Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: General Life/Work

7 Tips to Work Successfully in a Virtual Environment

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Managing/Leadership, Team Building

By Angela Darchuk

We live in a world where most of us use technology to do our job, and often that can include being able to do our job from anywhere. With businesses offering work from home or flexible schedule options, many employees now have the opportunity to work in a virtual environment.

Since starting to work in a virtual environment four years ago, I have found ways to make sure working virtually is a success for me and the virtual team I manage. Working in a virtual environment has its challenges and it may not be for everyone, but with some self-motivation and these tips, hopefully you can make your virtual work successful:

  1. Be Open: If you are joining an already established virtual team, and especially if you have never worked on a virtual team before, be open to the process. Virtual teams require a lot of positivity—there is little worse than a team member joining a team and being negative to the process.
  2. Ask Questions: Ask questions about the process, what is expected of you on a daily/weekly/ monthly basis, and seek clarification if you don’t understand what is being asked. It’s a waste of time for an employee or a supervisor to do or receive unnecessary work, so make sure you understand the expectations from the start.
  3. Get to Know Your Team: Getting to know your team can be hard when working in a virtual environment. Talking about your life, your likes and dislikes, and your personality can help open up a dialog and make the team comfortable together.(Working in a virtual environment may mean working solo, but it isn’t just about you doing your job—it’s also about collaboration with others in different locations (and maybe even different time zones!) More tips for virtual team success can be found in our blog post, How to Create a Successful Virtual Team Dynamic.)
  4. Know the Roles Your Teammates Play: Knowing the role of each of your teammates is important. When you know what others’ jobs are, you can leverage their expertise when needed. Additionally, if you are familiar with everyone’s roles, you can start to anticipate what may be needed from/by other members of the team.
  5. Be Involved: Be involved by offering information, providing solutions to issues, and volunteering for action items. A weekly meeting—usually via conference call or video conference—is a must to make sure the team is involved, but if you need more frequent meetings, just ask.
  6. Show Initiative: Showing initiative can be difficult in a virtual world, but if you see something that needs to be done, talk to your supervisor about what you can offer. Your skills and abilities were some of the reasons you were hired, so offer up new ideas to help!
  7. Ask for the Proper Equipment to do Your Job: As a virtual employee, it’s important you have the tools to do your job. This can include software and hardware; in addition, you should have access to tools for conference calling, sharing screens, direct messaging, and project management. However, be mindful of what is a ‘need’ and what is ‘want’—equipment needs to be budgeted and you should be able to justify the request.

As a virtual employee, it is your responsibility to show your value so that you thrive—hopefully these tips help your venture into virtual work a success!

About the Author: Angela has a background in book-keeping and office management. She worked for several small businesses in the Sacramento area before taking a job with the State of California. She worked for Dept. of Child Support, EDD and the State Treasurer’s office before making the jump back to private sector where she feels more at home to voice her opinion and help grow a company. Angela is currently the Administrative Services Manager for KAI Partners. In her spare time Angela loves to read, dance, and go to Disneyland. When she goes to Disneyland, her favorite ride is It’s a Small World. She is a graduate of Penn State University, has been married for 18 years, and has two boys, ages 19 and 13 (who hate It’s a Small World).

3 Steps to Achieve Work-School Balance

Best Practices, General Life/Work, KAIP Academy, Learning

By Danielle Cortijo

Congratulations, you’ve taken the first step in one of life’s major balancing acts called pursuing an academic degree, all while being an active full-time employee! You’ve earned this moment of celebration by simply making the decision to participate in this major undertaking for your future. It won’t necessarily be an easy one, but some would say that nothing worth having should be. The implication is that the struggle helps you to appreciate the journey and the result that much more. The reward of finally completing that final exam—turning in the last paper and receiving your coveted degree—will be the ultimate prize.

But remember, success requires balance. This is the voyage of the avid professional’s daily work life. The one-to-four year mission to seek out new degrees and new ways to handle it all…To boldly juggle responsibilities like no one has juggled before!

Speaking from my own past and current experience, discovering how best to squeeze it all in has been nothing short of some of my most challenging moments in life. If you’re someone who is constantly trying to outdo themselves academically like me, you may relate to my past and present battle of having a full-time commitment to work, all while maintaining a heavy school load and even higher GPA.

As we speak, I am an eager Analyst by day and a relentless graduate student completing her degree in medicine by nights and weekends. Sound daunting? Well, it doesn’t have to be—not completely. Achieving success is definitely doable and I’m here to share some tips on how to do just that!

