Jobs. (Photo credit: Flazingo.com)

Jobs. Photo by Flazingo.com

Do you feel like you’re banging your head against a wall trying to get people to respond to your requests for job search help or informational interviews? Here’s a list of reasons why people in your network may be reluctant to help you.

While you can’t control all factors, you can influence the process and start to see better results.

1. You forgot to say thank you in the past. If someone helps you or offers to help, you say thank you, right? This seems obvious and yet people forget or neglect to express heartfelt thanks or even a quick note of gratitude. When you do not say thank you, chances are that person will be disinclined to help you in the future. And that may be the reason they are slow to get back to you in the present.

I recently let a recent graduate know, through our mutual connection, that he really should have acknowledged the pro bono revisions I made to his resume. After two weeks went by I wondered what had happened and why I bothered. He wrote back to me right away and I’m happy to help him in the future.

Strategy: Acknowledge thoughtful emails sent to you related to your job search. Write an enthusiastic note along the lines of, “Thanks so much. I’m always so grateful for your help and support.” If you reflect and realize that you’ve forgotten to send a thank you in the past, it’s never too late to start now. Sending a handwritten thank you note in the mail after an informational interview can also be a nice touch.

2. They have been burned in the past (by someone else) and are less willing to help you. Sometimes an unwillingness to help has nothing to do with you; a previous experience left them burned. Perhaps they made an introduction and the person was unprofessional or flaked out. This made them look bad. As a result, they’ve become more cautious about handing over their trusted network to just anyone.

Strategy: Demonstrate that you have the utmost respect for professional relationships by being enthusiastic, grateful and reliable in all of your communication. Follow up on emails promptly. Remember to circle back around and share the outcome of any introductions. I call this closing the networking loop.

3. They are afraid you are going to ask for a job. Since a friend of mine started working for Google, the number of emails he receives from acquaintances has increased exponentially. Many of these requests for help do not mention specific positions or areas of interest – they just want a job at Google, any job. He’s now started to decline these requests since he’s not able to help and is overwhelmed by the number of emails.

Strategy: In your communication, state that you will not be asking this person for a job referral, especially if it’s at a highly competitive company. Let them offer that to you, if they choose. Instead, you can ask for an informational interview with assurances that it’s for research purposes only. Remember that relationship-building is a longer term process and an initial conversation can be the start of building trust.

4. They are too busy. There’s not much you can do when a person’s schedule makes them so busy that they never respond to emails. Don’t take this personally. You can move on and try more contacts after you’ve followed up 2 to 3 weeks later. It once took me a full year to get an informational interview. It turned out the person had been getting married at the time of my original ask so it was not great timing. When I re-forwarded my email a year later, still expressing enthusiasm for learning more about her work, we spoke soon after.

Strategy: Follow up after two weeks. If you still don’t receive a response then let it go, for now. You can always let more time go by and try once more in a month or two. Use the “two-part email” – where you write the email for the person - to ensure a greater chance of response if you are asking for a networking introduction. Also, try ending your email with a question such as, “Might a brief conversation in the next few weeks work for you?” since people are more likely to respond to an email that closes with a question.

5. You are vague or unclear about what you are asking for. When people send around generic emails saying, “I’m looking for a job. Can you help me?” it’s like you’re asking them to do your job search for you. Most people won’t bother to write back to emails that are vague or unclear. It will seem to you like they do not wish to help though it may simply be they do not know how.

Strategy: See “Need a Favor? Ask For It!” on how to construct a more clear and specific ask to your network so they do not have to connect all the dots for you. Your network’s time is precious so don’t waste it.

Find a Job

To do: Find a Job. How? Get a buddy. (Photo credit: http://www.flazingo.com)

Just like running a marathon or achieving a weight loss goal, it helps to have someone to keep you accountable when it comes to job searching. I call this an accountability partner or job search buddy. When women I’m working with on job searches are having a hard time staying on track, I match them up with a similarly situated job seeker or suggest they find a buddy right away.

