Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How to Avoid Being a Job-Hunting Jerk

The working world seems much more casual these days, with technology executives wearing hoodies to meetings and employees drinking beer in the break room on Friday afternoons. But that casual atmosphere doesn’t necessarily translate to the job search process, and taking a too-casual approach can make you seem rude, unprofessional – and not worth hiring.
So, whether it’s learning how to shake hands properly or cleaning up your social media profile, it’s time to learn the correct job seeking tips and techniques. Here are some of the things you need to think about:

1. Clean up your social media profiles

Before you ever begin your job search, you need to take a long, hard look at what you’ve posted online, and what others have posted about you. Since one in three employers have rejected job candidates because of something they have read about them online, you must make sure your various profiles are scrubbed clean of anything that could be deemed controversial (passed-out-drunk photos from a frat party, for example).
Change as many settings as you can to Private and use sites like LinkedIn or Twitter (read more here)

Monday, July 16, 2018

10 Reasons Why Your Resume is a Fail

Sitting down to build a resume may be tougher than you initially think.
There’s a lot to consider: for example, have how many skills should you list on a resume? Which relevant experiences and professional and educational accomplishments should you put the most focus on? Figuring out all of this translates to having to manage a delicate balancing act, one that’s dictated by the employer’s specific needs, and the sometimes rigid specificities of an ATS. To improve your chances of your resume making an impression (and getting into human hands), you need to avoid some of the most common resume mistakes:

1. Resume lacks focus and doesn’t grab the reader

Employers screen resumes for as few as six seconds, so it’s important that you build a resume that shows the employer at a glance what you want to do and what you’re good at doing. To sharpen your resume’s focus, include a summary at the top, underneath your header. This draws the reader (read more here)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

3 Ways to Better Connect With Co-Workers

If you could spend 40 to 50 hours per week with a handful of (living) people, who would you pick?

Chances are you are going to say your significant other, best friend, some famous actor or actress and possibly even your favorite bartender.

It's unlikely you will choose to spend so many hours with people you don't know well -- and on the surface seem like people who are weird or boring or both.

But isn't that we all do every week at work? Spend a great portion of our time with people we don't know well -- and judge to be less than ideal?

In the workplace, you're asked to be on teams with people who have different backgrounds, ideas and skills. You may feel you have nothing in common with these people, and that can make your job more miserable than it needs to be. Or, it could be that you feel you're the "different" one and can't seem to connect with colleagues.

There's a lot of advantages to finding more ways to connect with your co-workers. You will be happier. They will be happier. Work will be less stressful. 

Let's look at some ways to make a friendlier connection at work:

1.  Eat together. Sitting down at a table and eating together is one of the most effective ways to get to know someone in a more relaxed atmosphere.  It's a chance for you to ask questions about non-work related matters, such as "What's your favorite food?" "What's the worst thing you've ever eaten?" "Are there any good restaurants I should try this weekend?" Ask colleagues to lunch or join them in the break room.

2.  Talk about pop culture. Whether it's music, movies, television or books, people often have "favorites." You can say something like, "I see you're reading the latest Stephen King. Is this one you would recommend?" Or, you can try, "I'm looking for something new to watch on Netflix. Does anyone have a recommendation?" 

3. Circulate. Don't sit down at your work station at 8 a.m. and only get up when it's time to go home. Move around periodically, stopping to compliment a great super hero poster in someone's cubicle or say, "I'm headed to Starbucks -- anyone want to tag along?" You don't want to interrupt people when they're obviously concentrating on a task, but make friendly overtures throughout the day and soon you will feel like you're among friends.

Monday, July 9, 2018

8 Ways to Avoid Job Scams

Sometime during your career, you may try working from home and take on independent gigs even if you have a stable job. The reasons may vary, such as wanting to earn some extra cash (hello, Bahamas vacation!) to "trying  out" a new skill such as writing or graphic design.

There seems to be no shortage of online jobs being offered that let you work at home in your jammies while your kitty purrs nearby. Sounds great, doesn't it?

But the problem (aside from the fact that you never get out of your pajamas) is that there are people out there who want to ruin everything for you. They will try to scam you with fake job offers, lure you into giving them money or even try to steal all your personal information.

Before you fall into any of these traps, here's what you need to know about work-from-home jobs:

1. Look them in the eye. If someone wants to interview you about a job, you need to communicate via phone or email. Communicating only via text or instant message should be a red flag that the offer is a scam.

2. The big rush. No legitimate job offer should include the stipulation that you must accept the offer right now or lose out. The bad guys want to prevent you from thinking about it too much, and that's never a good idea.

3. Super-secret jobs. This is the job offer that no one else knows about, but this person (or recruiting company) seems to know about it and offers it to you. Be very careful, especially when the job is portrayed as being with the government. These offers also may include names of official-sounding government agencies, such as the Office of Budget Advancement, which doesn't exist.

4. Do your homework. Look up the employer online, looking for an address and phone number. Then, do a map search to see if the company is legitimate -- or does the address match a fried-chicken place when it's supposed to be an accounting company? Check out the company's "career" or "join us" section: Are there jobs being posted that match your job description? Also, do a "news" search of the company to see if anyone else seems to know of it's existence.

5. Protect your personal information. When posting your resume online, only include your email address. You become an easier target for scammers when you post your address or phone number. Never give out information like your Social Security number, bank account information or driver's license number until you've been hired by a legitimate company.

6. Never give them money. You're in this job hunt to earn money, not give it to scammers. Don't fall for the idea that you need to pay an "application fee" or for "training materials."

7. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. I think I first heard this term when I was in second grade, and I've never found it to be false. If someone wants to pay you a lot of money for little work, then you need to move on.

