Archive | September, 2015

UW-Madison Tops Our List

September 29, 2015


14070186173_d73139edde_bThe verdict is in! The University of Wisconsin-Madison is, in fact, the best public college in the United States. That is hands down our view here at Spectrum Brands and two recent polls have ranked UW-Madison at the top of their lists as well.

Skout, a friend-making app, ranks UW-Madison as number one on the 10-Friendliest College Towns in America list. U.S. News and World Report places UW-Madison in 11th place for the second year in a row among the top public colleges. Take a look at all the UW-Madison academic kudos here, including, the College of Engineering’s 14th overall ranking for the third year in a row and the Wisconsin School of Business’ 15th overall for the second year in a row.

Spectrum Brands is proud of its long-standing connection with UW-Madison. We’ve served as a host for their regular Summer Engineering Program and participated in on-campus mock interviews and speed networking events. Not to mention, dozens of current Spectrum Brands employees attended UW-Madison and interned with us during their studies. Their internships spanned various fields like Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, and Finance.

Jordan Rosenbaum, a former Product Marketing Intern at Spectrum Brands and current student at UW-Madison says he didn’t feel like an intern during his time at Spectrum. “I was given a lot more responsibility than you would expect for an intern and opportunities to network with people outside of my specific business unit,” he added.

21-year-old Ben Cleppe, who will graduate May 2016 from UW-Madison, says, “My favorite part of my (R&D Engineering) internship was the freedom I had to take my project in the direction I saw fit and that I received the necessary training to do so.”

Connor Dura’s thoughts were similar.  He said, “I really enjoy being assigned individual project work—being able to create something from the ground up allows lots of room for creativity.”

It’s comments like these that show our strong partnership with UW-Madison and make us feel like proud parents to those students we are helping to usher out into the workforce.

Image via college.library/Flickr

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Are You An Effective Leader?

September 24, 2015


An effective leader is someone who…

Trusts their employees.


Tries to continuously improve.


Trains and delegates.


Can take feedback.


Communicates well.


Image credits in order of appearance: Joi Ito/Flickrbefore_after/Flickr; Kevin Dooley/Flickr; Jurgen Appelo/Flickr; Simon Huggins/Flickr.

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9 Tips for Dealing with a Boss You Don’t Love

September 22, 2015


6528081483_e455fa2e5d_zYou’ve done all the leg work. You held out for the job you really wanted. You made it through three rounds of interviews, even a group interview. You’re being paid exactly what you know you are worth (maybe even a bit more). It’s all sunshine and roses, right? Well, it was until you learned more about your new boss.

The boss you’ve acquired — after all that work and feeling like you’ve made it into the big leagues — happens to be a micro-manager (or replace and insert with whichever characteristic is making you bonkers). With all your experience and skills, this is going to be tough to take. How exactly do you deal with it?

  1. Breathe. This can also be interpreted as “Don’t react just yet.”
  2. Remember that you love your job. Remember, once again, all the work you’ve done to get to this point. This job is clearly important to you especially if it fits your place in life right now, you’re fairly compensated, and you get satisfaction from it.
  3. Observe. Size things up. Watch and listen and most importantly learn what it is that sets your boss off and what he/she appreciates or likes to hear.
  4. Remain confident and clear in your behaviors that you are worthy and able to do this job. This attitude alone (even without any particular action) helps your boss believe in you.
  5. Stay positive. This is a mantra you need to manifest in yourself at the beginning of every work week. It will help you no matter what type of boss or co-workers you have. Even if you are given negativity or criticism, give back positivity and assuredness.
  6. Try not to take things personally. Your boss is likely acting/reacting to others the same way he or she reacts toward you. In other words, you are probably not alone.
  7. Give yourself some measurable goals. These could be goals based on your observations of your boss’ reactions: how he/she reacts to you and your co-workers, how he/she responds to your work, how things are changing around the office or in your department.
  8. Do those extra little things. Show up to work a bit early, offer to work on projects others wouldn’t take on, and send a thoughtful update on a project to keep your boss in the loop.
  9. Don’t loiter. If you are an extrovert this may be a difficult task, but try to keep your social profile limited to meetings and discussions regarding work only.

