Monday, January 18, 2021

3 Tips for Dealing with a Perfectionist Colleague


For most of us, we have great days at work when we're really on top of our game. Then, there are other days when we don't do our best work, and we know it. 

But a perfectionist can never let anything slide. He or she believes that everything has to be perfect, every single time. They cannot walk away until they feel something is just right.

When you work with someone like this, it can be a blessing and a curse. A perfectionist often catches mistakes or ensures quality control, making everyone's work shine brighter. So, that's a blessing.

But when this same perfectionist co-worker makes everyone stay late on a Friday night because he's obsessing over every detail for a presentation to be delivered Monday, then it's a curse.

So how do you best deal with a perfectionist colleague?

1. Know there is good and bad. It's unfair and unprofessional for you to trash talk this person when you know that he adds value to any project with his attention to detail and quality of work delivered. But it's OK to also feel exasperated when this colleague holds up work or puts more pressure on others with perfectionist tendencies. Remind yourself that while this person may believe in perfectionism, you know that doesn't exist. In other words, the perfectionist isn't perfect and neither are you.

2. Pick your battles. It will make for an increasingly stressful work environment if you constantly fight with a perfectionist, who feels there is nothing wrong with offering unsolicited advice on what you do wrong. Here is where you can choose to control your reaction: 1) thank him for his comments and go on with your day; 2) tell him that you don't agree and walk away; or 3) try to see some merit in what the perfectionist offers, but don't let it undermine your self-esteem. How you respond will depend on the situation, but try role playing with a trusted colleague or friend to see how you feel reacting in various situations and are prepared so that you respond appropriately and not in anger.

3. Have excuses ready. If the perfectionist seems to corner you with his advice, always have something ready to move yourself away from the situation. "I've got a meeting/call soon. I'm going to have to go." Or, "I can't chat now. Maybe later. I've got to go." Even, "I just remembered I forgot to give Brad an important message. I'm going to have to cut this short."

How do you deal with perfectionists?

Monday, January 11, 2021

3 Trends That Could Define Your Career in 2021

When you're making career plans for 2021, it's a smart idea to imagine where you think future economic growth will be, the industries that will still continue to suffer from the pandemic and whether this might be the right time to start your own business.

McKinsey recently published their list of 2021 trends based on their research, and here's some of the things you also might want to consider:

1. Consumer rebound. If you've been in an industry hard hit by the pandemic, things are expected to improve as the COVID-19 vaccine looses restrictions. It's predicted that "revenge shopping" will take place as consumers go crazy with shopping, eating in restaurants and going to concerts. How fast spending may recover depends on whether people in individual areas feel confident, so make sure you factor that into any future job decisions.

2. Business travel lags. While leisure travel will rebound, it's not going to be an immediate rebound for business trips. Business travel is expensive: in 2018, business-travel spending hit $1.4 trillion. But companies are expected -- after using Zoom and collaboration tools during the pandemic -- to reassess if travel is always necessary. Could your career plans be adversely affected if business travel drops off? Or, would you benefit if businesses continued to turn to technology to collaborate or meet? 

3. Entrepreneurs will blossom. From online medical appointments to shopping online for groceries, digital transformation has been sped up and now dominates the marketplace. It also opens the door to a flood of entrepreneurs who have seized on the pandemic disruption to market new ideas and start new businesses. Even McKinsey admits they didn't see this coming: More than 1.5 million new-business applications in the U.S., which is nearly double from the previous year. If you are afraid you can't go it alone, think again. Those new business applications show that people are figuring out ways to thrive with their own ideas and not be dependent on someone else.

While most of us could never have predicted what 2020 would become, monitoring market trends, reassessing our career paths and seizing on new opportunities may be the best way to weather whatever 2021 has up its sleeve.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Why It's a Great Time to Explore New Career Paths

The pandemic has forced many people to take a hard look at their careers. Some like what they see -- they realize how much they love their jobs and feel fortunate to be doing it for a company that appreciates them.

Others have discovered that they're really not happy with their career choices, or that their employer isn't a good fit.

But what can someone in such a position do about it now? With millions unemployed, it can be difficult to think about leaving a current job and the pandemic makes it difficult to "get out there" and start looking for something new.

The solution may be to begin exploring other roads to career happiness. Are there companies that have always intrigued you? Do you have people in your network who seem to be energized and happy in their jobs and you would like to feel the same? Would you like to better understand other fields that could use your skills?

