Integrate Integrity Into Your Career!

Integrity!  This word is a powerful keyword used by businesses regularly when seeking employees and evaluating current employees.  Integrity makes up a percentage of the cornerstone of a good worker because it is essential for trust.  Employers want to know that the person leading 50 employees can do so while maintaining the standards, code of ethics, and values of the company.  This may sound obvious, but after sifting through social media posts of many people, it is clear that not everyone has the integrity we would like to think.  In fact, I have heard of many cases of employees on FMLA who are posting pictures of themselves partying, and people who call in sick to nurse the hangover from the night before.

Employers create a code of ethics because they need to ensure their company will run smoothly.  Co-workers depend on one another to complete operations, but one employee not adhering to the code of ethics can throw the whole team off course, and influence poor behavior in other employees.

How can you ensure you have the integrity to meet the demands of your employer?

First, know what they expect.  You should know the code of ethics, the mission statement, the values, and everything else that is pertinent to the running of and the behavioral expectation of the company.  Then, you should exhibit this behavior on a regular basis.

You should go above and beyond to show your employer that you not only know the expectations and can follow them, but that you actually care about them.  The employer who sees true integrity from you is more likely to trust you, and this can lead to a positive outcome for you.

Be the one to stand your ground on workplace values, and be a determined employee with an eye for what is right and best for the company.  Be the employee that the employer can trust!

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Looking to the New Year Ahead!

The day has arrived.  A shiny new year has begun and people awoke with a buzz of excitement, nursing hangovers, and dreaming of accomplishing newly crafted resolutions.  I started my day like any other, but ideas, plans, goals, and dreams have been carried with me in my thoughts through the day.  I know I have an exciting year ahead, and a challenging one.

I will be graduating this May with my two bachelor’s degrees, and I will begin my journey into a career.  It is hard to describe the feelings that come to a soon-to-be-graduate because there are too many.  I have an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, knowing I have worked hard to achieve this goal.  In fact, it has been a six year process.  I also feel as though I have been provided invaluable skills and knowledge that will lead to an ability to move into a career.  I know the first half of the year will be full of classes, craziness, and sadly, the last semester of my undergraduate career.  I will maintain my expectations of myself, and I will graduate summa cum laude.  I will walk across the stage at graduation with a mix of pride and sadness.  A lump will fill my throat as I realize I am leaving behind the sights, sounds, and familiarity that has become a second home to me.

I will embark on a journey into the the world of job searching, learning the lingo, prepping resumes, and preparing for interviews.  I will carry the confidence I have gained with me into the workforce, knowing I am smart, strong, and capable.  I will perhaps consider graduate school, and finish my novel.  I have so many things that will fill my year with joy and achievement.  My educational and career goals will be a main focus for me this year, but there is something that must be considered in all things.  My family.

I love my family, and my son has had a challenging year with school and his behavior.  His mental illnesses have spun out of control, and it has been very difficult to work with him.  I will continue to get him the help he needs, but I will also work to help him to see his worth and potential because that will hopefully give him the strength he needs to change the path he is on.  The challenges I have faced as a mother with special needs children has been overwhelming at times, and I plan to continue to write and blog about advocacy issues because there are so many people who struggle with this problem.

I am truly excited to make this an incredible year, and I would love to hear the plans of others.  Please post any goals you may have or what you are most excited about in the coming year!

New Year’s Series: Resolution Planning Time

Now that we have completed the exercises over the past few days, you should have a list of your toughest lesson learned, the successes you have had over the past year, your past goals and dreams, and a SWOT table with your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.  This is a lot of information, but it will help you to plan resolution like never before.  The reason it is hard to stick to resolutions is because we tend to come up with a general goal and give ourselves a year to complete it.  There is no real plan.

Your first task is to go through your lessons learned because if one of them is that you need to cut toxic relationships from your life before they drag you down, and you want to resolve to make a toxic relationship stronger this year, you need to remember what you have learned in the past.  After making your resolutions , you will revisit this list to make sure your previous lessons do not apply to any of your new resolutions.