8. Stay on your toes. Even if you are starting to get legitimate work, don't ever lull yourself into thinking a scam can't happen to you. I was a freelance journalist for more than 15 years when it happened to me, and it still makes me mad at myself when I think about it. I did some initial investigation, but I should have done more. Scammers are out there and working hard to destroy what you're trying to build. Don't let them.

Job scamming is an ongoing concern, so always keep abreast of the new scams and how they may be infecting different industries or sites. Do a regular search of "job scams" so you're up-to-date.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

This May be the Smartest Move for Any Wanna-Be Entrepreneur

Should you quit your day job to launch your new start-up?

Some experts will say "yes" because they believe it's the only way you can devote the time and attention to your new venture that it requires. Giving it a halfhearted effort, they say, means you won't be successful.

On the other hand, other experts (including your mom) say that it's dumb to quit a paying gig for one that might -- or might not -- pay off.

A study from the University of Wisconsin may help you make up your mind. The researchers found that the best path may be to become a "hybrid entrepreneur," which means you slowly enter the entrepreneurial world, rather than just ditching your day job and jumping fully into the new venture.

Successful entrepreneurs such as Steve Wozniak have proven such a strategy to be successful as he worked at Hewlett-Packard for quite a while after co-founding Apple.

Another finding is that these hybrid entrepreneurs were 33% more likely to survive than those start-ups where the founders jumped in with both feet and quit their jobs.

It's clear that if you're launching a new business, you're willing to take a risk. So, don't let others convince you that you'll never be successful if you aren't willing to take a greater risk, such as quitting your job. Becoming a hybrid entrepreneur is a great way to realize your dream -- and keep paying the rent.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Research Shows Why a Good Hair Day Can be So Important for Your Career

The temperatures are soaring in much of the country, and it's hard to have a "good" hair day when your're dripping sweat or the humidity is making you resemble a chia pet.

Having a terrible hair day can be distressing for many people, but it turns out it can also affect your ability to manage well or to get along with others at work.

According to studies by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, researchers say that when you believe you're attractive (having a good hair day), then you tend to believe that you're in a higher social class and believe that hierarchies make sense when it comes to the organization of people or groups. You believe that people who are lower in the hierarchy are there because they deserve to be, and also because they're less attractive.

This may have some real implications for the workplace. For example, a boss who believes he or she is attractive (probably having a good hair day) believes that those on the team who are further down in the organization are at that level not because they didn't get a chance, but because they simply aren't talented enough -- or didn't put in much effort.

Here's where it gets really interesting: When study participants were asked to just remember bad-hair days, they were more likely to see inequality as an issue. But when asked to recall a day when a good-looking date smiled in their direction, they were all about hierarchies.

There have been other studies that look at the effect that physical attractiveness has on the workplace, such as beautiful people doing better in their careers. Many workers may have felt helpless if they didn't fit the "norm" of conventional beauty standards.

But this research shows that workers may have more power than they believe. Next time you need to do well at work -- such as a big presentation -- think of a time when you felt attractive. That will help you boost yourself up the ladder mentally and that can help you interact with others by "reframing what you see as your place in the social hierarchy," says Margaret Neale, one of the researchers.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Study Gives Important Clue About How to Boost Collaboration

When you're a manager trying to get team members to work together better, you would be wise to look at the "status" of each worker before asking them to help one another.

A study by The Ohio University's Fisher College of Business finds that you're going to get the best results from team collaboration by asking those a "moderate" distance in status from one another to collaborate.

Why? Researchers say if Bob, for example, perceives Randall as near him in status, then Bob sees Randall as a threat. Bob worries that Randall could overtake him in status if he does well.

On the other hand, if Jean perceives Kate as someone below her in status, then she may worry that Kate will require a lot of time and effort from her. So, Jean may not want to devote all that time to Kate because it will hurt her own career.

The real key for managers seeking effective collaboration on a team may be putting together workers who don't see one another too close or too far in terms of status.

"You might want to avoid assigning the most recently hired employee to train the newcomer," he said. "If that relative newcomer is worried about his or her status in the organization, they may be less than helpful with this new person who could surpass them," says Robert Lount, a study co-author. "Someone who is moderately successful, but not the top performer on the team, might be the most willing to help."

Monday, June 25, 2018

Channeling Christmas in July is a Boon for Your Career

It's the middle of summer, and no one right now is really thinking about decorating a Christmas tree, the holiday office party or baking cookies for colleagues.

That's why it's a perfect time to do so.

I don't mean that you should drag out the tree and start hanging tinsel, but I do mean that it's a great time to put yourself in the holiday frame of mind. The reason? You'll impress the heck out of your boss, endear yourself to colleagues and score major points with your network. All major accomplishments that will pay off for a long time.

When you channel the holidays in June or July, it means that you buy cards and write a nice note to your boss: "I just wanted to take the time to let you know how much I appreciate the support you've given me this year. I'm looking forward to all the adventures to come!" Or, you give your colleagues each a gift card to their favorite coffee shop with a smile and say, "I just thought you might enjoy this." To your network, you phone or send an email, telling them you appreciate them, catching them up on your latest news and then asking: "What can I do to help you?"

Face it: The end of the year is crazy. Writing thoughtful notes and taking time to reach out to everyone is often just one more thing to cross off your "to-do" list. Instead of those tasks becoming a joyful thing that allows you to reconnect to people, it's become another drag on your time.

This summer, take some time to really give to others. It will not only pay off for you professionally, but personally.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

3 Ways to Get Others to Listen to You When They're Distracted

I think we can all agree that there are a lot of distractions in our lives. But what you may not realize is that those distractions are hurting your career.

