Video Conference Tactics

The Zoom boom experienced during the pandemic has altered how people work too. My go-to Vault website offers detailed tips and tactics.           

The top takeaway: using lighting and location to your advantage. You’ll want to access your computer in a room free of distractions like loud noises, running children, and cluttered background.

Dressing in formal business attire from head to heel will set the tone for how you interact with your potential boss or actual supervisor and coworkers. No pajamas from the waist down please.

Look into the camera not down. You want your face to be visible. It should appear that you’re making eye contact with the other person.

Resist uploading a photo as a background. Ideally, the view of the room behind you will be of a white wall with minimal bright or other objects in the room.

Experiment beforehand to adjust the lighting and background. Verify that your computer video and audio and webcam are working properly. You want others to see your face as well as hear you speak.

Again, smiling appropriately will go a long way as well as speaking in a clear slow voice. Rushing through your presentation will be obvious. People will comment among themselves afterward that you were talking too fast. They might not tell you this.

Brushing up on your public speaking skills can help you do well with video conference platforms online. One thing no one else has talked about is what happens when the session has ended, and people click Leave. Some of you might stay on the video and chat informally among yourselves.

Keep this “off-the-record” conversation professional. You can use this chat to talk about common interests you share with your coworkers outside of the job. Refrain from divulging sensitive information here that others shouldn’t be privy to. Maybe you want to talk about a new recipe you’re going to cook for dinner.

I’ve stayed online with two coworkers after a Microsoft Teams meeting. This is the modern day equivalent of gathering at the water cooler in the office. Some companies offer Zoom online “Happy Hours.”

One last tip: You don’t have to click on your webcam’s icon on your computer desktop beforehand to turn on the webcam to join an online meeting. Simply click “Join” on the link you’re given to the MS Teams or Zoom or other conference. Your face should then appear in the video.

Tackling a Telephone Interview

Today a telephone interview is a screening interview to rule out or verify whether the hiring manager thinks you’re the perfect candidate for an in-person meeting.

In the time of the COVID-19 outbreak working remotely from home, using Zoom and Microsoft Teams online to conduct meetings, and being interviewed via telephone were all common practices. Expect to see a rise in telephone interviews and Zoom meetings.

Dress in business clothes when you’re being interviewed on the phone. A study revealed that individuals who dress this way “could think faster on their feet and had more creative ideas.” These skills are coveted on the job.

A telephone screening is a way to determine if you’re the right fit for the company. Talk up your unique skills, abilities, and strengths. You should’ve researched the firm to uncover the hiring manager’s hidden pain in filling a need the business has. Give specific examples of how you think you can come up with a solution.

Smile when talking on the phone to convey energy and sound more upbeat. Remember that like with an in-person meeting you have the right to “interview the interviewer.” Ask questions. You can use the telephone chat to rule out or verify that this is the ideal company for you.

Today a video interview is more common. Up next tactics for a Zoom meeting.

Working from Home Part Two

You can make a salad or heat up soup for lunch. I’m a big salad freak and coworkers have always remarked on the job about my favorite lunch greens. In the afternoon I have fruit or a container of plain full-fat Greek yogurt with berries mixed in.

Again, at home like at work you can use time management apps like Time Doctor, Toggi, Rescue Time, Focus Booster, Hours, and Vericlock. The monthly fee to use one of these apps ranges from $5 and up.

Try to schedule non-work interruptions during the time of the morning and afternoon that you take a regular work break..

At home you should be in command of your desktop just like at the office. On my desk I placed a magnet with this quote: Art is a Guaranty of Sanity. Plus, a Michael Jordan quote magnet that reads: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail. Be Afraid Not to Try.

Keep active and in touch with your supervisor and coworkers. While I worked remotely in my apartment on some days during the COVID-19 outbreak I telephoned my supervisor to talk about pressing issues. It’s more imperative to talk to your boss in a WFH scenario.

At the end of the day to transition into home life I recommend changing your clothes into your preferred casual lounge outfit to delineate night from day and household management from business protocol. Store your work clothes in your closet or drawers instead of tossing them on your bed or a chair.

Working from Home – Part One

The rise of work-from-home or WFH has become a reality in the post-COVID world. Being successful on the job working remotely comes down to time and project management tactics that will give you an edge.

Not having a long commute to the office has its advantages in terms of setting yourself up for a successful day. All you must do is shower, get dressed, have breakfast. Then walk to your desk or dining table to use your computer or laptop.

This gives you benefits you don’t ordinarily have. How to reap these rewards?

Schedule your work and life routine into five parts: getting ready/self-care; morning work; lunch; afternoon work; ending of day/transition back into home life.

Not having to commute to work with a bus, train, or car gives you extra time to devote to self-care in the morning. Why not apply makeup to feel good even though no one else will see you? Or write down five things you’re grateful for in a grateful journal. Meditate for ten minutes if you’re able.

Or simply compose yourself with a breathing exercise I do anytime anywhere when I’m under stress: breathe in for a count of three, hold the breath for a count of four, breathe out for a count of five.

Dress in the business attire you ordinarily would on the job. For breakfast, I recommend scrambling eggs and veggies if you’re not a vegan. Some people cook oatmeal. I don’t advise that you have any kind of boxed cereal.