Here are some suggestions for how to successfully work with an accountability partner on your job search:

First, find the right person. There are any number of ways to find an accountability partner. It might be a friend, an alumna of your college, or someone from an unrelated hobby. Don’t be afraid to take the first step toward reaching out to someone you are not all that close to, knowing most people benefit from help when it comes to job searching. This could be a great way to make a new friend or to simply get the support you both need. If you’re truly stuck and coming up empty on possible partners, attend a local MeetUp group, professional association meeting, or college alumni networking event. There are guaranteed to be people who are also job seeking. You can get together for coffee and assess whether there’s a match.

Determine where and how often you’d like to meet. Do you want to meet in person and work side by side at a coffee shop? Do you prefer phone calls and emails only? Would you like to speak weekly? Get clear about your ideal accountability situation and then find out what your partner is looking for. I recommend weekly phone calls or coffee meetings, at least to start.

Focus on short-term goal setting. When I’ve had an accountability partner, we would speak on Monday mornings about what each of us wanted to accomplish in the week ahead. She would check in with me later in the week and vice versa. It helped that we both were committed to the process and liked the idea of peer coaching. For job seekers, pick items that are proving difficult for you to move forward on like writing a cover letter or reaching out to someone who intimidates you. These are ideal action steps that an accountability partner can help you commit to.

Celebrate wins and get over losses. Part of the joy of having a partner is to celebrate small wins like sending off an application, getting an interview or finally speaking to that senior executive at your dream company that you’ve been trying to reach for weeks. Even if these actions do not ultimately lead to anything, it’s nice to have someone there cheering you on. Alternatively, when you don’t get the job after five rounds of interviews, it’s also extremely helpful to have emotional support and someone to encourage you to keep moving forward.

Why job search, or try to achieve any big goal for that matter, alone when you could enjoy the process and yield better results by having an accountability partner to help get you there.

Women jobseekers in NYC: To get support for your search, including accountability, dates for Love Your Job Search in September are now up. 

Kat GriffinWhen the Love Your Job blog received its highest number of hits in five years last month from a small mention on Corporette.com, a site dedicated to fashion and career advice for corporate women, I had to learn more about the site and its founder Kat Griffin. A former attorney, Kat started Corporette in 2008 and now has over 180,000 readers and a strong commenting community. Here’s Kat Griffin and why she loves her job:

1. What do you love about your job?

As a blogger and small business owner I set my own hours — and my own metrics for success. I love the flexibility (particularly with a toddler in the mix and baby #2 on the way), mixed with the constant challenge and learning that comes with growing a small business.

2. Did you always know this was the job or career path for you?

I had no idea this career path even existed! First I went to journalism school to be a magazine journalist. I worked in that field for about two seconds (fine, two years) before deciding I wanted to be a media lawyer, and went off to Georgetown Law. I practiced as a lawyer for 9 years — starting my blog somewhere around the six-year mark. I loved the work I was doing as a lawyer (media/First Amendment/IP issues) but the blog was growing and it seemed like a great opportunity, so I pursued that.

3. What are the most important lessons you have you learned along the way?

Always be learning and reading! I read hundreds of publications every month.

4. Tell us about a defining moment for you related to your work.

I was really honored when Forbes magazine called my site “the go-to site for professional women” — it gave me the push I needed to leave my legal career and focus on blogging full time.

5. What advice do you have for people looking to find work they love, in your field, or any field?

Read everything — industry publications, regular publications, maybe even set up some Google Alerts on major players in your field. Then, when you see an interesting article or new development, you’ll be on top of it — and when you’re junior, being on top of that stuff is an easy way to impress your superiors.

I’d also suggest that women pay attention to how they measure success (and how their boss does) — I tend to do better (and feel better) about work where I’m getting reinforcement that I’m doing a good job. (“Gold stars,” I joke.) Law was hard for me because there were so many long cases and team efforts, but blogging is easier for me (like school was) because I can check numerical metrics like money and traffic to gauge my success.

Visit Corporette.com for fashion, career and lifestyle advice. For more on Kat Griffin’s career story, check out her profile in Liz Brown’s book Life After LawSign up to receive our blog posts delivered to your inbox by Subscribing to LYJ.

