„I’ll have a life when I retire”. Addressing your Work – Life (im)Balance

Lipiec 3rd, 2011

Dear Readers,

In my professional career I’ve met many people whose lives were completely focused on their work. Don’t get me wrong – I do believe that everyone should approach their job with utmost dedication, but not in a destructive way. It is hard to come up with a viable explanation why we let our lives get out of control. You would not believe how many work-life balance consulting firms exist in the world, making money on desperate executives who suddenly wake up in their 40s, discovering that they have no friends or interests left and the only thing they have improved in themselves is their job title.

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image source: blog.emergenceconsulting.net/

I believe that we are all inherently programmed by our culture and education to think of work as the fundamental priority in our lives. Consequently, we naturally steer our careers towards jobs with the most financial gain in sight, treating our social and family lives as a way to ‚recharge the batteries’ for another hard day at the office.

I may be exaggerating, but I do believe that there are many people out there who need help restoring their lives to a balanced state. The question is: are YOU one of them? Or better yet: am I one of them?

It was only recently that I came across Nigel Marsh, a guy who seemed to have all the answers:

Nigel Marsh is the bestselling author of „Fat, Forty and Fired” and „Overworked and Underlaid” as well as the Regional Group CEO of Young and Rubicam Brands for Australia & New Zealand. He clearly states that finding the balance between work and life is an ongoing battle.

Let’s to go through the main points of his presentation at TED:

1. If societies want to address the work-life balance issue, we need an honest debate.

Let’s get real. While many people fall victim to the corporate propaganda of flexi-timedress-down Fridays or paternity leaves, we seem to be missing the core issue: certain job and career choices are fundamentally incompatible with having a young family. And there is no way that going to work on Friday in jeans and T-shirt can change that.

2. Governments and corporations are not going to solve this issue for us.

Stop looking outside. Nowadays, having a job which you don’t hate seems to be a rare privilege. It is up to us to take control and responsibility for the type of life you want to lead. As Marsh puts it: If you do not design your life, someone else will design it for you – and you may not like their idea of „balance”. You must never put the quality of your life in the hands of a commercial corporation.

3. Be realistic when setting the time frame upon which you’ll judge your work-life balance.

Take your time. Elongate the time frame in which you want to achieve the desired balance. Do not try to do everything at once! Many corporate warriors subscribe to the „I’ll have a life whenI retire” philosophy, at the same time completely forgetting that their families will not be waiting forever for the dad/mum to come back home from the office.

It is important to realise that packing your schedule with after-work activities, like gym memberships, book clubs, day spas and meditation classes will not get you balanced immediately. Remember what Marsh said: „Being a fit 10h a day office rat isn’t more balanced – it’s more fit”.

4. Small things matter.

Do not start with a revolution. Being balanced doesn’t necessarily mean a dramatic upheaval in your life. Small differences matter most and you should learn how to find pleasure in them. While we seem to be living in a society celebrating the idea that the person with the most money when he dies wins, it is sometimes enough to finish your work one hour earlier and take your kids for a pizza.

Ok, so how do you get started?

It’s actually quite simple. Remember that there’s so much more to life than your regular nine-to-five. I’m not saying that you should immediately cut your working hours, run to the church, call your parents on the and start reading up on philosophy. It is enough to make small changes to dramatically improve your work-life balance and consequently – your life quality:

– Draw a graph, identify all those areas of your life which you’ve been neglecting.

– Set boundaries and time frames, use your weekly calendar more effectively to allow some time for the small things.

– Plan your ideal day and include all those aspects of your life you’ve missed so far.

– Multitask and use modern technologies to assist you with your daily routine. There are hundreds of Podcasts that can keep you up-to-date with news, politics, religion and philosophy.

– Smile a lot and enjoy yourself.

