Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Why Your LinkedIn Photo Sucks

While you may not have given more than a moment's thought to your profile photo on LinkedIn, you may want to reconsider.

A recent analysis of 2,000 LinkedIn photos from a variety of industries by JDP, a risk mitigation company, finds that those in real estate, human resources, marketing and sales get the highest marks when it comes to framing, lighting, resolution, attire, facial expression and photo origins (selfie, cropped from a group, professionally shot, etc.)

Those who were given a grade of "F" include government and retail workers. The highest percentage of those with no photo came from healthcare (36%) while those in marketing, advertising and public relations were most likely to have a photo.

"Epic fails" included most car selfies (usually from those in IT, computer science health, wellness, fitness and retail). The most photos that don't fill the frame came from those in retail, sales, business development, human resources and recruiting.

JDP offers some advice on taking photos that will portray you best on LinkedIn:

1. No selfies.

2. No cropped photos. (You know the one -- you can see Grandma's shoulder just to your left.)

3. No poor framing. Look at the background of your photo -- do you seem to have a telephone pole coming out the top of your head? Is that a beer pong on your desk?

4. Business casual attire. This looks best with a smile. If you're trying to convey a more serious and intelligent image, dress more formally.

5. Good lighting. The face need to be well-lit, with adequate contrast between the subject and the background. Avoid glare on the skin or eyeglasses.

6. Sharpness. Once the photo is clicked into full view, you don't want any pixelation or blurriness.

There are many ways to improve your professional image, and this may be one of the easiest. Investing in a professional photo session or having a photographer buddy take a decent photo of you can pay off in the long run, and should be seen as an important investment.

Monday, August 27, 2018

3 Signs You Need to Run From That Job Offer -- Fast

One of the nice things about the unemployment rate dipping below 4% is that job candidates are in high demand and are getting much nicer offers (more pay, free Doritos for life, massage chairs), but that doesn't mean all employers are going to make your life better.

No matter where you interview -- whether it's with a Fortune 100 company or a start-up -- you need to make sure that you're not being bamboozled. (That's an old-fashioned word for someone trying to fool or cheat you.)

Here are some warning signs that you may want to think twice about working for an employer:

1. Basic courtesies are not present. Are you getting interview emails that read something like, "Be here at 9" and don't include anything about how they're looking forward to meeting you, instructions on where to park or who you will be meeting? Then that's a warning sign. When simple manners go out the window, it's often a sign that there's some underlying hostility in that workplace that doesn't bode well for daily civility. Pay attention to the demeanor of those you meet, from the office receptionist to the C-suite honchos. Bad vibes start at the top and infest a company -- never a good atmosphere to face every day.

2. Vagueness. When you don't get a clear job description of the position, with examples of the kind of work you will do, then that can be concerning. It either a) means the position isn't considered critical so no one really pays much attention to it or b) it's deliberately vague so they can pile on whatever they choose after you accept the position.

3. You don't get to meet many people. The employees you do meet seem straight out of central casting: "Yes. We love it here. Wonderful. Yes. We love it here. Wonderful," they say, smiling widely. Make sure you've got your Spidey sense on full alert. If they won't let you talk to a wide variety of people, there could be a reason why. Check out ratings on Glassdoor to see if there are some consistently bad reviews -- also look for mentions on social media that may help you spot potential problems.

When the job market is tough -- as during the Great Recession -- sometimes you have to take what you can get just to pay rent and put food on the table. But when things are going in the favor of the job seeker, then I certainly think it's worthwhile to ensure that you're taking a position that will be a great fit -- and a nice place to work.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Management Isn't That Hard if You Remember These 3 Things

Parenthood is one of those jobs that you think doesn't look too difficult until you've done it. Then, you realize that you have 18 years of caring for a child when you're running on no sleep, (usually) bad food and everyone constantly telling you what you're doing wrong.

The same thing is true of management. How hard can it be? Just tell other people what to do, collect a nice paycheck and fire people who annoy you.

