Monday, March 25, 2019

The Dumbest Habit That's Going to Hurt Your Career

Whenever I get interviewed as a "career expert" I'm often asked: "What do you think it the biggest problem in the workplace today?"

My answer? "Communication."

Whether it's communication between colleagues, between a boss and an employee or even in the c-suite, I see the most problems crop up because people simply don't communicate clearly or effectively.

Think about it: When you had that dust-up with a team member, can it be traced back to the fact that the team member didn't tell you exactly what he had planned? Or, do you have a problem with the boss because she doesn't clearly explain what she wants?

At the same time, perhaps you've become a poor listener. Maybe you don't give your full attention when someone is speaking in a meeting or in-person. Admit it: You're sneaking looks at your texts in a meeting and you're thinking of all the stuff you need to do when a co-worker stops by your desk to discuss something.

I think communication has only gotten worse with the increasing use of texts in the workplace and a new survey backs this up. A Podium survey finds that 77 percent of respondents have texted someone in the same room, and 70 percent have done so with someone within a 100 feet of them.

Seriously? Do you honestly believe you're communicating effectively through text? Or, is it a way for you to avoid speaking to someone in person, which you may consider too time consuming? The survey also finds that 12 percent of respondents texted while in a conversation with a boss as work. SERIOUSLY??

This is a slippery slope and a lot of you are going to find yourself at the bottom very quickly. Texting is something that we all do, but that doesn't mean it should be a substitute for forming a better connection with colleagues, bosses and customers. Your career success is going to be built on forming good connections and relationships with others, and that's not going to happen if you can't talk to someone who is within 100 feet of you.

Try going on a texting hiatus. Stop texting in meetings. NEVER text when speaking with the boss, unless she tells you to do it. Don't text a co-worker within 100 feet and don't text when someone is speaking to you.

There will be times when you need to text because that's what a boss or customer prefers. But in other situations, try to cut down on texting and work on your interpersonal communication skills. Nothing will benefit your career more.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

How to Get a Job When You're Not Qualified

In the Great Recession many years ago, employers were ridiculous with the job qualifications they requested -- a master's degree to be a receptionist or NASA astronaut experience to drive a bakery truck.

That was when jobs were in short supply. Now, those tables have turned and employers are lowering their requirements. You won your elementary school's spelling bee? You can now be CEO!

OK, that may be stretching it a bit, but a new survey by Robert Half finds that 84 percent of companies are willing to hire and train a candidates who lack required skills for a job. Some 62 percent of employees say they've been offered a job when they were underqualified.

"Workers can be trained on duties for a role, but individuals with the right soft skills and fit with the corporate culture are often harder to come by," explains Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half.

How do you get a job when you might not possess all the qualifications? Here are some ideas:

1. Focus on what you can do. You've got to make it easier for the hiring manager to see how you'd be a good fit for the role. For example, maybe you don't have a "project management" job title, but for years you've coordinated projects in your job, from beginning to end. You've worked with clients, vendors, colleagues, partners, etc. to bring in projects on time and on budget. Try to link your experience to the job as much as you can by highlighting comparable skills.

2. Highlight your understanding of the company. While I always advise doing your homework on an employer, in this case you're going to have to dig deeper. You need to not only understand the company's culture and what they do, but you need to understand how that really translates into the relationship they have with their customers, how they compete with others in the marketplace and how they position themselves in the industry. This will give you a stronger standing as a job candidate as it shows greater passion, interest and motivation to work at that company. Hiring managers always appreciate those attributes in a candidate.

3. Be a learner. If you want an employer to believe that you're going to seize the day and grow to fit a job, then show them you're already on that track. Listen to TED talks that increase your understanding of the job or industry, start following company leaders on Twitter or LinkedIn and even take online classes if possible. All those things show the employer that you're proactive and really want to learn and develop your skills. 

Finally, show that you've got soft skills that often are more difficult to learn: good communication, problem-solving skills, a solid work ethic, adaptability and teamwork. Employers are often willing to teach hard skills, so finding a candidate with good soft skills is considered a real plus.

Monday, March 18, 2019

You Hate Your New Job -- Now What?

With a low unemployment rate, some employers are pulling out all the stops when it comes to recruiting workers, such as offering perks and higher salaries.

But sometimes the hiring manager goes a bit further -- and doesn't present a realistic picture of what you'll really be doing if you take the job.

So, on the first day when you show up and expect to begin working on exciting projects, you're told that those projects are sort of on hold. Instead, you'll be doing some routine work. OK, you think, I can do that. I can hold on until the real work begins.

Only the real work that you were expecting never seems to materialize. Instead, you're given constant excuses about it's delay and instead take on more and more tasks that you hate.

Then, it dawns on you: You hate your new job.

Now what?

First, don't panic and head for the nearest pub to drown your sorrows for the next week. Second, don't quit. Third, take a deep breath.

Now, it's time to:

1. Take stock. Think about the company culture, the people you work with, the new contacts you've made and the new skills you've learned. Have you been given a chance to travel more, which you love? Have you been offered cross-training in other departments? Are you learning new skills to add to your resume? When you make an honest assessment, you may come to realize that you're learning something valuable, and the job isn't a total bust.

2. Speak up. If you're not getting to do the things you were promised in a job interview, then you need to get to the bottom of what is happening. Meet with your manager and explain how you were told you would be doing X, but you're really doing Y and Z. The boss may or may not be aware of what you were promised, but you need to explain that you want to do well but you are confused as to why you're not doing the job as it was explained to you in the hiring process.