  1. Support Team on deck: I can’t stress enough how important this particular factor can become for anyone pursuing their degree while working full time and doing their best to maintain some semblance of a regular life. It’s a challenge and sometimes you just might need a soft place to land. That can come in the form of support from incredible friends or family who understand who and where you are in life and help you to return to center. Don’t be afraid to lean on whoever you’ve chosen. You’ll be all the better for it.
  2. Scheduling is a MUST: It is so, so important to create a schedule for yourself that will allow you to keep track of everything you have on your plate. More importantly, it will force you to always be aware of assignment deadlines for both work and school. Find what works for you. Are you the weekend warrior, someone who can get it all done in 2.5 days? Or are you the all week guru, someone who needs to complete little by little after work during the week with a finale weekend? Whatever your preference and best tactics, be sure to put a schedule in place that works and helps you be the best school and work balancing champion you can be.
  3. Disconnect, Disconnect, DISCONNECT: This may sound like the opposite of what one would want or should do, but honestly, it is utterly necessary. You will need time to concentrate and focus on your work when it’s company time and school when it’s education central. At the end of the day, all stops begin and end with you when it comes to your final product. Your tasks at work carry an equal amount of importance as do your assignments for school. So, do yourself the biggest favor and let it be known that disconnect time is in full effect. You aren’t being selfish. This isn’t you ignoring life. Try to see it as you giving back to yourself by providing adequate time to achieve your dreams. Trust me, your GPA and daily work will thank you for it.

These steps can be the very things that preserve your sanity and help you to maintain both your stellar professional face and academic prowess. It’s true that we are perfectly imperfect creatures, but doing all you can to shine in all areas of your world can feel extremely overwhelming if the planning and consistency in the rituals you establish aren’t properly maintained.

It is indeed possible to successfully balance your work, home, and academic life all in one. Try not to let the stressful moments get you down. Create your own work and academic rhythm and achievement will follow! It can be done—I am living proof.

About the Author: With a Bachelor’s in Communications and actively pursuing her Master’s in Complementary Alternative Medicine, Dani has an extensive professional background in the public and private sectors focused in Contracts, Human Resources, QA, and Process. Currently the Procurement Specialist on the amazing Administrative team for KAI Partners, she is working diligently to assist in the successful acquisition of procurements for the company. When her world slows down a bit, she loves scouring for an incredible deal on retro sneakers with her partner in crime, listening to music 24/7, and laughing as much as humanly possible.

3 Tips for a Successful (and Fun!) Career

Communications, General Life/Work, Hiring, Human Resources

By Sarah Walsh

I’ve only been out of college for 12 years, but I feel like a cat with nine lives with the amount of jobs I’ve held across various sectors and industries. I’ve worked for a major political party, two elected officials, a Native American tribe (where our lunch meetings took place at a casino), the pharmaceutical industry, and, finally, consulting.

What I’ve found along the way is that where you start is not necessarily where you’ll finish. What you think you like and what you actually do like may change over time. Your life, ideas, politics, values, and dreams will change over time. Despite—or because of!—the various roads you take, you will have many opportunities to reinvent yourself.

Today I share three things you can do to ensure continued career progression while allowing for life’s many changes. While these tips are targeted towards those starting out their career, they can also be applied to the more seasoned professionals who perhaps feel stuck in their current state.

  1. Intern!

Not sure what you want to do with your life? Intern.

Know exactly what you want to do with your life? Intern.

The benefits of an internship cannot be overstated. You not only learn more about the field in which you’re interning—which can help you decide whether or not it’s what you actually want to do—you also meet valuable people, whether a mentor, a future job reference, an industry connection, or a friend.

When I graduated college, my major (Political Science) required either a 12-page paper or a three-month-long internship to graduate. As much as I love writing now, writing a required 12 pages wasn’t a passion at age 22, and so I chose the internship route.

This move ultimately put me on a path towards doing what I truly love (writing and editing, creating communications plans and procedures, and hanging out on the Internet)—although of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I thought I’d work in politics forever, and while that goal shifted (I happily no longer work in politics), I still have the skills and inside knowledge my years in politics provided…All because I choose to take an internship.

  1. Build and Foster Relationships

It was only through the relationships and connections I built along the way that enabled me to continue to progress in the political field. Hilariously, in my early years, I ended up following my first internship supervisor in several roles as she vacated them—was it any coincidence that each time she took a new position, she thought of me to replace her?

