August 25, 2016

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Take Note: The Simplest Productivity Hack Ever

8499752998_3cb54fe872_zThe to-do list. Whether yours is ingrained in your memory, constantly added to on your phone, or written on a sticky note beside your keyboard, we all use it in some shape or form. But does it work for you? Your list might be too long and completely intimidating. Or it might be too messy and not easily accessible. Or maybe it’s a muddled mess of work life and personal life. So is it time to throw away the to-do list? Not yet.

FastCompany recently brought to light a 100-year-old to-do list hack that still works today. The Ivy Lee Method can be traced back to 1915, and it was originally taught to corporate America’s execs in an effort to improve productivity. It can be summed up very simply in five steps.

  1. At the end of the work day, write down the six most important tasks for the next day. Only six.
  2. Rank the items in order of importance.
  3. The next morning, focus on the first task exclusively until it is completed.
  4. Move onto the next most important item. Tackle it. Continue through the list.
  5. At the end of the day, create a new six-item list and include anything that wasn’t completed today.

That’s it. I know, I know. It’s not rocket science. But it’s a great reminder of a few common productivity pitfalls: procrastination,  prioritization, and multitasking. One of the hardest parts about staying productive is simply getting started. And if you’re getting started, you may as well start with the most important task. And when you’re working on the most important task, your mind should be focused on that task exclusively. Incredibly simple advice that — 100 years later — is still worth taking.

Image via Flickr/Vic.

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August 23, 2016

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Coworkers: Camaraderie or Competition?

4728804791_7a30683883_zRyan Lochte is the second most decorated Olympic swimmer and the fourth most decorated Olympian of all time. But there’s a certain buddy of his who’s overshadowed those achievements…and he goes by the name of Michael Phelps. Sure, Phelps blows every other swimmer out of the water. But Phelps has admitted in post-race interviews that Lochte pushes him to perform better during each and every race. The two swimmers have even competed together on the same gold-medal winning team in relay events. So, the question begs to be asked: what’s better? Camaraderie or competition?

There’s no doubt that a little friendly competition can push two people to new levels. Healthy competition motivates you to do your best and may be just the change of pace you need, especially if you were feeling a bit too comfortable in your current position. Here’s where the competition can turn nasty: the outcome, and your reaction to it.

For example, if two people pursue a promotion the outcome is inevitable. Someone will get what they want and someone won’t. But both people need to accept the outcome with grace. Being a graceful winner is just as important as being a graceful “loser.” Step one: congratulate the other person immediately. If you came out on top, don’t gloat. Then think about the situation from a larger perspective: is this really a life or death outcome? Probably not.

Everyone’s career ebbs and flows on different schedules, within different positions, and at different companies. There are plenty of opportunities out there for everyone. And remember: there’s nothing wrong with a silver or bronze medal.

Image via Flickr/ellyn.

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August 18, 2016

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Take this Quiz: 10 Simple Tricks for Career Success

How well do you score on the Career Success Quiz? Give yourself a point for each statement that you already put into practice.

Spectrum Quiz

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August 16, 2016

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How to Prove Your Worth as the Youngest Employee

26177266164_8e1a118ee7_zWhether you’re fresh out of college or you just happen to be the least experienced person on your team, you have a bit of a hill to climb. Clearly you’re smart and talented — you wouldn’t have gotten hired otherwise — but it’s easy to feel less than when everyone else is so experienced. But that kind of outlook isn’t going to help you at all. Here are a few ways to prove your worth despite your newbie status.

  1. Speak up.
    Don’t sit quietly in the corner during every meeting! If you have an opinion on something, voice it carefully and respectfully. Just because you’re new to the team doesn’t mean your opinions are valued less. And who knows? Your fresh eyes may bring something to light that has been overlooked for years.
  2. Set up informational meetings.
    Get to know your peers in your team and beyond. Put a meeting on each person’s calendar and explain that you’d like to learn more about their role and background, as well as how the two of you will be working together in the future. After a few of these meetings, you’ll feel ten times more confident about how you fit in to the existing framework.
  3. Raise your hand.
    It’s too easy to blend into the background when you first start at a company. Now is the perfect time to say “Yes!” and “Do you need any help?” Being proactive will ensure that your talents are realized sooner rather than later. You may start off assisting others at first, but it won’t be long before your manager notices your skills and gives you a bigger workload.
  4. Find a mentor.
    We’ve written on the extensive benefits of mentors before. As a new employee, look for someone to take you under their wing and teach you the ins and outs of the company culture and politics. It doesn’t have to be someone on your team. Every person you meet at the company can teach you something about the business or about how you can succeed at the office. And be sure to share your desires and talents with them as well. They can potentially be an advocate as your career blossoms.

Image via John Getchel/Flickr.

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August 11, 2016

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The Secret to Networking Success and Why it Works

3797531007_7905c9eb46_zNetworking is a word that makes many job seekers cringe. But here’s a secret only the best networkers know about: networking is really just…talking. That’s it! Before your next networking event, don’t think, “I’m going to network with industry leaders.” Instead, say, “I’m going to talk to some people.” And what would do during a normal conversation at a party? You’d get to know the person and maybe introduce them to a few other people who you think they’d like. Easy!