3. Have a plan. If you're really doing something that isn't in your career plan -- and you just don't like it -- then you're going to need to make a game plan about how long you'll stay and give your boss a chance to make it right. If you were lied to about the job -- or somehow the hiring manager was less than transparent -- the company may try to fix the problem and hang onto you. If, however, you believe they don't really care about you or fixing the problem, it may be time to start looking around.

You may be nervous about leaving a job after a short time, but you can explain in future job interviews that the employer was not transparent about your real duties, and the job wasn't what you were told. That puts the next employer on notice that they need to be honest with you -- and will remind you to do your due diligence to truly understand the parameters of another job offer.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What it Takes to Land Your Dream Job

Many people talk about their dream job, but do a majority of people achieve it?

According to a recent survey by TollFree Forwarding, no.

Respondents were asked if they managed to achieve their childhood dream and make it to their ideal job. The results: 76 percent never made it.

Many of these respondents lived to regret it: 39 percent say they wish they had pursued their aspirations further, but the majority felt they didn't have the right skills or knowledge.

There was a bright spot in the survey as 24 percent reached their ideal job at some point in their career and 10 percent are in that job right now. Nearly two-thirds of those who said they managed to get their ideal job said it lived up to the expectations they had in childhood. (The top job for men was a professional sports start, musician and engineer, while women chose teacher, doctor/nurse and veterinarian).

I think something we can all learn is that we need to do more realistic planning in our careers. Here are some tips to get the job your heart truly desires:

1.  Do your homework. Whether you want to be a museum curator or a rocket scientist, you have to do some research on what it realistically takes to reach that level. Don't just rely on teachers or your friends (or Google) to give you a clue. You're going to have to dig deeper and find people actually in those jobs and ask what it takes to get to that job. Just getting a degree or certification may not be enough for a job -- you've got to figure out the key skills you need to get hired.

2. Get experience. Maybe no one will hire you right now as a marketing professional because you're employed at a local bakery. But there's nothing stopping you from setting up your own consulting business and starting to be a freelance marketer. Build your accounts and marketing campaigns and soon you'll have something to show in the "experience" section of your resume. That will help open doors.

3. Network. If you want to be a graphic designer, then try to be around other graphic designers. Join a graphic desinger's association. Read industry publications. Make connections to other graphic designers via social media. The more people you get to know in the industry, the better. These people will start to see the value of your passion for graphic design, see you striving to get the right skills and help you with advice. They are also the ones the most likely to help point you to available jobs or provide a recommendation.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Can a Clean Desk Create Inner Happiness?

I've known people in my life who are so into cleanliness and order that you could eat off their garage floor, surrounded by gardening tools that stand at attention like little soldiers. I've also known people whose surrounding environment -- whether at home or at work -- that I wouldn't touch without wearing a hazmat suit and knowing avalanche procedures in case a mountain of junk fell on my head.

Gretchen Rubin, who I have interviewed many times about happiness in the workplace, has a new book, "Outer Order, Inner Calm." In it, she writes how an orderly, peaceful environment will lead to inner peace and happiness. Need to write a tough email? Rubin says it will be much easier with a neat desk.

Rubin's research into happiness has shown that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to organization, but rather using some strategies to reach out own personal state of inner calm. (I don't need an immaculate garage to feel calm, thank you very much.)

Here are some of her ideas:

  • Never label anything "miscallaneous." "I once created a file called 'active useful documents' and then never looked in it again," Rubin writes. Also, Rubin says you can't use a term that's a synonym for "miscellaneous."
  • Do you need more than one? You probably don't really need two tape dispensers, two pairs of scissors and three pen cups on your desk.
  • Cut out doodads. I once knew an editor who had a desk full of snow globes. Every time someone went on a vacation, they brought him a snow globe from their destination. I once counted 40 snow globes before I gave up. You really only need a couple of meaningful mementos at work, and keep them small, Rubin says.
  • Allow technology to clear clutter. You probably don't need a dictionary, thesaurus, maps or a fax machine if you can do that work online. Get rid of them.
  • Protect your desk. A desk is what Rubin refers to as "extremely valuable real estate." She advises being very selective about what's on its surface, as well as any shelves, drawers or cabinets that are within easy reach. "Unless you're consulting a book every day, don't leave it on your desk. If you have three boxes of your favorite brand of pen, don't store them in your top drawer."
  • Beware of conference swag and freebies. "The best way to deal with clutter is never to accept these freebies in the first place. Something free can end up costing a lot of time, energy and space," she says.
  • Don't own it. It can be very stressful to look at a messy desk and say "I need to get organized!" Instead, your first instinct should be to get rid of stuff. "If you don't own it, you don't have to organize it," she says.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

3 Things to Remember When Turning Down a Job Offer

When you get called back for a second interview, it can be pretty exciting. You are obviously on the short list for the position.

But, wait. If you do an internal gut check, you realize you're not super excited about the job or the company. Oh, well, you think, just get that second interview because you're close to desperation to get a new job.

When the job offer does come, you might get a momentary spark of joy, but it's nothing on the scale of a Marie Kondo spark of joy. In fact, it's already fizzled and you're left with the reality that you really don't want the job.

Now what? Should you take the job and hate it from Day 1? Or, do you want to turn it down and keep trying?

