Progress: Getting organized after losing a job

This little reunion was one of the best ways to start the new year.

Over the last month, there was a lot for me to be happy about. Christmas with the family had been wonderful. Progress on The Thieves of Traska was in an excellent place. I went to Albany to see a friend and go to a concert.

For a little while, I got a better handle on my stress at work. Some good opportunities were headed my way. I was even going to resume my classes in the spring. And then I lost my job last week.

It shocked many, but surprised very few. All the well-wishes and support I’ve received from friends and family have almost entirely included some form of congratulations. It’s been no secret how much stress I’ve been under.

Just before all this happened, I’d read Tee Morris’ blog post 3 Tips on Getting Back on Track When Life Knocks You Down. His post was so helpful in calming me down and finding what I should do next, I emailed him a thank you. He was kind enough to reply with another invaluable blog post: 5 Things to Do After You Lose Your Job.

His point about avoiding a social media meltdown made me reconsider whether or not I should write this post. But I’m not here to rant or make my former employer look bad. In fact, I still have a lot of love for the company. I want to follow in Tee’s footsteps and use this experience as a chance to maybe calm someone else down and help them figure out their next step.

Both of his posts stress the importance of getting organized again. I’m not sure it’s what he had in mind, but my first step was moving my furniture all around and sorting out my physical space. At the very least, I got to use up some energy shoving my massive dresser back and forth across the room. Progress is progress, right?

Then I reorganized my time, taking some of my old routine to structure a new one. Bianca gets her insulin shots at the same times as before. I start the morning with a cup of tea, then work on writing for a few hours. Just before noon, I get coffee, take care of a few chores, and then turn to the job search. I trade off days searching and applying. At 3 p.m., I get the next cup of tea and start catching up on reading news and blogs. After 5 p.m., the focus is on dinner and relaxing. I can read, watch a movie, catch up on a TV show, play video games, or work on some art.

Bianca’s just happy I have more time to rub her belly.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of creating this kind of schedule is that it cuts down on panic. Every time your brain starts demanding when you’ll have a new job, you can calmly remind it, “We found some excellent opportunities yesterday afternoon, and we applied to them today. Tomorrow we will find more.”

One of my favorite professors always talked about the importance of self-discipline. It’s what makes you consistently early to class or work. It’s what keeps you from binging articles instead of writing or applying to jobs. It keeps you making progress.

Blog blunders: 6 ways to lose your audience

I’ve been blogging here at Switzy Thoughts since I was a senior in high school. Six years is a long time to blog. For the two or three people still here after all this time, I apologize if that statement makes you feel old. I feel it, too.

Going down Memory Lane, I got a clear picture of my content strategy over the last six years. It mainly involves me saying, “Crap, I’m due for a blog post. Uhhhh… What am I peeved about right now? Let’s go with that!”

It only took me a few blogging and social media books and a couple of Lynda.com courses to figure out where I went wrong. Oh, yeah. There’s also the past year I’ve spent blogging for someone else’s brand. That helped, too.

There are some great things about having six years under my belt as a sub-par blogger. For one thing, I have a stronger reaction to the warnings against things that will make you lose your audience.

Reaction to losing blog leaders, Star Wars, Rey
Source: Tumblr

With one year of success and six years of mediocrity as my teacher, allow me to present what I’ve learned. (Note: The links below lead to YouTube clips so you can follow my nerdy references.)

