Monday, January 21, 2019
I've never been a fan of "crazy" interview questions, such as asking: "If were a salad dressing, which kind would you be and why?"
New research shows why I might feel this way. In the journal "Applied Psychology," researchers find that questions like the one I mention above or brainteaser queries such as "Estimate how many windows are in New York" are examples of "aggressive interviewer" behavior that shows no evidence for validity -- and unsettle job candidates.
In their study, researchers gave working adults traditional interview questions such as "Are you a good listener?" and included things like: "Tell me about a time when you failed.
They also asked brainteaser questions.
The result: Narcissism and sadism "explained the likelihood of using brainteasers in an interview," researchers say.
These "dark traits" shown by an interviewer in asking such questions "suggest that a callous indifference and a lack of perspective-taking may underlie abusive behavior in the employment interview," researchers say.
At a time when companies are actively vying for the best talent in a competitive market, it makes sense to scrap brainteaser questions. Companies need to make it clear that the "dark traits" don't belong in any culture.
Monday, January 14, 2019
We all had a good laugh at the Dad doing a video chat when his children managed to scoot into the room and Mom followed moments later to frantically try and remove them.
While such moments are pretty funny, you don't really want things to go off the rails when you're trying to have a professional conversation via video.
Stanford Graduate School of Business Lecturer Matt Abrahams offers some helpful tips on how to make the most of your video chat:
1. Clean up your environment. Would you let an important client or your boss into the dump you call your bedroom with the unmade bed, dirty underwear on the floor and empty pizza boxes scattered on the desk? Look carefully at your surrounding environment and make sure it's tidy and won't be a distraction, whether you're at work or at home.
2. Use good technology. Check before a video chat to ensure your microphone and camera are in good working order and convey clear sound and pictures.
3. Lighten up. Abrahams says he spent $10 at a hardware store for a light used by car mechanics and fixed it behind his camera. Office lighting is often terrible, so look for extra lighting that will clearly illuminate and flatter your face.
4. Look into the camera. Many people put their notes on their desk, but that forces you to look down -- the equivalent of talking to the other person's shoes. You want to look directly into the camera, which means you are making eye contact. Abrahams suggests posting your notes behind the camera -- he uses a music stand to hold his notes at eye level.
5. Be prepared. Before a video chat, Abrahams says he always thinks about the key questions he wants answered, and the "themes" he wants to highlight. These themes should be supported by examples to support the ideas or reinforce them. Those themes and questions that are prepared beforehand "will help you convey more and walk away with more," he says.
"The value of communication is only increasing and the ability to communicate clearly, confidently and in a compelling way is absolutely critical to business success," he says.
Wednesday, January 9, 2019
You may still be trying to recover from the holidays, but if you want a summer internship this year, you need to get busy -- right now.
Companies often get the bulk of applications between February and April, so there is no time to waste if you want a chance to land an internship.
Here's what you need to do:
1. Do your homework. Research employers and industries that interest you. Look at the LinkedIn profiles of people with jobs you would love to have -- then look at the internships or jobs they've held. This will help you make a list of the skills, industries and companies that you believe will be a good fit. Otherwise, you'll be overwhelmed with the process and end up applying with less and less enthusiasm -- and employers can detect that a mile away.
2. Tap into available resources. There is no sense reinventing the wheel when your school's career center has counselors and information to help you fill out applications and provide advice. Don't pass up the opportunity to also tap into the school's alumni network.
3. Reinvent the wheel. OK, this may be confusing based on what I wrote above. But, those who show initiative and resourcefulness often will succeed. I know several college students who have stopped by a company and personally handed in their resumes or even cold called the internship coordinator. The result was that the coordinators saw potential, and rather than wade through hundreds of applications, they made the easy decision to hire the person who had the chutzpah to make a personal connection.
4. Be persistent. Let me clarify: Be persistent, not obnoxious. Don't call the recruiter every day and ask, "Have you made a decision yet?" But, you can contact the recruiter once a week with a message such as, "I just saw this amazing article on industry trends and thought you might find it interesting." That way, you distinguish yourself as someone who is thinking more about the company and the industry rather than the next kegger. You also can send updates (that are relevant) to the recruiter, such as writing an article for a campus journal on a subject of interest.
5. Prepare. Once you land an internship interview, it's time to do even more homework. Read the company's website, learning the names of executives and key information. Learn the company's mission statement so you can use similar language with your interviewer. Then, prepare questions for the interviewer -- never sit there mutely or only ask about days off.
6. Follow up. After the interview, send a note thanking the interviewer for his or her time. Mention how you're enthusiastic about the job and look forward to the opportunity.
Remember that applying for an internship and going through the process is never a waste of time, even if you don't get it. All these steps will be important in your job search, and the more practice you have, the better you will do.
Monday, January 7, 2019
For as long as I've been working (going on 100+ years now, or at least it feels like it), there have been office moochers.
They never have any money on them ("I forgot my wallet!" "I'm broke until payday!" "I just loaned my last $5 to a friend!").
As a result, the moochers are always borrowing off others at work. These moochers often ask you to "pitch in" a couple of dollars for them when there is an office collection for a colleague's birthday, or ask if you can also pay for their latte when you're making the coffee run.
Of course, these moochers always claim they will pay you back. But they don't.
What's the deal here? Do these moochers have some secret gambling addiction? Or are they just the kind of people who get a free ride by asking everyone else to pay?
You may never really know why moochers take and never give. In the meantime, you have to figure out a way to stop them from borrowing money from you and take responsibility for their own financial well-being.