A lot depends on your financial situation and where you feel you need to go next in your career. This is a good time to make a list of the pros and cons and speak with trusted mentors or family. If you do decide that you just can't take the job because of various reasons, how you decline the position may be one of the most critical tightropes you will walk in your career.

That's because hiring managers often know other hiring managers and well, they talk. They talk about job candidates and if you blow off the job offer with a rude "no" then they will be talking about you. That could seriously impact your ability to get interviews or offers from other companies.

If you get a job offer that you don't want, then you need to:

  • Be honest. You don't have to be brutally honest, such as saying "I realized I'd be dying a slow death if I took the job because it just sounds so boring." But you can say something like: "The more I thought about the job, the more I realized that it just wasn't the direction I wanted to take my career. I really want to do more field work, rather than analysis in the office." 
  • Be appreciative. You can probably never begin to appreciate the time and energy is takes to post a job, go through resumes, interview candidates, check references and get approval to make a job offer. Not to mention the money it costs. The hiring manager deserves appreciation for spending all that time and energy on you, and you need to also show an awareness of all the other people who may have spent time talking to you or answering questions.
  • Keep communication open. If you genuinely liked the hiring manager, then feel free to say something like, "I enjoyed getting to know you and if I can ever be of help to you in the future, please let me know." Then, you can send a LinkedIn request that will let the hiring manager know you're not just empty words.
Finally, let the experience be a lesson to you that you need to do some careful consideration when you're called for a second interview. If you're truly not interested in the company or the position, then don't waste everyone's time and politely tell the hiring manager you've decided to go in another direction.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Science Shows How to Have Better Meetings

It seems like every few years someone comes out with a new idea for how to have more productive meetings. But then they get shot down by those who think those ideas are dumb:

  • Standing meetings. The complaint: "I'm not standing! I have a bad back! Someone get me a chair!"
  • Walking meetings. The complaint. "I'm wearing 5-inch heels! I'm not walking a mile in 5-inch heels over broken sidewalk! Someone get me a chair!"
  • Impromptu meetings. The complaint: "I'm not ready for a meeting! I need time to prepare my notes! Someone get me a chair!"
Before you know it, the entire team has grouped around a table and a chairs like wildebeests who have just found the last good watering hole for 100 miles. Just like that you're in a traditional meeting with all the traditional problems. ("This chair is so uncomfortable!" "Why aren't there snacks?" "Why am I in this meeting -- I don't even know you people!")

Now it's time that science steps in and figures out what human beings cannot: How to have productive meetings.

Steven Rogelberg, professor of organizational science, management and philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has some suggestions in his new book, "The Surprising Science of Meetings."

His findings:

1. Forget an agenda. It really doesn't do anything in terms of meeting effectiveness despite all the advice that You. Must. Have. An. Agenda.

2. Stop holding people hostage. Do you have a weekly meeting that is pretty much the same every week? Instead of the wash, rinse, repeat cycle, try sending out information to everyone to consider then giving five minutes to answering any questions about it. 

3. Remote meetings suck. Those in remote locations can be forgotten like Kevin in "Home Alone." Nobody really notices that the remote worker is fading into the background, so it's up to the meeting leader to make sure no one leaves him or her out of the discussion.

4. Don't let a calendar dictate. Just because Google or Outlook blocks out 30 minutes or 60 minutes for a meeting doesn't mean you have to follow it. Try to estimate how long the meeting will really take -- 56 minutes or 18 minutes. Then, try to cut that meeting time by 5 minutes. Science shows that when people are under pressure, they tend to focus more and be more productive.

5. Brainstorm in silence. When people are allowed to write their ideas on paper, you're likely to get many more ideas -- and the time won't be hogged by one person elaborating on one idea or everyone just following the boss's idea.

6. Get lean. Try to trim the number of participants in a meeting to as few as possible. The more people, the more time likely to be wasted -- for everyone.

7. Be a good host. If you're in charge of a meeting, be aware that people hate you. Well, maybe hate is a strong word. But you've called the meeting, so you're the reason they've been pulled away from getting other stuff done and that makes them cranky. So, if you want a productive meeting, you're going to have to be a good host and make it enjoyable. Be welcoming and express appreciation to those attending. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

3 Ways to Feel Better About Failure

I'm not sure I know many people who get up every morning and say, "Gee, I can't wait to fail today!"

Fail. Failure. Failing. Any of those words are drilled into us from childhood to avoid. No teacher or parent wants us to fail. We don't want to fail in front of friends or coworkers.

So it makes sense that when we fail, we feel terrible.

But what if we could feel good about failure -- or at least better? Could feeling better about failure mean that we are less likely to dwell on thoughts that get us nowhere? Could failing become something that energizes us instead of depresses us?

Here's some things to consider about failing:

1. What did you learn? I remember the time I climbed up on the bed to hang curtains, forgetting that the ceiling fan was on. Yep. The ceiling fan clipped me in the head and I did an Olympic-caliber flip off the bed. Sure, I had a headache, but I also learned from it (always check whether the fan is on before climbing on a bed to hang curtains). Sounds obvious, but sometimes we do the dumbest thing at work that we need to stop doing. Or, it can be a much bigger lesson about trusting the wrong person or not listening to our gut. If you frame failure in terms of it being a teaching tool, you're more likely to see it in positive terms.

