by Anne Fisher

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Q. Why do you see perfectionism as a problem? Isn’t perfection a good thing?

A. Working to do the very best you can is one thing. Striving for perfection is another. As a recovering perfectionist, I can see now that, early in my career, what held me back was, for example, rewriting things over and over, which made me seem to lack confidence in my own work. I was also seen as a worker bee, rather than as a leader.


Another problem is that perfectionism bogs you down in details so that you lose objectivity and miss the big picture, which can be disastrous. Striving for excellence is great, but it’s really only when we stop judging ourselves, listen to our gut, and let our creativity flow that we can be fearless and effective.


Q. You write about conquering fear by making an “anti-bucket list.” What is that?

A. Making peace with change requires letting go of the past, especially of what just isn’t working anymore. So, instead of a “bucket list” of things I want to do before I die, I keep a list of everything I never want to do again.


My anti-bucket list includes, for example, wearing stiletto heels to a lawn party. Or holding on to mediocre employees, hoping they’ll improve. Or working with a known misogynist. Or begging to stay in a relationship with a client, threatening to fire me. Next time, I’ll let them.


Q.  Most people assume that, the more skills you have, the more employable you are. But you recommend specializing in just one thing. Why?

A. Focusing on what makes you exceptional is what makes you stand out from the crowd. It should be something you are really good at that you’re also passionate about. If you’re not sure what that is, think about what you’ve been most praised for, and what you want to be known for. Whatever that talent or achievement may be, research it, develop it, and declare it as your niche. You want to become known as the “go-to” person for the work you love doing.


The saddest thing—and it happens all the time—is when someone spends their whole career in the wrong pigeonhole, usually because they chose their line of work based on someone else’s expectations. But this is your life. Don’t miss it. 

Anne Fisher has been writing about career and workplace trends and topics since 1996. She is the author of If My Career’s on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map?


by Robin Frkal, Ph.D.

2020 college graduates have certainly faced their share of disappointment. At a time when they were to be celebrating their biggest accomplishment to-date with family and friends, they suddenly found themselves finishing their degrees online. The losses they suffered go beyond the opportunity to walk across the stage to collect their diploma. Many found themselves with rescinded job offers, and all are facing a very different job market than just months ago. Unemployment rates climbed almost overnight from record lows to the highest since the Great Depression. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall unemployment rate was 11.1% in June. That number increases to 19.8% for those aged 20-24. Organizations across industries are also implementing furloughs, lay-offs, and other dramatic cost-cutting measures.

With job offers at a virtual standstill, graduates must reconsider their career plans seriously, and some are wondering if graduate school is a viable option for escaping the current economic uncertainty. In the past, many would discourage young professionals from going on to graduate school without getting some “real-world” experience. I am not one of those people. I believe that the right graduate program can serve to accelerate a young professional’s career. This is especially true in the current economic climate. Many will look toward more education during recessions, as more skills can provide an advantage in a tight job market. Competition in the job market will also increase significantly as higher-skilled, and more experienced workers decide to compete in segments historically consisting of entry-level job seekers.

According to the talent acquisition software company, iCIMS, recruiting professionals are looking for candidates that have past work experience, exceptional communication skills, and referrals when hiring new grads. When deciding to go on to graduate school, students should consider the following three components.

Experiential Learning

Look for programs that provide opportunities to take learning beyond the classroom. Recruiters are interested in candidates with experience. Many graduate programs understand this and are responding by increasing the amount of hands-on work that students do in their programs. Look for programs that incorporate projects and internships into their curriculum. These opportunities will allow recent grads to gain the resume-building experience that recruiters are looking for.                        (more)



by Danielle Oliver

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect careers at all levels, employees are facing numerous unprecedented challenges. With high unemployment, unusual working arrangements, and so much uncertainty for what the future holds, this can be an anxious time for everyone. I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Chiji Ohayia about students graduating from college, employees returning to work, and balancing life with working from home.

