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Going from corporate beige box to comfy coffee shop workin’

(ENTREPRENEUR) A look at what it takes to pivot your career from your couch at home to a cubicle in an office.

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boardroom corporate

That corporate life!

Rat race, gridlock, cube farm, always be closing. From the outside, and real talk, from the inside too, it sounds like kind of a nightmare.

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It can surely seem that way to a fluffy freelancer like your humble narrator, who has already waxed lyrical about the magic of open schedules and the confluence of pajamas, tea and productive employ.

Less lyrical?

No benefits, no pension, no paid leave, and brutal limitations on your ability to network and train. I love freelancing.

I’m also a single adult with portable expertise.

If I had kids or a house or bigger debts to service than my current collegiate horrors, I’d strongly consider going back to the corporate beige box. More importantly, the only reason I have the expertise to freelance was because I did that very thing a few years ago: I was in a new town, I needed a new skill set and I wished to acquire same without also acquiring scurvy. I’ve returned to freelance work since, but plenty of folks are looking to make the same trade I did for very good reasons. Here’s how I swung it.

Know what you want

First rule of… well, everything, come to think of it: goals. Have them, and not vague “in ten years I want to be” stuff.

What do you need for the new gig to be worth rush hour and team-building exercises?

Debt to cover? Who’ll match your payments? Kid on the way? Don’t even dust off your resume until you know in hard numbers who has the best parental leave, health insurance, day care. We’re freelancers. We know the Internet is omniscient. Inquire. Especially because…

You may not be looking for a job

Remember that new skill set, the one I got without acquiring scurvy? It was grantwriting. People more talented than me have shelled out for a Master’s to learn that. I got paid. Specifically, I was an AmeriCorps VISTA, a “paid volunteer” in a federally funded program that provided a (very, very low) set stipend and benefits for a yearlong commitment to work in the public sphere.

AmeriCorps and programs like it are all over the public and private sphere. They’re a natural outgrowth of the post-career economy, socioeconomic kudzu – which is absolutely the name of my new prog band – twining up the old ivory and concrete towers.

Words like “internship,” “volunteer” and “trainee” aren’t code for “teenagers bearing lattes” anymore.

They’re part of professional life, with improvements to match. That’s good news. Paid training has been a classic component of traditionally blue-collar skilled labor – which is great for millennials, entrepreneurs and the forward-thinking generally – for years, but one good Google search turned up paid trainee and internship programs in everything from coding to lobbying to remote employee management. It’s likely less money in the short term, but most come with at least bargain basement benefits, and as long as you put in the work, corporate jobs come with the vital intangibles of office life: experience, reputation, network, all things a freelancer resume may be short of. On that subject…

Relearn the rules

You found something! Rad! Now let’s keep it for more than a month! It can be trickier than it sounds.

Just adjusting to office culture can be hard enough.

Freelancers get used to autonomy, to responsibility, to – let’s use the word – freedom, and that’s not how offices roll.

The trick is to reconnect with the other thing offices have and freelancing does not: people. You have a team, not just customers, clients and competition, the categories where most folks you meet freelancing tend to fall. There are all kinds of benefits to rolling with a crew.

Unlike going solo responsibility is distributed, so not every event is a crisis and not every setback is your fault.

You’re networking, so whether this is a bridge job and you plan to be done in ten weeks or you’re in it to win it and you’ll be here ten years, every day builds your professional profile. Plus you can get a sense of how to thrive and how not to, just by hanging out. But the best part?

They’re people.

People are the best part of office work.

Talk. Joke. Share lunch. Find the folks into Snapchat or klezmer or whatever your thing is. Be a part of what’s happening around you, and not only will you score a boost up the ladder and (probably) not get fired for coming to work in bunny slippers, you might just be happier, period.

I’m not sold that’s enough to cancel out rush hour and beige walls and, gah, business casual. But it’s a start.

#FreelanceToCubeView

Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

Business Entrepreneur

15 tips to spot a toxic work environment when interviewing

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Interviewing can be tricky, but this new infographic will help you look for signs of toxicity before, during, and after the interview.

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Person in an interview

When we’re in the process of job hunting, we’re typically looking because we need a change, for multiple reasons. Any interview sparks hope. Because we’re sometimes so willing to make that change, we often put our blinders on in the hopes that whatever comes is the perfect opportunity for us.

With those blinders, however, it can be common to miss some red flags that tell you what you really need to know about the job you may be applying or interviewing for. Luckily, Resume.io is here to help.

They have developed 15 warning signs in their infographic: How to Spot a Toxic Work Environment Before You Take the Job. Let’s dive in and take a look at these.

First, the preparation before the interview. Red flags can shop up from the get-go. Here’s what to look out for before you even meet face-to-face (or over the phone/Zoom).

  1. Vague job description: If there is nothing substantial about the description of the job itself and only buzzwords like “team player,” be on alert.
  2. Negative Glassdoor reviews: These reviews on company culture are worth taking into account. If multiple people have a recurring issue, it’s something to be aware of.
  3. Arranging an interview is taking forever: If they keep you waiting, it’s typically a sign of disorganization. This may not always be the case, but pay attention to how they’re respecting you and your time.
  4. Your arrival comes as a surprise to them: Again, disorganization. This is also displaying a lack of communication in the company.
  5. The interview starts late: See the last sentence of #3. Not only are they disrespecting your time, but they’re displaying a lack of time management.