Next, you need to look at your successes and study them.  Did you succeed a great deal in one aspect of your life like your career, but not in your personal life?  Perhaps you want to continue to build on these successes, or perhaps you want to balance things out and add resolutions that will focus on a different aspect of your life.  Think about what made you successful for everything on your list.  Perhaps you were passionate about these things, maybe you accomplished more in the first half of the year when you were thinking about your goals for the year, or at the end when you realized you had not accomplished what you wanted to yet.  This is important because it helps you to see how you think, plan, and work.

The next step is to look at past goals and dreams that were left behind.  Are any of these still relevant? Did you give up on them because you were not ready, you were scared, or perhaps it is a path you left behind and would rather leave it in the past.  We all change as we grow, and this includes goals and dreams.  This is where you should break out the highlighter and highlight any goal or dream you would like to rekindle.

Finally, go over your SWOT.  You should see what your strengths are.  Will these help you achieve your goals, and is there anything missing that you should try to develop?  With your weaknesses, it is important to know what they are and if you can try to change that aspect of yourself.  Opportunities to enhance your life, and make changes to yourself, to grow and learn, can lead to resolutions.  Finally, threats, what threats do you have to your success, and how can you work through them?  You should always be prepared for these threats and for the task to overcome them.

This in-depth look at yourself should have helped you to come up with some resolutions you may not have considered before.  Your last task is to make a list of everything you would like to accomplish in the next year.  For each item, you need to consider if a different resolution should come first, if it should be within a certain period of time, and if it should be during a specific time of year.  Each resolutions should have a date to start, and an expected date to finish.  You should try to spread your goals out and make sure this is something you incorporate into your schedule.  Most of us use a scheduler on our phone, online, or a planner.  You can add the dates for your resolutions to it, and even reminders.  If it is a big resolution, create steps to help you achieve it.  This should also be added to your planner.  A more detailed plan like this allows you to carry your goals through the year and gives you a timeline to work from.  Once you have your completed resolution plan, think about your lessons learned, make sure they still apply, and think about your strengths that will help you achieve your goals.

Now, you can begin the year right, with a plan that will help you to find success.  I wish you all the best of luck in this coming year.  2015 has the potential to be a magical year if you work hard!  I hope you will all update me as we near 2016, and let me know if this worked for you.  I would love to hear about successful resolutions!  Happy New Year!!!

New Year’s Series: Personal Strengths and Weaknesses

We are almost there!  2015 is looming around the corner just waiting for the ball to drop and for everyone to celebrate with champagne kisses and a frenzy of resolutions.  This means we must get the last exercise in to prepare for resolution planning.  We can use everything we have come up with to prepare not just a list of half-hearted resolutions, but a plan that makes sense to us, that is attainable, and that is relevant.

Today, I want you to make a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) table about yourself.  This tables should be a square broken into four squares.  In the top left, place your strengths.  This could be your personality strengths or skills.  Really, anything that makes you a strong person or hard worker.  In the top right, write your weaknesses.  We all have them, and this is important for you to know.  These are parts of you and your personality that could be limiting, or that could become a resolution to change.  In the bottom left, place opportunities.  This could be opportunity for change, growth, or anything else that you recognize as an opportunity.  Finally, in the bottom right, place threats.  This includes any roadblocks or challenges that threaten your progress.

Once this is complete, review everything you have written from the exercises over the past few days because this information will help when it is time to write the plan tomorrow.  Good luck!

New Year’s Series: Past Goals and Dreams

The New Year’s series continues as we reflect and try to gain a better understanding of ourselves, our past, our strengths, lessons, and dreams. This will help us to build resolutions for the New Year based on who we really are. It also enables us to remember what was forgotten or pushed aside that is still relevant.