Dr. Ohayia’s professional background is multifaceted, as he has extensive experience in organizational management, research, technology, and human resources. Along with his more than 30 years of work experience, Dr. Ohayia is also connected to a number of educational  institutions, including New York University and Rutgers University. Based on his experience and research

research, he was able to provide unique insight into some of the most pressing issues employees face.


Tips for College Students

Dr. Ohayia recently shared some advice with his students about how to make the most of this challenging time. Despite the current circumstances, students can still take the initiative to be productive and create opportunities for themselves. He highly recommends seeking an internship, especially for students who are further along in their education.


Internships are excellent sources of learning, development, and connections. “Even if it is an opportunity slightly outside of a student’s typical interests, an internship can provide excellent experience,” he advised. “It is important to make connections, especially with a professional who can provide a positive recommendation in the future.” Regardless of the type or location of an internship, building a professional network can be accomplished through any experience.

Although there are numerous challenges in finding an internship during the pandemic, Dr. Ohayia also pointed out some advantages. With a majority of work being done remotely, internships are no longer limited by geographic location. A student can now work for a company virtually from anywhere. This is also a perfect time to capitalize on what you are good at, and what you have been learning in school. He instructed, “Use your strengths to make the most of an internship experience. This engagement is one of the most important aspects.” The application will likely be the difference between a simple position and a rewarding experience.

Dr. Ohayia also suggested that, in the future, companies may be especially interested in candidates who took initiative during this time. Of course, employers will be understanding of the circumstances and will likely understand an employment gap during a pandemic. However, a competitive advantage may arise from showing the extra initiative taken during this time.


Students Going Back to School

As students consider how to advance their careers from home, many universities are trying to safely bring students back to campus. Dr. Ohayia provided insight based on the current processes in his affiliated schools. “There are numerous surveys circulating to collect opinions from both students and faculty regarding their return. Many schools are giving students and faculty the option to return for some form of education, but not making it a requirement,” he explained. When schools do return, the format may be some hybrid of online classes and in-person classes. Some schools have already decided to solely offer classes online. Of course, this is an extremely difficult decision that varies for each school, and will continue changing as health officials monitor data.


Employees Returning to Work

Based on Dr. Ohayia’s consulting positions with various companies, he also provided insight into corporations bringing back their employees. “The health and wellbeing of the employees is at the forefront of companies’ decision-making processes. Therefore, the process of bringing employees back to work must remain disciplined and strategic.” He explained that corporations have likewise been conducting surveys to grasp the employee’s comfort levels with returning to work. The majority of tentative plans revolve around redesigning the physical offices to comply with social distancing, and staggering work times to reduce employee interactions. Of course, this process is further complicated by schools reopening, as so many employees have children at home.

The pandemic and the adjustment to remote work certainly proved challenging for employees with children at home. This will remain an important consideration as employees return to work. Some companies will be forced to consider new childcare offerings if schools do not reopen at the same pace of workplaces.


Work-Life Balance During Remote Work

Dr. Ohayia further commented on a pressing issue in the workplace which has been further complicated by remote work: work-life balance. He noted that some companies are neglecting practices that would be normal in a typical office setting, such as observing an hour long work-break. With current technology, employees are expected to remain connected all day, every day. This can amount to taxing stress on employees, who may find it difficult to “unplug” when working from home. As remote work continues, it will be important for employees to balance their time. Additionally, supervisors must respect employees’ time off. Dr. Ohayia commented, “This must be a mutual process, with both employees and supervisors supporting each other.”

Danielle Oliver is Assistant to the Executive Director for The Pennington HR Institute and Managing Editor of Employee's Life. She is currently  pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the Arcadia University School of Global Business. where she demonstrates academic excellence and holds numerous leadership positions in the

University’s Student Government. Danielle is passionate about ensuring positive employee relations and bettering organizations through innovative human resource initiatives. 

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© 2019 by The Pennington HR Institute

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