Monday, February 29, 2016

Why You're Not Getting Hired -- and How to Fix It

In the days leading up to the Oscars, many movie critics ran articles about "who should win" and "who will win," which is sort of an attempt to hedge their bets and say, "Who knows what Hollywood will do?"

That's sort of the same case with employers when it comes to hiring new workers. You can predict who should be hired, but that doesn't often jibe with who will be hired.

There are a lot of things that come into play, but fear is often a big motivator. Hiring managers are often big worry warts when it comes to making new hires and so they play it safe. They interview about 15,000 candidates before they find the one who has all the exact requirements for a job.

If the employer advertises for someone who hates broccoli, has two years experience running a roller rink and a degree from MIT in rocket science, then human resources is going to search until they find a perfect fit. Doesn't matter how long it takes or how much it costs -- they're going to search because they don't want to take the time to truly assess a candidate's fit for a job and the company.

Still, it's not just the perfect fit they're looking for -- they also want a job candidate who says all the right things in an interview. Again, it's not about what you can say -- it's about what you should say. Knowing the difference could make the difference between getting the job or finding yourself filling out more online applications for roller rinks.

So, let's consider a couple of interview questions:

1. What kind of people do you not get along with?
While you may be tempted to say "aggressive types," it's not a good idea since the hiring manager may be looking for people who take the initiative and so favors those who are aggressive. (Or the hiring manager may be proud of his "aggressive" personality.)
What you should say: "I can get impatient with people who don't give 100%. When you  slack off, you don't just affect your performance -- you hurt the team and the company. But I'm trying to learn to be more encouraging and help someone who gets stuck in a rut."

This shows you to be focused on the bottom line, team success and just being a good egg.

2.What have your bosses most criticized about your performance?
Tread carefully here. This is when you can recall all the unfair feedback you've received over the years, and before you know it you launched into a tirade about a**hole bosses -- and lost yourself the job. At the same time, no one is going to buy that everyone from your Nana to your current boss just loves every little 'ol thing you do.
What you should say: "In my most recent job review, my boss mentioned that I needed to be more collaborative -- but what it really came down to was that I'm not used to delegating on projects and didn't really know how to do it effectively. But my boss walked me through it, and since then I've been much more successful at it, and I've enjoyed working more with other team members."

Make sure this is true -- making up a story could come back to haunt you. But do focus on an issue that you've worked on and made improvements. Don't focus on personal attributes that may turn off a hiring manager, such as always procrastinatings or having a bad temper.

The key in any interview is to prepare in advance the questions that probably will be asked. You can count on being asked about strengths, weaknesses, career ambitions and your knowledge of the industry and the company. By thinking carefully about what employers want to hear, you'll improve your chances of getting the job that should be yours.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Digital Progress Critical to Employee Retention

If companies want to retain talent, they need to realize that being seen as technologically savvy is critical to workers.
Recent research, from MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, finds that "employees across all age groups want to work for businesses that are deeply committed to digital progress.” 
“Company leaders need to bear this in mind in order to attract and retain the best talent,” the report says.
But that doesn’t mean workers will follow a digital transformation without hesitation. Past failures show a landscape “littered with examples of companies focusing on technologies” without investing in changing mindsets and processes of building cultures that fostered change,” the report finds.
Companies may be surprised to discover that their workforce is ready and able to become more digitally savvy if given the opportunity and support from leadership. For example, the report found that 80% of respondents say they want to work for a digitally enabled company or digital leader – and that includes workers age 22 to 60. Many expressed dissatisfaction with their company’s digital efforts, and that dissatisfaction can lead to turnover.
David Krantz, CEO of YP, says that he believes people to be the most important part  (read more in the story here)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Yes, You Need to Dress Better at Work

In today's Wall Street Journal there is a story about how to dress for success.

This is a topic I've been writing about for years, but many people have decided they can ignore such advice because of Mark Zuckerberg.

After all, Zuckerberg is a bazillionaire and he dresses like a 17-year-old. The thinking is that if Zuckerberg can be a success dressed in a hoodie and jeans, then why can't everyone?

Because he's Mark Zuckerberg.

"Mark Zuckerberg is a creative enterprise," says Michael W. Kraus, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management. "People like that are playing around with their status symbols. For most of us, high status means suit and tie."

The story cites different studies, but it all comes down to this: dressing better can help your career. Not only do others see you as more powerful, but you see yourself as more powerful when you ditch the Captain America t-shirt and ripped jeans.

