The Power of the Word “No”

by Tiffany Waddell Tate

It took me a long time to acknowledge and accept the power of the word “no.” A full sentence—generally requiring little to no explanation—it can be a professional’s best friend.

In the early days of my career, I found myself operating similarly to the way I did as an eager undergraduate student at a small liberal arts college: do more, with less time, and do it all exceptionally well—by any means necessary. Of course, this is not a sustainable way of life, nor one for the faint of heart. Saying “yes” to various opportunities, projects, and requests that come your way is a great way to build relationships across an organization. It is also a great way to cross-train and gather experience along the way. Once you are perceived as engaged and reliable, it can even lead to new opportunities, projects, and requests that further stretch your professional capacity to take on even more opportunities, projects, opportunities, and….well, you get my drift, right?

But what happens when the ethereal work/life balance ideal that we all want, feels a bit out of reach? What happens when burnout comes quickly and with a vengeance? Does your new lack of enthusiasm mean you aren’t actually built for the task or role at hand?

In creeps the imposter syndrome that many of us know and love (to hate). Saying no can feel like you are sabotaging your own career—or, so I used to think.

Saying no as appropriate allows me to not just get priority things done, but better handle all of the things on my plate. Being busy does not always mean better. Though I am pretty good at managing my time (for my StrengthsFinder friends in the audience—Achiever & Focus are in my top five!)—I find that creating more space (literally and figuratively) to work on things also fosters much more creativity. My overall sense of well-being is higher, and I am less likely to take work home with me (unless I want to, as opposed to feeling like I have to in order to stay afloat with my to-do list). I get in the zone—and wonderful things get accomplished—to do list and all!

Saying no, as appropriate, breeds healthy practices and work/life strategy. My call to action for you today, is to try it. It’s not always easy—but it is a must for survival and continued excellence and creativity.

What are you saying no to today, so that you can focus in on what matters most?

Tiffany Waddell TateTiffany Waddell Tate, Associate Director for Career Development, Davidson College
Personal blog:
http://www.tiffanywaddell.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tiffanywaddelltate Twitter: @tiffanyiwaddell

Practicing Self-Care at Work

by Tiffany Waddell Tate

If you’re like me, you may often wonder: are we living the values we encourage our students and colleagues to live?  When we are in career coaching sessions, workshops, and meetings charging others to show up with intention, work hard, and also integrate strategies into daily practice to promote wellness… are we living examples of what that looks like?  Part of my role in the career center includes managing an awesome group of student staff who assist with the front-of-house office operations and client engagement strategy.  For some, this is their first job, and they are constantly juggling academic and co-curricular expectations alongside it.  It’s important to me that they each show up with intention each day—but also have a safe space to explore what it means to develop professional competencies and balance multiple expectations even when their days are full, knowing that it will not always work out perfectly, but the goal is to learn and grow along the way.

When one of them asked me recently if I ever “unplug,” I was taken aback by the question.  As a recovering “workaholic” or someone who takes a great deal of ownership and responsibility in seeing projects through (whether for pay, volunteer, or fun!) while being a quality teammate—the concept of self-care seemed a selfish one earlier in my career.  Over time, I learned that not actively addressing it could impact professional outcomes and have negative health implications as well.  Particularly in a profession where interpersonal engagement is a large part of the work, taking care of self ensures your ability to adequately and healthily support others.  As a relatively new mom, I have also been forced to recalibrate how I use literally every hour of the day to ensure that I am fully engaged both professionally and personally.  I have thought a lot about what balance could or should look like in the next phase of my career as I continue to take on more leadership. It’s imperative to take time to consider these things, or burnout is inevitable. For many, that may be easier said that done if you have always been successful juggling many different priorities without a tiny human, partner, or aging parent depending on you at the same time.  As I seek to continue to lead and inspire, how I show up and live my values is critical to how I create space for others to do the same.

Practicing self-care at work is crucial to maximizing productivity, focus, and promoting a culture of overall wellness. Here are a few strategies that I employ in my day to day to actively practice self-care at work:

Water, Water, Everywhere.  I love water. I have found, though, that if i’m not careful—I could go hours or even a whole day without drinking enough of it! When my calendar is stacked with back-to-back meetings and no built-in breaks, I have even been known to forget to eat. Terrible, right? One trick I’ve found is to find a large water bottle or cup (24-36 oz.) and fill it up at the beginning of the day. That way, even if I have limited transition time between coaching sessions or other meetings, my water is handy to sip throughout the day and i’m less likely to dehydrate. I especially love bottles with visible measurements so I can track my overall intake, too.