Fortune Cookie - Photo by Flazingo Photos

A new job is in your future. (Photo by http://www.flazingo.com)

How long do you have to wait before the right job comes along? In my experience, it depends on a range of factors. The right job may arrive quickly or it could take some time.

I lead quarterly coaching groups for women jobseekers in NYC. When I realized that all five participants in the November/December 2012 Love Your Job Search Class secured brand new jobs at great companies in their fields of choice, I wanted to learn more about the steps they took following the class and how long it took for each of them to reach their goal. In the case of this cohort, it turned out to be anywhere from 3 to 16 months.

Here’s a profile of the five women (names have been changed) in the LYJ class that ended December 17, 2012, how long it took each of them to find that right next job, along with their tips for success:

YOLANDA
Previously: Field Organizer for Government Educational Campaign (Contract)
New role: Program Manager for major government contract at Environmental Non-profit
Secured new job: January 2014 (12 months)
Secrets to Her Success: “After lots of close calls, I felt confident that I had gained the right interview skills from Suzanne’s class, but I wasn’t finding the right fit. Finally a hiring manager who previously didn’t hire me sent me an available position similar to the one I wasn’t selected for. When I went in for the interview, I felt like my strongest self and was able to display my confidence and genuine enthusiasm. As a result, the woman interviewing me (who is now my supervisor) asked if I would be interested in a managerial position, rather than the coordinator position I applied for! I had never had a promotion at an actual job, and here I was being promoted in the interview. It helped that I had many connections in the field and in the organization. My advice is to be relentless in your search, know that being rejected isn’t personal (if it is, you didn’t want to work there anyway), and to convey enthusiasm. Listen to your gut feeling of the workplace and always ask about the office culture. Eat beans for a few extra weeks if you have to–you don’t want to spend 8+ hours every day being completely miserable.”

EMMA
Previously: Event Coordinator, Major Sporting Event Company (temporary/contract)
New role: Digital Marketing Consultant, American Express
Secured new job: March 2013 (3 months)
Secrets to Her Success: “Suzanne’s class helped me to reach my full potential through honing in on my core strengths, tapping into my inner network and connecting with my broader network. Many of the exercises forced me to do some soul searching to uncover the themes, personality strengths and ultimately my values, motivations, and ambitions. Having a clearer picture of who I am and what I want in a career helped to crystallize my vision for my dream job, which was/is working in a digitally focused marketing role at American Express! My advice: Challenge yourself to go outside your comfort zone, take risks, surround yourself with a strong support system and don’t stop believing in yourself. And finally, be prepared!!”

DANIELA
Previously: Administrative Assistant at a commercial media company
New role: Executive Assistant to leadership of media company with brand she respects and values plus a significant salary increase
Secured new job: April 2014 (16 months)
Secrets to Her Success: “Honestly, I did not spend a ton of time all year looking and applying…but I generally had it top of mind, and applied to things here and there, and I kept saying that I wanted to work in a place like TED because I wanted to be around learning and ideas. So I kept putting that intention out there. It also helped that my friend got a job at [the new media company] and her boss submitted on my behalf to Human Resources. After that I had to prove myself, and I’m grateful they’ve given me a chance considering I don’t have C-level experience. But they were looking deeper than specific executive experience.”

FAYE 
Previously: Compliance Analyst, Small Financial Firm
New role: Senior Compliance Officer/Assistant Vice President, Global Financial Firm on her target list of employers
Secured new job: July 2013 (7 months)
Secrets to Her Success:  “I was looking and applying for new roles for quite some time and wasn’t finding anything close to what I wanted so I took the approach of allowing the universe to align things, at the right time and in the right way. I started acting like I already had the job I wanted and preparing for the new job, while working in my current job. Shortly after, a recruiter whom I had never spoken to sent me an email regarding a job opportunity at a company which was number 2 on my list. This was was totally amazing but at first I didn’t quite take it seriously since I had been applying and talking to various recruiters without any success. However, we met, went over details regarding the role and got started with the interview process. It was one of the smoothest processes I’ve ever had. So my advice would be to have a little faith, have a clear vision of what you want, and prepare for it. Now I’ve started applying this approach to other areas of my life.”