The problem for employees today is that workplaces have become more casual. Khakis, polo shirts, sneakers and a ratty backpack are standard attire for many employees. If you show up in a bespoke suit, you're going to stick out and feel uncomfortable.

Workplace wardrobe experts counsel you to just up it a notch in such an environment. Fitted jackets. Better shoes. A nice watch.

But what exactly does this mean? Many people are clothing challenged and stick with what they've worn since college. The experts may counsel you to consult a personal shopper in a department store, but many of those "personal shoppers" only exist in big department stores in bigger metro areas.

So, if you're out there on your own and just want to keep it as simple as possible, here are some things to consider:

1. A nice suit. Even if no one wears a suit at your workplace, this is a good investment for men and women. You can wear the jacket with more casual pants -- even jeans -- or wear the pants or skirt with a nice casual sweater. Just make sure you get the each piece fitted by a qualified tailor. Pants that are too long, a skirt that is too tight or a jacket that hangs on you will kill the professional image you're trying to create.

2. Good shoes. This often trips up many people (pardon the pun). They look great from the ankles up, but the shoes have seen better day. Remember that the shoes you wear for casual activities should not also be the shoes that you wear to work. So, if you wear your trainers to train in, then don't wear them to work. You can still wear a nice athletic shoe to work, as long as it's in really good shape and it's consistent with your company culture. Invest in a good pair of neutral-colored shoes for work and then make sure you don't wear them while hitting the bars or cleaning out the garage.
For women, the experts say that wearing heels can help establish authority -- stash a pair in your desk if you don't want to wear them all the time.

3. The small stuff matters. The experts also recommend that things like a nice purse or briefcase, a good watch or even great jewelry can help boost your outward image and make you feel more confident. Just remember that your Hello Kitty purse, your Darth Vader watch and your backpack emblazoned with travel patches don't qualify.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Project Puts Productivity Tips to the Test

There is a lot of advice these days about how to be more productive, such as getting up earlier to start your day, meditating, cutting out sweets and caffeine and dumping your smartphone.
But do any of these strategies really work?
Chris Bailey decided to find out. After graduating from college and receiving two full-time job offers, he instead opted to spend a year trying out various productivity advice to see what worked.
His conclusion: Much of the productivity advice out there is bunk.
“I interviewed a lot of so-called productivity gurus, but most really aren’t,” he says.
In his new book chronicling his project, Bailey says he found some of the most helpful advice came from successful executives.
“What I discovered is that these people are the most deliberate about what they do. Even on a moment-to-moment basis,” he says. “They don’t work faster or longer – they’re just really focused on what is important.”
He also discovered that many people confuse “busyness” – such an dealing with emails – with  productivity. “When busyness doesn’t lead you to accomplish anything, then that’s laziness,” he says.
So what other habits or strategies don’t lead to productivity? Among the experiments Bailey tried:
  • Working more, sleeping less. For every hour of sleep you give up, you lose at least two hours of productivity.
  • Giving up caffeine. When you drink caffeine habitually, your productivity eventually flatlines after your body adapts to how much caffeine you consume. But when you don’t give it up completely and drink it strategically, your productivity jumps because you benefit from bringing more energy and attention to the task.
  • Living in isolation for 10 days. Bailey says this is the experiment he learned from the most because he came to realize that “without people around me, my motivation to get work done plummeted.” Without social connections, research has shown workers are less happy, engaged and driven to accomplish more at work.
  • Working longer hours. While working 90-hour weeks, Bailey discovered that he accomplished “only a bit more” than when he worked 20-hour weeks. “When you work consistently long hours, or spend too much time on tasks, that’s usually not a sign that you have too much to do – it’s a sign that you’re not spending your energy and attention wisely.”
  • Starting work at 5:30 a.m. Bailey – a self-professed night owl – found that he was groggy the first two hours of his day and got tired of missing out on time with friends because he had to go to bed early. Research shows there is “absolutely no difference in socioeconomic standing between someone who is an early riser and someone who is a night owl – we are all wired differently, and one routine is not inherently better than another.”
On the other hand, Bailey found there were several productivity tips that were valuable:
  • Meditation“With the work we do today, it is beneficial to bring all the focus we can to it,” Bailey says. “And studies show that the more mindful a manager is, the better the team performs.”
  • Using a smartphone for only one hour a day. This was (read more here)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

3 Keys to Getting a Job When You're Overqualified

When you're out of work, it's tempting to apply for anything just to be able to get a job and pay your bills.

