,

I am very sorry to hear about your recent layoff. Losing your source of income, professional connections, and many other benefits can be a very hard and difficult pill to swallow. But have no fear, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel.

First off, as hard as it may be, try your best not to panic. It may seem like it, but no, the world is not coming to an end and the sky is not falling. Collect your thoughts and do not display anger or do anything unprofessional upon receiving the news. You never know, the company may want you to come back in a few short months. But if you make a scene and make a terrible decision to bad-mouth your boss or vandalize company property, you will never get that chance.

After you have gotten yourself together, ask your supervisor for details about why it didn’t work out. It may be painful to hear what went wrong, but if you take it as constructive criticism, it will help you tremendously in your next venture.

Finally, ask what type of severance package you will receive and whether the company is enlisting the help of a placement service or employment agency to help you find a new position elsewhere. If not, take control yourself and find the nearest placement agency and fill out the application the minute you walk out of that office. My friends at Select Staffing (www.selectstaffing.com) have a simple online application and have helped many people find work in tough situations.

Now that you are officially unemployed, you will want to make sure you have several things in order. First off, health benefits. Many insurance companies will offer major medical insurance for a minimal monthly fee that can save you thousands if an emergency surgery were to be necessary. COBRA will be offered from your employer but often is outrageously expensive. Review and consolidate your bills. Any extra luxury items, such as premium cable and your weekly Chinese takeout, may need to be removed from the budget for awhile.

Finally, get out of your house. Sitting at home sulking about how you are no longer employed will not get you anywhere. Try to exercise daily, join volunteer groups, make it a point to explore at least one professional networking event each week. The more you meet and mingle, the more likely you are to meet someone needing just your talents.

Keep your chin up and you will be okay!

Readers, I’m sure “Fish” would love to hear your words of encouragement as well. If you’ve been through a similar situation, please tell us how you rebounded!



Getting the Cold Shoulder

Dear Anita,

I just recently started a new position at a local company in the town that I live in. Everything is going great, but without any doing on my part, I already feel disliked and shunned by a group of 3 women in my office. I have tried to make conversation, be polite, and go above and beyond to break down any walls that may stand between us, but nothing has worked. What should I do?

Thank you for your question. It sounds like there already might have been some animosity and unhappiness brewing in your workplace before you started. Trust me, I’ve been there. It is hard to find something more uncomfortable on the first few days on the job than being given the cold shoulder for absolutely no reason. Most likely, you are not the only one who is feeling this way.

Cliques in the workplace should be avoided, but in most circumstances, they are inevitable. People naturally gravitate toward those who have similar interests, beliefs, cultures, and opinions. If there is some bad blood in the office, people will often end up choosing sides just like 3rd graders on the playground.

Here is my advice. Since you are new and haven’t had a chance to upset this persnickety bunch, I suggest focusing on your new position instead of on making friends. All you need to worry about is how well you perform and meet the expectations of your supervisors. If it becomes a bigger issue, bring it the attention of your HR manager. True HR professionals will be able to curtail the negativity without disclosing your identity.

The bottom line is: be courteous and respectful, but do not waste your energy going out of your way trying to win them over. You are only in control of your behavior and the decisions that you make. In the long run, these women’s actions will be detrimental and reflect badly on them.

My favorite quote and a great piece of advice is: “What other people think of me is none of my business!”

Who else has been stuck being the odd man out? How did you handle the situation? Is there still that awkward feeling when you encounter the people who made you feel excluded?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!



Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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