Monday, March 30, 2020

Unemployed? Transferable Skills are the Answer

In the coming weeks and months you're going to hear a lot about "transferable skills."

Transferable skills are those abilities that you can use in a variety of jobs: communication, organization and teamwork. They may also include things like customer service, or familiarity with some software programs.

The reason these skills are going to become so important is that as millions of workers try to get back to work once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control, they are going to need to apply for jobs. While some of these idle workers will get their old positions back, some may not. Those jobs may be gone for good, or so scarce that they're no longer a viable option.

That means that workers in hard-hit industries like hospitality will need to pivot in their job searches and figure out how their skills can be used in industries that are hiring.

Here's some things to think about as you begin job searching:

  • Look at robust industries. Companies like CVS, WalMart and Amazon are hiring thousands of workers, from management to entry-level. If you were a hotel housekeeper, for example, you have skills such as time-management, self-direction, teamwork, quality control and customer service that can translate to a job at one of these employers. The hospitality industry will begin hiring again, but it's likely to be slower than other industries. Look where the jobs are now, and jump on them.
  • Network. Think about the contacts you have made on the job. The loyal customer you served coffee to every morning may run a construction company that is still operating -- can you reach out to him or her and ask about positions? Maybe they know someone else? Right now, people are so willing to try and help any way they can that it's a great time to connect and tap into their ideas. 
  • Be strategic. The temptation when you're unemployed is to use a scattershot approach and apply for anything and everything through large job sites. Hold up. Be more strategic and think about what really fits your needs. It makes no sense, for example, to apply for a job that's two hours away and would eat up your paycheck in gas. Once you identify the jobs that are the best fit, then craft a resume and cover letter that truly target that job listing.
  • Be specific. When you're relying on transferable skills, try to come up with specific ways those skills made a difference: "Identified and communicated a way to streamline turnover of guest rooms, cutting overtime for all housekeeping team members by 50 percent and leading to practices that were adopted by the entire hotel region." This highlights several transferable skills: leadership, quality control, teamwork and communication.
Finally, be adaptable. Always think in terms of what you can do, not in what you can't do. Who says you can't work in construction if you've always worked in hotels? Who says you can't change industries when you're mid-career? The key to getting through this is being adaptable and resilient. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

6 Things to Learn from COVID-19 About Your Career

By now, I believe most of you reading this have dealt with the COVID-19 virus in some way, even if you haven't been infected (and I hope you have not).

Many of you are working from home, or are working abbreviated schedules. You may be taking on extra work to cover for a sick colleague, or you may be furloughed because of the business downturn.

First, let me say how sorry I am that we're all going through this. It's a difficult, difficult time for everyone, and I am keeping hope alive that we will recover soon.

In the meantime, I'm always about looking for what we can learn from an experience, especially when it comes to our jobs and our careers. Eventually, we will all return to our regularly scheduled lives, so here are some things to think about:

1. Your colleagues aren't so bad. We spend a lot of time being annoyed by a couple of people in our workplace. Evelyn won't ever stop snooping into people's private lives, but you now believe it comes from a place of concern. She doesn't want the nitty-gritty details of how your spouse is doing, she just cares that you're doing OK. And Mike? Maybe he's a little anti-social, but he is always the one who seems to find a solution to a problem the fastest. Isn't that worth overlooking his refusal to say "hello" when you see him?

2. You can do change. The last time a new directive came down from the head honchos, you about lost your sh*t. I mean, come on! How many times are they going to make such stupid changes? Are they absolute morons in the corporate office? OK, now those changes don't seem to be such a big deal, do they? After all, you haven't been outside in nine days, and your kids are playing dodgeball with the cat. You are doing yoga in your kitchen, banging your knuckles on the refrigerator every time you do child's pose. You are also considering cutting "Pandemic Bangs" and you hate bangs.

3. An open concept office is great. In the past, you've become greatly annoyed by the noise and commotion and general hubbub of your company's open office plan. You've taken to wearing headphones, a stocking cap, sunglasses and covering your head with a pillow to block out the noise and distractions. Seems like a pleasant dream now, doesn't it? What you wouldn't give to have someone closer than six feet that wasn't a family member (who has been stuck inside with you for nine days).