2. Take baby steps. If you are taking on something that is out of the norm for you or something you consider risky, don't feel you have to jump in with both feet. For example, if you want to start your own business, try to keep your regular job (with health benefits, ahem) while you test the waters and try out your idea. If you're trying to change positions within your company, build a safety net with mentors and cross-departmental training. If you fail at your new venture, you haven't risked everything and can make some adjustments to boost your chances of success. Failure then becomes a minor setback as opposed to a colossal screw-up.

3. Ask questions. This can be one of the most difficult steps, because many people find it hard to ask others why something failed. Look at it this way: If you went to a restaurant and vowed never to go back because you had a snotty waitress who got your order wrong, don't you think it would be helpful for the restaurant manager to know that? Or, should the manager just "guess" at what was wrong and come to the conclusion that the menu needed to be changed. That doesn't make sense, and it also doesn't make sense to "guess" why you failed. Try to get some specific feedback on what went wrong so that you can better understand how to fix the problem and succeed in the future.

Monday, February 25, 2019

3 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Everyone has heard the expression "work smarter, not harder."

If you're like me, that's often easier said than done. When you're under pressure from your boss, or you're trying to juggle multiple projects, you might forget all about such advice, and find yourself working 12-hour days.

Of course, you're not really clear about what you're getting done -- but you did answer 100 emails, send 100 emails and create a paperwork blizzard on your desk. Yes, indeedy! Your boss will be impressed with your productivity, right?

Wrong. Your boss is wondering why you are working so many hours, seem to be buried under paper and still haven't made progress on that key project.

Here's where you need to stop and repeat after me: Work smarter. Not harder.

Let's look at some ways to do that before your paperwork buries you like a late-season snowstorm:

1. The boss's goals are your goals. Sure, you'd like to answer emails and send emails, but is that what your boss wants done? The best way to work smart is to always say to yourself: "What is the boss's priority? Am I working on that?" Only when you've got the boss's goals taken care of can you move onto something else.

2. Clearly communicate. If someone comes to you and wants your help, clearly state why you can or cannot help. "I can help you tomorrow if I get the boss's request done. There is the chance she'll ask me to do something else, and that takes priority. If you want to wait, I'm happy to let you know when I'm done." No one is going to argue with that reasoning, and it clearly shows why you can't jump to another task. If the boss comes to you with another request (or several), get a clear indication from her about how she would like your energies directed -- the task she wants done first, second, third, etc.

3. Be intentional. If using Facebook or Twitter or Instagram isn't a part of your job, don't even look at it during work hours. Save it for break times, and then only allot a certain amount of time. You're really better off recharging your batteries -- and working smarter -- if you use your break times to take a walk or eat something nutritious. When you set parameters about how to use your time during work hours, you will stay in your lane and stop drifting to "busy" work or tasks not related to the job at hand.

You may believe that you are a good worker because you're always busy, busy, busy! But if you're hiding behind meaningless work, the boss will not see you as a valuable member of her team. Only when you're directly contributing to helping her meet her goals and contributing to the success of the organization will you truly be working smart.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

4 Steps to Being Happier

When my children were babies, I knew exactly what I would do if I won the lottery: Hire a nighttime nanny.

That's because my kids couldn't seem to get the hang of sleeping through the night, and I was beyond exhausted. I could have tried out for the "Walking Dead" and won a part based on how I felt -- and how I looked.

Things got a bit easier once my kids decided to start sleeping, but that led to a host of other stresses as they grew: baseball and music practice, school projects, friends' birthday parties, etc. At the same time, my career was becoming busier and busier and I was taking on bigger projects.

That led to a bad spate of insomnia as I struggled with thoughts of schedules and science projects and work commitments. It was a tough time, and not the first or the last of tough times trying to figure out a personal life and a career. There just felt like there weren't enough hours in the day to get it all done.

That's why research from Ashley Whillans at Harvard University really struck a chord with me: Having enough time, or "time affluence" is now at a record low in this country -- and we're really in a "famine" when it comes to effectively managing our time.

But here's the surprise: Despite the perception that people today work longer hours, the data shows that most of us have more discretionary time than ever before.

What Whillans and her team have discovered is that we spend our time trying to get money -- taking on bigger jobs for more money. We believe that money will make us happier in the long run.


It turns out that the happiest people use their money to buy time. Whether it's working fewer hours or paying someone else to do disliked tasks, we experience more fulfilling relationships and careers when we use our money to buy time.

But even Whillans admits that making better choices for our happiness isn't easy. Sending emails while on the beach, making phone calls during a commute and giving up exercise time to talk to a colleague all sabotage her efforts.

Still, she says there are ways to shift such a mindset. Among her suggestions:

1. Forget spontaneity. Our brains don't like it, and it leads you to check your email instead of going our with friends. So, plan ahead. Plan what you want to do on your weekend or after work and then stick to it.

2. Get moving. Try to build in activities that require you to be physically active, whether it's volunteering at a food bank or walking the dog. Research shows you'll be happier if you engage in more active, rather than passive, activities.

3. Enjoy a meal. Don't eat in front of the television or the computer. Savor your food -- enjoying your food reduces your stress.

4. Be open. Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with someone in line as research shows that casual social interactions with strangers "significantly boosts happiness," she says. At the same time, volunteering also increases your happiness and makes you feel like you have more time.