Without having a long commute to the office this is where having a leisurely healthful breakfast can make your day by fueling you up for the tasks at hand.

 Like at the office, schedule your work in one-hour blocks. Get up from your desk every half hour to rest your eyes from the computer screen. Take one short break in the morning and one short break in the afternoon.

To be continued with Part Two

Recovery Ink

I’ve lived in recovery for 33 years so far.

What I’ve learned:

You need to like yourself when you’re in your own company.

It doesn’t matter whether other people like or approve of you outside your home.

Only you need to be impressed with the person you are and will become.

I would like to believe that kind and compassionate individuals exist in the world.

The point is that you should take pride in yourself regardless of whether you have a fan club or don’t.

Being jealous of others will only keep you stuck. You’ll be unable to move on when you’re living in a mental garret you’ve enclosed yourself in.

The remedy for this self-stigma is to go the other way as hard as it can seem to do this.

I love reading empowering books and memoirs that successful people publish.

I want to soak up their habits and wisdom. To see what got them where they are today.

No–I’m not envious. I want to join them in their winner’s circle.

In the spirit of empowering blog readers I’m going to continue to write about topics that are in the vanguard that relate to my book Working Assets: A Career Guide for Peers.

While the COVID-19 outbreak has not ended this has shifted my focus to topics like WFH–working from home and interacting with others on Zoom video conferencing.

In the coming blog entry I will talk about working from home. This trend might remain in effect after the pandemic ends.

In future blog entries I will give interviews with women with mental health issues on the topics of having a job and having a family while living through the pandemic.

Failing Boldly

In 1990 when it was unheard of for someone with schizophrenia to hold a job I obtained my first position as the administrative assistant to the director of an insurance business.

From 1990 to June 1997 I was laid off–that is terminated–from 4 out of the first 5 jobs I held in that time.

One office manager told me over the telephone not to show up the next day.

I was in my twenties and early thirties when I thought that having a corporate insurance office job was what I wanted in life.

I was 25 when I started my first job in that field.

Decades later I shake my head wondering what possessed me to to want to do that.

Here is what I can tell you:

You might have wanted to work at a job or career and it turns out not to thrill you years later.

You might have been convinced you wanted that job or career and it goes up in flames because it’s not the right one for you after all.

Failing boldly is nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t like to use the word failure because it’s a loaded word.

There’s a negative connotation to failing in American society.

It’s doubly hard to allow yourself to switch gears when you live with a mental illness.

The average Joe or Josephine on the street doesn’t get their behavior scrutinized half as much as we peers do.

Only when an option you chose didn’t work out it’s not that you failed–it’s that the strategy simply wasn’t the right one for you to pursue long-term.

I’m 55 years old today. Thirty years after failing boldly in my first career I’m a different person than I was at 25 years old.

So much of what we peers could do starting out in recovery might be done in reaction against our diagnosis–in the quest to be “normal.”

I would tell readers to choose from different alternatives the option that resonates with you today.

For any number of reasons–and for those not having to do with having an illness–your first choice might not work out.

What you learn along the way in life–either picked up on a job or in a relationship or with a hobby–is hard-won wisdom.

This wisdom will serve you well throughout your life.

I’ll end here by saying that sometimes the best of us can be in denial. We ignore the subconscious dreams we have at night that are red flags telling us not to continue down the road we’re on.

Or we’re afraid to risk doing the thing that is our wildest desire in life.

Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, and fear of other people’s judgment among other hurdles must be overcome if you and I are to have a life of our own design.

In the coming blog entry I’ll talk more the way I see things. I’ve been living in recovery for 33 years so far.

The more I live my life the more impressed I am with peers who have the courage to stand in their truth and tell their stories without feeling guilty or ashamed.

Be proud of yourself for risking doing something, for trying and possibly failing, and for continuing in the face of this setback.

Coming up what I’ve learned from living in recovery 33 years.

Finding a Job with a Purpose

One of the benefits of collecting SSI or SSDI is that you can do volunteer work or get an internship in the field you want to work in. You don’t have to get paid on an internship because you have the government check coming in.

This is the counterpoint when others claim that individuals on a low income can’t afford to do an internship.

It’s also the counterpoint to the idea that you should take whatever job you can get. And be happy to have that job even if it turns out you hate the job.

The remedy as I see it is to use the internet and the resources available to you to narrow down your job leads to 2 or 3 careers.

Then you can choose the one that resonates with you right now as the goal to make happen.

Seek out others who have gone down this road before you or who are going down this road along with you today.

Get feedback encouragement and advice from them and give your own feedback and encouragement and advice to others.

You will need reinforcement when things take longer or don’t go as planned or don’t pan out.

Doing things that give you joy as you embark on your job search will boost your mental health.

I think that it helps to not expect yourself to do the impossible. Give yourself a realistic and attainable lifeline for achieving a goal not a restrictive deadline.

Enjoying the process counts more than obtaining the goal. Research indicates that it’s in the striving to achieve a goal that we feel the happiest.

In the coming blog entry I will talk about what failing at my first career taught me.

It was the job I thought I wanted.

Sometimes a dead-end is the exact detour you need to go down to find out what your purpose in life is.