Most of the best conversations start on a subject other than work. However, unlike a party setting, most people are too scared to step off the beaten path during a work event. Everyone talks about the same subjects or makes the same complaints until everyone blends together. So how do you differentiate yourself? Talk about something else!

Work on establishing a connection first, then “network” later. Don’t open with, “What do you do?” Making a connection means finding something in common. Asking where people grew up, what the like to do for fun, what university they attended, or what sports teams they cheer for are easy conversation starters. Dive into what their weekend plans are or what’s the last great book they read. Be the person who says hi first, and asks the first question. Take control of the conversation, but be a great listener too.

Once you’ve found something in common or a topic you’re both passionate about, it’s much easier to progress to the networking part. And perhaps you didn’t quite find something in common…but you know someone who does. That’s the kicker: networking is all about “What can I do for you?” Not “What can you do for me?” So don’t think of a conversation as time wasted if it turns out to not directly help your career. You have no idea who that person could eventually put you in touch with down the line.

So, I guess the secrets out: we’re all just people with friends who’d like to get to know each other and help each other. Now networking doesn’t sound so bad, right?

Image via kylesteed/Flickr.

 

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August 9, 2016

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5 Ways to Stay Focused and Get Work Done

2902351751_c30aacdaf8_oThere’s nothing worse than staring at your computer screen, completely unmotivated. The minutes tick away and before you know it, you’ve wasted a whole afternoon even though you had plenty of things that needed to get done. But somedays are better than others. Sometimes you just can’t find the motivation to get the work done. Whether it’s job searching, writing cover letters, or meeting an important work deadline, here are some tricks that will help you find your focus and get work done.

1. Sprint.
Working may be a marathon not a sprint, but sometimes a burst of sprints can help you reach the finish line. The biggest hurdle you have to overcome is just starting. Setting a timer–and a deadline–for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour can help give you the push you need. Use an egg timer or phone alarm that dings when you’ve achieved your goal.

2. Dangle a carrot.
Like a carrot dangling in front of a horse, find the motivation you need to take that first step. Rewards come in many different shapes and sizes. Allow yourself to peruse Facebook for 15 minutes if you get 45 minutes of work done. Or promise yourself a steaming mug of coffee if you can finish up a project by 1 PM.

3. Make two lists.
Sometimes, you’re just not feeling it. Create a to-do list for those kinds of lulls. Are there some more administrative tasks that you can tackle when you’re just not feeling inspired? Take advantage of the moments when you’re in the zone, and save the simple stuff for the afternoon slump (or whenever your slump seems to attack).

4. Tune out temporarily.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, finding your focus among all the clutter is difficult. Maybe there’s too much on your mind. Or maybe there’s just too much noise and too many people around you. Find your zen anyway. It might mean meditating for 10 minutes, going for a 15 minute walk, or popping on some headphones with soothing classical music.

5. Put your foot down.
Set some strict rules, and follow them. For example, if you’re catching yourself perusing social media sites too often, make a”no social media before 5 PM” rule. If you find yourself cheating, log out of all your networks. And if that still won’t work, you may even be able to turn off your wifi temporarily if it’s not necessary for the project you’re working on. A little tough love never hurt anyone… including yourself!

Image via Dimitris Kalogeropoylos/Flickr.

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August 4, 2016

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How to Get Over Imposter Syndrome

7908560826_3622bcd3cd_zWe’ve all been there at some point. Maybe it was during a long job search that you started to feel ill equipped and completely unqualified. Maybe it was the day you stepped into the office after a big promotion and you thought, “What were they thinking? I can’t handle this.” Or maybe it’s something you feel on a daily basis and in doing so, you hold yourself back from better opportunities. Regardless of when or how often you feel like an imposter, there is one thing you need to do: get over it. But how? Here are a few helpful ways.

1. Walk the walk. 
Your first step is to take that first step! That’s half the battle. Go through the motions. Wait, here’s an addendum: go through the motions confidently. Get dressed, get to work or your interview, stay positive, and remain confident. “One day at a time” might be your new mantra. Heck, maybe “one hour at a time.” Tackle each issue as it arises instead of looking ahead to your whole week or your entire length of unemployment and feeling completely overwhelmed.

2. Get a pep talk.
Send out a confidential SurveyMonkey (it’s free!) to friends and family and ask them to write down your top three qualities. You’ll feel overwhelmed at the positive messages and overly flattering compliments you’ll receive. It’s a good reminder that you’re a skilled and desirable candidate that any company is lucky to have. And you have the ability to do great things.

3. Take a class.
If part of your fear is that you’re truly lacking some skills you need, sign up for a course, join a group, or attend a conference that can remedy that. Investing in yourself and your career is an investment well made. Don’t use education as a crutch though — at some point, you need to embrace the knowledge you’ve already learned and the experiences you’ve already had and put them to use in the real world.

Image via Serge klk/Flickr.

