Artisan Blog

Your First Year in a New Job

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


You’ve landed your dream job, congratulations!

The first year of a new job is not unlike the first year of a marriage, except in the obvious ways, of course. You know you love the job, the company is a good fit, and your skills fit the job responsibilities.  You are compatible. But you’ve never spent every day together or figured out your routine together.

The First 90 Days


You started three weeks ago and you still don’t really know what you’re doing exactly.  You still have trainings and meetingsa lot, your work space is still being set up and you're slowly getting to know you co-workers. You’re working at the easy stuff or the stuff you already knew how to do before you started.  You’re still a newbie.

It’s okay. Take your time.

The first 90 days are an opportunity for you to build a solid foundation for your time at the company, learn everything you need to learn and get comfortable. It’s okay if after 30 days you wonder if it will ever happen and if at 60 days you’re still a little unsure. Really.

The Second 90 Days

You’re comfortable now and know what you’re doing to fulfill your responsibilities. The second 90 days at your new job are a time to evaluate your actual job, compared to what you thought it would be. What do you like doing best and what would you love if someone else took over? It’s too early to change anything, but start developing a plan to make your dream job even dreamier.

The Third 90 Days

This is the time when you put your plan into action. Approach your manager about your willingness to take on more of what you love. Be proactive about trying to tweak your job into exactly what you want, what will keep you there, what will keep you fulfilled. Your managers know what you’re capable of and, if you've been successful, they will want you to stay.

If it works, great! 

If not…

The Fourth 90 Days

Not every job is going to be perfect, and you can’t expect them all to be. However, at this point you have a pretty good idea of how "not-perfect" the role is and will be in the coming year(s). This is when you can think about the long term. There are lots of reasons to stay in a job, especially in today’s economy. And if the pros for staying far outweigh the cons - you're in for a great finish to your first year. 

But there could very well be another company out there that is a better fit for you and your experience. Get your resume out and add your current job, with your accomplishments so far. Think about your motivations for leaving and focus on positions that will improve upon them so you have a better experience next time around. 

You never know what’s going to happen or what a place is really like until you’ve lived there for a while. Let the relationship develop, settle down, become comfortable. Don’t worry about the time it takes...just make sure it is the right place, before you put down roots.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Reflections On Fear and Happiness

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Reflections On Fear and Happiness


As I roam the internet, over and over again I come across articles about how unhappy people are in their jobs. I’ve written some blog posts about it before myself:

Is it time to quit your job?
Eliminate the Negative

No one is happy all the time, even if they are in their dream job.  But there are ways to make happiness more frequent, more likely and more accessible if you can put aside fear and seize that happiness. Here are a few ways that work for me:

  • Be in the moment - Right now, right this minute, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear? Probably not much. Most of what makes us unhappy is anticipation of bad things happening in the future. Be here, now, today. Even at work, being in the moment can bring on a sense of gratitude and change your outlook.

  • Change - Change is both constant and inevitable. Try not to hold on to that moment we talked about, let it be and let it pass. Fighting change, fearing change, can only stop us from growing, evolving and learning. Adaptation is essential to success, especially in your career.

  • Impress Yourself - As opposed to those around you. Surprise yourself with what you can do by trying everything that you have the opportunity to try. I have had no more satisfying experiences than when I feel I have achieved the impossible. I don’t need someone else to tell me so to feel that satisfaction, it’s all mine. Is your boss asking for a volunteer to take on something new? Go for it!

  • Don’t Complain - The language we use is not just an expression of our feelings, it affects them. Complaining makes you feel worse, which makes you complain more. When you hear yourself complaining, stop and think of something good to say about the same situation. There must be something! Train yourself to focus on the positives and not feed yourself the negatives.