BZ

VOCABULARY

1. to approach – to come near or nearer to – podchodzić do

2. utmost – of the greatest or highest degree, quantity- nadzwyczajny

3. dedication – being committed to a task or purpose – oddanie

4. to come up with – to produce something – wymyślić

5. executive – a person having administrative orsupervisory authority in an organisation – kierownik, dyrektor

6. job title – an official position in an organizational hierarchy  – stanowisko pracy

7. inherently – by nature, existing in something as an unseparable element – nieodłącznie, nierozłącznie

8. to fall victim to – to be the aim of the attack – paść ofiarą

9. flexi-time – no fixed working hours – elastyczny czas pracy

10. dress-down Friday – casual Friday

11. paternity leaves – maternity leave for fathers – urlop tacierzyński

12. privilege – a right, immunity or benefit – przywilej

13. to elongate – to make longer – wydłuż, rozciągnij w czasie

14.consequently – as a result – w rezultacie

15. to neglect – fo forget about, not to pay attention to – zaniedbywać

10 killer job interview questions and how to answer them

Czerwiec 19th, 2011

Dear Readers,

Are you ready for that all-important job interview? I’m sure that if you’re reading this you must be thinking about applying for a job abroad or in an international corporation. Most interviews are designed not only to check if you’re fit for the job, but also examine your command of spoken English. BEM Blog’s list of top 10 killer interview questions will help you prepare to get the job you’ve dreamed about.

image source: mensite.pl

image source: mensite.pl

1. First, tell me about yourself.

It may seem like an easy open-ended question anyone can answer correctly without much effort.

Actually, you can’t be more wrong. ‚Tell me about yourself’ does not mean ‚tell me everything’. What the hiring panel really wants to hear is a brief account of who you are and why you are the best candidate for this particular job.

Talk about what you’ve done to prepare yourself for the position and use a recent example to back it up. Ideally, you should go on for about 2-3 minutes and then ask if they would like to hear some more details. If they do, keep using examples to prove how your background and experience were useful in real-life business situations.

2. What is your long-term objective?

Be honest. Focus on your most achievable goal and how are you going to reach it. It is vital to have a clear vision of how your career should look like in the next 5 years or so and how to make this vision come true, for example:

Within the next five years, I would like to become the best team leader your company has ever hired. I want to work toward becoming the expert in managing others. I am confident that I’ll be fully prepared to take on any future responsibilities which might be presented  to me in the long run. For example, here is what I’m presently doing to prepare myself for a managing position… (and  go on to describe what you are already doing to reach your goals and objectives).

3. What is the most difficult situation you have had to face and how did you tackle it?

Have an example at hand. Select a difficult work situation (which was not caused by you and which can be quickly explained in a few sentences). When choosing the problem, focus on how YOU worked towards the solution. Focus on the skills required on the position you are applying for that helped you face the situation. Describe the results and tell them how the company benefitted from your actions.

Have in mind that the purpose of this question is to find out what your definition of ‚difficult’ is and to determine whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving. Explain how you defined the problem, what the other options were, why you selected the one you did and what the outcome was. Always end on a positive note.

4. What are your strengths?

Prepare a list of your proficiencies and choose three or four that are the most relevant to the job you are applying for. Concentrate on discussing your main strengths. Avoid popular clichés, such as:

  1. I am a good team player…
  2. I am a good negotiator…
  3. I work very hard…

Focus on your more dynamic skills, such as:

  1. I learn quickly.
  2. I have a strong determination to succeed.
  3. I have a positive attitude.
  4. I can relate to people and achieve a common goal.
  5. I make friends easily.

Remember that you may very likely be asked to give examples of the above, so be prepared.

