The Slowdown: How to Maximize Your Downtime at Work

In my work as a clinical assistant, there are times during my twelve hour shift where I cannot sit down due to the amount of work to be done, bustling from patient to patient in an effort to ensure everything gets done well and in a timely manner. But when patients are discharged and the unit activity slows to a crawl, the temptation to take out my phone and browse the Internet to kill time is strong, especially when other colleagues are also taking advantage of downtime to catch up on holiday shopping. But these slow times at work provide co-op students with several unique opportunities and should not be wasted. Here are my top tips to make downtime work to your advantage!

1.       Ask Questions!

In a field like nursing, knowledge is passed down in a generational way, with older nurses often eager to tell younger nurses about their experiences. I’ve found that waiting to ask questions about particular patient diagnoses until the unit is quiet allows for the nurse to give a more in-depth answer. This signals to them that you are interested in their opinions and are receptive to teaching, which could lead to greater opportunities for learning later. For example, a patient was admitted recently with a complicated diagnosis. The unit was bustling, so instead of asking the nurse about the situation while she was busy, I waited until a slower period. She eagerly explained the disease itself and also its treatment. Then, later on, she remembered my interest and asked if I wanted to watch a procedure being done on that patient. Now, she often invites me into the room to watch her work and will explain various aspects of her care to me. I have learned so much that I never would have known if I hadn’t used my downtime to ask questions.

2.       Offer Help!

There is nothing worse than seeing a colleague who has finished his or her work for the day sitting idly at the nurses’ station as you rush by, trying to keep your head above water. If everyone else is busy and you are not, offer your help! Even simple tasks like gathering supplies for a procedure or assisting with a complicated patient can ease the workload of your coworkers- and believe me, they’ll remember it! Helping your colleagues might seem like a no-brainer, but I have seen so many students answer calls for help with “But that’s not what I do” or simply sighing theatrically before giving aid. Don’t let your coworkers get to the point where they are interrupting your Facebook session to ask for your help- just offer it, no strings attached. They’ll be grateful and remember you as a dependable, motivated colleague.

3.       Do Something Extra!

When I first started my current job, I never thought I would end up being my pediatric unit’s resident arts and crafts provider. But early in the fall, my charge nurse asked if anyone wanted to decorate the unit for back to school season. None of the nurses enjoyed decorating and dreaded the task. Since I wasn’t busy, I volunteered for the task, and now I am responsible for adding cute holiday touches to our various decorations. There are owls dressed as elves next to colorful stockings and mittens with names of all our nurses on them. I’ll admit it, I might have gone overboard with the crafting! But now everyone on my unit knows me as the “cute crafts” girl, and visitors are always commenting on the new touches that are added every few weeks. Going above and beyond will always get you noticed, not to mention help you build relationships!

4.       Research, Research, Research!

One of my necessary items at work is paper and a pen for writing down illnesses, procedures, or equipment that I’ve never encountered. Then, during slow periods, I can search each one on Google, jotting down interesting facts or why a certain procedure might be done versus another. I also subscribe to several nursing and medical newsletters, and use the time to catch up on reading them. The information you gather from researching your field will serve you well in the workplace, making you informed and a valued team member. But it will also help you in classes by reinforcing what you are learning, and even adding context to the concepts outlined in class.

Overall, your downtime is a learning experience that should be valued. It is easy to look like a team player when everything is busy, but when things are slow it becomes painfully obvious when someone isn’t contributing their fair share. Raise your own personal bar, and you’ll find that you will get much more satisfaction out of your work! 

Julia Thompson is a second year Nursing major in the Bouve College of Health Sciences. She works as a nursing assistant at South Shore Hospital and is currently on her first co-op at Boston Children’s Hospital. She is the secretary of the Northeastern University Student Nurses’ Association and is also involved with Bouve Fellows. Feel free to contact her at thompson.jul@husky.neu.edu with any questions. You can follow her on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/juliavthompson) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/juliavthompson).

Getting Out Of Your Own Way

“Note that this journey is uniquely yours, no one else’s. So the path has to be your own. You cannot imitate somebody else’s journey and still be true to yourself. Are you prepared to honor your uniqueness in this way?” — Jon Kabat-Zinn

cutest-baby-animals-1Everyone has that one friend who we perceive has it all figured out. For some people, a path to their dream career is paved — they know what they want to do and how they’re going to get there. For others, like myself, the future is muddled and thoughts are murky; I have to keep reminding myself that’s okay.

When I get overwhelmed by the fear I’m going to work at my supposed-to-be-only-temporary retail job forever, I, first, literally tell myself to “shut up” and then I tear myself away from the anxiety about my seemingly already failed future to focus on the present moment. There are so many articles on Mindfulness (TIME magazine even released a wonderful special issue on it) you can find online, but here are some of my go-to methods for grounding myself.

Invest in the Process

You might need to rework how you frame your goals. My favorite TED talk is “Plug Into Your Hard-Wired Happiness” by Srikumar Rao. In those 18 minutes, Rao bestows upon us the wisdom that it is fulfilling to invest in the process of getting somewhere, rather than focusing on the outcome. The “If-Then” model of “if this happens, then I will be happy” is a failing one because if “this” does not happen, you won’t be happy; however, if you pride yourself on every step you take to reach the outcome (which exists only to serve as a guide), you’ll be content to succeed or fail, seeing the latter as the start of a new path that will take you somewhere unexpected yet rewarding.

