SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.
Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.
I am a junior working toward a bachelor's degree in art design. I want to participate in an internship program at the end of my winter semester. How should I begin my search? Is it too early to start looking now? —Alexa
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Now is a great time to start your search for an internship program. It is not uncommon for students to begin looking for internships even earlier.
Begin your search by speaking with your school's career counselor to see what internships are currently advertised. Colleges and universities take a real interest in helping students locate internships and full-time jobs. Use their interest and services to your advantage.
Leverage your school's reputation and relationships. Inquire about organizations with a history of hiring students from your school for internships and paid positions. Don't limit your search to just creative organizations. Look for an organization actively recruiting students in the arts and other disciplines. Keep in mind, nearly all companies require creative artists for graphic design, Web development and promotional materials. Companies recruiting at your school often do so because they are confident in the caliber of students in the programs.
Many internships are "hidden," meaning they may be available but not advertised. So, reach out to organizations directly to see if they have any hidden internship opportunities available.
Professors can be a tremendous resource for leads. Their relationships with former students give them insight into companies looking to hire students. Find out if your school has an art major alumni group where you can post your resume. Seek out art associations with networking events where you can meet others in your field who can suggest tips for your internship search.
Going further, even if a lead doesn't immediately pan out, see it as a valuable lesson for the future. Get feedback about what organizations desire in candidates and when it is the best time to reach out. This is an opportunity to develop an understanding of the dynamics of your industry. This is as important to your career as the skills you develop in school. Leverage each connection to learn more about what you can do to access and apply to future opportunities.
Best of luck in your search!
We have recently returned to full-time remote work. Interruptions in my day from home responsibilities, children and pets have made it challenging. With so many transitions between work and home life in a day, I have difficulty focusing and being as productive as I have been in an office setting. What can I do to work better remotely? —Bashir
Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Working from home certainly comes with its own set of challenges! Our jobs require focus, and the home environment is not inherently conducive to this for several reasons.
You're not alone if you feel unproductive. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 43 percent of employees worry other people don't think they are working hard enough while being remote.
Working from home does not come naturally to many workers. People accustomed to working onsite generally don't arrange their home to be a functioning workspace. The pressure to be readily available, meet deadlines and be productive while working virtually can be overwhelming for the unprepared. Fortunately, there are several practices you can apply to ensure your remote work is successful.
First, organize your schedule and avoid changing gears as much as reasonably possible. Have set work hours and try not to deviate from them. When the workday is over, close the office door. Set aside specific blocks of time throughout the day to get your children ready for school, take care of the house and walk the dog.
If you can, flex your work hours so they correlate to quiet times. Try getting an early start on your work before the rest of the house wakes up. You may find this to be the most peaceful and productive part of your day. If mornings are not an option, perhaps plan to work after your family is asleep.
If your children are also at home because they are too young to attend school or are doing remote learning, try to set aside time to have lunch with them each day in order to talk about how they're doing and what they're learning. Few feelings are worse than parental guilt when you must brush off your child because they want your attention while you're working.
Household chores can wait. When you were working in an office, chores did not demand your attention during the day. This does not need to change now. Close the laundry room door, cover the dirty dishes in the sink and put them out of your mind until the workday is over.
Organize your work area and minimize distractions, such as views of others moving about in your home or views of the neighbors out the window.
If your workspace is set up in your bedroom, make your bed and keep the space tidy to avoid being distracted by a mess you feel you must clean up. Drown out any noise by using noise-canceling headphones, earbuds, a white noise machine or music.
I'll be the first to admit that sweats are comfortable, but putting on more-formal clothes may also help you get in a better headspace for the workday.
Finally, don't forget to schedule time to socialize and decompress. And keep those lines of communication open with your manager, colleagues and subordinates. When we are unable to be face-to-face, communication becomes more important than ever.
Don't beat yourself up. It can take some time and effort to find a more productive workflow at home. With some intentional effort and forethought, you will be well on your way. Hang in there.