Monday, July 15, 2019

Do This One Thing to Ensure You Always Have a Job

Amazon recently announced that it plans to spend $700 million to retrain 100,000 employees in an effort to help its workforce adapt to a world using more automation and new technology.

Retraining will focus on moving more employees into tech-savvy roles. Still, not everyone is offering praise for the move. Critics contend that Amazon is only dealing with a problem that it created in the first place.

For me, the key is that Amazon is sending a message loud and clear that if you want to survive in the working world, then you must always be evolving. Just because you have a good job right now or a rewarding career that you love doesn't mean that it will be there in five years -- or even next year.

The best way to stay ahead of layoffs and job elimination is to always be learning.

"All of us — when we were growing up — made a linear progression from learning at schools to working. We will now have to move to a continuum of lifelong learning, which means we have to be lifelong learners. You have to learn to learn, learn to unlearn, and learn to re-learn. For an individual to imbibe that culture of being on that learning curve for a lifetime is a big switch," says Infosys president Ravi Kumar.

Here are some tips for being a lifelong learner from “Awaken the Genius Within—A Guide to Lifelong Learning Skills” by Samuel A. Malone using the acronym "PRACTICED":
  • Priority. Set aside at least half an hour a day to build up that knowledge or skill in the area of expertise that you need to acquire. Nothing will happen unless you make it happen and put in the effort.
  • Reflect. Think deeply about what you have learned. Build review periods into your learning so you do not forget. Information is quickly forgotten unless reviewed, and skills fall into decay unless practiced. Observe how others learn, and model the behavior of the best learners. Listen to what people have to say, and look for feedback on your performance and behavior. Don’t take criticism personally as it may point to your shortcomings and a way of learning from your mistakes. 
  • Action learning. We learn best by doing things, and we acquire skill by doing things over and over again. Most skills take a considerable amount of time to acquire and perfect. 
  • Curiosity. The secret of genius is to carry the wonderment of childhood into adulthood. We should be inquisitive and ask questions such as how, what, and why all the time. 
  • Teach. A great way of learning is to teach others as it consolidates and reinforces our knowledge. We can do this by showing other people how to do things, and by demonstrating, coaching, and mentoring. Mentoring can be a great source of informal and non-threatening support. 
  • Insight. Discovery consists of looking at the same things as everybody else but seeing something different. People who make great discoveries by chance have the judgment and persistence to pursue the idea to fruition.
  • Concentration. We must develop powers of concentration if we want to learn and excel. Having goals, listening attentively, dealing with distractions effectively, and practicing the technique of mental rehearsal are just some of the ways you can improve your concentration. In addition, good self-belief and a positive attitude will help you stay focused.
  • Exercise and nutrition. Physical exercise induces the body to produce an array of chemicals that the brain and, indeed, the heart love. The brain, as well as the body, thrives on oxygen and proper nutrition. The brain needs a nutritious diet to survive and thrive. 
  • Different learning styles. There are different learning styles, but most of us use a combination of these.  One method is VAT, which stands for visual, audial and tactile, which means we learn by seeing, hearing, and doing. Another classification is activist, reflector, theorist and pragmatist, which means we do something, think about it, understand it, and then based on our understanding, we may do it differently. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Dear Employers: It's Time to Stop Treating Applicants Like Crap

I was not surprised 10 years ago when many job applicants told me of their frustration when employers refused to even acknowledge their applications or let them know where they stood in the interview process.

At that time, there were way more workers than available jobs, and the employers held all the cards. So, many ignored the polite follow-up emails from interviewees, and scoffed at the thought of sending a "thank you for your application" note.

But it seems that such poor behavior is still happening. I know this first hand -- I heard two such stories from job applicants in the last month. My response has always been that perhaps the applicants dodged a bullet. After all, any employer who treats potential employees so poorly would likely not be great to work for, right?

Still, the applicants (they also had interviews) expressed frustration at the process. Why ignore their calls and emails? Would it be so difficult to simply say, "we've chosen someone else," or "we've decided to suspend the process for a few months" ?

A Wall Street Journal story points out that some hiring managers may fear they'll say something wrong to candidates when telling them they didn't get the job, fearing legal consequences.

I may buy this is some rare instances, but couldn't they get a script from the legal department so that they stay out of legal hot water?

It's time employers shaped up. They need to behave professionally to all applicants. After all, they make job seekers jump through so many hoops, it's time they put in the same effort. Here's some suggestions from the WSJ story:

  •  Make sure your job postings accurately describe the openings.
  • Acknowledge applicants’ resumes soon after they’re received.
  • Train hiring managers to treat all applicants well.
  • Keep candidates informed about where they stand.
  • Let applicants know if you change course in the middle of a search.
  • Leave the losers as well as the winners with a positive image of the company.

Monday, July 8, 2019

5 Ways to Return From Vacation and Not Be Totally Bummed

I've been away from my office for about 10 days for a work conference and some vacation time.

Over the years, I've interviewed many experts on how to return to work from time away without feeling completely overwhelmed and even a little depressed. Combined with my own experience, I put together some suggestions on how you can return from vacation without having a complete meltdown.

Some suggestions:

1. Check in with colleagues. If someone covered for you, immediately send an email or talk to the person directly to offer a sincere thank-you. Ask about any problems or concerns that need to be addressed today. What can wait until tomorrow or even later in the week? Don't try to solve all problems today -- prioritize what can wait or you're quickly going to be overwhelmed.

2. Revisit your calendar. What's on tap for this week? If you've got meetings your first day back, quickly review emails or other notes so that you refresh your memory about key issues. The same thing applies if you've got conference calls or one-on-one time with your boss or team members.