4. Meetings aren't so bad. Not sure I thought I'd ever write that, but it's true. There certainly are too many meetings, but there are those times that they serve a purpose. They help us to bounce ideas off one another, bond with our team members and get a handle on what the boss -- and the organization -- considers as key priorities. We plan, we huddle, we laugh and we gripe. What's not to love about meetings?

5. You are your own worst enemy. For a long time you've blamed your boss, your colleagues, customers and the guy who delivers Jimmy John's sandwiches as the reason you can't get anything done. They distract you, they constantly interrupt you and they hurt your productivity. But, wait....none of those people are around and you aren't as productive as you thought you'd be without them around. Granted, the dodgeball thing with the cat is a bit of a distraction, but you find yourself checking social media sites too much, playing games on your phone and trying to make the word's longest paper clip chain. Could it be that maybe you've got some bad habits that you ignore in favor of blaming others?

You're probably sick of hearing this right now, but these really are unprecedented times. I don't know for sure what's going to happen, but the thing I do know is that we have to find something positive in order to get through this. Whether it's beating the cat in dodgeball or finding ways to make work better for ourselves -- and others -- let's do it.

Monday, March 16, 2020

10 Steps to Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

There seems to be no lack of people touting their abilities online, whether it's starting a new business, leading a team or  levitating while drunk.

But there are also plenty of people who feel that no matter their success, they don't deserve it. They're frauds. One day everyone will find out and it will be the talk of Twitter and the New York Times and be entered into the Congressional Record.

It's called "impostor syndrome" and believe it or not, many successful men and women have it. It often starts when they receive a promotion or new job and continues every time they achieve something new. They become even more stressed as they achieve their dream, instead of enjoying what their hard work has brought them.

If you're feeling this way, the first thing to remember is that you're not alone. There are probably others in your career arena who are going through the same thing but are afraid to mention it to anyone else.

But I have interviewed several people over the years who have found ways to overcome impostor syndrome, and are much happier and satisfied in their professional and private lives.

Dr. Valerie Young, an international expert on impostor syndrome, offers these steps to overcome it:

  1. Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing. 
  2. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
  3. Recognize when you should feel fraudulent. If you’re one of the first or the few women or a minority in your field or work place, it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being an outsider. 
  4. Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel. The trick is to not obsess over everything being just so. Do a great job when it matters most, without persevering over routine tasks. Forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens. 
  5. Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for being human and blowing the big project, do what professional athletes do and glean the learning value from the mistake and move on. 
  6. Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help” start asserting your rights. Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance. 
  7. Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental tapes that starts playing in situations that trigger your Impostor feelings. When you start a new job or project instead of thinking for example, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “Everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.” 
  8. Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful presentation or calmly posing your question in class. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress. 
  9. Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking °© and then dismissing °© validation outside of yourself by learning to pat yourself on the back.
  10. Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” as proof of your ineptness, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. The point of the worn out phrase, fake it til you make it, still stands: Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behavior first and allow your confidence to build. 

Monday, March 9, 2020

3 Questions Every Manager Must Ask

Companies spend a lot of money -- more than $4,000 -- to bring on a new employee. Then, it costs more than $1,200 to train each new worker.

The Society for Human Resource Management says that about one quarter of new workers leave within their first year, which means that companies are doing a pretty fair job of hanging onto their investment in the early days.

But then time moves on, and the company may forget about that new hire. The head honchos rely on their line managers to keep employees moving in the right direction, and sometimes that works out great.

But then there are the times it does not. The company forgets that their greatest investment -- those employees -- aren't being managed well and eventually are going to leave. So all that time and money that has gone into recruitment, training, salary and benefits -- walks out the door and the company has to start all over again.

While some workers are going to leave no matter how great a manager may be, there are those who leave because they become frustrated or angry at the boss's management behavior. They believe the boss just doesn't "get it" and does nothing to help them achieve their performance goals. They believe the boss truly doesn't care about them, so why should they care about the boss or their job?

It becomes an endless cycle of blame that resolves itself when the employee walks out the door. But if the company truly wants to hang onto its most important investment, then it also needs to continually invest in managers. It needs to continually assess whether the manager is being supported in a way that he or she continues to grow and learn and become a better manager.

