September 3, 2015

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Why Failure is Synonymous with Growth

Spectrum Quote - Fear

Read the quote above. You may have seen it before on a poster, a greeting card stores, or even on your friend’s t-shirt. In the small business and startup world, everyone is racing to get to the other side so they can discover if their biz is successful. Some even say that the sooner you fail, the quicker you’ll get the jump-start for success. Sound contradictory? Think about it for a sec. If the only way you can grow is to fail before you succeed, you better get to the failure part, and fast!

Let’s put it another way. Anytime you are working at something there is going to be some level of failure (an edit, a rejected proposal, a failed campaign, etc.). Some “fail” at a greater level than others (and get to it more quickly) because they risk more. Why are they able to do that?

  • Confidence: Your confidence can help you to push the envelope. If your confidence is low, use this time in your life to work on it and develop it. Try things. Fail! Then get up, grow from it, and try again.
  • Goals: Do you have any? Have you written them down? Devised a plan of attack? Are you working toward them?
  • Pride: Too much pride makes it almost impossible to try anything new. Putting your sights on the end goal can help you remember to put your pride on the back burner during the journey to success.
  • Priority: Is the work you’re doing a priority? Are you the only breadwinner? How much can you risk in this career?
  • Workplace bureaucracy: Depending on the temperature of your workplace, you may be able to risk more or less.

Your perspective on fear, failure, and success is ultimately what will help you grow or remain stagnant in your career journey. Too much second-guessing and ruminating about the opportunities you missed or didn’t try for can bring you down. Choose your path and move through it with as much grace and perseverance as possible. Remember that the fear may always be there and you can either run from it or choose to use it as a motivator.

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September 1, 2015

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Kick Your Job Search Into Gear This Fall

6188838974_85a090c2d5_zFall is that time of year when things start over again. Use this time to get in sync with the rest of the world and kickstart your job search. Here are some ideas that will help you kiss the lazy summer attitude goodbye.

Create a job search calendar.
On a written or online calendar, schedule the next three months of your job search. This can include surfing for jobs, applying for jobs, calling your contacts, writing thank you notes, writing cover letters, attending networking events, and preparing your five-second pitch. If you set deadlines for yourself, you’ll be more likely to make progress on your job search.

Create a networking list.
Make a contact list of everyone you know: former colleagues, friends, friends of friends, neighbors, Facebook friends, spouses of friends, acquaintances from the dog park, or people in any classes or groups you are involved with. You never know from where your next job lead can come. 

Write a customizable note to send when you’re asking for “informational” meetings.
This could ultimately be an e-mail, phone call or LinkedIn message, but you will use it as an opportunity to meet for 15-30 minutes with someone you believe could help further your job search. Here’s an email template you can use that almost always works.

Write a customizable note to send to people who give you referrals.
Just as you might with a cover letter, write a standard referral thank you note that you can adjust when you are ready to send it out. Before you send out each note, add specific information that you learned about this person to remind them that you were hanging on their every word. They will be impressed!

Review/sort/update your wardrobe.
Just like you did when the school year rolled around, take inventory of your interview clothes and plan what more you need buy before that important e-mail comes in. Bonus! Maybe you can even catch a few end-of-season sales. 

Form a Board of Advisors or your own version of the Justice League.
Consider this group of people your cabinet. They’re people who you believe have the smarts and wisdom to advise you in particular areas of your job search or industry. Reach out to them when you have questions about a corporation, a manager, a tactic or strategy, interview questions, or anything else that you’re uncertain about in the process.

Image via Paul Domenick/Flickr

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August 27, 2015

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Are You an E, an I, or an A?

8508070539_921fb59463_oFor all these years you’ve identified with a particular label. You’ve had the test, you’ve answered the questions, and you’ve probably even convinced yourself to act a certain way because of that label. You are a clear extrovert or introvert—yes? Well, you thought you were until the day you learned of another category—Ambivert! Ambi-what? 

The world you know has been turned upside down. There are not just two sides anymore—there’s a clear middle ground. Many would even say the distinctions are on a scale or spectrum. The beauty of this new category, the Ambivert, is that it allows for movement between extroversion and introversion. The Ambivert likes to remain in balance. Although a combination of the two, the Ambivert has some very distinctive qualities of their own. Not to mention, qualities that are beneficial in the workplace.

