Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: Personal Development

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to personal development.

Choosing the Right White Noise to Improve Your Productivity

Choosing the Right White Noise to Improve Your ProductivityMaintaining a productive atmosphere, no matter where you are, is difficult over extended periods of time. To fight these ongoing distractions, many companies, including Apple and Spotify, have created “white noise” apps and playlists to help their listeners/buyers create the ideal, portable, distraction-free bubble. The small problem is that Apple and Spotify are not the only companies on the white-noise bandwagon; so then, how do you pick the right playlists/apps to use? Here are a few things to consider:

The type of sounds you are downloading/looking at:

Many of the apps and playlists do not create actual white noise, which is defined as “noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities” to create a noise-cancelling barrier. Most popular apps and playlists create perpetual background noises such as waves, rain, birds, or even coffee shop noises (distant chatter and the tinkle of utensils/coffee cups).

The quality of the playlist/app you purchase:

Because the creation of “white noise”, or background noise, apps have become so popular in recent months, there are quite a few options to go with, including apps such as Noisli where you can pick, choose, and customize noise “playlists” that will play on repeat for extended periods of time. Experts say that ways to tell if the app is worth the install (or purchase), is the size of the app’s installation, as this will give an indication on the size of the sound file (essentially the bigger the file, the better, as all the megahertz’s will have been fully recorded and replicated).

The type of environment where you are most productive:

We can all think of a specific place/time where we are the most productive. The joy of having so many white-noise application/playlists is that most of these environments will have been replicated; you just have to search for it. For instance, Coffitivity offers three types of sounds: morning coffee shop, lunchtime, and university library. Users can pick what song they want and the never-ending background noises will play until the user presses “stop”. The sounds are authentic and the murmuring is quiet enough that it does drown out subtle/small noises in your immediate vicinity (i.e. people walking by your cubicle/desk/office). If you are a person who truly works better in pure silence, however, getting an actual white-noise app (there are no playlists for this type of sound), rather than a background noise app, should achieve that type of environment.

To download an app or playlist, that is the question:

Now that you’ve figured out what type of environment is the best for you, you’re able to start whittling down the what, where, and how of your noise-cancellation bubble. If you’re the type of person who concentrates best with background music, a playlist may be your best option (Apple and Spotify both have fantastic generic playlists for musical genres such as “classical”, “jazz”, and even “videogame/soundtracks”). If listening to noises, such as ocean waves, rain, or birds are more appealing then apps are a perfect choice.

What do you like listening to most when working? Do you have any preferred white noise playlists or apps? We’d love to hear from you. Please share your suggestions below.

Stop Saying these 2 Words and Drastically Improve Your Communication

Great communication skills are essential for getting ahead as an independent contractor. While just one word, “communication” encases so much! At the highest level, it’s being a good speaker or writer, but you also need to understand your audience (their generation or knowledge on a subject) and yourself (tone and approach go a long way). Right down to the specific words you use and, more importantly, don’t use.

Have you ever been in a conversation or listened to a speech and was baffled by how many times the speaker said “Um” or “Like”? Now, have you ever paid attention to how much you’ve been guilty of the same? These two words come out of nearly everyone’s mouth, and it’s not limited to any education level or seniority. You rarely notice if they’re not said, but when they are, they stick out like a sore thumb and affect a listener’s perception of you.

Put an end to (or minimize) both of those words in your spoken vocabulary by looking through the two infographics below. We found the first one on 9gag.com and it provides 11 killer tips to stop saying “um”.  More recently, we found the following infographic from Quid Corner that gives advice of no longer using the word “like” in the wrong places.

Stop Saying Umm Forever

Stop Saying Like All the Time

These 12 Scents Will Make You a Better IT Contractor

Are you an aroma therapy enthusiast, or just curious about it in general? Do you want to improve your problem solving skills, performance, attention and energy? Then this infographic from FrangranceX is exactly what you need to get through the work day.

You’ll need to be aware of scent-free office policies, but did you know that rosemary, vetiver or coffee can improve your problem solving or lemon, jasmine and citrus helps improve your overall performance? There’s more and all of the information can be seen below.

Do you have any preferred scents that help you? Will you try any of these? Let us know in the comments below.

