Book Review: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

a time to every purpose

It’s always a joy to read Daniel Pink’s books. He has a knack for presenting Social Science research in an easy to understand way that makes it applicable to readers’ everyday lives. In his latest book When he picks timing as his topic and concludes: “I used to believe that timing was everything. Now I believe that everything is timing.” Let’s take a look at his main findings and see how we can time certain life activities to ensure better, more efficient and productive outcomes.

“A peak, a trough, and a rebound” – beware of early afternoons

Numerous studies show a distinctive pattern in most people’s moods and emotional states throughout the day. Happiness, positivity, and attention are on the rise in the morning, only to take a dip in the afternoon, before they rebound again toward the late afternoon and evening. (One study determined the most unproductive time of day to be 2:55pm.) Understanding of these patterns can have far-reaching repercussions for our daily lives. Some of the studies’ findings are just “nice to know,” but others can mean “life or death”. Knowing that taking a short (no longer than 40 minutes!) nap in the early afternoon can boost your productivity later on – that’s nice to know. But knowing that scheduling a medical procedure, such as surgery, for the afternoon will increase the risk of something going wrong 3- to 4-fold or knowing that juries and judges will evaluate evidence in trials much less rationally in the afternoon – that knowledge can potentially save your life!

Scheduling Your Life for Maximum Benefit

For best results, schedule medical procedures, academic tests, court trials, or important analytical tasks (or math class) for the morning. But, as always, there are exceptions to every good rule. When the task you need to tackle is not an analytical one but one that requires you to have insight or a creative spark, it’s best undertaken during our non-optimal time, the afternoon for most people. For academic schedules, this means that math and science classes are best scheduled early, whereas art and creative writing are best taught later in the day.

Midlife Crisis

According to research, the quintessential midlife crisis is real across genders, countries, and different socioeconomic groups. Numerous studies have shown that well-being and happiness slump in midlife and reach the lowest point at 52.9 years (for American males). Happiness begins to decline in the early 30’s, bottoms out in the early 50’s, and starts a steady climb after that. People frequently report higher well-being in their 70’s than in their younger years. While most explanations have traditionally centered on sociology, explaining that midlife is the phase of the realization of unmet life expectations and the corresponding disappointment, Pink also delves into newer research that alludes to the possibility of there being a biological component to the midlife crisis.

Take a break – the power of naps

Pink calls naps “Zambonis for our brain”. According to research “they smooth out the nicks, scuffs, and scratches a typical day has left on our mental ice”. Numerous studies from around the world conducted among different professions show the benefits of naps. For example, a NASA study shows that pilots who napped up to 40 minutes showed a subsequent increase of 34% in reaction time and a twofold increase in alertness.  A UC-Berkeley study shows that an afternoon nap expands the brain’s capacity to learn and retain information as well as boosting short-term and associative memory. Nappers were twice as likely to solve a complex problem as non-nappers. The benefits of napping are independent of the amount of sleep people get at night. Even individuals that get enough nightly sleep still benefit from an afternoon nap.

Final thoughts

There is much more to this book than naps and midlife crises. Pink also elaborates on different chronotypes, the science of beginnings and endings, and group timing and synchronization. Interspersed with chapters are sections with real-life action points and tips and tricks to take advantage of the research of timing.  It’s a fun and educational read with lots of life improvement potential.

If you’d like to discover the science of timing, you may check out When from the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.

Written by Anne Nowak

EmployBR Educational Scholarship

If you’ve been thinking of going back to school in order to further your career, but you can’t quite afford it, this program may be perfect for you! EmployBR, in cooperation with the local Workforce Development Area 21, is providing educational scholarships.

What kinds of programs are covered?

  • Bachelor’s Degrees in nursing, engineering, elementary education, and speech pathology
  • Certificates in business and paralegal studies from LSU
  • Trade School Certifications in fields including medical, computers, and CDL
  • Skilled Craft Training through Baton Rouge Community College Continuing Education
  • Follow the link for the complete list

how do i apply?

  • Complete the EmployBR Scholarship Application.
  • To qualify, you must be at least 18 years old and a resident of East Baton Rouge Parish.
  • Completed applications must be submitted to EmployBR no later than ten (10) business days before training is scheduled to begin and not more than 30 days prior to it beginning.
  • You will also have to apply for Federal Financial Aid.
  • Submission does NOT guarantee scholarship award.

how do i contact employbr?

  • 4523 Plank Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70505 ; (225) 358-4579
  • 1991 Wooddale Boulevard, Baton Rouge, LA 70806 ; (225) 925-4312
  • 1520 Thomas H. Delpit Drive; Baton Rouge, LA 70802; 389-8901
  • Or visit their website: http://employbr.businesscatalyst.com/home

Written by Cynthia Payton

When and Why Do I Need a Cover Letter?

what is it?

A cover letter is a one-page letter that accompanies your resume. It’s designed to let you introduce yourself to the hiring manager in a more personalized way than the resume will allow. Many online applications say that it is optional to attach a cover letter, so many people see it as a pointless step, an unnecessary hurdle. Yet it can be a very effective job search tool.

Can’t i just skip it?

Maybe, depending on the kind of work you’re looking for. Generally, blue-collar trades such as construction rarely expect cover letters. Usually, neither do entry-level retail and food-service positions. Often, these types of positions will only ask for an application and not a resume. On the other hand, if you apply for any type of office work (including entry-level), or for a supervisory role in any industry, you’ll definitely want to include a cover letter. If you’re not sure whether or not it’s appropriate, err on the side of caution and include a cover letter. They’ll appreciate the effort.

General rule: If they ask for a resume, submit a cover letter too.

How could a cover letter help me?