But when you apply for jobs where employers believe you are overqualified, you greatly diminish your chances of getting a call for an interview.

The reason is because the employer looks at your experience and job titles and says, "Whoa. I can't begin to pay this person what she was making in those other jobs. This person must be desperate, and will leave when a better job comes along."

Don't deny it -- you know that thought is in the back of your mind.

So, how can you improve your chances of getting a job when you need it the most?

First, be honest. They know and you know that you're taking a job that will pay you less or have less prestige or responsibilities. Try to address those concerns in your cover letter and say it's OK with you. You've figured that into your plans, and you still want to apply for the job.

Second, address the things that really make this job attractive to you. Perhaps it's working for a smaller company and you like the idea of working with a smaller team. Or, the company is doing some important work within the industry. Perhaps you heard the CEO speak at a conference and was really impressed.

Third, reach out to your network and see if someone can speak for your enthusiasm -- that you place greater emphasis on being able to contribute than you do a job title. If someone can provide a LinkedIn recommendation to this effect, that's even better.

Finally, it's really important you've given a lesser salary or job title some real consideration. If you know you're just lying to get what you want for now, it will be evident to an interviewer. But if you really think about how you may be able to learn new skills, work with great people and make a real contribution to a company's success, then that can lead to a more positive mindset and help you get a job.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What do Do If You Love Your Job But Hate Your Boss

When you love your job, but hate your boss, it can be tough. While you may look forward to doing your job every day, the thought of dealing with your boss is enough to make your morning latte curdle in your stomach.

It's often said that people don't leave jobs -- they leave bosses. That's certainly true when the the boss is an idiot, a jerk and a moron.

But what if you don't want to leave because you like the work, your colleagues -- even the customers? Can you stick it out?

Speaking from personal experience, it's not easy. If the boss is determined to make your life miserable, he or she will succeed to some degree. If the boss is just going through a rough patch (a divorce, for example), you might be able to stay in your job in the hopes things will get better (they often do).

First, know that you're not alone in your dilemma. Lots of people struggle with this issue.

Second, there are some things you can do to make a better evaluation of your situation and get a clearer idea of your options -- and help yourself feel better. You should:

  • Write down the pros and cons. Research has shown that writing things down helps you gain clarity. Write down the good, bad and just plain ugly parts of your job and the impact the boss has on all those issues.
  • Dissect the boss. OK, I do not mean this literally. But I do think you need to think about him or her objectively, such as assessing strengths and weaknesses. Are you learning anything from this boss? Does she give you new opportunities or at least get out of the way when necessary? Does he or she have the kinds of contacts that will be valuable for you to tap into? Is she known for helping team members get ahead?
  • Get some perspective. Don't fall into the trap of holding a gripe fest every night after work with other people who hate your boss. Try connecting with others who have worked with him or her in some capacity, such as someone from another department or even another company. Don't air your gripes, but find ways to get them to talk about their experience with the boss. It could be you'll gain some kind of insight that will help you better work with your boss, or help you understand some of his motives.
  • Be more observant. When you don't like your boss, every little thing he does gets on your last nerve. But instead of going ballistic when he sends you a curt email, try to observe his interactions with others. Does he seem to relax or communicate more freely with some people? Does he seem to warm up to others when they ask about his kids? Do they talk about sports, gardening or travel in a way that the boss seems to enjoy? These are clues that you can integrate some of these things into your conversations with the boss and possibly help your relationship improve. Remember, we're all more comfortable being around others who are like us, so the more you can make the boss comfortable with subjects he enjoys, the better it will be for you.
  • Improve your communications. I was once on a radio show and a caller phoned in to complain that his boss was a pain because she wouldn't communicate with him. I asked the caller: "How best does your boss like to communicate? Through email or in person? Is she an introvert or an extrovert?" The caller said he had no clue. If you also don't know, now is the time to figure it out. Often, the biggest friction in any workplace situation surrounds communication . If you don't know how your boss best likes to communicate, find out. Taking responsibility for better understanding the boss could really pay off in improved relations.
  • Follow the Golden Rule. I'm always surprised by how workers don't seem to think of the boss as a real person. They all go out for lunch -- and never invite her along. They ask "How was your weekend?" of co-workers -- but never ask the boss. They don't even say "Good morning" unless the boss speaks first. Sometimes you're so busy disliking your boss and being unfriendly or unkind to her that you end up making yourself more and more unhappy. Follow the Golden Rule and you might just find that you and your boss begin to get along.
Finally, if you've really made an effort to get along better with your boss but you're still miserable, it may be time to move on. Only you can judge whether a job is worth putting up with a bad boss. Just remember that when you're interviewing for new positions, don't make the mistake of working for the same kind of manager. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Gretchen Rubin: How to Make Teams Better Than Ever