Take a Lap. What professional hasn’t seen articles on how awful sitting down for hours is for your body? A quick Internet search can provide you with a wealth of knowledge on the health implications of not getting enough movement throughout the day. I have some colleagues who take advantage of walking meetings (meetings on foot while walking around campus), but I have been known to take a quick lap around the main floor of the student union where I work in between meetings as time permits.  It provides a quick energy boost, a change of scenery, and a chance to see more friendly faces that I could go days or even weeks without seeing!

Peaceful Tunes. Prior to sharing an office space with another colleague, I regularly used an Internet radio platform like Pandora or Spotify to play “focus music.” Upbeat, but generally instrumental playlists were great for certain projects or work tasks when I wanted to focus in but still have ambient noise.  Now I pop out into flexible spaces if I need to focus in on a project or e-mail management with music sans headphones, and typically have a white noise machine blowing at all times to eliminate background noise or interruptions.

Phone a Friend. Lunch time is a great time to connect with friends or mentors you don’t have a chance to talk with during peak times in your life when time is simply limited. Scheduling phone or Skype time during lunch break is one way I try to be intentional about staying connected to those close to me, but also hold myself accountable for actually taking a lunch break away from my desk or work. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s always something to look forward to when planned ahead of time.

One and Done. Prioritizing tasks is vital when you want to accomplish a lot with limited time.  Typically, I am very good at this—especially when I have the opportunity to manage my workflow and time as needed. I am also aware that if i’m not careful, e-mail management could quickly become an all day thing!  Rather than multitasking on 500 different individual things, I create action lists and prioritize by what’s most important that day, week, or month.  If a project or meeting requires full attention, I have learned to shut my e-mail down until I’m done working so that I’m not tempted by new message notifications! I find that this increases efficiency and presence in the moment with individuals and projects at hand.

I would love to know what you do to actively practice self-care!  Please share in the comments below.

Tiffany Waddell TateTiffany Waddell Tate, Associate Director for Career Development, Davidson College
Personal blog:
http://www.tiffanywaddell.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tiffanywaddelltate Twitter: @tiffanyiwaddell

Tips for Networking as an Introvert

tiffany waddellTiffany I. Waddell, Assistant Director for Career Development, Davidson College
Personal blog: www.tiffanywaddell.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tiffanyiwaddell
Twitter: @tiffanyiwaddell

So… being an introvert does NOT mean you don’t have social skills. As career development folks, we all know this, right? Right. However, it does mean that for many of us, being around lots of people at one time can be draining. I am what you might consider an “expressive” introvert, so I am often mistaken as an extrovert. While both preferences have strengths and weaknesses, I love the fact that I am introspective— I enjoy real conversations [read: no small talk]—and can still make connections in a myriad of contexts. However, given that my day-to-day professional life requires me to talk to many different people, and I am fairly involved in our state association, I thought it might be helpful to share my top 10 networking tips that work for me, for readers who are still polishing their networking skills.

Find the refreshments! It’s always a great idea to position yourself at a healthy distance from the refreshments. Many people start there when they get to a networking event in order to take a break from a potentially overwhelming space. You can easily strike up a conversation as people turn around with a drink or food in their hands.

Set reasonable expectations. When attending an event, prep yourself mentally for what you are there to do. Is your goal to meet more people? Is it to learn more about the organization’s culture? Is it to meet one or two specific people? Make sure you set reasonable expectations before hand, so that you have a goal in mind. It is a great way to keep you from getting overwhelmed, too.

Start a conversation with a loner. It’s usually easier to start a conversation with someone who is standing alone, because they will most likely be happy to have someone to talk to—and as a result, are often more personable and easier to connect with.

Avoid barging into groups. A cluster of more than four people can be awkward—and tough to enter. Join the group on one side, but don’t try to enter the conversation until you’ve made eye contact with each person at least one time. Usually, people will make room to add you to the “circle” of conversation, and you can introduce yourself then!

“Look mom, no hands!” Keep at least one hand free at all times! This means no eating and drinking at the same time if you are at a networking mixer or conference reception. Leaving one hand free menas you can still shake hands with people without being awkward and fumbling around.