When all is said and done, it’s best not to jump to conclusions. Use your “survival of the fittest” skills to assess the situation with your boss and the rest of the team. Put a plan in place that will keep you out of the water cooler gossip yet keep you on the boss’ radar.

Image via GDS-Productions/Flickr.

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Workplace Apologies and How to Make One

September 17, 2015


2892334586_6ef9fcbb51_zYou open your inbox, stare at the FROM section, and your heart sinks. It’s really the last thing you wanted to read by e-mail, but when you click through you’re pleasantly surprised. Your co-worker wrote an e-mail apology to you because of a mistake on last week’s staff report. It wasn’t a huge error, but it was a bit embarrassing that you were standing in front of the entire office and quoting mistaken figures. Whatever bit of annoyance you had encountered slips away after you’ve read his email.

Apologizing by e-mail can seem awkward and possibly disingenuous since it’s not in person. However, the likelihood of two people’s schedules allowing them to meet has become more than difficult, and everyone knows that texting is definitely a “no-no” for an apology.

So how do you tackle writing that awkward, uncomfortable e-mail that makes you squirm in your seat? Wendy Johnson of Kapow! Content shares her tips over at The Brazen Careerist on how to write a genuine e-mail apology. She also offers up a great e-mail apology example that everyone should keep a copy to refer to in the future.

Here is a summary of our favorite points from her article about how to write a great apology email:

  • get straight to the facts (apologize!)
  • tell them why you’re apologizing
  • don’t insinuate an apology or use phrases like “I’m sorry IF I offended you” or “I’m sorry IF I said something you took the wrong way…
  • Try not to over apologize. That can come off as sarcastic.
  • Communicate how you plan to rectify such situations in the future so as not to make the same mistake again.
  • Close the e-mail in a positive way. Or in a way that shows you are extending an olive branch.

Read more about this subject in How to Apologize By Email: 5 Steps to Help Fix Your Big Mistake.

Image via Clyde Robinson/Flickr.

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How Being “Crafty” Can Help You Get The Career You Want

September 15, 2015


358555164_0b1a1a9fb3_zComplaining, complaining, complaining! Is that the solution when you aren’t happy with your job? It shouldn’t be. But some people vent with fellow employees and use it as their outlet to deal with unhappiness at work. Unfortunately, this creates low morale and brings the team down. Complaining is like a yawn–it’s contagious.

If changing jobs isn’t an option, changing your perspective or the way you view a situation can alter the way you feel. David Sturt, an executive vice president for O.C. Tanner, wrote an article for Forbes in 2013 where he explains a term called job crafting.

“Job crafting means essentially this: That people often take existing job expectations—or job descriptions—and expand them to suit their desire to make a difference. In other words, job crafters are those who do what’s expected (because it’s required) and then find a way to add something new to their work—something that benefits their team, their company, or their customer.”

Jane Dutton and Amy Wrzesniewski, the creators of the job crafting exercise, say that employees can do this is in three different ways: changing tasks, changing who they work with, or changing the meaning assigned to the work.

For instance, let’s say you are a salesperson at a boutique, but you want to be involved in creating the displays on the shop floor and in the windows. You know you have these skills, you have all kinds of ideas, but you were hired to sell the products, not display them. In this case, it is your tasks you want to change. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Become great at selling (which is your current job)
  2. Make sure your manager knows you can do your current job well
  3. Make suggestions about the displays when it is timely and you have your boss’ ear
  4. Offer to do just a section of the store to showcase your skills (in this way you are gaining trust)
  5. Offer to arrange the windows the next time they need to be changed (if the manager is tentative about this, share your ideas on paper first or in a meeting with her/him)
  6. When you have successfully created the opportunity for yourself, knock it out of the park!

