In case you’ve been living far off the grid, Mother’s Day is in May. Garden centres are in full bloom, card companies are tallying their profits and many of us are trying to figure out how to cram a year’s worth of gratitude into one day. We all came from someone; many of us are lucky enough to have that someone in our lives, or to be that someone in someone else’s life. Wherever you fall in the mandala, we hope you’ll find some words of wisdom in these tips. They’re life lessons we think can be applied to all parts of your life, including your workday and job search. They may sound familiar, regardless of whether they fall on your ears like gentle rain or slam around in your head like a concrete pinball.


1. always wear clean underwear.

Got your attention, did we? Now, let’s find the relevance in Mom’s sage advice for your working life. It’s not just about being prepared in case, heaven forbid, you’re in an accident. Clean undies are the foundation of how we present ourselves from the inside out. Make sure you look good, whatever your budget. Ensure your personal hygiene is top notch. You’d be surprised how many people need a reminder. Keep your clothing neat, clean and in good repair. It doesn’t matter if you wear the same outfit every day as long as it’s all of the above. In fact, there are articles about professional women who choose to wear some variation of black pants and a variety of white blouses as their work ‘uniform’. They save time, reduce stress and develop their own brand through what they wear to work. Clean, presentable and professional. That’s a good look on everyone.

2. keep your room clean.

This might sound obvious but surprisingly, many people haven’t identified the work style that allows them to work optimally and most productively. Some are visual workers; they need all their stuff spread out on the desk so they can see it. Out of sight, out of mind for these folks. Others are neat as a pin (and their email inboxes prove it). What little hard copy they have is filed away neatly, desks and workstations are bare. These are the people who can delete emails once they’re read and/or dealt with, the people who, if you’re like me, you love to hate. Or resent.

If there’s not an art to reducing your email inbox to its simplest form, there is certainly a process. Writer Brandie Weikle wrestled almost 40,000 inbox emails to the ground and emerged victorious, if a little bruised. She says pressure to control your email contents “increases stress, decreases productivity and negatively impacts [your work] and home life.”So put your inbox on your spring cleaning to-do list.

3. make friends.

Unless you’re circling the globe alone in a space capsule and your interactions are limited to a tired ground communications techie working an 18-hour shift, you’re going to have to deal with others, at least through your workday. Why not make those dealings as pleasant as possible? Your business – if not your life – may depend on it.

So be nice. Make friends at work. Spend time through the day connecting with the people you work with. Statistics show that people who connect with their co-workers are more engaged and productive. That’s good for employees – they’re happier about coming to work and being with people they like; and it’s good for employers – a relationship-based workforce is happier, more productive and more engaged.

4. do your homework.

At the beginning of the last century, Thomas Edison described genius as ‘one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration’. That’s especially true in the job search process. If you’re lucky enough to get an interview, make sure you’re prepared. Keep your LinkedIn page up to date. Do a clean sweep of your Facebook and Twitter accounts; make sure they present you in the best light and there’s nothing there you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see. Make sure your LinkedIn photo is current and professional, and reinforced by what’s on your Facebook page. No point investing in a professional photograph for one, if it’s subverted by a drunk, party-going you on the other. Remember, prospective employers view both. Research the organization you’re interviewing with; read their press and sign up for alerts to those organizations so your information is current. Your preparation will impress your interviewers. It’ll help you stand out from the crowd and show them you go the extra mile.

5. sit up straight.

Your body language says a lot about you. It’s what people read and understand about you before you open your mouth. It can support or enhance what you say, or completely undermine it. Body language is closely related to how you feel and function, not to mention how others relate to you. In her blog The Science Of Posture: Why Sitting Up Straight Makes You Happier And More Productive, writer Belle Beth Cooper says “shaking your head will affect your opinion” at the same time as it affects the speaker, the receiver of the perceived negative response. Cooper writes: “Body language is closely related to posture—the way we move our bodies affects how others see us as well as our own moods and habits.”

6. eat your vegetables.

Employers are working hard to increase safety and enhance employee well-being in the workplace. Many HR departments are creating ‘healthy eating’ programs and providing resources and information to help employees make healthy choices. We all know there’s a connection between what we eat and our general health: reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers, fewer cases of the health risks connected to obesity, controlled stress, and increased energy and focus. Organizations are creating spaces and places where they can for employees to gather and enjoy eating together; not only is healthy and nutrition the focus, but stepping away from your computer, clearing your head, correcting your posture, walking – all these make you healthier, happier and able to enjoy your work and personal lives.

7. call once in a while.

Make contact – real, meaningful contact - with the people who matter in your life, both your working life and your personal one. Research from the Mayo clinic shows maintaining your personal connections boosts your immune system, reduces stress, improves your ability to think and function, lowers your blood pressure and helps you sleep better. People who create relationships at work are happier, more productive and engaged, and perform better. And who doesn’t want to perform better?

8. raise your hand.

People who get ahead never say ‘That’s not my job’. They’re not carpets for others to walk on but they do step up, volunteer, participate and take on extra work whenever they can. That’s because they’re eager to learn, happy to help, understand that they, too, may need help from time to time, and identify as part of a bigger picture, not the whole or only picture. Every job, no matter how menial, has its place in how smoothly an organization functions and how successfully it reaches its goals.

In my mother’s 92 years, she witnessed the development of the automobile from crank to electric power, the refrigerator/freezer (she lived in small Prairie towns where refrigeration was a block of ice if the trains ran), the invention and development of too-many-to-mention disruptive and (to her) terrifying technologies. She learned how to use email shortly before she died, having written her memoirs through painstaking hunt-and-peck typewriting. I leave you with her words of wisdom that have informed my whole life:  Do what needs doing.

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