Leaving Work at Work

Written by Nathan Hawes, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Backside Learning Center

Sometimes work just follows you back home, and time off work is sacred. It is the best time, but it is easy to get your brain wrapped up with work once you start to unwind. There are a few things you can do to stop this.

Leave work when you are supposed to leave work.
You don’t have to work more than your scheduled time. For me every minute I work past my originally scheduled time makes me angrier. If you are in the middle of a project, just leave it until tomorrow. It will still be there.

Turn off your email notifications.
If you have your work email on your phone, turn off the notifications. The last thing you want is to be enjoying your day and then seeing something that reminds you of all the things you must do.

Create a habit at the end of the workday.
Listen to music, take a walk, read something, play video games, etc. Do something you enjoy that has nothing to do with work as soon as you get off. This makes the transition into “you time” easier.

Have a space that is your own.
If you live with someone else, try to carve out an area that is entirely for you. If this isn’t possible find somewhere outside of your home that you can make your own. It could be a favorite park, café, the gym. Find somewhere where you can be selfish.

Remind yourself that you do not owe your work more than your scheduled time. They pay you to work certain hours. If you work more than that, they will win.

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We Are All Just People

Written by Martha Geier, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at The Food Literacy Project

One of the wonderful things about being a VISTA is the diversity of people we encounter during our service – our cohort, work colleagues, clients of and volunteers for our organizations, presenters at our meetings and people at our events. These might be brief moments or longer-term relationships. But that diversity can, of course, present challenges.

Our conversation at a recent VISTA meeting about interacting with other cultures and other generations stayed with me long after the meeting ended. A question about challenges with people from other generations led to generational labels – millennials, baby boomers, Gen X, etc. – with some general characteristics assigned to each group. I have always been disturbed by such labeling. For example, millennials are “lazy, entitled, self-obsessed narcissists.” Really?! No! I have met people of all ages who could be described that way while the millennials I know are bright, hardworking, collegial, creative, and committed to making the world a better place.

We are all just people. It is easier to connect with some than others, but it is usually possible to find a common ground with almost anyone. I’m a bit of an introvert. I’ve learned the best way to get to know people, no matter how alike or not they seem, is to express interest in who they are. You can find lists of getting acquainted questions on the internet to help you, but think about how you go about making new friends to add to your social circle. Many of the same questions and interests apply to any age and culture. Where are they from? If not lifelong residents, what brought them to Louisville? What work do they do? What kinds of music do they like? Favorite tv programs, favorite books, best adventure, travel, etc.? Follow up with questions asking for more detail. You know how to do it! Once you have established a connection, it will be more likely that differences in values/opinions are more acceptable and may even eventually lead to a “help me understand…” conversation. The main thing is that people love to tell their stories, and stories are what help us relate to one another. We all like to be listened to, but how often does that happen? Ask people for their stories and listen without interjecting an experience you may have had that was similar. Instead make sincere, interested, non-judgmental comments about theirs. It will enrich their life – and yours!

Time Management

Written by Katie Norton, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services

As I’m sitting here trying to write this post, I keep getting distracted by other tasks on my to-do list. Oftentimes when I have a long list of things to accomplish, it can be hard to know where to start. Time management is something that I have been working to improve on, but I still struggle sometimes. I wanted to share a few things that I’ve found helpful so far.

It may seem simple, but ranking tasks in order of importance can be really helpful. That way you know what needs to get done right away and what can wait a little longer. You should focus on the most important tasks first, and then move on to the less urgent items. I also find it helpful to make daily, weekly, and monthly lists to make sure nothing is forgotten. The daily lists should be shorter and only contain the essential items that must be completed that day, so that they are less overwhelming.

We also all have a time of day that we are most productive, whether it is in the morning or afternoon. When do you have the most energy? Or the fewest interruptions? This is when you should focus on getting your more difficult tasks done and save the easier things for when you might be more tired. Everyone is different, so figure out what works best for you.