ABIGAIL
Previously: Manager at a restaurant
New role: Operations Manager for a middle & high school in Brooklyn
Secured new job: September 2013 (9 months)
Secrets to Her Success: “Things really kicked off for me when I took the LYJ class. The structure and tangible guidance Suzanne provided put me in the right space when I actively started looking for a new job. My resume is a point of pride for me. It had to stitch together disparate jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities, and tell a story that would make sense to future employers. In the end, I was in the right place at the right time. I saw the position posted on Idealist.org and applied that day. The hiring manager, who’s now my supervisor, saw in my combination of work experience and master’s in education a candidate who’d be the right fit for the school. One week from applying, they made an offer.”

To figure out how long it will take you to find a new job, a colleague of mine created a formula which involves noting competition in the market, your sense of urgency, relevant experience and how much effort you’re actually putting in. While not scientific, it’s helpful to think about, especially the parts of a job search you can control.

I truly believe that with a concerted effort, being smart about your search, and making use of your networks, a new job is around every corner. Check out additional Secrets of My Success blog posts for more inspiration.

For support with your search in NYC, the next Love Your Job Search five-week class for women jobseekers starts on Monday, June 2. This is the last class until the fall. Space is limited.

Networking Event / Freelancer's Union

Networking Event / Freelancer’s Union

I was recently asked about the best ways for introverts to become more comfortable with networking. Given it’s such an important part of a job search process and career growth in general, it’s helpful to figure out strategies that will work best for you. As a no-longer-ashamed introvert, I offer the following tips:

1. Remember networking is not only about attending large events. Most introverts do better in one-to-one interactions so feel free to skip the event in favor of putting your energy into coffee meetings. Chances are the payoff will be greater anyway since you’ve targeted the person you’d like to speak with in advance. Sometimes people think this form of networking “doesn’t count”. In reality, this may be the only form of networking you need. Events, while valuable, are less predictable in terms of who you will meet.

2. If you do go to events, arrive early before people are clustered into groups. I’ve personally found it much easier to mingle at the beginning of an event when only a handful of people are there rather than walk into an overwhelming room buzzing with conversation. Arrive early, making it easier to get acclimated to the space, and introduce yourself to someone new.

3. Understand that most people feel uncomfortable at large networking events. If you feel nervous or intimated by the thought of going to a networking event, you are definitely not alone. Give yourself a pep talk before the event by reading parts of Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” or by watching her TED talks before attending an event.

4. Set small goals. I encourage people to set small goals rather than pressuring yourself to walk away with 10 business cards and feeling bad when you don’t. Make yourself talk to 3 new people and then give yourself permission to call it a night. If you’re an extreme introvert, even talking to one person may be a big victory for you and then it will get easier the next time. It helps to determine in advance an opening line such as, “What brings you here tonight?”

5. Recharge your batteries. If you’re like me, as an introvert you need lots of down time after a networking event or conference. Celebrate by going home to your favorite book, hot bath, or whatever non-activity restores you. If you’re at a multi-day conference, make a choice to opt out of some sessions in favor of being alone. One of my best weekend experiences was when I decided to get a 30 minute massage rather than squeeze in another workshop, however exciting they all sounded. I felt so restored after this brief timeout that I was far more present for the rest of the event.

What have you learned for yourself about networking? How can you embrace rather than avoid networking events?

Law - BalanceLater this month, my colleague Jennifer Bird and I will be leading our seventh workshop for women attorneys considering a career change, whether within the law or outside the law altogether.

For those outside the law, it’s hard to understand why someone would consider walking away from a high salary in such a well-respected profession. Yet this group of women attorneys is one of the most well qualified to explain why money doesn’t buy happiness.