3. Set mini deadlines. The great thing about vacations is the lack of deadlines and the feeling that your time truly is your own. But when you return to work, you're faced with new deadlines that can quickly weigh you down. Instead, set mini-deadlines that won't seem so overwhelming. For example, set a timer for 15 minutes and use that time to go through your emails. This will get you to quickly delete junk mail, file "to read later" items and prioritize critical emails. Once the timer goes off, take a break. Go get a cup or coffee or put on music that reminds you of your vacation. Dividing your day up into smaller chunks will help ease you back into your work demands.

4. Stick with your good habits. If you've always sat at your desk and eaten lunch while watching YouTube or going through emails, that's a habit you probably broke while on vacation. What did you do instead? Perhaps savor your lunch or people watch or just sit quietly and breathe? Those are the things that you should not abandon and will help you strike a better balance in your life. Hang onto those vacation habits.

5. Don't whine. I've noticed that I can start to get a bit cranky when I first return from vacation. The office is too loud. The traffic is horrible. I've learned that instead of whining about such things, I instead try to remember favorite times from my vacation -- that evening by the lake when the sunset was perfect, the time spent laughing with family and even that little diner with great pancakes. When you start whining about your the realities of life, then you push yourself further away from those wonderful vacation memories. Focus on what you gained from your time away, and refuse to let it be diminished by dumb stuff.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

It's Time to Complain

Conscious complaining.

This isn't a term that I was familiar with until I found it in Pamela McLean's new book, "Self as Coach, Self as Leader: Developing the Best in You to Develop the Best in Others."

In the book, she relates how a colleague urged her to do some conscious complaining after McLean was feeling greatly challenged while recovering from a fractured spine.

"For three months, all of my routines had come to an abrupt stop in order to accommodate complete recovery," she writes. "The whole scenario required a dramatically slowed pace."

The colleague suggested it was time that McLean voice her frustrations, so she did. Complaints ranged from only being able to sleep on her back to not being able to drive to not being able to exercise.

"The list was much longer than I realized and I was surprised by how much better I felt when I acknowledged my list of feelings in the form of small complaints," she writes.

Sometimes at work we're supposed to always have a gung-ho attitude, full of energy and enthusiasm. But, honestly, the broken coffee pot, the squeaky office chair of a colleague and the fact that you have to wear a tie to work every day is just wearing you down.

So, get together with a trusted friend or family member and have at it. Whether you want to call it conscious complaining or a good old-fashioned bitch session, get it all out. Like McLean, you may find you feel a whole lot better.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Why Others Consider Your Email Response to Be Rude

"Far too many poor decisions rest on knee-jerk responses. Don't let fast emails become the enemy of good decisions."

This is some of the advice in Dianna Booher's new book, "Faster, Fewer, Better Emails."

Booher addresses how some emails are too long -- and how some are too short. I think we all know the problem with long emails, but can you be too brief?

Booher says yes.

She cites the boss who emails the project team to ask for their input on a problem.

The first person to respond to the message supplies a "half-baked idea" and hits "reply all."

That leads to other busy team members replying with "sounds good to me" or "I'm okay with that."

"And before you know it, the inclination for speed overruns the need for quality thinking," Booher says.

Boohers also points out:

  • Brevity can lead to brusqueness. If the subject is sensitive or negative, or you haven't yet established a "cordial" relationship with the reader, you might want to reconsider your approach.
  • Adding one word or phrase can make a difference. Instead of just responding "No" to a request, add something like, "No, sorry I can't make it."

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

How to Say "Good Job" Without Saying "Good Job"

How many times a day do you say "Good job"?

I know I say it a lot, and I'm tired of it. I sound like a broken record, and I'm sure the people I'm saying it to are equally bored.

So, I Googled how to say "good job" in a bunch of different ways and I found the list below. Some of them are sort of lame, but who am I to judge? I thought it might be fun to share it with you....

You’ve got it made!
You’re doing fine.
You’ve got your brain in gear today.
Good thinking.
That’s right!
That’s better.
Good going.
That’s good!
You are very good at that.
That was first class work.
That’s a real work of art.
Good work!
That’s the best ever.
Exactly right!
You did that very well.
Good remembering!
You’ve just about got it.
You’ve got that down pat.
You are doing a good job!
That’s better than ever.
 You certainly did well today.
That’s it!
Much better!
 Keep it up!
Now you’ve figured it out.
 Nice going.
 You’re really improving.
 I knew you could do it.
 You are learning a lot.
Good going.
Not bad.
That’s great.
 I’m impressed.
Keep working on it; you’re improving.
Congratulations, you got it right!
You must have been practicing.
Now you have it.
You did a lot of work today.
That’s it.
You are learning fast.
I like that.
Good for you!
Way to go.
Couldn’t have done it better myself.
Now that’s what I call a fine job.
You’ve just about mastered that.
You’ve got the hang of it!
That’s an interesting way of looking at it.
One more time and you’ll have it.
I’ve never seen anyone do it better.
That looks like it is going to be a great paper.
That’s the right way to do it.
It’s a classic.
You did it that time!
Right on!
You’re getting better and better.
Well done.
It looks like you’ve put a lot of work into this.
You’re on the right track now.
Keep on trying!
Good for you!
Nice going.
Good job!
You remembered!
You haven’t missed a thing.
That’s really nice.
What neat work!
That’s the way.
That’s clever.
Very interesting.
Keep up the good work.
You make it look easy.
Good thinking!
That’s a good point.
Nothing can stop you now.
Superior work.
Nice going.
That’s the way to do it.
I knew you could do it.
That’s coming along nicely.