The biggest problem is that when others are distracted, they're not listening to you. If they're not listening to you, then it's going to affect your ability to get your job done, to impress the people you need to impress and to ensure they don't drop the ball and get you into trouble.

Here are some ways to make sure others listen to you:
1. Pick the right time. Don't try and talk to someone who is rushing for the elevator, has just had a difficult meeting or is eating lunch and watching cat videos. If you're not sure, just ask.
2. Be specific. "Hi Dan. I need five minutes of your time to discuss why the new deadline for the project won't work, and give you three other options. Can we talk now or is it better in about an hour?" Chances are good he'll pick to talk to you now since he knows you've got some solutions and won't take more than five minutes.
3. Get attention. Yes, it does feel disrespectful when the other person keeps glancing at his or her computer screen or phone when you're trying to talk. So, pause and say "Is this not a good time for you? I just wanted to talk about this because the customer is so upset and I'm concerned it may cause a problem with...." If the other person still isn't listening, say, "OK, I can see this isn't a good time. I'm going to come back in 30 minutes when you're free to talk." You've sent up a warning flare -- but let the person know you're going to keep at this until he listens to you. The odds are in your favor that he's going to give you the attention you need.

Monday, June 18, 2018

One Thing You Must Do With Any Resume

Fashion experts often advise that any outfit will look much better if you have it tailored – and that advice holds true for resumes as well.
When you build a resume, know that a tailored one is going to be one that “fits” the needs of a particular employer. Tailoring your resume makes you look much more desirable as a job candidate. Also: tailoring a resume to each and every job you apply to is an absolute must. Unsure of how to tailor a resume for a specific job? Look at the specific requirements of the job ad and try to address those points directly. Also—mimic the language used in the job ad when writing your resume. Continue reading for additional must-know info on this topic.
When considering how to tailor a resume for a specific job, toss out the rehash of job duties and responsibilities that might be profiled in your existing resume. Try to think in more detail. For example, if you worked in human resources, did you work on specific software? Did you work with various departments to plot their hiring strategy, and then craft job descriptions? Listing nothing but your duties and responsibilities does nothing for your resume, nor does it do anything for the recruiter or hiring manager who will read it (besides bore them). You must prove that you delivered results in previous or current roles (more on this soon).
Before we go much further, know this — you likely won’t have to write a new resume from scratch for each employer. A lot of your resume will remain the same — most likely, your resume heading (which contains your contact information); your education section; and past employers and dates worked for past employers.
The key to how to tailor a resume for a specific job is starting with a solid, well-written,

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Why Collaborating Can Be a Pain -- and What to Do About It

Many of us are being asked to work more collaboratively. That can mean a variety of things, from working with those in other departments or outside partners to the of "play nice and share your toys" kind of thing within your own department.

But does collaboration have a downside? If you look at your inbox right now, you may say, "YES!" Your inbox may be groaning under the load of emails from collaborating partners. In addition, you're being pulled into more and more meetings as a result of collaborative efforts. It's no wonder that 85% of most knowledge workers and leaders are bogged down in email, meetings and phone calls.

So, when, exactly, are you supposed to get your work done?: Sure, collaboration can be great, but it can also be a giant pain.

How can you collaborate more effectively without writing emails at 3 a.m. or sitting in meetings for seven hours a day? Here's some ideas:

  • Be stingy. Collaboration is all about sharing, but you need to guard your time more carefully. For example, if someone wants to talk to you, appoint a specific block of time -- no more than 30 minutes. If you can't get things resolved in that amount of time, the agenda is too broad or unfocused. 
  • Stop emailing. Make it a rule that if you've exchanged more three emails with someone about a certain subject, you stop emailing and get on the phone with that person. It will be much faster and more efficient if you can talk through questions or concerns, rather than just continually kicking the can down the road with endless emails.
  • Be unhelpful. This may sound bad, but it's really a way to stay more focused. Instead of jumping in to help -- without even being asked -- think about whether you're meeting your own goals and objectives. If you've got extra time, it can be rewarding to volunteer to help others. But stay focused on your primary objectives -- post them on your cubicle wall if necessary.
  • Go to a local bar. No, the alcohol won't help you be more efficient. It's really about taking some time to get to know the people you collaborate with, whether that's at a local pub, coffee shop or diner. The more you get to know your collaborating partners, the more efficient you will be at communicating with them and better understand their goals. Without that knowledge, you waste time and effort in trying to get a handle on the other person.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Why Workaholism Isn't OK -- and What You Should Do About It

With the high profile suicides of chef and world traveler Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade, many people are reassessing their lives and looking around them to gauge whether someone is struggling and needs help.

One area that needs consideration is the person who becomes addicted to work. While we all may at times may laughingly call ourselves a workaholic, it is a real addiction that needs treatment.

Psychologists say part of the problem with getting help for workaholics is that workaholism is often seen as a positive trait in society, even though it can be hurtful to the person suffering from it and those around him or her. You may brush off the concern about a colleague who works a lot, believing that this person just loves his or her job a lot. Or, you may think all those hours of working is just this person's way of climbing the corporate ladder.

However, workaholism is an addiction and needs treatment or it will wreak havoc on that person and those around him or her.

Experts say that there are several signs to spot a workaholic:

  • They go it alone. Workaholics need to control every situation and often are not good communicators. They don't embrace teamwork.
  • They know best. Even if other options seem  viable, it's their way or no way.
  • They're stressed. Workaholics are often irritable, seem resentment and are impatient. This stress is a often a result of the demands the person places on himself or herself. 

"Workaholics are out of balance," says Bryan E. Robinson, author of Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them. "They don't have many friends. They don't take care of themselves. They don't have any hobbies outside of the office. A hard worker will be at his desk, thinking about the ski slopes. A workaholic will be on the ski slopes thinking about his desk."

