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The Hidden Dangers of Caring About Your Career Too Much

A teacher I know recently left the profession after seven years in the classroom. She was an amazing science educator, bringing project-based learning to a high-poverty school in the South Bronx. Her students loved her, her principal depended on her, and her love for her students was palpable. Why would she leave what was so clearly her calling?

I asked her that very question. “Half of the time I’m wracked with guilt and sadness for the students I can’t help,” she said. “The other half of the time I’m utterly exhausted from trying to finish the crushing workload and endless paperwork. I can’t go on like this… there just won’t be anything left of me.”

Her problem is not unique: A recent study in the Academy of Management Journal found that people who pursue careers that they treat as callings have particularly high rates of burnout. The study focused on workers in animal kill shelters. But as a psychologist who has worked closely with public schools for over a decade, I recognized a lot of teachers in that description, too.

People who feel called to their careers, according to these researchers, have a passion for...

It’s Not Your Imagination: Social Media Is Making Us Lonelier

Initially, most of us thought that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media applications would help to bring people together. And, yes, in many instances that has been true. Such apps have made it possible—even simple—to catch up with former classmates living thousands of miles away, share a video of your baby’s first steps with relatives near and far, or strike up new acquaintances while discussing the stock market or last night’s ballgame. Yet, a new NIH-funded study suggests that social media may also have the power to make people feel left out and alone.

Based on a nationwide survey of more than 1,700 young adults, researchers found that individuals who were the heaviest users of social media were two to three times more likely to feel socially isolated than those who used little to no social media. And that’s a concern to those of us in the medical field: previous research has linked social isolation to worsening physical and mental health, and even an increased risk of death. In fact, some experts have gone so far as to label loneliness a major public health concern.

The new study, reported in the American Journal...

Spending On Government Communications Is Ripe for Abuse

Last year the Government Accountability Office issued “Public Relations Spending” (GAO-16-877R) in response to a request from the Senate Budget Committee. The purpose of the report was to "determine how much the federal government spends on public relations activities, including contracts and internal agency support, and identify the highest-spending agencies."

"Public relations internal agency support" is defined in the report as employees classified as "public affairs specialists" (GS-1035s). Right away we have a contradiction in terms, because a public affairs specialist, as opposed to a PR professional, gives you data, not "spin." The report offers this definition of a public affairs specialist:

“Public Affairs occupational series are responsible for administering, supervising, or performing work involved in establishing and maintaining communication between federal agencies and the public. Among other things, their work includes identifying communication needs and developing informational materials on agency policies, programs, services, and activities.” 

The GAO categorizes legitimate communication activity as follows:

  • Public education and awareness
  • Customer service
  • General information and recruitment
  • Compliance with laws and policies

If they do nothing else, the government's communicators can and should explain to the 325 million people who live in the United States what exactly the government did with the...

The Biggest Mistake People Make When Searching for a Job is Not Acting Like They Already Have One

As the maxim goes, it’s easier to get a job when you already have one. New research shows just how much harder unemployed people have to work to land open positions than their employed competitors—and offers clues on how they can leverage that disparity to their advantage.

Economists from Columbia University and the Federal Reserve banks of New York and Chicago examined the job-seeking activities of 2,900 people ages 18 to 64 (excluding the self-employed), and found that employed people get all the breaks. They were more likely to receive an unsolicited contact from a potential employer or a referral from a contact. Their response rate from employers was four times that of unemployed applicants. They got more than twice the interviews and three times as many offers per application.

That matters because a surprising number of currently employed people are looking to jump ship. Using data compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 2013 to 2015, the economists found that while 99.5% of unemployed respondents were actively seeking work, so were 23.3% of those with jobs. (They weren’t all planning to quit their current gigs: one in five wanted a...

How to Host an Effective Offsite Leadership Meeting

Leadership offsites are multi-day meetings held away from the office. The purpose could be anything from strategic planning, to team building, to airing of professional grievances. However, such meetings all have the same basic aim: to create cohesion among the participants.

Leadership offsites have higher stakes than other meetings because of time and cost. Organizers ask the participants to sacrifice time away from their daily responsibilities to focus on other issues. By the time you factor in the expenses associated with travel and meeting space, as well as participants’ time itself, a two-day offsite can quickly add up to a significant annual budget line item. For the time and cost invested, it’s important to have a productive meeting. But how, exactly, can you ensure it’s a worthwhile investment?

Meeting hosts and organizers feel this pressure, and they focus on adding the right ingredients for a productive session. They create a list of objectives, draft an agenda, send out material to read in advance, and maybe even do a mini-survey of participants to determine what exactly they want to accomplish. These are necessary steps. But there is an underlying question that—when answered—helps to knit all of the...

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