Mentorships are just as important and being mentored is not something that should only happen at the beginning of your career. As your roles change or you take a job in a different industry, you may find that being mentored is critical to your success. Shelve the idea that age matters and remember learning is continuous, even if that means learning from someone who is younger than you—insight is ageless!

Building relationships/mentorships can be tricky. You need to make sure the relationship is symbiotic, not just something you dip back into when it benefits you. A piece of required reading on this topic comes from a friend of mine, a successful writer. People with whom she had little to no relationship were forever asking to, “Pick her brain.” Eventually, she’d had enough and shared her thoughts on the brain-picking epidemic. Underscoring her blog post is the reminder that professional relationships don’t happen in a vacuum—they are something to be nurtured over time.

  1. Embrace the Change

Some of my career changes were by choice and some were not (dreaded political term limits!) Each change while, on the one hand scary, was also an opportunity to take what I’d learned and shift that knowledge into a new role.

My years of writing political briefings may not have been an obvious transition into more typical communications functions like internal comms, social media management, marketing/PR, etc., but what was obvious was that the raw skills transferred across industries.

While initially there was fear around the unknown—in my case, abandoning one industry for another in which I had little to no knowledge or professional contacts—it was a challenge that ultimately got me here, to a job I enjoy and value. The first step was taking the leap and embracing the initial change—and the discomfort that went along with it.

Another example of embracing change is our own Human Resources Generalist, who recently made a career change, going from Research Analyst to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Certified Professional.

Through her years of research work, she eventually found a new passion in HR—and didn’t even have to give up her beloved research in the process. As she said about the transition, “I still get to do research as part of my work. … While my focus is in the daily tasks surrounding human resource management, this includes a variety of tasks, even research.”

Remember, change is not only ok, it is necessary to keep growing in your career and life! We hope these tips will help in your professional development—whether a reminder to pick up the phone and call text your old boss to catch up, or by deciding to finally pursue a long-held dream.

About the Author: Sarah Walsh has over a decade of communications experience, including public sector roles in the California State Senate and State Assembly, as well as private sector roles for a sovereign Native American tribe and a global pharmaceutical company. In addition to communications work, Sarah and her husband are team captains and fundraisers for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s annual Walk MS event. When she’s not writing, editing, or watching The Real Housewives, she loves performing comedy, hanging out with her husband and 6-year-old daughter, and cooking. One day, maybe she’ll figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. Until then, follow her on Twitter @sarahsykeswalsh.

KAI Partners Staff Profile: The Human Resources Generalist and SHRM-CP

General Life/Work, Human Resources, KAI Partners, KAI Partners Staff Profile, KAIP Academy, Learning, Managing/Leadership, Onboarding, Sacramento, SHRM, Small Business

There are many paths to success and while not everyone takes the same path, we often manage to arrive at the same destination. In our KAI Partners Staff Profile series, we share interviews and insight from some of our own employees here at KAI Partners. Our staff brings a diversity in education, professional, and life experience, all of which demonstrate that the traditional route is not necessarily the one that must be traveled in order to achieve success.

Today, we bring you an update on the professional journey of Melissa McManus, Ed.D. When we last spoke, Melissa was KAI Partners’ Research Analyst and is now our Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Certified Professional.

 KAI Partners, Inc.: Melissa, tell us about the transition from Research Analyst to Human Resources Generalist and SHRM-CP.

Melissa McManus: As the Research Analyst, I was doing multiple work tasks, including human resources. Since I was already doing bits and pieces of HR, you could say that I grew into my current role as HR Generalist and SHRM-CP. It was the logical next step and a seamless transition.

KAIP: What is your favorite thing about being in HR?

MM: The variety is absolutely one of my favorite things about being in HR. There is always something different and new, and that is exciting to me. Most people are afraid of change or afraid of doing different things; on the other hand, I enjoy it and I am more afraid of monotony—doing the exact same thing day in and day out.

My new position allows for this constant change and variety. While the tasks may be the same or similar they are also new and different. Some examples of this are getting to work with different people and personalities and the constantly-changing HR and employment laws. This guarantees that I stay a life-long learner because I need to stay current on all laws and what is happening in HR. In that same vein, my HR certification will also keep me current in all things HR as I have professional development credits I must earn each year to keep my SHRM-CP current.

KAIP: From your recent blog post on career development and your self-appointed title of Lifelong Learner, we know these things are important to you. How does getting the SHRM-CP highlight that?