5. What is your greatest weakness?

Do not say you have none – this will not sound very credible and might, in fact, make your interviewer  believe you are being over-confident. Another rookie mistake is trying to disguise one of your strengths as a weakness, for example:

Well, I’m such a hard worker. Sometimes I really work too hard. I should probably spend more time with my family, because all I do is work… Did I mention I work hard? hmmm… That’s because all I do is work, work, work…

You have two alternatives:

  1. Use a professed weakness such as a lack of experience (not ability) on your part in an area that is not vital for the job.
  2. Describe a personal or professional weakness that you’ve been working on improving. Focus on the steps you have taken to combat it, for example:
    I know the people from my team think I’m too demanding. I sometimes tend to drive them pretty hard but I’ve started reading on the subject some time ago and I’m getting much better at managing them by setting objectives.

6. Why do you want to leave your current employer?

Whatever your reasons for leaving were, do not think about them in negative terms. It is not appropriate to mention financial conditions as your primary reason for leaving. Focus on the working environment and state how you are looking for a new challenge, more responsibility, experience and a change of surroundings.

7. Why have you applied for this particular job?

By asking this question, your future employer is looking for evidence that the job suits you and involves doing things you enjoy. On the other hand, it gives him or her a chance to test your knowledge about the industry as well as the whole organisation. Make sure you have a good understanding of the role and the place you’re going to take in the company. Prove to them that your job goes in line with your character and passion.

8. How has your education prepared you for your career?

This is a broad question and you need to focus on the specific examples in your educational background which have given you the proficiency to do this particular job. If applying for a job in a technical field, be sure to mention any relevant achievements in that particular field and your passion for the subject.

9.What experience do you have in this field?

Never say ‚none’. If you’re applying for a job in a field totally unknown to you, think of any experience you’ve gained in learning new skills. Try to look for similarities between your previous jobs and the prospect one and come up with some examples of how you adjusted to the new situation, for example:

I’ve never worked in cosmetics before, but in my previous job I’ve learned a lot about sales and marketing and I’m confident I’ll be quick to learn the ropes of your industry very quickly.

10. What kind of salary do you need?

A question that can catch anyone off guard. Unless you have done some research and know precisely what your expectations are,try to avoid being the first to put the figure on the table. The best way to do this is by stating that your salary expectancy depends on the amount of responsibilities you’d have to take on. Do not have a specific amount in mind and do not be afraid to ask for more than the average industry wage. It is much better to provide your interviewer with a wide range rather than a specific sum, for example:

I’ve asked around and I know that a marketing manager doing a similar job in Berlin earns about EUR 3700 a month. Given that my job would also require organising three training seminars a month, I’d expect my salary to range between EUR 4000 and EUR 4500.

BZ

What are your experiences with tough job interviews? What was the hardest question you’ve been asked? Feel free to comment below.

VOCABULARY:

  1. open-ended question – otwarte pytanie
  2. panel – grupa, komitet
  3. brief – krótki
  4. achievable – osiągalny
  5. approach – podejście
  6. on a positive note – w pozytywny sposób
  7. proficiency – zdolność
  8. cliché – banał
  9. credible – wiarygodny
  10. rookie mistake – błąd początkującego
  11. to read on the subject – czytać na jakiś temat
  12. to to learn the ropes – poznać się na rzeczy
  13. to catch sb off guard – zaskoczyć kogoś

Positive thinking and „The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne

Listopad 21st, 2010

Welcome again,

The latest issue of  “Business English Magazine” casts a positive light on the global business world in 2011. After a tedious period of months followed by continuous cutbacks and budget restraints, entrepreneurs and companies are beginning to finally catch their breath. As the international economy begins to recover, it brings up the question of emotional attitude towards business and life in general.

An Australian writer, Rhonda Byrne, described some of the psychological processes that influence our everyday lives. In her book “The Secret” Rhonda writes about the law of attraction, which can be simply defined as: “whatever you think, you shall receive”.  A big part of the author’s research is our subconscious and how it influences events in our lives.

Nowadays it is hard to stay afloat and upbeat amidst all the negative press the news brings to us daily. However, it is up to us how we respond to the reality that surrounds us. Positive thinking is not only trying to convince yourself that its all great out there, but largely about self-confidence, having goals and dreams and most importantly – acting on them.