The task today is to reflect on the goals and dreams from your past that were never fulfilled or accomplished. Some may no longer be important, but some may still linger because you still dream of them subconsciously. We change and grow as the years pass, and it is inevitable that our wants and desires will shift as well. However, you may find that your passion for a specific dream or goal is rekindled, and this may land on your resolution plan.

Make your list, and add it to the previous lists. We will have one more day of activities and on the 31st, I will help you use these lists to create a resolution plan that makes sense and is attainable. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts on the process.

New Year’s Series: Toughest Lessons Learned

For the days leading up to New Years Day, I think it is incredibly important to reflect on the past year.  Each day, I will be taking part in a special task to reflect on an aspect of the past year, and then, to consider the New Year.  Each year, people make resolutions, but this is not as effective as many think because the resolutions are usually short-lived.  People may work hard for a limited amount of time, but then give up as they move on to the next great plan or goal.  This is why it is important to do more reflection, and to plan resolutions differently.

Today, I want to focus on the toughest lessons learned over the past year.  I think that it is difficult to come up with a plan moving forward if we cannot zero in on the lessons we have learned.  For me, I learned a great deal the hard way, by making mistakes.  I find that if I think about some of the most difficult, embarrassing, confusing, and challenging times I have had over the past year, I can usually see how my actions caused or made that situation worse.  This is what I plan to list tonight.  The more I can accept my faults and mistakes, the better equipped I will be in the future to either not make the same mistake again, or to fix things a little quicker.

It all boils down to the fact that we are all human.  We cannot expect to be perfect.  I have high expectations for myself, but I also know that I will make mistakes.  I have done a great deal to become stronger in my communication abilities, to speak well, negotiate, network, and work with various individuals.  However, I have also found myself in awkward moments, or making simple mistakes in negotiating due to slight anxiety.  When these moments happen, I take a mental note of it so I can figure out what made me uncomfortable, and how I can handle this type of situation or reaction in the future.  Part of being human is having faults, making mistakes, and living through embarrassing moments that will haunt you.  Those who can accept this part of themselves while always looking at ways to grow from their experiences will find they will be more successful.

I challenge everyone to start their reflection of the past year by looking at the challenges you have faced, and make a list of the lessons you have learned along the way.  Then, have a plan for the future if you are faced with a similar challenge.  Sometimes, even though you understand the lessons, you may not know how to make changes when it happens again.  This is why it is crucial to plan for it now.  If you can gain a stronger understanding of you and your behaviors, you can become well equipped to handle problems yet to come.

The Transformative Nature of Education!

There is so much controversy over education right now.  Prices of a degree can be difficult for many people and the job market makes many question the value of a degree.  There are many articles out there with statistics telling people whether a college degree is worth it.  For the most part, everything I have read seems to show a higher level of income for degree earners in many fields, but this post is going to explore something else.  Education is not just about the income that will be earned later.  Education holds a treasure that goes beyond the paycheck, it is transformative for the learner.

As a college student who has spent six years juggling full-time education and a family to earn two degrees, I can say I have gained much more than I anticipated from my years in college.  Perhaps it is the fact that I am at an all women’s day college right now, but I have become truly empowered.  I have found the professors at Cedar Crest College to be inspiring, always challenging me to become stronger and better.  The small class sizes instill an environment of collaboration, and I have gained much from this.  I have learned to speak about my beliefs and ideas with conviction, and I have grown as a public speaker.  I have gained confidence and determination.  I am an active leader who takes charge and builds professional relationships with people based on trust.  I can collaborate, network, negotiate, and accomplish more that I though possible.  I have changed drastically.

Beyond the skills I have attained and the confidence I have built, I have also learned a great deal about myself.  I have found that I am passionate about more than writing.  I now know that I love leadership roles and teamwork.  I enjoy being challenged, and I have a passion for advocacy roles in various areas.  I have learned that my career goals can be expanded and I can aim for more than I intended.  My education has given me the gift of knowledge about the business world, and the analytical thinking skills needed to solve and analyze problems.  It has also helped to uncover the potential I had hidden deep inside myself.  While there are debates about the value of education all over the web, I find the lessons I have learned to be invaluable.