If you want your team be happier and more productive, help them develop the individual habits that are right for them and you will reap the rewards of a better team.
Do you have team members that drive you crazy?
Perhaps one employee hates rules and fights any kind of oversight. Another worker seems to get upset when not given lots of deadlines and structure. In frustration, you decide everyone will just do as you say – with no whining. The result: unhappy teams who become less productive over time.
“It’s very difficult to understand how people might be different from ourselves,” says Gretchen Rubin, a bestselling author who writes about happiness. “If I’m a manager and I work a certain way, then it makes sense to me that things should be done that way. But it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to others who do not work that way.”
So while managers may want team members to adopt better work habits and drop others that are seen as less desirable, it’s not something that can be accomplished merely by issuing a memo or adopting new software.
“The fact is, no one-size-fits-all solution exists,” Rubin says.
In her book, “Better Than Before,” Rubin explains that before individuals can adopt new habits to improve their work performance, they must first understand how they respond to expectations. Once they do that, then workers can better understand how to embrace habits that will be most beneficial.
Rubin says that her research shows that people fall into these four groups:
1. Upholders. These people respond readily to both inner expectations (such as New Year’s resolutions) and outer expectations (such as meeting work deadlines). These types wake up each morning and think: “What’s on the schedule and the to-do list for today?” They avoid making mistakes or letting (read more here)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Why You Should Work for a "Bad" Boss

Everyone wants a "good" boss. This is the manager is who nice, let's you take off when you need and doesn't yell at you.

But a "good" boss doesn't always help your career. In fact, the boss that some would classify as "bad" because he or she is demanding, calls you out when you screw up and isn't always nice may be better for you in the long run.

First, let me state that no one should work with a boss who is abusive, either emotionally, mentally or physically.

But I do think that workers sometimes get so wrapped up in finding the nice boss they really make a mistake in working for him or her.

The best kind of bosses:

  • Challenge you. They aren't willing to let you just follow your job description. They expect you to reach for new goals.
  • Make you feel uncomfortable. They don't let you rest on your laurels -- they push you to learn new things constantly and push you outside of your comfort zone. They require you to make key decisions and then see them through.
  • Don't offer a lot of compliments. If you're getting  "good job!" every time you load new paper into the copier, then you're going to become blase about words of recognition. You want someone who has high standards and expects you to meet or exceed them before offering words of praise.
  • Hold you accountable. There's no fudging deadlines without a darn good reason, and if you screw up, you better have a good reason and a way to make it right.
  • Force you to delegate. If you want to rise in the ranks, you've got to focus on the right skills and experience -- and that means learning to delegate tasks that can be done by someone else.
No one wants to work for an a**hole boss, but there's a difference between that kind of jerk and bosses who challenge you, who sometimes frustrate you -- but are always there to help you to grow in your career.

Monday, February 1, 2016

5 Words That Limit Your Career Success

There's a lot of things that challenge me in life and in my work.

I cannot flip a pancake without making a mess. I get lost in new places -- even with a map. I find it difficult to focus on work when I know the St. Louis Cardinals are playing.

That's why it would be easy for me to say: I'm not a good cook. I panic in new places. I can't focus on work.

Those are pretty drastic statements when you think about it. With more practice, I can get better at flipping pancakes. I can find my way around a new place by asking for help or studying a map before heading out to a new place. I can set my DVR to watch the game later, after I've finished my work.

All easy solutions, right?

But I cannot count the number of times I've heard someone say, "I'm not good at that."

With those handful of words, you've just told your boss you're not willing to learn. You've let others know that even you believe you are incompetent, and not someone on whom they can depend.

Whether it's learning new technology, communicating better or volunteering for a difficult project, you cannot put limits on yourself.

Once you do, then you've told others it's OK to put limits on you, too.

So, eliminate "I'm not good at" statements from your life.  Instead, learn to say, "It's something I'd like to learn," or "I'm working on getting better at it."

You might be surprised at how easy it is to achieve new goals in your career once you see challenges as opportunities -- not signs of your ineptness.