So next Monday instead of dreading negative situations that might come up this week, think of how can you leave a positive mark at your company.

Vocab dictionary:

  1. Cast positive light – prognozować pozytywne spojrzenie/perspektywę
  2. Continuous – ciągły;
  3. Cutback –  ograniczenie;cięcie budżetowe
  4. Restraint – powściągliwość;umiar
  5. Entrepreneur – przedsiębiorca
  6. Attitude – nastawienie;podejście
  7. Influence – wpływ;oddziaływanie
  8. Attract – przyciągać
  9. Inspiring – inspirujący;motywujący
  10. Shall – powinienieś/aś
  11. Subconscious – podświadomość
  12. Afloat – utrzymywać się na powierzchni
  13. Upbeat – entuzjastyczny
  14. Amidst – wśród;między
  15. Up to – zależeć od
  16. Convince – przekonać
  17. Largely – głównie
  18. Act on – podjąć działanie
  19. Leave a mark – zostawić ślad

“Welcome“/Personal development with Tony Robbins

Listopad 10th, 2010

Dear Readers,

Welcome to our first BEM blog post! For the readers of “Business English Magazine“ this will be an additional space to learn about the latest business news, ideas and interesting facts. If you are new to BEM, feel free to join the conversation.

Our first subject is about „personal development/growth“ and starts with the famous quote „A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step“ by a Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu. BEM works hard on delivering quality business English materials to you, that are up to date, relevant to modern business world and applicable in everyday life. All of this helps to develop your English skills, as well as grow as a person, inspired by the ideas we share. That’s what this blog aims to become in the online space.

Self develpoment

Self develpoment

In order to be successful we have to work together towards a shared goal: improving our English language abilities & widening our business knowledge horizons.

There are dozens if not hundredths of motivational/personal growth speakers, or what they are sometimes called “gurus” out there. Among them the most well-known is Tony Robbins. He is one of the most successful and inspiring business coaches, having worked with many celebrities including former US president Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Tiger Woods.
You can learn about his background here:

http://www.squidoo.com/tony-robbins-lifecoach

Tony over the last 3 decades of coaching has developed many inspiring and effective audio-programs and has written several motivational/coaching books. One of them is “Personal Power”. The basic concept of the book is that you are in charge of your attitude towards life/work/play situations and the results you achieve are entirely up to you. Tony uses the term “state” (of emotion) that we are constantly in. It might be happy/sad/motivated/unmotivated etc.
He says: “The emotional state that you’re in determines your behaviour and performance. You are always responsible for your own states.”

Learn more by visiting:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/36266477/Tony-Robbins-Personal-Power-trainleaders-social-media

How this relates to BEM and this blog?
To get value out of this blog you need to focus and be motivated to read it, come back to it and there will be lots of distractions around you along the way.
Throughout future blog posts we would like you to stay with us and follow our “1000miles journey” into the latest business news/ideas. That is the recipe for business English skills development, as well as extending your current business horizons.

We hope that this journey will be interesting and valuable to you,
Please let us know if you have any ideas/suggestions/opinions for future posts.

Vocabulary:

1. to start off with – rozpocząć od
2. up to date – aktualne/zaktualizowane
3. relevant – trafny;stosowny;związany z tematem
4. applicable – odpowiedni;dający się zastosować
5. to aim to become – stawia sobie za cel
6. a shared goal – wspólny cel
7. former – były; poprzedni
8. to develop – stworzyć;rozwinąć
9. inspiring – inspirujący;motywujący
10. several – kilka
11. to be in charge of – zarządzać; kontrolować
12. attitude towards – podejście/ustosunkowanie do czegoś
13. it is up to you – zależy do Ciebie
14. to determine – ustalać;definiować;
15. performance – wyniki/rezultaty (np. w pracy)
16. recipe – przepis

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