Then you actually become a manager and you realize how really wrong you were about the job. People come whining to you with every little thing ("Bob keeps burping the alphabet!" "Marsha talks too loud on the phone!"). You realize that no one has any problem calling you on your day off to ask you where they can find extra staples. Your boss wants to know why your team can't work faster, cheaper and with more enthusiasm after he slashes 10% of your budget and lays off five people.

The important thing about management is not to get too distracted by all the theories out there that will make your a better boss. Sure, it would be nice for you to make barbecue every Friday for your team and let them practice yoga in your office, but that's not always possible -- or even reasonable.

So, let's look at the things that are pretty simple that will help make you a good manager. Perhaps not the best manager on the face of the planet, but at least someone who isn't burned in effigy in the parking lot.

You need to:

1. Communicate. In all the years I've been covering the workplace, this is at the heart of most problems. Failure to communicate. Don't assume that your team knows what you're thinking, and why you think it. You will have to tell them, even if you've told them 10 times before. When you explain why you made a decision, then they start to understand your leadership philosophy -- and it will ensure that you hold yourself accountable. You said it and they heard it. No trying to pin a bad decision on someone else -- and you will earn full credit for a good decision.

2. Be flexible. In order to truly be effective as a leader, you can't offer cookie-cutter solutions to your team. What motivates Jean the introvert is not the same thing that will motivate Laura, an outgoing motormouth. This will require you to spend time talking to individual team members so you get a better handle on what will work in certain situations.

3. Learn to delegate. This is a tough one, much tougher than people realize. It's tough to let go of certain tasks, because a) you've been burned in the past when someone did a crappy job after being delegated a responsibility and b) it's just easier to do it yourself that spend time explaining it to someone else. I get it. But here's a little incentive: What would it be like to not be called 10 times a day while on vacation? What would it be like to see someone really rise to the occasion and do such a wonderful job you don't work 12-hour-days anymore? It's worth a shot, and you know that deep down maybe you don't delegate because that person won't do it exactly like you want it. So what? Is doing a job differently really so bad if the person still achieves results?

Monday, August 20, 2018

This is What Being the Shy One at Work Does to Your Career

When you're the "quiet one" or the "shy one" at work, others may make assumptions about you.

For example, they may think the fact that you don't say anything in meetings means you're not confident in your opinions, or that you're not prepared. They may believe that your silence when others are bantering about their weekend or their Fantasy Football picks means you're socially inept, or that you are a snob and think you're above arguing about the Cleveland Browns.

Is any of this true? You may say "No!" - or at least think that in your head since you are the "quiet, shy one."

You may defend your lack of gabbiness on the fact that you're just an introvert. Nothing wrong with being an introvert, you argue, as many of the great people are introverts -- Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg -- even Isaac Newton for goodness' sake! 


Being the "quiet, shy one" at work does have it's downside. Managers may not see you as leadership material or capable of working with key clients on important projects. They may figure you just don't have the drive or ambition to climb the ladder.

If you're OK with being stuck in the same job with about the same pay for the rest of your life, then this won't be a problem. But, if you'd like more challenging work, or to be given a bigger role in your company, then you may need to change your behavior. Not drastically. Just enough to be the "quiet, shy one" who has great ideas and wields influence.

The key is thinking of ways to make yourself heard while still being comfortable with who you are. In other words, becoming a motormouth isn't going to feel right to you, and it will seem false to others. You need to strike the right balance -- knowing the key times to speak up and when to let others know what you're thinking.

 Some ways to do that include:

1. Soliciting feedback. Ask colleagues or even a manager who you respect for some thoughts about how they view your communication and work style. Do they see you as uncaring about the team? A deep thinker? Someone who can be trusted? An employee who seems to have no professional drive? Help them feel good about being honest -- tell them you really want to gain more responsibility and be more useful. 

2. Don't make assumptions. If you want to be included in a project, then you're going to have to ask for it. Don't wait for someone to recognize how hard you're working and then offer it to you because you might be waiting for a very long time. Start making your desires known and then be ready to offer the reasons you'd be a great addition.

