May 23, 2011

Work Life Balance: Juggling on a Tightrope

Work Life Balance JugglingAs Recruiters, we hear quite a bit about work/life balance.  I can count on one hand, really one finger, the number of candidates who have expressed a desire to work to the exclusion of everything else in their lives.  Most often, people are looking for a job or a career that they can enjoy; one that can give them a satisfying workday and leave some room for friends, family and leisure at the end of the week.  But what of recruiters?  Is there any real hope of balancing our work life and our personal life?

The vast majority of what a Recruiter does day in and day out is self-directed.  At the end of the day, if you’re not driven to succeed in this business, you probably won’t.  Successful recruiting requires diligence, volume, drive, perseverance as well as intangible skills of perception, quality and communication.  Alongside every one of those requirements is a sense of speed and urgency.  Nothing in this business stands still. So when you’re juggling clients, candidates and competition, can a Recruiter really afford to power down at the end of the day?  Here are some tips on carving out some personal time without falling off the tightrope.

Power Down: Now let’s not suggest that you power down every day at 5:00PM for the rest of the night…that’s crazy talk.  But there can and should be a time where the laptop and the Blackberry, IPhone or Droid are off. Creating a hard and fast (well, mostly hard and fast) rule for yourself is a great way to give you and your family some breathing room without risking business.  If you’re offline for a specific period of time each evening, you’ll find that it will get easier and easier to put work on the back burner for those short hours.  Keeping a set time to power back up and check in will allow you a little more freedom during your downtime.

Hobby Time: It’s always a good idea to invest in you.  If there’s a hobby you enjoy or maybe even one you think you might enjoy, go for it.  Working for the sake of working is never a good or healthy idea.  Pick up an old hobby or interest that may have dropped off with the crazy pace of business.  Start looking around at local classes…art, language, martial arts, whatever catches your eye.  Taking some time to indulge your own interests is a great way to stay in touch with yourself and ensure your career serves your life, not the other way around. If you happen to also slip in a little networking, so be it.

Work It Out: Taking care of yourself physically is a sure fire way to ensure that your energy level during the day doesn’t bottom out.  Since we’re often working at a fast pace with a high-level of focus, a recruiters energy level can bottom out making them less and less productive.  Keeping your body healthy and working out can help keep energy levels up during the day and help manage the stress of the day to day.  Take it a step further and pamper yourself a little.  Working out and feeling good about yourself helps to keep a person positive and engaged in their own life; professionally and personally.  So take a deep breath and start taking care of yourself.

Get some Space: Clients and candidates don’t respect your time outside of your professional life. But we do it to ourselves – we email clients at 11pm, talk to candidates driving home from work, and interrupt our own dinners to counsel a candidate about an interview. You have to care about your clients and hiring managers and you have to give great service to your candidates. However, you have to draw the line somewhere. Try to judge your timeline according to your the structure of your day. If you work independently and have time off during the day, working at night is fine. But if you have a regular 8-6 gig (remember 9-5?), it can be too much to return to work at 8pm. You will probably perform better by making improvements to productivity instead of spending more time.

Taking care of yourself is a long term investment, both professionally and personally.  If you’re committed to a successful career in recruiting, you need to maintain a fast pace, a sustained focus and a constant level of urgency. The career is more than worth it, but it still just a career – not a life.

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Marie is a writer for covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.