MM: Getting my SHRM-CP was important to me not only for my career development but also personally, as well. I take great pride in being a knowledge-seeker and staying current in my profession. I think that it says a lot about the type of person I am and it also communicates that I want to be the best at my job and how far I am willing to go to do that.

KAIP: We also know you love research. Have you found an opportunity to get back to your roots as a Research Analyst?

MM: I still get to do research as part of my work. Research is part of the territory for me and inhabits all areas of my life! In my current role, there are many instances where I get to put my research guru hat on. While my focus is in the daily tasks surrounding human resource management, this includes a variety of tasks, even research.

Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your journey! How have you made transitions in your career? Share your story with us in the comments!

About Melissa: Dr. Melissa McManus is a human resources professional and research guru. One of her greatest strengths is her resolute ability to soak in new information and her never-ending thirst for knowledge. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, career development, research, writing, training, and knowledge transfer. She is passionate about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. In her free time, when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

Quick Q&A with Melissa:
Daily, must-visit website: SHRM.org
Preferred genre of music to listen to at work: Country, always!
Best professional advice received: Never stop learning and don’t let anyone tell you what you are worth—only you can make that determination!
Top productivity hack: Changing up location/scenery. Because I work from home, every now and again I need a different view, which helps to recharge. Also, making sure to take breaks or walk around is a good alternative if you work in an office or specific location.
Book you can read over and over again: If I have to pick just one…Pride and Prejudice and the entire Harry Potter series. There are so many more, but these are the ones came to mind.
Most-recent binge-watched show: Tiny House Hunters

Why I Make Continuous Learning a Priority

Corporate Training, General Life/Work, KAIP Academy, Learning, Training

By Judi Phelps

I spent 38 years working for a public sector health care organization and although I am retired from that role, I am now in my second career as a consultant in the industry—and I am having the time of my life. I get to bring my decades of knowledge into a new profession, while still working in the field I know so well.

I have learned throughout my career that the processes and systems we use now are not likely to last forever. To keep up with the changing landscape, I have made continuous learning a priority. In my current role, I get to learn and build additional skills that broaden my horizons and bring those skills back to clients. I continue to do value added work for clients, but in a different way based on new methods.

Of course, I wasn’t always so willing to learn something new! I remember early in my career, when computers were first being used. At that time, we did everything with paper and pencil. My supervisor wanted us have PCs in our cubicles and was looking for volunteers to be trained on how to use them. No one was willing to volunteer; people thought it would take too long to learn and would slow down the process.

Although I was initially resistant, my boss signed me up for a class and soon enough, the new way of doing something—in this case, eliminating the paper and pencil process in favor of using a computer—was better.

What I learned in this situation was that we tend to not approach things with curiosity and enthusiasm. We are afraid we won’t do as well or be as productive if we have to take time to learn something new. We assume it will be a long process to learn something new, but it’s really not. It may take a while to become an expert, but it’s not that hard to learn the basics fairly quickly.

Nowadays, I love to learn—and although I am 66-years-old, I am not planning on slowing down. Inspired in part by a “Project Management for Managers” course I took, as well as a Kaizen project I worked on, I was compelled to add another skill to my repertoire. I am planning to begin Six Sigma training. I am excited to learn more and bring what I’ve learned back into the work I am doing now.

Using the Kaizen method was a great learning experience and one that has stayed with me. We looked at processes and procedures and eliminated those parts that didn’t add value. We were able to streamline processes and make staff happier because their day-to-day tasks became easier. It taught me to look at anything and everything and see which add value and which do not.

Of course, learning and implementing new processes is not without its challenges. People don’t see that there are any problems—like me with the computers!—so the first step is getting people to stop long enough to see that there could be a different way to do things.

If I’ve learned anything in my career(s), it’s that change is inevitable. You can either accept change and learn a new skill, process, or methodology, or you can be resistant to change and miss all the fun! I am very much looking forward to my new continuous learning journey and will keep you updated as I move through the training!

About the Author: Judi Phelps has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and worked for the State of California for more than 38 years, starting as a part-time clerk-typist and ending as a Staff Manager II. Judi worked almost all of that time in various areas of the MediCal program, implementing program policies as well as working to develop policies. As a consultant, Judi currently works with clients to look for better ways to achieve the mission. Judi loves singing and scrapbooking—sometimes together!—for both the paper-craft and the time with friends aspects. Judi enjoys traveling, entertaining, and making memories (to put into scrapbooks) with her two grandsons.

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