About three quarters of the women who attend our workshops are employed at mid- to large-sized law firms in the NYC area. The rest work at smaller firms or in public interest positions. They are typically in their late 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, and anywhere from one to six years out of law school. As a whole, they are smart and accomplished women who worked hard to get where they are. What they all have in common: dissatisfaction with their jobs and a desire to find a better fit, combined with uncertainty about their future career options.

Here are some of the most common reasons why women choose to spend the day with us to explore their alternatives:

Chained to the BlackBerry. With few exceptions, attorneys in our workshops overwhelmingly talk about the lack of work-life balance as a primary reason they are burnt out, frustrated and seeking a change. Many describe situations with “zero flexibility” and an expectation that they are “always on call.” This is even from workplaces that claim otherwise on their websites. The hours are described as long and “out of control” resulting in an inability to make plans outside of work and stressful workplaces with “intense pressure”.

Lack of meaning. I suspect that women in law would find the hours more tolerable if the content of the work itself felt more purposeful. Instead, participants in our workshops talk about often feeling like a “cog in the wheel” and helping wealthy corporate clients get even wealthier. Some describe the work as “not engaging or challenging” and “dry or boring”. Long hours at a job lacking in greater meaning eventually takes a toll on many of the women we meet.

Toxic or dysfunctional environments or people. While this is not true in every case, some women in our workshops talk about senior staff or clients as micromanaging or “abusive” in the extreme, resulting in continual daily anxiety. Others describe a constant fear of making mistakes.

Not much to aspire to. Whether right after law school or several years in, women start to ask, “Is this all there is?” The “move up or out” mantra sets in, leaving women at a crossroads: Do they work their way up to partner or get out of the profession altogether before it feels too late to make a change? Unfortunately, with fewer women at the top to serve as role models, and environments that do not match what they are looking for long-term, women in our workshops report feeling there is no where to go professionally, especially when the long road to partner does not prove an appealing goal.

To be sure, women at our workshops do acknowledge the bright side of the law. This includes professional well-resourced environments, smart colleagues, learning new skills and expertise, and the benefits of the higher compensation levels are not lost on them. Yet, the challenges are strong enough to outweigh these positives, causing them to seek a change.

It’s not easy for any attorney contemplating a career transition to figure out what is right for her. Some need a less dramatic change such as a different and better company culture. Others know right away they need to shift their identity away from “lawyer” to something new and unknown, which is scary and a process that can take time.

While we may not be able to tell each participant in our workshop exactly what is right for her, what we do know is there are always options and the possibility for something more, and a thoughtful process that can help you get there.

Thanks to Jennifer Bird for contributing to this post.

LYJ (Love Your Job) is pleased to offer our Career Workshop for Women Lawyers in New York City on Sunday, April 27. 

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Recently, I suggested to a client that she may want to ask for feedback after receiving a generic rejection letter following a second interview. I’ve written previously about the value of asking for feedback after a job interview process where you do not get the job, especially for a position you truly wanted. Usually this is best requested as a brief 5 to 10 minute phone call since most people will not put honest feedback in writing.

Though she was ambivalent about the role to begin with, Tamara* decided to ask for feedback as a way to practice that skill. Here’s what she received in response:

Yellow flowersHi Tamara,

Thank you for reaching out. What it came down to is enthusiasm and excitement, which came through in the second interview, but not in the first. You have excellent experience, but passion and really showing that you’ve thought about the job and done research on the company, made the difference for us.

Thank you again & I wish you the best of luck in your search.
Sincerely,
Carla

Tamara said to me: “I have to admit it did not feel good. I cried and I felt bad when I read it.” While it never feels good to hear something critical about our presentation skills, it is an opportunity to learn and better prepare for the next time. I let Tamara know it’s rare to receive this type of candid information, especially over email.

In Tamara’s case, enthusiasm and energy were part of the feedback. Several jobs ago I also received similar feedback, and it was really only thanks to my enthusiastic thank you emails that I was able to continue forward to each successive round. I know this because my future boss later admitted she didn’t think I was that interested in the job initially, which I was surprised to hear. Lesson learned: leave any ambivalence at the door and show up extra enthusiastic to the interview. For some people that may mean raising up your energy a notch beyond what feels normal to you.