At my organization, most projects involve multiple people. At times, this can make it harder to manage time because the steps depend on other people’s timelines and availability. I’ve found that it’s important to communicate your progress with your coworkers, even if you’re behind, so they know where you’re at. It also helps to make sure individual responsibilities are clear ahead of time, so that everyone knows what is expected of them.

Finally, be realistic about time goals. If there is too much on your plate, and you know that you won’t be able to finish something by the deadline, let your supervisor know. The more that we are able to manage our time, the less stressed and more productive we’ll be. Take breaks to let your brain recharge and reward yourself for your accomplishments!

How to Network When You Don’t Like Networking

Written by Samantha Risen, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana

I’m convinced there are only a small handful of people on planet earth that actually like to network. I imagine they look a bit like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho and they use “networking guru” in their tinder bios. I am not a fan of networking. I like talking to people, sure. But put me in a room of professionals with the singular goal of chit chatting and elevator pitching and business card swapping and I get slightly sick to my stomach and my brain inexplicably wants to chat about the best way to reboot Sabrina the Teenage Witch. However, I’ve found that networking has been key in making connections, getting funded, getting the job, etc. So what’s a girl to do?

I’ve found some simple ways to calm down and actually enjoy myself:

Figure out why you’re there

Have a strategy for what you want to get out of the event overall. What’s your goal? Why are you attending? What do you want to learn? Who do you want to connect with? Who should you invite? What do you want people to know about you and what you do?

“Networking is not about calling people you know. It’s about helping where you provide value. And that requires, before anything else, understanding who you are, what you need to learn, the value you can deliver, and when you need help to deliver that value.”–Scot Cohen

Practice

It can feel silly, but practice chit chatting (either with yourself or friends/colleagues). Nail down your introduction and have a few interesting tidbits or questions to keep up your sleeve when conversation is at a lull. “Have you seen XYZ’s latest article/video? What’s your take on XYZ subject?”

You will run out of steam if you feel like you have to talk about you, you, you. Instead, ask lots of questions about the people you are talking to. Most people love to talk about themselves and share their opinion. “Where are you from? What do you do? How do you like it there? What do you think will be the biggest influence in the industry next year?

Practice your 30 second elevator pitch(who you are, what you do, where you do it) until it sounds natural and you feel confident when giving it. Remember to smile!

Put Down Your Phone

It’s very tempting to just stand to the side and “compose emails” at a networking event just so that you don’t have to put yourself out there. Instead, take a few breaths and go find someone to talk to (maybe find someone that looks a little lost too!) If you bring a friend to a networking event, make sure you mingle and don’t spend the entire time chatting about the new episodes of Black Mirror (learned that lesson through experience).

The S.T.O.P Method

According to executive coach Chris Charyk, this is the ultimate mental trick to tackle any stressful situation. It goes like this:

Stop what you’re doing and focus on your thoughts.

Take a few deep breaths.

Observe what’s going on in your body, emotions, and mind, and why you’re feeling them.

Proceed with an intention to incorporate what you observed in your actions.

The importance of this technique is to slow down and be deliberate not just in the things you do, but the feelings you let take over. It reminds you that you have the power to banish your own fears, doubts, and nerves in even the most pressure-cooker situations.

Finally, try to remember that most people are slightly nervous at these types of events. If you tell yourself that you’re going to blow it, your confidence won’t come across. Instead, take deep breaths, do a power stance, and take the plunge!

Networking Events around Louisville

  • New2Lou
  • Youth Professionals Association of Louisville (YPAL)
  • Metro United Way’s LINC
  • Junior League
  • Urban League
  • Leadership Louisville
  • Center for Nonprofit Excellence
  • Check out events on Eventbrite/Do502/City Concierge Louisville
  • Follow all your favorite companies on social media/sign up for their newsletters — you never know when they might post an event

PS- Networking doesn’t have to just take place at a “branded networking event”. It can be in the grocery line, or at a music festival, or while you’re volunteering somewhere. If you’ve got your elevator pitch, a smile, and you’re genuinely invested in the conversation–congrats! You’re networking!