All of these steps should be done without asking for additional pay. You need to gain the trust of your manager first and prove that this IS a task you can be successful at. Consider it a bit like an internship for the time being until it’s clear you are the only one for the job!

Image via Jessica Wilson/Flickr.

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Do You Need to Manage Your Boss?

September 10, 2015


2149638304_982c0880bf_zHas it become clear to you that your manager isn’t quite as savvy as you once thought? And they’re not quite as organized as you imagined they would be? Maybe it seems like they need some help running the team? Or he/she needs a little help in the people skills arena?

Don’t dismiss your job as all lost if you’re working with a less-than-perfect manager. You can learn how to manage your boss! Really? It’s called “managing up.” Here’s where the problem often begins:

  • employees don’t realize how much their boss depends on them for the skills they have, especially first-time job holders 
  • employees also don’t see the dependence between the two parties: manager and subordinate.

Once you realize your boss is human just like you and needs your input and cooperation, you can start “managing up.” Here’s how: 

Be subtle at first. Offer your assistance in a manner that isn’t aggressive, but is confident and honest. Oftentimes a manager can be threatened by a subordinate’s knowledge and abilities.

Be authentic. The reason you are “managing your boss” is because of your belief in the business and team. Show that!

Put your skills to use. You were hired because for your particular skills. Remember this and work at using these skills to help your manager and team become successful.

Make yourself indispensable. Don’t be afraid to show that you’re an expert at whatever it is you specialize in.

Communicate with your boss. If you have an issue with something at work, talk with your boss and offer a solution. Managers appreciate solutions rather than complaints.

Try more than once. Bosses don’t always realize this tactic of “managing up.” They may believe they are always correct given their authority. However, once they see your intentions and realize you have a specialized skill set, they should come around. It may take more than one try.

Be respectful of their position. There is a line, and you don’t want to overstep it. Remember that you are a subordinate as you implement this “managing up” strategy. Remain understanding that your boss is still the boss and ultimately, they have the decision-making power.

“Managing up” sounds like an oxymoron, right? But don’t judge it until you try it. It might make your work day, your team, and your career more successful. 

Image via Dave Stone/Flickr

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When It Comes to Work, Email or Text?

September 8, 2015


2660204217_27ddec5e34_oCommunication at the workplace has gotten trickier and trickier. How do you talk with your boss these days? Face-to-face? E-mail? Phone call? Text message? Skype or Face Time if you work from home?

In the olden days, popping into your boss’s office was the way to get seen, be seen, and be in the scene. But that’s not the way it works anymore. Two major communication tools have risen to the top—e-mail and text message—and they definitely have their own etiquette rules. Here’s a guide to help you brush up on the dos and don’ts:

E-mail still reigns supreme when it comes to business communication. This should be your preferred form of communication when the need for a response is not immediate. It gives the receiver a chance to respond on his/her own time and prioritize their order of response as they’d like. It can easily be used when informing many people thanks to the “CC:” and “BCC:” functions. But don’t overuse those features. Email is more efficient than spending extra time on the phone and it’s perfect for scheduling calls or meetings, as well as documenting important information and conversations in a digital paper trail. 

Texting is a little slipperier. This is a casual tool for communication. BE CAREFUL. You should only text your boss if the two of you have discussed it in advance, and it’s their preferred form of communication. Think about it! Would you call your boss at home? Probably not. In many ways, texting is reminiscent of phone calls—it’s interruptive, it tends to require a response (or at least makes you think it does), and others in the room are often alerted when a text comes in. There’s an immediacy associated with texting. And over time, it can become an annoyance. Make sure to only text if it’s a mandatory piece of information that the boss needs to know, or when you require an immediate response.

With both e-mailing and texting, don’t assume because of someone’s age that they are for one type of communication over the other. It’s not hard to find outliers from each generation that go against the grain.

Check out this article from for more tips on using text as a business form of communication.

Image via Jason Rogers/Flickr

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Why Failure is Synonymous with Growth

September 3, 2015


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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Kick Your Job Search Into Gear This Fall

September 1, 2015


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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