  • Don’t Panic - Douglass Adams’ motto is mine as well. Panic does not serve us, it never improves our judgment and it often makes us do the wrong thing without thinking. Count to 10, take 3 deep breaths, whatever helps you become calm, before you decide how to react. If you have an unfortunate manager - a bad boss - it is essential to have the ability to consider how you will deal with them before responding.
Everything outlined above is a change in your behavior, not in your feelings. But your behavior can help change your feelings from negative to positive and give you room to be happy. I believe in you and so do the people in your life who love you. Put aside your fears and seize the day!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Artisan Desk Pilates: Move #1

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Artisan Desk Pilates: Move #1

If you’re like most – you probably spend most of your time each week sitting at your desk working.  Some days you're lucky to even get out of the office to grab lunch!  Maybe you get out one or two days a week to exercise – but wouldn’t it be nice if you could somehow build your workout into your work day?

Talent Manager Maggie Grant, a certified Pilates instructor will show us a few simple moves that you can do right at your desk to strengthen your core and improve your circulation.

Who knows – these quick workouts might just inspire a little creativity too?!

Give this first move a try and let us know what you think!  And stay tuned next month for more!

Top Tips for Starting your Management Career Right

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Top Tips for Starting your Management Career Right


We’ve talked before about what to do when you think it’s time to quit your job and even how to handle difficult managers, but what about being a manager yourself? 

I was asked recently where I wanted to be in five years and my answer was “Managing a team.”   It would be so rewarding, I think, to focus strategically on a company's business while helping a team accomplish both the company's and their own personal development goals.

But wanting to be a good manager - and actually being one are two very different things.  Whether you're new to the world of management - or a veteran in the field - here are some of our top tips for being a great manager from day one - the kind of manager your employees love to have:

  • Be a Mentor - Part of your job as a manager is developing the careers of the people who report to you. Help each of your direct reports improve their skills, even the exceptional ones.  Take the time to learn how each of your team members likes to communicate, what motivates them to succeed and what their career aspirations look like long-term.

  • Act Quickly - Conflicts on your team will arise, and they must be dealt with right away, fairly and transparently.   Leave them alone and they will get worse, without fail.

  • Don’t Leave Anyone Behind - Someone on your team made a big mistake.  It’s going to be awfully hard - maybe impossible - for them to make it right on their own. They need your guidance and your confidence in them to recover.   Even if the problem is not resolved, your relationship with and respect from your subordinate will not be tarnished.

  • Be Proud of Your Team - And let them know it!  Always give praise to your team, and it's individual members, in a public forum if possible.  Never claim success as a result of your leadership.

  • Be Approachable - If your team admires your acumen, they want to talk to you, ask you questions and get your feedback.  Make it easy for them to do so. It makes them feel respected and like they can make a difference.
Over the years, I have had some great bosses who helped me grow, and some who couldn’t overcome a lack of confidence in their own abilities to mentor a subordinate.  As for me, I would definitely like to be the former when given the opportunity!

Wendy Stackhouse
, Consultant for Artisan Creative

7 Ways to Improve your Memory

Thursday, February 09, 2012

7 Ways to Improve your Memory

I am a list-maker. I also set alarms and, when they go off, I have to try to remember why I set them. I lose my keys, my phone, my iPod—I’m lucky I don’t lose the kids some days!

Who hasn't struggled to remember the name of a business associate at a networking event,  a key point during a presentation or the date that big project is due?

Whatever the reason we experience a lapse in memory – chances are we could all use a few ways to help us improve it?

Here are just a few of the best exercises I’ve found to strengthen our ability to remember people, places, ideas - and everything in between:
  1. Use pictures - If you tend to forget names, tie a person’s name to a mental picture. If their name is a word or like a word, this is easy, but using rhymes or words that sound like the name also helps. The trick is the picture, not how you got there.

  2. Change fonts - If you’re trying to learn something from text on your computer screen, reading it in an unfamiliar font makes you concentrate on it more.

  3. Say it out loud - If you’re going to a business meeting where you know some of the people who will be there, say their names out loud to yourself before you go to put them in your short-term memory bank.