Monday, February 18, 2019

This is What You Need to Do to Change Industries Successfully

More people are expected to test the job waters this year as more than 12,500 U.S. employers are looking for new workers and unemployment remains low. This comes as good news for workers who are ready to take the leap to a new job or industry, including those federal workers who are looking for steadier paychecks after government shutdown uncertainty.
Still, those seeking to change industries in their job search will need a strategy to overcome blockades. Computers may weed them out in an initial screening, and employers may be wary of hiring an industry newbie.
That’s why it’s key to craft your resume and cover letter in a way that highlights transferable skills. Here are some things (see more here)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

3 Ways to Handle a Negative Coworker

It seems like everywhere I turn, someone is always talking or writing about "times like these." Usually, it's not "times like these are so great." It's usually something like, "Times like these are so horrible."

For a lot of people, this negative outlook on life becomes a big problem and they carry it like a heavy backpack with them wherever they go. They sigh when they sit down in a meeting. They mutter under their breath when others are talking about new ideas. They rarely contribute anything to discussions unless it's a criticism or complaint.

Eventually, you realize that this colleague's negative behavior is getting to you. Perhaps you even worry that her negativity is starting to rub off on you.

What can you do?

First, realize that you're not helpless -- do not start to believe that the negative colleague is in control. You are, and there are things you can do. Among them:

1. Study her. What makes her so hateful? Are there certain times that she's more negative than others? When you take the more "scientific" attitude to studying her, then you become less emotionally invested in what she does. Think of it as getting an inside look at what NOT to do.

2.  Stay calm. One of the reasons you're so upset with the negative behavior is because you know that it's having an impact on you. You think about the negativity at night, making it difficult to fall asleep. You know it's making you so tense that you are becoming more frustrated driving home after work, and worry you're developing road rage. Enough. It's time to disconnect from her bad behavior. Don't engage with her and try to find the "bright side" of life when she's being negative. Don't argue her point of view. "I guess we'll have to agree to disagree" can be your mantra when she tries to drag you down with her.

3. Start walking. You can't always walk away from a negative coworker, such as when you're in a meeting or she's working with you on a project. But once you're done interacting with her in a professional capacity, don't be hesitant about walking away. If you don't want to be rude, tell her you've got to return a phone call, meet with someone else, etc. But the physical act of walking away will help alleviate the emotional stress of dealing with her, and the physical activity will help lower your blood pressure and restore you equilibrium.

Finally, if you suspect your coworker's negativity may be related to depression or some other mental illness, go to your boss or human resources to relate your concerns. They are equipped to handle such an assessment better than you.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Research Shows the Secret to Influencing Social Change at Your Company

Do you care about social issues like protecting the environment or curbing poverty? Would you like to see your employer get more involved in such issues?

If so, you might want to pay attention to research that shows you might be more successful in getting a company on board if you frame the issue to fit the company's values and mission.

"Our findings suggest that this approach works because it elicits feelings of anticipated guilt and motivates managers to devote resources and promote issues that benefit society," says David Mayer, a University of Michigan professor and one of the researchers.

In other words, you may want to see your company practice more sustainable practices to help the environment, but the best way to get your manager on board is to connect that sustainability to your company's business and its stated values in a "moral" type of message.

However, don't just try and get a manager to support your issue with only economic language or moral language. Researchers say this strategy isn't always as successful as connecting morality and the business values.

Mayer says that the research clearly shows that even lower level employees can be successful in trying to bring about change for social issues in their companies, which can provide "inspiration in their future that they can be influential within their organizations."

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Research Shows What Can Help You Survive a Toxic Boss

If you have a horrible boss, you know that each day seems to get longer and longer, it gets harder and harder to get out of bed and you start to develop physical ailments like headaches and stomachaches.

You know deep down that you will get past this, and someday you may even look back on this period and laugh about it (or maybe not). But in the meantime, you've got to find a way to somehow survive the bad boss.

The results of a new study might help. Researchers say that when you've been mistreated by a toxic boss, you are more likely to show ethical behavior when you become a leader. When you have an abusive boss, you "distance" yourself from them and are less likely to be abusive to your own team members, they say.

"This suggests the cycle of abuse isn't inevitable in organizations, just as developmental psychology research shows that abusive parenting does not always lead the next generation of parents to become offenders," researchers say.

At the same time, researchers recommend that if organizations want to stop bad leadership behavior and instead establish a culture of ethical leadership, then they must promote those who have strong "moral identities" and strengthen the moral identities of current managers. One way to do that, they suggest, is by ensuring that everyone is crystal clear on organizational and professional standards and making sure those rules are displayed in an office environment.

So, while you have to go to work today for your a**hole boss, try to console yourself with the fact that this bad experience is molding you into being a better leader one day, because you'll know what NOT to do when you become a boss.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Doing This Can Make Mondays a Whole Lot Better

It's estimated that some 14 million people will call in sick to work today because they can't manage to get out of their pajamas after watching the Super Bowl last night.

While such action (or inaction) costs employers about $2.6 billion in productivity losses, it does have a positive side: People obviously had a great time over the weekend. They probably didn't think much about work when they were enjoying the Doritos commercial or simply throwing Doritos while Maroon 5 performed.

Taking such mental breaks are important and we may need to build more "Super Bowl" weekends into our lives.

Specifically, a recent study finds that treating your weekend like a vacation can boost your happiness. Forget traveling to Punta Cana for a week -- just by being a bit more attentive to enjoyable things you do in a weekend (eating, sleeping, fewer chores) can make you happier on Monday.

Further, that happiness can carry throughout the week, the study shows.

By staying more in the moment, the study participants said they enjoyed themselves more even if they were doing tasks such as making breakfast.