As for the interviewer’s additional note about researching the company, this is also important information for all jobseekers. Companies want to hire the person who is not only the most qualified, but also the most curious, interested, and engaged with the job at hand. This requires more than a cursory glance at the company website when walking into the interview. Tamara has learned her lesson and is surely on her way to her next exciting role with this information, even if it felt painful at first to hear.

It takes courage to ask for feedback. Sometimes you will learn that being passed over had nothing to do with you. They hired an internal candidate or decided to take the job in a different direction. In other cases, you might not like what you hear though it could be what will propel you to your next opportunity.

Keep in mind that you may need a trusted friend or advisor to help you make sense of the feedback. Tamara let me know how important it was to hear my re-framing of the email since her initial reaction was defensive, along the lines of “their loss”.  While it was their loss, it’s also her (and potentially your) gain when honest information is offered on ways you can improve for the next time.

* Name and identifying details have been changed to protect anonymity.

I have not written a post in some time but was inspired to do so when I saw this reference in a recent New York Times article to a program that provides women lawyers returning to the workforce (after years spent caring for children or other family members) with paid internships at top New York law firms. [1]

One of the toughest issues women lawyers who opt out of the workforce face when they are ready to return is how incredibly difficult it can be to even get in the door for an interview given the stigma attached to taking time off.  This program eliminates that difficulty by providing women with the key to that door and also acknowledges that years spent caring for loved ones doesn’t diminish one’s talents and ability (and may even provide them with additional life experience and contacts that can later provide invaluable. See: last week’s episode (#14) of The Good Wife).  I like too that the program normalizes culturally the ideaThe Good Wife that it is ok to come in and out of the workforce.

Both lawyering and motherhood are incredibly demanding and time-intensive.  The idea that a woman, particularly one who is driven to excel like many lawyers are, might want to devote her attention fully to one or the other at different points in her life makes perfect sense.

Taking care of children and devoting time to that doesn’t mean a woman gives up completely on other personal and professional goals.  A program like this acknowledges that fact and reduces the penalty that women experience if they do leave the workforce.  I am excited to see a something like this and hope to see more in the future.

1. According to the New York Times article, several applicants to the program were women who recently completed the New Directions for Attorneys program that Pace Law School started in 2007 to help people return to the legal profession.

When LYJ client Olivia Greene* mentioned that she was feeling happier at work as a result of reading meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg’s latest book, I asked her if she would write a review, sharing some of her biggest takeaways.

Real Happiness at WorkHere’s Olivia’s guest post:

In Real Happiness at Work, Sharon Salzberg’s first question to her readers is, “When we took this job did we expect it to make us happy?”

She promises us that the tool of meditation is the way to find happiness, no matter what our actual jobs are. Working as a more junior person in a high-pressure New York publishing company, I am tempted to believe that the way to happiness is a promotion and a raise, but as I glance up the career ladder to people in leadership roles, I’ve noticed none of them seem truly happy and some are bitterly and obviously unhappy. Although tempted to believe the person with the best title wins this competition, another part of me understands that the person who walks out the door happiest is the true victor. The book tells us that it’s not chasing the next promotion that makes us happy, but seeking peace, balance and integrity while at work through specific tools, including meditation.

Stuck in a rut at work, mostly of my own making, I stumbled across this book and I decided to read it every morning on my way to work for ninety days. My subway commute is about forty minutes, so I had time to get into the philosophy of the book and choose an exercise for the day before I walked through my office’s doors.

Using some of her exercises began to change my work day:

Unitask!
So many of us pride ourselves on our capacity to multitask, but that mindset can lead to a lot of stress. Salzberg’s exercises call for us to do one thing at a time, give that one activity our attention and thereby give ourselves a break. Once I tried this, I realized I was happier if I was unitasking, not multitasking. It is exhausting to stretch our attention in two or three different places — and it’s unnecessary.

