Beat the Virus blues: 10 tips for staying productive while working from home


Suddenly, WFH is now a buzzword. For the uninitiated, WFH or ‘Work From Home’ seems to be the new norm in these extraordinary times. Thousands of people have suddenly been thrust into the reality of working remotely from home. And with “Social distancing” becoming another buzzword, WFH could be here to stay.

Look at the bright side! WFH now saves you precious time and money in commuting costs alone. While WFH can offer some cool benefits, it also brings along unique challenges.

Here is your beginner’s guide, with 10 tips to ace these WFH times and enjoy a productive, remote-working lifestyle.

1. Create a dedicated work area.

Begin right. Set up a separate work area, ideally in a space or room where you can close the door and shut out everything else. If you don’t have a home office, do as much as you can to create a space exclusively for work. One of the biggest challenges of working from home?  The distractions that come with it like your family, pets, the kitchen and more!

That’s why it’s extremely important to have a dedicated workspace. If you have room for a separate home office, perfect. But even if you don’t, you can make do with a small desk or table. The separate, secluded space also creates the psychological barrier and stops family from barging in on you at odd times and helps you focus on your work. Also invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones or some quality earplugs.

2. Start early, get in the flow.

Remember, you have swapped your morning commute for the transition from the bed to the computer. Use this precious time to log in early and finish the big, important tasks first.

One way to be more productive in your WFH is to dive into your to-do list as soon as you wake up. Simply getting a project started first thing in the morning can be the key to making progress on it gradually throughout the day. Otherwise, you will prolong breakfast and let the morning sluggishness wear away your motivation.

3. Control your schedule.

To remain productive and be in control, set regular work hours and, as much as possible, adhere to them. It is also a great opportunity to adapt your work schedule to your natural body clock or chronotype.

One of the best things about working from home is the flexibility it gives you over your own schedule. Without a good structure in place, you could go haywire and easily run out of time or energy for work. With a little practice, you can figure out what works best for you.

4. Remember to clock-out.

The danger of working from home is that your work and personal life start to blend together, and you begin to feel like you’re always “on.” You might end up working longer hours than normal and this can be very unhealthy.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, pick a time in advance to “check out” of work. Even if the checkout is simply mental, it will provide the separation you need to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

5. Set up your workspace for efficiency and comfort.

It pays to invest in a work environment that will keep you healthy and ache free. Set up an ergonomic home office, by investing in an upright chair, like you would at your office desk.

Along with this, your WFH tech set-up could include a top-end computer monitor with a large high-resolution screen, a comfortable keyboard and mouse, as well as an effective webcam and other essentials.

 6. Invest in Broadband.

Given the fact that you may be working long hours and may need fast and uninterrupted internet connection, it makes sense to invest in a Broadband service. You could also consider having an alternative device – a smartphone or tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard, or a spare laptop – and an alternative way of connecting to the office, even if it means using a hotspot while running errands.

7. Get digitally savvy.

In today’s time and age, no one can afford to say that the Internet is not their cup of tea. While there’s no true replacement for an in-person meeting, online conference tools like Zoom, Skype, Webex, GoToWebinar, Slack and many more make it easier to work collaboratively in remote teams.

Once you master these tools, conducting meetings online can be a breeze, allowing you to see your client’s or colleague’s facial expressions and body language, in addition to hearing their voice.

8. Take proper breaks.

Just because your home has also become your office doesn’t mean you should stay still all day. There’s enough research today that proves that indicates humans work best by taking short breaks in between bursts of high activity. The key is to make sure you take the time to refresh your mind and body.

It’s important to take regular breaks, ideally every 60 to 90 minutes. Remember that a 10 to 15-minute break will make all the difference, as will a proper break for lunch.  Stay hydrated – having a water bottle near your desk helps.

9. Dress for work as usual.

While it is tempting to stay in bed and work on your laptop, in your T-shirts and pajamas, dress as if you’re going to work each day. Putting on some form of “work-wear” can help you get into the right mentality.

Always dress as if you are going into an office when working from home. Do remember that if you appear in a Skype meeting wearing pajamas, others will notice.

10. Stay positive, stay in communication mode.

It’s easy to get lonely as you do serious office work from an unconventional space. That’s why it’s important to keep the spirits up and relieve the stress.

Remember, good relationships are built on a foundation of trust and good communication. Regularly check in with colleagues, stay in the loop, and find opportunities to connect with people after work, either through social media or in person, keeping social distancing in mind.

Follow these simple 10 tips and your WFH opportunity may turn out to be the best thing that has happened to you.




5 Bonus Tips to Make Your WFH Fun

1: Exercise while you work. You can invest in cool products like the Deskcycle and burn the calories when you work at your desk.