One word of caution: These weekend vacations can't become a habit. The cognitive and emotional impact may be weakened if they become routine, so save the mental breaks for when you really need them, researchers say.

If you were able to give yourself a nice mental break with a Super Bowl party with friends or family -- or even your dog -- then why not do it more often? When things start to pile up for you at work and you start dreading Monday more than usual, it may be a sign that it's time to have a vacation weekend. Think of all the things you like to do on vacation (make pancakes, go for long walks, play games) and do them over the weekend. You may just find that Monday isn't so terrible after all.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

How to Benefit When You Get Blindsided by Criticism

One day when I was on deadline frantically trying to complete a story, my instant messaging app popped up with something like: "Anita didn't check the database and now I'm having to recreate this work. *sigh*"

The IM was from my direct editor to another editor. I really didn't give it much thought, other than to instantly reply: "What? Is this message to me?"

The editor didn't reply and I quickly went on with my work since I had only minutes to my deadline.

Later in the day, a phone message arrived from my editor," Um, I'm sorry about that message. It wasn't to you. And I just realize that I never even told you about the database."

Okaaaay. So, this was one of those cases where the message had been sent to the wrong person: me. It was a message that was obviously critical of me, but then the editor realized it was an unfair criticism since she had failed to inform me that a database existed.

I sent her a message telling her not to worry, but I was ready to be trained on the database when she had time.

Really, I didn't care. I know from years in journalism that a lot gets said (and messaged) in the minutes before deadline. But I also saw it as an opportunity to form a stronger relationship with this editor.

First, I realized that she might not be giving me enough constructive feedback if she was complaining to another editor about an issue instead of talking to me about it. Second, I realized that it could be a turning point in our relationship as my ability to handle it professionally could help her see me as a level-headed team member who didn't jump to conclusions or hold grudges.

I know a lot of people who have gotten erroneous messages similar to this and they get mad, or feel hurt or vow to start looking for another job. Whether it's from a boss or a colleague, you can feel blindsided by the criticism and it can truly damage relationships.

The thing to remember is that you can turn a bad message into something positive that helps you improve your reputation and your career. Here's what to do when it happens.

  • Breathe. Don't punch back with an email or message or storm over to the person's desk and say something like, "You *&^%!"
  • Address the elephant in the room. The person who accidentally sent you the snarky message is likely to avoid you or pretend it never happened. If that happens, find a private moment to talk to the person: "I know that sending me the message was a mistake, but it's clear you have a problem with my work (or taking a long lunch, etc.). I think we should talk about this." Tell the person you truly just want to have a good working relationship, so you want to clear the air and move on.
  • Leverage it. I found that with my editor, my level-headed response earned me some goodwill in the weeks to come. She started giving me better assignments and she became more open about the challenges she faced. That made it easier for me to ensure my goals were aligned with hers -- and that helped me get ahead. If you don't snark back at the boss or a colleague over the message, you are seen as someone who can be trusted, which can lead to them wanting to help you in the future.
  • Address your blind spots. If a coworker or a boss is complaining about something, then it could be that others also see it as a problem. I wasn't even aware of a database, but it made me realize that I needed to be more proactive and constantly ask questions to determine if I completely understood the resources that were available. While criticism isn't fun, that message delivered in error can be beneficial if it gives you an early warning that there's a problem or others may be complaining about something you need to improve.
Finally, if you receive an apology for the wrong message, accept it graciously (even if it's not graciously given). Put the unkind words behind you and look at it as a chance to improve your professional relationships and reputation.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Critical Element You May Be Missing in Your Job Search

This seems to be the time of year when a lot of people are jumping ship for a new gig. People are seeking new challenges -- or feel unsettled by the current instability of their industry.

As you search for new employment opportunities, it's important that you look not only at the qualifications you need for a certain position, but also the culture of the company that interests you.

This is important because  you're not likely to be happy in a culture that is dramatically different than what you like, but also because you're more likely to be hired when you seem to "get" the culture of an organization. In other words, the employer sees you as someone who fits in and won't be a major pain in the ass because you're constantly butting heads with everyone.

For example, if a company's website talks about how it's a free-wheeling culture, where everyone "works until they drop with elated exhaustion" and then "goes for more," this might clue you into the fact that you would be working some long hours and even weekends. This might not fit in with your life if you have a young family to tend to or simply don't want to work so much.

But, if you're the kind of person that lives to work, wants to have the freedom to do what you want when you want and collaborate with other hard-core go-getters, then this might be a better fit for you.

Here are some ways to check out a cultural fit when before submitting your resume:

1. Use social media. Check out the company's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, and look for things that might be a good fit or a warning sign. Do you prefer to work in a more traditional office and the Instagram feed shows employees in their pajamas playing beer pong during a conference call?
2. Check out current employees. Look on LinkedIn for those who currently work at the company, and then search for them online through social media or professional industry sites. Do these employees appear to post blogs or tweets that you consider offensive? Or, do they post smart comments about industry trends? Do they appear to be creative or stuck in a rut?
3. Follow the leaders. A company website may tout a culture that really appeals to you, but keep in mind this might not be a true representation of how the company actually functions. Do some research on the leadership, looking for interviews with the leaders or articles or blog posts they may have written. Look for Reddit feeds to see if the leadership is discussed -- you may get some red flags warning that the leadership doesn't really walk the talk.