Put It Out in the Universe

There’s something to be said for verbalization. Declare your intent to the universe! How else will it know what to send your way? I’ve kept a fortune from a fortune cookie in my wallet for years: “Greet the world every morning with curiosity and hope.” One mantra Northeastern career counselor Sabrina Woods suggested to me is, “I allow for my highest possible good.” You can also develop your own.

Get Over Others 

The only person who has the privilege of living your life is you. So why let anybody else decide whether you’re doing something wrong? Stop comparing yourself to others. Why let other people impact that way you perceive yourself? Don’t allow someone else’s successes to be a measure of your own happiness. In order to find happiness, you must realize that you, yourself, are worthy of happiness.

Even though you might not be where you want to, keep the faith that when you invest in the process, you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be.

 

A graduate of Northeastern with a degree in English, Ashley used to be the News Director and a DJ for WRBB 104.9 FM, the university’s student-run radio station. When she’s not working at Apple, she writes for music blogs and builds her marketing portfolio. Informational interviews, cooking and rock & roll are some of her favorite things. Tell her what you’re listening to via Twitter @amjcbs or connect with her on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/amjcbs).

 

 

How to Ace a Job Interview…Tips from an Interviewer’s Perspective.

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We all know job interviews are terrifying. Just as many people have admitted they would rather die than speaking in front of an audience, same goes for interviewing for a job. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel as though I sweat more during a job interview than when I am jogging. The whole process is extremely terrifying, but it is something we all have to do. I am going to alleviate some of this fear and excess sweating, by listing several important tips I have learned as a practice interviewer.

FIRST, PRE-INTERVIEW PREPARATION:

1. Don’t lose sleep

The night before is literally the same feeling as the night before an exam or flight. You toss and turn, your mind is running, you keep thinking about the worst, you panic, you can’t breathe. This is where you have to stop yourself and say, there is nothing you can do about it right now, it is midnight, let your mind sleep. We all know sleep is very important, so make sure to go to bed at a decent time so you have at least 7 hours of sleep.

2. Wake up Confident

After all the chaos your mind and body dealt with before you finally fell asleep, you deserve to feel good about yourself as you begin your morning prior to the interview. Give yourself a pep talk and remind yourself of all the good qualities you have. Don’t start panicking and thinking about flaws or convincing yourself you are not good enough because you are only lying to yourself. You wouldn’t want someone to lie to you, so why lie to yourself?

3. Put on your best outfit

Make sure to pick out an outfit you feel confident in. It could either be a really nice shirt, a nice pair of pants or skirt. You can even have a pair of socks which are your lucky socks or something like that. It doesn’t matter as long as you have some extra support and comfort from your closet. Studies show that dressing to impress can definitely elevate confidence levels. Go out there looking like the next James Bond or Audrey Hepburn and get that job.

4. Be on time

Being on time is so important. It is better to be early than late. Be sure to set your alarm on time and have everything ready for the morning so you have less running to do. Being on time is also a very important way to show you are reliable.

NOW, THE INTERVIEW IN QUICK STEPS:

The first moments are crucial. The way you walk in and present yourself makes a big impression on the interviewer, so be sure to do these few things carefully in order to make a good impression:

1. Posture

you want to make sure you are walking into the room with confidence. Having a good posture enhances your confidence and makes you feel powerful. Trust me, it works.

2. Smile

A smile is a huge indication that you are friendly, confident and interested. Smiling is a great way to calm your nerves, because smiling increases dopamine levels, allowing you to feel and present confidence. #Science

3. Shake and introduce

It is important to do these two steps in unison. Reaching out your hand and firmly shaking the interviewer’s hand while introducing yourself loudly and clearly shows you are taking action first. You are showing confidence and allowing yourself to open up the conversation with a kind, professional gesture, instead of holding back and waiting for the interviewer to introduce themselves first.

4. Eye contact is everything

It is very important to make as much eye contact as you can. Having good eye contact shows confidence, attentiveness, and respect. Eye contact also shows trust. They say if someone is looking around and making little eye contact they are not being true to themselves as well as possibly not being honest.

5. Don’t slouch

It is important to sit upright and not slouch. Please don’t have your legs open or have your arms crossed, these are two signs you are not being professional nor are you taking the interview seriously. The more proper you are as ladies and gentlemen, the more professional you will look to the interviewer.

6. Prepare questions

It is extremely important to come to the interview with several written questions. You can Google some “interview questions” in case you are stuck, bring at least one interview question, it counts as interviewers find this preparation piece very authentic. It shows you put time into preparing for your interview.

7. Do your research

It is important that you research the company, position you are applying for and the interviewer. You have plenty of time to do a little research and write down some bullet points to keep as a reference in case you become nervous. It helps to know a little information about the interviewer too because it will allow them to share their experiences as well. As humans, we enjoy talking about ourselves, so spice up your interview a bit by directing attention to the interviewer.

8. Make a proper exit

Make sure once the interview has ended that you properly thank the interviewer, shake their hand firmly, smile and exit with confidence.

A little side note: always be yourself and don’t be superficial. As humans, we can smell out a superficial person. The interviewer will see right through you if you are fake. Just be true to yourself, be honest and take the time to make a good impression. Good luck!