Monday, June 24, 2019

10 Smart Things to Do in a New Job

It's natural to be a bit nervous on your first day of a new job. You want to make a good impression and not mess anything up too much.

Chances are, you'll be fine. If you care enough about the job to be a bit nervous, that means you're going to try hard to do all the right things.

Still...some of you won't do the right thing. You'll make some rookie blunders that can damage your reputation.

Before you know it, your new job isn't going as well as you hoped and your new boss and colleagues wonder why you were hired in the first place.

I don't mean to make you panic. But I do think there are some "unwritten" rules that go along with a new job. If you follow them, chances are better that you'll make a smoother transition into the new company. Here are some things to think about:

1. Show up early (at least 10 to 15 minutes) and never be the first one to leave.
2. Be prepared with a pen and notebook to take notes whenever you are told something.
3. Learn the names of all the company leaders. Look them up on LinkedIn so you know their professional backgrounds.
4. Make eye contact with everyone you meet. Shake hands firmly and state your first and last name clearly.
5. Don't complain about past jobs, companies, roommates or significant others.
6. Smile.
7. Use your best manners. Don't eat anything stinky at your desk. Clean up after yourself. Only do grooming activities in the bathroom. Say "please" and "thank you."
8. Plan ahead. Review your calendar each day until you become familiar with weekly or daily meetings, know when you're supposed to be on conference calls, know when to file expense reports, etc.
9. Show respect. Even if you have a new or better idea, frame it respectfully to employees who have been there longer.
10. Walk around. Don't hide at your work station. When you refill your water bottle, go to the bathroom, get a snack from the vending machine or walk to a meeting, try to greet people by name. Try to take a different route each time so that you're connecting with new people each day.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

How to Get Through a Job Search Without Losing Your Mind

When you decide to begin job searching, it can be sort of exciting. You envision yourself in a new job, full of possibilities.

Then you start slogging your way through job ads online, realize you need to write a resume and a cover letter -- and you decide to watch "Friends" reruns instead.

I get it. Searching for a job takes a lot of effort. You have to fill out endless applications that ask everything from your shoe size to your first dog's name. Then, after you've gone to all the effort to apply, you hear nothing.

I wish I could say that there's an easy way to job search, but there's not. There are certainly tools to help you apply for jobs or write a cover letter, but you've still got to do the work.

Work. That's what looking for a job really means. You're going to put in some long hours (on weekends and at night), and you're going to go from emotional highs to emotional lows. You're going to have successes, and you're going to have failures.

That's why I think the most important thing you can do before you job search is to do some job search preparation. There's a French culinary phrase -- "mise en place" -- that means "putting in place" or "everything in its place." Before you begin cooking, you organize and arrange the ingredients you will need. It's important because it will not only ensure the process goes smoother, but it will become evident before you start baking a cake that you have no eggs and so you need to get some.

Before you jump into a job search, it's time to "mise en place." Here's some things to think about:

1. Dedicate time and space. Don't try to fill out an application while stuck in traffic, or write a cover letter at the end of a long, stressful day. Instead, set up some time you know you can focus on job searching -- perhaps early in the morning before your day starts or quiet Sunday afternoons. Organize a work space that has all the right ingredients such as a computer, printer, calendar, inspirational posters, etc.

2. Get organized. I'm not going to recommend any specific tools to keep you organized -- you probably already know what works for you. Whether it's an online spreadsheet or an old-fashioned day planner, it's important to keep track of what you're doing, who you've talked to, progress on various applications, etc.

3. Set up emotional support. Before you get started on your search, tell trusted friends or family members that while you're excited about getting a new job, there are going to be moments when you'll need a shoulder to cry, a pep talk or just a friendly ear. Also consider keeping a journal that will let you channel your emotions into your writing -- it can be a lifeline to help you through this journey.

Remember, looking for a job is a job. Don't sell it short or underestimate the energy and time it will require. The more prepared you are for this new chapter in your life, the better foundation you will have for doing the job successfully.

Monday, June 17, 2019

This is Why Workplace Conflict is a Good Thing

I hear it all the time: People who say they've stopped watching the news, stopped participating in social media and wear noise-cancelling headphones whenever possible so that they don't have to hear any snarky/disagreeable/uncivil comments or conversations.

I get it. I get tired of hearing people argue and I also find ways to tune others out when I've had enough. In fact "coffeehouse jazz" is a favorite, mind-numbing playlist of mine.


You can't bury your head in the sand and expect to be considered an adult, especially at work. You have to participate and show you're engaged if you want to a have thriving career.

One thing that might help you feel better about conflict is that it can be healthy at work, as long as a few game rules are followed.

For example, Liane Davey, author of "The Good Fight," says that when done in a healthy way, conflict -- or differing opinions -- can lead to better problem-solving and smarter decisions. Instead of focusing on a robot-like "happiness at work" atmosphere, workplaces need to embrace diversity and the differing ideas and opinions that will naturally erupt.

"If people begin to fear conflict and think it’s an unhealthy thing, they don’t spot the risks in your plans or assumptions in your plans," she says.

Of course, the kind of conflict that is beneficial at work is just like the kind of conflict that is healthy in any relationship. People must stay respectful, be non-accusatory and listen carefully to the other person before stating an opinion. This might be easier said than done: A Next Element survey finds that 64 percent of 400 respondents say they would rather compromise than make an argument for their preferred approach in order to avoid any conflict.