  4. Learn a new language - People who speak more than one language are more likely to have a good memory. If you already speak another language, translate what you’re trying to remember into it. It puts double connections down in your brain, while making you focus on the information.

  5. Interact, in-person or even online - Using language to communicate keeps your brain engaged, no matter the medium.

  6. Get some exercise - Exercise builds synapses and synapses are the connections your brain makes to create memories.

  7. Get more sleep - Getting enough sleep is essential for high functioning in many areas, but memory is certainly one of them.
Where was I? Oh, yes.

We all have good days and bad days for remembering things. If you want to have more good days, try some of these techniques and let us know if you see any difference!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Jumpstarting your Creative Process

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jumpstarting your Creative Process


Photo by yajamesu via Flickr Creative Commons 

I read an interesting article in The Atlantic last week, and it got me thinking about my creative process and the creative process in general.

Then one of our Facebook friends was talking about how he didn’t understand how anyone could work before 8am and that was why IT people weren’t creative. I had to disagree.

Every job, no matter the industry, takes some level of creativity.

The roles we place at Artisan Creative, of course, all involve a great deal of creative thought, but even people who work in creative fields have trouble getting started—and finishing—at times.

Once your problem has been clearly defined, the following are the stages of the creative process that can apply to literally any role:

Step One: Saturation

For me, this step is research. If I’m going to write about the creative process, I need to determine what has already been written about the topic? I have to immerse myself as much as possible in what is already out there, partly to avoid being obvious and derivative, but mostly to make sure I know what I’m talking about and that the conclusions I will draw are my own.

For a Web Designer, this could mean looking at a lot of websites in the same industry as the client for whom they are planning.

For an Application Developer working on a new app, it could be making sure they are familiar with the apps that already exist to accomplish similar tasks.

Step Two: Incubation

Sometimes this seems like procrastination - and it is hard to do this step properly because of that. You want to be working on the project, but it’s hard to get down to it. Maybe you haven’t let it grow in your mind—even in your subconscious—long enough yet.

A lot of people do some physical activity to help their incubation process. I like to knit or read fiction. Sometimes even clean the house or do laundry! Walk away from the project and let it grow on its own.

When I’m writing a blog (like now!), by the time I reach this stage I have an outline, sometimes even only a title and the background information, and I go do something else for a while. It is incredibly easier to write after the time away. I’m always surprised, but it always works.

Step Three: Illumination

The solution often comes to you while you’re thinking about something else or doing some other activity. Most creative people would think of this as the moment when creative thought is really going on—when they get that brilliant idea. But creativity is going on all the time or you would never get here.

Many people think they are not creative because they never have this experience in their day-to-day lives, but it is more likely that they are not allowing the process to take place!

Step Four: Verification

After those moments of illumination, creative people rush back to their workspace and get to it. It is always very exciting at this stage. An artist gets focused on a work until it is as perfect as possible. A musician will practice until they can interpret a piece exactly the way it sounds in his or her mind. A Web Designer will tweak a site for hours until it is clean and user-friendly. They “make it work,” as Tim Gunn would say.

This is the satisfying part of the creative process: when you are making something unique, putting your own spin on something you understand thoroughly, expressing yourself as only you can do.

Every time we have a problem to solve, whether it is a personnel issue for an HR professional, a difficult passage of Mozart, a perfect seasonal design for a website, or even a blog post to write, we are engaging in creativity.

Isn’t it nice to know a way to get there every time?

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Work Harder and Get Less Done?!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Work Harder and Get Less Done?!


Did you ever have one of those days when you worked and worked hard for hours on end and still felt like you didn’t get anything done?

Well, you may be working harder than you need to.

Wait! That doesn’t make any sense!

But maybe it does?

I read an article last month on the Harvard Business Review blog called “How to Accomplish More by Doing Less” and it really struck a chord with me. Combined with my New Year’s resolution to manage my time better (and have more free time for the things I enjoy outside of work), I wanted to think this concept through for myself and for you.