Be yourself. Networking events are meant as starting points for professional relationships. If you can’t be yourself—and you aren’t comfortable in your own skin—then the people you meet will be connecting with someone you’re impersonating, and not the real you. Be genuine. Authenticity tends to attract much of the same.

Be present and engaged. Ever talked to someone that acts like you’re the only person in the room? Someone who listens and makes you feel like everything you are saying is important? I love those people! They really make you feel heard. Keep eye contact and lean in or tilt your body toward people when you talk to them.  (Not in a creepy way. In a “I’m listening to you, and I’m fully present” kinda way.)

Treat people like friends. Unless, of course, you are a terrible friend. Would you go to a friend and interrupt their conversation, hand over a business card, and walk away?  No. Networking events are not transactions. Treat new people as you’d treat your friends—build a rapport, be trustworthy, and then talk shop.

72-hour rule. After a conference or networking event, you have about 72 hours to follow-up with a person on LinkedIn or via e-mail. Reference something that you talked about and ask what the best way to stay connected might be. After 72 hours—they might have forgotten you.

Practice makes perfect. Well, not really perfect. Progress is always better than perfection! The point here is that networking is a skill, like any other professional skill.  It is a muscle that you have to develop and grow. While others may look like born networkers, they are more than likely just more experienced with it. Mistakes may happen, but the only way to learn is to get out there and do it!

What tips and advice do YOU have that have worked for you when networking?  Are you an introvert?  Tell us more in the comments below!

Seeking Minimalism in a World of Clutter: My Office Décor Tour

tiffany waddellTiffany I. Waddell, Assistant Director for Career Development, Davidson College
Personal blog: www.tiffanywaddell.com
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tiffanyiwaddell
Twitter: @tiffanyiwaddell

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that the life of a career adviser, coach, or counselor (pick your fancy) requires a great deal of organization, balance, and efficiency. Particularly when we, as higher-ed administrators, are called to do and be more with student needs, ideas, and skill gaps—with the same amount of time to use each day. I consider myself a fairly good manager of my time—I am a list queen, of course. As an introvert, I tend to plan my attack on the day long before I get into the office, and I am at my best when I am organized.

However, I am always on a quest for more balance and clarity. For me, that often begins with the physical space around me. How can I maximize my productivity and create a warm and welcoming environment for students who visit my office? How can I create a space that encourages my own creativity and idea generation, but that is still professional and organized? Transitioning into a new role this year gave me the opportunity to try something new with my work space, though it is always evolving.

Here are a few pictures of my work space, and the items that make my home-away-from-home a comfortable space to coach, create, and conquer.  Enjoy!  I hope it inspires you to create a warm, comfortable work space of your own!

globe light

Fun globe light:  Most days I work in my office without the use of an overhead light.  Overhead lights can be rough on the eyes, contribute to headaches, and even make you feel a little blah. It’s not easy to turn off the overhead light when the weather is gloomy, but using lights like these instead help brighten up the room without being too jarring.

 

tissuesHand sanitizer, tissues, and an hourglass: Hand sanitizer and tissues?  Sometimes students and visitors bring flu and cold germs along, so I always recommend having some of both available within arm’s reach.  The hourglass was a fun find. I don’t actually use it to time sessions.  Ha!

 

 

prints

Wall art: Prints courtesy of a Google search. I love to add a splash of color in an otherwise neutral space, because it’s unexpected, vibrant, and allows me to add a bit of my own flavor while still being professional.  The quotes are also two of my all-time favorites.

 

organizer

Workstation organizer: When I arrived, the organizer was already in my office—and I find that it comes in handy to store folders of commonly used teaching tools and handouts (like career assessment access instructions!). This also minimizes the amount of clutter floating around the office space, leaving the tabletop free for project work or program prep.

sound machine

Sound machine: A must have.  It helps calm the space, muffles  outside noise, and (I think) helps minimize noise that travels from my office into the larger office.  Also helpful when I’m writing, because it provides just the right amount of white noise.

 

 

Desk Mantra

Desk Mantra: Speaks for itself.  This is double-sided and serves as a reminder for me …and all of the students and staff who visit.  We can definitely do anything.  But not everything.

Thanks for reading! Please share in the comments below how you jazz up your office space and create a warm, inviting space to counsel and coach clients. I would love to hear from you.