While we all may be saddened to learn that famous people have suffered from addiction problems or depression, let's not forget that it's the person in the cubicle next to us who also needs our concern. Check our Workaholics Anonymous for more information.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How to Write an Executive Resume

As an executive, you may believe that your experience and reputation precede you when throwing your hat into the ring for a potential new job. While that’s true to some extent, you still cannot avoid putting together an executive resume – and that resume is a key element in your successful quest for the position.
Of course, an executive resume is often different than one where someone is applying for an entry-level job or a mid-level position. Executives, for example, have reached a level in their careers where they are able to show their distinct value to a company or industry, and potential employers want to know more about it.
In addition, companies expect those at the executive level to provide some concrete ideas about how they will use their talents to make the company more successful or competitive – or even solve some specific problems.
“Hiring managers have short attention spans and do not want to be overwhelmed with everything a candidate can do. As a recruiter or hiring manager reads your resume, they want to know, ‘Can you do what I need done?'” writes Lisa Rangel of Chameleon Resume.
With that in mind, here are some ways to make sure your executive resume stands out:

1. Use numbers

If you increased sales by 35 percent in the first two years of leading a division, say so. An executive resume is going to be read by other executives – they’re going to be looking for someone who can state (read more here)

Monday, June 4, 2018

6 Ways Leaders Can Let Go of Stress and Be More Resilient

I recently was speaking with a successful executive who was nearing retirement, and looking forward to traveling and some consulting work. I asked him a common question: "What would you tell your younger self about your career if you could?'

He immediately answered: "To not worry about everything. It doesn't change anything, and just makes you -- and everyone around you -- miserable."

I thought about that comment as I read "Work Without Stress: Building a Resilient Mindset for Lasting Success" by Derek Roger and Nick Petrie.

Roger, a psychologist, and Petrie, a senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership, say that there are ways that leaders can learn to keep things in perspective and let go of those negative emotions that turn a drive for success into a drive into stress.

They suggest leaders need to know how to:

1. Set high standards without a fear of failure. This is called having a "high intent and low attachment." With this method, you "acknowledge that there are many factors that impinge on your work that you can't control, which will enable you to pursue your intent without being held hostage by your attachment to the end result," they write.

2.  Find the humor. It's not a crisis when the PowerPoint is out of order, or you forget to deliver feedback one day. When you or your team starts to lose perspective about the work, find ways to laugh or see the humor in the situation.

3. Keep it in perspective. When you or a member of your team is having a difficult time, think about the bigger picture. Does an unhappy customer yelling at you really compare with the time your Dad was really ill and you didn't know if he would make it? The point is not to dwell on life's most difficult moments, but to remember that for most of us, we aren't dealing in life and death situations every day at work.

4. Ask questions. Instead of getting stuck in the negative emotions that go along with questions such as "Why me?" or "Why can't I be more successful?" try thinking about what's funny about it or what's great about it. Or, what opportunity does it present? For example, if you get through the challenge, you will be only stronger. Or, there may be new adventures if you just seize the day and act on something.

5. Realize it's not always your problem. This can also be known as "borrowing trouble," which means that someone's problem isn't always yours to solve, but you take it on anyway. The best leaders "listen with full attention, enabling the person to express fully how upset he or she feels," the authors write. "Then they ask smart questions to help guide the best actions to follow, but when the person leaves the room, any emotions they are still holding leave as well."

6.  Deal with emotions efficiently. Using the"situation, behavior and impact" (SBI) method, you describe the specifics of a situation, say what the person said or did and then say how you felt as a result. "This method works well because it avoids trying to second-guess what the other person's intentions were and coming to conclusions that may be informed more by emotional attachment that rational problem solving (such as thinking it was an attempt to undermine you)," Roger and Petrie say.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

This is How New Employees Can Help Your Career

It's pretty annoying when a new colleague -- who has been on the job for only a week or so -- challenges the way things are being done.

"This doesn't seem efficient," she says. "Why don't we do it another way?"

Or, she might say something like, "Wow, this seems like a total waste of time. Why do we even do this?"

Your first inclination might be to say, "Because!" or "Because we've always done it this way!" Both answers won't be very satisfying to the new colleague, and rightly so.

Before you snap back at the new co-worker, give the idea some consideration. Do you really, really, really know why you do something a certain way? Or, is the answer you provide the one that was given to you by someone else -- and you just blindly accepted it?

The great thing about new colleagues is that they see processes and products and systems in a new way. They aren't being influenced by other team members or even higher-ups. They simply are responding to something that doesn't make sense to them.

Listen to them. Put your annoyance aside. Ask the co-worker why it doesn't make sense to her and how she would do it differently. She may not know or may get flustered to be asked, like she's being tested. Tell her you're really interested in looking at things in a new way, which will encourage her to start brainstorming.

Of course, her idea may not work, and she may come to realize that the "way it's always been done" makes the most sense. But, you may jar your own thinking in the process and think about new ways other tasks can be done or products developed.

That, my friends, is very beneficial to your career. Companies are having to change and adapt faster than ever before, and those that figure out ways to do things better or smarter or come up with innovative ideas will be the ones that rise in the ranks (and get promotions and bigger pay boosts).

So, the next time someone questions "Why?" accept it as a gift and think "Why, indeed?"

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

How to Say "No" to a New Position? Very Carefully

Is it ever OK to turn down your boss when he or she offers you a new position?

I was in this situation once. I had been hired to run a medical magazine, but within the week my new boss took me out to lunch.

"I have a proposition for you. We've decided to start a new magazine on the workplace, and we want you to run it," he said, smiling.

"Uh," I faltered.