You might be like me and be juggling what seems like a multitude of freelance projects, each of which need attention every workday. What is the most productive way to get everything done?

Tony Schwartz’s idea is if we work intensely for shorter periods of time and then take breaks, we will get more done and be more creative. But if we multitask for long periods, we get less and less productive as the day wears on and those good ideas will never come to us.

You want the maximum time per day to be spent at your maximum creativity, right?

Schwartz says if you start your day at 80% of your capacity and take no breaks, your productivity will get lower and lower as the day progresses. By the end of the day you are dragging and not doing any good work

But if you start at 90% and take a break every hour and a half or so, you can stay above 70% productivity, even in the late afternoon slump time, and get a tremendous amount of work done.

I’ve tried days both ways—one day when I work as hard and as long as I can, but don’t plan out blocks of time for particular projects, and another when I plan my time, including breaks.

I like that second day a lot better:

• When I can focus on one task, I’m more likely to finish it and check it off my list
• Creative ideas come during my breaks and make it easier to get started on new projects
• I don’t get as frustrated by interruptions
• Since I finish tasks, I have a greater sense of satisfaction at the end of the day

The title of this post should really be Take Breaks and Get More Done. We can all make ourselves crazy trying to get everything done at once. But often that means we don’t get anything done at all. Try 90 minutes and then taking a break and let me know how it went in the comments!

[My son has interrupted me about 800 times since I started writing this post. Perhaps the real trick is making sure there’s no one else home while I’m working!]

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Body Language Tips for Creatives

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Body Language Tips for Creatives


Have you ever come out of a meeting with no clue how it went?  You feel like your presentation was clear and effective.  You know you were prepared and your materials were informative.

Maybe you were paying more attention to what you were doing than how your audience was reacting, but if you play it back in your head, you might have more of an idea of how your presentation was received.

You also might be able to make it work better!

If you can put some of your attention on watching your listeners, you can learn a lot about how your pitch is going and maybe even change it up midstream and close the deal.

Is your listener…

  • Leaning his head on his hand?  He is bored.  Change the pace of your presentation or ask a question to re-engage his attention.
  • Leaning forward in her chair?  She is interested.  Keep up what you’re doing.
  • Touching his ears?  You are connecting.  Give him more information.
  • Making a suggestion with her palms down?  This is no suggestion, this is what she wants.  Tell her how you can give her what she has suggested in a definitive way.
  • Making a suggestion with his palms up?  He is looking for a discussion of the issue and is open to your input as well as his own.
  • Putting her hand over her mouth?  She doesn’t believe what you’re saying.  This is a good time to offer some quantitative evidence or examples.

How about you?  What are you revealing with your body language and how can you make sure your messaging is what you want it to be?

Are you…

  • Slouching? Sit with your back touching the chair, but leaning forward a bit.  This projects confidence and engagement without seeming stiff or nervous.
  • Crossing your arms?  This makes you seem defensive or closed off.  Stop as soon as you realize it.
  • Restless? If you know you are a “wiggler,” it is a good idea to practice your interview or meeting with a trusted friend who can help you become more aware of your habits.  Restless behavior like twirling your hair or bouncing your knee can be distracting to your listener when you want them to hear what you have to say.
  • Making eye contact?  Great! Active listening is an important skill and keeps your mind on the question at hand.

Both you and your interviewer are getting more information from each other nonverbally than verbally.  If you are paying attention, you can control the information they are getting from you and understand the information they are giving you back.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Time Management Tips for Freelance Entrepreneurs

Friday, November 18, 2011

Time Management Tips for Freelance Entrepreneurs

“Freelance Entrepreneur” might sound like an oxymoron, but freelancing is entrepreneurship at its most basic. Entrepreneurship means taking risks with your income, your career, your security in the service of innovation. 

As a freelancer your capital isn’t money, it’s time.

