Unplugged: How to switch off from work

Work is an important part of our lives; after all we do spend 40+ hours a week doing this very thing.

There’s no doubt that the nature of our work environment is changing too – it’s becoming increasingly high pressure, deadline-driven and demanding.

This is compounded by the fact that pretty much everyone has a smart phone and can access their work emails anywhere, anytime.

As a consequence, we’re mentally chained to our desks 24/7, in a competitive marketplace where we feel compelled to respond right.this.minute for fear of not working hard enough.

While Nazi Germany might have wanted us to believe “work sets you free”, a growing body of research shows our inability to find a balance between work and play is having a serious impact on our physical, mental and emotional state of being. Overwork has been linked to a whole swag of health problems including heart disease, fatigue, depression and insomnia.

Next time you’re feeling frazzled after work, take these steps to get you into a state of Zenned-out bliss:

Habitual ritual

By creating a ritual of relaxation when you arrive home from work, you’ll train your mind to slow down and switch off from work mode. Having a shower and putting on your trackies when you get home signals to the brain that you’ve finished for the day, and now it’s time to chillax. Light candles, avoid loud sounds and if meditation’s your thing, do it!

Save the screen

While a lot of people use TV as a way to unwind, if you stare at a computer screen all day you’re actually not doing yourself any favours by watching tellie. A better way to forget the chaos of the working day is to take Fido for a quick spin in the fresh air, or better yet, hit the gym!

Use it and lose it

If you confiscate your kids phones at the dinner table, extend the “use it and lose it” policy to all members of the family (yes, that includes you!). Unless you’re on-call, get into the habit of switching off your work phone after work, or at least your emails, and never take your phone to bed. If you find yourself waking in the middle of the night worrying about the next day’s duties, experts recommend getting up and doing something else until you feel sleepy again.

All about the breath

As Bikram would say, focus on the breath. Deep breathing is one of the most successful tools for switching off because it naturally calms the body. Whenever your mind wanders back to the office, focus on the sensation of the breath as air enters and leaves your lungs.

Go green

Highly processed, fatty foods can agitate the body, as can a big meal right before bed. Snack on nuts, which are packed with cortisol-busting magnesium. For dinner, pack your plate with green leafy vegetables. Dark leafy greens such as spinach are rich in folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. Drinking black or green tea instead of coffee is thought to reduce stress hormones too.

Social media, friend or foe?

Just as social media sites can help you get a job, they can also be your catalyst to life in the slow-lane – unemployment!

If you don’t have tight privacy controls on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat accounts, do us a favour and think twice before posting photos of your boozy weekend shenanigans.

Without visibility restrictions on your pages, all it takes is a quick Internet search and wham – your boss knows why you rocked up to work bleary-eyed and pale-faced on Monday morning.

The same goes for trash talking your boss in 140 characters or less – #justdon’tdoit.

But it’s not just about what content you post online that can be your foe in the job game, it’s about abiding by your company’s social media policies. This could include logging on to you Instagram or Facebook account during work hours. Guilty much?

At work you get paid an hourly rate to do just that, work! So don’t abuse your organisation’s super-fast Internet speeds by spending your time scrolling your flatmate’s news feed.

As always, there are two sides to every story. Just as social media can be your undoing, a strong and positive social media presence can be the element that gets you over the line in a job interview.

Consider, for example, a candidate who is presenting for a role at an animal shelter. A well-constructed and presented profile, with images of said candidate canoodling cute and fluffy animals – and importantly – following the shelter’s social media accounts, will go a long way to helping them secure the job.

Snoopy employers also like to see pictures of family dinners, travel, inspirational quotes, recipes and suitable page “likes” when they look up their employees and potential employees.

LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, is a great way to find jobs and connect with like-minded professionals.

It is NOT a platform to engage in idle chit chat or share the types of photos we talked about earlier. LinkedIn is in a league of its own, so we have created this cheat sheet to get you sorted.