Adam M. Grant of the Wharton School wrote a research paper where he examined the advantages of the Ambivert. Here are traits that make this category all its own: 

  1. Flexible: Protects their alone time and their social time; can enjoy both settings.
  2. Intuitive: Very good at reading people and knowing when to be vocal and when to be quiet.
  3. Emotionally stable: Because they fall in the middle of the spectrum, they are much less affected by the situation.
  4. Influential: Ambiverts made higher hourly rates than extroverts in Grant’s research.

Often referred to as the Lost Personality Type, the Ambivert is the largest of the categories and tends more to be considered the “norm.” Now that you’ve heard about this new category for personality types, you may be experiencing some ah-ha moments about yourself or someone you know. Take advantage of what you’ve learned if you happen to identify as an Ambivert—this knowledge can help in your networking, small talk, and negotiation skills throughout your career.

Read more about Ambiverts at Huffington Post

Image via One Way Stock/Flickr. 

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August 25, 2015

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The Secret to Getting What You Want

5540462170_d5297d9ce8_zPromotions and raises happen on a regular basis, right? You may have even muttered one of these phrases to yourself at one point in time:

  • “I could do that job.”
  • “I have more skills than she does so why didn’t I apply for that job?”
  • “How is he in the VP role? I’m the one with the degree, the experience, and the people skills.”
  • “If only my boss would offer me that position.”
  • “I didn’t even see that job posted. How did he get the position?”
  • “I guess I didn’t spend enough time with my boss these last six months and that’s why I didn’t get the promotion.”

Somebody’s getting promoted, people are moving up the ladder, job changes are occurring…so why is it so difficult for some people to ask for that one thing — be it a promotion, raise, position, telecommute option, or benefit — that they want and need so badly?

The secret is more about answering a question rather than asking one: “Why can’t I seem to ask for what I want?”

This is a skill that is required in every facet of our lives in order to get both what we want and what we need. Some people have no trouble at all asking something of others, while other people have a very difficult time with this. Then again, it can be difficult for people to ask for something at the workplace, but not difficult in their own personal life.

It all comes down to our background, history, and how we’ve learned to “be” in the world. Ultimately, it’s how we feel about ourselves like our own self-respect and whether we think we’re deserving or not, and how we feel about the person we are asking like whether or not we have respect for them.

In this Huffington Post article, Jane Herman of the Women In Technology International lists the common reasons why we stay silent and she offers up five tools for helping us articulate what we want. Check out her perspective here. And then don’t wait to hear from someone about that next thing you want or need in your career. Go prepare your strategy and make things happen!

Image via Howard Lake/Flickr

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August 20, 2015

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Why “Honey Trumps Vinegar” Matters in the Workplace

3432013868_b9f1e9c84a_zIt’s a common phrase that some of you Millennials may have never heard before. And it has a common application to all things communication— “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar!”

This phrase is an oldie but a goodie and it can be used in just about every workplace setting. It can be translated loosely as, “Positivity is a better approach than negativity.” It’s not a bad concept to consider, especially if you are feeling that you’ve fallen into the dreaded workplace gossip spiral. It’s a good strategy to remember all the time, but it’s especially important to use it around your higher-ups when seeking a promotion.

Let’s take a few common phrases you might hear in the workplace and rework them with just a bit more “honey:”

You say to your manager, “Do we really need to have another meeting about the budget?” (vinegar)
Instead you might say, “Wow, the budget issue must be really critical right now for us to be having another meeting.” (honey)

You say to your boss, “I’m shocked that you denied my request to work from home this month especially given the new policy that allows for telecommuting.” (vinegar)
Instead you might say, “There must be some pretty heavy restrictions on working from home right now, despite the new policy. Is there a particular time that might be better for me to talk with you about my situation at home and how telecommuting would benefit both of us?” (honey)

You say to your project manager, “I’ve been working so many extra hours these past two weeks, I think that maybe you’ve forgotten I have a family at home.” (vinegar)
Instead you might say, “I’ve been working overtime for two weeks. I’m excited we are coming in on time and budget with this project. Given all the extra hours we’ve been putting in, I’d like to ask for three days off to reconnect with my family when the project comes to an end.” (honey)

You say to a co-worker, “I’ve been working with Sharon for way too long now. I can’t believe we‘ve been assigned a project together again. She’s inconsiderate and has no respect for the leadership of this team.” (vinegar)
Instead you might say, “I’ve learned a lot about Sharon from working closely with her for the past four years. Since we work together on most jobs, I’ve discovered how important it is for her to have some freedom to work alone and not be interrupted.” (honey)

You get the idea! Do your best to catch the flies with some honey, and you just might succeed further in the workplace as well.