Finally, remember that stepping outside your boundaries can be good for your career. You don't want to only work with those who are in lockstep with how you think and work, so don't let cultural differences hold you back. Just make sure that you're going into a different culture with your eyes wide open -- so no whining about it later.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

3 Ways to Improve Videoconference Meetings

One of the great things about being a remote worker is that you can often get large chunks of uninterrupted working time -- and you don't get pulled into as many meetings.

But with the increasing use of videoconferencing, those halcyon days may be waning. Now you're invited to many more meetings, and you find that your production is slipping as you sit bored, restless and frustrated through meetings that you don't really need to attend or that drag on too long.

Owl Labs, a video conferencing provider, analyzed more than 100,000 meetings at both large and small companies, and found:

  • Less is more. Remote team workers have 75% more opportunities to contribute when there are four or fewer people in the local room. 
  • Big companies are more efficient. Companies with 201-1,000 employees had meetings that were 8% shorter than those with 5-200 workers.
  • Tuesday is popular. Some 43% of companies schedule hybrid meetings between 2-5 p.m. on Tuesday. 

What can be learned from this research?

1. The fewer people in a meeting, the better. Trim the number of participants to only critical personnel if you want a more efficient, creative and collaborative sessions.
2. If you can send an email instead of having a meeting, do so.
3. To avoid scheduling conflicts, try to have hybrid meetings on any day but Tuesday. If it must be that day, try meeting before noon.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Research: Brainteaser Interview Questions are Harmful

I've never been a fan of "crazy" interview questions, such as asking: "If you were a salad dressing, which kind would you be and why?"

New research shows why I might feel this way. In the journal "Applied Psychology," researchers find that questions like the one I mention above or brainteaser queries such as "Estimate how many windows are in New York" are examples of "aggressive interviewer" behavior that shows no evidence for validity -- and unsettle job candidates.

In their study, researchers gave working adults traditional interview questions such as "Are you a good listener?" and included things like: "Tell me about a time when you failed."

They also asked brainteaser questions.

The result: Narcissism and sadism "explained the likelihood of using brainteasers in an interview," researchers say.

These "dark traits" shown by an interviewer in asking such questions "suggest that a callous indifference and a lack of perspective-taking may underlie abusive behavior in the employment interview," researchers say.

At a time when companies are actively vying for the best talent in a competitive market, it makes sense to scrap brainteaser questions. Companies need to make it clear that the "dark traits" don't belong in any culture.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Could Uber Get You in Trouble at Work?

Employees are routinely cautioned not to leave their work laptops unattended or use unsecured Wi-Fi networks when they travel for business, but a new threat is cropping up where employees may least expect it: ride-sharing applications.
Specifically, a Kaspersky Lab security review finds that of 13 international ride-sharing apps, all revealed several security problems. Researchers say that vulnerabilities include users being re-routed through an attacker’s site, allowing that person access to personal data such as passwords or logins. In addition, a lack of defense (read more here)

Monday, January 14, 2019

How to Look Your Best on Video


We all had a good laugh at the Dad doing a video chat when his children managed to scoot into the room and Mom followed moments later to frantically try and remove them.

While such moments are pretty funny, you don't really want things to go off the rails when you're trying to have a professional conversation via video.

Stanford Graduate School of Business Lecturer Matt Abrahams offers some helpful tips on how to make the most of your video chat:

1. Clean up your environment. Would you let an important client or your boss into the dump you call your bedroom with the unmade bed, dirty underwear on the floor and empty pizza boxes scattered on the desk? Look carefully at your surrounding environment and make sure it's tidy and won't be a distraction, whether you're at work or at home.

2. Use good technology. Check before a video chat to ensure your microphone and camera are in good working order and convey clear sound and pictures.

3. Lighten up. Abrahams says he spent $10 at a hardware store for a light used by car mechanics and fixed it behind his camera. Office lighting is often terrible, so look for extra lighting that will clearly illuminate and flatter your face.

4. Look into the camera. Many people put their notes on their desk, but that forces you to look down -- the equivalent of talking to the other person's shoes. You want to look directly into the camera, which means you are making eye contact. Abrahams suggests posting your notes behind the camera -- he uses a music stand to hold his notes at eye level.

5. Be prepared. Before a video chat, Abrahams says he always thinks about the key questions he wants answered, and the "themes" he wants to highlight. These themes should be supported by examples to support the ideas or reinforce them. Those themes and questions that are prepared beforehand "will help you convey more and walk away with more," he says.

"The value of communication is only increasing and the ability to communicate clearly, confidently and in a compelling way is absolutely critical to business success," he says.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Yes, You Do Need to Start Applying for Internships This Early

You may still be trying to recover from the holidays, but if you want a summer internship this year, you need to get busy -- right now.

Companies often get the bulk of applications between February and April, so there is no time to waste if you want a chance to land an internship.

Here's what you need to do:

1. Do your homework. Research employers and industries that interest you. Look at the LinkedIn profiles of people with jobs you would love to have -- then look at the internships or jobs they've held. This will help you make a list of the skills, industries and companies that you believe will be a good fit. Otherwise, you'll be overwhelmed with the process and end up applying with less and less enthusiasm -- and employers can detect that a mile away.

2. Tap into available resources. There is no sense reinventing the wheel when your school's career center has counselors and information to help you fill out applications and provide advice. Don't pass up the opportunity to also tap into the school's alumni network.

3. Reinvent the wheel. OK, this may be confusing based on what I wrote above. But, those who show initiative and resourcefulness often will succeed. I know several college students who have stopped by a company and personally handed in their resumes or even cold called the internship coordinator. The result was that the coordinators saw potential, and rather than wade through hundreds of applications, they made the easy decision to hire the person who had the chutzpah to make a personal connection.