If you're a manager or a worker who simply would like to embrace more diverse ideas, here are some ways to keep conflict helpful and not hostile:

1. Listen. Seriously, shut up. Don't talk over the other person and even wait a beat after she is done talking to reply to show that you're fully engaged. It also helps to repeat some of what she's said to show that you were listening instead of formulating your rebuttal. "So, you're saying that the project is failing because the timeline is too ambitious?"

2. Do your homework. It's really unhelpful if you don't really know what you're talking about or quoting erroneous data or facts. I've seen people begin arguing more strenuously when they start to realize they've made an error, perhaps because they're embarrassed that they're wrong. If you're not sure of your facts, ask for a bit of time to get your facts in order so that the discussion can be more constructive.

3. Remember we're human. Diverse teams all have one thing in common: They're populated by humans. Humans who have families, who have struggled, who have been disappointed, who have failed and who have insecurities. Remember that when you get into discussions with someone at work that it's not about annihilating the other person -- it's about finding that common bond and then establishing a relationship based on professional respect.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

5 Things To Do When a Hiring Manager Texts You

Imagine that you're standing in line at Starbucks, when you receive this text....

"Hello! We just received your resume and wanted to chat initially via text. Can you tell us why you feel you're qualified for this position?"

After a minute, you answer:

"I know this is a joke. Who is this? And why are you harassing me you a**hole?"

While you might think it's a friend playing a prank, the reality is that this can happen in today's job market where employers are looking for ways to speed up the hiring process, including an initial text interview.

So, now that you've called a potential employer an "a**hole" let's look at some ways you can make a better impression in the future when participating in a text interview.

1. Don't rush it. Your first inclination when hearing from an employer might be to toss off a few lines as you're ordering that latte, but don't do it. No employer is going to expect to hear from you within a few minutes, so take the time to form your thoughts.

2. Be prepared. Sometimes when an employer expresses interest, your brain can short-circuit for a moment, especially if this employer is one of your top picks or your job search has stalled. Be prepared with some standard answers to interview questions, such as "What makes you excited about your work?" or "How do you stay motivated?"

3. Be concise. Just as you would on the telephone or in a live interview, you need to respect the time of the hiring manager. Be concise with your answers, but don't be afraid to let your enthusiasm shine through.

4. Don't be sloppy. This is your first encounter with an employer, so be professional. Don't use text slang, don't abbreviate, make sure your auto correct doesn't make you sound like an idiot -- and always proof the text before sending. Forget the emoji -- there's too great of a chance it will come off as unprofessional and immature.

5. Show interest. Just as you would ask questions in an interview, don't be shy about asking questions of the hiring manager. Show your interest and knowledge by saying something like, "I just read online that the company is expanding into Asia. What an amazing opportunity -- do you know when operations will begin?"

A version of this post ran earlier

Monday, June 10, 2019

Why Unconscious Bias Training Matters

It’s estimated there are more than 150 identified types of unconscious bias. These types range from the natural tendency to surround ourselves with others who are similar to us to form assumptions and stereotypes about others. 
In the workplace, this has become a cause for concern as employers worry that such biases can lead to (read more here)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

5 Ways to Clean Up Your Social Media Presence

When you're job searching, the advice is to "clean up your social media presence."

But what does that mean, exactly?

For example, when you were told to clean up your room as a kid, my hunch is that your version of "clean" was a lot different than your mom's. So, what you consider offensive online today may be a whole lot different than what will raise a red flag with a hiring manager.

To make sure that you really scrub out the questionable stuff from your online activities:

1. Stay away from politics. Unless you're applying for a job with a political organization, no employer wants to hire someone with opinions that could be divisive in the workplace. Stay away from even re-tweeting political opinions or posting a story from political commentators on Facebook. Delete those comments or posts.

2. You're known by the company you keep. Maybe you don't post controversial opinions yourself, but you are connected to a whole lot of people who do. Maybe you have strong opinions on immigration, and you are connected via Twitter and Facebook and even LinkedIn as you show up at rallies to support their causes. If you're tagged in photos, ask to be removed. Take them off Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn and reconsider some of your connections.

3. Use the granny rule. No, grandma really doesn't need to see your drunken college photos, your profanity-laced blog post or your sexually-explicit photos on Instagram. Neither does a potential employer. Either change your privacy settings or delete questionable content such as any photo that shows you with a drink in your hand, in a swimsuit or content with more than one swear word.

4. Layer the good over the bad. Now is the time to start putting more positive and helpful content under your name. Post blog content that offers helpful hints or insights about your industry. Post links to industry-appropriate articles on Twitter and share well-written content on Facebook. If you've got nothing but a bunch of duck-lipped selfies on Instagram, try posting photos of others you meet with some inspiring stories. ("This woman became an entrepreneur at 18. Her name is....")

5. Get rid of dumb handles. No, you do not need to be known as "sexymama" or "passoutdrunk" or "f*ckyou" on Twitter or anywhere else. Adopt handles that are either your name, or some version of it. Don't make it complicated -- try to use something that will support your brand.

Finally, if undertaking any of this is a huge chore, then you know you need to make some permanent changes. Since nothing online is ever really private, you need to realize that despite your best efforts to clean things up, an employer still may find content or photos that harm your professional reputation. Be more intentional about anything you put online and always consider whether it will stand the test of time and reflect well on you five years down the line.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Research: Why Workplace Competitions Often Backfire

How many times have you visited a business and seen a list of employee names, followed by a series of check marks or numbers?

I've seen it many times, usually signifying some sort of "competition" between employees, such as upselling to customers.