I will carry my education with me as I move forward into a rewarding life because I am now much richer than when I began college.  Richer, in the sense that the treasure I have is a better understanding of myself and a realization that the possibilities for my future are limitless.  In fact, I now know that the only thing that ever truly limited me from reaching for my dreams before was myself.  I could never put a price tag on the education I have received because its value cannot be measured.  Confidence, empowerment, skills, friendships, connections, and personal growth are worth the student loans I will owe and so much more.  I know not every student will have the same experience, but that is because they choose not to.  We can make our education great by tapping into each resource offered, and becoming involved.  This is how I made the most of my education, and it has truly transformed me.  I hope more young men and women choose to do the same because it can make the difference between a career at the end, or a struggle.

Why “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg Can Help You!

I have heard fellow business students speak about Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In” over the past semester and knew I had to read it.  I am not sure if it is the fact that the business world is evolving and women are taking more risks, or if it is because I attend an all women’s day college, but the popularity of this book is making its mark.  I have lofty goals and know the glass ceiling still exists in many ways for women.  As soon as my semester was over, I dove into this book.  The main concept that is discussed in this book is the fact that women tend to steer clear of the table, when they should be willing to sit down, even if they are the only woman, and “lean in.”  It is necessary for women to become more involved in the business, the dialog, the negotiations, and to not fear discussing important topics.

Sandberg even goes as far as discussing the need for women to speak about their family choices such as having a baby, and to not turn down opportunities because they think their pregnancy or children will affect it.  Instead, they should determine the choice they make based on their desires.  I have seen how women limit themselves, and I am a shining example of this as I have always put others ahead of myself, until recently.  I think Sandberg makes an important point because women tend to remain silent when they should be speaking up!  It is crucial for women to know where they are going and what they want.

As more equality is found in the workplace, more fathers will need to step up, and I have seen this happening as well.  My husband is incredibly supportive, and while I can nitpick and say he is not taking on enough housework, he takes on a great deal of the work with the kids.  I assume that as I work more outside of the home, he will step up even more and take on housework.  Sandberg shows the unfortunate seclusion men face when they become the primary caregivers for their children, and this dynamic also needs to change if women are to rely on them more.  The important thing is for the dialog to continue so changes can be made.  Women need to “lean in” because their opinions and challenges matter.  Without an equal say, there cannot be an equal society.

Sandberg brings up important topics, some of which are already widely discussed, but her overall message is important to the development of women in the workforce.  There are many things I will take away from this book, but more importantly, when I find myself backing away from a situation because I am one of the only women, or I am nervous, I will “lean in.”

The Elephant in the Caregiving Room!

This post is going to be incredibly personal as I discuss something about caregiving that is often left out of the equation.  The fact is, people tend to portray the heroism in caregiving or the toll it takes on caregivers.  Yet, there is a conflict that arises and is never discussed, at least not that I have seen.  We all know caregivers lose a piece of their life, they give a lot of time to care for loved ones, and they lose privacy, but there is something that is lost that goes much deeper than an afternoon out.

My parents have cared for my grandparents for 13 years.  After my grandma passed last year, they continued to care for my grandpa.  Recently, they took my Aunt Mona, who is dying from cancer, in.  They have sacrificed all privacy.  My mom has been a caregiver full-time instead of working, and now that my father is unemployed, he has been a caregiver full-time as well.  They spend their life organizing medications, doctor appointments, wheelchairs, nurse aids, oxygen tanks, bathing, feeding proper foods, and any other aspect that fills the corners of each day.  This is something people tend to associate with caregivers, but unless you are the caregiver, or you truly see what these people do, you cannot possibly understand the effects that go beyond this.