These 12 Scents Will Make You a Better IT Contractor

The Age of Working Remotely: Tried and True Advice for Working from Home

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Permanent Placement Specialist at Eagle

The Age of Working Remotely: Tried and True Tips for Working from HomeAs a long-standing employee at Eagle, I have had the benefit of participating in the company’s work-from-home program, “WORKshift”, for a few years now. The program allows staff to work from their home office once or twice per week but I have now transitioned to a new role that allows me to work remotely 100%. As referenced in a recent post, working remotely brings lots of pros, but certainly has its share of challenges. More and more clients and employers are embracing this style of work. With very effective collaboration and communication tools at the ready, it can make it a feasible option and a definite benefit or ‘value proposition’ when trying to attract new talent.

Whether working full-time or in a contract role, there are several important factors of consideration if you are going to move to a remote work scenario.

Anyone will tell you that the single most important facet of remote work is having a dedicated work space or office. Not only does this allow you to stay focused and engaged during the work day, but one of the biggest challenges is that it can be difficult to differentiate and separate your home and personal life from work. One of the things I’ve found most beneficial is ensuring that I have a set work schedule and adhering to that. I personally have found that ending the work day with a routine or a ritual allows me to best transition from my work day to my evening (taking a brisk walk, running an errand, etc.).

Working remotely does allow some flexibility in terms of schedule but it’s essential to always be readily available during work hours or keep team members apprised of availability, if for any reason you will be away from your computer. It only takes a few missed calls or delayed responses for clients or colleagues to assume you are not in fact working — never a good scenario, especially if you need to get a timesheet signed!

Working remotely can be somewhat isolating, but if you use team messaging or instant messaging software it can go a long way in helping you to feel part of the team. It also helps if you have the type of career that requires that you are on the phone a lot – which, in my case, recruiting certainly does!

From my perspective, the benefits of remote work far outweigh the challenges and I have thoroughly enjoyed the transition. There are time savings (no more commuting), financial savings (gas or transit costs, eating out), health benefits (less fast food and more time to fit in exercise) and it’s much easier to find a good work/life balance.

If you are thinking about exploring the option of taking on some contracts remotely be sure you set yourself up for success, and you will likely never look back!

Refresh Yourself on the Best Communication Tips in Under 3 Minutes

Nearly every workplace battle begins with, or is made worse by, a miscommunication. Getting the right message across sounds like a simple task yet we can all recall too many scenarios where something fell apart simply due to a misunderstanding of words.

Nobody’s perfect and we all fail at communication sometimes. The best we can hope for is to prevent misunderstanding as much as possible, and the prime way to do that is regularly remind ourselves on best practices. This video below runs through 10 of the most important points for solid communication, and in less than 3 minutes! If you want a quick break, hit the play button now and save yourself the stress of fixing a miscommunication later.

Let’s Talk About It… Grief

Breigh Radford By Breigh Radford,
Director, Human Resources at Eagle

Bell Let's TalkToday marks Bell’s Let’s Talk Day with national efforts to remove the stigma of mental health.  It really is a great thing to have in our society, this constant push to talk about our feelings. But how many times do you really talk about stuff?  About the self-loathing, self-doubt, about weird feelings you don’t even know how to articulate let alone deal with?  That stuff is hard. There is no abundance of professionals to help you through plus there is a societal stigma looming over you with a bubble that says “you are a lesser human being” for having them – where do you begin?

With so many areas of mental illness to cover I decided to pick just one:  Grief.  Today marks the anniversary of my brother’s death.  Stephen died, 3 years ago from Pneumonia.  It devastated my family; my parents haven’t been quite the same.  Nor really have any of us.  We had to deal with this loss and with feelings we were not familiar with, together and as a family.  Was this mental illness? Certainly, situational yes; long-term, it could have been.  A normal and important part of life, death has to be dealt with, however uncomfortable.  As well as lots of personal reflection, tears, and of course time, here is how my family dealt with it:

Journal

  • You don’t have to be a journalist to know how to write, it doesn’t even have to make sense or be spell checked, but you can pour your heart out into the pages and feel the relief.
  • Move your words towards a positive viewpoint, entry by entry.
  • Look back to see how far you’ve come, if you think you have not progressed, write about it. Keep writing until nothing else comes to mind, then you’ve had enough — until the next entry

Really Talk it Out

  • Seek out a grief counsellor, many Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) can help in this area with referrals, reference material and support groups.
  • Talk to your family, and friends — really talk to them — be vulnerable, be honest, they will still love you, and your feelings will dissipate.