I've even been a part of such competition when I was working retail while in high school. The competition was to get the most customers to fill out credit-card applications. The prize? An electric blanket.

Since I was 17-years-old at the time, I could have cared less and never even asked a customer if they wanted a credit-card application.

But I often still see that competition exists in workplaces as a way to incentivize workers to sell more or achieve better results in some way. Some companies even create contests so that workers become more engaged in their jobs.

But research shows that those competitions may backfire on the employer.

A study finds that as people get closer to achieving individual goals, they are more prone to do things to sabotage their counterparts and begin to reduce their efforts when they thought they were ahead. The participants in a study also leaned toward choosing games where they expected to do better than a partner, for example, even if those choices also brought them a lower score.

But focusing on the distance between them and others only really makes sense in real competition, explains Szu-chi Huang, an associate professor of marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business and the research leader.

For those in competitions devised by an employer, the actions become more illogical, because there's really no gold medal waiting at the finish line. As a result, the pseudo competition ends up distracting individuals from real goals that have a real payoff and help them.

She suggest companies can do a better job with internal competitions by "matching employees who are at different phases of their careers instead of the same phase, for instance through a mentorship program. Or they could highlight the differences and uniqueness in each employee’s background, task, and project, and thus make the comparison less meaningful. All these things can help to reduce unnecessary competitive behaviors and the desire to sabotage.”

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Why You Didn't Get a Second Interview

It can be pretty demoralizing not to get a second interview, especially since you believe you did so well in your initial interview.

Don't be too hard on yourself. I know from my experience in hiring people that sometimes other things come into play that have nothing to do with your qualifications for the job or how you did during the interview.

For example, the CEO's nephew really needs a new gig and so the CEO decides his nephew is the best fit for the job. Not you. Or, the head of the department is relatively new to the job, and so she decides she needs someone with more experience for the job since she really needs all the support she can get. Another reason: They don't see you in the job. You're a free-wheeling kind of person, and love the blue streak in your hair and the tattoo of Sponge Bob on your neck. But the company is very conservative and so are its clients.

Those are some of the things that you can't control and so you can't sweat not getting a second interview.

But.....there are things you might be doing wrong in a first interview that are affecting your ability to get a second interview. Some things to consider:

  • You weren't prepared. Maybe you're trying to finish your last semester of school or your current job is crazy. The point is that you just didn't spend enough time researching the job and the company and so you weren't really ready with great answers in the interview. When they mentioned the CEO's name, you said "Who?"
  • You clammed up. An interview should really be a conversation. They will ask you questions, and you will need to respond with more than "yes" and "no." You don't want to be long-winded, but be prepared to discuss your strengths and weaknesses (and how you're working to overcome them). You also should ask questions or otherwise the employer may believe you're not really interested in the job or the organization.
  • You were dumb. You showed up late, you weren't dressed properly, you kept looking at your phone (it should have been put away and turned to mute) and you never said "thank you." This is basic stuff -- you need to show good manners and good sense or the employer will quickly pass you over for someone easier to deal with, no matter how skilled you may be.
The best way to get a second interview is to do your homework for the first one so that you do your best. If you don't get a second interview, think about how you can improve and then don't worry about the things beyond your control.

Monday, May 27, 2019

3 Tips for Writing a Better Cover Letter

I remember the first time I wrote a cover letter for a job.

It went something like this: "I'd really like to work for you. I'm sending you my resume."

In my defense, I was pretty young and inexperienced. But, it still was a lousy cover letter and I cringe when I think about it.

Please don't do what I did.

Writing a cover letter is important. It needs to spark the interest of the employer and show a little of your personality and why you're drawn to the job or the industry. It needs to reveal why you're such a great fit for the job and how you can help the employer more than any other job applicant.

That's a tall order, I know. But with a few tips, you'll soon be on your way to writing a cover letter that will help you get your foot in the door.


  • Don't be repetitive. A cover letter is not supposed to just restate what's on your resume. It's really more about selling yourself -- your passion for teaching, or how you knew you were a born salesperson after your first lemonade stand when you were 5-years-old.
  • You make a difference. Think about how you helped your former employers be successful. Did you lead a team that doubled new orders in one year? Did you volunteer to lead a community outreach program that sparked brand loyalty? Did you pull an all-nighter as a support staff person so that a project could meet it's deadline?
  • Customize. You should always customize your resume for a job opening and the same is true for your cover letter. Do your research so you can mention the CEO's recent comments of the company or a cause the organization is supporting in the community.
Finally, make sure you proof the cover letter as carefully as your resume. A cover letter filled with mistakes -- no matter how engaging -- could get you disqualified for consideration.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Is Your Workplace Toxic?

Is your workplace toxic?

A survey of 9,000 tech workers by Blind finds that more than half of those surveyed believe they are indeed working in a toxic environment. Half of workers at Amazon and Intel agreed they were working in such an environment, along with about 25 percent of Google employees and more than a third of Facebook workers.

Unfortunately, tech workers are not alone, and more Americans now believe that a toxic work environment is the new normal.

It doesn't have to be that way.

While you may not be the CEO or even someone in a management position, you don't have to just sit there and accept toxicity. For one thing, such an atmosphere can damage your physical and emotional health, and for another....well, it's just wrong.

There are several ways to combat toxicity in your workplace:

1. Take a reality check. Is the feeling of toxicity being fueled by outside sources? Try taking a break from negative social media or dwelling on news that pits one side against the other.

2. Enlist support. If you're feeling that things are toxic at work, you're probably not alone. Look for someone else who would like to break the cycle of negative thoughts and actions. Think about supporting one another with a more positive frame of mind by countering negative comments at work with ones that are  grounded in fairness and optimism. It's been shown that civility can spread.