Managers need to understand that sometimes their processes or systems just don't make sense to the people who must follow them. They need to make adjustments so that employees don't become frustrated or so disengaged that they quit turning in quality work or leave for other jobs.

Here are some questions that managers should always be asking:

1. Am I causing bottlenecks? A manager might put in a new rule or system that works for one or two projects. But then circumstances change -- but but the rules never do. Now, the rules are causing problems because they aren't flexible enough to allow workers to do their jobs. This can be avoided by managers asking for feedback from workers. "What is keeping you from doing your job efficiently? What would you like to see being done differently?" While not all rules can be changed (especially if they're in place for legal or safety reasons), it's important that employees understand the "why" of the rule so that they don't see a manager as an obstacle to doing their jobs.

2. Am I setting priorities? Managers often attend meetings, meetings and more meetings. In between meetings, they write emails and issue assignments and then hurry off to another meeting. Employees are often left with conflicting assignments -- are they supposed to start Project D now or wait until Project B,C and A are done? Which one is the priority? Can deadlines be shifted? If one of the assignments is a priority, can the boss provide additional help? Bosses need to always be clear when making assignments to workers about the tasks that take priority and what ones can wait. Nothing becomes more frustrating for employees than to feel they're constantly behind or multitasking their way into a breakdown.

3. Am I making assumptions? Just because Maggie became flustered during a presentation to a client doesn't mean that she should never take the lead on a client presentation again. Or, just because Josh is good with data doesn't mean he can't work on a creative project. Only by asking employees to stretch and grow will they feel challenged and engaged -- and less likely to leave. While it's easier to put people into categories so you don't have to think twice when making assignments, such a strategy is short-sighted and likely to result in bored and frustrated workers.

Monday, March 2, 2020

How to Jell With Your Boss

It can be frustrating when you don't feel like you're on the same page as your boss.

The result is that you've had some unpleasant exchanges in emails, or she ignores you in meetings. Maybe you've even heard that she's criticized you to others.

Whatever the reason, it's not something that can be ignored. When you're not jelling with your boss, your career will pay the price. You will miss out on great projects, not receive performance bonuses or promotions and perhaps even risk being demoted or fired.

While you may feel that it's the boss's responsibility to connect with your more effectively, I can tell you that it's probably not going to happen. If you want to save your career, you're going to have to do it.

Here's how:

  • Research the boss. Often, you get on the wrong page with your boss because you don't really understand who she is and what makes her tick. Do a LinkedIn search, check out her online social media profiles and talk to other people who seem to click with her. You're not out to get private, personal details, just a better handle on her skills and how you can best connect with her. 
  • Speak up. Don't rely on emails or texts or Slack to communicate with the boss on such an important matter. Make an appointment to speak to her, face-to-face and in private. Tell her: "I'd like to make sure that I'm giving you what you need in the way you need it. I thought we could chat for 15 or 20 minutes to make sure we're on the same page." 
  • Be prepared. When you meet with the boss, you're not there to whine about how she's mean to you or you feel ignored. Ask her some specific questions: "Would you rather have communication from me weekly or daily? Would you prefer emails or in-person time? How often would you like to be updated on my projects? What are your priorities right now and what can I do to support them? Is there anything about what I do that you have questions about?"
Before the meeting ends, tell her you'll follow up in a couple of weeks to ensure you're meeting expectations or are happy to meet with her before that time if she has questions. Make clear that you're open to her feedback and want to be more supportive of her goals and that of the organization's.

By being proactive, you're more likely to ensure you and the boss are on the same page. You want to make sure that you're always doing work that the boss considers a priority and understands how it contributes to her success and that of the company's. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

Are Your Ethics Slipping at Work?

You may never have heard of Potter Stewart, but he was the guy who retired from the U.S. Supreme Court, leading to Sandra Day O'Connor becoming the first female on the court.

Potter died in 1985, but I came across a quote from him that I thought would be beneficial when writing about becoming a better leader in the workplace.

"Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do," Stewart said.

When we talk about leadership in the workplace, we think of someone like a manager who collects a bigger paycheck, gets an office and maybe extra perks like a personal parking space.