Take a Step Outside

  • Get physical, grief can affect our whole body, it is a physical and mental loss. One of my siblings had so much rage he hung a punching bag in his garage and punched until he could no more.
  • Take the dog out — again, and again until you too are ‘dog tired’. Sleep will come easier and deeper that way.  Your subconscious will be able process your feelings, a two in one kind of deal!

Allow yourself to feel sad, don’t push the feelings away and don’t self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol.  Keep a healthy menu on hand and give yourself time.  Perhaps for my family the one biggest thing that got us through was our sense of humour and sharing stories of Stephen.  My heart still breaks but now I know ways to deal with that.

2018 in Review: Personal and Professional Development

“New Year, New Me!” That’s the attitude people around the world are taking today as 2019 has officially kicked off. Of course, there’s no reason to be a completely brand new you if you’re generally happy with how things are going, and certainly you can improve on yourself any time.

Year-round, we share content for IT contractors to help them improve on themselves. Some posts relate to specific skills development and others suggest ways to improve soft skills. In the staffing industry, recruiters recognize time and again the importance of improving skills and updating your resume with new value-adds and differentiators. To help you succeed this year, here are the best posts about personal development that we shared in the past year…

Technical Skills

Softer Skills and Development

Which Skills to Learn First?

It’s Time to Reflect on 2018 so You Can Set SMART Goals for 2019

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

As another year winds down and we look forward to enjoying some ‘downtime’ over the holidays, it’s a great opportunity to reflect on the past year, and think about what you would like to achieve in the upcoming year. From a career perspective, it’s important to set goals to ensure that you keep moving forward. Perhaps you have a long-term goal you are working towards but are struggling to identify how to get there. It’s extremely important to set smaller annual goals that will assist you in moving towards that larger goal.

As a consultant/contractor, it might help to reflect on the past year to help you determine what goals would be important for you. Was there an opportunity that you missed out on because you didn’t have the required certification or designation? Will achieving that in 2019 help you to land that contract that will help your career to move forward?

Perhaps you had a gap between contracts in 2018 while you tried to find your next opportunity. Setting a goal to increase your network, to connect with a mentor who is currently fulfilling the role you strive for, or to break into a new industry are all goals that can help you work towards that long-term career goal. You can also speak with a recruiter to ask for their input on what might make you more marketable. Recruiters see multiple opportunities every day and have a wealth of knowledge and insight that they are likely happy to share.

When setting goals, it’s important to ensure that they are ‘SMART’:

  • Is your goal Specific,
  • Is your goal Measurable
  • Is your goal Attainable
  • Is it Relevant (to your long term career goals)
  • And is it Time-based?

Be sure to set clear goals, to write them down, and to set timelines to hold yourself accountable.

All the best for a safe and happy holiday season, and here’s to a productive and goal oriented 2019!

Podcasts That Will Help You Grow

A couple months ago, we shared 15 Podcasts to Help Independent Contractors Get Through Difficult Times. The post, not surprisingly, received positive feedback and a number of shares. Podcasts are a convenient way to keep up-to-date on nearly any topic. You can listen to industry-leading experts to help you with personal development, all while driving, exercising, working or any other task.

A reader recently referred us to this infographic from CarRentals.com suggesting Inspirational Podcasts for Professional Growth. They’re solid suggestions, and if you visit the page, there are additional infographics, including Educational Podcasts for Personal Growth and Wellbeing and Self-Help Podcasts. If you’re not sure what to listen to next, you’re guaranteed to find something here!

Podcasts That Will Help You Grow

7 Reasons Why Smart, Hardworking People Don’t Become Successful

The idea that smart people who grew up in a good environment would be successful is a common idea that may not actually be true. There are many other factors that lead to success beyond intelligence and work ethics. This video by the Art of Improvement highlights seven reasons why a “smart person” may end up being unsuccessful. Knowing these reasons can make you more aware of how you act in the workplace and outside of it and allow you to incorporate change to maximize your success.