A tailored, personalized, well-written cover letter can:

  • Make you seem more human to the hiring manager
  • Showcase your excellent written communication skills
  • Highlight your most impressive accomplishments
  • Display your passion for this type of work
  • Express your enthusiasm for that company
  • Allow you to say, in your own words, why exactly you’d be a great fit for the job
  • Set an expectation for what will happen next
  • Show that you care enough to take the time to write a cover letter
  • Explain anything unusual about your work history or circumstances.

Please note: Cover letters are especially important if you have a gap in your work history, you’re changing careers, or you apply for a job that you’re overqualified for. Addressing those issues in your cover letter can soothe hiring managers’ fears about your resume.

How Could a cover letter hurt me?

A cover letter can only hurt you if it’s BAD. A bad cover letter might be:

  • Generic – if you use the same cover letter for every position you apply for
  • Vague – if you don’t include specific details about your qualifications
  • Poorly-written – if you have grammatical mistakes, fragments, misspelled words, etc.
  • Meandering – if you have no clear focus, rambling run-on sentences, etc.
  • Robotic – if you use overly formal or complicated language and generally don’t sound human

Stay tuned for a follow-up post about proper structure and formatting for cover letters. In the meantime, check out our cover letter templates, and feel free to come see us at the Career Center for one-on-one help with your cover letters.

Written by Lynnette Lee

New Career Center Books

For the new year, our newest crop of books is for people in a new career situation. Whether you’re looking for a first job, a new career, or something to do during retirement, these books will help you through the transition.

Getting Your First Job for Dummies
by Roberto Angule
For new graduates, being launched into the real world can be daunting. Fear not, though – this guide takes you through each step of the process, from determining what type of job to look for, through writing a compelling resume and cover letter, to acing the interview and evaluating job offers. The Career Center has long been a fan of the For Dummies series; these books tend to be thorough and well-researched.

Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career
by Michelle Gibbings
The world of work is changing. Stable careers with clear upward progressions have become more rare, leaving some workers feeling a little lost and uncertain. If that describes you, you may find this book helpful. It is packed full of assessments and exercises to help you determine how secure your career is, what your options for the future are, and what steps you can take to stay relevant and happy in your future career.

Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success
by Dawn Graham
Job searching is difficult enough when you’re looking for a position similar to those you’ve held before. Changing careers into a new field in which you have no experience adds a new level of hardship. This book, written by the Career Management Director at Wharton’s prestigious MBA Executive program, guides you through the process of switching careers. Use its insights to determine whether changing careers is the best move for you, mapping out a transition strategy, defining your personal brand, and using your network.

Retirement Reinvention: Make Your Next Act Your Best Act
by Robin Ryan
Most people want their retirement to be at least as fulfilling and enjoyable as their working life was. . .but without a clear plan, there’s a danger of ending up as a bored, lonely couch potato. 20-year veteran career counselor Robin Ryan, featured in magazines and TV shows nationwide for her career advice books, now addresses the issues faced by retirees. Explore the exercises in the book to help yourself figure out how you’d like to spend your time in retirement – whether through hobbies, volunteer work, or a new job. The book also discusses how to overcome such problems as social isolation, lack of income, a sense of purposelessness, and stagnating skills and personal development.

If you’d like to check out any of these books, you may place a hold on them through the East Baton Rouge Parish Library website.

Written by Lynnette Lee

The Seven Deadly Sins of Job Searching, Part 5

This is the fifth post in a series of posts about the most common and damaging mistakes jobseekers make. Read the full series here.

5th deadly sin: not preparing for a job interview

You read our blog posts about the first four deadly sins of job searching, followed our advice, and scored a job interview. Congratulations! Now, don’t go out and celebrate the achievement on the night before. Instead, use that time to prepare.

Why prepare for a job interview?

After all, this is all about you, and you know yourself pretty well, right? Not quite: the job interview is about you in relation to the job you are applying for and how you can benefit that company in that specific position. In order to be at your peak performance, you need to prepare the following:

Your clothes

Research the organizations’ dress code and dress accordingly. Check out your interview clothes a few days before, if they need dry cleaning you don’t want to find that out the morning of your interview. If it has been a while since your last job interview and you don’t wear your interview clothes frequently, try them on. They might not fit anymore or be out of style.

Your route to the interview location

Check out where you are going. If you are taking public transportation, check the schedule. If you are driving, search for the best route, how long it takes, if there is construction, etc.  After all, one of the biggest interview blunders is being late!

Research the company and the role you are applying for

You want to know everything about the company you possibly can. If you know somebody that works there already, talk to them. At the very least you need to thoroughly check out their website. Ideally you also follow them on social media and research their business information in company databases such as ReferenceUSA.

Your answers

This is obviously the big one. Most job interviews will be conducted using behavioral questions. Behavioral questions are those that ask about real life examples from your work history or hypothetical scenarios common in your field. For example: “Tell me about a situation with a difficult co-worker and how you resolved it” or “An angry client calls and accuses you of giving him the wrong information. What do you do?”. It is very hard to come up with good answers to those kinds of questions on the spot. You need to take time and prepare them.

The best way to answer behavioral questions is the STAR methodSituation/Task, Action, Result. You want to tell the interviewer the situation or task you were faced with, the action you took to resolve that situation and the result from your action. Google the most common behavioral questions and write down your own best answer to each of them. Then practice them until you can present them naturally and with ease. You also want to record yourself. This way you can see your facial expressions and body language.

If you need help with interview preparation, contact the Career Center at 225-231-3733. We have many interview prep materials for you to practice and will conduct mock interviews, which we can tape if you like.

Stay tuned for the next deadly sin of job search.