3. Choose your response. When you're around negativity, it can be easy to let yourself be controlled by it. But if you make a commitment to yourself that you're not going to let someone else control your reactions, then you're on your way to combating toxicity. Surround yourself with positive messages and people to stay in a positive frame of mind.

4. Speak up. Sometimes we fall into bad habits without even realizing it. If someone is making offensive comments about another worker, for example, you can speak up and simply say that such comments are not appropriate. That may be enough to alert the colleague that he or she has crossed a line and needs to get back on track.

Finally, don't forget that you can't let workplace toxicity dominate your life. Find hobbies or activities to break your negative mindset, or call on friends or family to help you talk through your concerns and then re-frame events to stay more positive.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Best Way to End a Job Interview

"Is there anything else you'd like to add?"

This has always been the question I ask last in an interview, and it usually produces some great results. Sometimes people will say, "No, I think we've about covered everything...." and then jump in with some new information.

The reason I ask it is because I wouldn't be doing my job as a journalist if I didn't do everything I can to conduct a thorough interview. But I also find it's helpful because it can give me real insight into what the person considers important.

I'm not the only one who asks such a question. Hiring managers often ask some version of it, such as "Is there anything else you feel we should know?"

That's when many job candidates stumble and say, "Uh, no, not really." Or, they really screw up and say, "When can I take my first vacation?"

When a hiring manager asks this question, don't waste an opportunity to leave a positive lasting impression.

For example, reiterate your interest in the job and what you have to offer: "I think this job sounds like a great fit for me and I'm excited about the possibilities. With my education and strong work experience in generating sales through social media, I think I could hit the ground running on Day 1."

Or, it could be that the hiring manager didn't touch on the fact that you speak two other languages, which could be a real plus in dealing with customers or partners overseas. "I know we covered a lot, but I just wanted to mention that I also speak Mandarin and Spanish, which I think could be helpful to this company as it expands into markets overseas."

Don't be too long winded -- you don't want to repeat the entire interview. The hiring manager is a busy person, so focus on the highlights and concisely review your strengths so she is left with a positive impression,

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

5 Ways to Successfully Join a New Team

It can be very exciting to join a new team. But it also can be a bit daunting when you realize the successful track record of that team.

How can you make your mark? How can you get others to listen to your ideas? What if they don't like you or what you have to say?

These are pretty normal questions, so don't feel like you're the only one who has ever felt this way. In fact, it's probably a good thing to be concerned with how others may feel about you because it shows that you're ready to be tuned into others and won't be a know-it-all that others may immediately dislike.

At the same time, your ideas are valuable. You would not have been asked to join the team if others didn't feel that way, so don't be shy about speaking up when you have something to contribute.

Here are some way to smoothly join a new team:

1. Listen. The only way to fully understand the team members and their goals is to spend time asking questions and gathering information. Once you have a better picture of how the team functions, then you can contribute more effectively. For example, it doesn't make sense for you to jump in on Day 1 to suggest recreating a process or product that failed earlier.

2. Widen your circle. Just talking to the current team members isn't enough -- you need to get the bigger picture of how things get done. Talk to support staff and outside partners (as long as you get permission to do so), who can provide a more complete picture of needs and concerns.

3. Leverage your strengths. You don't have to make a huge splash from the beginning. But you can also start making a difference pretty quickly if you know your strengths and begin using them to help the team. Help various team members understand your strengths and vice versa. When you combine your strengths with someone else's, the impact can be seen right away.

4. Curtail your ego. You didn't get put on this team because you're a mediocre employee. You were invited to join the team because people felt you had something critical to offer. Still, that doesn't mean you're going to be hailed as a hero from the first day. More than likely, one or two other team members will feel they need to knock you down a peg or two. If you stay focused on how to achieve results, you'll soon earn respect from everyone as a professional who is more concerned with quality work than gaining recognition.

5. Find ways to connect. Invite team members out for coffee or join them after work at the local pub. Those connections are just as important as the ones you make inside the company walls and will make it easier for other team members to accept you.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Are You Burned Out? Here's What to Do

"I'm so burned out."

I overheard the comment while on a subway recently as a young woman talked to someone on her cellphone. I was surprised to see how clearly distraught the woman was -- and how young she appeared to be.

I thought about that young woman several times that day, especially since I had just read statistics saying that one in five adults in this country experience mental illness in a year. While "burnout" isn't a medical diagnosis, it is a very real concern for many people.

Doctors say that job burnout is a work-related stress that can make someone feel mentally and physically exhausted. People begin to feel they are losing who they really are and don't have much to show for their lives -- they don't even really recognize that it's their job that is real reason behind how they feel.

While some believe that depression may be behind job burnout, there are a number of symptoms. The Mayo Clinic suggests you ask yourself:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?
Job burnout can lead to insomnia, high blood pressure, diabetes, fatigue, anger and sadness and heart disease. If you feel like you may be suffering from it, the Mayo Clinic suggests you:

  • Evaluate your options. Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. Maybe you can work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Try to set goals for what must get done and what can wait.
  • Seek support. Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope. If you have access to an employee assistance program, take advantage of relevant services.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Explore programs that can help with stress such as yoga, meditation or tai chi.
  • Get some exercise. Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also take your mind off work.
  • Get some sleep. Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health.
  • Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment. In a job setting, this practice involves facing situations with openness and patience, and without judgment

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Don't Be a Jerk When Rejecting an Offer

A Robert Half survey finds that six in 10 workers in a variety of fields and industries say they've received two or more job offers simultaneously when applying for jobs. When weighing their decision, candidates say they look at salary, benefits, advancement potential, commute and the job's responsibilities or challenges.

