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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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).
- Vague job description: If there is nothing substantial about the description of the job itself and only buzzwords like “team player,” be on alert.
- 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.
- 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.
- Your arrival comes as a surprise to them: Again, disorganization. This is also displaying a lack of communication in the company.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Brief interview: If the interview was too short, they are either desperate or have already filled the position. Either way, bad.
- Quiet workplace: This may be a sign of a lack of teamwork or a tense environment.
- No tour: If you don’t get to see the office, again, they may be hiding something.
- Offer on the day of interview: Not giving you time to think may be a sign of desperation.
- 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.
New COVID rules employers need to know to keep staff safe
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) The definition of “close contact” has recently changed and it affects employers and employees. Here’s what we know (for now) and you should too.
If you are an employer, this information is a must know! Recently, the Centers for Disease Control has redefined the term of being in “close contact” with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This new definition is one that will affect all group settings. The workplace is one of them.
Previously, a “close contact” individual was someone who was within six-feet during a 15-minute period of a person who tested positive for the virus. Now, “close contact” still requires the “within six-feet distance” scenario but broadens the 15 minute window criteria.
The new definition states that someone doesn’t need to have 15 consecutive minutes of interaction with a person who is confirmed to have COVID-19. A cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period can also consider someone as in “close contact”. And, everyone who is in close contact will still need to be tested for the virus and quarantine themselves.
This change goes hand in hand with a recent study published by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study details that a facility employee at a male correctional facility in Vermont tested positive for COVID-19. The confirmed case was reported to the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) on August 11, 2020.
The correctional officer came in contact with 6 inmates who had arrived from an out-of-state correctional facility on July 28. All the inmates were kept in a quarantine unit and tested for SARS-CoV-2 on that day. On July 29, all their tests came back positive. As a result, the Vermont Department of Corrections (VDOC) and VDH conducted a contact tracing investigation.
During the correctional officer’s eight-hour shift, video surveillance footage showed he only had brief encounters with the inmates. Although they weren’t consecutive, the officer interacted with the inmates for about 17 minutes total. During all encounters, the officer wore a microfiber cloth mask, gown, and goggles. The inmates didn’t always wear a mask. Also, the officer didn’t have any other exposure to people with COVID-19 out of work and hadn’t traveled.
On August 4, the officer started showing COVID-19 symptoms. On August 5, he got tested, and a positive result returned on August 11. Data shows that one of the inmates transmitted the virus to the officer.
So, what does this all mean? The previous and current definition isn’t quite yet set in stone. There is so much more to learn about the virus.
The new “close contact” definition is much broader so people who didn’t fall in this category before, probably do now. If employees are in the office, it is inevitable that they will have some sort of interaction. And, even if coworkers only have a 5-minute long meeting, three 5-minute meetings will still count if there is a case of COVID-19 exposure.
Employees should be informed of these changes to better trace any unfortunate virus cases. And, employers with less than 500 employees who fall under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) will need to “provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19”.
Streamline your collaboration and lighten your workload with Lyght
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Ventive is releasing a new collaboration tool that basically combines all your collaboration tools into one.
Ventive is a custom software development agency based in Boise, Idaho. Launched in 2014, the startup combines design and engineering to build digital products that will help businesses grow. The company has worked with big names like Aston Martin, Cisco (Broadsoft), HP, Simplot, and Coleman Homes. It has even made the Inc. 5000 List for 3 years in a row. And, as with any business, it faces the same hurdles all small and big companies face: Finding the right tool to help take an idea and turn it into a reality.
In a blog post, Ventive Product Manager Jeff Wheadon wrote that the company has used a variety of tools like JIRA, Toggl, Trello, and Slack to streamline and collaborate on projects. Soon they realized there was not a single tool solution that could help them “go above and beyond for their clients”. So, Ventive decided it was “time to shine a new Lyght on team collaboration” by creating their own tool.
Lyght is an all-inclusive team collaboration tool that removes wasted time used to switch between different communication and management applications. It is designed to Make Work Simple. Make Work Flow.
In the tool, you can create a story for any project you want to build. These stories are designed for a smooth workflow, and you can collaborate with your team in each one. Conversation threads are visible in every story in real-time so everything is organized together. Tasks can be assigned by due dates and time budgets. You can even allocate a certain number of hours to a specific project so you can “determine bottlenecks in your team”.
You can also review the team’s time logs to gain insights on performance. A personalized dashboard lets you see recent activity and time spent across projects. Boards easily display the current state of each assignment. And, Backlogs let you organize and prioritize stories from your custom workflow.
Although Lyght started as an internal management tool for Ventive, the company isn’t just keeping the software for itself.
“After doing some additional market research, we found that there are many other companies across different industries looking for a similar tool that is lightweight and easy to use, yet robust enough to work with their own business processes,” wrote Jeff.
Since its creation, Lyght has gone through 3 iterations. Currently, the company is offering a private beta to entrepreneurs and teams. It plans on implementing the feedback it receives so the tool can “change and flow with the needs of the industry.” According to a Facebook post, Ventive is preparing for a public release of the software later this year.
Lyght brings together task management, collaboration, chat, and time tracking into a single solution. And, if you’d like to give it a try, you can schedule a demo on the company’s website.
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