2: Play some music. If your work permits, why not play lyric-free music. It could even help you increase your focus.

3: Let in the light. Why leave the curtains closed and create a cave-like atmosphere? Another option is to simply have a plant or two around you to spruce up the surroundings.

4: Choose a themed-background. Whatever the state of your home office, you could simply blur the background or add custom images when you are getting on video calls. Many sites like Zoom offer this feature.

5: Embrace nature. Go for a walk. It’s okay to leave your computer, stretch, and step outside. Just a short 10-15 minutes walk can do wonders to get the juices flowing.




10 Minutes. 10 Quick Resume Fixes.

Take Your Resume from OK to WOW in 10 Minutes.

Wish to polish up your resume but don’t have the time or inclination to do it?

No worries, now all it takes is ten minutes to give your resume a quick shine.

Here is a list of 10 useful updates to give your resume the overhaul it deserves.

1. Open with a dramatic top one third.

“In the short time that recruiters spend with your resume, they look at your name, current title and company, current position start and end dates, previous title and company, previous position start and end dates, and education” – Vivian Giang, Business Insider.

Take a close look at the top third of your resume — the first thing that the hiring manager sees when the document opens up. That’s your opportunity to make your powerful first impression — so make sure it serves as a hook that makes the hiring manager eager to read more. Update your header with the relevant job title and keywords to make it pop. Make your personal brand stand out and catch a recruiter’s eye.

2. Standardize the typeface.

Make sure you standardize the font of your resume to preferably Times New Roman, Helvetica or Arial — in other words, make sure it’s not overtly creative, funky or hard to read. Using a common, clean font will make it more readable and less likely to be rejected by the ATS (Applicant Tracking System).

3. Replace the Career Objective with a Value Statement.

That standard, done-to-death boilerplate “A dynamic, hard-working professional looking for a challenging opportunity” has run its course. Please remove it and instead use a value proposition – employers want to know what you can bring to the table and what you can do for the company.

4. Simplify the document name.

Change the file name from “Resume” to “[First Name] [Last Name] [Job Title] Resume.” You would agree that this makes things easier for hiring managers and ensures your resume doesn’t get lost in the crowd.

5. Include your LinkedIn profile URL.

At the very top, mention your LinkedIn profile or any other relevant social media handles. You can create a custom URL to your public profile using simply /yourname (or some similar variation if somebody already has your name). Look up ‘Customize URL’ on LinkedIn for instructions.

6. Make all your hyperlinks live.

Including your email address, LinkedIn profile, website, blog and/or media and publications? Make sure they’re all hyperlinked. Your resume will most likely be read on a mobile device or on a computer. So keeping things like your online profile and portfolio of work clickable makes it easier for the recruiter to learn more about you.

7. Delete irrelevant data.

Is it really necessary to mention your birth date, marital status, or religion? Surprisingly many people still do. Please remove them as they may not be relevant from the job position point of view.

8. Keep the design clean and simple.

Get rid of distracting design and any funky images or shapes that don’t really serve a purpose. Make sure all the text is formatted, the spacing is uniform and all dates are right-aligned. Unless you are submitting to an artist or graphic designer position, remove any pictures or visual elements.

9. Use power words.

The right keywords can land you the interview — and the job in Canada. Replace a couple of boring verbs and adjectives with some more powerful (and interesting) ones. Check out this article to find power words that better describe your strengths.

10. Quantify everything, use numerals wherever possible.

It’s highly recommended to quantify your experience on your resume. Even small numbers that are written numerically pop out, and save space too. Go through your bullet points, and add as many numbers and percentages as you can to quantify your work.




Impress in 30 Seconds! Perfect Your 30-Second Elevator Speech

The perfect 30-second elevator speech. Everyone needs to have one. It is as essential for the CEO of a corporation as it is for the job seeker.

Do you have yours ready?

Whether you are at a job interview, at a networking event, at your friend’s barbecue or literally in an elevator — once you state your name, you need to be able to explain who you are, what you do and how you can add value — clearly and quickly.

A beautifully tuned elevator pitch is a must-have in the job seeker’s arsenal and vital to networking success. Think of it as your verbal cover letter. It can open more doors and eventually land you the job you desire.

Pitch in four steps

Here are four steps to keep in mind when crafting your speech:

  1. Express your strengths as you define who you are. Keep it short.
  2. Elucidate what you do. This is when you reveal the benefits that you bring.
  3. Explain what sets you apart. Demonstrate some personality to stand out.
  4. Ensure a definite call to action. This is the final step and it should lead the listener to want to set up another meeting or further the relationship.