Those are all important criteria, but it doesn't always make the choice a no-brainer. You not only have to make the right choice for you (and pray you are right) but you have to figure out a way to say "no" to the other offer without sounding like a jerk.

Not sounding like a jerk is very important. Why? Because the world is often very small and you may run across that hiring manager again one day. If you act like a jerk -- and she tells everyone you acted like a jerk -- then you could damage your professional reputation. Hiring managers often talk to one another and if they start telling others about your poor behavior, they may steer clear of you. The one thing we know for sure is that one day the job market will tank again, and where will you be when everyone thinks you're a jerk?

Here is the right way to reject a job offer:

  • Don't wait. As soon as you're sure of your decision, tell the hiring manager. 
  • Don't be chicken. Sending a text is not cool. The person deserves to have a phone conversation, but an email is the next best thing.
  • Offer a reason. Job seekers always want to know why they didn't get a job, so have the same courtesy for a hiring manager. You don't have to go into a lengthy explanation, but you can say something like, "The commute was going to be much longer to your company, so along with the salary and benefits they were offering, it just made more economic sense for me to choose them," you can say.
  • Be polite. It costs money and time to recruit a candidate, so always be appreciative of that investment: "I want to thank you for the time you spent talking to me and I'd appreciate you also thanking the others who shared their thoughts about the job. I hope one day we run across each other again."

Monday, May 6, 2019

Should You Follow Up After an Interview?

You may be feeling great after a job interview and believe a job offer is just around the corner.

Then, nothing. Silence. No phone calls or emails from the hiring manager.

Now your worry kicks in. Did you say something wrong in the interview? Have they already hired someone else?

Should you follow up? How? When?

There are lots of questions and worries probably swirling in your brain about now, but there's no need to panic.

First, the hiring manager is probably interviewing other candidates, which is pretty common. Second, the hiring manager probably has to check in with others about making a job offer. Third, hiring manager have other duties, so it may be that she's simply so busy she hasn't had a chance to consider candidates and make an offer.

But if a week goes by and you've heard nothing, now is the time to follow up. You can send an email again citing your interest in the job and highlight your qualifications that make your a great fit for the job. If you feel like you didn't mention something that makes you right for the job, you can mention it in your follow-up.

If you get the elusive "we're still considering candidates" response from the hiring manager, then you're going to have to wait another week to follow up or just be more patient and await the decision.

Whatever you decide, don't sit on your hands waiting on an offer. Keep your job hunt going so that you don't lose momentum. If you get a job offer, great. If not, you know that you're being proactive and won't have time to dwell on not being selected for a particular job since there may be a better fit just around the corner.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Are You Ignoring This Simple Key to Success?

When was the last time you wrote a thank-you note?

I'm not talking about an email or a text. I'm talking about a handwritten note to someone expressing your appreciation or gratitude. The kind, you know, that has to have a stamp and be put in that thing known as a mailbox.

For many people, the last time they wrote such a missive may be when they were in school (elementary).

But for those who are really savvy about their careers, a handwritten thank-you note is a key to their success. They have a box of nice thank-you cards in their desk drawer. They may even carry some with them so they can jot a note when they have time while commuting or waiting in a dentist's office.

While you, on the other hand, spend all your spare time watching the guy putting weird things in his air fryer on YouTube or posting what you ate for lunch on Instagram.

A career is not something that has it's own momentum. You have to create it. You have to maintain it. You have to plot where you're going before it goes off the rails because you're not  paying attention as you're in a deep discussion about "Avengers: Endgame" on Reddit.

One of the simplest things you can do to help your career -- and maintain important network contacts -- is to hand write a thank-you note. It's so old school it's new again. It's so unexpected that whoever gets your thank-you note isn't going to forget it, or you.

If you're not sure how to write a thank-you note, there are numerous examples, such as here.

Sometimes it's difficult to stand out when you're courting new customers, trying to get a job or land a promotion. A sincere, hand-written thank-you note may be just the ticket you need to put you in the lead.

Monday, April 29, 2019

What the Most Productive People Know About Email

As summer approaches, many new graduates will begin their careers in a variety of organizations, full of hope and determination about changing the world.

The more seasoned workers sort of smirk at this enthusiasm, knowing it won't take long to break their spirits. In fact, there is one thing guaranteed to bring down these hopeful young people: email.

Hundreds of emails will begin to clog these young worker's lives -- they might be surprised how often that "ding!" signals a new missive. While they may have gotten emails in college or in their training programs, it's nothing compared to the deluge that will hit them once they become full-time workers.

Hence, the smirk by other workers. They know that the young worker's hope and determination to change the world will soon crater as they struggle to keep up with their inbox.

But all is not lost. There is a way for these young workers -- and their smirking colleagues -- to be more productive in the face of the email onslaught. In fact, the most successful people have shown they all have several things in common, including the ability to skillfully handle their messages.

Data from Robert Pozen, senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of "Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours," finds that the most productive people not only manage their emails by using email filters, they answer critical emails immediately and identify those emails that need to be dealt with but need more time to read (such as those that come with long attachments).

For young workers -- and their colleagues -- the message is clear: Deal with your email effectively if you want to be more productive. Find a system that works for you and you're more likely to have a career that is drive by you instead of your inbox.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Research Shows Why Young Workers Need to Take More Risks

As the world's economy begins to slow, there is more talk that a recession is around the corner and economists predict it will hit in 2020.