3. Build stronger ties. Just because you've worked with a colleague for two years or had the same boss for five years doesn't mean you have the kind of bond that will help you get ahead. Have lunch or coffee with colleagues and really try to get to know them.  Attend company events with the goal of understanding what other people in the company do and how you can interact with them more.

There's nothing wrong with being quiet or shy or introverted. But if you want to get ahead in your career, then that's going to require some strategic communication efforts on your part to ensure that your quietness isn't perceived as a liability.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

4 Ways to Handle a Passive-Aggressive Colleague

There are always different personalities at work, and that's what can make your day strange, fun, interesting -- and maddening.

One of those different personalities can be the passive-aggressive colleague.

A passive-aggressive personality is defined in the dictionary as "a type of behavior or personality characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation, as in procrastinating, pouting or misplacing important materials."

Sound like anyone you know? If so, you may find it frustrating to deal with him or her. This co-worker may make you feel uncomfortable, but you're not sure why. He ignores you when you pass him in the hallway. He makes subtle insults about your work, wrapped in what initially appears to be a compliment. ("That presentation was interesting. It was almost as good as the one Jim gave last week.") He doesn't get tasks done that are his responsibility and stubbornly defends his position just to annoy others.

Preston Ni, author of "How to Successfully Handle Passive-Aggressive People," has some suggestions:

1. Look for a pattern. Don't immediately jump to the conclusion that someone is being passive-aggressive because they ignored you in the break room or criticized your report. Look for a clear pattern of such behavior before deciding what action you may want to take.

2. Get informed. Just as you wouldn't want anyone trying to "diagnose" you, it isn't fair to do the same with a colleague. If you suspect that he may be passive-aggressive, then try to get more information so you can better understand what's going on. For example, ask open-ended, non-judgmental questions that help you understand his background, such as a family dynamic that is unhealthy. Such personalities can emerge when an individual "feels powerless and lacks a strong voice in a challenging environment," Ni explains.

3. Don't feed the problem. If you don't set firm boundaries and instead start to normalize such behavior through your inaction, you're indulging the co-worker to continue. Don't "rescue" the co-worker by doing his work to ensure he meets deadlines or trying to cover for him in any way. ("He didn't really mean to insult you. He's just trying to be funny.") Further, it's not your place to criticize the colleague and nag him to improve. That just sets him up to be more stubborn and resistant.

4. Try different tactics. Try using subtle humor to turn around rude behavior or help the colleague feel more empowered by asking for his opinion about how to handle an issue. He may offer constructive ideas, but if he complains or criticizes, don't agree or disagree. "I'll keep that in mind," you respond. Then, go on with your work.

Monday, August 13, 2018

8 Things To Consider When You Get a Job Offer

Congratulations! After a lot of hard work, an employer has extended a job offer to you. But before you go out for a celebratory dinner, there’s more hard work ahead. Here’s what to do when you get a job offer:

1. Use your manners.

What do when you get a job offer? Well, first things first—say thank you. It sounds simple, but many job seekers forget this step, and it sets the wrong tone with the employer. If you decide to accept the offer, send thank-you emails to those who met with you during the interview stage, and note how much you appreciate the opportunity.

2. Get the offer in writing.

A verbal offer is nice, but a job offer is only as strong (read more here)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Don't Go to a Job Interview Without Doing These Things First

When you get a job interview, the worst mistake you can make is just trying to “wing it,” no matter your level of experience or the skills you possess. Interviewing requires preparation and practice, and those that put in the effort are much more likely to get the job they desire.
While there is no “best” way to handle interview preparation, there are steps that need to be taken to boost your chances of success. For example, you need to make an honest assessment of your skills, experience, and accomplishments while also doing your homework to learn everything you can about the employer. This may take time, but remember that every interview is a learning experience, and your interview preparation work lays an important base for all interviews yet to come.
Here’s a checklist of interview preparation items to consider:

Clean up your online presence

Check your privacy settings on all social media pages (read more here)

Monday, August 6, 2018

5 Everyday Habits That Can Quickly Derail Your Career

It's often the simple things at work that can really cause the most problems for your career. While you may be sweating over the big presentation you're giving next week, it's really something else that has caught the attention of others in your workplace.