"It will be great," he said. "You have a business writing background. It would be perfect for you."

The business writing background he referred to had to do with covering tax reform on Capitol Hill. I hated that job. I thought I would die of boredom. It was the reason why I jumped at the chance to run a medical magazine. I liked health issues, and figured covering them could never be as dull as listening to Congress debate tax shelters.

"Uh," I said again. "I really want this medical magazine job. I mean, it really interests me. I'd like to give it a chance."

He frowned. "Well, think about it," he said. "We (meaning the top brass) really think it would be a good fit."

A few days later, he approached me again. "I think I should give you a bit more information about this job," he said, presenting me with research on the issue and the vision for the new magazine.

I felt pressured, and by the end of the week, I had accepted the job.

Was it the right move?

Yes. I've loved covering workplace issues, and learn something new every day.

But I also know that I felt I had to accept the job or risk getting on the bad side of this new boss. (I got on his bad side plenty of times after that, but that's another story.)

So, should someone always take the new position the boss offers,  no matter what?

I do think it's a tricky situation. Turning down the boss can lead to you being subtly "punished" when you're not considered for future promotions or other attractive assignments. The boss may see you as not being a team player, or not having enough ambition to be successful in the company.

On the other hand, the new position may hold no attraction for you. You may be very happy in the job you currently hold, and feel it's a great fit for you and your life. The offer may also come with responsibilities and tasks that you don't like.

If you are going to turn down the role, then do it with great care. Make sure you ask lots of questions so the boss feels like you've given it fair consideration. Make a list of all the things you like about your current job such as having lots of creative freedom (and not the fact that it lets you work from home more) and that it is setting you on the career development path that is right for you. Talk to the boss about how you see your current job developing, and future plans you have to contribute in your position.

By showing the boss that you're a key asset in your current job, you will lessen the sting of turning down the new position. You want to prove that you're not just coasting in your job, but are intent on playing a dynamic role in the company's success. That will help him see you as a team player and not someone who should be ignored when other opportunities come along.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

How to Stop Your Job from Ruining Your Vacation

It's that time of year when many people are gearing up to take some time off. If you're like most people, you will still check your email (this is why smartphones were invented, right?) and may even call into the office.

You tell yourself you're doing this because it's easier to keep up with some work while you're away and then not face an avalanche of emails when you return. You may also tell yourself that it's less stressful to be connected, because that way you can head off any disasters that may happen while you're on vacation.

I get it. I've done the same thing. But I do think you have to have a stern talk with yourself before you go on vacation. You have to be clear about when you will connect with work, and for how long. You also need to be clear with family or friends about your connections, to cut down on the amount of fights/whining/disappointment that can happen when you ruin everyone's vacation with your constant working.

Also, keep in mind that research shows your down time will make you better at your job because it will recharge your creative juices and improve productivity. If you're always connected, then you're actually hurting your career -- and your health. It's also really sad. I once watched a man miss his son learning to swim because he was glued to his smartphone doing work ("Just a minute. Daddy needs to finish this email to his work!" he called to the young boy. The boy, in the meantime, took off swimming for the first time while his brother and mother yelled encouragement.)

I'm going to give you a few things to think about before you go on vacation, so that you truly spend some time relaxing. You need to:

1.  Provide some early warning. Let your colleagues and clients know that you're taking time off. Send a "for your calendar" email, letting them know that you're going on vacation. Even if you feel like you've told them 10 times, still send a written notice.

2. Prepare your backup. It's not enough to just expect a colleague to pick up your work or assume he or she will be able to locate any important files if necessary. Talk to the colleague weeks before, and start making a "while I'm gone" list. You can't possibly think of everything that needs to be covered on the day before you leave on vacation. The colleague may act like covering for you is no big deal, but he or she will consider it a very big deal when important information can't be located. That's when you start getting panicked calls on vacation, and that's no fun for anyone.

3. Set a schedule. I've received plenty of email messages that not only tell me the contact information for who is covering for the person, but also when the person will check email. (Saying "I will have limited access to email" is a joke -- we all know you have your smartphone by the pool and are checking email all the time.) But if you say, "I will check email every day at 4 p.m.," then that sounds a little more definitive and I really won't expect a response before then.

Also, let me say that your out-of-office messages can make a real difference. Some vague message like "I'll be gone until June 15" isn't really helpful and unless you tell me who is covering for you, the phone number and email of the person. Then, don't be afraid to let your email be a bit more. Here are some examples:

"Hate to break it to you, but I’m actually on vacation until mm/dd and will not be checking emails. I’m sure you probably don’t want to hear this since you’re working yourself, so here’s a cat video to cheer you up. I’ll be back from my trip on [DAY]. Enjoy your week!" (Leaving a cat video is an individual choice -- consider your organization's culture).

"Thank you for your email. I am currently out of the office and will not return until January 15. If this is an urgent matter, please contact Jane Jones at [email and phone number]. Otherwise I will respond to your email as soon as possible after my return."

Or, if you want to intercept people on social media and keep them from ruining your time away, try this one that was used on Twitter: "I'm not in the office right now but if it's important, tweet me using #YOUAREINTERRUPTINGMYVACATION" 

The point of all this preparation is so that you truly get the benefits of what a vacation can provide you: a recharge that will reconnect you with family and friends and new experiences. Only you can prevent your job from ruining this important time. Now, pack those sandals and go have fun.

Monday, May 21, 2018

This is the Problem With Workplace Friendships

I'm sure you've experienced this in your career: There are people you become friends with on the job, and feel so grateful to have found such relationships. Then, there are the people you work with who you wish would get a job on Mars.

