Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Category Archives: General Life/Work

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, Workforce Development

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.

5 Tips to Separate Work and Home When You Work from Home

Best Practices, General Life/Work, Human Resources, Small Business, Startup Company

By Angela Darchuk

In many peoples’ eyes, working from home is the greatest thing ever. It can be a wonderful opportunity to be around for our families, save on commuting time, and maybe even help with our sanity. Believe it or not, you may actually get more work done from home than working in a typical office. But, working from home has its draw backs too.

Almost four years ago, I started my journey of being a virtual employee. I left a state job to help build a small company. I was very excited about being able to get more laundry done, dishes cleaned, and even take my kids to school on a daily basis, which I felt was a good opportunity to be around for my kids as they entered the teenage years. Little did I know that there were drawbacks working from home.

After I started this new journey, I quickly realized I needed to create boundaries for myself to separate work from home. This proved difficult when work and home were in the same place. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that may help you in your work from home situation:

1. Create a separate space

Creating a space that was just for work encouraged me (and my mess) to stay in one place of the house. For those who think working from the kitchen table is a great place to work, you may be wrong. This creates a larger mess—adding to your typical family mess—and more work, as you have to move your piles from one table to another while trying to get dinner on the table.

I was lucky enough to be able to set up an office in my house, but not all of us are so lucky. Try just having a desk, chair, and small file cabinet. This will help keep all your work supplies in one “work” location, and help you keep the rest of your house as your “home” space.

2. Set a work schedule with your supervisor

It’s important to work out a schedule with your supervisor—preferably in writing— that says you will start and end work at a certain time each day. Remember, this includes lunch and break time (but more on this later). By setting your schedule, you make sure there are no additional expectations of when you should be answering emails, taking phone calls, or producing material just because your office is 20 feet away.

3. Make sure you take breaks and lunches

Did you know that in California, if you are an hourly employee, you are required to take a minimum of a 30-minute lunch and two 10-minute breaks if you work eight hours? It may be state law, but it’s important to take regular breaks when working from home. Get away from your desk; go outside for a small walk, play with your animals, or just get up and move (preferably not to do housework!) And don’t take your phone with you.

I find that getting away from my computer and phone for this break time makes you a better employee. You become less resentful of the pressures of work when you have gotten a little fresh air.

4. Don’t answer work emails or phone calls off hours

While this is easier said than done, you should make a conscious effort to not work weekends unless already previously planned. Even though answering questions over the weekend may sound like it’s not a big deal, we all know this leads us to thinking about work—answering one question can turn into two or three hours of work.

Try to remember that your kids and family can see you are working and can start to get resentful of you working all time. So that intention of being around for your kids can turn out to back fire if you’re not careful about how you manage your time.

5. Take your vacation time

Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you don’t need a break to get away. Whether it’s paid or unpaid, make a point to put vacation time on the schedule. And remember, a working vacation doesn’t count. While it’s great to be able to work from anywhere, you’re still working. Leave the computer at home and put your ‘out of office’ message on your email.

While implementing these five things into your life may be difficult at first, it’s important to strive for them. Even after four years working from home, I still have issues with work boundaries, mainly because helping to build a business is different than the typical 8 to 5, Monday through Friday job. But for your own sanity, if you do these five things, you and your family will be happier and you will be a better employee.

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 has been married for 17 years and has two boys, ages 18 and 13 (who hate It’s a Small World).

How to Engage and Motivate Employees [+INFOGRAPHIC]

Best Practices, Communications, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Human Resources, Infographic, KAI Partners, Managing/Leadership, Onboarding, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Small Business, Startup Company, Team Building

Our partners at BambooHR created an infographic outlining what employees really want. According to Bamboo HR, “Employees must be valued and respected at work while maintaining a healthy work-life balance or they won’t stay at a job. As long as employees’ pressing needs—empowerment, flexibility in the workplace and fair wages—are met, they’re more willing to tolerate lesser annoyances.”

So, how do you make sure your workforce is engaged and satisfied? Let’s revisit some tips and tricks for keeping your employees happy, whether during times of organizational change or just in their day-to-day work.

Via: BambooHR

So now we want to know: As an employer, how do you keep your employees happy? And as a employee, what do you want from your employer? Tell us in the comments!

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