Now comes time to sit down and write it out. To create your speech, you should:

  • Write down all that comes to mind. Try writing in a bullet points’ format or as short tweets. Now cut the jargon and unnecessary words and create crisp, powerful sentences. Finally, connect the phrases to each other so your pitch flows smoothly.
  • Highlight key points and a unique point of differentiation. Check if you have really answered the key WIFM (what’s in it for me?) question of your listener. Insert a figure or a quote or a memorable phrase that will leave them wanting more.
  • Practise a lot. Then practise a few more times. It is important to have your speech written down, memorized and practised. The more you speak it, the easier and more natural it will get. Rehearse with someone or in front of a mirror. The important thing is to practise it out loud.
  • Focus on the delivery. Breathe, smile, relax and look your target in the eye. The more natural your delivery, the greater your chance of success. Words change perceptions. Instead of a generic statement like “I have great accountability skills,” perhaps you could say something like “Accountability is very important to me.”

Sample elevator speech Here is an example of a good elevator pitch that follows the above steps. “Hi. Nice to meet you. My name is Miriam Fernandez. I am a human resources specialist with 10 years’ experience in diverse industries and markets.”

Those three lines would take about 10 to 15 seconds. She can then use her next 15 seconds to add details about her skills, unique value proposition and specific ways she could help a potential employer. This is her chance to tailor her pitch to focus on their needs and deliver benefits they can visualize.

“I have successfully worked with clients of all sizes from small startups to Fortune 500 organizations. Clients have acknowledged my expertise in consistently helping them identify and recruit top-level talent into their companies. It would be my pleasure to get in touch with you soon.” 

At this point, she can exchange cards and ensure her card features either her LinkedIn URL or a QR Code that will take the target to her online profile, where her summary and testimonials corroborate what she just said.

Give it a try

Keep in mind that when you meet someone for the first time, you have a blank canvas and you can paint any picture you want. But once it is painted, it stays forever. You now have 30 seconds to deliver a confident, upbeat message and nail it with confidence.

A good pitch takes planning and practice to deliver quickly and on the spot. Get started, have fun, believe in yourself and speak with pride. And soon, you may find yourself riding an elevator going in to your new job!




I Like You, You’re Hired! – 6 Secrets to Ramp Up Your Likeability Facto

So you brushed up your resumé, cover letter and LinkedIn profile, and they even successfully landed you that interview call. Excellent. But remember that these three things alone can only take you so far.  You have to acknowledge that, at this point, you’re still going to appear the same as a few others, at least on paper.  And the only way to get hired from here on will depend a lot on your personality.

Before you get all nervous at the prospect of sitting across a desk and answering tough questions, remember that an interview is just a personal interaction between two individuals and depends a lot on how well you connect. Ask any number of recruiters what really made them choose one candidate over the other, especially when they all had very similar qualifications, and the most common answer is: “There was a good cultural fit,” or a more honest, “Well, we liked that candidate better.”

And so here are some proven insider tips to ramp up your appeal and make you more likeable during the interview.

1. Be Friendly Smile Often Friendliness is the first and most basic element of likeability. Effortlessly smile when you first meet the interviewer.  An endearing smile quickly breaks the ice, makes you seem attractive and confident, and transmits positive feelings. As a matter of fact, people who smile more are more likely to get hired and promoted. A good handshake immediately following a smile helps to make a great first impression. The firm but not aggressive handshake will convey that you are confident, social and professional — even before you utter your first word.

2. Be Enthusiastic Express Passion Maintain a pleasant expression and an open attitude that tells the recruiter you are happy to be there. Enthusiasm means sitting up straight and making eye contact with the person whose questions you are answering and leaning forward in your chair with your feet firmly on the floor.  Remember to keep your arms at your sides, or use them to make friendly, conversational gestures.  And project your passion in your voice when conversing.

3. Be Prepared Demonstrate That You Are Ready Preparation is key. Research the company beforehand, look up its website and use that information to prove that you really do know something about the company and employer. Your goal is to show the employer how you’re unique and how that uniqueness will provide the greatest return on his or her investment. Notice industry awards or achievements mentioned on the website and bring them into the conversation. Employers like to hire someone who is a good fit culturally just as much, if not more, than someone with the right qualifications, so this will make it easier to show why you’re a great cultural fit.

4. Be Giving Share How You Can Add Value Find out as much as you can about the job and the kind of job you are expected to do before you go to interview. This will help you frame your answers on what you can do for the company. Be ready with some ideas on how you can contribute to the organization and even take a mock project with you if you can.  This will help the recruiter see how eager you are, how you can add value and how you can fit in. Always focus on what you can give.