Now, for the high-pressure situation: During the interview. Here’s what you need to be keeping an eye on (while simultaneously listing your strengths and weaknesses, of course)

  1. Unpreparedness: If the interviewer is scattered and not prepared for your conversation, this may be a sign that they don’t fully understand the tasks and expectations for the job.
  2. Doesn’t get into your skill set: If they don’t ask about your skills, how can they know what you’re bringing to the table?
  3. Rudeness: If the interviewer is rude throughout the interview or is authoritative (either to you or to a panel who may be present,) be on alert. This is just a sign of what’s to come.
  4. Uncommunicative about company values: If it’s different from what’s on their website or they seem spacey about company values, this is a red flag.
  5. Your questions aren’t being answered: If they’re avoiding answering your questions, they may be hiding an aspect of the job – or the company – that they don’t want to reveal.

Finally, the waiting game. Once the interview is complete, here are some less-than-good things to be on the lookout for. Keep in mind that some of these may be hard to gauge seeing that we’re in the middle of a pandemic and many companies haven’t returned to their offices yet:

  1. Brief interview: If the interview was too short, they are either desperate or have already filled the position. Either way, bad.
  2. Quiet workplace: This may be a sign of a lack of teamwork or a tense environment.
  3. No tour: If you don’t get to see the office, again, they may be hiding something.
  4. Offer on the day of interview: Not giving you time to think may be a sign of desperation.
  5. Leaving you waiting: Again, if they leave you waiting on an answer like they did with scheduling, it’s a sign of disorganization and disrespect.

While one of these 15 things happening doesn’t necessarily mean the job is a bust, a few of these things happening may be an indicator to look elsewhere.

 

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Business Entrepreneur

This startup makes managing remote internships easier for all

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Internships during COVID are tough to manage for many employers, but Symba aims to present a unique solution.

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Internships could be becoming easier to facilitate remotely, wherever you are.

Internships are among the innumerable practices disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some might argue that the loss of the corporate version of hazing that defines many internships is not something to be mourned. But the fact remains that internships are crucial for both employers and employees. Fortunately, a company called Symba might have a solution: Remote internships.

It’s a simple, intuitive solution for the times. That’s why big-name industries like Robinhood and Genentech are turning to Symba for help in constructing their own digital internship platforms.

Symba is, in and of itself, akin to any employee management system. Prospective employees sign into their Symba account via the landing page of the company for whom they are interning, after which point they are able to review their workload for the day. They can also see communications, feedback, other profiles, group projects, and more; they can even access onboarding resources and tutorials for the company in case they get lost along the way.

The key difference between Symba and other management tools—such as Slack—is that Symba was built from the ground up to facilitate actionable experience for interns at little to no detriment to the company in question. This means that interns have a consistent onboarding, collaborative, and working experience across the board—regardless of which company they’re representing at the time.

Symba even has a five-star ranking system that allows employers to create and quantify areas of proficiency at their discretion. For example, if an intern’s roles include following up with clients via email or scheduling meetings, an employer could quickly create categories for these tasks and rate the intern’s work on the aforementioned scale. Interns are also able to ask for feedback if they aren’t receiving it.

While Symba doesn’t facilitate communications between interns, it does include Slack integration for the purposes of collaboration and correspondence as needed.

On the managerial side, employers can do everything from the previously mentioned rating to delegating tasks and reviewing reports. All data is saved in Symba’s interface so that employers have equal access to information that might inspire a hiring.

While it’s possible that Symba will struggle to maintain relevance during non-internship months, the fact remains that it is an exceptionally viable solution to an otherwise finicky problem during these trying times—and some employers may even find it viable enough to continue using it post-pandemic.

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Business Entrepreneur

Zen, please: Demand for mental health services surges during pandemic

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) 2020 has been an exceptionally hard year for many on a mental front. How has COVID-19 changed the mental health landscape?

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Man leaning against tree, affected by mental health.

As the pandemic stretches on, it continues to affect everything from jobs to plastic bags, but one major shift has come with mental health. According to the National Council for Mental Health, while demand for mental health services is up 52%, the capacity of mental health organizations have actually diminished. So…what does this mean?

Mental health startups get a boost

From tele-health to mindfulness apps, venture capital investments for mental health startups have already surpassed what was earned in 2019. And it makes sense; as more people are isolated for long stretches of time, there has become a greater demand for digital mental wellness services.

With COVID-19 predicted to spike again in the coming months, combined with shorter spans of daylight and less welcoming weather, the desire for these sorts of businesses isn’t likely to fade. If you have an idea for a neat app or website to help with mental well-being in some way, now is prime time to release it.

Companies increase mental health options

As the pandemic rages on, many companies have started to partner with mental health solutions for their employees. For instance, Starbucks has started offering free therapy sessions to employees through the mental wellness provider Lyra, and Zoom began to offer mental health seminars.

Of course, while smaller companies might not have the means to provide specific therapy, many companies have gotten creative with how they’re looking out for employees’ mental and emotional well-being. From providing virtual meditation sessions, to increasing self-managed leave, to connecting employees through book clubs or happy hours, there are a variety of ways that any company can help employees manage their psyche during these difficult times.

Resources are more accessible

Although therapy and similar apps do cost money (many apps include a monthly fee for the services provided), there are plenty of low cost alternatives available for those having a hard time. For example, many sites are offering free trials to services. There are also plenty of free or low-cost apps available to help you do anything from track your moods to manage your breathing. Or check out YouTube for videos to help with yoga or meditation.

While these resources are not a replacement for medication or talk therapy, they can help mediate some of the increased strain on our mental state that many of us are feeling right now.

In case of an emergency, there is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available by phone call or chat 24 hours a day. If you or someone you know is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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