Things That Will Make You Lose Blog Readers

  1. Teasing future content that you never post. You promise your reader one thing, and then you fail to deliver. Congratulations on crushing their hopes and dreams. Jerk. This is just as bad as listing all the great ways you’ll revitalize your blog and then doing none of it. Or talking up a giveaway that you postpone indefinitely. Make a plan and commit to it.
  2. Me, me, me. True, readers come for your perspective on whatever you’re talking about. But it can’t all be “Dear Diary: Today we were kidnapped by hill folk, never to be seen again. It was the best day ever!” Talk about the industry, the work, others in the field. Offer your opinions to show the connection between the subject and you.
  3. Committing to an overambitious posting schedule. Posting three days a week sounds great when you look at the immediate future. Try imagining what that means for a month. Do you have 24 post ideas? How about 180ish posts for a year? Resist the “it’s better burn out than fade away” mentality. You will burn out faster than you realize.
  4. Ignoring that you have an audience to interact with. You could ask questions in your posts. You could ask questions on social media when you share your posts. Try talking to the people you want to read your blog. If you don’t interact with them, they feel ignored and unimportant. And then they leave. You monster.
  5. Veering way off topic. I’m sorry, but what is this blog about again? I don’t want to click on those “similar” posts suggested at the bottom because I really don’t see any theme. Variety is good, so long as it ties back to the same theme. Write so readers don’t ask “Why am I reading this here?”
  6. Have a blog, but don’t blog. Surest way to lose readers: quit posting content. This includes long, unannounced hiatuses. Some people might come back (thanks 2-3 loyal readers!). Many won’t.

Having an Opinion in the Workplace (And Not Being a Jerk)

You’ve made it through the application and the interview, and now you’ve got the job — congratulations! People have recognized you’re qualified and will have an informed opinion on things relevant to your job. But how long do you have to have the job before you can express your honest opinion? And how do you express it without coming across as a stubborn know-it-all?

As a blunt and occasionally abrasive member of the workforce, allow me to share what’s worked for me.

“Putting a bird on your head doesn’t make you a trendsetter, Janet. It makes you look like an idiot.” Source

When can I start being honest?

Right away. Part of why you were hired is the perspective you can offer, not your ability to nod and agree. In your workplace, you’ll have some higher goal your team is working toward or core values all your actions must reflect. If you think there’s a better way to reach that goal or exemplify those values, let your team know. You might have the best idea, or your idea might give someone else on the team a stroke of genius.

Is it possible to be too honest?

Yes. It comes down to tact — how, where and to whom you express your opinion. It’s not appropriate to raise your hand in a meeting and say the project idea is stupid. You might say, “From my perspective as [whatever you have in common with the target audience], I’m not sure I would be interested in this.” Give your reasons and provide alternative ideas. When you’re one-on-one with your supervisor or someone from your department, that’s when you can say, “Yeah, I’m not that thrilled with this idea. I think we need to nudge them more in this direction.”

What if I’m new?

So what? New or old, you’re part of the team. There’s a hazy area between being the humble new hire and the confident figure of authority. But your behavior in the beginning gives your colleagues an expectation of what your behavior will be like when you’re not so new. Assert your idea. Support it. Be willing to support someone else’s idea. Start doing that immediately — it’s what you’ll have to do further down the line.

What if I come on too strong?

If it’s going to be a habit, apologize. Personally, I am in the habit of being aggressive and blunt. The best practice I’ve found to prevent it from being a problem: let your supervisor know you’re aware of your own personality, that you will try to use your best judgement, and you will immediately take it down a few notches if your supervisor thinks you crossed a line. You don’t have to apologize for your opinion, just the delivery of it.

What if no one asks for my opinion?

Offer it anyway. Sometimes people will go out of their way to ask what you think of something. Other times, it’s understood that you will voice your thoughts because you are present for the discussion. No one will know what you’re thinking until you tell them. Not comfortable with the new assignment? Think having a partner on the job will get it done more effectively and efficiently? Have zero clue what direction to take? Tell someone.

What if I have no opinion?

Then you have no opinion. The workplace phrasing of this is, “I don’t have strong feelings for this either way.” But, since the idea is to keep the larger entity you work for effective, this would be a good time to ask questions. I find the things I don’t have an opinion on are the things I don’t know enough about. They want to know if you think the content will appeal to your audience? Ask who the audience is. Is it going to reach our goal? Well, what is the key goal?

“Frankly, I don’t give a damn if it’s blue or green.” Source

The alternative to all this: misery and resentment, and not just for you. In the end, it’s all about being the kind of team member you choose to be.

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