5. Be Humble Project Confidence Without Going Overboard on Arrogance The secret to being likable in interviews is to find that fine balance of confidence and humility. Initiate the discussion using quantifiable accomplishments from the past to explain your vantage point. Back up every statement with facts and statistics to validate what you are saying. By staying humble you can turn the interview into a pleasant dialogue between two interesting people. Employers like to hire someone whose company they enjoy.

6. Be Honest Exude Trust Be sure that what you say is based on facts and do not add on skills you may not possess and duties you may not have handled. If you are asked a question that you do not have an answer to, admit your lack of knowledge honestly. At the same time expressing that you are keen to learn more on the subject will help to build trust.

If you are sincere in what you say, it will reflect in your conduct and tone of voice.

Better With Practice Candidate likeability is a critical interpersonal skill that gets better with practice. You may find it hard to believe, but there are instances of people getting hired even without having many of the desired qualifications, just because they appealed to the employer more. And so, becoming more likeable is the real secret to getting noticed and getting hired.




The 10 Qualities of a Smart Working Resume

Does your resume have what it takes to breach the 6-seconds barrier?

“Recruiters spend an average of six seconds before they make the initial ‘fit or no fit’ decision on candidates” – The Ladders, online career portal.

In an aggressive marketplace, average resumes get lost in cyberspace while smart resumes rise above the crowd and grab attention instantly. So what makes a resume great? And, will your resume win the six seconds battle?

Here are the top ten ways a smart resume immediately draws attention, positions you positively, communicates your value with aplomb, and sets you up to receive the interview call.

1. Makes a dramatic entry with a strong top one-third. The eye is naturally drawn to the top third of the page and that’s why what you say in this section is very important in those crucial first few seconds.

The top third of your resume should contain the most impressive and noteworthy information about you. Ideally:

Your name, followed by the desired job title. The basic contact information – preferably just the email ID and cell phone number along with an online link. A compelling one-line brand statement that communicates your unique value and relevancy to the job opening.

2. Includes a link to your online profile. It is becoming common practice for recruiters to anyway look up candidates online and review their profiles, so why not make it easier for them? Providing a link to your online profile, preferably your LinkedIn, blog or website URL, directs the hiring manager to the right place to find more relevant information about you.

3. Replaces the Objective Statement with a Value Proposition. Think about this. What is the point of including a done-to-death, generic objective that claims “Energetic professional seeking challenging opportunities to leverage my skills in a dynamic organization” when it’s not adding any value whatsoever.

Why not replace it with a powerful value proposition or an executive summary – your ideal ’30-seconds elevator pitch’ that details who you are, what you’re great at, and how your skills ideally fit the job role.

4. Leverages the right keywords relevant to the job posting and your industry. With the advent of the ATS (Applicant Tracking System), many companies use it or some other screening process to shortlist the first set of candidates. To make it to the first cut, make sure your resume features the right keywords, terminology, and key phrases that show up in job descriptions and are commonly used in your particular industry.

5. Quantifies your achievements. Numbers are easy to remember. Don’t vaguely talk about the money you saved or brought in for your company, the projects that you delivered on time or the deals that you helped close. Add a numerical value to as many achievements and contributions as you can, in each major role mentioned in your resume.

6. Draws attention with white space and easy-to-read bullet points. The best way to format information is to do it in a way that makes it easy to scan and train the spotlight on your key skills and relevant qualifications.

By avoiding dense blocks of text and by listing strengths, skills and achievements in three to five bullet points per job, you can automatically create white space and add elegance to your resume.

7. Uses reverse chronological order. A dynamic profile followed by your key skills followed by your most recent job accomplishments draws the reader in and keeps him/her focused. Resumes written in this style are favoured by hiring managers because they’re able to do a quick scan and see what you have accomplished in the recent past.

8. Formats accomplishments in the STAR format. Great story tellers often follow the STAR format – Situation, Task, Action, Result. This format also allows you to engage the recruiter by highlighting your skills and the result of your actions. Here’s an example to state an accomplishment: “Revitalized the Client’s website with refreshing, SEO-rich content. The new site leverages Web 2.0 and has witnessed web traffic increase by 60%”.

9. Avoids saying “references available upon request.” The space on your resume is limited so make sure you don’t cloud it with phrases and lines that don’t add real value. Recruiters anyway know that you will provide references if they request so why state the obvious?

10. Avoids crazy fonts, colours, images or headers and footers. As mentioned earlier in Point 4, companies use the ATS to shortlist candidates. So make sure your resume is ATS and mobile-friendly. This means, stick with basic black and white colours and regular fonts, such as Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, or Calibri.

For the same reason, also avoid headers and footers, embedded tables, pictures, or other images in your resume. They may all look fine when you view your resume on your PC but could often get scrambled when put through an Applicant Tracking System.