Here are some ideas to break the habit of moochers using you as a personal ATM:
- Let go of your resentment. No one forced you to give these moochers the money or forced you to buy cups of coffee. That was your decision, so stop blaming them. At the same time, stop being mad at yourself. That's water under the bridge.
- Always ask for separate checks. If you go out with a known moocher for drinks or lunch, always ask the wait staff for separate checks. Do it with a smile and then simply continue your conversation. If the group is too big for separate checks, announce that you'll be dividing up the check to determine what everyone owes. (Most people will be extremely grateful you take on the task -- no one wants to pay more than their fair share.)
- Refuse with sincerity. When a moocher asks you to float him a loan, tell him you're sorry, but you're on a budget now. Don't elaborate. Once moochers see your piggy bank is closed, they'll turn to someone else or learn to start a budget of their own.
While it can be difficult to stand up for yourself in such situations, remember that a moocher's behavior shows a real disregard for you. You can maintain a professional and cordial relationship with them, just without the open wallet. At the same time, you may find that your resolve garners more respect from colleagues who may have wondered why you put up with such mooching for so long.
Wednesday, January 2, 2019
For many people, today is the first day back at work after eating too many holiday cookies, watching "Elf" 14 times and hustling the kids back to school (whether they wanted to go or not because your sanity depended on it).
It's also the time when you might begin to reassess your career. You might decide that a) you're on track and content b) unhappy and need to make a change or c) floating somewhere in between because you can't really decide what to decide.
If you're happy, that's great. But if you're not so happy -- or just plain miserable -- you need to deal with it.
You might say, "I love my job but hate my boss," or "I feel unchallenged" or "I'd really love a job that allows me to travel the world." Those are certainly legitimate feelings, but they don't get you the job that will help you feel better about your career. As a result, you flounder around until another year passes and you're still in the same job.
If you're feeling stuck or unsure about how to make a career move, there's an easy first step that can help you: reverse engineering.
Reverse engineering is when you take an object apart to see how it works so that you can duplicate it. It's often used in technology or manufacturing, but there's no reason it can't work on your career.
Here are some ways to use reverse engineering to help you find a better job or career fit:
1. List your favorite things. Do you want to travel the world? Work with artists? Be clear about what want.
2. Do some research. The Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook can offer you some insight into jobs with duties that interest you. The site will help you determine what qualifications you need, salary expectations, the job growth expected, etc. This can help you put a name to a job, such as "physical therapist" or "mechanic."
3. Find inspiration. If you want to be a marine biologist, for example, look for such people on LinkedIn or through professional associations or websites. What education did this person receive? Did she have internships? Has she written blog posts or posted tweets that might give you an insight into what she does each day in her job? While you might be able to job shadow someone in your dream job, you might also learn a great deal just by reading industry publications, listening to podcasts or reading blogs.
4. Get specific. Once you've done some research and soul searching, it's time to get specific. Reverse engineering isn't about just "sort of" reconstructing something -- it's about getting the details right. Are there local education programs that can help you get the right certifications for your dream job? How much do they cost? Can you afford to quit your job and attend school full time? How long will it take you to get a secondary degree? By the time you get necessary training, will jobs be available?
Finally, many people are open to providing some advice to those who want to enter a certain industry or profession. Don't be greedy with someone's time: Have specific questions that you can ask via social media, a job board or through LinkedIn. Do your basic research so that you don't ask obvious questions that can be answered by Google.
Monday, December 31, 2018
I distinctly remember one vacation where I sat alone on a beach, with only some birds for company. I watched the waves go in and out, and I did nothing more than just feel my breathing. I probably sat there for an hour or more -- it felt like one of the most peaceful places on earth and I was completely relaxed.
I now recognize I was practicing mindfulness, although I had no idea at the time. You might think this is the part of the story where I reveal that I continued to practice mindfulness. Nope. Didn't happen. I went back to a stressful job in a stressful city with too much anxiety in my life.
I'm obviously older and wiser now, and while I'd like to say I practice mindfulness on a regular basis, it is still difficult for me. My mind immediately wanders to all the things I could -- and should -- be doing instead of just being aware that I'm breathing.
That's why I like this suggestion from mental health expert Koorosh Rassekh: Choose something you already do every day, and then set an intention around that particular practice.
He explains that he had a client who loved making pour-over coffee every morning, so he established a mindfulness practice around that activity. He focused on the physical sensations of the smell of the coffee, the warmth of the pot on his hands, the sound it made as it splashed into his cup.
So, instead of turning on the TV or talking to Alexa or checking his phone, he became more aware of his inner self and what he was feeling emotionally.
The other thing I like about Rassekh's advice is that he lets people like me off the hook: It's OK to not jump into mindfulness with enthusiasm every day.
"When mindfulness is hard or difficult for us, that doesn't mean it is not working. Rather, it just worked by letting you know that you are particularly distracted right now or you are trying to solve something, or some memory is trying to reconcile," he says. "How great to be connected with that inner process as we go through the day rather than wonder why we keep bumping our head or are so quick to anger! We can be mindful that we are struggling to be mindful. This in and of itself is mindfulness."
As we enter another year of working hard, trying to be productive, attempting to meet all our career goals while balancing our private-life demands, it may be time to start mindfulness. Try to stop listening to the shower radio and just be mindful when you're washing your hair. Instead of watching YouTube videos while eating lunch, try practicing mindfulness as you eat that sandwich.
Health experts say that mindfulness can help with stress and insomnia and lead to a healthier diet and better memory.
Maybe this is the one New Year's resolution that will make the biggest difference in your health and happiness this year?