Now is the time. Instead of baking another load of bread or doing another puzzle during your downtime at home, try becoming an explorer of the career universe and seeing what you can discover. Here's some things to try:

1.  Look for enthusiasm. Do you get a little thrill when you think of yourself working for a certain employer? Do you see rave reviews about an employer on Glassdoor from its employees? If you're going to explore new opportunities, make sure you're headed in a direction that holds promise and not one where the employer is considered a dead-end career choice. Read current news stories or industry trend articles to see how others view the industry or company.

2. Snoop. Don't do anything illegal, of course. But it never hurts to roam the Internet and check out the social media feeds for those who have jobs that you covet or are in fields that intrigue you. Employees often post about their workday, so look for experiences that interest you -- or completely turn you off. Company websites are only going to offer the most glowing view of an organization -- you're more likely to get a clearer picture by looking at different sources.

3. Reach out. With so many people working from home, it can be easier to get them to commit to a short phone call or answer a brief email. You can ask about what a typical day looks like for them, what they love/don't love about their jobs, where they see their industry going, etc. Most people are willing to have a brief conversation (no more than 20-30 minutes) and provide some insight. Even if you only get one or two people to talk to you, you will get a much more realistic picture of what is available.

During this long quarantine, many people have felt trapped. But you don't have to feel that way in your career. As long as you keep exploring, listening and learning about what's happening in areas that interest you, there will always be new roads to explore and new opportunities available.

Monday, December 28, 2020

4 Solutions to Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is something that affects most of us at one time or another, but many people don't know what to do about it when it hits them.

Imposter syndrome is a "psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a 'fraud.'"

I've interviewed many people over the years -- including c-suite executives -- who suffer from it. They've shared many strategies about how they've learned to believe in their own abilities and let go of their constant fear of being "found out."

Here are some of their ideas:

1. Find support. This may be a friend, mentor or professional colleague. Confide in someone you trust that you feel like an imposter. More than likely, you'll find that others feel the same way -- and that can make it easier to discuss.

2. Let go of the past. Yes, you've made mistakes. We all have. But that doesn't mean you should dwell on them and let them undermine your confidence and ability to move forward. Think about what you learned from that mistake and how that experience will make you better in the future. Mistakes can be a gift to your career if you learn and grow from them -- but not if you agonize over them and remain stuck in that mindset.

3. Step outside yourself. Many of those who suffer from imposter syndrome are incredibly supportive of others, always offering words of encouragement to those who need it. Yet, they never offer those same words to themselves! The next time you start feeling down on yourself, think of how you would respond to anyone else who says, "I'm really no good at this," or "They're going to find out I'm a fraud and don't know what I'm doing." Instead of offering "You're smart and you'll figure it out," to someone else -- say it to yourself. Think of the words of support you give to others and make sure to also say them to yourself on a regular basis.

4. Celebrate your victories. Don't be down on yourself if you learned how to do X but not Z. Celebrate that you learned X and tell yourself that Z is also something you can do. Replace your negative thoughts with remembering what you've done so far -- and how much more you're capable of doing when you believe in yourself.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Can You Ask for a Raise During the Pandemic?

Many people believe asking for a pay raise during this time of crisis for many companies is a no-no.

They're right. Sort of.

If you're working for an employer that is barely scraping by, one that has already laid off too many of your colleagues and is an industry hard-hit by the pandemic (hotels, restaurants, event management), then asking for a pay raise doesn't make sense right now.

But, if you're working for a company where business is doing very well, and you've had a direct hand in contributing to bottom-line success like bringing in new customers, coming up with a more efficient process that saves money or designing a new product that is paying off, then you wouldn't be amiss in asking for a pay raise based on those clear results of your worth.

Still, we are in the grips of a pandemic, and you don't want to appear callous as to what everyone -- including your boss -- is experiencing. So, just like you would during non-pandemic times, you need to bring up your request for more money when it's a good time (not when the boss is under pressure to meet a deadline or his partner just came down with COVID).

You want to ask for a raise when you're seen as doing a great job -- a recent performance evaluation went very well or you received a glowing, appreciative email from the boss or someone in the executive ranks.

Ask for a private meeting or Zoom call to talk to the boss about your request. You don't demand it. You don't say you need a raise to pay for a new car. You ask for a raise based on your contributions and your research of what others in your position are making.

Then, you let the boss think about it. It's likely he or she isn't just going to say "Okey dokey!" and give you what you want. If you get turned down eventually, don't start sending out resumes, but instead look for ways you can become even more valuable. A boss who says "no" to a raise may just be saying the timing isn't right. Keep a good relationship with him, and let him see that he can count on you -- and you may be rewarded when things improve.