Notice our Stress
Salzberg writes that every job has stress, but each of us gets stressed about different things. I tried an exercise that calls for writing down every thing during the work day that stressed me. Looking over my list, I found out it was different stressors than I realized — and a lot of the stress came from my own thoughts, which I could slowly change.

Mindful Emailing
Before reading Salzberg’s book, I answered an email as quickly as possible. Responsible for an inflow of hundreds of emails a day, the key for my professional survival seemed to me to be speed. But that was making me harried, unable to appreciate what I was writing or reading. Instead, I tried her mindful emailing exercises: I read emails twice entirely before replying and found out I was missing important points, I considered more carefully how my emails would be read and I added more kind words, and I decided I didn’t need to check my email while walking or riding the elevator. This mindful emailing made me, quite simply, happier at work.

Plant seeds
I made lists of accomplishments I hoped for at work, and noted which parts of success I could control — and which I couldn’t. It helped to ground me when I considered that I could set intentions, I could work towards something, but every outcome was dependent on forces beyond my control.

Notice sounds
Most work environments are noisy, with sounds we have no control over. Stationed between an employee social area and a crucial work area, I’m surrounded by sounds I can not control and do not need to pay attention to. I learned that when they begin to overwhelm me, I can stop, truly notice the sounds without feeling the need to stop them, and then gradually return to work with more ability to focus.

Take a deep breath!
While it’s core and basic advice I’ve heard countless times, Sharon Salzberg writes convincingly of the power of breath to restore and center us. In moments when I feel afraid and lose my calm, I learned that taking a deep breath can restore a sense of peace and vitality. It only takes three seconds and it works wonders.

I found that using these exercises allowed me, after a year of wishing I had the courage, to point out the amazing accomplishments I’d had over the past years and ask my boss to help those be recognized. I’ve also found the strength to apply for other jobs. I know that something wonderful is on its way, and I embrace what is happening right now instead of wishing it were different. Most importantly, I remember that finding happiness at work is an inside job. Only I can find it. My boss, my colleagues, and my company can not give it to me. I need to reach for it every day by making the time to breathe, to mini-meditate and to remember a greater sense of purpose. That’s my real responsibility — and it’s a big job.

*Name has been changed to protect anonymity. For additional book reviews, see previous LYJ posts: http://lyjnow.wordpress.com/category/book-review

At a recent all day retreat with the always wonderful Tama Kieves, I determined the immediate next step for me was making a list of what energizes and restores me versus what drains me in order to create more spaciousness in my life. Especially during the winter months, it can be easy to get caught up in a hamster wheel of activity. I’ve found I lose touch with what’s most important as a result. Getting clear about each of these categories has given me a sense of calm and peace, and greater clarity on when to say yes or no.

If you currently feel worn out or like you’re not sure how to get re-inspired, I encourage you to make your own list.
To help you get started, here’s a sample of what’s on mine.

Rumi (the cat)

Rumi knows how to restore.

What Energizes or Restores Me

  • Yoga
  • Going to the gym during work hours
  • Bike rides
  • Rumi (my cat)
  • Watercolors
  • Sleep
  • Meditation
  • Going for a walk
  • Tea
  • Sitting in a coffeeshop journaling or reading
  • Hot baths
  • Writing
  • Talking to a beloved friend in a heartfelt way
  • Nature
  • Inspiring workshops or retreats
  • Reading good fiction

Now for the list of what zaps energy and takes away from a sense of flow or creativity. 

What Drains Me

  • Staring at the computer all day
  • Over-checking email or the internet
  • Too much Twitter
  • Certain work tasks and details that don’t necessarily need to be mine
  • Being over scheduled
  • Messiness
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Self judgment
  • Comparison to others
  • Days without exercise or healthy eating

I know for myself the more time I spend in the energize and restore space, the better I can reflect and make positive choices about the future and, perhaps more importantly, enjoy the present. My next step is printing out these lists so I can regularly remind myself in periods of lots of activity where I need to slow down and make time to energize and restore. What about you? What energizes and restores you, and what is doing the exact opposite?

LYJ Twitter

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