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August 2, 2016

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The Secret Way Facebook Can Help Your Job Search

8409462334_b28b484476_zYou might see Facebook as just a way to keep up with new friends, find out what’s happening with old friends, and post silly or informative quotes and news bits. Using Facebook to aid your job search seems far fetched, right? Isn’t LinkedIn the platform with all the networking and connections? Think again. On Facebook, you can find professional groups…some of which are secret invite-only groups! You can easily network your way to many new helpful connections if not a new job as well. The people in these groups could be first-timers in their industry or could be very seasoned professionals. Plan to soak up a lot of new info when you join a Facebook group!

How to Find Facebook Groups
Log into your account. From the main feed (not your profile page), look to the left sidebar. It should say things like Favorites, Topics, Groups, Apps, etc. Under the Groups section will be “Discover Groups.” Click on it or hover over the Groups section until “More” appears and click. If you’re already a member of a group or two, you’ll see those groups but you’ll also see a Discover Tab where you can find categories.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 10.41.14 AM

Categories in Facebook Groups
Professional Networking and Business are just two examples of group categories. Depending on where you live, your interests, and your friends’ interests, Facebook will suggest some groups for you to join. If you want to find other matches, try using Facebook’s pre-selected topics like sports, food, hobby, leisure, home and garden, arts and culture, and more.

If You Can’t Find A Group
As with most online sites, when all else fails, put the keyword you are looking for into the search bar and see what pops up! There may be a group out there that’s perfect for you. You just need to know the right phrase to search for!

Secret Groups
Secret groups are not visible to the public and require an invite from a member. Someone must suggest your name to the moderator and/or invite you themselves and then you will receive a message saying you’ve been accepted. Closed Groups are visible, but require you to request to join (and someone will approve your request). These closed and secret groups are generally more exclusive, and they lay out rules for the participants. They usually have a moderator who monitors the posts making sure the rules are being followed and members aren’t posting unnecessary information. Secret professional groups usually request that the information shared and discussed stays in the group.

Image via Sarah Marshall/Flickr.

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July 28, 2016

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Job Search Communication While Vacationing

27654586805_480c6fc707_zYou may already have a few irons in the fire as your summer vacation is in full force. That’s a good thing! Yet, the thought of trying to share your vacation time while fielding phone calls, e-mails and texts can be a delicate balance. Here are some tips to make your vacation more enjoyable and your job search possibilities enhanced simultaneously.

Email: Set up your e-mail so it automatically responds with your pertinent information: how long you will be on vacation, if you are taking calls, when you are checking your e-mail, and/or how frequently you will be getting back to people.  On another note, you can set up a separate e-mail account that you give only to potential employers. This could include all of the above as well as a cell phone number.

Phone: In some vacation spots, you may have no cell service at all–but you might have wifi. Skype, Google’s audio and video chat, and a slew of others let you get in touch with others over a wireless network. It may be a bit depressing to know that you’re always within reach…after all, you still have a vacation to enjoy. But you just have to be savvy at balancing play with work!

Job Alerts: Set up job alerts on your favorite companies’ websites or join websites such as Glassdoor, Careerbuilder, and more where you can get e-mail alerts about jobs in the industry you are searching. While on vacation, take the pressure out of your need to apply ASAP and instead, respond when you can.

Networking: Before you get to your destination, check out LinkedIn and Facebook to find out if you may have any connections in the area. This could be a huge opportunity to meet with some contacts or references in your industry. It’s a chance to use LinkedIn in a way you maybe haven’t yet. But remember to balance work with play! Two-to-three meetings is more than enough for one vacation!

Image via Laura Hoffmann/Flickr.

 

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July 26, 2016

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5 Reasons Why You Should Toot Your Own Horn at Work

4138212130_5e2d2e626a_zYou’re not a braggart. You’ve never been called “conceited” or “full of yourself.” People enjoy your company and look forward to spending time with you.  Your work speaks for itself… or so you think. Right? Think again. Part of having a successful career…or landing your dream position… is being able to talk about your achievements and not being afraid to know your worth. Here are 5 important reasons why you should make your skills known to your manager.

  1. No one else is going to do it for you. You are responsible for YOU and you shouldn’t rely on your manager to necessarily put 2 and 2 together. If the team is large, the work is intense, and your boss is busy, you may want to help things along rather than assuming you will just get recognized for your good results.
  2. Make things easier for your manager.  Your boss is probably involved in many more areas of the business than you realize. Don’t get caught up in the thought that he/she should just “notice” your good deeds and reward you for them. Be your own megaphone.
  3. You will be known for a specialty. You can find yourself moving into more responsible roles if leaders and managers begin to see you as a mandatory asset to a project or team. Make yourself indispensable by increasing your skills in particular areas and then marketing them to your department or even across departments.
  4. You’ll get more opportunities that you’re looking for. If you are marketing yourself and your skills, you’re more likely to get responsibilities in those areas you are are excelling in. Others will begin to ask to add you to their team. You might get sought out by more than just your boss/manager.
  5. Adding references to your posse. As you do the work and impress your managers, you are inevitably building a following of potential references. Even if you’re not thinking about moving jobs just yet, it’s always helpful to build references. When you do move on, you’ll have those names easily accessible for the interview process.

Image via Andrew Nguyen/Flickr.

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