Monday, December 14, 2020

4 Steps to Achieving Career Goals During a Pandemic

During the pandemic, your career goals may have withered a bit. At this point, you're just trying to keep your job and cope with everything life has thrown at you.

But it's not a good idea to just forget about your career goals, and in fact, you can take this time to think more deeply about what you really want and how to go about getting it.


1. Your resume. Give it a good look and try to be impartial. Does the resume show how you've grown? How you've achieved results? Or, is it just a laundry list of job titles and company names? This isn't what gets you noticed, either by hiring managers or those in your industry. You need to be able to constantly show that you're taking that next step, either through key projects in your current job, educational or training efforts or even through professional associations.

2.  Your boss. What does she think about your performance? You're not asking for a performance review, but rather a conversation about whether your boss thinks you're progressing in the right areas or whether she believes that you're stalled. What can you do to get more responsibility? What needs to happen for you to be in charge of the next project? While you may not always agree with your boss's assessment of your skills, you're not going to progress at your current position without your boss's support or input. 

3. Your network. You might find it challenging to maintain your network during this time of social distancing, but really, that's just an excuse. You can still interact with people on a phone call, during a Zoom meeting or -- if they work in the same town -- at a meeting in a park or other outside venue. Your network is critical in growing your career, and people are longing for contact now more than ever. By reaching out, you're helping to seal a relationship that will be beneficial now and in the future.

4. Your initiative. When was the last time you read a book that really challenged you? Or listened to a podcast concerning a subject you know nothing about? Have you tuned into a webcast that has speakers that are unfamiliar to you? These are all things that force you out of your box and introduce you to new ideas. That's an important step when you're growing yourself as a professional.

Monday, December 7, 2020

For many people looking for work during these tough times, turning down a job -- any job -- isn't an option.

But recently I talked with a job seeker who interviewed for a job and got really good feedback from the hiring manager. In fact, the hiring manager hinted strongly that an offer would be made by the next day.

The big problem, however, was that after talking to the hiring manager, the job seeker no longer wanted the job. 

While she had done some research on the employer, she learned things during the interview that concerned her. She not only felt the working environment was unsafe, but her hours would be grueling and her pay below industry standards.

After talking it over with her partner, she sent an email to the hiring manager thanking him for the interview. Then, she explained that after hearing more about the job, she didn't feel it was a good fit for her and she no longer wanted to be considered.

This job seeker really felt like she dodged a bad situation, but she was torn. The job market is tough in a lot of industries. Right now, she's working a minimum-wage job after losing a management position in the travel industry. While this potential job would have given her a foot back into the travel industry and better pay, she decided that it was better to stay where she was than take a job that she believed would only be short-term.

"I knew that if I took that job I would be looking for something better the entire time I was there," she told me. "I got depressed just thinking about it."

The reason I share this story is that while the job market is bad, that doesn't mean you have to make career decisions that could hurt you in the long term. Always make sure you step back and talk it over with your family or trusted friends. Here's some things to consider:

1. Your safety. This job seeker truly felt the location of this job was in a dangerous area, and there had been violence in and near the building before. She would be asked to work -- often alone -- and without security measures in place. Even if the employer had offered better security, she didn't feel it was worth the risk.

2. Your health. The hours required on the job were very long, often for 14 days at a stretch without a day off. The job seeker told me that she had nearly ruined her health once before with such a job, and didn't want to do it again.

3. Pay. This is tricky, because if you need to pay rent or make a car payment, you are desperate to get a job. In that case, this comes down to your individual situation and what you can and cannot manage financially. But in this job seeker's case, she was bringing in enough to live on, along with her partner's salary. She felt that if she took a lower salary in her desired industry, it would impact her for years and her earning power might never recover (she's absolutely right). She has decided that she will take some online courses to improve her data skills (important in her travel industry job) and wait for travel jobs to begin to open up as vaccinations flatten the coronavirus.

I share this story because I think it provides a good example of someone who really wanted a job -- but didn't jump at just anything that came along. She weighed her options and made a decision that was best for her personally and professionally.

When times are tough, employers have the upper hand. They may offer lower salaries, substandard work conditions and even try to make you do dangerous work. Working for such employers will never get better. If they hire you without a good faith effort to compensate you for your talents and provide a safe working environment, then they're not going to change once things improve. Keep that in mind when considering a job.