Overall, it’s important to ensure you’re always reflecting the best version of yourself – online and offline. Tidy up photos, don’t bag your boss and adjust your privacy settings if need be.

And if you’ve already forgot the above, here are three top tips to set yourself up for success on social media.

Tip 1: Have a look at your account from your employer’s point of view – if you were hiring for a role, would you hire yourself?

Tip 2: Now that you know potential employers are going to look at your profile, make it the best you can. Think about what will make you stand out from the crowd. If you have any interests or volunteer work that relates to the sector you’re aspiring to work in, list it.

Tip 3: Use social media for company insights, giving you an edge at your next interview. It’s easy to browse a website and reel off a few stats in the interview, but if you start following a company you will be up-to-date with recent news, changes and other relevant information.

 

Category: 
Interview, Job Search, Resume

Reading newspapers makes you smarter (and more employable)

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a smart pill that could turn us all into Albert Einstein reincarnates?

Well, there’s not, bozo.

Becoming smarter doesn’t just happen overnight, it takes a concerted daily effort to build your smarts (apparently crosswords and coffee help too).

One such daily effort to boost your brain power is that of the humble newspaper.

Aside from keeping up with the Kardashians, reading the newspaper helps you become more aware of the things happening in the world around you. It also introduces you to unfamiliar cultures and events that you don’t normally hear about. You’ll learn to form your own opinions on world events and issues, plus you’ll have a lot more to talk about at the water cooler.

At the Institute of Careers, we’ve encountered more than a few instances of job-hunters oozing confidence on their way to interviews, only to walk away feeling as smart as Homer Simpson. And it’s not through lack of knowledge about their profession or the organisation they want to work in, but of the world around them.

As an icebreaker, it’s not uncommon for potential employers to kick off the interview with, “Did you hear about so and so in the news this morning?” The last thing you want is to draw a blank and look like you have no idea what they’re talking about.

Hiring managers want to know they’re recruiting the best of the best, and if you want to be the best, you have to stay abreast of what’s happening in your own backyard, at the very least.

Here are a few other daily habits that you can do to become smarter:

Get lost. Finding your way back from a lost at sea moment will develop your spatial awareness. Most people take the same route to work every day. Over time, the brain’s capacity to navigate declines. To train your brain’s spatial intelligence, start by taking a new, unfamiliar route home.

Exercise. Eat well. Laugh often. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. When you exercise, you increase blood flow to your brain, keeping it in top-notch condition. Laughing has also been shown to increase your intelligence and make your brain sharper (LOL).

Step outside your zone. If you surround yourself with the same people every day, and do the same things every day, you aren’t exactly learning anything. Mix things up a bit – make an effort to talk to one new person a day, or try one new thing. You might be surprised at what you discover.

Meditate. Aside from being an awesome stress reliever, meditation can increase your intelligence – just ask the Dalai Lama. Meditation trains the brain to focus and quieten the mind chatter. But you don’t need to become a monk to increase your brain capacity, all it takes is a quick five minute meditation each day to increase your intelligence and attentiveness in daily life.

Say no to Netflix. Don’t rule it out entirely, but limit the amount of time you spend glued to the box. Most programs are designed for maximum impact with minimum effort. If your motto is Netflix and chill, you’ll know what we’re on about. If you do this regularly, your brain will become less capable of thinking intelligent thoughts, just as an unfit body will be less capable of running a marathon.

Watch TED. Contrary to the previous point, TED videos are worth watching. TED.com contains some of the best videos to help you learn new things. Whether it’s learning about augmented reality or electroshock therapy, TED has it all. Tune in on your lunch break for a quick dose of the smarts.

Category: 
Interview, Job Search, Resume

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The Institute of Careers is a leading career development and advisory support service, equipping Australian job-seekers and employees with the know-how to supercharge their careers. We offer a wide range of resources, including cheat sheets, FAQs and customisable templates, covering all aspects of professional development – from writing a cracking cover letter, searching for a job and selling yourself in an interview, to landing a promotion and becoming a great manager.