Archive | November, 2015

Are You the Boss No One Likes? Here’s How You Can Tell.

November 26, 2015

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World's greatest bossHere’s a conversation that’s hopefully never happened between two of your direct reports:

Employee 1: “So what do you think the boss will think if I take initiative and send this e-mail to the client on my own?”
Employee 2: “I don’t know, what are you worried about?”
Employee 1: “When I do things that I haven’t been given permission to do she gets that tone like I should have asked. But when I ask for direction on things,  she acts like I should know already. There’s no right answer and no trust!”

If you haven’t honed your listening skills and are known for being defensive or critical when employees offer feedback, they could grow afraid to tell you what they’re really thinking — and that’s bad for business.

Being hypercritical makes the employees nervous and uncertain about their investment in the organization and ultimately can lead to the downfall of the team. Your entire team could be scared to make a move because no matter what action they take, or don’t take, they hear about it from their critical boss. This is very scary water to be swimming in, for everyone.

Here are a few thoughts that might be going through the minds of your employees as a result:

  • How quickly can I get my resume updated and get out of here?
  • Do I really need another job before I quit this one?
  • I wonder if she will even give me a good reference.
  • If she talks down to me one more time…
  • How about a little respect?

And if these thoughts are going through the minds of your employees, it’s likely that you’ll see the following behaviors occurring in your organization:

  • Employees aren’t following up on their tasks (lack of effort).
  • No one is challenging or questioning any decisions you make. They agree with everything you say.
  • No one is taking initiative on their own. They’re scared to get burned if the result was not exactly what you were thinking.
  • Employees seem uninterested in stepping up to take on more when you ask them (apathetic)
  • Employees become protective over their particular roles. No one wants to muddy up the job descriptions in an effort to keep the delineation of tasks clear. This feels safer.

If these scenarios sound familiar, it’s time to asses your management style. Focus on listening, providing constructing criticism, and empowering your employees (no micromanaging!). It’s not easy to change your habits—and you may have the best intentions—but great leadership is challenging, rewarding, and it takes time to get it right.

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5 Steps To Take During Your Search For a Career Mentor

November 24, 2015

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14090438714_33bec862fe_zWho doesn’t need a little inspiration and motivation at their job? When you go into work every morning it’s not uncommon to be thinking about that one co-worker you want to avoid. But instead, what you should be imagining is the employee you work with who inspires and motivates you to learn everyday and enjoy your career. Think back to grade school… your mentor was your teacher. You didn’t get to choose, unfortunately, but if you were lucky to get the “good” teacher, you probably learned a lot.

Today, in the work world your mentor is whomever you choose. It’s up to you to use your perseverance and research skills to find a co-worker who might be the best fit as a mentor for you. Here are some tips on what you might do to find that person:

Define what type of mentor/coach you’re looking for.
Analyze and write down the skills (technical and/or soft) you need to develop in your work life. It’s best to know first what you need so you’ll know what to look for in a potential mentor and you’ll be able to discuss this with him/her.

Pay attention to the employees in your immediate department.
This should be pretty simple. You’ll probably be able to tell pretty quickly if anyone in your immediate department is someone you would consider approaching to be your mentor.

Ask your manager about other department managers who might be a fit.
Depending on who you interact with in your job, you may not be aware of all the managers or higher level employees in your organization. Your own manager knows you well enough to make some suggestions.

Do your own company research about the C-Suite.
Who says you can’t contact one of the corporate level employees? If you have followed one of these folks on social media and admire their messages, they could be your next mentor. Their time may be at a premium, but you could try connecting on social media and maintain a partly virtual mentorship. You could also acknowledge that their time is at a premium and ask him/her to make suggestions for another potential mentor within the company.

Think outside the box.
A mentor outside of your work is an option as well. This could require a bit more research and investigation with your peers and community. Industry organizations and conferences are great places to rub shoulders with potential mentors.

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7 Workday Distractions That Are Stopping You From Doing Your Job

November 19, 2015


texting to distraction

There’s always a deadline looming, right? Some people use deadlines to push themselves and work harder while others become overwhelmed and anxious about meeting them. One way or another there’s always some level of productivity we have to maintain at work.

Given our place in the world with every kind of technical interruption possible, here are some of the things you’ll be up against and how you could consider handling them:

  1. Cell phone: if your job requires you to carry one regularly, your only option is to have it on vibrate or turn it off when you really need to get something done. Hard to believe, but some people just keep it tucked away during their workday and check it only on their free time: lunch. If that’s not you, it could be.
  2. Texting: In the ultimate war against productivity, text message notifications can now blast across your computer screen too. But it can be turned off. DO IT! TURN IT OFF! You’re not missing anything. There are plenty of other ways you can be reached. You don’t need every iDevice to constantly interrupt you.
  3. The Interrupting co-worker: Try to see this person as someone who will help you exercise your decorum and communication skills. Be kind but brief with them. If they are always appearing at your desk at a certain time, be ready to show your “busy” side. Put on your headphones, mention your impending deadline, and tell them you’ll respond when you’ve finished your work. If you’re feeling nice,you could schedule a specific time or day to chat.
  4. Family interruptions: Some of these are super important and others will just seem important—but they’re not. You’ll need to distinguish between the two. Have a back up plan or person who can deal with an emergency in case you absolutely need to get your work done.
  5. E-mail: Email allows you to respond at your leisure—so do it! If it’s a work-related email and you can’t respond immediately, send them a message about when you will respond in detail. You can also include some “office hours” written into your signature at the bottom of any e-mail.
  6. Meetings: Depending on where you fall in the corporate food chain, meetings can be adjusted. And programs like Skype or Google Hangouts can help make meetings more flexible and be helpful for your productivity levels.
  7. Procrastination: This is a tough one! Some of us have a propensity for this. The trick is to know yourself and to know the best times of day for you to produce good work. Use those times wisely by having all your social media turned off and getting in an environment that’s conducive to uninterrupted work. Prioritize your tasks and tic off the A-listers first. There’s a reason why you categorized it as an ‘A’ to begin with.

Image via Phillip LeConte/Flickr.

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The Importance of Persistence Over Patience When Job Searching

November 17, 2015


PersistenceIn some situations, patience can be a virtueFor instance, keeping your mouth shut when someone says something you have the perfect comeback for, or waiting in line at the grocery store behind five people with loaded carts. But, when it comes to getting a job, persistence is the virtue you’re going to need.

No one is going to drop a job in your lap. And it’s very possible that the role you would be best suited for isn’t out there in a perfectly packaged job description. In uncertain economies, organizations are searching for employees that can present themselves as multi-talented and able to reach across departments to fulfill a variety of tasks. You need to use your persistence and become the solution they are looking for. Here’s how:

  • Mold your resume to show crossover skills: Having many experiences in one skill is good, but don’t stop there. Don’t forget about those other skills you may not have used recently, or haven’t realized that you’ve been using all along.
  • Cover letter: This is like sending that handwritten note that noone receives anymore. Anyone who opens a handwritten note feels special when they receive it. Make the HR staff feel special with your customized cover letter!
  • Follow up: In your cover letter or e-mail, include when you will follow up. Next week? Next month? Whatever it may be, make sure you follow up on that day.
  • Network: Build networking into your weekly or monthly schedule. This can include using your a class or workout as an opportunity to connect with people. Networking doesn’t have to only mean attending a “networking” event. Give yourself goals for how many informational interviews you will set up per week.
  • Thank you: Always send a thank you to anyone that has remotely helped you with your job search. It may feel like overkill at first, but look at it as a way for that person to see your name one more time. It could jog their memory and be the ticket into your next position. 
  • Join professional groups in your field: Show your potential boss how perseverant you are by joining and attending trade organizations in your field. You may just as well land your next interview by networking there.
  •  Offer to work on a consulting/freelance basisSome organizations are not in a place to hire a full-time employee, but they may be able to budget for a freelancer. Remember to consider this in your informational interviews and networking meetings.


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6 Ways You’re Being a Self-Centered Networker—and How to Fix It

November 13, 2015


5079551048_0bfb72bf61_zEver feel guilty when you ask a friend of a friend to help you get a foot in the door at a job? Well, just imagine how that person feels getting random emails from employment hungry go-getters who want to suck all their contacts from them for free! Of course, that’s not what you are intending, but it can begin to feel like that after asking one too many “favors.”

There’s definitely an etiquette to networking, and any contact you make while networking should be maintained throughout your career. But that can’t happen if you blow the first meeting. For that relationship to continue and to make sure you don’t get put on their “parasite” list, it’s important that you follow some rules. Here are some ways to tell if you are only thinking of yourself while networking, and some simple tips to fix it:

  1. You texted or called them to set up the initial meeting. NO, no, no! Always e-mail first. This gives the contact a chance to read and respond on their own time.
  2. You asked them to meet for coffee waaaaay across town. Make this meeting as convenient as possible for the person. After all, you are asking to give their own time to you for free. What will be the easiest meeting place for THEM? Offer an array of options and ask them to choose. Also, pay for their coffee or meal!
  3. They agreed to a meeting and you cancelled. Unless your house is on fire, find a way to make that meeting. You should assume you only have one chance to get this right.
  4. You asked the contact for a copy of a presentation you saw them give a week ago.  First of all, if  you saw it, you shouldn’t have to ask for it. Second, their work is copyrighted and unless you are paying for it (like you would a book), it’s not something you can expect.
  5. You played devil’s advocate with them to find out why they did X or Y. Really? This isn’t a journalistic article you’re putting together. Do not question what they are telling you. Take it or leave it, but don’t question it!
  6. You never formally thanked them. Stationery may seem outdated, but in this case a thank you mandatory. Send a thoughtful email or handwritten thank you note and make sure to mention something you talked about as a way to personalize it. This is the beginning of a longer relationship if you handle it well.

For more tips on how to use common sense when networking, check out this New York Times article.

Image via Sean MacEntee/Flickr.

