Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Monday, July 27, 2015

"My focus at work is getting a little fuzzy"/ writing a summary

Jun. 3 "My focus at work is getting a little fuzzy": I cut out this article by Riana Thompson (talentegg.ca) in the Metro on Nov. 26, 2014.  Here's the whole article:

No matter where you work, you’ve probably found that it can sometimes be hard to concentrate. Maybe it’s because a constant influx of emails keeps interrupting your workflow or because your office is open-concept and you can’t close your door on the sound of your coworkers chatting, humming or talking on the phone.

Whatever the case, here are 8 things you can do to make it easier to concentrate:
 

1. Get comfortable

 
It’s hard to concentrate if you’re not comfortable in your workspace. If you work on the computer at a desk, adjust your seat so you’re sitting with a straight back and your feet firmly on the floor. Next, adjust your monitor to make sure that your screen is at eye level and your hands are resting on your keyboard with your elbows bent at approximately a 90° angle.

If your workplace is too warm or too cool for your liking and you’re not able to control the overall temperature, dress appropriately. Try wearing layers if you’re sensitive to heat or cold, or if your office temperature tends to fluctuate throughout the day.
 

2. Put your phone away

 
This may be tough if you’re used to keeping your phone near you, but it can have a huge impact on your productivity. Your phone can be really distracting if it’s constantly alerting you of incoming messages. Put it on silent and move it out of sight, at least while you’re working on anything that requires a high level of concentration.
 
 

3. Tidy up

 
Having a messy workspace can be incredibly distracting, especially if you’re someone who likes to keep things orderly. Take a bit of time to straighten up your desk before settling in to work on a project so that your mind doesn’t wander to the teetering piles of papers and dirty dishes stacked around you.

Try to get into the habit of setting aside 5-10 minutes at the start or end of every workday to tidy up your workspace. In addition to improving your focus, it will also set a good example to your coworkers and show them that you make an effort to stay organized.
 

4. Set a schedule

 
When you get into work in the morning, plan out your day. Make a list of what you want to accomplish and decide what you’re going to do when – you’re more likely to force yourself to focus if you know that you only have X amount of time to work on each task. You should also schedule in breaks so that you don’t forget to give yourself a rest. Plus, having a scheduled break to look forward to might also make it easier to buckle down.

Planning out the day ahead should also make it easier for you to prepare to work on a task before you begin it. Assemble everything you know you’ll need so that you’re not scrambling to find important notes and documents while you’re in the middle of working, since that can disrupt your workflow.
 

5. Silence notifications

 
Set your email, social media and other notifications to silent while you’re working if you find yourself losing focus every time you get a new alert. If you get a lot of emails over the course of your day, you may want to close out of your email program for an hour or two so you can concentrate on the task at hand.
 

6. Switch it up

 
If you hit a wall at work, try switching tasks or try changing your approach to what you’re working on. For example, you could consult a co-worker if you’re stuck on something or brainstorm to see if you can take a different angle to solving a problem.

If your boss is okay with it, you can also try temporarily changing your work hours. Coming in early or staying late may give you the opportunity to take advantage of quieter times at the office, helping you to get down to business without others around to distract you.
 

7. Use headphones

 
Headphones, especially the ones that go over your ears, can be a lifesaver at work. If you find yourself getting distracted by your colleagues or other sources of noise that are outside your control, you might want to invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to block out whatever is bothering you.

Otherwise, you can simply use your headphones to listen to soothing music. Something without lyrics is most likely to help you focus, so look for an instrumental playlist online that you can work well to.

My opinion: Yeah, I listen to instrumental music to work to. 
 

8. Take a break

 
Don’t forget to take periodic breaks to give your eyes a break from your screen, stretch your legs and get a drink or water or a snack. Use an app to remind yourself to get up and stretch if you won’t remember to do it on your own or set an alarm to help you follow some kind of routine, like working for 55 minutes then taking a 5 minute break.

It’s important to make sure that you also eat well and stay hydrated, so be sure to have a solid breakfast and lunch and drink plenty of water throughout the day. It will give you the energy you need to power through your day and will stop you from getting distracted by hunger or thirst.

Although there are often factors outside of our control that can make it hard for us to focus at work, there are things we can do to make our work lives easier. Follow these simple steps to boost your productivity the next time you’re having difficulty concentrating and you’ll be a pro at avoiding distractions before you know it.

Jun. 11 "Writing up a summary that sticks": I cut out this article by Lauren Marinigh in the Metro on Aug. 6, 2014.  Here's the whole article:

LinkedIn is an incredibly valuable resource, not just for job-hunting and networking, but also as a platform to develop your professional profile and image.