Image via Rachel/Flickr

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August 18, 2015

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Are You a Mindful Employee?

8633086232_a7b2552d60_z“I’m mindful,” you say. “I’m mindful of myself and making sure I’m getting to work on time, doing all that I can to be productive, and getting home in time to say hello to my family, shove down a quick few bites of lukewarm dinner, watch 30 minutes of news and fall into bed exhausted.” Hmmm. Today’s version of the word “mindful” has a new spin.

Webster defines mindfulness as, 1) the quality or state of being mindful and 2) the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.

Bill George, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School makes the connection between leaders and mindfulness. He says in a Huffington Post article that “the key to effective leadership is the ability to integrate your head (IQ) with your heart (EQ).” He goes on to say that “mindful leaders exhibit big levels of self-awareness and intentionality in their actions.” George has been practicing mindfulness through meditation since 1975.

Businesses are listening and taking heed to what employees have said and shown for many, many years—they are tired and scattered. Today’s world of constant incoming messages thanks to technology making us constantly accessible has only made things more chaotic. Finally employers are incorporating and encouraging different types of activities into their workdays and benefits that are posed to help employees center themselves and make more “mindful” decisions.

For instance, yoga and meditation are being offered by some companies to help their employees reduce stress and ultimately make better decisions in the workplace. There are other activities as well that can help you improve your mindfulness:

  • journaling
  • deep breathing
  • listening to music
  • art like painting, drawing, or creating
  • cleaning your house (really!)

Mindfulness activities should be practiced daily to have the ultimate affect of allowing us to connect with our inner self and move through the day with less stress. It’s no secret that some things will get dropped to the bottom of your list. Our lists are so long these days that we can’t realistically get to everything. But why not take 20 minutes out of your day and practice an activity that will help you to worry less and be more thoughtful in your life? George quotes Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “The longest journey you will ever take is the eighteen inches from your head to your heart.”

Image Source: idiva.com/Flickr. 

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August 13, 2015

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The New Resume: It’s Not Just On Paper Anymore

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 10.44.01 AMIt’s been a quick four months since our last blog on the future of resumes, and the latest trend seems to be merging the traditional paper resume and our virtual social media brand. Presenting… the Social Resume, aka SR. Ta-da!

The Social Resume is a combination of your online presence like your LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and/or blog. This allows you the chance to showcase your skills and experience through these media outlets. With its own url, the SR is regularly updated, just like your sites, and could be featured in your e-mail signature, your paper resume, your social bios, or printed as a PDF.

The social resume is basically “who you are” as a person, whereas the paper resume features “what you’ve done.” It makes sense. You’ve probably been updating your social media sites for a while now and they really do tell a lot about you — your hobbies, likes, dislikes, opinions, pictures, community involvement, and so much more. Sometimes too much.

Universities have even begun hiring graduate assistants to merely follow up on the social media accounts of their recruits to make sure their personal brand was one they would want representing their school. In essence, most of us have a much more personal side of our character and personality that hadn’t been exposed, at least willingly, to our potential employers.

In some ways, a Social Resume would level the playing field. Your future employer gets to know all about you, and you, the future employee, get one more chance to impress them with your well-dressed and super snappy social brand. All of this makes for a better culture match between employee and employer in the end.

But be careful, using a SR will require more research on your part to match your social brand with the appropriate organization. Do your research and be certain that, just as you might have with your paper resume, you’re targeting the companies that are looking for your brand of “social.” You don’t want to be dismissed at first glance because one inappropriate update.

Take a look at this infographic that’s featured on the Muse on why you should start a Social Resume.

Screenshot via OnlineColleges.com.

 

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August 11, 2015

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The Secret to the ASK + An Email Template You Won’t Want to Miss

13903364409_6de5ec67a2_zWe can all agree that one of the hardest things about finding a job is the networking. It’s such an open-ended word that encompasses so much that it can be overwhelming. There are no direct steps from point A (having no contacts) to point B (having a binder full of contacts and referrals you can reach out to).

Where do you start? Who is a good contact? How do you talk with him/her? In this way, networking is both a conundrum and an opportunity. It does require a strategy and everyone’s strategy is likely to be different. We are all good at different parts of the job search journey, but how do we become an expert at the asking part? This is a critical step, “asking anyone you think could help you, in your job search, to meet for a short time so you can learn from them, acquire some useful advice and/or make other connections.”