If you're a young worker, this news could impact you more than any other age group. That's because when a recession hits, it can affect young employees for a lifetime.

A new study by the University of Hong Kong and the University of Michigan finds that those age 21-25 experience an unemployment rate twice as fast as those age 25-54 when a recession hits. The reason: when times are good, companies are more likely to take a chance on an unseasoned worker. When times are bad, they turn to their proven superstars.

Researchers say that young workers who want to protect their future earning potential may need to take more risks earlier in their careers. In industries where risk is greater, so is the reward.

Monday, April 22, 2019

4 Ways to Handle Distracting Coworkers

We all spend a lot of time at work, and some days it feels like a family get-together gone horribly wrong.

You're tired of hearing about your colleague's bratty daughter. You don't want to be pulled into any more conversations about "Game of Thrones." You don't want to have 10-minute debate about the best font for email.

But unlike bad family times where you can go to your bedroom and slam the door -- or at least get in your car and drive away -- you're stuck at work. You have to show up and do your job if you want to get paid (they're real sticklers about this).

So, how do you avoid some of the distractions that drive you mad?

Here's some things to try:

  • Turn your back. If possible, turn your work station so that your back is to the noisiest, most distracting colleagues. Better yet, put on headphones if the company allows it, and avoid making eye contact with anyone who passes by or sits near you. You'll become totally absorbed in your work -- or at least look like you're totally absorbed -- and it will be much more obvious if someone interrupts you. If they don't get the hint and stop interrupting you, say something like, "Oh, can I finish this thing first? I'm really on a roll and don't want to lose my train of thought." Or simply say, "I'm on a deadline with this and can't fall further behind. Can we catch up when I take a break?"
  • Be uninteresting. One of the reasons that a colleague stops to chat at your desk is because you're too nice to turn away from them, or feel it necessary to respond to a query about a new game or some other inane topic. If you've got a colleague who doesn't seem to "get" that you're busy, then don't make eye contact. Respond with "hmmmm" to comments or reply "I don't know" or "I haven't thought about it" when you're asked a question. Your dullness will send the person to someone else who is more interesting.
  • Follow up. Are you one of those people who says you'll call someone back -- and then doesn't do it? If you tell someone you'll reach out when you take a break -- and then use that break to check out Instagram instead -- then that person will call you again later. So, instead of talking to someone while you are free, you've pushed them into interrupting you again later.
  • Be respectful.  If you want people to honor your request to talk later, then you must do the same for them. When someone is obviously in the zone and diligently working, can your interruption wait? Or, can you possibly find the information on your own or wait until you have several questions that can be asked at one time? You will get more respect for your time if you show the same to others.

This is an update from an earlier post.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

7 Signs You're a Workaholic

For most workers, the days of clocking out at 5 p.m. and never thinking of work again until the next morning when we clocked in at 9 a.m. are over.

Texts and emails keep us tethered to the job, not to mention the "quick phone call" to the office when we're supposed to be on vacation.

All of these can be annoying and disheartening, but many of us are trying to limit "screen time" after we leave the workplace and even dare not to respond to emails while on vacation.

But what about those folks who don't seem to mind the 24/7 work demands? Who seem to be unable to leave work behind, no matter what? Who are threatening personal relationships because they can't stop working?

Often, the term "workaholic" is thrown around in an admiring or even amusing way. But the reality is, being a workaholic is dangerous to your health, your relationships and even your career.

Researchers from the Department of Psychosocial Science at the University of Bergen have identified specific symptoms that are characteristic of workaholics:

1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.
2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.
3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guiltanxiety, helplessness and/or depression.

4. You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
6. You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work.
7. You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.
If you think you may be a workaholic, then it's time to become more aware of what you're doing and try to make changes. If you can't figure out a way to do that on your own, enlist the help of family or friends to help you disengage -- or seek help from a therapist.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Why This 83-Year-Old Career Advice Still Makes Sense

I've written before about how important it is to get along with others at work. You don't have to be besties, with your co-workers, but you do need to know what motivates them, what discourages them and how you can best help one another. To think you can go it alone at work and succeed is delusional.

In addition, more companies are keeping an eye on whether you can get along with other people. If you can, then they are more comfortable promoting you. If not, they may believe that you don't really have the willingness -- or the necessary emotional intelligence -- to be given bigger opportunities.

That's why I want to re-visit some great advice by Dale Carnegie, author of "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Carnegie wrote this book in 1936, and I believe it really stands the test of time. (I've given this book to many high school or college graduates.)

Here is some great advice from Carnegie on how to make people like you:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people. "You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you." The only way to make quality, lasting friendships is to learn to be genuinely interested in them and their interests.
  2. Smile. Happiness does not depend on outside circumstances, but rather on inward attitudes. Smiles are free to give and have an amazing ability to make others feel wonderful. Smile in everything that you do.
  3. Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. "The average person is more interested in their own name than in all the other names in the world put together." People love their names so much that they will often donate large amounts of money just to have a building named after themselves. We can make people feel extremely valued and important by remembering their name.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. The easiest way to become a good conversationalist is to become a good listener. To be a good listener, we must actually care about what people have to say. Many times people don't want an entertaining conversation partner; they just want someone who will listen to them.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest. The royal road to a person's heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most. If we talk to people about what they are interested in, they will feel valued and value us in return.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely. The golden rule is to treat other people how we would like to be treated. We love to feel important and so does everyone else. People will talk to us for hours if we allow them to talk about themselves. If we can make people feel important in a sincere and appreciative way, then we will win all the friends we could ever dream of.