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face when you create your LinkedIn profile is deciding what to include in that dreaded “summary” section, which has a limit of 2,000 characters.

Your summary is usually the first thing a profile viewer sees, which makes it one of the most important parts of your LinkedIn profile — a good summary encourages readers to scroll down and learn more about you.

Here are some tips to help you create a great LinkedIn summary:

Blank is not an option

If you have limited experience, you may feel inclined to neglect writing a summary, convinced that you don’t have anything to share.

However, a summary is a great place for you to talk about your future goals and aspirations, which can help you when you’re trying to network or land your first job.

Even if you aren’t actively using LinkedIn or looking for work, having a complete profile shows that you appreciate the importance of online presence and self-representation.

It’s important to remember that your LinkedIn profile is always visible, and that leaving your summary blank sends a strong message to a prospective employer.

Use up that character limit

You have about 2,000 characters to share with the LinkedIn world. Put them to good use.

Share things with your network that don’t fit in other sections of your profile.

For example, you may possess unique skills or experience that you haven’t used in a workplace context — talk about them here.

Your summary is also a great place to show some personal character. While LinkedIn is an online representation of your professional self, your summary can show off some of the traits and attitude that make you unique (and a promising hire).



"Five key findings about millennial workers"

May 30 "Five key findings about millennial workers": I cut out this article by Dan Schawbel in the Globe and Mail on Dec. 13, 2013:

Millennials are the largest, most diverse, most educated and most connected generation of all time and that's why companies have to pay attention to them in a big way.

By 2025, they will become 75 per cent of the global work force and more are stepping into management positions every day. Most employers aren't prepared for the sheer number of millennials who are going to be entering their companies in the coming years because of the generational differences.

To better understand these disparities, I partnered with PayScale.com on our annual "Generations At Work" study. In the study, we compared millennials with Gen Xers and boomers to identify differences in how they view work and how they are dealing with the current economy. As work-force demographics change, companies have to be prepared to cater to people who were raised differently and have different levels of comfort with technology.

Here are some of our key findings, and how they can help employers better engage with millennials.

1. They are happy with their managers

More baby boomers (9.4 per cent) wish they could change their boss (out of all the possible changes to their work situation) than millennials (5.9 per cent) or Gen Xers (6.8 per cent). In Canada, fewer millennials would change their boss at 4.9 per cent. Based on previous research I've done, millennials have a positive view of their management. They see them as being wise and willing to mentor. Millennials are looking for mentoring support and seek their boss's advice on how to get ahead since they are just starting out in their careers. Companies need to provide these mentoring opportunities so they can better engage their millennials and retain them, instead of losing them to the competition.

2. They want to work for a small company

Millennial workers are more likely to work at small firms (fewer than 100 employees) than both Gen Xers or baby boomers (55.6 per cent compared with 48.1 per cent and 49.6 per cent, respectively). In Canada, slightly more millennials work for small firms (58.5 per cent). Millennials are seeking a startup culture where they can dress casually, have workplace flexibility and be innovative. Smaller companies provide an environment where they can get involved with various business activities too. Millennials are also turned off by the daunting interview process used by large companies. Employers should create a culture that supports millennials if they want to compete against millennial entrepreneurs and those who wish to work at smaller companies.

3. They have a delayed adulthood

In the study, we found that baby boomers are more likely to have always lived on their own after starting their career (95.6 per cent) than Gen X (88.5 per cent) or millennials (70.8 per cent). In Canada, slightly more millennials have lived on their own (71.9 per cent). Millennials across the world have felt the harsh realities of the economic collapse. Millions are still living with their parents and are either jobless or underemployed, working as bartenders or waiters. Employers need to be sensitive to this during their recruitment process and also understand that millennials are very family-oriented. Some have even brought their parents on job interviews.

4. They want to work from home

Despite millennials wanting workplace flexibility, they aren't receiving it as much as older generations. Gen X (6.5 per cent) is more likely to have the option to work from home than millennials (5.3 per cent) or baby boomers (4.8 per cent). In a previous study I did with oDesk.com, we found that millennials embrace the idea of freedom and flexibility in the workplace over older generations. Employers should give all generations the ability to work from wherever they want as long as they get their jobs done. Millennials will be more loyal and effective if you trust them with this privilege and if you don't, they will go to another company that offers it.

5. They want meaningful work

In the study, we found that millennials report the lowest levels of job meaning. In Canada, only 40 per cent of millennials report a high level of job meaning. Millennials often choose meaningful work over higher salaries when selecting a company to work for. Their workplace expectations are higher and not met by what corporations are currently offering either. Employers need to find a way to allow millennials to work on projects that align with their strengths and have a true business impact. They should also set expectations that not every project will be what they are looking for and that they have to pay their dues over time in order to earn opportunities.