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7 Productivity Apps That Will Keep You Focused on Your Job Search

November 10, 2015


22405874902_e76accaf49_zWith all the things competing for your attention, trying to get your work done or just keeping yourself focused during a job search is a difficult thing. Social media alone could keep you trapped in an internet loop all day long. Fortunately, there is an upside to the technological direction our world has moved in. There are applications out there that can help you manage your time and keep you focused. Here are some of the most popular and how they work.

Stay Focused (free) is an app that allows you to choose the sites you want to keep yourself from. You set the amount of time you want to be able to access those sites and then they are restricted when that time is up. Very customizable. Stay Focused is an extension of Google Chrome.

Anti-Social ($) is an app similar to Stay Focused. It also keeps you from social media sites. You can block them for as little as 15 minute or as long as 8 hours. The only way out is to shut your computer down.

Time Out (free) is a great app to help you restrict your time spent staring at your screen. It prompts you to take breaks (10 minutes) and mini-breaks (10 seconds to rest your eyes). This app helps manage your body’s inability to sit for such long periods of time.

Self Control (free) is an OS X application that can keep you from sending and receiving e-mail and block certain websites for up to 90 minutes. You can access the rest of the web, but not those you’ve off limit for a particular period of time. There’s no stopping it once it’s set. You’ll have to wait until the time runs out.

Focus Booster ($) is based on the Pomodoro technique, which subscribes to the theory that you can work in 25 minute segments with five minute breaks. This app will also track your time on various projects and help you maintain your work/life balance. It’s good for students, freelancers and consultants.

Toggl ($) is a time-tracking app that is good for teams. It can help you see which projects and which clients  you spent your time on. Toggle has a free option, but can be upgraded to a monthly fee with more options.

Remember The Milk (free) is an app that helps bring together all your tasks from different devices and reminds you of them wherever you are. It can act as your to-do list no matter where you are or what device you are working on.

Image via MMT/Flickr.

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Why Gen-X and Boomers Should Mentor a Millennial

November 6, 2015

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11320869875_3ea5ce02d3_zIn the workplace, a variety of generations have always worked together to solve problems and produce goods and services. But today’s Millennial generation, the youngest working generation, is analyzed constantly and it’s not always in the most positive light.

Millennials have been raised in a much different world than Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers. In a recent article for The Muse, writer Jeremy Boudinet, himself a Millennial, claims this negative press is misguided because it frames Millennials as narcissistic and self-absorbed. He believes instead, that they are “uncertain” and constantly looking for feedback because of the age of fear they were raised in and because they know they aren’t well-liked by the older generations.

But how do we bridge the gap between these generations? Jeremy offers this piece of wisdom: “On a professional level, there is compelling evidence that Boomer and Gen-X mentorship is the cure for bridging the generation gap and ‘fixing’ Millennials, for the betterment of all parties involved.” When Gen-X mentors “adopt” a Millennial, it can only help on a personal and company-wide level. As Jeremy says when speaking about his own mentors, “They have enabled me to unlock untapped potential, set new professional goals, and provide a vital role to my company.”

Are you a Boomer or Gen-Xer who’s willing to offer mentorship? Know that you may not find the Millennials reaching out, given their uncertainty and already entrenched feelings that they are looked down upon by the older generations. Reach out to them. A mentoring relationship works for both parties. The mentee is not the only one gaining in knowledge and motivation. The mentor also reaps rewards by passing down their knowledge and helping in the growth of another human being.

For more reasons on why Millennials need this mentorship, read the full article at The Muse.

Image via JD Lasica/Flickr.

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The Soft Skills That Will Get You Hired—and Help You Nail Your Interview

November 5, 2015


411196422_82a530e502_oGetting hired used to be pretty simple: create the resume, mail it out, follow up, and then interview. A week or so after that, you got the call that you were hired, or you moved on to the next interview. Technical skills were assessed first and soft skills were only a second thought.

Today, the winds have shifted. Employers know now that technical skills are actually easier to teach than the more ambiguous soft skills. The search is now on for the employee that can be an asset across the board from having the ability to learn fast to being a good communicator to acting self-aware.

In Fast Company’s latest article, 7 Traits That Will Get You Hired or Promoted, the top the list is “Emotional Intelligence” and “Speaking Up—The Right Way.” One of these clearly leads to the other. If you’re intuitive, can read people’s moods and emotions, and are aware of your own, you will be able to discern when and where you should speak up.

It’s also important to erase the “that’s not my job” phrase from the workplace. Valuable employees are those who can jump in and help whether the task is found in their job description or not. Lastly, if you are an employee that can exude confidence, not arrogance, this is going to make you a better team player by opening you up as a resource to your colleagues.

So why not come prepared with examples of your own people skills to your next interview? It’s likely you will be asked questions about how you’ve handled particular situations, so have these stories ready in your back pocket. For instance:

  1. You had a difficult boss that made communication a challenge and how you handled it. (speaking up when needed)
  2. You had more experience than the rest of the team and were able to share it in a way that added value to the project. (confidence, not arrogance)
  3. You are aware of a team member’s particular difficulties with time management and you adjusted your way of working with him/her so it worked for both of you. (emotional intelligence)

For examples of more traits that will get you hired and promoted check out Fast Company.

Image via Paul Shanks/Flickr.

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