4. Be persistent. Let me clarify: Be persistent, not obnoxious. Don't call the recruiter every day and ask, "Have you made a decision yet?" But, you can contact the recruiter once a week with a message such as, "I just saw this amazing article on industry trends and thought you might find it interesting." That way, you distinguish yourself as someone who is thinking more about the company and the industry rather than the next kegger. You also can send updates (that are relevant) to the recruiter, such as writing an article for a campus journal on a subject of interest.

5. Prepare. Once you land an internship interview, it's time to do even more homework.  Read the company's website, learning the names of executives and key information. Learn the company's mission statement so you can use similar language with your interviewer. Then, prepare questions for the interviewer -- never sit there mutely or only ask about days off.

6. Follow up. After the interview, send a note thanking the interviewer for his or her time. Mention how you're enthusiastic about the job and look forward to the opportunity.

Remember that applying for an internship and going through the process is never a waste of time, even if you don't get it. All these steps will be important in your job search, and the more practice you have, the better you will do.

Monday, January 7, 2019

It's Time to Shut the Door on the Office Moocher

For as long as I've been working (going on 100+ years now, or at least it feels like it), there have been office moochers.

They never have any money on them ("I forgot my wallet!" "I'm broke until payday!" "I just loaned my last $5 to a friend!").

As a result, the moochers are always borrowing off others at work. These moochers often ask you to "pitch in" a couple of dollars for them when there is an office collection for a colleague's birthday, or ask if you can also pay for their latte when you're making the coffee run.

Of course, these moochers always claim they will pay you back. But they don't.

What's the deal here? Do these moochers have some secret gambling addiction? Or are they just the kind of people who get a free ride by asking everyone else to pay?

You may never really know why moochers take and never give. In the meantime, you have to figure out a way to stop them from borrowing money from you and take responsibility for their own financial well-being.

Here are some ideas to break the habit of moochers using you as a personal ATM:

  •  Let go of your resentment. No one forced you to give these moochers the money or forced you to buy cups of coffee. That was your decision, so stop blaming them. At the same time, stop being mad at yourself. That's water under the bridge.
  • Always ask for separate checks. If you go out with a known moocher for drinks or lunch, always ask the wait staff for separate checks. Do it with a smile and then simply continue your conversation. If the group is too big for separate checks, announce that you'll be dividing up the check to determine what everyone owes. (Most people will be extremely grateful you take on the task -- no one wants to pay more than their fair share.)
  • Refuse with sincerity. When a moocher asks you to float him a loan, tell him you're sorry, but you're on a budget now. Don't elaborate. Once moochers see your piggy bank is closed, they'll turn to someone else or learn to start a budget of their own.

While it can be difficult to stand up for yourself in such situations, remember that a moocher's behavior shows a real disregard for you. You can maintain a professional and cordial relationship with them, just without the open wallet. At the same time, you may find that your resolve garners more respect from colleagues who may have wondered why you put up with such mooching for so long.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

How to Figure Out What You Want to Do Next

For many people, today is the first day back at work after eating too many holiday cookies, watching "Elf" 14 times and hustling the kids back to school (whether they wanted to go or not because your sanity depended on it).

It's also the time when you might begin to reassess your career. You might decide that a) you're on track and content b) unhappy and need to make a change or c) floating somewhere in between because you can't really decide what to decide.

If you're happy, that's great. But if you're not so happy -- or just plain miserable -- you need to deal with it.

But how?

You might say, "I love my job but hate my boss," or "I feel unchallenged" or "I'd really love a job that allows me to travel the world." Those are certainly legitimate feelings, but they don't get you the job that will help you feel better about your career. As a result, you flounder around until another year passes and you're still in the same job.

If you're feeling stuck or unsure about how to make a career move, there's an easy first step that can help you: reverse engineering.

Reverse engineering is when you take an object apart to see how it works so that you can duplicate it. It's often used in technology or manufacturing, but there's no reason it can't work on your career.

Here are some ways to use reverse engineering to help you find a better job or career fit:

1. List your favorite things. Do you want to travel the world? Work with artists? Be clear about what want.

2. Do some research. The Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook can offer you some insight into jobs with duties that interest you. The site will help you determine what qualifications you need, salary expectations, the job growth expected, etc. This can help you put a name to a job, such as "physical therapist" or "mechanic."

3. Find inspiration. If you want to be a marine biologist, for example, look for such people on LinkedIn or through professional associations or websites. What education did this person receive? Did she have internships? Has she written blog posts or posted tweets that might give you an insight into what she does each day in her job? While you might be able to job shadow someone in your dream job, you might also learn a great deal just by reading industry publications, listening to podcasts or reading blogs.

4. Get specific. Once you've done some research and soul searching, it's time to get specific. Reverse engineering isn't about just "sort of" reconstructing something -- it's about getting the details right. Are there local education programs that can help you get the right certifications for your dream job? How much do they cost? Can you afford to quit your job and attend school full time? How long will it take you to get a secondary degree? By the time you get necessary training, will jobs be available?

Finally, many people are open to providing some advice to those who want to enter a certain industry or profession. Don't be greedy with someone's time: Have specific questions that you can ask via social media, a job board or through LinkedIn. Do your basic research so that you don't ask obvious questions that can be answered by Google.