Your feet.

Yes, it's sandal season, and it's blazing hot outside. You grab your favorite pair of  flip-flops because the dress code is really no big deal at work.

But, your feet.

It's first noticed by the woman in the next cubicle. Then, the guy sitting by you in a meeting notices. Before long, there's an IM storm going around about your feet.

Long, unclean toenails. Calloused skin. Hairy toes. What is wrong with you? your co-workers wonder. How oblivious are you to those feet? Those feet are with you all day -- don't you even notice?

But this is when the real professional trouble begins. Now your colleagues are wondering: If you don't notice your gross feet, what else are you missing? Should they be concerned you won't do a good job on the big project? Should they let you even talk to important clients?

Like I mentioned earlier, it's often the little things that can cause big problems at work. In the interest of saving your career and letting you focus on important matters at work, here are the little things you need to avoid:

1. Not cleaning up after yourself. Whether it's in the bathroom or the break room or your cubicle, no one wants to have to deal with your dirty dishes, food scraps, moldy coffee cups or any other detritus. At work, people equate sloppy habits with sloppy work.

2.  Always being late. Everyone has issues that can cause them to be late every once in a while, but colleagues have very little tolerance for someone who is chronically late. It's seen as a power play to get everyone to march to your tune, and they will quickly grow resentful and start finding ways to make you pay, whether it's excluding you from communications or mentioning it to the boss.

3. Phone addiction. I know even the most rabid phone users who are annoyed when a colleague is always looking at his phone and can't hold one conversation without constantly checking it. Start breaking this bad habit by turning off notifications when you're having conversations, or sticking the thing in your pocket and leaving it there while someone is talking to you.

4. Bad speech habits. One weird habit I've noticed lately is people starting every answer with "So." If I ask, "How are you?" I get a reply of, "So, I feel pretty good today." It's a crutch, and one that becomes annoying over time, as does using "like" or "you know" or "uh" too much.

5. Social media. Some jobs require you to use social media to promote your product or service. No one begrudges you using social media in these cases. But it peeves colleagues when they're waiting on some information from you and when they come to ask you about it, you're checking Instagram or Facebook or Twitter to see what your friends or family are doing. Any personal interactions --  whether it's on the phone or through texts or social media -- should be rare outside of lunch or break times.

You may not care whether your colleagues like your behavior -- or your footwear -- and just ignore them. But I can promise you that when colleagues get annoyed like this, they start to drop hints with the boss about your behavior or performance. When the boss has to stop what she's doing to listen to such comments, it's only a matter of time before she also gets annoyed with your lack of awareness. Then, my friend, you've got real trouble.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Microsoft Finds the One Thing That Matters Most to New Hires

As the competition for workers heats up, employers are offering better benefits and pay in an effort to attract job candidates.

The problem is that once a new worker is on board, then things may start to fall apart -- often within the first week. Many new workers are thinking to themselves: "Wow, I think this was a mistake," and may even begin job hunting again, knowing that there are plenty of employers out there who want them.

Why do new workers feel this way? Often, it's very simple: They don't feel a connection to the new job or the people or the organization. The quickest way to remedy that, finds a recent study, is for the manager to meet one-on-one with the new worker.

A Microsoft study found that it's often the "little things" that matter most to new hires: a working computer, immediate access to the building, email and intranet on the first day of work. That way, the employee feels productive immediately, and also begins to tie into the shared goals of the organization.

Looking at the engagement of about 3,000 workers, Microsoft finds that the really critical key is for a new employee met with a manager during the first week. When that happens, then the company saw key growth for the employee in building an internal network, higher-quality meetings and greater collaboration with team members.

Let's look at it another way. When you invite someone to your home for dinner, you don't let this person into your home, then turn around and go lock yourself in the bedroom to read or play Fortnight. You wouldn't expect this person to make his own dinner, clean up afterward and then find his way home without any contact from you. It's ridiculous -- and so is the practice of new employees never being personally welcomed by the boss and spending that one-on-one-time.

As the Microsoft researchers note, it's a pretty simple idea, but one that many bosses miss.