But to me, leadership resides with everyone in the workplace. From the newest employee to the most senior executive, leadership cannot be "someone else's job." That's because each worker must lead in doing what is right. If just one person doesn't, then everyone is affected.

Perhaps morale begins to suffer because people are treating one another uncivilly. Or, maybe people begin to look the other way when someone is being sexually harassed or bullied. In some of the worst cases, no one speaks up -- or even joins in -- when customers are being ripped off.

If you feel that your ethics have slipped, I don't think you're alone. People feel stressed and depressed and fed up with the constant divisiveness in this world and that may lead to "no one else cares so why should I."

But it can stop. You can make it stop. You can resolve that you're going to behave more ethically at work, that you're going to step up and be a leader. Here are some things to think about:

  • Make it clear that you care. If you see someone being mistreated, let it be known that it's not OK.
  • Be patient and calm. Yelling at someone who is behaving badly isn't going to solve anything. And it's not going to stop the behavior overnight. Simply state that it's wrong in a calm way and repeat the message every time you see it happening.
  • Be supportive. Don't abandon someone who is standing up for what is right or believe that your silence is showing your support. Speak up. Through your actions and your words, show support for ethical behavior.
  • Ask questions. Being accusatory or judgmental will not help you at work. If you see a problem, ask questions. "Why did you disagree so strongly with Rob and call him an idiot?" To be a leader, you must constantly be learning. Always get the facts before jumping to conclusions. Then, try to educate: "Rob seemed very upset after your comment. We need him to be focused on the project because he's so creative. This kind of interaction could really damage that. No one should be called names." 
  • Stay positive. Don't let yourself become cynical when confronted with the unethical behavior of others. Always do an internal assessment of what you believe to be important and recommit yourself to that behavior. Interact with others who also have a strong ethical compass so that you feel supported.
Finally, remember that if you want your workplace to be more ethical, then you need to consistently model that behavior every day. Before long, you may find that you are truly leading others to be better at their jobs -- and better to one another.

Monday, February 17, 2020

How to Stop Email From Running Your Life

Well, here's a depressing statistic: people on average spend more than five hours a day checking their email, according to an Adobe survey.

When you think of what you could get done in five hours a day if you weren't checking email -- well, it boggles the mind. You might get to leave work on time every day. You might not be forced to work nights or weekends just to catch up on your work. You might even be a nicer, happier person.

Of course, not all that email checking is for work reasons -- the survey finds that more than two hours (143 minutes) is spent checking personal emails. Some of you might not realize that the time you spend entering the HGTV dream house sweepstakes or responding your Mom's email about your high-school bestie getting divorced eats into your day -- but it does. It really does.

Everyone complains about email. We fume about the colleagues who send too many messages and CC's everyone, we whine about the boss who can't go more than 20 minutes without sending an email and we go crazy looking at an inbox with hundreds of unread messages.

But what if the problem is really closer to home? What if we don't take the advice to turn off our email alerts seriously, or we just have to open the Netflix email to learn about the documentary about flaming underpants that we cannot miss? 

Look at it this way: Could you turn off your email alerts for 30 minutes to work uninterrupted if it meant you could leave work earlier than usual? Could you slap "spam" on many of your personal emails and stop opening them? Or, could you set up a second email account that will only be for personal emails and stop checking them at work? Could you start picking up the phone and calling someone if you need to write more than a handful of sentences since that would be a more efficient give-and-take conversation?

You may not think any of these strategies will work for you or claim you've tried them before and they don't work. But try this: Track the number of times you open an email during a day. Be honest -- no trying to change your numbers by refusing to open the latest Fantasy Football email from a friend.

My guess is that you're going to be unpleasantly surprised by how your life is being overtaken by your bad email habits. You're also probably going to see how you're blaming the lion's share of your email overload on others, when it's really something much more under your control.

This isn't a difficult problem to solve. If you want hours of your life back, just use common sense. Decide what's more important -- spending time with your family or friends or checking out the cruise offer you can't afford. I think you'll probably figure out pretty quickly that it's worth it to exert more control over your inbox and get work done instead of letting your inbox run your life.