Having friends at work can be a blast. The days go faster, are more fun and it seems so reassuring to know that someone always has your back. Many organizations even encourage people to become friends at work and ask employees to recruit their friends to join the team.

But new research finds that too much friendship at work can lead to "destruction," explains Nancy Rothbard, a Wharton management professor.

"It can lead to needing to engage with other people in a way that can be emotionally taxing to you, if it’s too deep. Sometimes you get caught up in some of the dynamics and it can be really distracting," she says.

Often, we have to make tough decisions at work, such as who is going to included in a project, how resources are allocated or even who gets a new desk chair and who does not. When you're emotionally close to someone -- as you are in a friendship -- it may influence your decisions simply because you don't want to tick off your friend.

So, while it may be fun to work with "friends," there can be an organizational downside when those relationships affect the way business decisions are made.

Further, workplace relationships can be affected by social media. The researchers explain that Facebook or Instagram can give you more insight into a person's personal life, such as when they post vacation photos. When you're back at the office working hard and your friend/colleague is drinking a mai tai on a beach somewhere, you may be a bit resentful -- especially when you really needed that colleague and she wasn't available. Or, you feel left out when a group of colleagues post photos of a fun after-work activity -- and you weren't included. It can be high-school cliques all over again.

Still, social media can help provide insight into a colleague -- and improve your relationship because you have a greater understanding of him or her, researchers say.

The biggest thing that surprised the researchers is how little data is being collected on workplace friendships, and the affect they have on employees. Since we spend so much time at work, and our organizations encourage close working relationships with colleagues, it's important to take a step back and think about how to better manage such friendships to ensure they're positive for employees and the business.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

How to Take a Job Out for Test Drive

One time the transmission fell out of my car (this is bad, very bad), so I was forced to rent a car to get to and from work. I decided to rent a car that I had been considering for some time, with the idea that getting to test drive it for a while would help me make a decision.

It certainly did just that. After one day of driving that car, I didn't like it much. After a week of driving that rental car, I hated it. The leg room was nil. The controls belonged on a space shuttle. A tractor had better steering.

I was a bit disappointed that the car I had been dreaming about turned out to be a nightmare. At the same time, I was very glad that I had a chance to test drive it and see that it really wasn't a good fit.

Wouldn't it be great if we could do that with jobs? After one week, the supervisor says: "So, how do you like it?"

"Not so much," you say. "Think I'll move on."

"Okey dokey," says the supervisor.

Of course, sometimes people do quit after one week, but that's not always such a smart plan and can really look bad on a resume. Zappos does offer employees $2,000 to quit during training if the worker finds he or she isn't happy. The company figures it's better to cut their losses and find someone who wants to stay put.

But most of the time, we tell ourselves "It will get better" when we don't like a job. Or, "I need this job to pay off my student loans. I can survive."

Still, if you don't like your job or career path, there are steps you can take to find out where you might be happier. You can:

  • Do your homework. I have to admit that before I rented that car, I had done no research on it. I just saw it and thought, "Oh, that looks like a cool car. I think I want to get that." But if I had asked other owners and read reviews online, I would have heard some honest opinions about it. Now is the time to stop looking at the shiny exterior of a job or new career and start finding people to ask about it. Ask your connections on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or even industry forums what they like and don't like about their jobs. Then, keep drilling and ask for more information whenever you can.
  • Attend job fairs and industry events. You may sell yourself on a getting a new job or branching out into a new industry, until you attend a job fair and realize that the jobs are being mostly turned over to robots or the pay sucks. Industry conferences are a good way to hear about ongoing problems and challenges, and to listen to other attendees talk about the good and bad things happening in the field.
  • Get behind the wheel. I remember when blogging first came on the scene. Everyone thought they should start a blog, but after a few months, they found they couldn't find something to write about on a regular basis. They thought they liked writing until they realized they had to do it -- then they began to hate it. After a year or so, many of these blogs were abandoned. Try using some vacation or weekend time to try coding for eight hours a day. Or try selling some of your artwork through Etsy on a regular basis before quitting your current job. Whatever it is that appeals to you, try doing it on a regular basis and see how it feels after a while. You might like it, or you might be willing to abandon it by the side of the road.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Research: What Drives Superstars to Quit

There's an old saying: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." 

But new research suggests that for some top performers, when the going gets tough -- they quit.

Wharton professors Maurice Schweitzer and Katherine Milkman find that it's usually a good thing to set high expectations, because you generally rise to meet them. But, they also discovered that if you're tapped to be a favorite to win in a competition -- and you run into some difficulty -- you're more likely to quit.

"I think that there are broad managerial implications of this. We have to be very careful when we have high performers with high expectations. When they encounter setbacks, as managers we have to be very mindful of how threatening that might be to self-image. We found a pretty substantial effect where this would drive people to quit when they might actually benefit should they persist," Schweitzer says.

At the root of this quitting is embarrassment. It's not fun to be thought of as a high performer and then fear that you're going to miss your sales quota or not come up with the next big thing. So, when great employees run into trouble, they may need more support from managers.

"The point is that it’s challenging to have the pressure of the world on your shoulders in ways that we haven’t previously appreciated," Milkman says. "When everyone is looking to you to always be a star, there’s something that comes with that that’s not so great."

To avoid such problems, a company can be more supportive of failure. In other words, it's not the end of the world if a project doesn't work out, and it can be just as valuable for a top performer to make the call that a project needs to be abandoned and not waste any more time or resources. If these top performers feel like they're about to face humiliation, they may simply leave their department or company, citing the need for a fresh start or more time with their families.