Jul. 21 "It’s Time To Fill The Education Gap": I cut out this article by Tim Ryan in 24 News on May 6, 2013:

        
According to The Economist, almost 300m 15- to 24-year-olds are not working - almost a quarter of the world’s youth. The late Margaret Thatcher famously quipped “Young people ought not to be idle. It is very bad for them.” She was right.

Societies that leave their young workers idle in their formative years is problematic: young workers are more likely to struggle later in their careers, with lower wages and less job security as a result. It’s also a stark omen for the future of any economy, given an aging population will eventually be reliant on the goods and services that generation produces.
It’s tempting to only look at this from the perspective of less developed countries. However, it’s a big problem here in North America as well as other so-called developed countries. According to the OECD, there are 26m young people in ‘rich countries’ they count as “NEETS”: not in employment, education, or training.

What’s the issue?

While it’s a complex topic, there are a number of key factors at play. The most obvious has been an economic slowdown in the West, which has placed downward pressure on the demand for labour. Yet, even during the downturn companies still found it difficult to fill key roles with young workers. This suggests economic growth isn’t the only factor at play.

If demand for labour is not the most important factor, our attention should turn to understanding why companies can’t find workers with the right skills in the first place.

The Education Gap

As The Economist points out, “what matters is not just number of years of education people get, but its content”. While countries such as Canada and England tend to favour practical education rather than vocational, this appears somewhat misguided. For instance, the Germans have a long tradition of high-quality vocational education and apprenticeships, which has helped it reduce youth unemployment despite only modest economic growth (more than twice as many young Britons are unemployed relative to their German counterparts).

In order to address youth employment, we need to rethink how we’re educating and training our youth. A closer network needs to be developed between industry and educators to ensure we’re graduating future workers, not unemployed graduates.

There also needs to be more effort early on to help youth get experience at public and private institutions through apprenticeships. Through these programs they’ll gain a better understanding of the options available to them and the kinds of projects they enjoy (or don’t).

This question is far harder to answer after four years studying for an expensive liberals arts education. 


Jul. 25: I remember I read something a long time about how we shouldn't have started naming the generations so late in the alphabet.  We did start at "X."  I don't know who said that, but he was right.

I'm sure some of you guys are laughing at this part.

“Don’t follow your passion- create it”

Mar. 1 “Don’t follow your passion- create it”: I cut out this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail on Oct. 31, 2012.These are really helpful tips.  Everybody always say to follow your passion, but this article also talks about working on your skills so you can become passionate about it.  Here’s the whole article:

So Good They Can’t Ignore You By Cal Newport

(Business Plus, 273 pages, $28.99)

One of the most common bits of career advice is to follow your passion. Career coaches repeat it endlessly, even though for many of us it can be discomfiting. After all, there aren’t enough jobs in sports management for the many kids with a passion for sports or in fashion design for those who love that field – and even 14-year-olds know that.

But what are those 14-year-olds – and 44-year-olds unhappy in a job – to do when they aren’t quite sure what their career passion is, or how to turn it into a financially acceptable as well as passionately liberating job?

Cal Newport, an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University and a provocative blogger at the Study Hacks website, argues that the notion you should follow your own passion is bunk.

He notes that Steve Jobs urged Stanford University graduates in a celebrated 2005 convocation address to follow their passion, but at their age he did the opposite. The late Apple co-founder didn’t study business or electronics in university, but instead probed Western history, dance, and Eastern mysticism – his passions, but not obvious career material. In time his path of discovery led to business and electronics, and he could be passionate about that.

“Compelling careers often have complex origins that reject the simple idea that all you have to do is follow your passion,” Mr. Newport writes in So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

So he offers four career guidelines:

1. Realize career passion is rare

Feeling passion about a career is uncommon, Mr. Newport says. He cites a study by University of Quebec psychologist Robert Vallerand that found the top five passions of university students were dance, hockey, skiing, reading, and swimming, none of which point to careers for most people. Indeed, less that 4 per cent of the sample identified any passions related to work or education; most were hobbies. “How can we follow our passions if we don’t have any relevant passions to follow?” Mr. Newport wonders.

Passion is also dangerous, he argues: “Telling someone to ‘follow their passion’ is not just an act of innocent optimism, but potentially the foundation for a career riddled with confusion and angst.”

2. Become a craftsman

Instead, in his second rule, he tells you to develop a skill, becoming a craftsman at something, until you are so good you can’t be ignored. He contrasts the craftsmen mindset, where the focus is on what value you’re producing in your job, with the passion mindset, where the focus is on what value the job offers you.