As a Freelance Entrepreneur you offer your capital to others to help complete their projects. How you spend that capital is up to you. You choose what projects you want to work on, you choose with whom you work, and you choose when you want to do the work.

If you think of your time as capital, you can also think if it as an investment. Then it becomes very clear that your time needs to be managed well in order to make it grow. We would all like the time we have with our families or the time we spend pursuing our passions to be greater. The more successful our investments, the more rewards we will reap.

Here are some tips for managing your capital:
  1. Start with a plan. Whether you plan a week in advance, the night before for the next day or in the morning before you jump into the day’s work - plan your time. Although you need to be flexible—you never know when a client will call with an emergency—try to stick to the plan.

  2. Set goals for the day. You will never feel like you accomplished anything if you don’t know what it was you set out to accomplish.

  3. Set an ending time for work. You will be more productive if you know when you’re going to step away from the computer. Without an end time, there is a greater temptation to continue working on things you don’t need to and, therefore, never accomplish what you set out to do. 

  4. Take scheduled breaks. Walk away. Stretch. Look at something other than the screen. Go outside. When you plan out the day, plan your breaks too.

  5. Track your time. This is easy to overlook. If you set a specific amount of time to work on something – make sure you keep to that schedule. If you need more time – and have to push something else back – make up for it tomorrow. By knowing how much time you work on projects – you can also better manage your time on future projects that are similar in nature.
I’m not always good at following my own guidelines, but I’m resolved to try. When I plan my day and know that I spent enough time on each project, I don’t feel guilty when break time comes and I get to spend a relaxing evening with my family. And isn’t that the real reason we’re freelancers?

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

7 Tips for Better Negotiating: How to Close the Deal

Thursday, November 10, 2011

7 Tips for Better Negotiating: How to Close the Deal


As a freelancer, I found myself presented with a rather unattractive job offer this past week and ended up thinking a lot about negotiating and how I wanted to handle the situation. I would like to close the deal and have some additional work – but was I willing to compromise significantly to make it happen? I decided to do some research about successful negotiating and found some pretty useful tips for anyone who might be searching for a job or freelance work:

  1. Be prepared. Once an offer has been made, you should have an answer ready for any scenario. The salary might be lower than expected, but you get to work from home. The drive might be further, but you would be working with one of your dream companies. Know your deal-breakers and on what you are willing to compromise.
  2. Plan your next move. When the offer is not ideal, make sure you are clear on what is most important to you. It might be vacation days, overtime, salary or telecommuting opportunities. There might be a way to get a concession on whatever your sticking point might be. Don’t be afraid to get creative with a counter-offer.
  3. Know what the other side needs. Their agenda is not your agenda, but they do need something from you. When presenting a counter offer - lay out exactly what value you bring to the table and make sure they understand that what they are getting from you is unique.
  4. Be sincere, polite and business-like.  By being yourself you remind them how much they would like to work with you day in and day out. Even if these negotiations don’t work out for either party, don’t burn any bridges. If they really need you, they might come back to you at a later time - but not if your relationship has been damaged by the negotiation process.
  5. Practice. Try out your presentation on someone else first. It will help clarify your thoughts and the language you will use in the negotiation. The more constructive feedback – the more focused your presentation. The more you practice, the better you will deliver.
  6. Know when to walk away. This is the hardest one, especially in a down market for employment. Remember that the way they treat you before you are hired is a good indicator of their company culture. A deal that negatively affects either party in some way is not a good deal. If it doesn’t offer you something you can be happy with, try again somewhere else.
As for me, I have decided to walk away from my unattractive offer for a few reasons and am preparing for that conversation later today. I have run my arguments by a few trusted friends and am determined to be polite and sincere, but express very clearly that this is no longer a good deal for me. We shall see if there is a counter-offer in the cards!

UPDATE:  My negotiation meeting went very well and I received a better offer a few days later, which I accepted!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


Recent Posts