The truth, however, is that they don't want to deal with the embarrassment that comes from possibly missing their goal. That's why it's important that leaders stop thinking that top performers don't need the same kind of coaching and support as other workers and instead help superstars become more resilient.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

This is How You Ace a Phone Interview

For many job seekers, the first interaction they have with an employer is over the phone. But for some, it may be the first and the last contact if they’re not prepared to follow proper phone interview etiquette.
There are several phone interview etiquette issues you need to think about when preparing for a call from an employer. Also—there are several you need to be prepared for when you’re notexpecting a call from an employer.
What will you do if the employer calls while you have a mouth full of food in a noisy restaurant? What if you’re at your current job and you have nosy cubicle mates who will eavesdrop? What if you can’t recall anything about the job for which you applied? And what if you’re not in-the-know on answers to some of the most common interview questions that could come your way in an interview?
With a little preparation, you can ensure (read more here)

Monday, May 7, 2018

You Didn't Get an Internship -- Now What?

Many people have now learned the value of getting an internship. An internship can open doors for a permanent job, it can teach you a variety of skills and it can help you make key contacts. It can even help you learn that this chosen field is a big mistake, and you need to explore other options.

Still, getting an internship can be tough. There's a lot of competition for good internships, and some companies dilly-dally around so long they never getting around to making an offer.

So what happens if you don't get an internship offer?

Well, part of you may be a bit happy. You figure that you can spend your time playing Fortnite or traveling around the country, sleeping on the couches of various friends and relatives.

But another part of you is a bit concerned. Lots of other people got internships, but not you. It may have been something you did or didn't do, but at this point, that doesn't matter. What matters is how you're going to handle the lack of an internship and make sure you don't fall behind because of it.

Here's the key: You need to be able to answer "So, you didn't have an internship. What did you do?" from a job interviewer. If you respond "I played Fortnite for 18 hours a day" or "I couch surfed and bummed food off my friends," then that's not going to be very impressive.

You need to be able to show you did something that helped you to grow or learn. So here are some options:

  • Take classes. If you can't afford college summer school, then try to get into something else. See if your local community center or library offers classes related to your interests, whether it's starting a small business, growing local produce or learning how to code. 
  • Volunteer. Here's the reality: No volunteer organization turns down volunteers. Again, try to link it to your career interests, whether it's in a local hospital, a recycling center or helping to organize a community event. Many professors are looking for people to help out during the summer months, whether it's organizing data or working in a lab. Ask. They will certainly be open to volunteers.
  • Be innovative. Can you design an app? Can you figure out a better system to track local donations at the food bank? Can you set up a volunteer crew to collect sports equipment for underprivileged children? The key is that you use your own brain power to come up with something new or better. 
  • Get a job. There's no profession out there -- whether it's rocket scientist or elementary school teacher -- that doesn't appreciate the person who's put in time dishing up ice cream or running a lawn mower. I know many people who didn't have the stellar grades or dozens of extracurricular activities who still landed great jobs from employers who were glad to have someone who simply knew how to work with other people.
If you don't get an internship, it's not the end of the world. The key is using the time to gain many of the same skills you would get with an internship. So, look for things that show you can be a team player, can think creatively, are willing to take the initiative and aren't afraid to work hard. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Did Your Forget to Say This?

Most job seekers know to send a follow-up thank-you note to the job interviewer. But once they get the job, such appreciation seems to go out the window. Without meaning to do so, some people end up offending or alienating others with their lack of follow-up. Just one appreciative email or simple "thank you" over the phone or in person can enhance any relationship, and lead to a more successful career. After all, careers are built on relationships. If you start to blow them with bad manners, expect your network of people willing to help you shrink.

Here are some times you should remember to say "thanks!":

1. When you get offered the job. Sure, you may say "thank you" when you get offered the job, but follow it up with an email or letter. "I just wanted to again state my appreciation for this opportunity. I look forward to starting!" can really start things off on the right foot. The employer will probably feel all warm and fuzzy. That's a good thing, right?

2.  To acknowledge your references. Once you get the job, don't drop your references like a hot potato. Call or send a note saying that you got the job, and you really appreciate them willing to step up and provide a reference. This assures they will be willing to do it again and not tell others that you're an unappreciative jerk.

3. To the employer you reject. If you're lucky enough to be considering more than one offer, make sure you follow up with any organization that also offered you a job. "Thanks so much for the offer, and the time and resources you invested in me as a job candidate. But I've found a job that's a better fit for me." You may very well run across the people you met in this organization again -- or even want to apply there in the future. Make sure they feel you're professional and appreciative.

4. To those you meet from Day 1. From the parking lot guy who helps you figure out where to park to the receptionist to the human resources director -- thank them all for helping you. Just as when you were a job candidate, you will be under scrutiny by everyone from the minute you step on company property. It's important that you set the tone as someone who wants to build relationships and respect others -- the simplest way to do that is by saying "thanks" to those who help you.

5. To those who believed in you. Finally, don't forget to thank your family and friends who put up with you during your job search. (Yes, as times you were a real a**hole). They supported you during this journey, and they deserve some credit.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Research Reveals the Difference Between Good -- and Great -- Jobs

Gallup has a new report out today of 140 countries, and it's full of interesting information about how and why we work.

Here are some highlights:

  • The world's workers want good jobs, but they are tough to find. The U.S. has the highest percentage (13%) where full-time adult employees report they are engaged because of what Gallup calls "great" jobs. The average globally in "good" jobs is 28%, or about 1.4 billion adults. Gallup explains that great jobs are critical because they lead to better productivity, safety, retention and well-being. 
  •  Small- and medium-sized companies matter a lot. In more economically developed countries, these employers account for most of the good jobs available. Less developed countries have a few of them and also few large employers. This leads to a "subsistence" living for people that "do little to raise per-person productivity," Gallup reports.
  • Creating good jobs isn't enough. Countries cannot stop at creating good jobs and think people will thrive, the report says. These countries also need "to create great jobs that allow individuals to make the most of their time and talents."
  • Working women engagement varies. In North America, women are more likely to have great jobs. But worldwide, women are less likely that men to have good jobs. A high percentage of women work in manufacturing and production jobs that men, which reports lower engagement levels.
Such data should be a wake-up call for employers who are working to develop a global footprint around the world. Not only do they need to create a culture than engages workers at home, but they need to make sure that this same focus on engagement reaches workers who might be in Asia or Africa.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Is Mindfulness the Real Secret to Career Success?