“There’s something liberating about the craftsman mindset: It asks you to leave behind self-centred concerns about whether your job is ‘just right,’ and instead put your head down and plug away at getting really damn good. No one owes you a great job, it argues; you need to earn it – and the process won’t be easy,” Mr. Newport advises.

The best work tends to be rare and valuable. So to secure it, you need exceptional skills – what he calls career capital. By focusing relentless on building your skills through deliberate practice, stretching yourself and improving continually, you will become so good those jobs can be attained.

He notes that musicians, athletes and chess players know all about deliberate practice. They don’t simply play, they hone their skills. Once you develop this craftsman approach, he argues, the passion will follow. But you must ensure you don’t squander it or give up before it’s fully flowing.

3. Seek the elixir of control

He notes that people who love what they do seek control over their careers and – here’s his third rule – turn down a promotion when it leads away from what they now cherish and have mastery at. He calls control the dream-job elixir: “Giving people more control over what they do and how they do it increases their happiness, engagement, and sense of fulfilment.”

He also warns of two control traps. The first is to pursue more control in your working life before you have built up the career capital in exchange to offer your bosses or customers. (Example: Someone who quits university and keeps switching freelance career paths so quickly that he never becomes good enough to be in demand.) The second control trap is that once you have enough skills to acquire more control in your working life, your employer will fight your attempts for more autonomy.

4. Develop a mission

His fourth rule is that once you have the skills and control, develop a mission in what he calls the “adjacent possible” – the region just beyond the current cutting edge – where you can be remarkable and highly sought. He urges you to take small steps to accomplish this. Think small, act big.

The book is neatly framed, with Mr. Newport, as guide, taking you through his own career story and that of others, drawing lessons, relating it to research, and stitching it into the four rules. It’s a strong book, offering another slant on the notion of career passion.

Postscript

A variety of leaders and academics offer thoughts about meeting the corporate governance issues of today’s world in The Future of Boards (Harvard Business School Press, 193 pages, $35), edited by Harvard Professor Jay Lorsch.

Entrepreneur Keith Cameron Smith highlights the essential characteristics for success in The Top 10 Distinctions Between Entrepreneurs and Employees (Ballantine, 118 pages, $18).

Professional speaker Lenny Laskowski offers what he claims to be a stress-free approach to public speaking in Painless Presentations (John Wiley, 197 pages, $23.95).


Jun. 18 Complaints: I'm on my job search and I have some complaints.  I pass my resume to a furniture store because they have a sign that they are hiring.  They never called me back and their sign is still up. 

I remember talking about this with my boss Aziz at the Café way back in summer 2007.  I even remember talking to Angela about this.  Well the thing is, I know that though a company is hiring, they look at your resume and they don't see you to be a fit for the job.  I have never sold furniture before, but I have some retail experience.  That's fine.

Jun. 29 CSIS: I'm going through my old agenda looking for all the websites I wrote down to look for a job.  This stands for Canadian Security Intelligence Services.  It's like the CIA.  I watch a recruiting video to work for the surveillance unit.  It's a really good and professionally done video.  I would have thought I was watching a TV show about spies.

I love the show Alias and all, but working as a spy, not so much.  The video did say there can be long stretches of time of nothing happening and then something happens.


Jun. 30 Job websites: I go to Job Bank and Kijiji to look for jobs. 

Pros:

1. That's where lots of companies are putting their job ads and they're hiring.

Cons:

1. There's a lot of competition of applicants.
2. There are companies that don't put job ads there, so you have to go to individual company websites and sign up.

Company websites:

Pros:

1. The job ads are on their website.

Cons:

1. You have to sign up on all these individual company websites.  That's time consuming.  Instead of going to 1 job site and there are all these jobs ads, you have to go to like 5 company websites to see if each of these companies are hiring.

Modis: I'm going through my old 2010 agenda.  That was the Year of Unemployment where I signed up for a lot of job and company websites looking for a job.  This is a IT staffing agency.

 
Jul. 10 Microsoft layoffs: On Jul. 8, 2015, Microsoft is laying off 7,800 jobs.


Jul. 13 Smartsheets: I had written this word on a piece of paper to research.

Have you ever heard of this program?  It's like a calendar and your team can all read it.  It's a spreadsheet full of data.


Jul. 14 Humans TV show: This TV show came out on AMC a few weeks ago.  It's very well written and produced.  I recommend you all watch it.  On imdb.com:

"In a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a 'Synth' - a highly-developed robotic servant that's so similar to a real human it's transforming the way we live."

I'm putting this in my job email, because on the show, robots do a lot of human jobs like be a nanny.


Stay positive: I want to add to that "complaints" part about companies hiring, but they don't call me.  I would have to stay positive, because there are still other companies that call me for an interview.