This is where the strategy comes in. Freelance writer, Aja Frost, has come up with an e-mail template that she refers to as the perfect way to ask for an informational interview. Try customizing this template to help your job search strategy. Here are some of our favorite points from this article:

  • Make your e-mail short and to the point. The people you are reaching out to have busy work lives and they would be taking time away from that to help you. Show empathy for their time.
  • Explain yourself in a way that makes them want to help you. This is critical to getting a reply.
  • Research your interview subjects. It will help you make a connection with them and they will see how determined you are by showing you understand them.
  • Always follow-up, but be aware of your tone when doing so. Don’t be pushy or demanding.
  • Many times, the recipient won’t respond to the first e-mail, but will respond to the follow-up. It’s not personal, it’s life.

Read the full article over at The Muse.

Image via Flazingo/Flickr

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August 6, 2015

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To Cover Letter or Not to Cover Letter?

1215556658_c22dae9ef2_zTechnology has changed so greatly in such a short time. Mail is not sent via, well, actual mail anymore, therefore the cover letter written on personalized stationery is long defunct. Online applications and e-mails to employers are now standard practice. Some companies leave a spot for an optional cover letter within their online application system while others don’t require it. But then if you write an e-mail to accompany your resume, do you use that space as a cover letter opportunity? Just how should we approach this conundrum?

There’s not one right answer: people have landed a position without a cover letter. Some recruiters just skim cover letters, while hiring managers are more likely to read them. But, even if 50% of those receiving your info read your cover letter from top to bottom, then it’s probably a good idea to do your best. Think of a cover letter not as added work, but as a bonus opportunity to make an impression.

Here are some reasons why you should write an outstanding cover letter (even if it’s just within an e-mail):

  • To differentiate yourself from a pile of qualified candidates.
  • To showcase your writing skills, which can’t be detected in a resume. A clearly written and well-edited cover letter shows the hiring manager you pay attention to details and can clearly express your thoughts.
  • To clarify any chronological inconsistencies in your resume.
  • To illustrate your passion for a particular position, corporation, or industry.
  • To showcase your specific accomplishments.
  • To help yourself begin to understand “why” you want this position.
  • To get in some good practice for your upcoming interviews—this is good homework for you!
  • To express clearly why you are applying for this position when it doesn’t seem like an obvious choice for you based on your resume.
  • To highlight parts of your resume that may seem buried within it.

Convinced? And this is just the short list! Yes, the job application process can be tedious, but if you want that extra shot at showing how you are different or telling the hiring manager exactly “why” you want this job, a well-thought out cover letter is the answer, and customization is key. 

P.S. Read our post on how to close your cover letter strong and land the interview.

Image via AlisaRyan/Flickr.

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August 5, 2015

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Small Talk: You May Not Like It, But It’s Required

6400401963_0e6ee8b376_zSome love it and some hate it— small talk that is. If you’re an extrovert, you may even get excited about a networking event or informational interview. If you’re an introvert, you may be the one with sweaty palms and a nervous stomach. Fortunately or unfortunately, small talk is a necessity when looking for a job. Depending on your personality, you might want to consider these tips:

Extroverts:

  • Your gregarious and upbeat self is nothing but positive, but remember to LISTEN. As extroverts we sometimes are so full of energy and fervor that we forget to stop and process what is being said to us. You are already interesting. Now make the other person feel interesting by hearing what they say and making a genuine connection with it.
  • As a social being, you have a personality that is unstoppable. Just remember that you are trying to make a connection. After the small talk has begun to flow, use good communication techniques like mirroring what someone is saying and non-verbally connecting through eye contact.
  • You may want to talk to anyone and everyone in the room, but be careful about that. Give yourself a target number of people to connect with and stick to that number. This way you’re not spreading yourself too thin.

Introverts

  • Small talk can be very tiring for everyone, but as an introvert you are getting drained as you interact with people. Make sure you have recharged before an event or informational interview. Get enough sleep, downtime, and nutrition. In some ways, it’s like getting ready for a marathon!
  • Breaking out of your shell and sharing your positive traits may not come as easy as you’d like, so try coming prepared with a game plan and some ideas on how to initiate the conversation. Know who’s going to be in the room and identify who you plan on targeting. Make a mental list of topics that you feel comfortable talking about and that highlight your best self.
  • Allocate a defined amount of time for the interview or event. This will help you keep the ultimate goal in mind and see the light at the end of the tunnel before running out of juice.
  • Use your observation skills to gather information about the people you are talking to. Remember key details about them like what they like, what they don’t, hobbies, etc. These tidbits of information will help you connect when you follow-up by phone or e-mail with a thank-you or referral request.
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