If there's one trend that has continued to grow in popularity in the business world it's mindfulness.

I've written on the subject many times, and interviewed many experts, including Deepak Chopra. CEOs and entrepreneurs swear that mindfulness -- living in the moment -- is doing wonders for their careers. They report they are less stressed, are able to make better decisions and are more open to new ideas because they exist in a non-judgmental state.

These leaders are encouraging rank-and-file employees to adopt the practice, and I've heard from many such workers that they are trying to do just that. (Some say they love it, others think it's a waste of time).

Whatever your personal opinion of mindfulness, it's not going away. Studies are showing the impact mindfulness has on our brains and on our decision-making. Companies such as SAP and Aetna are training thousands of employees in mindfulness practices, and even open meetings with short meditations.

If you've never given meditation a try -- or halfheartedly tried and failed --  the Mindful folks have some words of advice on how to get started: 

  1. Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space.
  2. Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement. Easier said than done, we know.
  3. Let your judgments roll by. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
  4. Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
  5. Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.
The one thing that practitioners of mindfulness say over and over is that it takes practice. They advise that this is something you're going to have to adopt as part of your personal and professional development if you want to experience its benefits.

Do you use mindfulness? Has it helped your career?

Monday, April 23, 2018

5 Ways to Fix Workplace Drama

If you feel like your workplace has more drama than an episode of "Grey's Anatomy," it may be time to think about how such turmoil affects your career and whether you need to make some changes in your own behavior.

Workplace drama can come in many different forms, from the gossiping colleague to the co-worker who yells (or cries) when under stress. Such an environment hurts productivity, teamwork and creativity, and can eventually lead to employees leaving.

While you can't control what others do, there are ways you can eliminate the impact of drama on your performance -- and possibly influence others to improve their behavior.

If workplace drama is becoming an issue in your organization, then it's time to:

  • Stop jumping to conclusions.  When workplace drama begins to escalate, it's usually because we assume that the other person is doing something to hurt someone else. For example, you believe that Jim is talking to Sheila's customer about a solution not because he wants to help, but because he wants to steal away that customer. First, it's none of your business what Jim is doing and second, how would you feel is someone automatically assumed your intentions were always underhanded? 
  • Walk away from gossip. In any workplace, there are gossips who love to have listeners. Don't be one of them, even if the gossiper is using a fun-loving "Wait until you hear this!" attitude. A simple, "Sorry! I've got to get this report done in the next hour!" or "Just on my way to the bathroom!" will force the gossiper to look for another listener (and hopefully he or she won't find one).
  • Spend time with people you don't like. I know, I know. You hate this advice. Why spend time with obnoxious John or giggly Susan? But when you spend time -- I'm talking 5 minutes asking about the weekend or mentioning that a new coffee shop has opened -- then you're saying that you want to get along with everyone. Then, build on that by asking John and Susan what they think about a new project or their opinion on a new industry trend. Then, listen
  • Agree to disagree. The dramatic brawls on reality TV, the Twitter wars and the venomous tirades in online blogs have bled into the workplace. Do you really have to try and annihilate someone in a meeting simply because he or she disagrees with you? Do you really have to fire off a group email using a snarky tone just to make your point that you don't like the new printer? Really? 
  • Take a deep breath. We spend a lot of time with people from work, and sometimes the relationships can take on the feel of battling siblings or high school mean girls. Just stop. Before you make that childish face, offer a sarcastic reply or post something mean online, take a deep breath and do something else. Walk away if you can. If you can't, ask the person if you can continue the conversation later. Behave in a way that would make your children or your mother proud.
Workplace drama is often a bad habit that we fall into, but it is one that can be broken. Even if you lapse one day, start over. The more you work to break the habit, the more others will begin to follow your behavior and you'll soon have a much more productive, happy and civilized workplace.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

This is Why Your Co-Workers Don't Trust You

We all have those people at work who we don't quite trust. Maybe we can cite specific reasons behind such feelings, or maybe we can't. But what if you heard from others that the person they don't trust is you? Would you be offended? Confused? Hurt?
Most of us don't want to think of ourselves as being untrustworthy. Not only can it hurt personally, but professionally it can cause problems. Colleagues who don't trust you won't stick up for you when you need it, won't include you in big projects and may even do what they can to get you transferred -- or fired.
To avoid falling into the "untrustworthy" category, here are some things to avoid:
1. Big talk. If you make big promises and then don't deliver, your co-workers won't want to take what you say seriously.
2. Being too bossy. Dictating to others and micromanaging shows you don't trust others to do what needs to be done. Your lack of trust in them will be reciprocated.
3. Wimping out.  Don't make excuses or blame others. Step up and apologize when necessary. At the same time, stop trying to cover your behind all the time by "cc-ing" the boss on everything. It shows you don't trust your teammates and care only about protecting yourself.
5. Taking all the credit. Chances are good that even if you did great work, you were helped along the way with advice, encouragement or ideas from others. It won't diminish you to give them some kudos.
Remember that if you break someone's trust, you're going to have to work hard to regain it. Wouldn't it just be easier not to lose it in the first place?

A version of this post ran earlier.