I have lost a huge part of my parents, and they have lost themselves, and their relationship.  I used to be able to call my mom and go to lunch with her when I had a day off and my son was in school.  We could go shopping, have mother daughter time.  I could hang out with them and watch movies.  We could meet for dinners.  They used to be able to go to dinner or a movie as a couple when they wanted.  They could schedule a vacation.  Instead, they have learned to love as partners in caregiving, not partners in the typical, marital sense of the word.  They do not have the same relationship because the caregiving has become their world.  As I approach graduation, I had to worry about the fact that I only have 6 tickets for family, and they do not have anyone to watch grandpa and Aunt Mona.  They do not feel like the extended family will take the vacation time to help.  There are a few siblings that could not because they are not able to financially, but even those who could, would consider this a burden and would most likely not make this work.

The problem is, I feel guilty because I do not want my grandpa or Aunt Mona there.  I know that if they are there, my parents will be distracted.  My grandpa has Alzheimer’s and when he is away from home, he gets anxious.  If he gets anxious, my dad will be worried about getting him home, and my mom will feel like she is rushed to leave.  The whole time will be spent worrying about them, and I want it to be a day that I can get the degrees I worked 6 years for with my parents who should be able to enjoy watching their daughter achieve something.  I feel like I should not feel this way because my parents can’t help it, but then I feel like I should be able to feel angry because my parents should have a more supportive family network.  This makes me angry.  Then, I feel conflicted.  If I feel this way, I can’t imagine how conflicted my parents feel.

When I see my cousin post pictures of her taking her parents on a train ride through the mountains and enjoying a small vacation with them, or pictures of happy, stress free dinners, I get angry.  These people get to live their life, and they do not have any realization that my parents do not get this vacation, and I can’t invite them on a small vacation.  We do not get stress free dinners together, and we do not get to have anything remotely like they do.  Their lives are full of freedom while my parents are restricted by this role of caregiving.

Now, I do not want people to think I devalue caregiving.  If anything, this makes me respect caregivers even more.  What I want to do is make people understand the extensive effects of caregiving,  Relationships suffer, freedom is lost, and feelings become turbulent.  Feelings of duty and expectation mix with anger and guilt.  Caregivers, and their close family members who are actually involved, tend to live with guilt when they feel upset or angry over the abandonment of the rest of the family, and the overwhelming nature of caregiving.  Why should someone who gives of themselves daily because they care for another human being feel like they cannot share their feelings?  Why should they feel as though they need to keep plugging along without days of grief?  Why can they not be allowed to express frustration without feeling guilty?  It is because society expects them to be troopers.  We expect them to give of themselves without a reprieve and to be thankful because they are impacting another life.  Yes, caregivers may be thankful for the time they spend with their loved ones and knowing they are getting the right care, but they are also overwhelmed, exhausted, and they deserve to express their emotions without judgement.

These feelings are normal.  It is a lifestyle change that seriously affects every aspect of a caregiver’s life, and they have the right to be overwhelmed, and they should not have to feel shame or guilt when they feel this way.  It is also normal to feel jealousy, anger, and resentment against the rest of the family as they move on with their lives, leaving the caregivers behind in the haze.  This is what people need to discuss because otherwise, more families become divided, and more caregivers will carry unnecessary guilt.  It also needs to bring light to the inequality in families when it comes to caregiving because so many are left without a family network to rely on, and this breeds feelings of extreme anger and resentment.  I can honestly say that I am still working through this as I deal with anger towards the rest of our family.  I see people who get to live their life, and I desperately want more natural time with my parents.  This is the elephant in the caregiving room.  This is what is no one want to talk about, but it is there, causing tension and pain in caregiver homes everywhere.  This issue needs to be faced head on, and dealt with because caregiving is becoming more prevalent in our society, and the baby boomers are aging.  It is time to make a change instead of avoiding the issue, and the first step is to recognize this problem.