This is More Than a Job, This is an Experience

Written by David Demanget, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at United Crescent Hill Ministries

I started working when I was 15 years old and worked all the way through college at different fast food stores back home. Work for me was a nuisance in every way, though I knew that I had to work in order to go out and have a social life let alone survive. After graduating from college, I knew I wanted to do something meaningful that has direct impact. I then found AmeriCorps and thought that this would be a great way to start my journey towards helping others.

When I first got to my site, I was taught the basics of our programs and told what I would
be doing over the course of service. Most of it sounded pretty straightforward and before you know it I was sitting in my office all week. Even though I knew what I was doing was helpful and impacting those in our community by helping my organization grow in various ways, I felt like I didn’t find the feeling I was looking for. I spoke to my supervisor and told her a little about how I felt, and we came to the conclusion that even though I couldn’t directly serve clients of my organization I can still interact with them. Even though I was managing the volunteers I could still communicate and understand how they see things. I could still experience all of the things I wanted to on top of my VISTA work by interacting and learning about our clients and volunteers and their stories.

The following week I decided to go around and talk to clients and volunteers as I
shadowed their work. This not only gave me a better understanding of how the program works but I was able to learn more about the actual people we serve and who is serving them. I learned from clients the issues that have occurred in their lives that led them to their difficult times and needs for help which is humbling. I have learned the past stories of my organization through dedicated volunteers who have been here for over 8 years, and how much this place has grown. Doing these things really made me feel more involved in what was going on in the organization and community rather than me just feeling like I am behind the scenes all the time.

Working in a nonprofit that focuses on nothing other than helping those in our community and trying to build a better community sounds extremely fulfilling going into it. Though what I have learned from my supervisor is that the best way to really feel and
comprehend what you are doing is to interact with clients and volunteers. By doing that you will unlock the true fulfillment of what you will be doing during your service year. I have almost finished the first quarter of my service and have made so many connections and know the stories of many folks in our community just by doing this. That way when you get that grant, that big fundraiser, that new volunteer, or whatever you do for your organization during your service year you know exactly who you will be helping and understand the true impact of your service.

Treating your service like another job or thinking of the clients you see daily as
customers is not going to give you the full experience of what being a VISTA is all about. Get out their and really see what you’re doing and who you are doing it for. Make sure your service will give you long lasting memories and stories you will never forget.

Why Hobbies?

Written by Bijaya Shrestha, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Louisville Parks and Recreation

The world we live in today seems to be full of stressful activities.  We are inundated with information, whether it is the news or social media.  School is stressful and so is trying to find a job. After finding a job, we work longer hours.  Then we stress about finances, etc.. We have to try and avoid movie/tv show spoilers, which is very stressful (jk but maybe not).  We become hamsters going round and round in a wheel of stress, which is why it is important to take a break once in awhile and relax.  

Hobbies are a great way to boost your mental health.  Hobbies give you a reason to take a break from whatever stressful activity you are encountering.  If you don’t have a reason to take a break, you may end up overworking yourself which can lead to even more stress.  Sure you can watch TV for hours on end to shut your brain down but having a hobby also means you have a creative outlet as well as a distraction from unavoidable stress.  It also means that your brain stays stimulated while you relax! If you are struggling with addiction, depression, anxiety, or other mental issues, hobbies are a great way stave off boredom and negative thoughts.

As many VISTAs start their service in a new town/city and may not know many people, hobbies are a great way to connect with new people.  If you are starting out in a hobby, you can meet people by taking classes. If you are experienced in a hobby, you can share your skills with other people.  You can also connect with people online who share you interests.

In addition to the benefits to mental health and your social life, cultivating hobbies is beneficial because it is always great to expand your horizons and learn new things.  Hobbies can make you more patient, boost your self-esteem and confidence, give your something to talk about, challenge you, and prevent time waste. In all, it will enrich your life!

Some of my hobbies include reading, podcasting, cross-stitching, knitting, dog walking, hiking, and gardening.  It is also rewarding to be able to give your loved ones something you made, like this cross-stitch I made for my friend.  If you are on the prowl for a new hobby, the Community Centers around Louisville have many classes, including pottery, silversmithing, etc. for great prices.  So go out there and explore the world of hobbies!

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